On the Whiskey Barrel: Spirit of Toronto 2012

As a man who loves good scotch whiskey, I was a little leery about attending a tasting at Roy Thompson Hall last night. Firstly, tastings can become futile if serving sizes are too large or too small; one should not attend such events to get desperately inebriated. Secondly, while it is interesting to hear about the wood used in casks or the delicate flavours of heather, I seldom can follow the expert for more than a few sentences before my eyes glaze over.

Fortunately, my experience at this year’s event was comfortable. With two swinging jazz bands thumping along in the background, I was able to enjoy time with an old friend before he leaves for Vancouver, smoke one of the superb Cuban cigars I bought in Havana [an obsess over trying to keep from turing to dust in the Toronto winter], and feel like I learned a fair amount about a few new single malt whiskies.

For the $130 ticket price, I received a decent value for my money. Nibblies consisting of ham, beef tenderloin and cheeses were provided at central buffet tables. While certainly not a meal replacement, this food was integral to being able to enjoy the evening without becoming drunk or ill from the tastings. During the course of my evening I tasted vintages from a 1995 Glenrothes, Glenfiddich, both a 10 and 12 year old from the Japanese Nikka Yoichi, Smokehead, Laphroaig, Armut, two Balvenie and Aberlour. With about 10 to 12 drams I had reached my maximum level of scotch and then ended with specialty cocktails made by Yuki Yamazaki and Kentaro Wada [a cherry blossom] and a Scofflaw from the other cocktail bar. Both drinks were complex and a nice contrast from the scotch on its own. My night ended with a few salted caramels that made me smile as I hit the road to make my way home on the TTC. The only disappointment was that the Japanese bar did not feature the beautiful hand-carved rounded ice cubes.

My two favourites from the evening were surprisingly the 15 year old Glenfiddich with its honey and raisin overtones and the 10 year old Nikka Yoichi that had a gorgeous peat flavour. The underdog was definitely the Smokehead; it tasted like a bonfire in Algonquin Park in the heat of summer. What it lacked in complexity it made up in its sheer force of character.

The photos featured today are all about playing with perspective. The first two were experiments using the LensBaby Composer with a +10 Macro filter and the double glass optic at f.8.0. I am going to spend a lot more time with the LensBaby this month to try to master its possibilities; it is one of those lenses that I like, but  find it tough to balance the blur and the focus. I prefer the Linhof’s tilt and shift movements, but for fun shot and memento images, the LensBaby is superb.

The final photo was taken in Havana at the less than impressive Rum Museum. The irony of the photograph is that it was shot using film and the Hasselblad in terrible light, and it captures a model railroad that was super-kitschy. The odd angle and lighting gives the photograph an almost real sense of place that just pulled me in as I scanned the negative. I brought out the gold tones and adjusted the black point. Overall, a beautiful shot of a terrible tourist trap.

With only a glass of Blue Label left in the bottle, I am now out of scotch. The good news is that I now have a better sense of what to buy next at the LCBO for the upcoming year. Blue Label is still my favourite, but I think that I will pick up the Glenfiddich and a Glenrothes next week to ensure I have libations should any friends magically appear at my doorway.


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