We Were There: Grand Scotch Tour, Willows

John Heckathorn
Maira Ragon and Sarah Roseberg show off their wares at the Grand Scotch Tour. "I'm Scottish whenever I drink Glenlivet," says Roseberg.

"Wow, this is a bigger success than we anticipated," said Dan Peddie, chieftan of the Hawaiian Scottish Association. 

This year’s Grand Scotch Tour II at the Willows drew more than 150 Scotch aficionados, up from 45 the year before.   The association promised the chance to taste 20 Scotches.  There were more than 30 on the tables, including some rarities.

You probably couldn’t taste them all, though Biting Commentary did his best, guided by his Scotch guru, Bruce McEwan of Young Brothers.

McEwan induced us to try a Scotch we’d never heard of, Edradour.  Edradour, located on a farm in Southern Highlands, is the smallest distillery in Scotland, producing a limited quantity of handmade single malts.

Edradour is also "unchillfiltered."  Most Scotches are chilled to near freezing and filtered, losing some of the oilier esters.  Why?  Because unfiltered Scotches will sometimes cloud up when you pour them over ice.

But, of course, this was a serious Scotch tasting, where many of the men wore kilts.  No ice.  "I haven’t had an ice cube in my whiskey in decades," said McEwan (left).

The Edradour was a revelation, especially the 12-year-old whiskey aged in oak casks that had previously been used to age Port.  The Scotch had a remarkable winelike sweetness on the front end dissolving into smokiness and then a long lingering finish.

There were dozens upon dozens of single malts, with exotic names like Laproaig, Caol Ila, Aberfeldy and Clynelish.  What you liked best depended on taste.  For instance, "Uncle Tom" Moffatt was also at the event with a group of buddies.  On the spot, he became a fan of Glenmorangie 10 year old.

There are two types of Scotches, single malts and blended.  Connoisseurs tend to like single malts, but a great blend is also great Scotch, often much smoother. 

Available to taste was Johnny Walker Blue Label (about $200 a bottle), Chivas Regal 25 (nearly $300) and Dewars Signature.  The latter came as shock for those of us who’ve suffered in bars where the only Scotch available was the $12-a-bottle Dewars White Label. 

The Signature is a different beast altogether: honey, maple, vanilla with a hint of smoke.  And it’s on sale through Father’s Day at Fujioka’s for a mere $160, in case any of my family is reading this.

If you missed the Scotch tasting–or if you simply want to reaffirm your allegiance to things Caledonian–this Friday, April 1, the Hawaiian Scottish Association is having its fifth annual "Taste of Scotland" Ceilidh at the Willows 5 to 9 p.m. 

Expect Scottish-style food and drink (but not the array of Scotches), plus musicians and dancers. $25 advance, $30 at the door. For tickets:  (808) 952-9200.

Taste of Scotland is the kickoff party for the Scottish Festival, Apr. 2-3, Kapiolani Park, which features men in kilts competing in Highland Games like the hammer throw and caber toss, plus dance competitions, food and a gathering of the clans.

The Grand Scotch Tour is a fundraiser for the festival.  We’re already making plans for next year’s.