Whisky Notes: Aultmore 12

Many of you know that Jen and I were on the committee (USA language: officers) of the Cambridge University Whisky Appreciation Society (CUWAS) – Jen was the Vice-President and I was the webmaster/IT guy. Let’s be honest though; work sometimes kept me away from maintaining the website, so Jen definitely stepped in to help when something needed to be done in a time-dependent manner.

If you live in the Cambridge, England area, definitely check out the society and go to one of their events. Each tasting is an opportunity to try six whiskies, generally along some sort of theme. This term’s events look really varied:
Introduction to Whisky – this event is great for those who may not know much about whisky but still great whisky for those that do
Liquid Gold – some of the “best of the best” whiskies currently available
Out of its Element – if I had to guess, this would include whiskies that don’t generally fit into their own genre: a smoky Speyside or Highland whisky or an unpeated Islay)
The well-loved Christmas tasting – whiskies that just make you want to settle in and enjoy the winter season
They also snuck in a Brandy tasting this term, which shouldn’t disappoint!

Both Jen and I receive a lot of questions on what whiskies we recommend or normally drink (or in Jen’s current state (pregnancy), what she used to drink or what she’s looking forward to drinking in 15 weeks from now). Since I have the “chore” of trying to drink all of our opened bottles of whisky in the next several month before we move again, I thought it would be fun to give you some tasting notes on what I’m drinking. I guess that’s the least I can do!

Without further ado, here is some general information on the Aultmore 12, why we have it in our possession, and my tasting notes*:
Last fall, Jen bought a couple of bottles of whisky that were released by Dewar’s as part of their The Last Great Malts series. There was some sort of online contest that required participants to purchase two bottles in the series to be registered to win all eight of the series. The series included three bottlings of Aberfeldy (12, 16, and 21 year olds), Aultmore (12 and 25 year olds), and Craigellachie (13, 17, and 23 year olds). She loves a good whisky contest and/or deal; this is the reason of why we have a bottle of the Aultmore 12 in our whisky collection.
Aultmore of the Foggie Moss, as the label reads, is non-chill filtered and has no added colorings. Hence its lovely pale caramelly-yellow color. The whisky is bottled at 46% ABV and can be found at various places for just under £45 per bottle.

Nose: Fresh grass, orange chocolate, sponge cake, aromatic and floral undertones. Jen said it smelled like salted caramel-covered apples.

Palate: Vanilla, spice-cake (possibly cinnamon notes), floral notes continue. The overall mouthfeel is spicy and warming.

Finish: Clean and inoffensive. Slightly floral notes. No lingering flavors here. This whisky has a very short finish.

At the price point, this is a very classic example of a Speyside whisky that could be a daily drinker for those who don’t particularly like peated or overly complex whiskies.

*Note: The tasting notes provided here are my own thoughts. Unfortunately, neither Jen nor I were given whisky to review.

BRCA2 Cycle Path

I love solving mysteries and problems, which is how I would describe what I do for a living. Technically speaking, I am a biochemist – a structural biologist. I like looking at the 3-dimensional structure of proteins and understanding how other things (other proteins, DNA, small molecules, etc) fit into those proteins. And while I have some interest in understanding the biological processes of cancer, I am not a cancer researcher. However, I have been spending a lot of my spare time trying to understanding more about BRCA2 (pronounced as “bracka two” and stands for Breast Cancer Type 2 susceptibility protein). For most genes and proteins, the gene is in italics while the protein remains in normal font.

BRCA2 was discovered in 1995 by Professor Michael Stratton and Dr. Richard Wooster in cooperation with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. This institute is a charitably funded genomic research center and is located about 9 miles south of Cambridge in a town called Hinxton. The Sanger Institute is a leader in the Human Genome Project, which is an international scientific research project intended to map and identify all of the genes of human genome, both physically and functionally. (Sidenote: a genome is the genetic instructions of how an organism is put together and functions.) From the beginning of the even the idea of the project, there have been strong supporters and strong detractors of this project.

Recently, El’s family has undergone some extensive genetic testing to unveil that some of his family members have a mutation in the BRCA2 gene. His family has a history of breast cancer, specifically related to this gene. Some mutations (but not others) in BRCA2 lead to an abnormal function in the BRCA2 protein. To date, researchers have identified over 450 different mutations in the BRCA2 gene. Some mutations (but not all) of BRCA2 correlated with an increased chance of breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer(s). The mutation that several people in El’s family have causes the BRCA2 protein to be truncated; thereby, causing a reduction in the function of the protein. Why does this all matter? Well, the protein created by the BRCA2 gene is involved in repairing damaged DNA. It binds to and regulates another protein (RAD51) in order to fix breaks found in your DNA. Breaks in DNA happen, which is why your body has a system to repair them. It is only when there are (certain) mutations BRCA2 that result in the cells dividing in an uncontrollable way (this is pretty much the textbook definition of cancer).

Being so far away from El’s family, there really isn’t too much we can do as each member of his family has genetic testing done and then determining what to do with those results. I am so amazed at how his family is coping with the results, especially one person in particular. The level of determination and sustained hope she has is so inspiring, and I admire her for how she (and the rest of his family) are tackling the situation. Therefore, when I discovered there was a BRCA2 cycle path, I knew I had to ride it, no matter the distance (for the record, it is approximately 2 miles long). This cycle path is part of the National Cycle Network in England and extends from the Addenbrooke’s Hospital site (where I work) with a nearby community called Great Shelford. At its unveiling in 2005, it was the 10,000th mile of the National Cycle Network. To represent the 10,257 base pairs of the BRCA2 gene, a series of thermoplastic stripes were heat welded in four different colors and represent the nucleotide sequence of BRCA2. The color scheme is the following: green is adenine (A), red is thymine (T), blue is cytosine (C), and yellow is guanine (G). At each end of the cycle path is a metal structure of the DNA double helix.

Double helix of DNA

DNA double helix

BRCA2 cycle path

BRCA2 cycle path

10,000 mile, 10,257 stripes

10,000 miles, 10,257 stripes