12 September 2018

09/09/2018 Two grains from 2005

Girvan 40yo d.1965 (43.7%, Hunter Hamilton The Clan Denny, C#HH2238): strictly speaking, I suppose this could have been bottled in 2006 too, since the label does not state it. Nose: this is dignity personified, with all sorts of furniture made of exotic woods -- teak, mahogany, redwood, lacquered ebony, even. Next to that, it has glycerine, treacle, stewed-fruit-topped sticky toffee pudding, hot apricot compote, stewed pineapple, baked plantains, chou dough, soaked cork, very thick custard and sesame oil. It is a whirlwind of fragrances, and it somehow works fine. Perhaps it has the most liquid manuka honey too, or royal jelly, and candied apple, with a whisper of blueberry, far back. Lovely nose, very enticing. Mouth: a soft and fleeting bite, though, at 44%, it is hardly a fearsome fighter. Hot banana, augmented with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, doughnut, coconut shavings, banana rum, squashed pineapple and warm custard cream. Pineapple grows in intensity, gently acidic, fruity and pleasant. Satsuma and kumquat are there too, more subtle. Finish: similar notes, here, with a wheelbarrow of baked fruit (banana, plantain, pineapple and coconut), pastry (chou dough, doughnut, Berliner Pfannkuchen, that traditional Belgian pastry called something like cream cobble) and woody tones (Brazil-nut oil, teak oil, drinks cabinet, lacquered armchair). The last thing to come through is pink ink (do not ask). Marvellous. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, PS)

Cameronbridge 25yo 1979/2005 (59.9%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, C#3523, 194b, b#92, 05/013): at last, I take time to review this properly, before it is empty (just). This is the first grain I bought, on the back of trying (and liking) Compass Box's Hedonism and being told that batch of it was a blend of Cameronbridge and (I think) Cambus. Nose: well, the difference in ABV could hardly be more obvious! This kicks like a mule, initially, then cools down to reveal notes that are not too dissimilar to the previous dram's, actually: pineapple segments (in rum, this time), hot pastry (apricot turnover, straight out of the oven) and wood varnish. Where it differs is the wood; here, it is less exotic and much dryer: sawdust, sandalwood, cigar boxes and cedar-wood sheets. Past that, it has a vaguely medicinal touch, though it is ether, rather than tincture of iodine, yet it might as well be merbromin, Mercurochrome or another disinfectant. At a push, it could be a thyme infusion. An hour of breathing removes the edge and makes this nose pastry galore, with lingering pineapple, soaked in rum. Water brings out warm plastic, rubber boots and an oil cloth in a warm veranda. Odd. The fruit reappears, much shyer. Mouth: it feels thinner and sharper than the Girvan (59.9%, remember?) with glycerine, custard powder, powdered sugar, vanilla sugar, banane flambée, glazed pears, peel zest, rum-soaked pineapple cubes, heavily-acidic lemon marmalade. With water, it is more mellow, with pillow-y apricots, pineapple juice and a minute pinch of verbena. Finish: hugely warming, with a massive banane-flambée flavour again, custard powder, ginger shavings, Scottish tablet, crushed almonds, pineapple cubes -- yes, pineapple cubes from a warmed plastic tub. Water gives it more custard powder, sprinkled on warm, tinned pineapple and lemon juice on vanilla custard. It leaves the tongue a bit numb, to be honest... Excellent dram all the same. There were worse grains (and worse whiskies a large) to start with. 8/10

3 September 2018

01/09/2018 Pro-Choice Rally

Of course, voluntary pregnancy interruption should be legal, in many cases, and the world is overpopulated. However, it is not the point, today. Although I jokingly encouraged attendants to bring condoms, contraceptive pills, unborn children or other artefacts, the more prosaic reality is we are looking for choice bottles -- bottles that bear the word 'Choice,' ... or otherwise linked to the theme. We also do not drink blood, nor do we eat placenta. I can hear your disappointment from here. Get over it.

PS is the first to arrive, and it only takes us a whole nine minutes before we mention the B-word. 'Brexit,' if you are wondering. JS and GL are next and last. We have an apéritif.

Rosebank 30yo 1987/2018 (43%, private cask sample, Bourbon Cask): honeyed, with a gravel kick. Lovely. It is also in theme, since SW chose it for the June tasting at Cadenhead's. (Thanks for the sample, SW)

tOMoH: "He brought only two bottles."
JS: "Oooooh!"
tOMoH: "And they're choice ones, too!"
JS: "And you're in theme, too!"

On to the proper tasting.

Soundtrack: The Future Sound Of London - My Kingdom Re-Imagined

Balmenach d.1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, b.1980s) (tOMoH): if there are only few of us, we might as well pour rare miniatures. Nose: polished dashboards, teak oil and game sauce. It is surprisingly meaty, but also noble, with lots of good wood. Soon, the nose brings dark, overripe peach and a pinch of dust, before citrus appears, acidic and dusty too. Mouth: the palate is woody too, with also blood orange, dry pine wood. This is quaffable, juicy and soft, with peach nectar and, really, a lot of blood oranges. Finish: meow! Wood, of course, but the perfect amount of it, then blood oranges, ginger shavings (or is it galangal?), peach pulp and orange segments. Another excellent brown label. 8/10

Soundtrack: Rapoon - Darker By Light

St Magdalene 1981/1997 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, IG/BAH) (tOMoH): nose: über-fresh, with mint, coconut and crushed apricot, then the trademark StM flintiness and herbaceous touch appear -- thyme, lemon thyme, sage and dried mint leaves. It also has some flowers, forsythia and honeysuckle, principally. Mouth: this noticeably hits the palate, despite the low ABV. It has lime drops and mint leaves, a pinch of ground flint and juicy yellow fruit. A balanced and pleasant mouth. Finish: similar notes, here, slightly more mineral, fruitier (peach), and less herbaceous. It feels more watery, though, at this stage, which makes it lose one point. Pity, as it is otherwise great. 8/10

Aberfeldy d.1966 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, b.1980s) (tOMoH): nose: pickled onions, lots and lots of dark shoe polish, burnt caramel, rancio, dunnage warehouse and a small ladle of game sauce. Later on, coffee and dark tobacco show up. Mouth: bitter, pickle-y, brine-y. PS finds it heavy, whilst I detect chewing tobacco, dried orange rinds and liquorice roots. It tastes like a good old sherry cask, we all agree. Finish: wide, heavy, old school and sticky, it has coal stoves, cigars and old leather shoes. Woah! 8/10


Aberfeldy d.1974 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, b. late 1980s) (tOMoH): it is my show, so far, is it not? Nose: much fruitier than its more ancient sibling, it has strawberry and Virginia tobacco, preserved olives and even lychee. Mouth: mint-y and polish-y, soft and juicy. This tastes like a Bourbon maturation. Finish: long and soft, with peach nectar and peach skin. There is a touch of walnut-shell bitterness to it, as well as liquorice roots. I prefer this one, personally. PS and GL disagree. 8/10

Nibbles enter: Italian dry sausage and mortadella, accompanied by lavender and violet pralines. Yum!

Italia raprazente


Soundtrack: Magic Affair - Omen (The Story Continues...)

Ledaig 32yo 1973/2005 (45%, Ian McLeod The Chieftain's Choice, Hogshead, C#2800, 240b) (PS): PS decided to flip the bird to those who could not make it today, and brought this desirable bottling. He will be invited again. In fact, I have wanted to try one of these early-1970s Ledaig for a while. Nose: melon skins, pomelo flesh, squashed raspberry, mango skins, cut lychee, thick banana skins -- wow!! This is brilliant! Later, the nose displays a little earth and countryside paths. The longer one waits, the bolder the fruitiness grows, though. Juicy apple, ripe pear and tinned lychee. Mouth: soft and fruity here too, with banana, sweet pink grapefruit, sugar-cane juice, a dash of earth, dragon fruit and milk-chocolate shavings. Finish: some soft peat smoke emerges, here (it is a Ledaig, after all), faint and distant. The dominant is still that fruit, however, with dragon fruit, pink-grapefruit segments, just-ripe banana, plantains... this is bloody excellent! 9/10

Garnheath 37yo 1978/2015 (46%, The Vintage Malt Whisky Co. The Cooper's Choice, Bourbon Cask, C#309612, 282b) (GL): JS almost brought this one, then thought GL probably would. I spend too little time with it, unfortunately. Nose: lime and shortcrust, banana, coconut yoghurt. Mouth: squashed mango, mixed with coconut milk, plantain, banana, papaya and guava. Buttery fruit galore, this! Finish: soft, gulpable, mango-y and coconut-y -- very much so. It has custard and lime pastry. Excellent/ 9/10

Sountrack: Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time (JS and PS impressively recognise the band after two notes)

PS: "I mistakenly opened [that Rosebank] the other day."
me: "You thought it was a Bell's decanter?"

25.62 20yo d.1991 Classy and attractive (54%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 205b) (GL): of course, GL brought this, because the Society's tasting panel chose to bottle it. Nose: it clears the nostrils and fills them with lots of yellow flowers, green grapes and tons of apricots. Apricot turnovers and pineapple jam. Toffee and fudge are here too. It remains fierce, though. The SMWS knows no water -- and this is our first cask strength of the day. Speaking of water, adding some does not change the whisky much. Mouth: warm, warming, hot, even. It has cut apricot, pink-grapefruit juice, and a hot broth of macerated dandelions. Again, water does not change the profile much; it merely gives it more vanilla. Finish: long, devastating, full of custard-y pastry, perhaps plum pie. This is so lovely. Water brings out more vanilla custard and also... much more pepper! I declare it does not work with water. GL, an authority on the distillery, ascertains water never works with Rosebank. 9/10


Rosebank 22yo 1991/2013 (55.2%, Iain Mackillop Mackillop's Choice, Sherry Cask, 271b) (tOMoH): because, really, why have two Rosebanks in the same tasting, when one can have three? Nose: meaty! Unexpectedly so. It has squashed elderberry, which goes away to leave lichen on staves, rum and a dunnage warehouse. Water makes it much more mellow and waxier. Mouth: spicy, thick, it reminds me of elderberry cordial, with also dandelion and a remarkable heat. So much for the softy softness of Lowland malts, eh? Green chilli, lemongrass, grapes, lingonberry compote. Water has a similar effect on the palate as on the nose: waxier and fruitier. Finish: it turns rather soft, here, leafy. It has oregano, dried sage, game sauce and thick, heady red wine. Very nice, but I do not regret not buying a bottle when it came out. It could almost be any sherry-matured whisky. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, LM)

These head-to-head sessions are very interesting

Soundtrack: Lesa Listvy - Way Home

PS: "These are the best stories."
me: "You mean the ones that finish with, 'I'm an idiot'?"

PS: "I ordered duck and... cabbage, which was odd, but very nice."

We move out onto the terrace to take advantage of the last sunrays.

If you look closely, you can see
the price tag. There you are. Have
a tissue to wipe those tears.
Director's Tactical Selection 25yo 1980/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask 50°, Sherry Cask, 569b) (PS): PS points out that the Selection is really a Choice. Nose: eggs, past their prime, pepper (PS). I do not find it particularly peppery myself. Behind the eggs, it is green-hazelnut vinegar and unripe tomato. It turns fruitier, with plum juice. Mouth: surprisingly fruity, here, it has plums (skin included), salt and a feeling of warmth on a damp day in a bothy. This easily redeems the eggs of the nose. Finish: peat smoke shows up, gentle, yet unmistakable. Sulphur comes back in the form of rotten eggs, though it is not overly invasive, this time. The nose is not great, to say the least, but the rest is decent, even good. The mouth is clearly the strong point of this dram. Of course, it is always interesting to try an indy Talisker, even if it is only to make dom666 jealous. 7/10

Soundtrack: Tropic Of Cancer - Restless Idylls

Springbank 36yo 1969/2005 (57.3%, Ian McLeod The Chieftain's Choice, Refill Fino Sherry Cask, C#793, 540b) (JS): I remember liking this very much, when JS opened it. Nose: another super-fresh number, with lots of mint, unripe kumquat, medicinal plants -- actually, this reminds me of the Tullamore from March, in a way, although not as strong, obviously. This one really is full of unripe citrus (tangerine, mandarin, satsuma), with an added hint of hay, thyme and rosemary. Mouth: good balance, with botanical herbs and medicinal plants, citrus aplenty and softer fruits -- apricot, yellow plum, juicy and sweet. Finish: perfume, white flowers, caramel. The end is gently drying, with rancio, nuts, medlar jam and the most marvellous dunnage-warehouse note -- sweet rum, lichen on staves, Demerara sugar, crystallising on the staves. This is amazing. In better circumstances, I am convinced it would achieve top score again. 9/10


Springbank 20yo b.2017 (59.9%, OB for The Bottling Hall Dinner, Re-Charred Sherry Butt) (tOMoH): JS and I helped choose this bottling on the night it was bottled. We are important like that. Nose: shoe polish and farmyard, leather, a touch of seaspray and salt. The farm-y notes are the loudest, with tractor tyres, drying mud, cow dung, tractor saddles, then dark cherries and warm, flat cola. The nose becomes meatier as time passes. Mouth: big, loud, boisterous, meaty and musty, it has musk and sink funk. The texture is a lot softer than expected, silky, almost, though it is warm silk, to be sure! Finish: musk, leather and shoe polish leap out, even if the sea air and salt are still there, overseeing the operation. The dominant, however, is the assertive note of heavily-sherried whisky. No doubt this is a great distillate -- it is simply almost hidden behind the huge sherry maturation. An excellent bottling, I can see why we picked it, but the Chieftain's is better. But then, of course, that is the best dram, today, in my opinion! 9/10

Soundtrack: Noir Désir - 666.667 Club

PS: "The only thing I ate today was your sausage. It was salty."

After a time to calm down the tastebuds and a dram of Garnheath to reset them, GL and PS have a dram of Kinclaith 1968/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, ID/DIB)
I have another go at the Garnheath, which is still great.

Excellent tasting. Pity we did not have a single Manager's Choice, nor even the Editors' Choice mini that we all own. Here is an incentive to have another tasting on the same theme!

And remember, in the undying words of Doug Stanhope: "Sodomy is eco-friendly and abortion is green."

20 August 2018

17/08/2018 Clearing the shelf #21

The Ardmore 20yo 1996/2017 (49.3%, OB, 1st Fill Bourbon Casks & ex-Islay Casks, L723657A): nose: stagnant water and a camp fire in the damp countryside. This one is ideal to accompany today's wet weather. Peat smoke, a wet bothy, brown toast, logs, resting near the fire place. This is warm and comforting. "One to savour near a stream, foamy and brown with peat," says adc. Gas and cabbage water -- it is vegetative peat, rather than diesel or seashells. Smoked ham, maybe. After a sip, the nose has pencil erasers. Mouth: soft and honeyed at first, it soon reveals horsepower... and a dollop of lemon-scented soap. Grapefruit skins, lemon drops, creamy soap, barbecued meat (pork or poultry), barbecued grapefruit. Finish: the soap recedes, leaving but caramelised honey, lemon juice and waves of refined smoke. Ink, melon skins and smoked Parma ham, lemon-stuffed milk chocolate, cold embers, wet wood. This is lovely, in the right weather. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, OF)

Jura 10yo 2007/2017 (46%, Langside Distillers Hepburn's Choice, Refill Hogshead, 420b): nose: is that decaying berries, or cured meat? "Kumquat and pear mix," says adc. I find it closer to partridge or pheasant myself, plucked and waiting to be prepared. Sauce grand'veneur, red-wine vinegar... This smells horrible, to tell the truth. A whiff of smoke, rotting elderberry. The smoke grows and hides the other notes -- which is a good thing, in this case. Smoked mackerel, smoked haddock, kippers, and then the wine note comes back. Dry Jaffa Cakes (notice I do not refer to PiM's, this time!) Mouth: wine, wine, wine, wine vinegar, decaying berries, overripe plums. The palate is thin and wine-y, astringent, though that is sort of balanced by some pear juice. Peach skins in red wine, sangria. Finish: simple, it plays back some of the notes of the nose, namely : plums and vinegar. It is acidic, with a drop of milk chocolate. Drinkable, yet far from blinding. 5/10 (Thanks for the sample, Bishlouk)

Highland Park 17yo (58.1%, private cask sample, b. ca 2018): nose: burnt wood, moist earth, turf, a heather hearth (I am pretty sure that is self-suggestion), a cast-iron cauldron that has spent too long on the live flame, and in which the vegetable soup has caked near the bottom. Of the trademark honey, I do not detect much -- and if there is any, it is caramelised. Mouth: hot, gently smokey, with burnt grass, dry hay. This has the heat of the industrial revolution! Burning coal, molten honey, heather, not quite in bloom yet, petrol, warm metal. It never tastes of diesel or hot engines, however. A soft medicinal touch -- gauze. Finish: yep, coal, embers, hot honey, peat fire, ashes. Heather honey and caramelised blackberry jam, too. This is a powerful, no-nonsense, light peater. Good, but but lacks complexity and finesse to score higher. 7/10 (Thanks for the sample, Bishlouk)