8 October 2019

07/10/2019 Six whiskies with Charles Maclean

Tonight is the official launch of Cask Trade, a company that intends to provide casks of whisky to a varied clientele. The audience is made of investors, collectors, enthusiasts and everything in between. Little press that I can recognise and few bloggers, if any. The founder of the company (SA) and tOMoH happen to be on friendly terms, hence my being graciously invited. I do not believe said founder is aware of the existence of this blog, so it hardly seems an commercially-motivated move.

Now the disclaimers are out of the way, the evening starts out with SA presenting the company, its ethos and its mission, then switches to a tasting of six cask samples -- casks owned by the company and, presumably, up for grabs. Charles Maclean is the celebrity who has been invited to present this, joined by Colin Hampden-White.

I make a mental note that this is the first tasting I attend that is (co-)hosted by Maclean, despite having seen him countless times at festivals.
SW is here with me. JS was invited, but she has a clashing meeting. With Gwyneth Paltrow. You could not make it up.

The whiskies, then.

The label has a mistake, yes.
It is from 1978.
Glenlivet 40yo 1978/2019 (41.7%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Hogshead, C#13523, gauged at 115b): the presenters underline that most tastings would culminate with the oldest, most expensive and most desirable whisky, something that often falls flat for two reasons: 1) old whiskies tend to be low in alcohol and more subtle in taste; saving them for last sees them compete with much more powerful and youthful predecessors; 2) when bumped into dram number six, an old whisky finds tired taste buds in one's mouth. So we have this dram first, tonight. Nose: soft and delicate, it has the subtle grapes of an old brandy, perhaps sawdust, sandalwood (Maclean) and dried bramble. It is really shy. Mouth: amazingly soft, it soon starts fizzing on the tongue with some gentle spices (crushed cloves). Rehydrated, dried cranberries appear, custard powder and droplets of Alka Seltzer, maybe. The wood is in check, if present. Finish: blackberry cough drops and very little wood: crushed bay leaves and a minute quantity of liquorice. This one is elegant and complex. I like it. Later, I will try one big gulp, chew on it for a long time and swallow it whole. That way, it becomes much more assertive, without the fierceness of a higher ABV -- interesting experience. 8/10

Aberlour 26yo d.1989 (51.1%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Hogshead, C#11040, gauged at 274b): not sure when the sample was drawn; clearly several years ago. Nose: putty, toothpaste, crushed-mint paste, meadow-flower stems (just the stems), then quite a kick of alcohol. Wax (neither candle nor furniture, though), pencil lead and crayons. Mouth: oooh! This is lively. It has some ginger shavings and hot apple pie. Later on, it turns waxy as hell. Finish: a bit green, here, strangely enough The alcohol is less well-integrated, with cut plants and dandelion stems. The second sip brings out sticky toffee pudding. Much later on, it turns out better, though it remains a bit bitter, behind the wax. 6/10

Charles Maclean puts on a monocle to read a label. I had never seen a monocle in the wild!

Glen Moray 9yo 2008/2017 (57.1%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Barrel, C#5796, gauged at 149b): nose: a pastry shoppe, with overripe pear, flan, vanilla pudding, then hard plastic. Mouth: similar notes of pastry; it has hot, sugar-sprinkled  apple turnover fused with warm croissant crust, lemon zest, and heat. Water helps integrate it more; the alcohol bite cools off. Finish: a touch more pepper, now, but the pastry is still glowing, augmented with a pinch of herbs (hawthorn and oregano). Water seems to mess up with the balance and turn the finish into alcohol-soaked chocolate. 7/10

Fettercairn 10yo 2008/2019 (56.6%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Barrel, C#5755, gauged at 227b): nose: lemon peel and white chocolate (SW, who loves white chocolate), lemon sage. It becomes very fruity, after a short while. Mouth: full-on white chocolate, now, with lashes of melted Mon Chéri praline thrown into it. It has a rather noticeable spiciness (galangal and crushed bay leaves) that is not overpowering in any way. Finish: huge, fruity at first, then becomes a little less impressive, with unripe-peach flesh. Much later on, it turns mellow and waxy, with plasticine and Blue Tack. 7/10

North British 12yo 2006/2019 (52.1%, Cask Trade cask sample, Sherry Hogshead, C#818392, gauged at 271b): nose: pastry ahoy, of course, with custard and unbaked croissant dough, as well as nougat. Mouth: big, it is reminiscent of the nose, with more croissant dough and crushed strawberry with some white pepper. Typical grain, not much altered by the sherry maturation -- a n-th refill, perhaps? Finish: paper paste, thick custard, flan. Very good. I like it. 7/10

Bunnahabhain 10yo 2009/2019 (56.2%, Cask Trade cask sample, Oloroso Sherry Butt, C#900034, gauged at 705b): nose: well, it is a huge sherry cask, with lots of wood varnish and a frankly meaty side as well. It does not dodge the sulphury note, yet it is tame. None of those notes are shouting too loudly, but they are all there. Mouth: big and chocolate-y, it has Mon Chéri and shovelfuls of earth. In fact, it is earthy, this! Finish: super-long, earthy and lightly meaty. Again, it does not try to hide its Oloroso maturation. This is not my personal favourite, but I can see people going mad for it. 6/10

An interesting selection and a very pleasant evening. Best wishes to Cask Trade!

23 September 2019

18/09/2019 Another blind sample under the Milky Way

Well, in the hotel room, really, but the stars are out, tonight, to a degree that induces vertigo. And yes, one can see the Milky Way. That is normal, since this is the USA. It is commercialised as Mars in Europe, as Milky Way in the US. Used to, at least. Both are now found in Europe. Not sure if the recipe is different.

Nose: bacon, burning hay and hot ink, poured into the flames. Behind that, charcoal, peaches, scorched earth, barbecued citrus and a medicinal touch: bandages and disinfectant. Laphroaig? Mouth: thick citrus, with grapefruit pulp and pineapple chunks, but also mango in syrup (the syrup easily dominates the fruit), as well as a distant note of merbromin. Heat: yes; peat: not so much. Green-chilli chutney keeps the tongue well warm, and it is augmented with a pinch of nigella seeds. Sweet and spicy alright. Finish: the peat comes back, rich and hot, yet it completely fails to mask the fruit: ripe satsuma and mango in pineapple juice happily float on a bed of gentle, boggy peat. Only a few drops of tincture of iodine hark back to the medicinal side. Whoever the hospital patient is, they clearly received a fruit basket as a get-well-soon present. I guess a Laphroaig. A fruity one, at that. I am wrong, of course. Ledaig 15yo 1997/2013 (51.9%, The Whiskyman Age Matters) 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, Gaija)

18/09/2019 Waiting for sunset at the Grand Canyon

Trying this blind. Remember drinking alcohol in the open is not allowed, here. Do not try this yourselves. I do not know what it is, yet. Perhaps it is not an issue, then?...

Nose: delicate, but assertive prunes, waxy plums, freshly-polished Chesterfield sofas, dried dates -- I sense a dense sherry maturation. Plum juice, waxy mirabelle plums and, later, cigar leaves. Mouth: unripe plum and quite a dose of wood. This seems like a different dram, completely! It is lively and powerful, peppery, even. It has some of the fruit from the nose, mostly covered by woody tones -- sawdust, nut shells and varnished wooden beams. Finish: another dram again, with custard powder, hints of cocoa and softly-drying wood polish. I now wonder if it is a Bourbon (in fact, I am convinced it is). Dried peach slices, dried dates. Decent, but rather woody, this one. 139.5 b.2019 Midnight Espresso (57.8%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Port Barrique, 181b) 7/10 (Thanks for the sample, Gaija)