13 July 2020

12/07/2020 One dram on a lazy Sunday

The heat is back. :-(

Ragtime Rye 3yo b.2019 (57.9%, New York Distilling Co. Privately Selected bottled for British Bourbon Society, 1st Fill Bourbon Barrel, C#445): we do not have rye very often. The heat today seems to justify it. Nose: oh! What is happening, here? At first, it is red jello and punch (indistinct taste, but it smells chemical), then a powerful kick of neutral alcohol and ginger. The second sniff adds foot-bath waste water to the mix, pig sweat (do pigs even sweat?), buttermilk, oilskins and plastic buckets full of "chemical fruits" (apricot flavouring would be my guess). Five minutes in, it becomes tolerable at last: the plastic-y/chemical side slows down a bit, allowing a minty resin to emerge alongside waxy fruit peel. Water exacerbates the oilskin character above all else. Mouth: the attack is strong and merciless, with lots of fresh ginger, cedar-wood splinters, hot resin and a faint fruitiness (apricot again, mirabelle plum). The sides of the tongue still detect oilskins and plastic, but they are tame, at this stage, and resemble waxy fruit skins more than chemicals, although those do poke their heads round the back, in an artificial-flavouring or Irn-Bru kind of way. With water, the heat goes down a notch, and the mouthfeel goes thinner and dryer. The profile settles for woody, with mint and resin, and does away with the chemicals. Woo. Finish: massively powerful, but decently integrated. It is all about those resinous notes, in the finish, with hot pine sap, minty resin, cured ginger and decaying mirabelle plum. Not much plastic to be found here, I am pleased to report, and even the Irn Bru could be mistaken for waxy bergamot peels. It leaves the tongue a bit numb and it makes me hot. That is not what I was going for, really... Water gives it an unexpectedly herbal twist of geranium and tomato stems. Enough for today. I am exhausted. 7/10 (Thanks for the sample, MN)

11/07/2020 Day of the Flemish Community

Geenfarclas is the favourite distillery of Luc Timmermans, a collector from Flanders. I do not think he knows who I am, to be clear. I just have a few 'farclasses and it happens to be the Day of the Flemish Community.

Glenfarclas 41yo 1973/2014 (40.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 186b): nose: Virginia tobacco and sweet onions, melting in butter. Demerara sugar, muscovado sugar, while also a cereal note: Weetabix and draff. It has a whole fruity side to it, with dried apricots, dried mango slices and chewy orange sweets. After the first sip, the nose takes on an orange-peel character, even grapefruit zest appears, with pith not far behind. Mouth: fresh, fruity and herbaceous, it has iron tonic, tarragon and loads of citrus (juicy oranges, tangerines, ripe mandarins), pineapple drops, lemon mint, perhaps pot ale. The second sip is orange and peach nectar, rich, sweet, softly bitter and fruity to the max. The sugar from the nose morphs into caramel flan, perhaps with a drop of tonic (Schweppes), or green tea leaves. Finish: perfectly balanced, it continues the citrus story, with slightly more acidic fruits, this time: pomelo, bergamot, calamansi, rather than orange and tangerine. There is also rose-petal jelly, prickle-pear marmalade, jellied narcissus leaves (don't ask), gelatine, and, once again, the gentle bitterness of tonic water. A soft-wood influence can be felt at the third sip, at last, more mint or resin than sandal wood or ginger. One has to work rather hard, with this one. All the notes are tightly interwoven, and it becomes tricky to identify them. Undoubtedly, it is excellent juice, yet it is difficult to describe it. 9/10 (Thanks for the sample, Forrest)

Probably Speyside's Finest Distillery 46yo 1967/2013 (53.6%, Langside Distillers Douglas of Drumlanrig for La Boutique du Chemin, Sherry Butt, C#LD10258, 9b): this is one of Hunter Laing's Old & Rare Platinum, re-bottled for La Boutique du Chemin. There have been a few of those, that were given a new livery and a ridiculously low outturn for the Belgian shop. Anyway, the online shop clearly states this is a Glenfarclas; I am sure Hunter Laing are ecstatic about that, seeing what lengths they go to to ensure this is from an undisclosed distillery. Nose: it has almost nothing in common with its predecessor. This one has encaustic, wood varnish, rapeseed oil, pickled reddish onions, pickled radishes, plum wine, sliced pickled ginger, lots of rancio, as becomes very obvious, after a minute. Then, it is a drinks cabinet and something less likely: something sweaty; not quite old gym shoes -- something closer to cheese (halloumi). Elderberry, fermenting away, before being made into a liqueur, wine sauce, marinated skewers, and then a powerful earthiness -- scorched earth and hair balls. Mouth: oomph! This feels wine-y on the tongue! Marinating skewers, sauce grand'veneur, fruit liqueur... and a lot of fruit, full stop, actually: elderberry, blackberry, myrtle, dark cherry all compete for attention. That said, they have to fight off Madeira and Port, which are well bombastic. The palate has a pronounced toasted side too, with distinct aniseed, charred toast and scorched earth, though it falls short of coffee grounds (phew!) Cocoa powder, coconut oil, gun oil. The texture is surprisingly thin, on the other hand. Only the taste is oily. Finish: in line with the above, it has the bitter freshness of aniseed, roasted liquorice root and berries aplenty (even if it goes no further than rancio-y elderberry, this time). Madeira wine, a touch of earth , liquorice allsorts, perhaps new rubber joints, liqueur pralines, almond oil and Brazil-nut skins. It is well made, but less my thing. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, LM)

Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB, b. ca 2017): kind people at Master of Malt! I was buying ten samples (including three Mosstowies and three Glenislas) and a bottle, and they sent me this as a freebie. As a former colleague would say: "so cute." Anyway, it is a staple in many drinks cabinets, and used to feature highly on any bang-for-your-buck list. I have never found it noteworthy and have not had it for nigh-on twenty years. Time to confront my prejudice. Nose: "it smells like whisky," as FMcN would say. It smells powerful, with, next to the alcohol, musk, animal skin (wet fox?), cheap wood varnish and baby sick -- butyric, Cavalier66 would call it, posh that he is. Then, suddenly, it turns all green with tomato leaves, laurel leaves, day-old cut grass on a heap, onion seeds, mulch. It swings between green house and hay seamlessly, before coming back to cheap wood varnish, this time with hair balls too (the kind that clog a sink). With water, it smells like a proper supermarket whisky, with cat urine and baby sick. Maybe a drop of orange juice, in the long run, and a pinch of chalk powder, in the back. Mouth: chemical lemonade, a mixture of Dr. Pepper and Fanta. It is also very powerful, peppery, peppermint-y in a Fisherman's Friend sort of way -- fierce. Other than that, it tastes very much like basic whisky, with milk-chocolate cream and wood chunks, cereal (puffed rice, barley husk), and then a gentle, wine-y note. With water, it feels more wine-y, whilst also thinner and fruitier: orange juice and zest make it to the surface, at last. The second wet sip feels chalky. Finish: long, big, it has ginger shavings, cedar wood, cigar boxes, tannins, some milk chocolate, buried under peppermint, crushed bay leaves, cardamom pods. Water dials everything down but the chocolate: it becomes milk chocolate and orange jelly (that would be Jaffa Cake, then, because it is not good enough to be PiM's). To be perfectly honest, it is not particularly pleasant. Not disgusting either; just not very good. That said, I was bracing myself for worse. :-) It is a lot of alcohol for not a lot of money. I do want more of my whisky, though. In any case, it is better with water. 6/10 (Thanks for the sample, MoM)

6 July 2020

05/07/2020 Two more Lochsides

Because why not?

Lochside 1981/2010 (50%, Ryst-Dupeyron Captain Burn's): nose: waxy tropical fruit, with mango skins and lychee, yet also citrus: blood orange, pink grapefruit, bursting with juice, satsuma and calamansi, lemon-tree bark... Yes: it has a woody side to it, which balances out the fruit adequately. Cigar boxes, holding crushed Kaffir lime leaves. In fact, the nose even seems to have ash. Certainly, it is ash from burnt fruit tree, orange tree. A whiff of fusty cork, humid cardboard, then dried orange peel, ground into dust. Later nosing helps discover banana and apricot yoghurt. Mouth: juicy-thin in texture, it has ginger powder and a pinch of white pepper, sprinkled over similar fruits: oranges, satsumas, calamansis, pink grapefruits, as well as lychee and tatters of mango flesh, stuck to the skin. As the liquid coats the mouth, it reveals more and more gingery oranges. Just like on the nose, the second sip puts the emphasis on banana -- banane flambée, probably, with ground cloves and ground cardamom. Lovely. Finish: phwoar! It is in line with the nose and mouth (citrus and soft spices), until a timid kick of tropical fruit comes tickle the taste buds (pineapple, here; no sign of the lychee, at this stage). If banana there is, it is not ripe. On the other hand, the citrus is bold, with grapefruits of all colours, ripe oranges and mandarins. It is juicy, crisp and a tad acidic too. Cedar-wood sheets give the wood spices that one should expect in a whisky of that age, yet it is clearly a solidly fruity drop, first and foremost. 9/10 (Thanks for the dram, JS)

Lochside 52yo 1963/2015 (48.1%, Hunter Laing The Sovereign, Refill Hogshead, C#HL11835, 83b): that is not a lot of bottles, is it? Nose: lots and lots of blackcurrant, blackcurrant jam... Did I pour an Invergordon by mistake? It is a masterclass in dark berries, really; blackberries, blueberries, myrtles, and a spoonful of elderberries to complete a picture that is mostly painted with blackcurrant juice. Speaking of painting, oil paint makes a brief appearance, then recedes to make room for blackcurrant turnovers, slightly overly baked, leaving caramelised jam and gently-charred crust. Time puts the focus on that charred profile, with charred fruit tree and burnt pastry to complement the caramelised jam. Mouth: by the great Cthulhu! This is so jammy it is unreal. Blackcurrant jam through and through, with a note of smoked blackberry in the back of the throat. Treacle and molasses are joined, after a while, by burnt wood. Or is it oiled wood in the sun? It cannot shake off a comforting warmth, a glow, even, perhaps of wood lacquer? Finish: the finish is in keeping with the previous, full of caramelised blackcurrant jam, molasses and charred cherry wood. Spent matches, spent fireworks, dirty shotgun barrels, lubricated with blackcurrant jam ("Why would anyone do that?" I hear you ask). Excellent, yet perhaps borderline too woody. Since it is charred wood, it might not agree with everyone. 9/10