21 January 2019

18/01/2019 Oily and Coastal at the SMWS

Here we go again. The  SMWS introduced this formula recently. They already had the five-drams-and-a-cheese-plate on the first Saturday of the outturn, the five-drams-and-a-steak-dinner on the first Monday of the outturn, this is five-drams-and-fish-&-chips on a Friday (I have not yet cracked which Friday, and it does not matter). I promise no G8/Cambus, today!

37.112 16yo 2002/2018 Cream tea with a difference! (54.8%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Madeira Hogshead, 258b): nose: flowers that quickly make room for buttery fruit. From buttery papaya and apricot, it turns into Christmas pudding and mince pies, then juicy greengage, sunflower oil, rubbed honeysuckle leaves and fig relish. The second nosing is full of dry-ish plums, mirabelle plums and greengages. Mouth: wine-marinated peach skins, fig relish, the delicate acidity of citrus (bergamot? Tangerine?) and orange pith. The second sip is spicier. Finish: a mix of unripe-fruit juice and tame milk chocolate with a pinch of herbs thrown in. 7/10

GK and Dr. CD are next to JS and me, which means that, despite the huge pours proiding enough to do so, socialising  gets in the way of breaking down "a pinch of herbs" into a bullet-point list of herbs. Get over it.

39.172 28yo d.1989 Starry starry night (48.2%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill Toasted Hogshead, 182b): nose: berries aplenty (blackberry, gooseberry, blueberry, rowan berry, rose petal and pressed raisins, as well as a touch of ash and hot, crusty bread. Mouth: mellow, prune-y, plummy, soft and fruity. The sherry influence is wonderful and balanced (it is not mentioned, but I am convinced it is an ex-Sherry cask). Lingonberry compote, slightly caramelised. This is very juicy! Finish: amazing. It has more plums and soaked prunes, soaked raisins, then purple passion fruit -- fleeting, but present. There is indeed a dollop of tropical fruit that I cherish. The finish is 9/10 material, and the whole is one of the best expressions I have tasted from this distillery, flirting with the mighty Rare Malts' quality. 8/10

Food enters. It is probably one of the best fish & chips I have had.


36.155 20yo d.1997 (56.9%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 185b): nose: curry leaves, Brazil nuts, nutmeg, oil paint, strawberry vinegar, almond paste. The second nosing brings milk chocolate. Mouth: a bit neutral, it has spicy almond paste and distant boiled sweets. The spices grow in intensity, and paint develops, after a few sips. Finish: pine needles and shortbread. This is very fresh, Goccepino or Suc des Vosges style. It has a lick of cork and lots of pine lozenges. 7/10

7.213 13yo d.2004 Moistify your leather (59.9%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 161b): nose: lots of various cakes, flour, plaster (yep), then toffee, cinnamon, speculoos spice mix, nougat and dried watercolour. With water, the watercolour becomes more prominent, as do crayons. Mouth: nougat-y and milky, it has an aggressive bite of green chilli, tamarind paste (though not quite as acidic), Thai curry paste. Oooh! it is hot. Water improves the balance. Finish: dried fruit, covered in ginger powder, dried tamarind, cassiah bark, crushed bay leaves. This is nice, but a bit strong for me. Water makes this bitter and green to a point that is not enjoyable. 7/10

9.158 22yo 1996/2018 Heavy weight cake (59.2%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Oloroso Sherry Hogshead, 239b): nose: nose: colour pencils, red-leaf lettuce, a pinch of dry earth, watercolour (again?) Mouth: crushed bay leaves, crushed cloves, kaffir lime leaves... This is dry and spicy. Finish: dry, drying, even, it has lots of earth, desiccated grapes, raisins, twenty years past their sell-by date, cork, dry staves. I chose it tonight because I liked 9.150 so much, but I am much less convinced by this one. 6/10

CD and Jas come back from Jas's leaving supper -- they had wine and are well merry. :-)
CD kindly offers us the following dram to celebrate Jas's last shift here.

85.16 18yo 1987/2005 Afternoon tea on the lawn (55.3%, SMWS Society Cask): nose: some leather, some mud, some white wine, a hint of shoe polish. This is very earthy! Of course, that is one of the trademark distillery markers. New shoes alongside the polish, which is less expected. Water brings out more varnish and polished wood. Mouth: soft and honeyed, with a dash of mud. The texture is oily and pleasing, mellow and mildly fruity. Water does not alter it. Finish: long, comforting, it has honey, a splash of mud and blackcurrant sweets. H2O makes it bitter. It is definitely better naked. 7/10 (Thanks for the dram, CD)

46.70 17yo d.2000 Rustic farmhouse kitchen (56.2%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Madeira Hogshead, 235b): nose: urgh. An interesting-but-by-no-means-pleasant mixture of watery coffee and baby sick. Not very enticing, this! To think this is one of my favourite distilleries!! Pine-tree sap shows up, dry tree bark and decaying plum, rotting hay. How charming! Mouth: soft, it ends up plummy and gently earthy, not dissimilar to drying sand. Finish: long, and plummy. The last impression is that of fermenting grapes. This is unripe, in my opinion. The finish is much better than the nose all the same. Not taken. 5/10

While I order the next round, S offers home-baked carrot cake, which is cracking. Thanks!

50.104 28yo 1990/2018 A rosewood Dalek (51.3%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 139b): nose: super fragrant, it has all sorts of flowers (honeysuckle, dandelion, buttercup), incense, cut pears, quince, pencil erasers, burning balsa wood and cinnamon sticks. The flowery-fruity ping pong is amazing. Mouth: very soft, fruity and silky, it has peach, apricot, persimmon, a dash of light wine and ground pepper. Finish: juicy, with quince, pear, honeysuckle, peach in syrup, persimmon again and crushed cherries. Yum! 9/10

38.22 25yo d.1992 Love letters on linen paper (51%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 270b): nose: orchard fruit and ginger powder. I take no further note. Mouth: soft, subtle, it has more orchard fruits and banana skins. The fruit actually becomes more tropical, with jackfruit and banana stealing the spotlight. Finish: hot, very hot (it feels as though I just inhaled this), with lovely tropical fruit, banana and guava, chocolate and caramelised apples. 8/10

Great night out.

17 January 2019

16/01/2019 One dram

It was fifteen years ago to the day that I bought a bottle of Laphroaig 40yo. I have had it on this day almost every year since. Today, I am somehow not in the mood. It would be a shame to squander it, so I will have something less glorious (on paper, at least).

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 16yo 2001/2018 (54%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 3 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 858b): nose: cereal-y, it has malted milk, cooked swedes, baked-potato skins and mash, before taking on a more wine-y character; red-wine vinegar, shallots, marinated green onions. Later still, watercolour and crushed gherkins, rapeseed oil and peanut shells, as well as chervil. With water, the watercolour is still there, timid, but now, it is joined by orchard fruits, chiefly apples and pears, though plums soon enter the dance too. Mouth: astringent, it has shallots here too, soon matched by watercolour, then crystallised oranges. The alcohol grows bolder, with candied elderberry and tangerines, accompanied by gorse and flowering currants. This palate has quite a bite to it, at 54%, though I struggle to recognise what it is -- not chilli, in any case; raw onion slices, maybe? With water, it feels softer, with plum juice, green-grape juice, augmented with a spoonful of honey thrown in. The texture is now soft and fluffy, beautiful. Finish: it has an initial wood kick that quickly dissipates to leave green leaves, flower-stem sap, sherbet and a gentle lick of sweet fruit (crystallised orange again). It is slightly bitter, in other words. Water helps tame the alcohol and the bitterness in the finish as well, leaving but honey, fruits, mead with only the tiniest amount of plant sap. The watercolour note in the nose grows on me, but it is a rather simple, unpretentious dram, as expected. It improves with water, however. 6/10 (7 with water) (Thanks for the sample, SW)

14 January 2019

12/01/2019 Jas's leaving do at the SMWS

Jas is the latest casualty at the SMWS bar, though she was beaten to it by the manager, who left earlier this month. Never met him during his tenure.
No politics here, however; only whisky. For the occasion, punters can buy a flight of five drams for a set price. Woo.

105.24 25yo d.1992 Such stuff as drams are made on (49%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 215b): nose: liquid nougat, perfume and much fruit (peach, overripe apricot), a dash of nail polish too. It becomes more lime-driven, with perhaps a touch of handwash. Mouth: melted milk chocolate and peach slices, apricot peel... This is very soft, with a small pinch of crushed chilli--no! paprika! Finish: very fruity, it has a hint of cinnamon, cassiah bark, bay leaves, soaked cardamom pods, and still those lovely apricot and peach, as well as a splash of milk-chocolate coulis. Great drop. 8/10

7.212 25yo 1993/2018 Mile-high coconut cream pie (51.3%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Red Wine Barrique, 246b): nose: flowery, it has gerania (lots, hence the plural form), then it changes to deliver flour and confectionery sugar, augmented with crushed bay leaves. Mouth: super soft, luscious, fluffy, pillow-y, it has apricot doughnuts, jammy muffins and sweetened marmalade. Beau-ti-ful! Finish: the fruity, sugary story continues, soft and sweet, with warm apricot turnover and marmalade on scones, clove and nutmeg. Another pretty one. 8/10

76.59 23yo 1985/2008 Oliver Twist whisky (61.8%, SMWS Society Cask): this is a private bottle, picked from a regular's vast collection to celebrate the occasion. Nose: another very fragrant number, with honeysuckle, forsythia, ivy, viola (that cute, purple garden flower), primrose -- boy! is this flowery. At the back, it has sawdust from the driest shelves, ground to, well, dust. Mouth: a tickling sensation on the tip of the tongue, like a fizzy drink -- a fizzy blackberry drink. Some pepper grows in intensity, never becoming too bold. Finish: long, very fragrant and flowery again, it has honeysuckle and forsythia reminiscent of the nose. This is a great Mortlach, as in: not a meaty one. "Good for Veganuary," says JS. :-) 8/10 (Thanks for the dram, PS)

7.185 27yo d.1990 Sweet, smooth, s'more (58.1%, SMWS Society Cask, Refil ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 150b): more honeysuckle and a walk in a greenhouse (is that tomato stems?), then it opens to reveal snowberry (that is a blast from the past!), gorse, all sorts of bushes and the berries that grow on them. Mouth: it is mellow on the palate, but it has an edge all the same, with green chilli and raw cardamom pods to supplement the flowery notes. Finish: oooh! this is warm. It has lots of flowers (again), a drop of chocolate coulis and honeysuckle sap. Good whisky, but the overall integration is not as successful as 7.212's (same distillery, hence the inevitable comparison). Water makes it unbalanced, more chocolate-y, but not in a good way. 7/10

135.11 13yo 2005/2018 Paddle steaming (57.1%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 309b): bottled for the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Society, this has the modern bottle shape with the old-school label design. I spotted it a few weeks ago; good to try it at last. Also, it is not as if I tried Inchmoan every day, is it? Nose: VINEGAR! This is really difficult. It has the astringency of pickle vinegar and pickled onions on top of the tame leather that is more expected of this make. A few seconds in, the peat becomes more discernible, farm-y, with mud and farm paths, yet it retains that strong, vinegar-y side. Mouth: mellow, round, soft, almost. Until the vinegar catches up and the palate becomes awful for a moment. Soon, however, mud and farm paths come back and solve it all... for now! It is pretty spicy, with mango chutney, nigella seeds and asa foetida. Finish: here, it is an onslaught of peat, dried mud, farm paths, dried wellies. It is not bad, after all, but that vinegar-y nose sure is a turn-off! 5/10

114.3 13yo 1990/2004 (54.5%, SMWS, 643b): you guessed it; this is not at the bar either, but offered by another regular -- Dr. CD. It was bottled many years ago to celebrate the opening of the SMWS Queen Street venue, in Edinburgh. I have wanted to try this for a long time! Nose: flinty leather, lots of flinty leather. It quickly becomes extremely farm-y, with farm paths and tractor tyres, drying mud and ploughed fields. Mouth: it appears soft, until one realises it is full of horsepower. The farm-y notes are perpetuated on the palate and it is sensational. Finish: long, never-ending, with similar farm-driven notes of drying mud, farm paths, diesel and tractor saddle. Simple-ish, perhaps, yet deadly efficient! 8/10 (Thanks for the dram, Dr. CD)

G8.9 29yo 1989/2018 Butter, Scotch and butterscotch (60.1%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 181b): nose: very solvent-like, very cleansing, though it means: 'stripping,' rather than: 'soothing,' in this particular case I fear already that this is a Cambus that will make me regret trying it as soon as the sun rises. Coconut chocolate, very coconut, but strong, white chocolate. I smell enough alcohol in this to strip my nose clean. Mouth: quite bland, almost like neutral spirit, for a bit, at least. The alcohol takes over, with maybe a little coconut. The third sip brings some dark berries that remind me of Invergordon. Although, by that point, my taste buds are anything but fully functional, mind! Finish: almost pure alcohol, with perhaps a drop of plum juice (slivovice), and the most minute coconut touch. I can feel the headache coming (as it turns out, I will be hungover as fuck tomorrow, stripped tongue and all. Thanks, Cambus!) Again, the third sip displays enough berries to keep it mildly interesting (currants and blackberries, dark cherries), but the morning-after effect prevents it from scoring higher. 5/10

One last one.

Lindores Abbey New Make b.2018 (63.5%, OB, B#LAD/PS/2018): nose: pear eau-de-vie (typical, for a new make). This is not my style at all. Nuts, urine and decayed redcurrants. Mouth: more fruity shenanigans, with plums and currants, all a bit shaky and not really integrated. Finish: indistinct fruit here too. This is OK, not quite ripe, in my opinion. 5/10 (Thanks for the dram, Dr. CD)

I manage to make it home intact and have some food. Tomorrow, I will want to put my head in the freezer. Ah, well.
Fare well, Jas! Actually, chances are I will see you on Friday again.