16 October 2017

15/10/2017 A couple of drams on the terrace

Polishing off some samples during this mini heatwave.

St Magdalene d.1966 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b. early 1990s): nose: it seems quite wine-y at first; hopefully, the vessel was cleaned properly before this was poured into it... Soon, mushrooms emerge. I would like to say it has the trademark flint and lichen, but it would be autosuggestion. The nose is shy, with a definite wine note -- perhaps red wine, spilled on stone. Odd. Ten minutes in, the lichen makes a real appearance, at last, then limestone and a zesty freshness. Tarragon, a hint of toffee. Mouth: it is a St Magdalene alright, with the traditional mix of lime juice on stone, yet also lovely custard -- it is a Lowlander, after all. It works. Some ground black pepper lurks, discreet, but present, and radish stems. That is a first! Finish: the St Magdalene bitterness is there (dried sage, marjoram, bay leaves), on top of more custard and caramel biscuits. Only the bitterness stays longer in the mouth. This is good, even though I had higher expectations. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, EG)

Linlithgow (49%, Cask Sample, Butt, Wine Finish, C#4384, b.2017): even if this is a 1982 distillation (Linlithgow's last year, and that is most likely), it is a 34 or 35yo, making it the oldest St Magdalene/Linlithgow I have had to-date. It is probably one of those wine-treated butts Signatory Vintage had several of. DW visited a distillery which offered this cask for visitors to bottle their own. Wow, right? No point asking which distillery that was, I will not give it away. :-P Nose: this smells softer and rounder than the GMP, but also more wine-y. Fluffy lavender cake, lime juice, herbs in creamy custard. Stones appear, eventually, not invading. Mouth: another lime-y, custard-y St Magdalene. Much less herbaceous than the 1966, but it has just as much stone -- limestone, to be accurate. This is both austere and welcoming at the same time, which is impressive. Finish: here, the herbs are in full display; gentian and dried sage in custard. Said custard contains a dash of white wine, and it is poured on a piece of lukewarm lavender cake, soft and fluffy. Another very good drop. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, DW)

13/10/2017 Three drams by Cadenhead

No particular occasion, but those miniatures are not going to drink themselves. Or indeed, they will: the level on these is not the best. I would rather enjoy some of it, not leave all to the angels.

Edradour 18yo (46%, Cadenhead, b. ca 1990): not many Edradours on these pages. It is not a distillery that excites many enthusiasts, and certainly not one that is often bottled independently -- even less so since the Signatory Vintage take-over in the early 2000. This is a treat, then. And watch that font on the label! Nose: OME, which is to say: dusty books and pickles in vinegar. Once the OME (Old Miniature Effect, if you have forgotten) has taken the back seat, this turns into a soapfest; a blend of Sunlight, Nivea, Badedas and Neighbours. You know: Holly, Nicole, Jason, Kylie -- Neighbours. Twenty minutes later, wood emerges, shy. It really is a wooden plank with litres of soap spread onto it. A soap sandwich, in which the bread is replaced with wood. I need to correct all the above: it is not soap, but shampoo! Elsève de L'Oréal, Garnier Ultra Doux, Clairol Herbal Essence. Not a good start. Washing-up liquid, and not the nicely-scented ones. This is proper Edradouche. Mouth: aouch! Soapy water, lukewarm, with wine, a hint of white wood and loooooooaaaaads of shampoo. If anyone ever wondered how they used to clean the mash tun and washbacks in the 1970s, I think I have an answer! The texture is also that of soapy water, by the way. Green chilli appears -- this is the hottest shampoo I have ever drunk. :-) Finish: eurgh. I am not very sensitive to soap, but this is way beyond my tolerance threshold. Chilli powder on green leaves, a little minty custard and more litres of Garnier Ultra Doux shampoo (chamomile, the yellow-top bottle). To paraphrase Jim Murray, "Pitlochry must have run out of soap for months after this was produced." I do not and will not often quote Murray. It is worth it, today. Worst whisky on this blog, to-date. 2/10

Glenfiddich-Glenlivet 22yo (46%, Cadenhead, b. ca 1990): one of the best-selling malts in the world (it was number one for the longest time), Glenfiddich is also a rare occurrence on this blog. One can easily see why: when is the last time you saw an independent bottling of it? As for the official bottlings, prices tend to get silly as soon as one moves away from the NAS-12-15yo. This is a rare opportunity "to make of one beer two gulps," to quote a Belgian expression. Nose: OME again, with with more old books and pickled gherkins. Then, it is HP brown sauce, marrow purée, wine, decanted for too long, old-school larders in old castles (think: Duart), game sauce, chestnut purée and teaks cabinets. Definitely teak cabinets and nut shells. Nice. Mouth: crushed peach stone, more teak furniture and green-chilli heat. Do I detect washing-up liquid? Perhaps. Hard to tell. Am I paranoid? Is it leftovers from the previous dram? In any case, it has nowhere near the same level of soap as the Edradouche. This is elegantly woody, with exotic wood, to be accurate (teak). Finish: exotic wood here too (teak, mahogany), velvety fruit (peach, soft apricot flesh), a drop of liquid soap. This is warm, quite comforting, and rather pleasant, in an old-school sort of way. 6/10

The Glenlivet 14yo (80° Proof, Cadenhead, b.1970s): Cadenhead still called it The Glenlivet, at the time, not Minmore, nor Glenlivet. Wonder what Chivas Brothers, the current owners of Glenlivet, would think of that. In any case, this is likely a late 1950s, or early 1960s distillation and, judging by the colour, a sherry maturation. What could go wrong? Everything, if tonight's first dram is an indicator. Nose: very deeply sherried, with walnut oil, raspberry vinegar, old tools, hazelnut shells, chestnut purée, crushes hazelnuts, linseed oil -- scratch that: it is wok oil, past its prime, in a sheet-metal wok. The texture is milky, bordering on creamy, and it has a faint bitterness (the metal). Finish: similar notes, here, with a mix woody and metallic tones. Shoe polish, teak cabinets, wood varnish, sesame oil in a sheet-metal wok, chestnut purée, chesterfield sofas. The pick of the litter, although I do not consider it a total winner either. 7/10

11 October 2017

10/10/2017 A few drams at the SMWS

A few months ago, the SMWS opened new venues in London and Edinburgh. They are called Kaleidoscope. They are open to non-members. Tonight, JS and I try one of them.

9.128 24yo d.1992 Scented candles on a fruit cake (51.3%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 172b): nose: alcohol burn and perfume, then apple cider, lots of meadow flowers, jasmine and lime juice. Creamy doughnut emerges (but not that Krispy Kreme shite, you know). More citrus comes out (pink grapefruit, pomelo), but the heat is still intimidating. Mouth: mellow as dough, yet beware! It has enough horsepower to knock out a pony. Green chilli, warm broth, potato peels. This mouth is rather dreary, to be honest. With water, it becomes even drearier. A drop of peach nectar in a glass of water, drowned and uninteresting. Finish: fruit comes out, here, soft, baked apples, some green wood, soft butter. Meh. Alright, nothing special. With water, it is a teaspoon of coffee in a jug of watered-down peach juice, with, perhaps, the most delicate hint of chocolate. 6/10

50.95 27yo 1990/2017 Magical moments (59.8%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 144b): nose: sweet pastry, golden but not fully baked yet. Further, it is nail-varnish remover and flowers -- is this a grain in disguise? It also has a note of cold steel, which is unexpected. It becomes juicier, after a while, with peach nectar showing up. Mouth: similar flowery/floury notes, with an alcoholic bite -- this is strong and woody. Birch splinters. The second sip is softer, more gentle, though it still presents a lot of wood. Woody yoghurt it is, then. Finish: more flowers and pastry dough, yet they are mostly buried under a lot of wood and alcohol. The second sip is more bearable, but not much happens, any longer -- just a few flowers and a little dough. 7/10

7.128 12yo Swaying palm trees at sunset (60.1%, SMWS Society Cask exclusive to Devonshire Square, 160b): Devonshire Square is the Kaleidoscope's address, you will have understood. Nose: milk chocolate, chocolate truffles, decaying cherries; this is nice and fruity, if fiercely strong. It very much swings from cherries to milk chocolate and back, like a good praline. Later, a whiff of wood varnish appears, pipe tobacco, then vanilla and Scottish tablet. Mouth: surprisingly soft, it has darker chocolate than the nose, with cherries again. Squashed raspberries join the party. Pink pepper and, still, chocolate. Finish: magnificent chocolate with raspberry coulis and strawberry stems, hot custard and crushed cardamom. This one is much more to my taste! 8/10

25.70 26yo d.1990 In a perfumed garden (58.3%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, finished in a Sauternes Cask, 170b): this one caused a bit of a stir on social media and other circles. It is allegedly the last cask of Rosebank the society had (in light of the announcement yesterday, that Rosebank is to re-open, take that with a grain of salt) and was launched with adequate fanfare, alongside a similarly-aged Macallan. The labels are black, supposedly answering members' request for an easy way to distinguish desirable bottles on the shelf (when are they going to introduce crystal decanters and wooden boxes?, tOMoH asks thee). Both were available to prebook, and a preselected panel was meant to receive samples (paid for?) in order to further promote the bottles on social media. All that is well and not groundbreaking. There was much debate about the finishing, but the real point of contention was the price. This Rosebank retails at £875. The Macallan is even more expensive. 25.69, which was released in 2014 and was limited to 35 bottles (!) cost a whopping £160. One can imagine how a 540% price increase was received by members. It is nice, then, to be able to try it by the dram and decide. Nose: an odd mix of manuka honey, flowers and leather -- and it works. It turns dryer and dryer; after giving out scents of a pony ride at a village fair, it morphs and smells of dried flowers in an empty vase. Perfume-y indeed, with a touch of jam, after a while. Mouth: soft and milky, discreet, but spices quickly turn up -- ginger, lemongrass, galangal. Lemon drops are in the background. Actually, the lemon drops become bolder and bolder. Finish: long and powerful, with potent lemon drops, quite some drying, woody notes, dried flowers, hay bales, Fisherman's Friends. This is a decent dram with a good nose, but the price is really extravagant for the quality. Waste of money, innit. 7/10

Glad to have visited the place, if not entirely convinced by it. Music -- argh. Hip hop does go down a treat when drinking exclusive whisky -- not. Air conditioning -- argh. It dries my eyes so much I start crying, on the way back. No ice cream; they discontinued it. One of the shelves contains a couple of dozens of old-style bottlings, but they are not available for general consumption -- only for special events... and to tease punters, obviously.
It feels like a regular bar, and to a degree, that is what it is. I do think, however, that the atmosphere is not very cosy. The staff is helpful, but they hardly project an aura of passion.

As I said: not really convinced.