16 June 2012

14/06/2012 Grain tasting with Dave Broom at the SMWS

Does it not look like the best way to celebrate anything? Yes, it does!
First organised tasting at the Society for JS and I. It starts late, because the room is not ready on time, but JS is late too, so it is actually not that bad. Another couple of people get the cake, though: they show up 30 minutes after it has started.

Anyway, the menu:

G2 16yo 1989/2006 (65%, SMWS Society Cask, 164b): Interesting one, this. It is the same distillery as G1; at first, the society never thought they would bottle grain on a regular basis, so they gave the first couple of bottlings numbers in the same way they do fo Rums and Armagnacs, i.e. no reference to the distillery. Then came a second distillery and they had a hard time differentiating them. So, G1, G2, G1.3 are North British, G2.1 is Carsebridge, G3.1 is Caledonian and so on. To the point: nose: oak! That is woody! Varnish, lacquer (including hair lacquer), banana after a while (and since Dave is from Glasgow, it has got to be fried banana; I agree, though), fudge (really? Alright, Dave), a little touch of wood (It is full of it!!) Mouth: wood! 65% take their toll too. Wood fire. Finish: cedar wood, pine tree. The incarnation of wood juice to me. Pretty good, but not exactly subtle. Licking a plank, innit.
This one, we are told, is made from maize, which is quite interesting. There is also a small percentage of malted barley -- for the enzymes, so they remove the starch. Yep, we are treated to crazy information and anecdotes.

G7.3 27yo 1984 Fresh toffee and glossy magazines (59.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 234b): wheat whisky, this one. Nose: flowery (heather, pot-pourri), but still lots of wood. Mouth: creamy, peppery; with water, pepper and wood become quite fiery. Finish: spicy and fresh. Mint, menthol? Pepper, nutmeg, also some fruit, though I never find out which one. A bit disappointed with this one: it is a great dram, but we have tried it before.

Supper pause: steak and ale pie.
'Do we have vegetarians in the room?' A few arms are raised. 'We have something for you too...'
'An ale!' says Broom. :-)

G4.1 29yo 1979/2008 (53%, SMWS Society Cask, 236b): wheat again. Nose: a whole lot of wood again, with a lovely bit of caramel, candied fruit and glue. Mouth: coffee first, then glue. Finish: coffee bitterness, then truckloads of white pepper. Pretty good, this. Cannot say if I prefer it to my own DT 25yo Cameron Bridge, but it certainly is nice.

G5.5 18yo 1993 Rich, sweet and comforting (65.4, SMWS Society Single Cask, Hogshead, 243b): another wheat one. Nose: dunnage, wood, cellar and bonded warehouse, lichen, vanilla, toffee, butterscotch, aaaaaaaaahhhhh! Mouth: pepper (it is a peppery day, is it not?), butterscotch, potent. Finish: liqueur praline, vanilla, caramel, Grand Marnier, crème brûlée (spot on, Dave). Another disappointment (sort of), since I have it. Top dram nonetheless and actually dram of the day for 75% of the audience. Relieved to have a bottle, after all, as it is sold out. JS notes that G5.5 is almost 65.5 ABV, which makes me laugh a lot.

Nikka Coffey Grain 12yo 70th Anniversary (58%, OB): this one is served blind. A few wild guesses included Loch Lomond and Lochside (that was mine, based on the shape of the bottle, similar to a recent release of Lochside grain). Nose: coffee (or should I spell it Coffey? oh-oh-oh), sugar, maple syrup. Mouth: pepper, salt, coating. Finish: chocolate, brown sugar, coffee, melon (says my neighbour), fruitiness (JS). Everyone raves about this one. It is good, but not my favourite. I think I preferred other Coffey Grains.

The party then slowly fades away. The late couple leave their glasses nearly untouched. I feel forced to finish G5.5, which is a very stupid mistake. It is now sold out, though, and a friend would like a bottle. I cannot decently tell him we left two drams of it behind. Note to self: next time, bring a flask or empty samples.

I manage to exchange a few words with our captivating host about those short-lived malt distilleries that saw the light of day within grain plants. PS joins us and ends up offering a dram of the following -- he had donated it for the tasting, but there were enough bottles as it were.

G3.1 29yo 1978/2008 Hours of Entertainment (60.1%, SMWS Society Cask): first Caledonian, I think, and the only reason I bother: by this time, my brain is not working properly (or at all, really), and the notes I manage to take are thin. I find pepper in the mouth and vanilla in the finish. A wasted dram, yet thanks to PS for his recurrent generosity. Double checking my list, I realise I have had it before. Oh well. :-)

Mixed feelings about this tasting. The selection was half-disappointing: two recent bottlings we have tried, including one I own; I was hoping for more non-Society bottlings (what was I thinking, eh?) and rarer distilleries; and the food, although good, was way insufficient to tamper the crazy alcohol levels.
Having said that, it was great to get a chance to try G2 and the others, of course, but what made the event worthwhile is the host. Second tasting with Dave Broom and he is a star. Passionate, knowledgeable, kind, funny as hell and down-to-earth. A great pleasure. A few selected pieces:

'Malt producers said, "It's not good, that's not whisky. We should know, because we've made it for a long time." The Irish said the same. With an Irish accent.'

'Will they normally have only one grain in a blend?
-No, they won't! Fantastic! Glad I asked you!'

'Girvan. It's a bit like Listerine. In fact, those who've been to Girvan will know that's what happens.'

'Maybe it's a Scottish thing -- if it's not fried, it's sweet.'

'Leather, new leather characteristics -- like a Scot's wallet. It's rarely been used.'

'What's it like with water?
-Add water and find out!'

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