31 December 2012

30/12/2012 10, 20, 30, 40 (but not in that order)

A couple of things that have a dangerously low level and need finishing, plus another couple to complement. Let's go!
Yeah, let's go!
Tobermory 10yo (40%, OB): nose: it starts off pleasant, if far from noble -- feinty, spirity and full of grist (crushed cereals). Ethanol-flavoured porridge. Rather one-dimensional, apart from that note of apple. Mouth: dry, light and simple. Pleasant alright, yet not a monster of complexity. Finish: more porridge, distant alcohol, very light cough syrup, wheat. Pleasant finale. Again, it is on the low-brow end of the W spectrum, yet a nice dram for beginners, as an aperitive, or as a non-pretentious, every-day drink. Does exactly what one would expect from a whisky of that price. 6/10

Tomatin 40yo 1967/2007 (42.9%, OB, Bourbon Hogshead, 1614b): I had this at the Whisky Show: it was OK, not blinding, hence its early position, today. Nose: delicate leather, a pan of pommes rissolĂ©es with mushrooms and walnuts. It is all very nice, but it is not the most expressive dram! Everything in the nose is subdued and downplayed. Mouth: very refreshing, with berries (blackberries and black currant). Finish: it finally delivers a bit -- exotic fruit (mango, jackfruit), berries again (red and black currant, black- and blueberries, this time), strawberry jam and a little marzipan. There is even some passion fruit. This could be great, but it feels really tired to these taste buds. It was not more assertive when I had it straight out of a fresh bottle, so I doubt it faded away in my flask. It is simply too expensive for what it is at ca 400£. 7/10

125.36 20yo 1989 A tapestry of tropical tastes (51.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First-fill Barrel, 279b): this one will not stop agonising -- still one dram to go in the bottle, even after pouring for this session. Nose: melted butter, which was my impression the first time I had it, in February. Stale cream. This one has said all it had to say and is now out of words, it would seem. Mouth: the alcohol feels not very well integrated. Caramelised butter on the tongue with an annoying bitterness. Finish: at last, it speaks. Passion fruit emerges as in previous tastings. I still reckon the bottle is now too empty for the W to still be expressive enough. Oxidation all but killed it and it is collapsing. :(
A fun, great whisky that needed being tamed to be enjoyed. It is now too faded to let one ride its wave, though. Thanks Fixou all the same for the sample. 8/10

Lochside 30yo 1981/2011 (54.9%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, 246b): that's right! Gotta finish in a bang and this is a sure shot. Nose: quite bluntly, this is wood and lichen. Dunnage warehouse obscenity. It promises so many other things it hurts, though. A bowl of freshly-rinsed, dark cherries, some wood varnish, an omelette (I would say three eggs and chives -- not too sure), a wine cellar and a basket of indistinguishable fruits on the kitchen table. There is passion fruit in there, for sure. Mouth: velvety, coating, fruity in a dark-cherry jam sort of way. Finish: this is really where it is at: the fruitiness explodes on the tongue in a debauchery of passion fruit, overripe, dark cherries, mango and jackfruit. However, it still manages to maintain that balanced bonded-warehouse feel too, with its lichen and damp floor. A magnificent dram if there ever was one. My only regret is to not have bought a second bottle when I had a chance. 9/10

Home vatting of all of the above: let me go wild. Nose: it turned a lot more animal, all of a sudden! Then it settles down and goes back to fruit -- after all, it was a common denominator, tonight. Peach, apricot, guava. With water: a cascade of passion fruit, guava, mango, jackfruit, a little lichen and dark cherries. Mouth: marmalade, quince jam (not to be confused with Quincy Jones), apricot jam with a passion-fruit impression. With water: vitamin/fruit cocktail, a bit thin, perhaps, but oh! so fruity. Finish: this is actually quite outstanding. The Lochside shines through, despite there being very little of it. The Tobermory gives the youth's lightness, while the 'morangie unleashes the horse powers and the passion fruit. The Tomatin gives the whole an additional depth. Very happy with this blended malt, I must say. Pity it is limited to one dram. :D
Dram of the day. Ridiculously fruity at all stages and (believe it or not) it is even more ridiculously fruity with water! Proper multi-tropical-fruit-mix juice with a little alcohol in it. The rare kind I give 10/10 to. Trying hard to not be too self-indulgent, here: I was helped by great base products and a lot of luck in the proportions. In no way am I a good blender or trying to be one. If blenders were as lucky on a regular basis, I would buy more blends is all. 10/10

20 December 2012

18/12/2012 Three Invergordon (Ramsay)

On my way to meet a friend today, I walked by Gordon Ramsay's restaurant. That convinced me my idea for a small solo tasting was the right thing to do.

Invergordon 40yo 1964/2005 (48.1%, Dewar Rattray Cask Collection, Bourbon Cask, C#57633, 105b): nose: gingerbread, that box to keep the butter in (beurrier, in another language), kitchen utensils -- knives with wooden handles, to be accurate (that is wood and metal, then) -- lukewarm, white bread, maybe some cereals with milk. Mouth: stainless steel, a metallic bitterness, yet it is also velvety smooth -- almonds with the skin, macadamia nuts, also with the skin. Finish: more almonds, almond paste, the metallic bitterness seems more present than in any Invergordon I have had (pencil-sharpener blade) but there is something else, there: violet and sugary syrup. Croissant with a violet jam, perhaps? Macadamia-nut spread. Very long, but I cannot decide if that violet taste is enjoyable or not. I like the alcohol balance at 48%, though. You do not get the impression your teeth will fall off as much. 8/10

G5.2 17yo 1993 Strumming the strings of the soul (65.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, New Toasted Oak Hogshead, 248b): nose: it sat there, breathing, for a good 30 minutes and it is now very grassy, after the vanilla assault it unleashed earlier. Dried sage, verbena, gentian, ginseng. With water, herbs come out even more. Dried fern, dead leaves, pencil shavings. Mouth: punchy, peppery, yet balanced. Black-pepper doughnuts. It is alcohol with icing sugar and it is lovely, even though a little anaesthetising. With water: more herbs and flower stems. Finish: long, warming, with pastry and pudding. Still a fantastic dram. Frangipane and marzipan. With water: violet marzipan, fudge and dried fern... and a little drying lichen or even verdigris. Great, but I am less seduced than the first and second times I had it (thanks PS for the sample). 8/10

G5.5 18yo 1993 Rich, sweet and comforting (65.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Virgin Toasted Oak Hogshead, 243b): thirty minutes in and it has become very similar to G5.2 -- herbs and metal, with violets behind. The black pepper is more present in the nose, though. Mouth: smoother, mellower. Strange, in fact, as it is bottled at higher strength. Verbena, gentian. Finish: massive violet-candy discharge, some metal (that pencil-sharpener blade again) and more verbena, before Paul, the town's baker, takes his residence. From that point on, it is more akin to the first dram: croissants with a violet jam, raw waffle dough, chocolate eclairs, and even mincemeat bites, which is quite topical on the 18th December, everyone will agree. 9/10

Yep, Invergordon can be nice, but also a bit weird.

10 December 2012

08/12/2012 Eastern Highlands and stuff at TWE

It has proven challenging to get the good TWE staff to venture out of their cubicle for a tasting. To not delay matters too much, Fixou and I decided to bring the tasting to their very cubicle.

Before that, we have a tropical Balvenie face-to-face: Cuban Cask vs. Golden Cask. No notes taken during this apéritif. Here are those from a previous session (19/02/2012 Two Balvenie):

Balvenie 14yo Golden Cask (47.5%, OB, b. ca 2011): nose: rather neutral today -- bit of wood, vanilla, maybe some rum (suggested by the name on the bottle, surely). Mouth: chocolate, milky, creamy, even. Flows easily, with a discreet roughness. Finish: lingers on gently with a few come-backs.
Balvenie 14yo Cuban Selection 1995/2009 (43%, OB): nose: sweeter (adc), sugar cane (adc). Mouth: less chocolate, as much milk, gulpable indeed. Finish: softer, silkier and very good. Sultanas. Shorter than the Golden Cask's.

A short WExEx (Whisky Exchange Express) journey and a long walk later (The WExEx stopped halfway there), we are on the site. A very, very busy Saturday in the run-up to Christmas. They open the hostilities.

Remy and Laddie
Bruichladdich 16yo The Laddie Sixteen (46%, OB, b. 2012) (provided by A): nose: melon. Fruity, with a spray of black pepper. The mouth is creamy and velvety. Finish: milk chocolate, mostly, with some chilli emerging after a while.

A not-too-often-seen 'Riach
BenRiach 13yo 1994/2007 (54.7%, The Whisky Exchange Straight from the Cask, C#105099, 225b) (provided by E): nose: subtle. Cotton pads sprayed with make-up remover. Mouth: light again, with a huge discharge of black pepper. Finish: vanilla.

[in theme]

Glenesk 1984/2004 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice) (provided by me): some freeloader asks me if he can try it, then grabs a glass and steps away: 'I didn't say yes, but go ahead...' If he reads this: I would have said yes, naturally, but your attitude was despicable. You could have at least said thank you, ill-mannered richard. Anyway. Nose: a grandmother's knicker drawer, grass, hay, a dash of basalmic vinegar (© Fixou 2012), band-aid, slate (A and D), even some leather. Mouth: marmalade, now, yay! Orange juice, lovely. Finish: shortish, but quite elegant, with bitter or rather Acidic citrus, orange peel,
If you have not tried that, you have not lived
citric powder capsules, including the dryness. Old-school dram, not seducing for one bit, especially the nose. We all like it, though and I am happy to find in it exactly what I found in the first Glen Esk I ever drank (the 12yo OB), especially considering I was not able to understand what I was tasting, in the early-1990s. 8/10

At this point, it is worth mentioning that A is surfing for baby clothing, which amuses me very much.

It smells of moustache!
Glenury Royal 29yo 1970/1999 (57%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (provided by me): a few confused and confusing notes, now: sawdust is one, I think, grain whisky is another. Me? Nose: orange again (which no one else seems to get), hint of vague smoke (A and Fixou -- I kind of agree). After 30 minutes, it has opened up on shortbread and dust. Mouth: elegant and noble, posh marmalade with a mild punch. Finish: long, comforting and, well, simply an excellent whisky. Still kicking myself for not buying the second bottle when I had a chance (broken record, I know). Thanks adc for the sample. 9/10

North of Scotland 43yo 1964/2007 (45%, Robert Scott Scott's Selection) (provided by PS): when we met PS yesterday, he told me he had left something at TWE for Fixou and I, knowing we would go and unable to go himself. This, then, had my name on it. First NoS for me and more or less what provided the theme: I wanted to bring the Glenesk because A had asked me about it and he and the rest of the staff had never had a Glenesk. The Glenury has to go quickly, as the 15cl bottle contains more air than W. When P told me about the NoS, I realised those three were in the same region, so that was a done deal. ... "Wait!" I hear you scream. "North of Scotland used to be in the Lowlands!" Well, the distillery that started its life as North of Scotland and ended it as Strathmore was in the Lowlands, yes, and ended up as an annex to Cambus near Alloa. However, the early name came from another distillery that finished its life under the name North of Scotland and had started it as Bon Accord... in the Eastern Highlands. That one was a malt distillery, but I will still use the lame excuse.
Nose: mineral (slate, flint), a leather workshop behind closed doors, then it opens up and it is a full-on bakery. Mouth: doughnuts, more bakery shenanigan, liqueur. Finish: long, a bit drying, with more pastry/bakery goodness. This is happiness in a glass. More than an excellent first NoS experience: a treat. Thanks PS for the sample. 9/10

[/in theme]

Bushmills 21yo (40%, OB, b. ca 2012) (provided by E who is on a mission to surprise us): nose: "Blimey! There's a lawn in there!" (Fixou) Grassy, with scents of red fruit in the back. Mouth: light, delicate, fruity, girly and wonderful. Finish: fantastically fruity, dominated by jackfruit with a hint of lichen. Lovely. 9/10

Port Charlotte PC9 9yo 2002/2011 An Ataireachd Ard (59.2%, OB, 6000b) (provided by Fixou): seeing how cold it has been, lately, Fixou had made up his mind about what he wanted to bring. Something manly, then. Nose: barbecue, cured meat, spent matches (not in an invasive way). Mouth: punchy. Not very original to say, but yes, punchy. Finish: char-grilled meat and sizzling bacon, just like PC8. A finds it too sweet -- the sherry influence, probably. It is a nice W in its own right, perhaps not my style, today.
Glasses are starting to do a Smooth Criminal impression

Braes of Glenlivet 23yo 1989/2012 (54.9%, Speciality Drinks The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, 272b) (provided by E "the Truffle Pig"): nose: rose water. Mouth: pear eau-de-vie? White pepper, Acidic (Fixou) and malty (A). Finish: pear (the fruit), vanilla. Shoddy notes, yet I find it much better than at the Whisky Show. It is too late in the line-up to convince me to buy a bottle, though. 7/10

G5.2 17yo 1993 (65.3%, SMWS Society Cask, New Toasted Oak Hogshead, 248b) (provided by PS): the staff pulled out three more miniatures earlier, left behind by PS. They are not sure who they are for and reckon it is also for us. I somehow do not think so, but will certainly be polite if offered. Especially as this particular one impressed me very much yesterday. Nose: BAKERY! Perfume, vanilla, honey, butterscotch. Mouth: more bakery beauty, a lot of Watts at 65.3%, which causes A to pull a few faces and perform a Gene Kelly impersonation -- come to think of it, there is a lot of dancing involved, today. Finish: pastry, bakery, sweet dough, not as fruity anymore, but beautiful all the same. Two days in a row, this remains one of the best grains I have had. This is something I would enjoy getting blind on. 9/10

Dumbarton 45yo 1965 (49.5%, Hunter Hamilton The Clan Denny, Refill Hogshead, C#HH7001) (provided by PS): first Dumbarton here, though I own one. Nose: deeper than the previous (A) -- it is also three times as old, so it makes sense. Mouth: Milky Way bar, stunning. Finish: cereals by the bucket, more Milky Way. The notes are shameful, by this point, but I am lost for words. This is great. 9/10

Port Dundas 34yo 1973/2007 (54.5%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, Sherry Cask, C#128321, 461b) (provided by PS): nose: a lot more sherry, after-shave lotion in the back, as well as some dark chocolate (60--70% cocoa). Mouth: cold coffee, which I am not too fond of. Finish: tons of varnish, wood glue, lacquer. This is a good dram too, yet it does not live up to its couple of glorious predecessors. In any case, thanks again PS for the samples. 7/10

-Coeur de Lily (provided by DR): DR's own blend for (or with) Compass Box. Although I take no note, it is pretty good.

A very pleasant afternoon with a few funny episodes (including a customer inquiring about the most expensive bottle and the highest-ABV beverage in the shop), constant nonsense chatting with the staff and great drams. The shop could have been less crowded for me, but all the better for business, after all.

9 December 2012

07/12/2012 December outturn at the SMWS

An unpleasantly busy Friday night at the local. Fortunately, we are only there for an aperitive dram, then a quick escape.

G8.2 23yo 1989/2012 Spun sugar and spooned honey – mmm! (62.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 252b) (me): nose: tons of butterscotch, custard, vanilla, a bit of wood. Mouth: toffee, pastry, butterscotch. Finish: varnish, wood shavings, toasted corn. A great grain again! It is very drying, though, just like that other Cambus I had a while ago (18yo SV CSC). Hours later, my tongue still feels completely stripped. This is a dangerous dram and I can see myself going blind if drinking too much of it.

76.97 17yo 1995/2012 Night time campfire treat (57.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 572b) (JS): nose: rubber (that is eraser, for our readers from across the Pond), some citrus. With water, it becomes jammier, even gives away some lovely marmalade. Mouth: lemon, coffee (hard to tell, because someone is having coffee near me). The mouth is a lot more balanced with water. Finish: marmalade, Seville orange juice. With water, a little smoke and a lot of jam. The finish is nice, the rest is a bit disappointing. Better with water.

That is the moment PS realises we are there. He has been on the premises for a loooong while, is now all merry and willing to impress. We are treated to the following:

The only picture taken before the battery died
G3.1 29yo 1978/2008 Hours of Entertainment (60.1%, SMWS Society Cask): third time I have this one. Considering the conditions in which I had it last time, it is nice to get to try it again. Nose: typical grain, with its bakery feel, also some chocolate and a little coffee. Finish: bakery, varnish, butterscotch. Right, so my notes are not better than last time after all. Nice dram, this.

G5.2 17yo 1993/2011 Strumming the strings of the soul (65.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Virgin Toasted Oak Hogshead, 248b): oooooh! an Invergordon I have not had! Nose: coconut body lotion indeed (it is written on the label), but also peppered melon, a bit of cologne and honey, with some wood in the back. Mouth: it is now one of those lurvely wood juices. Finish: melon, wood shavings. Rhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! This is superlative. 9/10

21.27 39yo 1971 An enticement of sweet oak (46.7, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 246b): yep, most expensive thing ever sold by the Society (in this month's outturn). Nose: perfume, honeysuckle, rose water. The sherry speaks out a little as well. Mouth: light and lovely, well balanced. Orange blossom, perhaps? Finish: bam! Orange blossom indeed. This is great. Is it worth 439£? Probably not, so it is nice to be able to try it by the glass. 9/10

A much longer session than foreseen, and a very agreeable moment after all. I carry a lowly Tobermory 15yo (46.3%, OB) in my flask, which I happily share with the guys to thank them for the grains. PS passes, C is very enthusiastic about it: the sherry/sulphur combination acts as his own madeleine, which is always a treat, of course. He goes on to tell us how he came across that smell when carrying jute bags during a summer job at a brewery. Good times.