27 December 2013

25/12/2013 Clearing the shelves again

Last chance to pour those for adc, who happens to be in town.

Kinclaith 20yo 1965/1985 (46%, Cadenhead's) (me): same impressions as here. Fantastic drop of whisky.

Glen Keith 1993/2009 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice) (me): nose: green and slightly bitter, with a bit of sparlkling soda and tame herbaceous eau-de-vie. Green beans (?) lime (calamansi). Mouth: lively, but easy. Vanilla and chou dough, mostly. Finish: a contained explosion of exotic fruit (pomelo, pink grapefruit), with perhaps a pinch of sawdust. A little simple, but well nice. The finish is superb and unexpected.

Ord 15yo 1996/2011 (57.3%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead) (JS): sparkly again, but also much more woody (sawdust). Mouth: yup, lots of pine-dust action while drinking a pint of milk. Very smooth texture, once the alcohol dissipates. Finish: very warming, with pine dust, before fruit juice settles in (peach or apricot, I can never tell). This benefits greatly from the contact with air.

Blair Athol 27yo 1975/2003 (54.7%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (me): nose: clay-floored dunnage warehouse, roast chicken (really!?) Mouth: flat cola, now. It is surprisingly soft, today -- perhaps the sample is evaporated? Finish: nope, the power is there. Some cola, pine dust, a hint of tame coffee. This is a very nice malt and the best Blair Athol I have had (thanks patgva for the sample).

Isle of Jura 30yo Camas an Staca (44%, OB, b.2012) (me): nose: chocolate and coffee. Mouth: latte, or macchiatto -- firmly in the coffee family. Finish: cocoa beans, roasted coffee. Pleasant, but does not justify the price tag. Having said that, it is hard to form a definitive opinion with such a small amount of liquid, unfortunately (the bottle was nearly empty).

Benromach 1968 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b.1980s) (me): nose: burnt cake aplenty. Burnt paper, burnt dough, precious liqueur -- this is unexpectedly big, full of pleasant sherry. A faint farmyard impression shines, leaving way to bonded warehouse scents. Mouth: coating, syrupy, packed with varnish, all sorts of dried fruits (raisins, dates, figs, oranges -- very black bun-y). It remains surprisingly powerful too! Certainly feels closer to 55% than its mere 40%. Finish: a little tobacco in the back (cigar), but mostly dried fruits again (raisins, dates, orange rinds) and some dust (OBE?) as well as Christmas pudding. This is very sherried indeed, yet so well balanced! No saddle-licking here. Very well made.

Glenturret 34yo (47.6%, BBr Selected by Berrys', Cask Ref 2) (adc): this one is newly open. Nose: some warehouse scents, some fruit (peach, mostly) and a whiff of vanilla. Not too assertive after only minutes out of a new bottle. Frangipani flower (plumeria), apricot tart and some citrus. Wonderful nose that needs a little time to open up. Mouth: pepper with lovely, milky peach nectar. Finish: lots of fruit again (peach, apricot, even papaya) and a dash of wood for good measure, balanced with a horseradish kick. Lovely dram!

24 December 2013

14/12/13 Supper at Albanach

After spending a day in Pitlochry, we are back in Edinburgh for a dram or two with a nice supper.

anCnoc 30yo 1975/2005 (50%, OB) (JS): nose: behind the vanilla, there is a basketful of fruit (physalis, starfruit, maybe even sharon/persimmon and pomelo), rosewater. Mouth: slightly bitter attack (or is that the kick?), with ginger powder, but also as creamy as can be. Very balanced and interesting. Finish: more powerful than expected, this. Sprays of pepper with the vanilla and fruit. I get banana and pears, now, as well as more starfruit. Superb and complex dram, if maybe a little too drying in the aftertaste.

Ardbeg 1978/1998 (43%, OB) (me): I have and love the 1999 edition, so, even though a back-to-back comparison is not possible (I am not carrying my bottle around), I feel I have to find out if this one is as good. Nose: peat, of course, but it is very much kept in check. Lots of balsamic vinegar and many sorts of seafood -- smoked kippers, grilled periwinkles, a little fishing boat in a little harbour, drying fishing nets, sea spray, as well as a growing farmyard feel. After a while, it is a full-on farmyard. Haystacks, grazing cattle with seashells before fruit also makes an appearance (quince, almonds, gooseberries, plums). "Ardbeg 1978. Approchez-le de votre nez, vous sentirez la mer." Mouth: a symphony of sweet and sour. Moscovado sugar melted in a dash of noble balsamic vinegar -- Modena, of course. Smooth and satin-like. A very appealing mouth. Finish: tarry ropes, engine oil on a fishing boatand still that pesky vinegar with a touch of plant-stem juice. Neverending too. Excellent, top-of-the-shelf dram.
Balmoral chicken
A "light" supper

With those, I have Balmoral chicken (chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and stuffed with haggis) with mashed potatoes, while JS has a carrot soup and a goat's cheese salad.

18 December 2013

12/12/2013 A couple of drams at the SMWS Edinburgh

When in Edinburgh, visiting the Queen Street venue goes without saying. Only JS and I, this time, which is just as well, because the place is packed to a point we have a hard time finding seats for two. Besides, there is live music. A guy and a guitar, playing folk-ish songs and Christmas sing-alongs. One of the good things about the SMWS is there is no music or television, so this comes as a cold shower. It is way too loud too, which sort of kills any social interaction while he plays.

96.7 7yo 2006/2013 For a sweet tooth (56.3%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 187b) (me): first SMWS GlenDronach for me. They have been offering a long string of firsts, this year, which is very exciting indeed. Nose: young spirit (well, it is 7, is it not?) Lots of feints, then coffee, burnt cake and feet. Mh. Mouth: mellow and spongy. Finish: caramel custard first, then lots of red pepper lasting for a very long while. This one is pungent and anaesthetising. Slightly more pleasant and fruity with water, but it is probably too young to be good.

125.71 6yo 2007/2013 Chocolate Coke Float (58.7%, SMWS Society Cask, New French Oak Hogshead, 265b) (JS): nose: chocolate milk with herbs and a hint of vanilla in the back. Mouth: pretty indistinct. Finish: some nectarines, unripe pear and lots of drying alcohol. Almonds too. Unconvincing.

The live music ends, phew. The staff thinks it is time to switch on the iPod -- WTF!!??!?!

I want to have an older bottlings, now. Five of them behind the bar, including the two Glen Albyn I tried last time. They have 80.3 and another I am interested in. After sniffing both, I go with this.

91.17 9yo 1992 A game of two halves (60%, SMWS Society Cask, 197b) (me): a lesser-seen distillery. Nose: pine dust and lots of alcohol. Maybe I should have gone for 80.3 after all... Cedar wood, cypress. It makes me think of Indochinese cuisine, for some reason -- Cambodian, Thai, Viet Namese. Mouth: mellow, with vanilla-tainted pine-wood juice. Finish: round, with enough pine dust to give it movement. More of a curiosity, this.

Disappointing experience, innit.

3 December 2013

30/11/2013 A few drams to cheer up idealrichard

The only date idealrichard could make this side of the new year. No one else is available, but what the hell?

Balvenie 15yo (47.8%, OB Single Barrel, C#7953) (idealrichard): nose: sexy as can be. Honey, white wine, raspberry eau-de-vie, vanilla pudding and pink bubblegum. Mouth: soft and easy. Finish: smooth, appealing, sweet and light as a crêpe, certainly not long in an invading way, but fantastically agreeable.

Glendullan 12yo (47%, OB, b.1980s) ( (me): nose: hay, grain, even, hops, then lots of varnish. We both think it is close to grain whisky, to a large extent. Mouth: yeast, Ryvita bread and sparkling beverage (root beer?) Finish: quite earthy (idealrichard), with loads of root beer, still close to a grain. Best 'dullan I have had, I reckon. It is not a spectacular malt, but interesting and certainly not dull, for once.

Inchgower 30yo 1982/2012 (51.9%, Berry Bros Selected by Berrys', C#6985) (idealrichard): I tried that one a while ago and liked it a lot. Nose: lush grass, quince eau-de-vie, decaying pears, cooked ham, but also freshly-cut pear and a hint of chocolate. Mouth: lots of grass alongside forsythia wood. Finish: milk chocolate with a splash of coffee and some flower-stem juice. Refreshing. I still like it.

Tomatin 35yo 1978/2013 (44.1%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 594b) (me): nose: cola, soda bread, fruit. Mouth: balanced, sweet, with flat cola again and a lot of fruit. Finish: lingering praline, fleeting hiking boot and decaying cherries. Not taking too many notes, since I have tried it recently. Great dram.

Craigduff 40yo 1973/2013 (49.6%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Refill Sherry Butt C#2516, 616b) (me): leftovers from the show. Nose: grilled bacon in a carbonara sauce, cured ham, then some wood and sizzling butter. It is slightly smokey, but would not show it if drunk amongst big peaters. Mouth: still lively ("green" would be too strong a word), with a reasonable amount of pepper, honey and flowery juices. Finish: tons of pastry in the back before the after-taste kicks in, a mixture of flower and honey. Classy.

Ardmore 25yo b.2008 (51.4%, OB) (idealrichard): one of the many highlights of the show last year. idealrichard finally gave in and bought it -- yay! Nose: not too far from the Craigduff: grilled bacon, cured ham, light smoke and some hidden delicateness. Farmyard makes an appearance in the back. Mouth: peppery, quite punchy, but balanced. Finish: peat and fruit, mud, log fire, with a touch of cherry and strawberry, though the fruit is more subtle than in my recollection. Lovely drop, this.

Brief tasting, good times.

28 November 2013

24/11/2013 Special editions

It is dom666's birthday, time for the yearly tasting. I could not make it last year, and everyone dropped out of it eventually, so it did not take place at all. Good to come back to this tradition. Low turnover, due to last-minute changes in many a calendar, but also some lesser-seen faces.
The suspects: dom666, adc, JS, Postman PSc and JD alongside myself.

The menu:

Tomatin 16yo 1996/2012 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for Inverness Airport, Refill Bourbon Barrel, C#5128) (me): a recurrent guest at my tastings, recently, yet this group has not had it yet. It is an exclusive bottling for Inverness Airport, hence in theme. Nose: fruity and grassy, today. Mouth: lively, with green wood and a dash of pepper. Finish: fresh, lively, with vanilla, coconut and peachy fruit. No awesome notes, as it is well known to whoever reads this blog, by now. A great dram to start with, everyone seems to enjoy it enough. 8/10

We are peckish, time for dried sausages -- duck and green pepper, pork and hazelnuts, pork and figs, Espelette chilli, pheasant and Cognac. Exquisite.

Synchronised toothpaste ad
Arran Millennium Casks b.2013 (53.5%, OB, 7800b) (JD): a special bottling made out of whisky casked at the turn of the millennium. Nose: well-controlled wood, rosewood (adc), some dunnage warehouse. Mouth: pepper and pine needles with a hint of vanilla. Finish: comforting and pleasant, with a touch of peach, perhaps, or orange. 7/10

dom666 is warming up and raises the pun bar to unexpected heights (although firmly anchored in the Liège province, unfortunately for our readers from overseas):
"A Flémalle, il y a Flémalle-Haute et Flémalle-Grande. A Spa, c'est pareil: il y a Spa et Spa-si-Bas."

Bruichladdich Colonsay 12yo 1994/2007 (46%, Murray McDavid, C#MMCL2) (dom666): this was purchased on Colonsay in 2008, a Bruichladdich bottled for the Colonsay community and exclusively sold there. Great memories. Nose: lightly smokey, with candied oranges. It is distinctly wilder than the previous, giving out even sausage smells to augment a more coastal character. Mouth: balanced, smooth, with lush marmalade before green pepper walks in. Finish: slightly punchy, with peach skin and orange rinds. Very, very nice, this! Much more than a curiosity. 7/10

JD takes a particular liking to the Linkwood
Linkwood 26yo 1975/2002 (56.1%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (PSc): we switch gears, all of a sudden. Rare Malts were more or less the equivalent of the current yearly Diageo releases. As such, it is a special edition. Nose: dunnage warehouse!! Austere and complex, with nuts, undergrowth, mushrooms. Mouth: slightly dry, but full and rich -- amazing, in fact. Finish: fruit (apricot), orange or lemon marmalade and liqueur praline. 9/10

Food comes out: yeast bread, nut bread, white pudding, pâtés, cheese (Cognac Epoisse, whisky Cheddar, Calvados camembert), all terribly tasty.

Another one fuses: "des petits pains au levain -- ce ne sont pas des petits pains au Louvain."

Mmmmm. Food.
Clynelish 12yo1995/2007 Rum JM Finish  (50%, Taste Still, C#4898, 72b) (adc): this one was bottled for the open-door days at Corman-Collins in 2007. Nose: a tannery, lemonade, cane sugar and a touch of alcohol. Mouth: yes, lots of cane sugar and red chilli. Finish: tons of white pepper and sugar. The rum influence is now obvious. Some trademark wax, but it is safe to say this is not yer regular Clynelish. 7/10

"This is how you pluck an apple, Louvain-boy."
Laphroaig QA Cask b.2013 (40%, OB Travel Retail Exclusive) (JD): although it has been bought in a regular store, this one is supposedly a travel-retail exclusive. Nose: QAight (boom-tshhh), petrol station, hydrocarbon, leather gloves, farmyard, tannins (P). Mouth: bland, watered-down lemon curd, tame marmalade. P finds barbecue-flavoured Croky crisps. Finish: tame and bland again, with a touch of lemon curd. A cigarette in an ashtray next door. It becomes more animal after ingesting cheese, but let us say it is a weaker Laphroaig. 5/10 J is disappointed and ready to part with his bottle. dom666 (stupidly) offers something to cheer him up, which could likely ruin the rest of the tasting for JD: Laphroaig 31yo 1974/2005. JD falls off his chair. P has a drop as well, while the others all carefully steer clear.


Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48%, OB) (PSc): long-time-no-see, for this popular bottling. A bit pedestrian, next to the 1974, but did I not say it was foolish to drink that one? This one is off-theme, but what the heck! Nose: coastal, farmyardy, with boiled-sweet scents. Mouth: it seems balanced, today, and even sugary. Finish: peat and cane sugar. Yep! Not extremely complex, but really efficient. Great dram. 7/10
Synchronised thoughtful nosing

The awkward moment when
you break your first cork
Talistill 11yo 1996/2007 (46%, Taste Still, C#5471, 180b) (adc): specially brought for dom666, who is a fan of this undisclosed distillery on the Isle of Skye. Nose: smokey, with blackcurrant and sweet lards, a kind of marshmallow ribbon (adc). Mouth: such power at a mere 46%! An avalanche of black pepper, clove, sumac and even varnish. Finish: long, lingers on the tongue with buttery spices. Sublime. Best Talisker I have tried, with the possible exception of Secret Stills 01.01. 9/10


Pepper in a bottle
Talisker 14yo 1994/2009 (58.6%, OB Manager's Choice, Bodega Sherry European Oak, C#7147, 582b) (dom666): dom666 bought this one exclusively for this tasting. Nose: this is so rich! Full of herbs, cured meat, varnish and sea air. Mouth: sort of balanced, moving on towards pepper (white and black). Not so balanced, in fact: an onslaught of pepper it is. This is a young Talisker and it suffers from the same symptoms as the regular 10 year-old. Finish: invading, full of iodine and pepper. Talistill is much better balanced. 7/10

Things become slightly blurry on the right-hand side
North British 45yo 1963/2009 (50.7%, Signatory Vintage, C#117362, 117363, 117365, 290b) (dom666 and I): we bought this one a few years ago. I patiently waited for this very tasting to crack it open with dom666 (check the age). Nose: typical grain -- paint, varnish, blackcurrant, muffin, frangipane (JD), lots of bakery types. Mouth: slightly bitter, with violet sweets, then cane sugar and a bit of chilli or pepper (or is it still the Talisker talking?) Finish: cuberdon, violets. This is loooooong with an extraordinary balance. As good as the Invergordon 48 Sovereign from the Whisky Show. One of the best grains I have had. 9/10 J does not care for it, unfortunately. Which is a shame, as it was supposed to be the climax of this fine tasting. But I have a trump card up my sleeve...

Although the previous dram is great, it feels like offering dom666 his own bottle. For his birthday, one could think of classier moves. Perhaps this one. Distilled in the same year as the hero of the day, this was bottled for the 150th anniversary of the owners' company:

"They were gonna make me a Major for this."

Bowmore 32yo 1968/2000 (45.5%, OB Anniversary Edition, 1860b) (me): nose: herbs (adc), peach, mango, passion fruit, you name a tropical fruit, it is there. No peat at all, which puzzles some. Mouth: pure fruit juice, plain and simple. Mango, papaya, peach. There is honey in there too (PSc), red fruit (dom666), tangerine and others. Finish: a roundhouse kick of passion fruit in the teeth, then pepper. A completely ridiculous dram, out of this world. 10/10 First Bowmore from the 1960s for half the attendance. It still mops the floor with any non-believer. :-)

Excellent tasting, as always. Perhaps better than usual, in fact. Very relaxed and friendly, with drams of an outstanding quality, despite the disappointment of the Laphroaig QA.

Standing in front, with a god-like halo

19 November 2013

16/11/2013 Christmas outturn at the SMWS

Seems like a good idea, K!
Don't eat the paper, though.
After the monster preview last week, time to head to the headquarters to try the remaining bottles. Remember those 30-or-so bottles, then? That's right, they were not the whole outturn.
KB joins us for his first SMWS experience. The regulars are all there, but in order to not traumatise KB too much on his introduction day, we grab a separate table. We get the cheese plates immediately, so they have loads of time to reach room temperature. KB starts with an omelette, since he has not eaten anything so far (it is almost 15:00).

94.4 24yo 1989/2013 Ode to autumn (52.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill Bourbon Hogshead, 201b) (me): thirty years of SMWS and this is only the fourth Fettercairn. Considering it is an unfamiliar distillery to me on top of that, I am more than mildly excited! Nose: varnish, hair lacquer, flat soda, polish, then overripe plums and toasted bread. Smelling inside a stainless-steel pot that has just been washed and is still hot (KB). Mouth: pine dust, ginger, apricot. Finish: flat cola, ginger beer, a dash of hair lacquer and pleasant cough syrup (not Actifed, then). Lovely. 8/10

130.1 4yo 2009/2013 Dynamic and Attractive (61.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First-fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 227b) (KB): nose: cologne, perfume, pine dust, some vanilla. Very girly, this. Very high-maintenance too! (i.e. elegant and distinguished... and expensive) Coconut and flowers (tulips?), butter popcorn (JS). Mouth: dry and rough, funnily enough. Lots of coconut, still, but the dryness prevails. Finish: long and warming, full of pepper and horsepowers. Its youth makes it wild -- and that is when you realise it is 62% ABV!

Possibly the only good kind of violets
21.28 37yo 1974 Relaxing in a tropical garden (48.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 188b) (me): nose: orange (JS), boiled sweets (violets, not Parma), custard (KB, in Kustard mode), flowers. A big sherry influence too, but in a balanced way. Orange blossom and lichen. Mouth: mellow and rich, chocolate éclairs, bakery stuff. Finish: slightly drying, seems Cognac-y and upscale. Distant chocolate emerges, alongside gentle cough syrup. Great dram, but I much preferred 21.27. 8/10

This, but orange. And from the past.
50.53 23yo 1990/2013 Monster, mango and melon (46.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 60b) (KB): nose: delicate, creamy, orange Pelikan stick (fruity glue). Mouth: oh, yeah! Fruity indeed! Unsweetened peach juice, but also tons of green chilli. Finish: a bit sharp, rotten wood, lichen, damp wood. KB relates it to licking an old barrel. Whatever he does with his tongue.

131.1 22yo The sinful side of sexy (57.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 212b) (me): two new distilleries? Woah! Nose: a bit of cured meat (under control), with lots of custard underneath, cut pears and electronics (KB). Opening up the packaging of a brand new video-game console (KB). With water: flowers and (tropical) fruit with some citrus for good measure. Mouth: slightly fizzy, sweet, even soft, with a ginger kick. J even finds maraschino cherries in there. With water, it becomes a bit bland, watered down (pun intended). Finish: bakery, a hint of lemon. This tastes like a grain, actually. Very sparkly, now. First Hanyu as well, yay!

La dolce vita
132.1 28yo 1984 Secret moonlit garden dram (59.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 229b) (KB): you wait forever for a bus, then three show up at the same time! Without surprise, this one sold out in minutes, especially after someone at Boisdale tweeted about it and gave away the distillery name during a private tasting last week. Nose: meaty, farmyardy, fresh horse manure, dry cow dung, fruit cake (KB -- not sure what he puts in his fruit cake...), baking soda, treacle (KB). Mouth: horse manure (KB), stable floor, black pepper (or is it green?), fizzy again. Finish: warming and full of cola (which is very nice, in fact). This one is well made, but confirms that Karuizawa is probably not for me. 7/10

Cameron Bridge's new logo
G4.5 34yo 1979/2013 Sweet and spicy (50.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask,Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 205b) (JS): nose: nostril burning bakery, gingerbread. Mouth: honey-coated caramel cereals (Kellogg's Smacks). Finish: Smacks indeed, with vanilla pudding or custard to boot. Great, straightforward grain. 8/10

35.10139yo 1974/2013 Oh How Joyfully (46.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 197b) (KB): nose: humidor, cedar wood, undergrowth, dried fern. It further opens up to unleash baked apples (the label gives that away) and brown sugar (KB). Mouth: slightly drying or bitter, orange rinds, Halloween carved turnips (KB -- pumpkin is becoming expensive, innit). Finish: long and satisfying, with turnip notes. Old Glen Morays can be fantastic in an old-man's-whisky kind of way. This one is not so old-man-like, but fantastic all the same. It warms up a true man's soul like a good kung-fu film. 8/10

We talk about karaoke and how some people are so good at it it is depressing. KB notes that if the singer is hot, it at least gives the listener something to look at, which makes it less depressing. :-D

R5.2 To Life, Love and Loot: nose: my nose hairs have just been instantly incinerated. Woody, with an industrial-cleaner shock. Bonded gravel (KB), industrial glue. Mouth: ginger, anaesthetising solution, melted plastic. Finish: very warming (burning, in fact) but clearly rich in molasses. Still not convinced by rum. KB wanted to try it because of the obscene ABV, but since no one else likes it, I have to finish it (and need a word from my mother to do so). This is not rocket fuel any longer, it is simply illegal. An interesting experience, though.

You read that correctly.

6 November 2013

04/11/2013 Christmas outturn preview a the Grange Hotel

New location, in the sky bar of the Grange Hotel, a veranda on the rooftop. It is very close to the November outturn (it was pretty much yesterday), but we have no fear! Fixou and Mrs. Fixou join us, the usual suspects come and go during the evening.
On to the drams. Given the amount, the descriptions will be short.
Due to the ever-present blue light, the pictures look horrible. Get over it.

Not here for a laugh!

80.6 14yo d.1998 Laura Ashley with attitude (59.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 205b): after thirty years of activity, this is only the sixth Glen Spey from the Society. Needless saying I am excited. Nose: lots of lemon, perfume and peach. Mouth: velvety and sweet, peach and apricot. Finish: very slightly bitter, with a fruity kick.

71.40 23yo d.1989 Sticky apricot tarts at an Indian Market (56.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 432b): nose: fudge, caramel, maybe even coffee. Fixou reckons it is noodles and soy sauce. Mouth: velvety, with a touch of pepper. Finish: flowers and pepper.

The rather cool venue with its space-ship lighting
125.68 9yo 2004/2013 A tale of two ladies (58.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 201b): nose: lady's perfume, vanilla. Mouth: very soft, satin-like, then develops some horse powers. Finish: wood, dried banana shavings. 7/10

76.111 9yo d.2004/2013 Boisterous and exuberant (57.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First-fill Barrel, 225b): nose: honeysuckle essence with a note of vanilla in the back. Mouth: very mellow and creamy, with black pepper power. Finish: cream and pepper, coating like varnish.

7.87 27yo d.1985 A tropical market (55.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 141b): nose: fruit! Jam, quince, mango and something I cannot identify. Mouth: rhaaaaaaaa! Finish: long and sweet, full of goodness. This is great. 8/10

17.36 11yo 2002/2013 Exotic and Oriental (56.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 251b): nose: vanilla, custard, butterscotch, then pine needles. Mouth: salty, but mellow. Finish: salted caramel, milk chocolate, dessert (Fixou).

The shop. Under Acid.
5.36 14yo 1999/2013 Rubbing White Tiger Balm on your forehead (59.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Second-fill ex-Sauternes Hogshead, 211b): a rare Sauternes cask, though it is not written on the list we were given at the entrance. In fact, the bottling is not on the list at all. Nose: old, unwashed wee-wee (Fixou). PS wonders whether Fixou is up for a promotion at work, but then he comes up with sweaty balls (he claims he said he would rather smell sweaty balls than this, but he is obviously trying to backtrack). Bad glue to me. Mouth: bitter? Acrid? no, it is a different feeling, but I fail to pinpoint it. Not great, in any case. Finish: some sweetness, but mostly, overly burnt caramel. This is not good. 4/10

35.98 10yo 2003/2013 Let's paint the town red (59.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 237b): nose: perfume, essence of flowers, even a bit of coffee. Mouth: green pepper and butterscotch. Finish: lots of chocolate and cocoa.

"I'm blue da-ba-dee da-ba-daa"
44.57 22yo d.1990 Sea salted caramel pebbles (52.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 300b): nose: summer flowers, roasted pears, perhaps. Mouth: soft and easy. Finish: green as in: fruit-seed bitterness, milk chocolate, and a tiny whiff of smoke.

4.181 16yo 1997/2013 A muscle man from Orkney (54.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 650b): nose: burnt compote, heavily sherried, this. Some nuts in the back, which is better, almost redeeming. Mouth: slightly drying, unbalanced. Finish: light peat smoke and tons of sherry. Not my thing.

3.209 20yo d.1992 Out of the ordinary (53%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Second-fill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 154b): nose: farmyard galore. This one smells like the wheels of a tractor. Mouth: simple but balanced, farmyard. Finish: yup, still very much farmyard-oriented with a bit of a damp campfire. Good, but well.

129.3 4yo d.2008 Unwind and set your watch to Islay Time (60.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 256b): nose: garden fire, a day at Peatneyland. Mouth: actually quite easy and palatable (with water!) Finish: a diffuse peat discharge (with water). Fixou reckons it does not make any sense without water, so I do not try it without.

127.33 11yo 2002/2013 Mouth-numbing mountaineering dram (63.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 182b): nose: so wide, this! We are in a different category. Tannins, leather and farmyard. Mouth: between leather saddles and horse's sweat. Controlled in a lovely way. Finish: long and definitely present, but balanced. Black pepper, farmyard. Lovely drop, this. The kind of things that drew me into whisky in the first place. 7/10

36.65 15yo d.1997 Apple flavoured tobacco in a Hookah (58.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 208b): nose: lots of pine sawdust, cologne and white wine. Mouth: white wine indeed, very dry and fruity (Riesling?) Finish: lingers on on a white wine impression. It is becoming quite late for proper notes.
27.104 14yo d.1998 Cowboy’s delight (55.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Gorda, 659b): nose: meaty, slightly sulphury, with leather and Marmite. Finish: drying. Cowboy alright (it is in the name), with lots of soy sauce and such. Not my thing. PS likes it, but then he is drunk, I reckon.

One of the usual suspects
72.28 30yo d.1982 What a wonderful world (51.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 144b): nose: some easy wood, bakery things, gentle custard, pears and quince. Mouth: light and easy. Finish: milk chocolate with pine needles and quince jelly.

36.63 15yo d.1997 There is chilli in the fruit pie (58.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 195b): exclusive for people who join today, if I understand correctly, though it was in the September outturn. Nose: a plant stem dunked in jam. Mouth: easy and soft, lovely. Finish: long and fruity in a satisfying way.

G10.5 23yo d.1989 A ‘Schweppervescence’ moment (61%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill Hogshead, 332b): it seems a good one to end with. Nose: metal and bakery -- that'll be a baking tray, then. :-) Mouth: quaffable. Finish: more baking tray things, I like it a lot, unsurprisingly.

Time to go to bed. Epic tasting in good company. Hard to believe the thirty-or-so bottlings they brought along represent only half of the monster outturn. Good location (some even went to the terrace), good organisation, good food (though too little of it) and good drams.

4 November 2013

01/11/2013 November outturn at the SMWS

It is that time of the month again. Fixou drops out, as he is called back at work. We meet PS there, though.

76.108 11yo 2002/2013 Raspberry Ruffles (57.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 235b) (JS): nose: vanilla, butter biscuit, a vague hint of coffee and some flowers. Mouth: lively, hot (green chilli) and slightly bitter (grape seeds). Finish: warming and powerful, coating, with bakery flavours. A nice, non-meaty Mortlach (tried it blind and only guessed it after five attempts), but I preferred last month's. 7/10

55.22 14yo 1998 Backstage at a burlesque (54.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 113b) (me): my first Society Brackla, an opportunity that cannot be passed. Nose: flowery and perfumey, then varnish, plum eau-de-vie and a touch of pine wood, which becomes really rather powerful. Water makes it a lot jammier and more herbaceous. 'Well brackish,' says PS, committed to providing the bad pun of the day. Mouth: fiery pepper, then fruit -- dried apricot, dates and quince. Yep, it is jammy alright. Finish: long and heart-warming, still, rather fruity. Water renders it fruitier, with some bitterness from the wood. Not an extraordinary dram, but very pleasant. 7/10

46.22 20yo 1992 An Italian kitchen (50.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 219b) (me): nose: fruity sweets (pear drops) and honeysuckle. Some rather impressive strength too: it burns my nostrils. Mouth: hot, packed with red chilli, hot paprika. The texture is pretty oily. Finish: it becomes very bitter, all of a sudden. Lots of plant-stem juice as well as fruit (apple?) A rare distillery here, but this is not a great success. 6/10

36.68 21yo 1991 Sweet and salty combo (50.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Second-fill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 229b) (JS): nose: green hazelnut, cut apples. An amazing nose, in fact. Mouth: honey, flower broth left to soak in a decanter. Finish: crisp and sharp, though a bit bitter again. 7/10

The food we have with that (fish & chips, lamburgherini) is so great that I suspect they have followed a training on how to fry chips in Belgium (i.e. not Belgian standards, but close). The tasting is less good. Entertaining, but the place is too crowded, noisy and hot to be perfectly enjoyable. We are right next to the roaring fire place and I have to ask to turn it down once I have stripped down to my undies, as I am boiling. Ah well.

28 October 2013

27/10/2013 Clearing the shelf #2

Mac NaMara (40%, Pràban na Linne, b. ca 2010): nose: caramelised, baked apples and a tiny whiff of smoke. Grandma baking an apple tart, while Grandpa is reading an old book in front of the fireplace. The percolator is slowly filling up the coffee pot too. Mouth: more of that warm fireplace sensation. It is not too assertive, mind. Coffee-flavoured chocolate emerges. Finish: Grandma's tart is in the oven, she joins Grandpa in the sofa for a cup of coffee in front of the fireplace. An excellent blend indeed!

Tobermory 10 (40%, OB): nose: cut pears, cold, green tea, perhaps. This is quite herbal, in any case. Slightly metallic, even -- verbena, sage. Mouth: light, nearly watery. Some hay, fudge. Finish: toffee, now, as well as dark chocolate with a mocha touch. Another one of those straightforward, yet honest drams. Simple pleasure.

Littlemill 24yo 1988/2012 (54.2%, The Whiskyman Sympathy for the Whisky, 159b): was not too crazy about this one the first time I had it. Nose: right, what have we got here? Lots of nearly-burnt crumble and crusty apple sponge cake. It then opens up on decaying apples, Merbromin and even some smoke, though probably more steaming coffee than camp fire. Caramelised blueberry muffins in a shoemaker's workshop -- that is to say there is varnish in the back of the nose. Mouth: soft and sweet, ripe, juicy conference pears and sugar-cane juice before the varnish makes a comeback. It is not invading, however. Finish: a roller-coaster, this. It runs from sweet to bitter, from fruit to hiking boots. Decaying apples, a little cold mocha and papaya. 1988 Littlemill can be a bit all over the place, in my experience (remember the BBr?), which can be interesting if kept under control. This one is a bit messy, though (thanks mars for the sample). 6/10

23 October 2013

22/10/2013 Clearing the shelf #1

Need empty samples and need shelf space. Time to make some room.

Imperial 1991/2008 (43%, GMP): nose: shy, with porridge, vanilla, coconut and butter (body butter?) The back is reminiscent of lime-and-rosemary-marinated, roasted chicken, though, again, it is subtle. Mouth: lime and rosemary indeed, including the herb's bitterness. It remains relatively round, however -- with quite some oxidation, that is: upon opening the bottle, it was a lot more bitter. Finish: warming and soothing, though with a medicinal note that will not appeal to everyone. Herbaceous custard augmented with very young brandy to give it a vulnerary feel. Simple, yet honest.

Midleton 20yo 1991/2012 (54.1%, OB for TWE, C#48750): nose: a mixture of oak goodness (furniture polish, toasted coconut, custard cream, pencils) and fruit (elderberry, peach and tropical fruits), as well as coconut cream. Can't go wrong with that! Mouth: discreet at first sampling. Very smooth, almost satin-like, before freshly-ground black pepper comes round it off. Finish: proper party in the mouth! Pepper, then a wicker basket of tropical fruits on a wooden buffet (papaya, guava, kiwi, a tiny bit of passion fruit and even canary melon). Yes, bags of overripe fruits balancing just on the right side of the tipping point with hiking-boots territory. 9/10

Ledaig 1990/2006 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): nose: dark chocolate, overripe (decaying?) dark fruit, maraschino cherries, fermenting elderberry broth (no, not Bros!) A vague smell of swimming pool (that'll be chlorine and bleach in overheated changing rooms), rotting pears and nail varnish. Mouth: the low ABV is a disadvantage after the Irish, of course. Cooled-down hot chocolate, a dash of cinnamon, Nesquik. The whole is really smooth, despite a little spice (Jamaican pepper). Finish: not exactly big at 43%, but rather long all the same. Milk chocolate, fermenting pears, prunes. Pleasant, if not off-the-scale good.

Three down, many to go.

21 October 2013

19/10/2013 The hunt for Red October

23 rabbits' fur
idealrichard is ill and cannot make it. Only JS, yours, truly and KB who took the theme very seriously indeed, showing up in a rabbit-skin coat.
He also brought sausages, cheese and crackers, the perfect snack for hunters.

Tomatin 16yo 1996/2012 (46%, GMP Exclusive for Inverness Airport, C#5128) (me): G&McP's logo is a stag, which covers the hunting theme, it was bottled in October 2011, and everyone knows tomatoes are red. Nose: floral and fruity, grassy, even (JS). Black bun, says KB. Dark raisins, prunes, dried figs, honey, pine sap. Rather sweet altogether (KB). It opens up to reveal black bananas, later on. Mouth: liquid honey (acacia), honeysuckle -- this is light and easy, perfect to start with. Finish: a sprinkle of white pepper, gently spicy, while still bearing more floral qualities -- honeysuckle again, I think. Lovely drop, this. Love it every time I have it. Great buy and it was dirt cheap to boot.

Red 8ber
Isle of Skye 8 (40%, Ian McLeod, b. ca 1980s) (me): this one is 8 years old -- 8 as in October. And that is written in red on the label too. I liked a more recent version very much, last year and thought it was great value for money. This one was bottled in the 1980s or early 1990s and therefore could be interesting. Nose: shy at first, then dust, leather belt, polish (KB) and even plastic (KB). Something earthy, though not quite farmyardy -- mud. Mouth: very watery. Very, very, very watery, in fact. It spent too much time in the bottle. Finish: absent. This should have been drunk years ago. Not worth noting or scoring, it is just a case of bad luck and one that was foreseeable: half the bottle has evaporated. Ah well, it is a cheap disappointment, so no hard feelings.

Ord is rad
Ord 15yo 1996/2011 (57.3%, Cadenhead's) (JS): red label. Nose: after the watery previous, this one has quite some kick. Pine sawdust, as if entering an Ikea warehouse. Roasted pineapple, peach stew. Water simply makes it shyer without otherwise altering it. Mouth: fiery pepper and sawdust. It becomes a lot fruitier with water, though not exactly a fruit bomb either -- pineapple? Finish: now quite drying, though not in a bad way. A vague impression akin to licking boots (what I do in my free time is none of your business) and the fruity/bitter taste of peach stone. Very nice.

Irish barley

Slaney Malt 11yo 2001/2013 (57%, Adelphi Limerick Selection, C#9929, 235b) (JS): released and bought in October this year, not to mention it is Irish (Bloody Sunday, and blood is red). We had this one at the Whisky Show a couple of weeks ago and liked it very much. Nose: custard, vanilla, peach yoghurt, roasted coconut. Rhubarb & custard boiled sweets (KB), powdery custard (KB on a roll). Mouth: fruit and quite a bit of pepper on top of a custard pudding. Finish: passion fruit, kicks in, alongside a strangely drying feel that reminds me of the effect of grain whisky. A superbly balanced dram, we all love it. 9/10

Tomatin 35yo 1978/2013 (44.1%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 594b) (me): this one was released and bought in October as well, on top of being made out of red tomatoes. First one of the Small Batch range that I open myself: I really like the format of the bottle, how it takes little space on a shelf and how it fits in the hand. It is atrociously impractical to pour, though. Guaranteed to wet your shoes. Nose: trifle (KB), raisins (JS), fresh doughnuts, custard, bread and butter pudding (of which we discuss the concept and taste), grapes. It is even quite pruney, with figs and dates, perhaps not fresh from the tree, but not completely dried either. Mouth: balanced and, overall, sparkly. Toffee and chocolate make an appearance, after a minute. Finish: flat cola, (stale?) ginger beer and chocolate. This might not be the most complex, especially considering the age, but it is a definite winner. 9/10

Macduff 24yo 1989/2013 (53.3%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Sherry Butts, 516b) (KB): released and bought in October and supposedly packed with red fruit. K's first ever bottle, so it is with anticipation we reach this point. Nose: delicately cured meat, shoe polish, coffee pot on a polished piece of furniture. Make that an empty coffee pot on a polished buffet in the officers' mess. It opens up with musk (fox skin) and fruitcake (KB) to die out with a whiff of candle wax, as well as some custard. Mouth: flat cola again, cold coffee, polished furniture. Finish: never-ending, with a big sherry influence -- coffee (marc de café), leather and tobacco, mostly. A bit of an old man's whisky, but a good dram, great to finish with. Just like the Highland Park last month, this would score higher if the profile was more my thing. I even think it is better made than the Highland Park. 7/10

We have a Victoria sponge cake with the final dram, which goes down a treat.

Excellent tasting. Low turnout, one disappointment, yet an otherwise superb selection. Pity we did not have any Bladnochtober, Octobermory or Red Octomore, but there is always next time. :-)

10 October 2013

06/10/2013 The Whisky Show 2013 (Day 2 -- Part 2)

North British and pudding
The story started here.

We decide to go for food earlier, today. We do well: the brasserie is a lot less busy than yesterday. We all take the fish pie, which is tastier than yesterday, as are the vegetables. I also ask for more than the default portion and get it without any resistance. Pudding as dessert. While eating, we have one dram each.

From Diageo (we never manage to see Colin Dunn on Sunday, unfortunately):

Brora 35yo b.2012 (48.1%, OB, Refill American Oak Casks, 1566b): missed my chance to try it last year. This time it is mine. Nose: farmyard galore, animal scents, manure. Candied lemons too and vinegar, though not quite balsamic. Mouth: yep, the vinegar tickle, balanced and sparkly, yet creamy. Finish: pleasantly bold, with late-night barbecue and burnt herbs. Very nice indeed, if overpriced. 8/10

Talisker 35yo 1977/2012 (54.6%, OB, 3090b): dom666 being a fan, it would be a shame to miss out. Nose: coastal, coastal, coastal. This needs to be drunk in Talisker Bay while dom666's trousers are drying (a long story involving a tumble in the sea, a broken camera and years of mockery). Salty, windy, wildish. Very little pepper here, which makes me enjoy it more than, say, the 10-year-old. Mouth: oh! yeah, lots and lots and lots of salt and sand. The lapping of the sea. Finish: finally some black pepper, but under control. Loads of salt and all sorts of maritime stuff -- fishing nets, rowing boats etc. Very good. What the fuck is it with the mini-pourings at the Diageo stand, though? 1cl for a dream dram? We pay for this, crikey! Not pleasantly impressed, here. 8/10

From Douglas Laing:

North British 50yo 1962/2013 (53.3%, DL Director's Cut, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, C#DL9783, 150b): nose: bakery, of course. Vanillaed dough, varnish -- how rich this is, whilst still rather mellow. Mouth: oochie-mama! Lovely balance of jam, croissant, butter dough, cake with a bit of spice or even wood. Finish: long, comforting, with gingerbread and spicy shortbread. 8/10

I remember all the banging
We stop at Balvenie's stand for a couple. The cooper workshop is in full effect and the banging is very loud. But we have strong will. For limited result, though: the advertised 30 year-old is not there.

Balvenie 12yo Single Barrel (47.8%, OB,  C#12758): this one replaces the beloved 15yo. Nose: sugary, probably less complex than the 15, but quite alright. Some punch. Mouth: slightly bitter milk. Almond milk it is, then. Finish: yep, slightly bitter almond milk, simple and efficient. 7/10

Balvenie 14yo Caribbean Cask (43%, OB, Rum Finish): this one replaces the Golden Cask, which replaced the Cuban Selection. Nose: bags of sugar, coconut, toasted coconut, milk. Mouth: milky indeed. Almond milk, perhaps. Finish: loads of coconut again, not as rough as rum finishes can be. Very easy to drink, very modern. 7/10
Nose: fish, carrot and parsnip. Mouth: bechamel, seafood, ...
Finally we stop at Gordon & MacPhail for a while. No Braeval -- another one that was advertised on the list.

Royal Brackla 1997/2012 (46%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, Refill ex-Sherry Cask): nose: meat, coq-au-vin, not my thing at all. Mouth: much better, with faint caramelised, red onions, jam, water. Finish: yes, caramelised, red onions, burger sauce. Unimpressed. 5/10

Balblair 20yo 1991/2012 Crozes-Hermitage Finish (45%, GMP Private Collection, 2000b): nose: the right side of red wine. Mouth: smooth and balanced. Finish: some tannins, but it is not annoying. Quite nice, this. 6/10

Tullibardine 225 b.2013 (43%, OB, Sauternes Finish): nose: bold and syrupy, the wine influence is obvious, but remains pleasant. Mouth: liqueur, syrupy, sticky. Finish: more syrupy things with milk chocolate. Yeah, good.

Tullibardine 20yo (43%, OB): nose: orchard fruit, freshly-cut grass. Mouth: apple juice, flat peary, a vague bitterness. Finish: strange pear liqueur, custard. This is lovely! 7/10

Tullibardine 25yo (43%, OB): nose: wider than the 20, richer. Toffee, pear compote. Mouth: nice and fruity, but also rather watery. Some spices emerge after a bit. Finish: jammy and watery with a coffee feel. Not bad, but I prefer the 20.

The Dewar stand is right across and I want to try an Aberfeldy. I mix it up and end up trying some blends. Blergh.

Dewar's 18yo Founders Reserve (43%, Dewar's): nose: nuts, but not very assertive. Mouth: easy and smooth, watery, even. Vague hints of nuts. Finish: smooth and easy again with a touch of milk chocolate. A bit indistinct, but certainly not unpleasant.

Superb blend
Dewar's Signature (40%, Dewar's): this is a deluxe blend to celebrate a now-retired master blender. Nose: neatly-polished leather belts, dates, figs, interesting. Mouth: full-bodied, but gentle. Very pleasant, yes! Wax, honey, milk chocolate. Finish: very round, mellow, polished, with even blood orange in the back. An all-round winner, this one. Superb blend. Glad I tried it.

Aberfeldy 21yo (40%, OB, L12257ZAB03): nose: orange and cinnamon. Mouth: more orange, sweet marmalade, apricot compote. Finish: more of the same, well balanced and just right, if not very adventurous. 8/10

Three days of tasting are starting to take their toll, as the ever more simplistic notes above show. A quick stroll to Eaux de Vie to stretch a bit... and a stop to tick a box.

Gimme gimme gimme Mackmyra for breakfast
Mackmyra Bruks (41.4%, OB): never had Mackmyra before. The Swedish hostess's English is a bit hesitant, which seals the deal for this expression. Nose: lemon, a little coffee, though we are near the coffee machine when I finally nose this, so it is hard to smell anything else. Mouth: lemon curd, lemon cake, vanilla and soft cake. Easy. Crushed banana. It feels watered down. One could argue that Swedes are a watered-down version of their fellow Scandinavians, but I will not go there. Finish: short but pleasant. Very nice dram. I expected to be vile and it is not at all. 7/10

Bain's (43%, OB, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask): a Seth Efricen grain whisky, apparently. Nose: typical grain -- bakery, toasted coconut. Mouth: smooth, coconut milk, vanilla pudding, easy and smooth. Finish: cinnamon, perhaps even speculoos. Balanced and nice, if unchallenging.

The Broomfest
With our dram in our hand, we proceed to the demonstration stage, where Ryan Chetiyawardana and Dave Broom host Usquebaugh! A Radical Spin on Scotch. Dave tells us about the emergence of Usquebaugh in the 16th century and its evolution through the years (medicine, social drink, long, short, mixed or neat) while Ryan brews Dewar-based cocktails with herbs or soda that shatter a few dogmas, including for me. I also finally acknowledge that Ryan's creations are interesting to some degree, though the whole thing is a Broomfest, as far as I am concerned, starting with the classic, 'to prepare for this session, I tasted 102 whiskies... mainly to piss off Ian Buxton.' Worth noting, dear reader, that Ian Buxton published a book called 101 Whiskies to try before you die.
The conclusion of the session is that whisky is a social drink to be enjoyed in good company, any way you like it. Its sole purpose being to make merry.
I ask Dave what he would mix with, say, a White Bowmore, which seems to confuse him quite a bit. Apparently, even he draws the line at that. ;-)

Back to the main halls where we get a few final drams to wind down. Glenlochy C#1759, Glencadam 34 (see notes for those two here), but also Clynelish 15yo 1997/2013 (50%, HL Old Malt Cask 50º, C#HL9881): wax, red fruit jam, balanced, still very good.

Jura 30yo Camas an Staca (44%, OB, b.2013): nose: lots of sherry -- OXO broth. Mouth: rich and wide, balsamic vinegar. Finish: long, slightly acidic and full of balsamic vinegar. Very nice. 7/10

Benromach 1976/2012 (46%, OB): toasted oak and coconut. Mouth: very gentle and round, peachy cream. Finish: bitterness of peach stone, with its soft peach flesh. Beautiful finish, this.

We notice that the Laphroaig 27yo (see Friday's anecdote) is completely gone. Not sure when that one was emptied, but it sure was popular, considering how many of the dream drams are hardly touched.

Great show. Sunday was better, I think, despite the noticeable degradation in spittoon service (I eventually spot the bin-spitting choir boy from last year -- seems he has learnt what a spittoon is at last). Apart from that and the cock-ups with the dram list, I do not think there is a lot of room left for improvement. It is now a well-oiled machine, which is very impressive, considering the scale of it.

Favourite stands: Signatory Vintage for the crazy selection, Hunter Laing for the best drams.
Favourite staff: close call between Gordon & MacPhail, Adelphi, Angus Dundee and Dewar for second place. On top of them all comes Berry Bros, even though we hardly spent any time there.
Worst staff: Diageo.
Favourite moment: in the shop after the show, with tens of people purchasing in happy chaos, this tale between staff members, 'Someone asked me for a bottle on the top shelf, so he could see under my skirt.'
I laughed.