28 January 2013

26/01/2013 Plein les Burns + after

Before going any further, it is probably useful to underline 'burnes' is French slang for 'balls'. Although no offence to Burns is meant, it is too good a bad pun to pass.
The name is Robert  (© Emmanuel Viguie)
Anyway, the year's most important tasting is here once more. It was a headache to find some of the ingredients for supper, this year, but everything is ready and anticipation is high.
The theme is anything that is related to 'burn' in any way. Given there are not that many active distilleries with that in the name, interpretation was free and criteria were loose.

The suspects: adc, JS, dom666, Psycho, kruuk2, ruckus, sonicvince, JD, myself and P, who joins the party at the sixth dram.

Psycho, sonicvince, ruckus, dom666, JS and I visit a store before the do. We buy a few things and are treated to a Dallas Dhu 1980/2001 (40%, GMP) and a Hibiki 17. Nice aperitives, both of them.

Back to the venue, where we meet adc and JD and are quickly joined by kruuk2.
JD and dom666 are tasked with building the line-up.

This is their work:

Aultmore 29 (Vom Fass) (brought by dom666): dom666 found a new shop near his; they bottle their own products. This is one of them and, although it has no connection with the theme, he wants us to try it. Nose: oregano, rosemary, distant vanilla, Brazil nuts. The mouth has a skimmed-milk texture, nice as aperitive again. Finish: herbes de Provence (oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.), unripe, green fruit and a little pencil-sharpener blade to balance it out. Agreeable.

105.19 28yo 1983 'O come all ye faithful' (55.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Sherry Hogshead, 315b) (dom666): We open the bottle. I kind of know what to expect, having tried it prior, yet the fresh bottle might deliver something else. Nose: caramel! (adc) Apple compote (sonicvince), apple roll (Psycho), pepper, cinnamon. Hours later, it delivers more coffee, cherry-tree fire. Even later, finally dark cherries. Water helps it let the cherries out too. Mouth: ginger bread, nutmeg. It becomes fruitier with water. Finish: some herbs, dark cherries, after a bit. The cherries are not very obvious yet. I know to look out for them and vaguely get some, but others do not as easily. Oxidation will certainly help them emerge more. Proof is, we leave a dram sit there for the whole duration of the tasting (all night), come back to it later: it finally gives out more pronounced dark cherries and maraschino cherries. This is gorgeous.
The (far-fetched) connection with the theme is given by dom666 as follows:
Burns Night
Burns to be alive
quand tu burns alive tu tombes mort

I will not translate.

Starter is served. We have a spicy parsnip and carrot soup that nearly sees J faint. It is not that spicy, mind. He simply has very low tolerance.

The traditional and one of the veggie haggises explode in the oven. We joke they must have been muslim terrorists, aka jihaggists.
A blown-up jihaggist.
The main course is also served: haggis, veggie haggis, swede and potato bake, turnip and potato puree with honey and dill, all of which is very much to my taste.
A veggiehaggist nearly made a casualty

Rare Ayrshire 34yo 1975/2009 (45.2%, SV Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 166b) (me): this one was there last year (not documented on this blog), yet Ladyburn has 'burn' in the name and I like this a lot. Seems like a good opportunity. Nose: everyone agrees on banane flambée, but I cannot keep up with the pace and leave it there until the end of the tasting. At that point, it shoots berries. Mouth: honey, a slight bitterness, happiness. To think this is supposedly a terrible distillery! Finish: long and flowery with dried fruits -- dates and apricots. Oh, man! How good is this? 9/10

Speyburn 25yo Solera (46%, OB, b. ca 2012) (me): nose: herbs, metal, old banana (sonicvince and Psycho). Many reckon it smells of old and do not care for it. It is a bit cardboardy indeed, but not overly so. adc and ruckus compare it to those thin, laminate-wood, sliding doors of a KewLox cupboard. Old cupboard and some dust. Mouth: ruckus gets a taste of metal and aluminium foil. He must be on drugs, as I mostly detect oranges. Finish: orange marmalade, along with the bitterness of pencil shavings. Odd. Dried orange peel. Everyone politely tells me it is horrible. I beg to differ, although I disagree with Jim Murray's high score. I bet oxidation will improve it dramatically.
Enjoying the tasting

Belgian Owl 4yo (74.1%, OB, C#4275986) (sonicvince): the ballsy ABV is enough for it to suit the theme. However, sonicvince thought making whisky in Belgium was ballsy and therein lies the link. Nose: flan, wet chalk (sonicvince), vanilla, wet hay, βανίλια (that is Greek vanillia). Mouth: pear eau-de-vie. It is surprisingly tolerable, despite the insane ABV. Well, most in the attendance requested a note from their mums to add water -- pf. I do not think water adds much to it and stick with the undiluted stuff. Finish: sugary, with vanilla, caramel, crème brûlée. This is quite nice and well balanced, unexpectedly enough. dom666 calls it la vodka du Diable (the Devil's advodkate).

Waterboy v3.0
P joins us. ruckus and I indulge in supper MkII with him.

Hazelburn 8yo 2002/2011 Sauternes Wood (55.9%, OB, 9180b) (kruuk2): nose: burnt tyre, burnt wood, asphalt (Psycho), some smoke and smoked lardons. My experience of Hazelburn is extremely limited (only had the 12 before), but this reminds me more of Longrow than the idea I had of Hazelburn. Mouth: powerful, with a distinct sherry influence that eclipses any Sauternes note it might have. Finish: smoked kippers, coffee, distant charcoal, even. In any case, there is absolutely no trace of the Sauternes anywhere.

Armorik (JD): the bottle contains just enough for all of us, so it is more a case of finishing it than it is about it being in theme. Nose: hay, fields, wet barley and flowers. Mouth: light grape juice. Finish: short and floral, light. Perhaps not a very impressive dram, yet there is nothing wrong with it either. Quite nice, in fact.

Cragganmore 11yo 2000/2011 (56.8%, BBr Selected by Berrys', C#3673) (P): the water source is Craggan Burn. There is your connection. Nose: burnt wood, hay again, faded field flowers. The nose is often Cragganmore's best feature. It is nice here, though the burnt wood note is quite unusual. Mouth: light, with flower stems, some ginger and white pepper. Finish: slightly bitter, more plant stems and meadow flowers.

Can't have your cake and eat it
Enter the desserts: an apple sponge cake and a galette, both of which are hugely popular. In fact, I do not even have a chance to taste the sponge cake.
A galette without a king

This feels like the right moment for a break in the enormous line-up (we are about half way), right before we ignite the peat onslaught. We collectively bought a couple of more desirable bottles, recently: if we are not opening one today, then when? Besides, we would need something special to follow it up and the only good contender is next in the line-up.

Breaking the seal
Banff 35yo 1975/2011 (42.4%, DL Old & Rare A Platinum Selection, Refill Hogshead, 158b): B(a)N(f)F for Burns Night Fare. The cork is sealed in wax. J and adc team up and manage to get it to give in. Nose: lavender, marzipan (sonicvince), dried-fruit mix (dates, raisins, figs), laundry that was left out all night (sonicvince), incense (P), fresh apple (ruckus), Chloé (adc -- it is a perfume). It moves towards more medicinal notes after a while, but the first whiff is spectacular. Mouth: velvet, plain and simple. Some honey, lavender wood. That gives way to more medicinal notes again, though never invading. Finish: the balance is impressive to say the least.
Robbie Burns's well-known ancestor approves of Banff
Heather, pot-pourri, even. This is complex and amazing. Everyone loves it. There is a slight metallic bitterness, though. No Chaumes crust this time. Hopefully, breathing will unlock it. 9/10
sonicvince spends an awful lot of time buried in the wooden case, sniffing away -- it smells of new carpet. P jokes it is a piece of Swedish furniture called Sküllskå. sonicvince replies he will buy any piece of Ikea rubbish, if it comes with the name Single Cask.
The song Kiss the Carpet makes Psycho's hand all blurry

Back to the regular line-up. The recurrent reason why they are here is they are ballsy whiskies that reek of burnt something:

Ardbeg 25yo Lord of the Isles (46%, OB, L5 285 2138 4M1) (adc): nose: brine, kippers, tarmac, rrrrrrrhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaa! Sardines. Mouth: the dominant note is iodine and salt, while the texture is velvety. Some distant engine oil, very much under control. Finish: some malt, brine, noble vinegar, pickles, light and elegant smoke, far in the back. This appears a lot more coastal than peaty, this time. It remains wonderful. 9/10

Bowmore Tempest Batch 3 (55.6%, OB, b.2011, 16000b) (ruckus): nose: it will seem cliché, as that is what it is known for, but peat and lemon. They really shine through. Mouth: berries, citrus and lovely pineapple. Finish: some peat and pineapple. A very good dram, this. Looking forward to trying all four batches in one sitting, at some point.

Some of the tasting notes are quite far-fetched
Smokehead (40%, IML) (JD): nose: barley, peat -- it seems gentle, but at this point, it is hard to judge. Mouth: barley and ashes. Finish: lots and lots of smoke (really?) This is overpowering and suffers from the comparison with its predecessors. It is basically a plate of ashes. Cannot say I am too taken by it. It is not bad, perhaps a bit simple. The 18 year-old is believed to be an Ardbeg. This one, I reckon is a Laphroaig -- it is not too different from 29.107.

We skip P's Caol Ila 18 OB and ruckus's Port Askaig 19. Another time.

Caol Ila 23yo 1978/2002 (61.7%, OB Rare Malts Selection, 6000b) (Psycho): nose: the hair in my nose is melting, so powerful is the alcohol. It is not extremely well integrated either. Mouth: ballsy, smokey, paint-stripping. Finish: long, complex, evolving around smoke and smoked meat. Hopefully, I will get to try this one on its own at some point to give it proper notes. 7/10

Auchentoshan 17yo 1987 (61.5%, OB Individual Cask for Belgium, C#1659, 552b) (Psycho): this usually smells of burnt rubber so much dom666 named it the Francorchamps grand-prix when we first had it, years ago (not recorded on this blog). Nose: yep, Francorchamps grand-prix -- lots of rubber, cured meat, decaying leather. Mouth: more animal skin, rubber, cola. Finish: long and invading, not the most pleasant, though it feels better than previous times. Petrol, rubber, flat cola.

Peat Bull 2002/2008 (46%, LMdW Malt Pedigree) (P): Lagavulin in disguise. Nose: cured meat, cured ham, pastrami. Mouth: quite powerful! kruuk2 reckons it lacks water. Finish: long, with waves of cigar smoke. Easy and efficient -- approved.

That is the end of the tasting. No one fancies the Arran Fixin that Psycho brought (because still having it in his collection is like an aching testicle).

As a night cap, sonicvince and ruckus try the Port Dundas 34 from the other day that I brought them back (thanks PS), while kruuk2 and the same ruckus try G5.2 which I had recently (thanks again PS).
Earlier, J had an Ardmore 1978/1998.

We move a lot of air chatting until around 5:30 in the morning, then proceed to bed.

The following morning, survivors (ruckus, JD, JS, adc, Psycho and I) share a nice breakfast. ruckus and I try:
The after-party fuel

Bushmills 16yo (40%, OB, b. ca 2012) (adc): nose: superbly fruity (peach, mostly, with a bit of passion fruit), ice tea (ruckus). Mouth: velvety, fruity, with lots of peach again and watermelon. Finish: more lovely, juicy peach. Delightful. J does not care for it.

ruckus is back from Cannes:
-Une Heineken à Cannes, ca coute 7 EUR!
-Tu devais avoir la haine à Cannes... :-)

Thanks to adc for the hospitality and huge help in the kitchen (you basically did everything), to JS for the haggises, to dom666 for the lovely bread, to ruckus and JS for the music and to everyone for the good company, laughs and great drams.
No one was tempted to try the endive liqueur.

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