31 March 2013

29/03/2013 ArBaCaDaBla + two nightcaps

Fixou has been trying to find the right opportunity to open a particular bottling of Caol Ila for a while, and I have a lot of things to let him try. Among those things, I select things from distilleries whose names start with Ar, Ba, Ca, Da or Bla so as to have a theme that is at least a little original. I also insist on the sequence, no matter how illogical or irrational it may appear. Also, we go for pairings nearly each time to make it more interesting.

The suspects: JS, Fixou, A and myself.

The menu:

Ardmore 19yo 1978/1998 (46%, Cadenhead Original Collection) (brought by me): nose: light, unsalted butter, margarine, even, and a whiff of distant smoke. Pears are also present, as well as honey sweets (Fixou). Mouth: the smoke is slightly more assertive, though it remains far from invading. This is by no means one of those recent Ardmores that taste like they could have hitched a hike from Islay. Dry, white wine, perhaps cider vinegar. Finish: again, light smoke and cider vinegar. A finds green asparagus there (!) 7/10


Armut Portonova (62.1%, OB) (brought by Fixou): "c'est un Armut, Helmut!" A quick spelling correction and it is in theme (youpla-boum!) Nose: big and wide, full of Petit Beurre biscuit and caramel, an insignificant amount of lichen, gingerbread, raisins, a hint of vanilla, Biscuit a la Cuiller. Mouth: becomes quite gingery, slightly drying on the sides of the mouth (you're not saying, at 62+%!), with milky coffee (macchiato, latte). Finish: powerful, crumbling under spicy wood that is actually reminiscent of old grains (ginger, clove) and some glue. 8/10

Smelling the Ardmore directly afterwards, it reeks of shy farmyard and feels better.

Moby goes all paparazzo on the bottles
Balvenie 14yo Golden Cask (47.5%, OB, Rum Finish) (me): nose: shallow-fried apple, rose petals. A finds it a bit sweeter than the following dram, while I think it is also rougher, which is weird. After a bit, the typical Balvenilla comes out. Mouth: brown sugar (A), plant-stem-juice bitterness. Finish: the sweet influence is obvious. Beetroot refinery, then rum roughness and more plant-related bitterness. 7/10


Balvenie 15yo 1989/2004 (47.8%, OB Single Barrel, C#8419) (me): nose: melon flower (A, whatever that is). It is not the most expressive, today; maybe some honeysuckle and butterscotch. Mouth: fresh, mineral, fruity (Fixou), custard, black pepper. Finish: butterscoch, custard, Balvenilla. A good dram for sunny weather, easy and extremely pleasant. 7/10

-Blend of both: nose: exuberant honeysuckle. Mouth: narrow and light. Finish: Balvenilla aplenty -- this is very good.

Caol Ila 28yo 1982/2011 (56.4%, Berry Bros Selected by Berrys', C#6514) (Fixou): nose: peat, nutmeg (JS), riesling (Fixou), citrus (A). It is all rather farmy, powerful and soothing -- brine, pickles, rocks (A), cow droppings. Rarely have I experienced such a farmy nose, in fact. Mouth: pleasantly under control, with a bit of peat, sea salt and a spray of black pepper. Finish: elegant peat, refined, long as a game of curling on a rainy day. Really good, this one. Believe the hype. 8/10


Caol Ila 32yo 1975/2007 (58.4%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, ex-Sherry Hogshead, C#458, 221b) (me): this one is unusual in that it comes from a first-fill sherry cask; a curiosity from that distillery. Nose: very citrusey today (orange, to be precise). It is less expressive altogether (or shall we say: less invadingly so): the sherry has tamed the peat a lot. Figs, dates (A), dark cherries (Fixou), elderberries and even a touch of light coal. Mouth: red-wine dryness (tannins?), barbecue shenanigans, cooked meat that has cooled down on a stainless steel plate. Finish: PiM's (that is posh Jaffa Cakes, for our readers with educational gaps in the biscuitry department) and barbecue sauce, maybe even Tabasco sauce (A). This anaesthetises the palate a bit, but Fixou's taste buds are still awake enough to note his trademark basalmic vinegar. 9/10

Dailuaine 27yo 1982/2009 (46%, Speciality Drinks Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#809, 230b) (me): nose: cotton candy, Malabar (Fixou, who now compares it to a DL Platinum Banff). Bubblegum and plum it is. Mouth: some vanilla, milk, latte, even yoghurt and pepper. It reads odd, but it works. Finish: flower-stem juice and the associated bitterness, some grass, ending up with custard, earth and a touch of liquorice. White wine, perhaps -- A, our wine consultant (and his smart phone) confirms it is Arbois, a wine from Jura (in France, not the island).

Bladnoch 1987/1999 (40%, Gordon  & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice) (JS): nose: surprisingly loud, considering it comes late in the line-up, after several cask strengths. A smells pineapple in it: he is not too keen on that fruit. Quince, gooseberry, plum, prunes, but also leather, handbags and Americano coffee. Mouth: very tame, now. Candied sugar. This suffers from the low ABV. Finish: chocolate (between 50 and 60% cocoa) and some orange. Coffee or amaretto? 6/10


Bladnoch for 16 year-olds
Bladnoch 16yo 1991/2007 (51%, Taste Still, C#8411, 126b) (me): nose: this screams candy necklace. There are flowers too, but they are less prominent. Mouth: light, buttery, delicate with a spoonful of acacia honey. Finish: milk chocolate, latte frappé. This feels rather different from what it usually is, which is interesting enough to justify the position in the sequence. 7/10

Blend of both: nose: more flower stems, honeysuckle. Mouth: light, discrete, gentle, flowery. Finish: the 1987 takes the lead, now, with leather bags and Americano coffee.

Off-theme, we then have:

24.124 23yo 1988 Close to the edge of extreme (50.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 403b) (A): nose: a tobacco shop, orange flower (Fixou), then lots of coffee and gingerbread. Mouth: Americano coffee (to think I do not drink coffee!), some wood, pepper, nutmeg and amaretti. Finish: PiM's (A loves them, today), dark chocolate, cocoa beans and the bitterness that goes along, orange skins. A nice, sherried Macallan.

29.109 20yo 1990 Oak and smoke intensity (59.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 619b) (Fixou): nose: horse stable! A lasagna production line (Findus?) There is some restrained peat smoke (by Laphroaig's standards) and horse saddle scents. This is elegant and balanced in a crazy way. Handbags, leather jackets. Mouth: invadingly sherried -- drying, rough, with dark fruits (black currant) that are not as in-your-face as expected. Finish: a steamroller over farmland, with a disctinctive mocha feel and lots of coffee liqueur. This is not for beginners -- a big, uncompromising dram.

Good fun, as usual.

27 March 2013

26/03/2013 Two Glenugies

The 26th March. 26 miles is a marathon -- JS completed one a few days ago. Celebration. It is also Leslie Mann's birthday, today -- although that seems random and hardly relevant, I saw a few films in which she appears, lately. That is the sole reason I know that piece of trivia and seems good enough a second excuse to celebrate. Yay. Top shelf as well, today. Double whammy.

'Nobody touches Glen Huggy, you dig?'
Glenugie 26yo 1982/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask 50º, Bourbon Barrel, C#4703, 310b): nose: custard and a debauchery of almond cream, punctuated with ripe peach, passion fruit, lychee -- caramba! It is not a Lochside from the 1960s, but it is fresh and fruity alright. Very sweet, with lots of coconut, as well as some vanilla. The bourbon cask influence is obvious. After some breathing time, butter also emerges, along with tulip petals. Mouth: unexpectedly spicy (green chilli), balanced by more custard. After rolling on the tongue for a bit, it becomes quite milky indeed. Finish: an avalanche of coconut, at this point, that gives way to a long, lingering, dry, white wine impression. Glorious stuff. This is what dreams are made of. 9/10

Glenugie 31yo 1977/2009 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Finished in an Oloroso Butt, C#7, 577b): nose: a whole different kettle of fish! We now have coffee (of the Americano variety), amaretti (almond macaroons), maybe some distant, tinned fish? Teriyaki sauce, rather -- perhaps even soy sauce (hence why it is so moreish, one could easily imagine). There is even a discrete scent of dunnage warehouse. Mouth: a lot thicker than #4703, as expected. This one is richer, bitterer, with a hint of green chilli again, but also ginger and teriyaki sauce. The sherry speaks loudly, which is logical after a seven-year "finish". Speaking of finish: coconut, wood varnish, rancio, sweetened, black coffee (light Americano again), fortified wine or berry liqueur. This one is always a blast. It simply does not disappoint. 9/10

When asked which one I prefer, I go into a deadlock: #4703 is probably the seducer of the two, easy as it is to like it, no matter how (un)developed the palate. #7 is the cigar-in-a-chesterfield kind of a dram. They are both superb in their own right; why try to class them?

Glenugie Casks 4703 + 7: that is not cask 4710, for the absent-minded. Try to follow! Nose: the little volume I blend does not tell much; a bit of flower-stem juice, squashed berries, a little wood, maybe -- yes! Seasoned wood it is. Mouth: a really weird red-fruit mix. Not sure I like it much, to be honest. It is very Acidic and shaky. Red-wine vinegar is probably the closest it could relate to. Finish: yes, red-wine vinegar, though it is not as annoying as it was on the mouth. Coconut shell, fleeting passion fruit, after a few seconds. Also wooden planks, soaked in Rioja. Not really a success, this. :o)

25 March 2013

21/03/2013 Three Tobs

Many reasons to celebrate, lately: on top of it being the official start of spring today, the last couple of weeks have been peppered with anniversaries calling for a special face-to-face session. However, a very busy schedule and long office hours have made me postpone said celebration -- why force it in, eh?
Now, this never-ending winter has finally taken its toll: after three days of soaked sightseeing in my own town, I am crippled with a cold. That calls for medicine, but let us not hit the top shelf, this time, since the nose is not in pristine condition.

Tobermory 10yo (40%, OB): nose: pear drops, distant bandages, something slightly chemical and a whole whiff of wood. Mouth: pear drops again, along with something more citrusey -- lemon chewing gum? There is also a touch of honey. Finish: bourbon-cask goodness, now -- butterscotch, coconut, vanilla. This is simple, but good.

Tobermory 15yo (46.3%, OB, Oloroso Cask Finish): this was my daily dram for a long while, this year: after a disappointing start, it became a lot more balanced and agreeable. Nose: the sherry influence is quite a contrast with the 10. Dark chocolate, instant-coffee powder, yet the dominant note today is dust. There is also dried orange skin in there and drying tobacco leaves. After several minutes (and sips), hot cigar even comes into the mix. Mouth: slightly syrupy, or creamy, with notes of orange (not quite Mandarine Napoleon, though), tarte Tatin, orange sponge cake (think PiM's without the chocolate coating). Finish: cocoa beans and coffee, now, with some more of that lovely orange sponge cake and a taste of coconut to boot. Lovely drop of W, this. 7/10

Ledaig 4yo 2005/2010 (62.7%, BBr Berrys' Own Selection, Sherry Butt, C#900008): nose: peat smoke! Mackerel being smoked on the shores of a sea loch, a bucket that previously contained tar, brine, tinned anchovies, perhaps; it seems more coastal than medicinal to me, but rather glorious, in any case. Mouth: the sherry does a lot of the talking, at first impression, then the peat speaks out. Smoked trout, diesel (not in an invading way). Finish: a killer Italian coffee cake, salted, dark chocolate. The smoked fish is now tame, if not absent -- probably a good thing: there would be a fish in the percolator, which only Lynch fans would enjoy. :-) This is stunning. I have had it before, yet it seems a lot better today. I expected it to be a steamroller, but it is actually quite subtle and complex, especially for such a young dram. Or maybe, it simply goes down very well in this cold (thanks Fixou for the sample). 7/10

13 March 2013

09/03/2013 Whiskies for nancy boys

A visit to the Heimat usually means a tasting. This one is no exception. The reason we chose this theme is long to explain and quite irrelevant anyway. We wanted to focus on whiskies bottled between 40 and 43% ABV.

The suspects: dom666, Psycho, P and myself.

The menu:

Té Bheag (40%, Pràban na Linne, b. ca 2010) (brought by me): nose: marzipan, almond (dom666), lightly animal smell, copper (Psycho). It also bears a distant, smoked-kippers or rainbow-trout fragrance. Oxidation helps mocha emerge, as well as some tobacco. Mouth: raw dough, iodine and a little bit of cocoa milk. Finish: mellow and velvety as can be, with some white coffee in the back. Another excellent blend from Pràban na Linne.

Shopliftin' for a livin'
Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, OB) (brought by P): long time no see. P also brought a Deanston 17 and a Laphroaig 10, but we think this one is the most suitable, today. Nose: daffodils, cooked apples and bread left on the table for a few days (dryish bread, then). Mouth: butter, flower-stem juice. Gentle and refined, with subtle vanilla. Finish: it is an avalanche of vanilla, now. Butterscotch and brioche too. Lovely.

Enter food. A tasty selection of artisanal bread, pâtés, dry and blood sausages (who said Knockwurst?) and, most of al, cheeses. dom666 put the emphasis on alcohol-refined cheeses: Calvados Camembert, Marc Epoisse, and two harder ones I cannot remember. Gluttony descends upon us.

Allt-A-Bhainne 1991/2007 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, JG/BAB) (brought by me): nose: autumn leaves at first, then banoffee settles for good. Allt-A-Bhainnana, body butter, maybe a little thyme infusion in the back of the nose? Mouth: slightly spicy. Peppered butterscotch and a little milk chocolate. Finish: lots of banoffee, butterscotch and vanilla. Dram of the day for Psycho and yours, truly. 7/10

Not only the whiskies lead to dick jokes
Longmorn 18yo 1988/2006 (43%, Spirit Imports The Classic Cask for Astor Wines, 360b) (brought by dom666): nose: pine tree-bark bitterness, dry wood in the fireplace, waiting to be ignited, lovely forestry, pine underwood. Mouth: pine cone-infused milk, sweet and soft, with a vague bitterness on the front of the palate. Finish: milk chocolate with pine-tree bitterness in the back. I finally got over this one. It is still good, but I no longer regret not buying all four bottles when I had a chance. There is so much more to taste anyway. 8/10

Isle of Jura 10yo (43%, OB) (brought by Psycho): nose: orange skins and leather, with a touch of wood varnish. Mouth: peppery, with boiled oranges and coffee powder. Finish: orange skins and slightly milky chocolate. This one, we all agree, is better than anticipated. It is balanced and agreeable, and if it is probably due to the sequence, we still enjoy it quite a bit.
Booze, booze-refined cheese and priapism-stricken delicatessen

A short yet great tasting, relaxed and interesting, with just enough drams and food to be satisfied without being overly indulgent. Excellent times, as usual.

5 March 2013

02/03/2013 March outturn at the SMWS

Another month, another outturn. This one looks interesting, which is a sign to go as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Seeing how busy the venue is upon arrival, it was a good idea.
While I am chatting with P, minutes after getting in, idealrichard joins us, then JS, a few more minutes later.

58.14 23yo 1989 Ye olde sweetie shoppe (57.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 222b) (idealrichard): this one is obviously one that triggered our curiosity; a very nice, unsung distillery, and not a common one at the Society. Nose: honeysuckle, balanced by a touch of mustard -- the grainy kind. The mouth reminds me of a nicely peppered bake. Finish: it is now a mixture of milk chocolate and vanilla. Lovely indeed.

37.54 27yo 1985 A contradictory dram (52.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 215b) (JS): nose: an abundance of honeysuckle, as well as juicy peach. Mouth: smooth and mellow, soft as baby skin, with peach again. Finish: longish and fruity (yep, more peach) with a spray of pepper. 8/10

G3.4 27yo 1984 Pride of Bengal (57.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 219b) (me): if asked whether they would bottle this again, I would have bet no... and would have been wrong. The description is all about curry and spices. What will this give? Nose: oregano, thyme, gentian, verbena, caraway seeds. idealrichard and JS agree with it being the curry W, even finding cumin. I am less convinced, but if it is cumin, it has to be black cumin. Maybe some black cardamom too -- it turns into an obscure-spice name-dropping, really, and at that game, I am close to unbeatable. Mouth: thyme infusion, the same kind mothers pour in a child's bath to make them sweat a cold out. Some honey too (in the dram, not in the bath). Finish: it is now a strange mix of barley sugar and aromatic herbs. The waiter reckons it also tastes of pumpkin. Although not bad at all, this is more interesting than great, to be perfectly honest and, since I already own a Caledonian, I pass on this one;

idealrichard makes his way, busy as he is. We quickly move from the table to the sofas and engage in a conversation with a Canadian member on his first trip to this venue.

121.58 10yo 2002 Pure pleasure (57.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 131b) (JS): nose: honeysuckle, a hint of vanilla, meadow flowers and buttery bakery. Mouth: lots of pepper and honeysuckle again. Finish: this is nice and gentle, with a touch of papaya. Arran is becoming a well pleasant distillery;

93.55 13yo 1999 Lamb kebab with apples and peppers (61.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 217b) (me): staff recommendation. Nose: this was obviously finished in a bacon cask. Pork rinds, barbecue-flavoured crisps (Grills). There is not much else, really. Mouth: Barbecue crisps again; this is uncomplicated, yet enjoyable. Finish: aye, more barbecue-flavoured crisps, spare ribs with Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce. I like it. It is slightly one-dimensional, but it works. Makes me think of a more subtle PC8. 7/10

Nice session. A couple of drams, then off we go. Except that, at this point, PS and the party he is with start  pouring us drams:

Ledaig 32yo 1973/2005 (45%, IML Chieftain's, Hogshead, C#2800, 240b): nose: earthy with a velvety feel and gooseberry. Mouth: more earth. It is still quite smooth, though slightly drying. Finish: overripe, dark red fruit, a hint of coffee and maraschino cherries. This is miraculous work and the best Ledaig I have had (thanks, PS). 8/10

Glenrothes 1990/2009 (TWE Straight from the Cask): the Whisky Cyclist pours us this, apologetically telling us he found it good when he tried it, he bought it, but does not know if it is worth our while. Nose: lots of animal skin. Rotting pears on leather. Mouth: slightly drying and it seems tannic to me. Finish: long, a little drying again, though also fruity (in the distance): black currant, dark cherries. The nose is off-putting to these nostrils, otherwise quite nice (thanks, Whisky Cyclist). 6/10

29.129 22yo 1989 Leather and lime in a smoky room (55.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 562b) (our Canadian guest): nose: farmyard aplenty. Mouth: lots of cherry, despite the light colour. This is from a Sherry butt (albeit refill), and the influence does come through. Finish: sugary, long, soaked in dark cherry skins. 8/10

41.56 24yo 1988 Rabbit in soured cream sauce (51.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 280b): nose: this is animal too, though not in an overpowering way. Clynelishy, with candle wax, some fruit (jack fruit?) and clear butter (fresh, not melting). Mouth: flower stem juice, unripe melon, perhaps (cantaloup). Finish: acrid, in a nice way. Could not find the rabbit or soured sauce in there, though. Strange that 37, 41 and 44 are not the most common distilleries here, yet bottles tend to be released simultaneously (thanks PS).

Great session, much longer than anticipated, due to the usual suspects' generosity, and animated with many a chat with known and unknown guests.

Some guests wanted to show more than generosity. We had to draw the line.