28 June 2013

27-06-2013 July outturn preview at the SMWS

After a rather long hiatus, the SMWS invites us to an outturn preview again. The formula has changed dramatically: instead of one big event at a partner venue, with all guests present to try all the new bottlings, it is a series of shorter and more intimate sessions at the regular dive, with a whisky ambassador (CD at the helm), an assortment of Scottish cheeses with oatcakes, and five of the new bottlings selected by the host. All that for five guests -- or six, since the host takes part in the revelry: JS, Fixou, a member of the first hour who once visited all three venues in the country in the same day, a man with five 'd' in his name and myself. And CD, as mentioned.
We start a bit late (Frenchionably late), which worries me a little, as we are supposed to only have 45 minutes to go through the lot.
Better get going, then!

A rucksack full of pêches au thon
G1.11 21yo 1991 Iced mulled wine and Sorrento Limoncello (65.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 384b): on one hand, I am glad to try that one first, as I will have a better impression than I would after four drams in the gob, yet on the other, I am slightly concerned we start with a dram over 65%... Anyway. Nose: pine undergrowth (douglas fir, to be precise), limoncello (the description on the label gives that one away), some varnish, pine cones. With water, it becomes more biscuity, then dies out on Veleda markers, dry-wipe, white boards and coffee beans. CB jokes about all grains being the same (varnish, vanilla, coconut), but I find this one quite particular. Mouth: a touch of lemon and the more regular vanilla. Finish: there is a slight bitterness in the after-taste without which this would be fantastic. Toffee, pine needles and still that lingering lemon slice impression -- mmmmh! A lot easier to drink than the ABV suggested. In fact, it flows down on its own. 8/10

64.47 12yo 2001/2013 A firecracker! (61.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 209b): to ensure survivors of the previous cannot see straight quickly, we proceed with a 61+% dram. A Society Mannochmore is something I always look forward to, as they are consistently good, on top of being cheap. Nose: sparkly, fruity, citrusy. This smells like a good aperitive, everyone agrees. Mushrooms, shoe polish (black), then marzipan. It moves towards coffee, then sugar overtime. Mouth: pine needles, lots of pine wood. We have surreptitiously entered Ikea. No meat balls, horse or other. Finish: slightly spicy. Bit of wood, citrus. Water makes it more citrusy. The nose is amazing, hence the score. Not too taken by the rest. 7/10

CD -My favourite is a 16 year-old. [realising] ...whisky!

76.103 26yo 1987/2013 An ‘Old Fashioned’ in a traditional barber shop (52.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 279b): nose: meaty, though not nearly as much as Mortlach usually is. Still weird it is at all, considering it has spent its time in a bourbon cask. Turpentine? Varnish? It is "tamed", compared to the previous two. Mouth: well balanced, with some acidic orange juice. Finish: wood. A minute in, marzipan comes out. This is alright. Everyone else thinks it is too civilized, but it is decent. 6/10

53.190 17yo 1995 A fishing village up Whisky Cove (56.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 263b): the issue with CB at the helm is you are certain to end up tasting a Caol Ila. Talk about a surprise... Nose: kippers aplenty! Dried anchovies, brine, sea air. Coming back to it after the last dram, it delivers a lot of salted butter. Mouth: smoke, herbs. Finish: lovely peat, medicinal (bandages), long and heart-warming. The boys love it. 7/10

29.138 18yo 1995/2013 Hospitals, hearths and headlands (59.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 182b): nose: hospital, antiseptic, steriliser, ointment. It is impressive how medicinal this one is. Mouth: iodine, spices and herbs (thyme, oregano). Finish: more iodine, all sorts of medicinal shenanigan. It never ends either. Not my thing, nowadays. 5/10

Jolly company
The tasting is over, we went overtime quite a lot, but no one is queueing at the door for the next session -- there is no other session today. CB starts tidying up so he can go back to his regular duties, while we polish the cheese plates (a blue, a goat, a smoked, a fourth I cannot remember), oatcakes and our complimentary dram (I have another G1.11, which is still good, but will prove a bad idea tomorrow morning).
The party disbands and we head downstairs for a nightcap and a chat. Fixou goes for a mini-tasting of the four new Port Charlotte. I try one:

127.32 10yo 2002 A manly dram (65.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 244b): nose: barbecue, mercurochrome, coffee. Mouth: more mercurochrome, cocoa beans. Finish: extremely peaty, liquorice (Fixou). My nose is stuck, by now, so I cannot get too much of anything. 6/10

Charlotte, if you read this...
7.87 27yo 1989 (55.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 141b): since it is here and so are we, it seems right to sample it. Nose: honey, flowers, beeswax and candle wax (is this a Clynelish?) Mouth: bitter. Flower-stem juice, ginger, sunflower. Finish: bitterness, butter, then tons of honeysuckle and even Liège waffle. This is pretty good, though it does not hold together very well. The others do not care much for it.

What about the new formula, then? I found the session to be too short (we had to rush, in parts). It is a pity we cannot choose the drams ourselves, as it means we have to rely on the host's selection -- and since the tasters were a mix of peat-freaks, Lowland enthusiasts and grain fanatics, it was impossible to please everyone every time. On the plus side, it is less frenetic than the previous format, more personal and means we can more easily chat with others and share impressions.

13 June 2013

12/06/2013 June outturn at the SMWS

The menu does not seem too engaging (a new Laphroaig, a new Caol, a new Mannochmore, a new Longmorn, yada-yada, same old, same old -- do I read blasé or what?), yet one bottle has theoretical potential: 72.30. We are in the area too, so a good excuse.

C is standing at the bar, munching on a lamb burger. We invite him to our table, of course and end up talking about chemistry and other things.

Not these!
44.58 13yo 1999 A Bittersweet Sensation (59.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 560b) (JB): nose: meatier than expected -- it is no Mortlach, of course, but still. Very much on green plants with a bit of light (German?) mustard. With water: beeswax emerges, as well as honeysuckle and jasmine. Better. Mouth: bitter orange marmalade with a dash of teriyaki sauce in it. A bizarre combination, actually. Water makes it a lot smoother, but also thinner (no shit, Sherlock!) Finish: ginger, ground, green pepper. With water, candied peaches, unsweetened jam. All pretty good, I suppose. This one is better with water, yet nothing to rave about. 5/10

72.30 29yo 1983 Fruit, Fruit, Fruit! (49.9%, SMWS Still One of a Kind, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 221b) (yours, truly): nose: more flowers than fruit in my opinion (the name Fruit, Fruit, Fruit! suggested otherwise!): hyacinths, honeysuckle, perfume, even. Tinned pineapple takes over, after a second. Later comes bakery behind a closed door, raising dough, as well as new band aids and beeswax. Mouth: fruit jelly with no added sugar, lukewarm pear juice. Veeeeeerrrrrrrry smooth. Finish: smooth and soft, silky, even. Choux dough, a hint of blackcurrant, quince, juicy pear, Madeira biscuit. Lots of the latter. It settles on Madeira biscuit and does not let go. This one is nice, if not as fruity as advertised. I do not reckon it is worth the price tag, though. The fact it is my first Miltonduff by the Society does not push me over the edge (for once). 8/10

I make a phone call and, upon my return, new glasses have appeared in front of us.

Ardbog 10yo (52.1%, OB, b.2013) (everyone): nose: much better than expected. Seafood (mostly winkles and clams), peat and it finishes with... mouthwash. Salty and briny, quite nice, in fact. With water, it becomes rather rubbery to finally die out in a farmyard. Mouth: mellow, with a coat of fine peat, sea salt, a touch of honey and a note of peat in the back. Finish: tar, peat, neither of which is overpowering. Lemon juice. A perfectly drinkable Ardbeg with too much hype around it for its own good. Would be a good 30£ bottle. :-) (Thanks JMcG)

Food: we share a Scotch egg and a lamburgherini.

7.85 19yo 1993 A little dab'll do ya (53.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 258b) (me): nose: watered-down jam, pencil shavings and lots of alcohol and a peach stone floating in it. Simple yet nice. Mouth: pepper, chilli, even. Flower stems, smoked paprika. With water, it becomes smoother than one would expect. Finish: yes, lots of white pepper and smoked paprika. An agreeable Longmorn, though not the best, even in recent times. It feels quite green and peppery on the tongue. Water and some rest take the edge away to make it a pleasant and gentle dram.

64.44 24yo 1988 Complex and fun to discover (51.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 149b) (JS): nose: honeysuckle, spring flowers. Mouth: smooth milk chocolate augmented with lemon zest (or is it lime?) Finish: yep, milk chocolate, lemon zest and butter cups or daffodils. Dram of the day. 8/10

No time or further will to have another G9.1 or G3.5. Hopefully, they will still be behind the bar next time.

9 June 2013

08/06/2013 Kinclaith tierce

Today is the 30th birthday of retired racket-champion Kim Clijsters. For the occasion, Pernod-Ricard founded a distillery in 1957 and forced JS and I to have a tierce of their output -- and that is not 158.987295 litres of Kinclaith in 20 seconds, before you wonder; I am talking about a sequence of three, as in the card game belote.
For the record, Kinclaith stopped production in 1975 and was never officially bottled. Needless saying it is a bit of a prize for the ghost-hunter of the Whisky world.

Anyway, let's roll.

Kinclaith 20yo 1965/1985 (46%, Cadenhead's): nose: faint varnish and the legendary dust several well-regarded tasters were talking about. Tennis balls, clay court (JS, in a cheeky mood, tonight). Pine underwood. All that is not very assertive, but then that thing has been sealed in a bottle for ca 25 years. Let us give it more time to open up... Yes! What a great idea it was -- it now delivers milky peach juice. Becomes even fruitier with (very little) water, though JS does not think so. Mouth: astonishingly fruity from the start, unlike the shy nose. Black grapes, blackcurrant and dark cherries. Finish: long, with more dark cherries, a tin of cherries in syrup and a bit of liqueur. Cherry-liqueur pralines it will be. Water adds more white pepper into the mix. A dram of unexpectedly high quality. Spectacular. I cannot understand why others trashed it (Malt Madness rated it 57/100, which is extremely dire), but then I suppose if one is looking for peat or cheap prices, this is not it. Coming back to it at the end of the tasting, dust is more present and it is a bit flat, in comparison. Choked by the other two. Appreciation of this dram will definitely be influenced by its place in the line-up. Dear reader, if you have the chance to try this one, do not make it the pinnacle of the tasting. Start with it. 8/10

Kinclaith 1966/1989 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): nose: vanilla at first, then wood, then fruit: barbecued pineapple (JS), passion fruit, peach -- blimey, this is miraculous! Fig jam? Kumquat? Quince jelly? Is that even grapefruit after a while? No! It is pomelo (aka shaddock), similar to grapefruit, but less Acidic. With water, the fruit comes out slightly more, though again, JS does not agree. Mouth: sweet and liquorous, this is a fruity cocktail on a Caribbean island. Smooth as baby skin with an ever-so-distant sprinkle of nutmeg. Finish: more sugar and fruit, a shy drop of maracuja before it lingers on minty mouthwash. Coconut shells holding passion fruit juice, drunk with a vanilla straw. Incredible. Remedy for bad mood. 10/10

A Milkynclaith bar
Kinclaith 35yo 1969/2004 (52.8%, DT Rarest of the Rare, C#301455, 207b): nose: almond milk. It seems nearly devoid of fresh fruit, yet makes up for it with many more dried fruits. In a nutshell (pun intended, of course): Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts or noix de bancoule. The alcohol is also more present. What is it, in the back? Some kind of glue? Silicone? Putty? The wood makes a come-back -- this is complex and lovely. Tame rubber, then peach and passion fruit make an appearance. Eventually, the nose dies out on choux (cream puffs?) and violets. Mouth: w00t! Is this good, or what!? Vanilla, coconut, macadamia nuts (with the skin), nutmeg, ground green pepper, bitter green tea, but also milk as in a Milky Way bar, some noble honey, toasted coconut (JS) and marshmellow (JS). Finish: on the right side of woody. Like licking a table top, varnished and polished by a cabinetmaker. Very long too, with allspice. It manages to hit a difficult balance between wood, spices and fruit, where none of those is clearly overpowering the other, or even easily discernible. With water, it gets slightly greener and sees more green pepper. This gets the Old Man of Huy's thumbs up -- all six of them! 9/10

Fulfilling experience. Great sequence too: it works less well in another order. All elegant, delicate and downplayed drams (some would probably say 'too watery', 'too diluted' or 'too tired')

Blend of all three (with a bit of water, proportions unknown): nose: all of the above's characteristics are there, but more timid: dust, wood, vanilla, fruit. Mouth: rather milky and pleasant, though it has lost the magic of the individual bottlings, somewhat. Jelly, cherries, toasted coconut. Finish: distant pepper, watered-down quince jelly. This is "only" great. Or the illustration of big groups blending casks to achieve an acceptable and consistent result, thereby ironing out the imperfections of individual casks, as well as what makes them stand out.

To think I was expecting a semi-dreary line-up! Legendary, according to my taste. Not for everyone, though: everything is downplayed, nothing is in your face. Based on the above bottlings, it might be safe to assume Kinclaith will only please those palates that have developed to distinguish and enjoy delicate and subtle nuances. In other words, if one only drinks peat and sherry monsters, Kinclaith will likely disappoint.
If you think that analysis seems arrogant or condescending, you are probably right. You are reading the blog of someone who is showing off for having drunk three Kinclaith in one sitting...

6 June 2013

05/06/2013 Blitz at Berrys' #2

Time to go say hello to good friends across the park. Cannot believe my last visit was two months ago.
No fancy comment or tasting note for any of the bottlings; rather a quick update for reference.

Glencadam 20yo 1991/2012 (53.9%, BBr Selected by Berrys', C#4762): a fresh Glencadam, not bad at all. Apples and pears, which one should not comm-pear. 7/10

Braes Of Glenlivet 18 1994/2012 (46%, BBr Selected by Berrys', C#159165): my favourite of the day, though nothing to rave about. Mostly cooked apples. The recent Càrn Mòr was much more to my taste. 7/10

Longmorn 20yo 1992/2012 (58.6%, BBr Selected by Berrys', C#71775): the sherry influence is not very well integrated. Not for me. Cough syrup, dark chocolate. 5/10

Bunnahabhain 23yo 1989/2013 (44%, BBr Selected by Berrys', C#5700): very nice, lightly smokey and rather zesty. 7/10

Bunnahabhain 24yo 1988/2013 (49.8%, BBr Selected by Berrys', C#4111): molasses, sherried in a dirty way. Not my thing at all, today. Water turns it into coffee. 3/10

With the glorious sunshine (sharing a thought for the flooded regions of Central and Eastern Europe, here), heavily-sherried whisky did not really have any appeal whatsoever. Still, three satisfactory drams out of five is not so bad.