29 July 2013

27/07/2013 Pêches-au-Thon Productions presents: Swedish girl loves peat

After having drunk heavily for the past five hours or so, we board a train to Fixou's neck of the woods for second serve. Let us gloss over the copious rinsing upon arrival, the getting lost and having to phone three times to finally get there. North and South look dreadfully similar at dusk, under the rain, when you have had a drink.
A and I. are already there and we are all delighted to see that Mr. and Mrs. Fixou have prepared a tableful of munchies (Serrano ham to die for, vomit-tasting sweets, according to I., slices of proper bread and certainly a few other things I cannot think of anymore).
Since we are so late (that was planned), they have already started the session and had most of the aquavits. I only have one, because drinking should always be done in moderation:

Utö (brought by I.): nose: a cascade of lemon, as much as in limoncello -- this is quite nice and in season. Mouth: more limoncello, Major Bailey (gin, lime and mint). Finish: full on lemon. This is good, though fearfully sweet. I wish I was in a state to enjoy it more. Given my condition, it is too sweet to drink more than a glass and, therefore, that concludes my aquavit tasting for the day.

Enter... PECHES AU THON! Fixou is so obsessed with them he started to make them. I have not had those in years so it is a welcome surprise.

MacDonald's Traditional Ben Nevis (46%, OB) (brought by me): nose: lemon, ginger and a touch of smoke. A little butter too. Mouth: silky milk chocolate and some smoke. Finish: lots of charred meat on a barbecue. Fruit and subtle smoke. Yes, it is big on meat, and less big on smoke. Good buy, this. Quite expensive for a no-age-statement whisky, but enjoyable. 7/10

The goods.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan (57.1%, OB, b. ca 2013) (Fixou): nose: cereal, peat smoke and delicate ash. Mouth: balanced peat, ashes, smoke and barbecue, with a ton of spices. Finish: more ashes and barley. Cannot really give proper notes, at this point, but this is still very good. 8/10

127.32 10yo 2002 A manly dram (65.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel) (Fixou): I. gets in the theme big time -- she is Swedish and loves this peaty one. I tried it a month ago in a different context. Nose: quite spirity, full of varnish. Mouth: same -- very spirity. Everyone is raving about how peaty it is, but I cannot feel it at all. Finish: long and spirity in an unpleasant way. Invading. Sugary and salty, says Fixou, akin to Pouilly Fuissé. All I get myself is spirit and maybe a bit of lemon. Not noteworthy, by now. A tiny whiff of peat, finally -- which is ridiculous, considering it is a 65+% peat monster. Think that is enough alcohol for me today. 6/10

Very nice evening with friends, a festive musical selection (1980s pop aplenty) and superb snacks. The drams were certainly up to par, yet I think I might have bitten more than I could chew, on this particular occasion.

27/07/2013 PS's membership's 10th anniversary at the SMWS

PS invited a party of fifteen or twenty to celebrate his ten years as a SMWS member. That is an awful lot of colossal bar tabs, bottles bought and drams downed.
Due to the hot weather, our journey there takes twice as long as it usually does and we arrive 20 minutes late. It turns out they have only started with the first, so we did not miss much, there. Also, I forgot the camera, so not many pictures and not very good at that.
There are oat cakes, raspberries, tomatoes, crisps and various items of chocolate to nibble on, as well as three drams in front of each guest. Each one of them is introduced by a short description of what it is, why it is there and how it came into PS's possession (or JMcG's, as he is also providing some bottles). The whole is punctuated by speeches, songs, trumpet arias and readings from newsletters of old. Particularly funny is the answer to a member's mail in 2003 asking why the society did not bottle grain whisky. The answer reads, 'We will never bottle grain whisky for the same reason we will never bottle bleach.' Ten years later, the Society has one of the most constant and remarkable output of grain whiskies around, though the cheekiness remains.
Anyway, on to the drams:

25.31 11yo 1992/2003 (59.4%, SMWS Society Cask) (PS): this one is PS's joining bottle. In them days, a member would receive a 70cl bottle upon joining, either from the site, or from the bar. For some obscure reason which I will not call good taste, he chose the one Rosebank from behind the bar at the time. In all likelihood, because it was bloody good then. Nose: pears, custard, an apple or two, roasted hazelnut, golden apple pie in the oven and, finally, sawdust in the back. Mouth: soft and smooth, with a torrent of apple shavings, cinnamon, white pepper and some custard. Finish: long, warm and n-e-v-e-r-e-n-d-i-n-g, with a touch of ground green pepper. This might be the best Rosebank I have ever tried. Absolutely stunning. It sets the bar very high for things to come, yet we are already very happy to be there. 9/10

Oh yes.
G1.11 21yo 1991 Iced mulled wine and Sorrento Limoncello (65.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 384b) (GI Joe McG): 'JMcG asked me to tell you that this one is still available by the bottle.' We laugh a lot at the non-disguised publicity, though appreciate the bottle being offered in the first place. Nose: undergrowth, pine cones, varnish -- a good grain, in other words. Coffee kicks in, after a while -- not in an overpowering way. Water makes it grassier, reeking of aromatic herbs and tomato stems, then cardboard and shortbread. Mouth: honey, tingling pepper, wood varnish and ginger perhaps. It is more balanced with water, but also blander. The fire turns into a subtle brasero. Finish: huge. This is also very good, with lots of pastry, glue, wood shavings and some subtle chocolate. With water, quite similar, but more balanced. Lovely drop. 8/10

35.63 38yo 1974 Stylish and aristocratic (45.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 132b) (JMcG): this one is also a current one. Not being the Moray-freak, I have not tried it. The Society has many sister casks of Glen Moray, presumably good, but also expensive. As a result, I tried a couple and decided I knew enough. Nose: orange marmalade with herbs; very elegant. Dunnage warehouse, dried fern and a rather floral character altogether (buttercups) with a delicate touch of vanilla. Mouth: amazing balance, very pleasant and easy on the palate: cereal, strong mead, hydromel with a yoghurty texture. Finish: this is simply fantastic. An example of balance and mastery. Herbal and metallic, very slightly farmyard-like, it tastes of the countryside. It might suffer a bit from the sequence (coming after a 65+% grain is no easy task), otherwise, I might give it 9/10.

The audience starts teasing PS about how his badges are strategically placed on his shirt, to which he replies that he'd 'rather have my tits than your face, sir!'

"Even though I have the same black circle of a face as everyone."

3.204 24yo 1988 A 1950s seaside scene (51.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 226b) (JMcG): 'last one still available by the bottle' and the only Islay in the line-up. Although I saw this when it came out, I did not realise it is a 24-year-old Bowmore with a sweet price tag (hint). Nose: farmyard, peat smoke, sea salt -- very nice indeed. Elegant all round. Mouth: fizzy, comfortable and funny. It is ever-so-slightly bitter too, with plant juice and 90+% cocoa chocolate. Finish: long and big, though elegant again. None of that peaty assault one gets out of a younger Islay. Farmyard, chocolate and lavender, cocoa beans, with unexpected berries behind it all (dark cherries and blackcurrant). A nice, elegant dram, though perhaps not up to expectations, when one knows it is a Bowmore 24yo.

61.12 25yo 1977/2002 Honey porridge peat and iodine (56.5%, SMWS Society Cask) (PS): my table neighbour and I both think it is a Mortlach until PS starts talking about it. After two words, I understand it is a Brora. Nose: wax and Parma Violets, sugar, very distant peat smoke, though it is but a memory rather than a distinctive feature. Loads and loads of wax, now -- candle wax, beeswax, honey. This is stunning, I hate to say. There are lots to it, though I cannot say it is complex: the nose is pretty constant. Just really good. Mouth: a wax onslaught. Bees are endangered across Europe? Drinking this convinces you of the opposite. Finish: again, very long, with plenty of wax and waxy apricot peels. This is so good it might reconcile me with Brora. 9/10

114.4 14yo 1990/2004 A para handy tales (57.8%, SMWS Society Cask, 624b) (PS): Nose: LAVENDER! There is a bit of a farmyard impression, yet the dominant smell is lavender through and through. After a few minutes, earth, farmyard and tractor wheels slowly take over. The back of the nose is full of earth and straw (manure?) and is actually rather lovely. Mouth: more farmy notes, this time peppered with squashed berries (raspberries, to be accurate). Finish: yeah, more earth and straw, farmyard, lavender and pleasure. Love it, at this point. 8/10

Scottish singing aplenty, trumpet playing and a hilarious, 'after independence, next year, we'll still send you bottles.'

Must make a note of that chicken recipe.
122.11 13yo (57.8%, SMWS Society Cask) (PS): my right-hand-side neighbour nearly faints, as this is her 'favourite distillery in all the land' (she said that for Rosebank and Brora too, mind ;-) ). I am excited myself: never had a Croftengea before. Nose: roasted chicken. I do not know what else to say; this is roasted chicken with thyme and lemon. With water, more chicken, with lemongrass, this time. Quite an interesting Thai curry. Mouth: wow! Powerful, warm and full of roast chicken. :-) With water, it becomes rounder. Unexpected, this. Finish: long and warming, full of peat smoke, even smoked corn, oddly enough, yet it remains round and pleasant. Water does not alter the finish too much. This one is illegal by SWA standards of today (Lomond stills with rectifier plates). It means it is staggering gin and the SWA sucks sometimes. 8/10

Seven down the hatch, everyone is happy. The SMWS staff bring tons of heavy bags in the small room, which turn out to be presents for each of us. We are all stunned and touched by the generosity of our hosts.
A heartfelt thank you to PS for hosting this madness and inviting us all, and to JMcG for the venue, service and additional drams. Top of the shelf tasting with classy people made for a moving experience.

Unfortunately, JS and I have to bid good bye, as we are already late for our next adventure...

21 July 2013

21/07/2013 Fête nationale

As each year, the 21st July calls for a toast to the Heimat. This year is particularly special, since it also marks the abdication of Albert II and the Coronation of Philippe I.
I casually came across the perfect dram for the occasion before the weekend: distilled in 1993 and bottled in July 2013, which coincides with Albert's reign. It even shares the same name (nearly)... but I completely overlooked that until last night, failed to pick it up, leaving it at the shop until next week. Ah, well.
Let us start by welcoming the new King -- well, since I do not have anything even remotely linked to Philippe's coronation, I will toast to the Queen instead.

ToMathilde 16yo 1995/2011 (46%, GMP Exclusive for Inverness Airport, C#5128): this one has quickly become my latest everyday dram. Nose: it seems quite different, today. It oscillates between wood (old wood, cork, ink, even wet cardboard) and wine (church candles, Madeira or Port), yet it also boasts something of an old plastic doll and, perhaps, an old, worn-out saddle. Mouth: definitely winey, now. Liquorous, white wine, to be precise. Not quite Martini-like (that would be ghastly) -- rather Sauternes with a kick. Syrupy and coating, agreeable. Finish: hoochie mama! Hazelnut paste coated in honey, beeswax, noble, polished furniture. Long live the Queen!

The next one is just over 20 years old. With the retiring King clocking in after just under that, it is as close as it gets without postponing. And I will not postpone.

Alberg 1978/1999 (43%, OB): nose: Ardbeg from the 1970s are something, are they not? This is a full, smoked sea-food platter (kippers, salmon, trout, anchovies), in a sea port (i.e. add seaweed and diesel to the mix). Oh, and sports shoes. The majestic basalmic vinegar © comes out too. I want to say oysters, but I have not had any in decades (I do not care for them). Most of the 1970s single casks of Ardbeg I have tried were heavy on cereal, but this is not (thankfully for me). It is simply a very elegant peat display. Mouth: a monster of balance, very impressive. It lingers between dried fruit (raisins, figs, mince pies) and smoked trout on a sandy beach. Properly masterful. Finish: phenomenal again; it carries on on the same theme: peat-smoked seafood and dried fruit, with a slight bitterness in the aftertaste, old ropes and fishing nets. Glorious. Happy retirement, Sire! 9/10

20/07/2013 A 1980 dram for a 1980 birthday

One of my family members was born in 1980. It so happens that I have a sample of 1980 Glenlochy. Look no further for an aperitive, today!

Glenlochy 27yo 1980/2007 (58.3%, Part Des Anges Closed Distilleries, C#2826, 231b): second Glenlochy for me. The first left a very nice impression, so I am rather excited. Nose: this smells like a grain, which is weird and agreeable. Corn syrup, cast sugar, wood varnish, custard powder, caramel, lukewarm mead, perhaps. With water, much more metallic and grassy, with verbena, gentian and the obvious pencil-sharpener blade. Mouth: punchy attack, quite estery. Cellophane and pinewood planks. It also has a certain greenness to it (maybe sage?) and moscovado sugar. With water, it becomes almost totally neutral. Finish: lovely toasted wood, empty coconut shells, custard pie with black pepper sprinkled on it and a pinch of peppermint. With water, it turns a lot fruitier, all of a sudden. Peach concentrate in a glass of vanilla-flavoured sugar-cane juice. Lovely dram, this is. 8/10
Happy birthday, Y.

15 July 2013

14/07/2013 Invernessian trilogy

What to do in this blistering heat? Let us have a tasting! I have long had a fascination for Inverness and its distilleries. Not the town itself, which has let me down each time I visited it, but the fact it used to have three distilleries close to each other, none of which is still active.

Also, one was a lot bigger than the other two.

Millburn 1971 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b.1990s): this is only my second-ever Millburn. The first was a mid-1990s Cadenhead bottling that did not impress me. One of those in which the alcohol is so overly present. Nose: old wood, rotten plums, dust, cork, greasy cardboard with a tiny bit of solvents. After a few minutes, it opens up with Brazil nuts as well as boiled vegetables, with a whiff of smoke in the background. This is old-school alright! Railroad-tie varnish, rotting plum, still, and dunnage warehouse. After the first sip, torrefied coffee comes up and steamrolls everything on its way. With water, coffee, still. Mouth: this is very austere -- closed, even. More decaying wood, liqueur, plum pits and not much else. Let us give it some time... It worked! Warm coffee, now, in a good way (I am not a coffee drinker). Water does not change it much. Finish: oh, boy! Nothing for a second, save for faint, dried plum, then a wonderfully dark chocolate covers the mouth for good. Warm cocoa, praliné-stuffed dark, Belgian chocolate (is there any other?) with a bit of smoke. Flippin' hell, this is unexpected. Beautiful. Water makes no difference again. I wonder how many sherry casks were used, if any. It is light in colour, but boasts characteristics usually associated with sherry maturation. I can hardly wait to get and try the other Millburn that is making its way to me as I type. :-)

Glen Mhor 21yo 1976 (43%, TWS Glenkeir Treasures The Gold Selection, 299b): I have not had this one in a while (herehere and here), but it always provided a lot of enjoyment in the past. Nose: pine tree, sawdust, cigar boxes, some dust again, though younger dust, here -- it has not been sitting on the furniture of an undisturbed house for decades. Interestingly enough, there is also fresh pineapple skin, though it is distant. Gas, boiled plantain, then washing-up detergent, citrus zest -- this is complex indeed! Pink grapefruit and banana juice. Water moves it towards the kitchen garden (courgette flowers, green tomatoes). Mouth: citrus first, (lime water), a tiny bit of smoke, woody vanilla, milky and gently spicy, with a sprinkle of ground green pepper and a touch of (Fino?) sherry wine. Water makes it too thin. Finish: more old-school goodness -- vanilla-flavoured milk, spices (ginger), tingling on the tongue, sandalwood, mashed potatoes with nutmeg. With water, it becomes spicier, strangely enough, but also more floral. Still nice, this one.

Glen Albyn 26yo 1975/2002 (54.8%, OB Rare Malts Selection, 6000b): I have had four Glen Albyns so far (one before this blog existed, then here and here), yet this sample is still the only thing I own from that distillery. Nose: similar style to the Millburn -- dunnage warehouse, a mixed bag of overripe and underripe plums. The alcohol is a lot stronger (no joking!) yet it does not kill the experience at all. Distant smoke (not as distant as in the other two), cling film and, dare I say, hog roast with a bit of butter in a dish at room temperature. A few minutes in, the alcohol and smoke vanish to unveil fruit (white grapes) and a baking nut roast. Hay stacks and garden fires then emerge. It keeps changing, this one. Quince liqueur? Rhaaaaaaa! Good! With water, it is meatier, with new handbags (no glad rags, though). Mouth: initially low-brow (cabbage water, bog), before becoming more leathery -- oh! it is no Mortlach, of course. Peach-pit bitterness and coffee beans. With water, it is rather creamy, in a pleasant way. Finish: powerful, dark, lightly creamy coffee. Neverending too. It is a strangely simple finish for such an extravagant nose. With water, hot chocolate with milk (warme chocomelk). The finish requires water, in my opinion, and the whole demands patience (thanks pat gva for the sample). 8/10

Millburn is probably my favourite, tonight. Glad the dreary impression of my first Millburn got shattered.

Blend of the three: but of course. Faded leather and orange peels, cured meat and sherry. The Millburn speaks the loudest. Mouth: milk chocolate, melted in coffee, cherry liqueur. Finish: yep, choco-coffe, corrected with cherry liqueur. One of my best blending experiments, this. 9/10.

2 July 2013

29/06/2013 Summery whiskies MkII

Out of six people, only one can make it (idealrichard). But since he has something to celebrate (the promise of a life of slavery), there is no postponing it. Lost for relevant themes that a) would be original enough and b) would not be wasted on the sparse attendance (as in: how good is, say, a grain tasting if the one guest does not like grain w?), we go for a "bring whatever you want and we'll make up the theme once we see the bottles" session. All are summery, the day is warm and sunny and, let us be lucid, we have not had a summery tasting since last summer.

Tomatin 16yo 1995/2011 (46%. GMP Exclusive for Inverness Airport, C#5128) (brought by me): nose: toffee, plum liqueur, rich soil (idealrichard thinks of mulch, but that is something different), mushroom, butter, salt and garlic. idealrichard finds it rather Bruichladdichy. Mouth: salty, slightly fizzy, with a bit of burnt caramel and a whiff of smoke, then a combination of dry sausage and cherries in syrup. Finish: chou dough, vanilla, long and balanced. Very nice, this. Anyone flying through Inverness should probably get one, as it is cheap to boot. If there is any left, that is.

Mortlach 8yo (43%, DMG Provenance) (brought by idealrichard): nose: meaty, though not too in-your-face. Varnish, cooking marzipan. Barbecue in a glade in the middle of the forest, fermented plums, tinned cherries. Mouth: round, with more cherries in syrup and a bit of nail varnish. Finish: long, warming, with notes of pastry and red fruit (plums and cherries again).

Lochside 28yo 1981/2009 (56%, BA Raw Cask, C#617) (brought by idealrichard): funnily enough, I considered buying this last week. Nose: the unmistakable passion fruit is there. It is downplayed, but it is there. Shaving foam or after-shave lotion (the alcohol is strong), allspice (idealrichard). With water, passion fruit is more assertive and alongside it comes pastry in the back. Mouth: gentle at first, then the high ABV takes over. Finish: the usual Lochside 1981 effect: a short discharge of passion fruit before it winds down on a warming and slightly fruity note. Water makes it fruitier and very, very pleasant. Thumbs up. 9/10

Lochside 21yo 1989/2011 (48.2%, DL Old Malt Cask, Refill Barrel, C#6953, 126b) (brought by idealrichard who is in a Lochside mood): nose: "something peculiar" (JS). It is shrimp paste in a curry sauce in the making, augmented with tooth paste. Then it morphs into something vegetal -- compost (idealrichard), -- something rotting (JS), rotten papaya, I say -- somewhere between mango and feet, -- then polished oak and blue cheese (gorgonzola). Or is it smoked cheese? Fruit comes out later on. What a crazy nose! A proper chameleon! Varnish and icing sugar (JS), now, then farmyard -- it keeps changing. Mouth: Listerine (blue or green), spices (caraway seeds), breath mints, Looza Pomme-Cerise. Finish: unripe strawberries, mint, then passion fruit and even cigar smoke. Bizarre, interesting and funny. Never has a dram been so far from boring, probably. 8/10

Rosebank 22yo 1981/2004 (61.1%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (brought by me): nose: grass, verbena, a little vanilla. With water, flowers start blooming, butter and hay. Mouth: the alcohol speaks, then it becomes mellow as a feather. With water: custardy. Finish: long, warming and satisfying, sugary and fruity. This is very well-balanced and I love it. Water helps caramel custard emerge, as well as roasted pears and a bit of toasted sesame. No undesirable side-effect from the high ABV, this time (thanks again for the sample, pat gva). 9/10

idealrichard needs to leave early, so we do not try the Glenugie or the Glenmorangie that were foreseen. Another time.