29 July 2013

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...

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