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 Phil's possession (or Joe'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: "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 (Phil): this one is Phil'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.
-35.63 (Joe): 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 Phil 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 (Joe): "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 unsuspected 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 (Phil): my table neighbour and I both think it is a Mortlach until Phil 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.
-114.4 (Phil): 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.
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.|
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 Phil for hosting this madness and inviting us all, and to Joe for the venue, service and additional drams. Top of the shelf tasting with classy people made for a moving experience.
Unfortunately, Jenny and I have to bid good bye, as we are already late for our next adventure...