16 September 2013

14/09/2013 Brown by September

September is now here, the weather is miserable and it felt right to give a subtle hint at Brown By August. Overrated album, by the way, though one track is very, very good.
Only Fixou and JS join me.
Right to left, for once
Glenmorangie Cellar 13 2nd Edition (43%, OB) (JS): Fixou has not had this one, so it seems a good opportunity. It fits the theme, since the label and box are brownish. Nose: orange flower water, rose water, peach stone, quince eau-de-vie. Still as enticing as usual. Mouth: honey, vanilla and coconut alongside porridge and fruit (quince again) with a sprinkle of ground pepper. Finish: there is a slight bitterness coming through with the lovely vanilla/fruit couple.

Old Orkney b.2011 (40%, GMP, AA/JAIB) (me): brown label. A rarely-seen blended malt: I found this one in Stromness last year and saw it in Elgin earlier this year. That and a couple of references online are the only signs I have seen of it. It is very reasonably priced and is presented in a packaging similar to that of the Man O'Hoy bottlings of old. Finding it in a store in the same street as the very same Man O'Hoy distillery was an omen I could not ignore. Nose: rather meaty indeed! A whiff of smoke too. This is not too dissimilar to the SMWS's recent Glen Scotias. Bramley apples straight out of the oven and even some oranges in the back. Mouth: marmalade, lemon marmalade, even. This one is not hugely complex, yet pleasant enough. Finish: now, this is unfortunately the low point of this otherwise fine drink -- shortish and bitter, green, youngish. By no means is it bad; simply not as pleasant as the nose and the mouth. An all-round agreeable dram and hard to beat, pricewise.

Orkney Bere in full effect
Also, Batman stole a bottle
Arran 2004/2012 Orkney Bere (46%, OB, 5800b)(Fixou): see the Orkney connection? Fixou bought this one in September. Nose: malted barley, malt shake (I only know those after seeing them in Crown Candy in Saint Louis), cola, cola-flavoured sweets and even bubble gum, or cotton candy. Peanut skin (JS). The whole moves towards cherry pulp, after a while. Mouth: sparkly, then bakery-like, to some extent. It eventually settles on honey and salted pepper (whatever that means). Finish: remains sparkly and vaguely salty, long and comforting as a grog. It comes with an ever-so-slight bitterness, then it becomes fruity, therefore gets an extra point from me. This one is certainly very pleasant and dangerously quaffable. It gets better as it opens up too.

The choleric Dragon's breath
Caol Ila 1969 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b.1980s) (me): in theme because of its brown label. Nose: balsamic vinegar (Fixou in dyslexic mode), smoke, soot, ash (not quite cold cigarettes: it is a full extinct bonfire that was lit to burn several witches), a fleeting farmyard impression, but mostly fire-related things. A hearth that burnt the whole evening and cooled down in an old stone cottage during a wet night (Fixou is getting poetic). It even gives spent matches and coal. There is a world of difference between this and more recent Caol Ilas: this one is a lot dirtier and more invading. It is the first pre-rebuild Caol Ila I try (remember the distillery was demolished in 1972 and rebuilt over the subsequent couple of years), so it is difficult and dangerous for me to generalise, but it would seem as though the production methods have changed since. Coal-fired stills vs. indirect heating? While taking my notes, the nose further evolves towards carbonised chocolate bread and even some fruit. This, my dear reader, is phenomenal. There are even ground kluwak nuts, mixed with ground black cardamom. Did I say it is phenomenal? Mouth: what elegance! What power! What balance! Lots of smoke and soot, of course, but it comes along with black cardamom again, black cumin seeds and nigella seeds -- yes, seriously! It is surprisingly mellow, while offering that light spiciness. A dormant strength. Finish: coal sticks to the palate, which prevents it from reaching a perfect score, in my eye. Smoke, peat, coal, soot, Nigella Lawso- no! seeds. A very, very impressive dram that gives one a taste of the Dragon's Breath. This is the best Caol Ila I have ever had, beating even the magnificent C#458, and proving once again that there is no school like the old school. I was childishly trying to impress Fixou and manage to floor myself in the same move. 9/10

Glenugie 31yo 1977/2009 (58.1, SV Cask Strength Collection, Oloroso Finish, C#7, 577b) (me): another brown label and an old favourite of mine. How will it fare, after the previous monster? Nose: the sherry influence is very clear: an avalanche of nuts, noble leather, polished wood, old, leather-bound books and distant coffee. A smoking pipe, seasoned with high-quality whisky. A broth of blood oranges and walnut. Mouth: this one is the first cask strength of the day and it feels that way! Pepper (white) alongside more polished wood, blood orange and even pot-pourri. Finish: orange, wood, juniper, green pepper -- this one is very lively: a whirlwind of flavours (Fixou). It also goes very well with the Côte d'Or Truffé Noir that we are nibbling on. 9/10

Highland Park 25yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead Small Batch, ex-Sherry Butts, 1086b) (Fixou): this one had the effect of an atomic bomb on a well-known, French-speaking, partly community-based site. I tried it a few weeks ago when Fixou opened his bottle, but was not too taken. Today? Nose: a tannery (including the urine pools to clean the skins), a leather workshop, cough syrup, even coffee in the back. Red fruits too, after a minute. Raspberries? No! Raspberry vinegar! Mouth: lots of leather again, very dark cherries, nuts and chocolate. It is a little acidic as well. The sherry speaks very loudly. Finish: cocoa beans, decaying cherries, very, very dark chocolate and fortified wine. Water does not change it much at all. Same comment as the first time around: this is a very well made dram, but not exactly my profile. Too much sherry, which makes it very brown and that is why it is in theme. 7/10

Another fine afternoon.

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