28 October 2013

27/10/2013 Clearing the shelf #2

Mac NaMara (40%, Pràban na Linne, b. ca 2010): nose: caramelised, baked apples and a tiny whiff of smoke. Grandma baking an apple tart, while Grandpa is reading an old book in front of the fireplace. The percolator is slowly filling up the coffee pot too. Mouth: more of that warm fireplace sensation. It is not too assertive, mind. Coffee-flavoured chocolate emerges. Finish: Grandma's tart is in the oven, she joins Grandpa in the sofa for a cup of coffee in front of the fireplace. An excellent blend indeed!

Tobermory 10 (40%, OB): nose: cut pears, cold, green tea, perhaps. This is quite herbal, in any case. Slightly metallic, even -- verbena, sage. Mouth: light, nearly watery. Some hay, fudge. Finish: toffee, now, as well as dark chocolate with a mocha touch. Another one of those straightforward, yet honest drams. Simple pleasure.

Littlemill 24yo 1988/2012 (54.2%, The Whiskyman Sympathy for the Whisky, 159b): was not too crazy about this one the first time I had it. Nose: right, what have we got here? Lots of nearly-burnt crumble and crusty apple sponge cake. It then opens up on decaying apples, Merbromin and even some smoke, though probably more steaming coffee than camp fire. Caramelised blueberry muffins in a shoemaker's workshop -- that is to say there is varnish in the back of the nose. Mouth: soft and sweet, ripe, juicy conference pears and sugar-cane juice before the varnish makes a comeback. It is not invading, however. Finish: a roller-coaster, this. It runs from sweet to bitter, from fruit to hiking boots. Decaying apples, a little cold mocha and papaya. 1988 Littlemill can be a bit all over the place, in my experience (remember the BBr?), which can be interesting if kept under control. This one is a bit messy, though (thanks mars for the sample). 6/10

23 October 2013

22/10/2013 Clearing the shelf #1

Need empty samples and need shelf space. Time to make some room.

Imperial 1991/2008 (43%, GMP): nose: shy, with porridge, vanilla, coconut and butter (body butter?) The back is reminiscent of lime-and-rosemary-marinated, roasted chicken, though, again, it is subtle. Mouth: lime and rosemary indeed, including the herb's bitterness. It remains relatively round, however -- with quite some oxidation, that is: upon opening the bottle, it was a lot more bitter. Finish: warming and soothing, though with a medicinal note that will not appeal to everyone. Herbaceous custard augmented with very young brandy to give it a vulnerary feel. Simple, yet honest.

Midleton 20yo 1991/2012 (54.1%, OB for TWE, C#48750): nose: a mixture of oak goodness (furniture polish, toasted coconut, custard cream, pencils) and fruit (elderberry, peach and tropical fruits), as well as coconut cream. Can't go wrong with that! Mouth: discreet at first sampling. Very smooth, almost satin-like, before freshly-ground black pepper comes round it off. Finish: proper party in the mouth! Pepper, then a wicker basket of tropical fruits on a wooden buffet (papaya, guava, kiwi, a tiny bit of passion fruit and even canary melon). Yes, bags of overripe fruits balancing just on the right side of the tipping point with hiking-boots territory. 9/10

Ledaig 1990/2006 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): nose: dark chocolate, overripe (decaying?) dark fruit, maraschino cherries, fermenting elderberry broth (no, not Bros!) A vague smell of swimming pool (that'll be chlorine and bleach in overheated changing rooms), rotting pears and nail varnish. Mouth: the low ABV is a disadvantage after the Irish, of course. Cooled-down hot chocolate, a dash of cinnamon, Nesquik. The whole is really smooth, despite a little spice (Jamaican pepper). Finish: not exactly big at 43%, but rather long all the same. Milk chocolate, fermenting pears, prunes. Pleasant, if not off-the-scale good.

Three down, many to go.

21 October 2013

19/10/2013 The hunt for Red October

23 rabbits' fur
idealrichard is ill and cannot make it. Only JS, yours, truly and KB who took the theme very seriously indeed, showing up in a rabbit-skin coat.
He also brought sausages, cheese and crackers, the perfect snack for hunters.

Tomatin 16yo 1996/2012 (46%, GMP Exclusive for Inverness Airport, C#5128) (me): G&McP's logo is a stag, which covers the hunting theme, it was bottled in October 2011, and everyone knows tomatoes are red. Nose: floral and fruity, grassy, even (JS). Black bun, says KB. Dark raisins, prunes, dried figs, honey, pine sap. Rather sweet altogether (KB). It opens up to reveal black bananas, later on. Mouth: liquid honey (acacia), honeysuckle -- this is light and easy, perfect to start with. Finish: a sprinkle of white pepper, gently spicy, while still bearing more floral qualities -- honeysuckle again, I think. Lovely drop, this. Love it every time I have it. Great buy and it was dirt cheap to boot.

Red 8ber
Isle of Skye 8 (40%, Ian McLeod, b. ca 1980s) (me): this one is 8 years old -- 8 as in October. And that is written in red on the label too. I liked a more recent version very much, last year and thought it was great value for money. This one was bottled in the 1980s or early 1990s and therefore could be interesting. Nose: shy at first, then dust, leather belt, polish (KB) and even plastic (KB). Something earthy, though not quite farmyardy -- mud. Mouth: very watery. Very, very, very watery, in fact. It spent too much time in the bottle. Finish: absent. This should have been drunk years ago. Not worth noting or scoring, it is just a case of bad luck and one that was foreseeable: half the bottle has evaporated. Ah well, it is a cheap disappointment, so no hard feelings.

Ord is rad
Ord 15yo 1996/2011 (57.3%, Cadenhead's) (JS): red label. Nose: after the watery previous, this one has quite some kick. Pine sawdust, as if entering an Ikea warehouse. Roasted pineapple, peach stew. Water simply makes it shyer without otherwise altering it. Mouth: fiery pepper and sawdust. It becomes a lot fruitier with water, though not exactly a fruit bomb either -- pineapple? Finish: now quite drying, though not in a bad way. A vague impression akin to licking boots (what I do in my free time is none of your business) and the fruity/bitter taste of peach stone. Very nice.

Irish barley

Slaney Malt 11yo 2001/2013 (57%, Adelphi Limerick Selection, C#9929, 235b) (JS): released and bought in October this year, not to mention it is Irish (Bloody Sunday, and blood is red). We had this one at the Whisky Show a couple of weeks ago and liked it very much. Nose: custard, vanilla, peach yoghurt, roasted coconut. Rhubarb & custard boiled sweets (KB), powdery custard (KB on a roll). Mouth: fruit and quite a bit of pepper on top of a custard pudding. Finish: passion fruit, kicks in, alongside a strangely drying feel that reminds me of the effect of grain whisky. A superbly balanced dram, we all love it. 9/10

Tomatin 35yo 1978/2013 (44.1%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 594b) (me): this one was released and bought in October as well, on top of being made out of red tomatoes. First one of the Small Batch range that I open myself: I really like the format of the bottle, how it takes little space on a shelf and how it fits in the hand. It is atrociously impractical to pour, though. Guaranteed to wet your shoes. Nose: trifle (KB), raisins (JS), fresh doughnuts, custard, bread and butter pudding (of which we discuss the concept and taste), grapes. It is even quite pruney, with figs and dates, perhaps not fresh from the tree, but not completely dried either. Mouth: balanced and, overall, sparkly. Toffee and chocolate make an appearance, after a minute. Finish: flat cola, (stale?) ginger beer and chocolate. This might not be the most complex, especially considering the age, but it is a definite winner. 9/10

Macduff 24yo 1989/2013 (53.3%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Sherry Butts, 516b) (KB): released and bought in October and supposedly packed with red fruit. K's first ever bottle, so it is with anticipation we reach this point. Nose: delicately cured meat, shoe polish, coffee pot on a polished piece of furniture. Make that an empty coffee pot on a polished buffet in the officers' mess. It opens up with musk (fox skin) and fruitcake (KB) to die out with a whiff of candle wax, as well as some custard. Mouth: flat cola again, cold coffee, polished furniture. Finish: never-ending, with a big sherry influence -- coffee (marc de café), leather and tobacco, mostly. A bit of an old man's whisky, but a good dram, great to finish with. Just like the Highland Park last month, this would score higher if the profile was more my thing. I even think it is better made than the Highland Park. 7/10

We have a Victoria sponge cake with the final dram, which goes down a treat.

Excellent tasting. Low turnout, one disappointment, yet an otherwise superb selection. Pity we did not have any Bladnochtober, Octobermory or Red Octomore, but there is always next time. :-)

10 October 2013

06/10/2013 The Whisky Show 2013 (Day 2 -- Part 2)

North British and pudding
The story started here.

We decide to go for food earlier, today. We do well: the brasserie is a lot less busy than yesterday. We all take the fish pie, which is tastier than yesterday, as are the vegetables. I also ask for more than the default portion and get it without any resistance. Pudding as dessert. While eating, we have one dram each.

From Diageo (we never manage to see Colin Dunn on Sunday, unfortunately):

Brora 35yo b.2012 (48.1%, OB, Refill American Oak Casks, 1566b): missed my chance to try it last year. This time it is mine. Nose: farmyard galore, animal scents, manure. Candied lemons too and vinegar, though not quite balsamic. Mouth: yep, the vinegar tickle, balanced and sparkly, yet creamy. Finish: pleasantly bold, with late-night barbecue and burnt herbs. Very nice indeed, if overpriced. 8/10

Talisker 35yo 1977/2012 (54.6%, OB, 3090b): dom666 being a fan, it would be a shame to miss out. Nose: coastal, coastal, coastal. This needs to be drunk in Talisker Bay while dom666's trousers are drying (a long story involving a tumble in the sea, a broken camera and years of mockery). Salty, windy, wildish. Very little pepper here, which makes me enjoy it more than, say, the 10-year-old. Mouth: oh! yeah, lots and lots and lots of salt and sand. The lapping of the sea. Finish: finally some black pepper, but under control. Loads of salt and all sorts of maritime stuff -- fishing nets, rowing boats etc. Very good. What the fuck is it with the mini-pourings at the Diageo stand, though? 1cl for a dream dram? We pay for this, crikey! Not pleasantly impressed, here. 8/10

From Douglas Laing:

North British 50yo 1962/2013 (53.3%, DL Director's Cut, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, C#DL9783, 150b): nose: bakery, of course. Vanillaed dough, varnish -- how rich this is, whilst still rather mellow. Mouth: oochie-mama! Lovely balance of jam, croissant, butter dough, cake with a bit of spice or even wood. Finish: long, comforting, with gingerbread and spicy shortbread. 8/10

I remember all the banging
We stop at Balvenie's stand for a couple. The cooper workshop is in full effect and the banging is very loud. But we have strong will. For limited result, though: the advertised 30 year-old is not there.

Balvenie 12yo Single Barrel (47.8%, OB,  C#12758): this one replaces the beloved 15yo. Nose: sugary, probably less complex than the 15, but quite alright. Some punch. Mouth: slightly bitter milk. Almond milk it is, then. Finish: yep, slightly bitter almond milk, simple and efficient. 7/10

Balvenie 14yo Caribbean Cask (43%, OB, Rum Finish): this one replaces the Golden Cask, which replaced the Cuban Selection. Nose: bags of sugar, coconut, toasted coconut, milk. Mouth: milky indeed. Almond milk, perhaps. Finish: loads of coconut again, not as rough as rum finishes can be. Very easy to drink, very modern. 7/10
Nose: fish, carrot and parsnip. Mouth: bechamel, seafood, ...
Finally we stop at Gordon & MacPhail for a while. No Braeval -- another one that was advertised on the list.

Royal Brackla 1997/2012 (46%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, Refill ex-Sherry Cask): nose: meat, coq-au-vin, not my thing at all. Mouth: much better, with faint caramelised, red onions, jam, water. Finish: yes, caramelised, red onions, burger sauce. Unimpressed. 5/10

Balblair 20yo 1991/2012 Crozes-Hermitage Finish (45%, GMP Private Collection, 2000b): nose: the right side of red wine. Mouth: smooth and balanced. Finish: some tannins, but it is not annoying. Quite nice, this. 6/10

Tullibardine 225 b.2013 (43%, OB, Sauternes Finish): nose: bold and syrupy, the wine influence is obvious, but remains pleasant. Mouth: liqueur, syrupy, sticky. Finish: more syrupy things with milk chocolate. Yeah, good.

Tullibardine 20yo (43%, OB): nose: orchard fruit, freshly-cut grass. Mouth: apple juice, flat peary, a vague bitterness. Finish: strange pear liqueur, custard. This is lovely! 7/10

Tullibardine 25yo (43%, OB): nose: wider than the 20, richer. Toffee, pear compote. Mouth: nice and fruity, but also rather watery. Some spices emerge after a bit. Finish: jammy and watery with a coffee feel. Not bad, but I prefer the 20.

The Dewar stand is right across and I want to try an Aberfeldy. I mix it up and end up trying some blends. Blergh.

Dewar's 18yo Founders Reserve (43%, Dewar's): nose: nuts, but not very assertive. Mouth: easy and smooth, watery, even. Vague hints of nuts. Finish: smooth and easy again with a touch of milk chocolate. A bit indistinct, but certainly not unpleasant.

Superb blend
Dewar's Signature (40%, Dewar's): this is a deluxe blend to celebrate a now-retired master blender. Nose: neatly-polished leather belts, dates, figs, interesting. Mouth: full-bodied, but gentle. Very pleasant, yes! Wax, honey, milk chocolate. Finish: very round, mellow, polished, with even blood orange in the back. An all-round winner, this one. Superb blend. Glad I tried it.

Aberfeldy 21yo (40%, OB, L12257ZAB03): nose: orange and cinnamon. Mouth: more orange, sweet marmalade, apricot compote. Finish: more of the same, well balanced and just right, if not very adventurous. 8/10

Three days of tasting are starting to take their toll, as the ever more simplistic notes above show. A quick stroll to Eaux de Vie to stretch a bit... and a stop to tick a box.

Gimme gimme gimme Mackmyra for breakfast
Mackmyra Bruks (41.4%, OB): never had Mackmyra before. The Swedish hostess's English is a bit hesitant, which seals the deal for this expression. Nose: lemon, a little coffee, though we are near the coffee machine when I finally nose this, so it is hard to smell anything else. Mouth: lemon curd, lemon cake, vanilla and soft cake. Easy. Crushed banana. It feels watered down. One could argue that Swedes are a watered-down version of their fellow Scandinavians, but I will not go there. Finish: short but pleasant. Very nice dram. I expected to be vile and it is not at all. 7/10

Bain's (43%, OB, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask): a Seth Efricen grain whisky, apparently. Nose: typical grain -- bakery, toasted coconut. Mouth: smooth, coconut milk, vanilla pudding, easy and smooth. Finish: cinnamon, perhaps even speculoos. Balanced and nice, if unchallenging.

The Broomfest
With our dram in our hand, we proceed to the demonstration stage, where Ryan Chetiyawardana and Dave Broom host Usquebaugh! A Radical Spin on Scotch. Dave tells us about the emergence of Usquebaugh in the 16th century and its evolution through the years (medicine, social drink, long, short, mixed or neat) while Ryan brews Dewar-based cocktails with herbs or soda that shatter a few dogmas, including for me. I also finally acknowledge that Ryan's creations are interesting to some degree, though the whole thing is a Broomfest, as far as I am concerned, starting with the classic, 'to prepare for this session, I tasted 102 whiskies... mainly to piss off Ian Buxton.' Worth noting, dear reader, that Ian Buxton published a book called 101 Whiskies to try before you die.
The conclusion of the session is that whisky is a social drink to be enjoyed in good company, any way you like it. Its sole purpose being to make merry.
I ask Dave what he would mix with, say, a White Bowmore, which seems to confuse him quite a bit. Apparently, even he draws the line at that. ;-)

Back to the main halls where we get a few final drams to wind down. Glenlochy C#1759, Glencadam 34 (see notes for those two here), but also Clynelish 15yo 1997/2013 (50%, HL Old Malt Cask 50º, C#HL9881): wax, red fruit jam, balanced, still very good.

Jura 30yo Camas an Staca (44%, OB, b.2013): nose: lots of sherry -- OXO broth. Mouth: rich and wide, balsamic vinegar. Finish: long, slightly acidic and full of balsamic vinegar. Very nice. 7/10

Benromach 1976/2012 (46%, OB): toasted oak and coconut. Mouth: very gentle and round, peachy cream. Finish: bitterness of peach stone, with its soft peach flesh. Beautiful finish, this.

We notice that the Laphroaig 27yo (see Friday's anecdote) is completely gone. Not sure when that one was emptied, but it sure was popular, considering how many of the dream drams are hardly touched.

Great show. Sunday was better, I think, despite the noticeable degradation in spittoon service (I eventually spot the bin-spitting choir boy from last year -- seems he has learnt what a spittoon is at last). Apart from that and the cock-ups with the dram list, I do not think there is a lot of room left for improvement. It is now a well-oiled machine, which is very impressive, considering the scale of it.

Favourite stands: Signatory Vintage for the crazy selection, Hunter Laing for the best drams.
Favourite staff: close call between Gordon & MacPhail, Adelphi, Angus Dundee and Dewar for second place. On top of them all comes Berry Bros, even though we hardly spent any time there.
Worst staff: Diageo.
Favourite moment: in the shop after the show, with tens of people purchasing in happy chaos, this tale between staff members, 'Someone asked me for a bottle on the top shelf, so he could see under my skirt.'
I laughed.

06/10/2013 The Whisky Show 2013 (Day 2 -- Part 1)

The story starts the previous day, here.

All aboard the WExEx!

As last year, virtually no queueing on Sunday. The event is sold out, many foreigners have taken Monday off to stay here longer, but it is less hectic and more relaxed inside all the same.

Signatory Vintage is our first port of call again.

The exclusive bottlings' looks
Balmenach 25yo 1988/2013 (55.6%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, Hogshead, C#1132, 187b): a TWE exclusive (there are a few of them on this stand). Nose: bakery and toast. Mouth: crème brûlée, burnt cake. Finish: lots of caramel and burnt toast. 7/10

To the other room for the Whisky Show bottlings.

The Connellivet - 74-74
Glenlivet 39yo 1973/2013 (55.1%, Berry Bros for The Whisky Exchange, C#8211): nose: nuts and marzipan. Mouth: mellow and rich with a touch of spice. Finish: long and warming, but also bitter almond skins.

Compass Box is right next to this stand.

Delilah's b.2013 (40%, Compass Box): this one came out this week and is bottled to celebrate a punk rock bar in Chicago. Debbie Harry's picture on the label and all. Nose: grain whisky with lots of water in it. Odd. Mouth: superbly smooth and still watery, vanilla pudding. Finish: extremely easy. Very nice, but certainly too smooth for a punk-rock bar! 6/10

Call me!
Tormore 25yo 1988/2013 (64.2%, Speciality Drinks Single Malts of Scotland, ex-Bourbon Barrel, C#603, 194b): nose: a lot wider, this, with blackcurrant jam and some wood. Mouth: unripe and slightly acidic fruit, redcurrant. Finish: still stings a bit, with dark fruit jam.

I notice the spittoons pretty much disappeared and the few that are here are completely ignored, today. The bins become the default receptacle for unwanted whisky.

Still in the same spot, the Glenfarclas stand is next on my path. I try my luck to get the 1953, but of course, they will only pour it for five dream-dram tokens, which we are not prepared to part with.

Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, b. ca 2013): nose: quite neutral, in fact. Some flowers and fruit. Mouth: very watery, with some distant fruit. Finish: the strong point of this dram -- pears and diluted fruit juice. Indistinct, though. It clearly lacks character for me. 6/10

Glenfarclas 40yo (46%, OB, b. ca 2013): nose: pears and hazelnuts roasted in butter (I have a soft spot for that). Mouth: more assertive than the 30, but still too tame or subtle for these circumstances. Finish: more pears, hazelnuts and butter. This one is good, but does not have much legs to stand on. Way too subtle, in my opinion.

I'm the object of all your desire
And your dram token is all I require
We change room so dom666 can fall for the Jura waitress.
Hunter Laing.

Clynelish 15yo 1997/2013 (50%, Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask 50º, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, C#HL9881315b): nose: wax, a little tobacco, cantaloupe, lemon (dom666). Mouth: mellow and pleasant, candle wax and beeswax. Finish: long, coating, lovely honey and beeswax-coated melon. Wow! 8/10

Douglas Laing.

Blair Athol 20yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, C#DL9908, 477b): nose: molasses, game, cured meat -- big on sherry, this. Scent of flowers, soaked in stagnating water. Mouth: edgy and drying. Finish: wood, then OXO broth. It is not overpowering but it is there. Drying dram, though JS finds it not bad athol. :-) 6/10

Some Balmenach: nose: I forget to take notes. Mouth: smooth with some pine-needle acidity. Finish: unbalanced -- acidic and milky, but not too agreeable.

Auchentoshan 15yo 1997/2013 (48.4%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, C#DL9971, 336b): dom666 wants to try this one so he can wind up Psycho who loves that distillery. Nose: a strange mixture of cologne, pine tree and pudding. Mouth: smooth and easy, with butterscotch and custard. Finish: vanilla pudding with a twist... and a bit of washing-up detergent (JS). 7/10

The end of this year's story here.

9 October 2013

05/10/2013 The Whisky Show 2013 (Day 1 -- Part 2)

If you have not read the beginning, the story starts here.

We realise food would be welcome now, as well as a break. We proceed to the brasserie, but we need a dram to accompany our grub, so we stop by Berry Bros where we are welcomed like old friends.

Blue Hanger 25yo (45.6%, Berry Bros, 2nd Edition): came out in 2004, sold out in 2005. RW "found a few bottles in the boss's private cellar and nicked a couple." A good chuckle later, nose: outstanding richness, probably given by the different Glenlivets from the late 1960s and early 1970s (yep). Balsamic vinegar. Mouth: a breathtaking balance. Diluted cola, if  cola was any good. Finish: milk chocolate, chocolate muffin. Very good stuff, this!

They have a freaking yurt in there!
Right before the brasserie, we call at Diageo's to complete the lunch-time dram selection. Auchroisk 30? "The what?" It is not available and the guy apparently does not even know it exists...

Royal Lochnagar 2008 (43%, OB Selected Reserve, 6540b): nose: sulphur and game, not very pleasant. Mouth: improvement. Tickles the tip of the tongue a bit. This displays a huge sherry influence. Finish: balanced, sherried, meaty, caramely and rather meh. Seems like I will not yet find a good Lochnagar today.

Talisker Storm
Knockando 25yo 1985/2011 (43%, OB, 4758b): nose: well, there is a sherry influence, but it is so tame it is hardly worth mentioning. Gingerbread. Mouth: very faint gingerbread. Ginger emerges a bit more after a moment, but it remains shy. Finish: game, milk chocolate, cocoa powder. Not memorable, I'm afraid. The bar tender hands a glass of Talisker Storm to JS and asks, 'can you smell the difference?' ZOMG! DIFFERNET DISTILLEREIES HAS DIFEFRENT FLAVOURS! MY HEAD GONNA XPLODEZ!! Seriously, WTF? Trying to enlighten unsuspecting punters is fine, but in such an event, it seems like a stupidly condescending thing to say.

The brasserie is busy. Whisky Galore is being projected on the wall, but everybody is focusing on the food. A bit of a wait, a stingy waiter, very little food, fewer vegetables (out of the veggie mix of carrot, parsnip and brocoli, JS gets a handful of carrot sticks, period), not to mention they are hardly cooked. The main dishes are good: fish pie for dom666 and JS, lamb & whisky pudding for me. A lady behind me takes the lamb too... and does not get any pudding.

Focusing on the food
Once the belly is full, we stop by Irish Distillers for a dram, but they do not have the promised Red Breast 21.

Back in the main hall, we head to Angus Dundee Distillers to greet Lorne Mackillop. No Mackillop's Choice bottling this year, as TWE does not sell them anymore. Tomintoul is here with the full range, though. Except for the one I am interested in: the 33 year-old. Not sure why, but "it is not there." I manage to get a little of it all the same. Having connections rules again.

Tomintoul 33 b.2009 (43%, OB): nose: very floral, with honeysuckle and forsythia, and also cut pears. Mouth: yep, floral and fruity it is, still with forsythia and cut pear, as well as honey. Light bitterness too (cedar?), nowt too invading. Finish: the bitterness becomes bolder, then tons of flowers and pears, apricots -- with the stone for added bitterness. Love this. 9/10

The next dram comes from the BenRiach Distillery Company's stand.

It all went pear-shaped
from here
Glenglassaugh 30yo Batch 1 b.2013 (44.8%, OB, 1002b): I liked the 26yo a bit, last year and a lot more earlier this year, at the distillery. Nose: a lot less fruity and a lot meatier than the recent-ish expressions from the the pre-closure days. Mouth: some wine casks in this, I reckon. Fruity to some extent with (black) pepper. Finish: the fruit is finally more assertive (pear or quince) but it remains a rather big dram. I like it less.

Douglas Laing is next. It always seems a good idea to finish there. Fred is absent today, though, which is a pity.

Macduff 21yo 1992/2013 (41.9%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, C#DL9905, 252b): nose: butter and tobacco. A strange combination, but it works. Mouth: desserty, pudding, rice pudding. Finish: dom666 finds it acrid. There is a certain floweriness to it -- flowers soaked in milk. I like it.

Port Dundas 21yo 1992/2013 (55.7%, Hunter Hamilton Clan Denny, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, C#HH9452): nose: pine cigar boxes, wonderful. Mouth: what a balance! Lemon, lemon cake -- just how lovely is this? Finish: perfectly balanced. Love it. Butter, pine, lemon.

Glen Scotia 21yo 1992/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, Refill Barrel, C#DL9903, 240b): nose: this one has more body. It is meatier, but not in an overpowering way. Grass or herbs too. Mouth: grass, oregano, herbs and alcohol or varnish. Finish: long and lingering, with notes of cappuccino and dark, hot cocoa. 7/10

At some point, I spot a certain "Manchester United player" from the Manager's Dram master class, two years ago, which amuses me greatly.

Dailuaine 1998/2012 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice): nose: lemon and herbs. Mouth: pleasant and balanced, milky, creamy, even. Finish: long, with hints of butter cakes, almond dough and sour cream. 8/10

I run to the other room for a final dram.

Octomore 06.1 5yo (57%, OB): another one that was supposed to be available but was not, then was, but not to all, as only one bottle. Apparently, it only reached the venue halfway through the day. The guy had to turn down early comers, then hide it to avoid their ire. First Octomore for me, so pretty psyched. Nose: peat, peat, peat, smoke and butter. Mouth: solid! and punchy too. Caramel, alcohol (a hard-hitter, this one), berries (blackberries, blackcurrant, blueberries) charcoal and soot. Finish: what a steamroller! Yet it still gives out black fruit in a very interesting way. Annoyingly amazed -- would cost a lot less if I hated it. This is much more pleasant than earlier, overly peaty efforts such as Ardbeg Supernova: it is peaty, but also has other qualities and flavours to offer, when Supernova seemed to only cater for the peat section.

What a day! From unpleasant to stellar drams, merry atmosphere most of the time, and much better planning from our part: we did not "waste" time trying things we were not interested in only to cry about the lack of time to try all the things we wanted to try. No, no, and that is mostly due to one thing: the pre-published list of drams that appeared a few days before the show (more about that below).

The organisation was very, very good. Spittoons everywhere, including on the tables, staff to empty them often and replace the empty water bottles (they were even throwing away half-full bottles, which, of course, annoyed me). There were still absent-minded guests to empty their glasses in the bins, but it was even easier than last year to point out to them what the process should be.
The whole show remains very ambitious and trying to cover everything would be suicidal (food pairings, cocktails, workshops etc.), but it seemed easier this year to not feel deprived, as the rooms seemed more separate and therefore less tempting. Having said that, everything was busy all the time, so do not think some stalls had no reason to be.
Outstanding point: the staff at the reception desk took extra care sticking the wristbands together. No fur-stripping this year, yay!
Another outstanding point in the organisation: the list of drams. It allowed us to short-list what to try and how to go about it. A necessary strategy. However, it is a bitter advantage when you consider that today only, four drams we wanted to try were not available after all.
The brasserie, despite our misadventure with what was clearly a reluctant waiter (Parisian, perhaps?), was very effective. Quick turnaround, quality food (considering it is cooked on an industrial scale), impressively quick staff when it came to undress tables (9 seconds on average to get your empty plate removed -- no joke).
Finally, as with any festival, going year after year means seeing the same faces again and again (exhibitors as well as festival-goers), so that it turns into a much more social event.

Carry on reading my Whisky Show report here.

8 October 2013

05/10/2013 The Whisky Show 2013 (Day 1 -- Part 1)

What possibly remains the most interesting corporate event of the year is here again. The queue is long when we make it there, but it moves rather quickly. Twenty minutes and we are in. Reception is handled efficiently -- no scanner crash today.
This edition is made special by a few things, such as the debut of Hunter Laing and the return of Signatory Vintage, which we start with.
dom666, JS and myself, this year, though we do meet a lot of familiar faces at the venue. Festival mode, which means notes are succinct and repetitive. Also, we each take different things so as to try as much as possible, but it means I do not always get to try what the others have and vice versa.

The queue to enter the Justin Bieber-slapping tournament was rather long

The least one can say is that Signatory/Edradour did not come empty-handed. The selection on paper is impressive to say the least and, fearing the liquid might disappear very quickly (no intention to reproduce the White Bowmore mishap of two years ago), we run for it as soon as we are in. It turns out to be pointless, as there is enough of the interesting ones for both days alright, what with everyone mostly reaching for the Islay whiskies, presumably.

Mosstowie 34yo 1979/2013 (50.3%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrel C#1353, 181b): this is the Lomond-still side of Miltonduff. There have been a fair few expressions, but it is far from a common sight. Nose: light, fruity and subtle as the produce of a Lomond still usually is. Vanilla, coconut. Mouth: still coconut, yet it is also peppery and sparkly. Finish: this remains very nervous, with lots of fiery pepper and toasted, grated coconut. I love a good Mosstowie and this is one of them. 8/10

Glen Mhor 30yo 1982/2012 (53.7%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead, C#1606, 201b): closed about thirty years ago. Nose: bakery, vanilla pudding and gingerbread. Mouth: smooth and easy, banana dessert with a sprinkle of green pepper. Finish: pencil-sharpener blade, verbena, flowers. This is good enough, but the least impressive we will have at this stand.

Glenlochy 32yo 1980/2012 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Refill Butt, C#1759, 499b): it is not a joke, Signatory did come with ridiculously rare stuff -- another victim of the early Eighties, which has always been hard to find. Nose: a lot more herbal than the previous (dried fern, pine undergrowth, moss-covered stone). Mouth: smooth with a tingle -- is it coconut milk about to turn bad? Quite spicy too. Finish: long and peppery. Very, very interesting, though it will not please everyone. An old-school Highlander as I like them. With a hefty price tag. 8/10

Craigduff 40yo 1973/2013 (49.6%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Refill Butt, C#2516, 616b): did I say ridiculous selection? Say it again with me: RI-DI-CU-LOUS! This is one of two experimental malts distilled at Glen Keith in the 1970s. Only Signatory has ever released any of it as single malt, and then fewer than half a dozen casks to this day. It is only my second Craigduff, so quite excited. Nose: lots of herbs and stone. Pebbles, rocky moorlands. Mouth: beautifully mineral, mossy, with lichen and fern. Finish: robust and grassy, mossy, stony with some bitterness in the end. Lovely drop. 8/10

Right next to Signatory, Adelphi is our next stop.

Slaney Malt 11yo 2001/2012 (57%, Adelphi Limerick Selection, C#9929, 235b): nose: light and easy, very fruity (white peach). Mouth: so much fruit it is stupid. Peach, still, unripe berries, greengages, a certain amount of pepper as well. Finish: can you spell MARACUJA? Lovely, lovely, lovely, despite a distant bitterness (at 11yo, it can be considered rather green). It is not available in the shop, but tomorrow, we will manage to secure the last two bottles from the Adelphi stand, yay. Having connections rules. 9/10

Across the hall to No. 1 Drinks, while the following two are still available. The bottles are about two thirds down (an hour in!) and the shop only had five bottles of them left while we were waiting to get in. That is not five of each either...

Karuizawa 31yo 1981/2013 (60.6%, Number One Karuizawa Single Casks, Sherry Cask, C#3555, 108b): nose: dom666 loves it (oh-ho!) Barbecue sauce. I would even go further and say: Pringles Xtreme Smokin' Ribs flavour. Grilled meat and cooling embers. Mouth: too much sherry for me, now. A bit rough and very sticky. Finish: the sherry stays in the mouth for way too long. Confirms that Karuizawa is not my thing, but nice to try this all the same. 7/10

dom666 double-fisting
Karuizawa 30yo 1983/2013 (55.8%, Number One Karuizawa Single Casks, Bourbon Cask, C#8606, 324b): nose: more to my liking, this. Is it a bourbon cask? The flavours hint at it: vanilla, coconut, butterscotch, dough. Quite modern, actually. Mouth: more bakery with spices and a distant acrid feel. Finish: very different from the nose and mouth, this -- cured meat, game, grassy sauce and overall invading. A refill sherry after all? Nope, a bourbon cask. 7/10

Next stop: Hunter Laing. Fred and Stewart Laing went their separate ways, earlier this year. Fred kept Provenance and Clan Denny, as well as the blends and the name Douglas Laing. Stewart took Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare, now bottled under the name Hunter Laing. I was quite excited to see Stewart for the first time, but he is not here today. Andrew (presumably his son) is there instead.

Bunnahabhain 21yo 1991/2013 (48.3%, Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask, Refill Hogshead, C#HL9819, 256b): nose: rotten eggs. The wrong side of sherry maturation. Mouth: a mouthful. Acrid and sulphury. Finish: rich, but still acrid. More balanced than the mouth, not my thing all the same. Worst dram of the show for me.

This is pronounced
Glencadam 34yo 1977/2012 (56.8%, Hunter Laing Old & Rare, ex-Sherry Butt, 287b): this one caught my eye on the published dram list (more on that later) as it is obviously a noble expression from a distillery I cannot claim great familiarity with. Nose: wow! Roasted chicken breasts (skin included) with herbs. Won-der-ful! Mouth: lively and spicy. Ground cloves, ground cardamom. Finish: good for a second, then it becomes an onslaught of dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Huh! Stunning! Dram of the show for dom666 and I. 9/10

Invergordon 48yo 1964/2013 (43.7%, Hunter Laing The Sovereign, C#HL9861): nose: ooooh! dear. Bakery debauchery, violet, black-fruit muffins. Mouth: refreshing and very easy (how I love those old glories that have seen their ABV fall below 50% naturally!). Dangerously easy. Honey, mead. Finish: outstanding bakery flavours, a fantastic drop. 9/10

Oh. There goes Charles McLean.

Grain whisky is no good
We then venture to the end of the hall to see a newcomer: Ben Nevis. Funnily, one of the two guys is the one who reluctantly gave us the tour when we were up at the distillery, a couple of years ago. I carefully avoid him, as what he displayed then was as far from the proverbial Scottish hospitality as humanly possible. The other is the one who sold me a bottle at the distillery shop the same day and is as jovial today as he was then. Next to their usual range, they have a multitude of samples of forthcoming releases, mostly wine matured. One of them was recommended by the Whisky Cyclist, who we just bumped into.

Ben Nevis White Port: interesting, as it is so unusual a maturation for a whisky. Nose: winy! Too much so for me. Mouth: syrupy, still acceptable, not great. Finish: explosive and fruity. The finish is clearly the strong feat, here. It makes the whole worthwhile.

Glencoe 8yo (58%, OB, ca 2013): a blended malt at 58% ABV. Take a deep breath... Nose: rocket fuel, though quite winy too, strangely enough. This one is half Ben Nevis, half another, undisclosed malt (but neither Nevis, nor Glenlochy, we joke. :-) ) Gamy. Mouth: powerful, really, though not unpleasant. Finish: sparkling cola, cocoa. Interesting... and violent.

Across the hall to International Beverages.

anCnoc 22yo (46%, OB): nose: light marmalade, noble, elegant and easy. Mouth: smooth, lovely. Watered-down honey, mead. Finish: long and sweet. Not exactly a life-changing dram, though quaffable enough. 7/10

anCnoc 35yo 1977/2012 (44.3%, OB, 1495b): nose: seems a bit discrete for this late into the tasting, but it is agreeable. Honey, honeysuckle. Mouth: so soft and easy it hurts. It flows like water. Finish: marvellous -- mead, quince jelly and other sorts of sweets. Glad I have a bottle of this! 9/10
Yep, even this

Read about the second part of Day 1 here.

04/10/2013 Show Vorspiel and October outturn at the SMWS

The biggest weekend of the year is right in front of us: the Whisky Show. It is also the new outturn, today. dom666 is in town for the show, the SMWS will not have a stand at the show, this year and Fixou is free today, but will not make it to the show. The obvious compromise is to come here for a dram or two before the show, then.
Unsurprisingly, it is full of tourists who are in town because of the show, yet it is quiet enough to be enjoyable.
Quick catch-up with the staff, greeting A and I. who have been here with Fixou for a while, but are about to leave, then comes the hard job of finding an opening dram.

"I'll get the next round"
G8.3 23yo 1989 Light, bright and agreeable (59%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 250b) (me): this one is not in any outturn, but Superstaff managed to snatch a case. JS cleverly orders one for me while I ponder. Nose: bakery, industrial alcohol, varnish, flowers, wax -- I first think this is a Clynelish. Butterscotch, pudding, flan, liquorice allsorts, brilliant, in fact. Mouth: brioche, honey... and still that industrial alcohol. Let us see if I can still taste it tomorrow -- update: yes, my tongue is completely stripped, the next morning; the Cambus effect. Finish: violet, numbing alcohol that makes you blind. There is also a hint of bitter metal, verbena, as well as lots of sugar. Another great Cambus that suffers from the same symptoms as every other Cambus I have had: the sheer power of it makes it terrible for the tongue for over 24 hours. Tough. 7/10

PS is very excited about an official new grain he caught wind of and no-one must know about. He tells that in such a discrete manner that everyone at the venue is listening to us. That is made even funnier by the fact one of his friends gives him a bag containing said official new grain no-one must know about and he proceeds to rub it in my face in a very visible manner.

50.52 23yo 1990/2013 Tales of the River-bank (53.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 106b) (JS): nose: Dundee cake, fruit cake, honeysuckle, cooked apples -- this is so rip-roaring! Mouth: soft, light and fruity, with a dash of pepper. Finish: long, powerful, full of green pepper and honeysuckle stems. One of the great Bladnochs. 8/10

9.68 22yo 1990 Plentiful fruit – super-charged sweetness (53.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 188b) (Fixou): nose: apple compote, a grandmother's kitchen, warm laundry, maybe a cooking hearth. Did you say warming and comforting? Mouth: smooth and silky. Flat, says Fixou -- the fool! White pepper kicks in after a bit -- or is it green chilli? Finish: longish and peppery, but not extremely interesting, unfortunately. 7/10

I leave for a bit to fetch dom666 from the station. The train is late and he gets stuck at customs, but we make it back to the SMWS at a reasonable time, though PS has left.

The winner is...
76.110 27yo 1986/2013 Summer Fruit salad with cream (58.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 242b) (JS): nose: floral and fruity (dried pears), dunnage warehouse and even ground cloves. Mouth: marzipan, a cascade of white pepper. Finish: whoa! Spectacular, this! Fantastic balance of sponge cake, almond cake and white pepper. Unlike more "traditional" Mortlachs, it is not meaty at all -- but then it is a bourbon cask, of course. Really nice.

121.64 14yo 1998 Maggie Thatcher at the funfair (54.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 203b) (dom666): nose: lots of flowers and honeysuckle. Mouth: a bit green, but pleasant enough. More honeysuckle, wax, thyme, a mineral touch (flint) and an anaesthetising sting. Finish: long and warming, with vanilla pudding and butterscotch. It becomes slightly medicinal -- cough syrup, cough lozenges and cola, ginseng and ginger (Fixou). 7/10

The gang and a funny bottle on the table
dom666 pours Fixou a dram of Black Laphroaig. He is very excited. Of course, it attracts the attention of everyone around and freeloaders try their luck. The bottle disappears behind the bar to prevent tensions. A customer walks up to Fixou and asks about it, saying there is no point denying it, they saw the bottle and they are going to try it at the show tomorrow anyway (it is a dream dram, there). Everything ends respectfully, situation avoided.

127.37 9yo 2003 Dinosaurs dancing to Stravinsky (66.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 649b) (Fixou): this one is the sole reason I. came here earlier (remember she is a peat freak). It seems a good one to finish with. Nose: well, forty centimetres from the glass, I can already smell it. Saltings, barbecue, cured meat, mixed spices. Mouth: peat, a little charcoal. Finish: a steamroller of peat and cured meat. Not too complex, but does the job. Water gives it a farmy feel, which is nice too. 6/10

Relaxed and pleasant tasting, once again. Perhaps a bit of clumsiness around the black Laph, but it all came from a good heart and was sorted in good mood.