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.

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