28 November 2013

24/11/2013 Special editions

It is dom666's birthday, time for the yearly tasting. I could not make it last year, and everyone dropped out of it eventually, so it did not take place at all. Good to come back to this tradition. Low turnover, due to last-minute changes in many a calendar, but also some lesser-seen faces.
The suspects: dom666, adc, JS, Postman PSc and JD alongside myself.

The menu:

Tomatin 16yo 1996/2012 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for Inverness Airport, Refill Bourbon Barrel, C#5128) (me): a recurrent guest at my tastings, recently, yet this group has not had it yet. It is an exclusive bottling for Inverness Airport, hence in theme. Nose: fruity and grassy, today. Mouth: lively, with green wood and a dash of pepper. Finish: fresh, lively, with vanilla, coconut and peachy fruit. No awesome notes, as it is well known to whoever reads this blog, by now. A great dram to start with, everyone seems to enjoy it enough. 8/10

We are peckish, time for dried sausages -- duck and green pepper, pork and hazelnuts, pork and figs, Espelette chilli, pheasant and Cognac. Exquisite.

Synchronised toothpaste ad
Arran Millennium Casks b.2013 (53.5%, OB, 7800b) (JD): a special bottling made out of whisky casked at the turn of the millennium. Nose: well-controlled wood, rosewood (adc), some dunnage warehouse. Mouth: pepper and pine needles with a hint of vanilla. Finish: comforting and pleasant, with a touch of peach, perhaps, or orange. 7/10

dom666 is warming up and raises the pun bar to unexpected heights (although firmly anchored in the Liège province, unfortunately for our readers from overseas):
"A Flémalle, il y a Flémalle-Haute et Flémalle-Grande. A Spa, c'est pareil: il y a Spa et Spa-si-Bas."

Bruichladdich Colonsay 12yo 1994/2007 (46%, Murray McDavid, C#MMCL2) (dom666): this was purchased on Colonsay in 2008, a Bruichladdich bottled for the Colonsay community and exclusively sold there. Great memories. Nose: lightly smokey, with candied oranges. It is distinctly wilder than the previous, giving out even sausage smells to augment a more coastal character. Mouth: balanced, smooth, with lush marmalade before green pepper walks in. Finish: slightly punchy, with peach skin and orange rinds. Very, very nice, this! Much more than a curiosity. 7/10

JD takes a particular liking to the Linkwood
Linkwood 26yo 1975/2002 (56.1%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (PSc): we switch gears, all of a sudden. Rare Malts were more or less the equivalent of the current yearly Diageo releases. As such, it is a special edition. Nose: dunnage warehouse!! Austere and complex, with nuts, undergrowth, mushrooms. Mouth: slightly dry, but full and rich -- amazing, in fact. Finish: fruit (apricot), orange or lemon marmalade and liqueur praline. 9/10

Food comes out: yeast bread, nut bread, white pudding, pâtés, cheese (Cognac Epoisse, whisky Cheddar, Calvados camembert), all terribly tasty.

Another one fuses: "des petits pains au levain -- ce ne sont pas des petits pains au Louvain."

Mmmmm. Food.
Clynelish 12yo1995/2007 Rum JM Finish  (50%, Taste Still, C#4898, 72b) (adc): this one was bottled for the open-door days at Corman-Collins in 2007. Nose: a tannery, lemonade, cane sugar and a touch of alcohol. Mouth: yes, lots of cane sugar and red chilli. Finish: tons of white pepper and sugar. The rum influence is now obvious. Some trademark wax, but it is safe to say this is not yer regular Clynelish. 7/10

"This is how you pluck an apple, Louvain-boy."
Laphroaig QA Cask b.2013 (40%, OB Travel Retail Exclusive) (JD): although it has been bought in a regular store, this one is supposedly a travel-retail exclusive. Nose: QAight (boom-tshhh), petrol station, hydrocarbon, leather gloves, farmyard, tannins (P). Mouth: bland, watered-down lemon curd, tame marmalade. P finds barbecue-flavoured Croky crisps. Finish: tame and bland again, with a touch of lemon curd. A cigarette in an ashtray next door. It becomes more animal after ingesting cheese, but let us say it is a weaker Laphroaig. 5/10 J is disappointed and ready to part with his bottle. dom666 (stupidly) offers something to cheer him up, which could likely ruin the rest of the tasting for JD: Laphroaig 31yo 1974/2005. JD falls off his chair. P has a drop as well, while the others all carefully steer clear.


Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48%, OB) (PSc): long-time-no-see, for this popular bottling. A bit pedestrian, next to the 1974, but did I not say it was foolish to drink that one? This one is off-theme, but what the heck! Nose: coastal, farmyardy, with boiled-sweet scents. Mouth: it seems balanced, today, and even sugary. Finish: peat and cane sugar. Yep! Not extremely complex, but really efficient. Great dram. 7/10
Synchronised thoughtful nosing

The awkward moment when
you break your first cork
Talistill 11yo 1996/2007 (46%, Taste Still, C#5471, 180b) (adc): specially brought for dom666, who is a fan of this undisclosed distillery on the Isle of Skye. Nose: smokey, with blackcurrant and sweet lards, a kind of marshmallow ribbon (adc). Mouth: such power at a mere 46%! An avalanche of black pepper, clove, sumac and even varnish. Finish: long, lingers on the tongue with buttery spices. Sublime. Best Talisker I have tried, with the possible exception of Secret Stills 01.01. 9/10


Pepper in a bottle
Talisker 14yo 1994/2009 (58.6%, OB Manager's Choice, Bodega Sherry European Oak, C#7147, 582b) (dom666): dom666 bought this one exclusively for this tasting. Nose: this is so rich! Full of herbs, cured meat, varnish and sea air. Mouth: sort of balanced, moving on towards pepper (white and black). Not so balanced, in fact: an onslaught of pepper it is. This is a young Talisker and it suffers from the same symptoms as the regular 10 year-old. Finish: invading, full of iodine and pepper. Talistill is much better balanced. 7/10

Things become slightly blurry on the right-hand side
North British 45yo 1963/2009 (50.7%, Signatory Vintage, C#117362, 117363, 117365, 290b) (dom666 and I): we bought this one a few years ago. I patiently waited for this very tasting to crack it open with dom666 (check the age). Nose: typical grain -- paint, varnish, blackcurrant, muffin, frangipane (JD), lots of bakery types. Mouth: slightly bitter, with violet sweets, then cane sugar and a bit of chilli or pepper (or is it still the Talisker talking?) Finish: cuberdon, violets. This is loooooong with an extraordinary balance. As good as the Invergordon 48 Sovereign from the Whisky Show. One of the best grains I have had. 9/10 J does not care for it, unfortunately. Which is a shame, as it was supposed to be the climax of this fine tasting. But I have a trump card up my sleeve...

Although the previous dram is great, it feels like offering dom666 his own bottle. For his birthday, one could think of classier moves. Perhaps this one. Distilled in the same year as the hero of the day, this was bottled for the 150th anniversary of the owners' company:

"They were gonna make me a Major for this."

Bowmore 32yo 1968/2000 (45.5%, OB Anniversary Edition, 1860b) (me): nose: herbs (adc), peach, mango, passion fruit, you name a tropical fruit, it is there. No peat at all, which puzzles some. Mouth: pure fruit juice, plain and simple. Mango, papaya, peach. There is honey in there too (PSc), red fruit (dom666), tangerine and others. Finish: a roundhouse kick of passion fruit in the teeth, then pepper. A completely ridiculous dram, out of this world. 10/10 First Bowmore from the 1960s for half the attendance. It still mops the floor with any non-believer. :-)

Excellent tasting, as always. Perhaps better than usual, in fact. Very relaxed and friendly, with drams of an outstanding quality, despite the disappointment of the Laphroaig QA.

Standing in front, with a god-like halo

19 November 2013

16/11/2013 Christmas outturn at the SMWS

Seems like a good idea, K!
Don't eat the paper, though.
After the monster preview last week, time to head to the headquarters to try the remaining bottles. Remember those 30-or-so bottles, then? That's right, they were not the whole outturn.
KB joins us for his first SMWS experience. The regulars are all there, but in order to not traumatise KB too much on his introduction day, we grab a separate table. We get the cheese plates immediately, so they have loads of time to reach room temperature. KB starts with an omelette, since he has not eaten anything so far (it is almost 15:00).

94.4 24yo 1989/2013 Ode to autumn (52.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill Bourbon Hogshead, 201b) (me): thirty years of SMWS and this is only the fourth Fettercairn. Considering it is an unfamiliar distillery to me on top of that, I am more than mildly excited! Nose: varnish, hair lacquer, flat soda, polish, then overripe plums and toasted bread. Smelling inside a stainless-steel pot that has just been washed and is still hot (KB). Mouth: pine dust, ginger, apricot. Finish: flat cola, ginger beer, a dash of hair lacquer and pleasant cough syrup (not Actifed, then). Lovely. 8/10

130.1 4yo 2009/2013 Dynamic and Attractive (61.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First-fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 227b) (KB): nose: cologne, perfume, pine dust, some vanilla. Very girly, this. Very high-maintenance too! (i.e. elegant and distinguished... and expensive) Coconut and flowers (tulips?), butter popcorn (JS). Mouth: dry and rough, funnily enough. Lots of coconut, still, but the dryness prevails. Finish: long and warming, full of pepper and horsepowers. Its youth makes it wild -- and that is when you realise it is 62% ABV!

Possibly the only good kind of violets
21.28 37yo 1974 Relaxing in a tropical garden (48.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 188b) (me): nose: orange (JS), boiled sweets (violets, not Parma), custard (KB, in Kustard mode), flowers. A big sherry influence too, but in a balanced way. Orange blossom and lichen. Mouth: mellow and rich, chocolate éclairs, bakery stuff. Finish: slightly drying, seems Cognac-y and upscale. Distant chocolate emerges, alongside gentle cough syrup. Great dram, but I much preferred 21.27. 8/10

This, but orange. And from the past.
50.53 23yo 1990/2013 Monster, mango and melon (46.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 60b) (KB): nose: delicate, creamy, orange Pelikan stick (fruity glue). Mouth: oh, yeah! Fruity indeed! Unsweetened peach juice, but also tons of green chilli. Finish: a bit sharp, rotten wood, lichen, damp wood. KB relates it to licking an old barrel. Whatever he does with his tongue.

131.1 22yo The sinful side of sexy (57.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 212b) (me): two new distilleries? Woah! Nose: a bit of cured meat (under control), with lots of custard underneath, cut pears and electronics (KB). Opening up the packaging of a brand new video-game console (KB). With water: flowers and (tropical) fruit with some citrus for good measure. Mouth: slightly fizzy, sweet, even soft, with a ginger kick. J even finds maraschino cherries in there. With water, it becomes a bit bland, watered down (pun intended). Finish: bakery, a hint of lemon. This tastes like a grain, actually. Very sparkly, now. First Hanyu as well, yay!

La dolce vita
132.1 28yo 1984 Secret moonlit garden dram (59.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 229b) (KB): you wait forever for a bus, then three show up at the same time! Without surprise, this one sold out in minutes, especially after someone at Boisdale tweeted about it and gave away the distillery name during a private tasting last week. Nose: meaty, farmyardy, fresh horse manure, dry cow dung, fruit cake (KB -- not sure what he puts in his fruit cake...), baking soda, treacle (KB). Mouth: horse manure (KB), stable floor, black pepper (or is it green?), fizzy again. Finish: warming and full of cola (which is very nice, in fact). This one is well made, but confirms that Karuizawa is probably not for me. 7/10

Cameron Bridge's new logo
G4.5 34yo 1979/2013 Sweet and spicy (50.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask,Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 205b) (JS): nose: nostril burning bakery, gingerbread. Mouth: honey-coated caramel cereals (Kellogg's Smacks). Finish: Smacks indeed, with vanilla pudding or custard to boot. Great, straightforward grain. 8/10

35.10139yo 1974/2013 Oh How Joyfully (46.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 197b) (KB): nose: humidor, cedar wood, undergrowth, dried fern. It further opens up to unleash baked apples (the label gives that away) and brown sugar (KB). Mouth: slightly drying or bitter, orange rinds, Halloween carved turnips (KB -- pumpkin is becoming expensive, innit). Finish: long and satisfying, with turnip notes. Old Glen Morays can be fantastic in an old-man's-whisky kind of way. This one is not so old-man-like, but fantastic all the same. It warms up a true man's soul like a good kung-fu film. 8/10

We talk about karaoke and how some people are so good at it it is depressing. KB notes that if the singer is hot, it at least gives the listener something to look at, which makes it less depressing. :-D

R5.2 To Life, Love and Loot: nose: my nose hairs have just been instantly incinerated. Woody, with an industrial-cleaner shock. Bonded gravel (KB), industrial glue. Mouth: ginger, anaesthetising solution, melted plastic. Finish: very warming (burning, in fact) but clearly rich in molasses. Still not convinced by rum. KB wanted to try it because of the obscene ABV, but since no one else likes it, I have to finish it (and need a word from my mother to do so). This is not rocket fuel any longer, it is simply illegal. An interesting experience, though.

You read that correctly.

6 November 2013

04/11/2013 Christmas outturn preview a the Grange Hotel

New location, in the sky bar of the Grange Hotel, a veranda on the rooftop. It is very close to the November outturn (it was pretty much yesterday), but we have no fear! Fixou and Mrs. Fixou join us, the usual suspects come and go during the evening.
On to the drams. Given the amount, the descriptions will be short.
Due to the ever-present blue light, the pictures look horrible. Get over it.

Not here for a laugh!

80.6 14yo d.1998 Laura Ashley with attitude (59.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 205b): after thirty years of activity, this is only the sixth Glen Spey from the Society. Needless saying I am excited. Nose: lots of lemon, perfume and peach. Mouth: velvety and sweet, peach and apricot. Finish: very slightly bitter, with a fruity kick.

71.40 23yo d.1989 Sticky apricot tarts at an Indian Market (56.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 432b): nose: fudge, caramel, maybe even coffee. Fixou reckons it is noodles and soy sauce. Mouth: velvety, with a touch of pepper. Finish: flowers and pepper.

The rather cool venue with its space-ship lighting
125.68 9yo 2004/2013 A tale of two ladies (58.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 201b): nose: lady's perfume, vanilla. Mouth: very soft, satin-like, then develops some horse powers. Finish: wood, dried banana shavings. 7/10

76.111 9yo d.2004/2013 Boisterous and exuberant (57.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First-fill Barrel, 225b): nose: honeysuckle essence with a note of vanilla in the back. Mouth: very mellow and creamy, with black pepper power. Finish: cream and pepper, coating like varnish.

7.87 27yo d.1985 A tropical market (55.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 141b): nose: fruit! Jam, quince, mango and something I cannot identify. Mouth: rhaaaaaaaa! Finish: long and sweet, full of goodness. This is great. 8/10

17.36 11yo 2002/2013 Exotic and Oriental (56.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 251b): nose: vanilla, custard, butterscotch, then pine needles. Mouth: salty, but mellow. Finish: salted caramel, milk chocolate, dessert (Fixou).

The shop. Under Acid.
5.36 14yo 1999/2013 Rubbing White Tiger Balm on your forehead (59.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Second-fill ex-Sauternes Hogshead, 211b): a rare Sauternes cask, though it is not written on the list we were given at the entrance. In fact, the bottling is not on the list at all. Nose: old, unwashed wee-wee (Fixou). PS wonders whether Fixou is up for a promotion at work, but then he comes up with sweaty balls (he claims he said he would rather smell sweaty balls than this, but he is obviously trying to backtrack). Bad glue to me. Mouth: bitter? Acrid? no, it is a different feeling, but I fail to pinpoint it. Not great, in any case. Finish: some sweetness, but mostly, overly burnt caramel. This is not good. 4/10

35.98 10yo 2003/2013 Let's paint the town red (59.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 237b): nose: perfume, essence of flowers, even a bit of coffee. Mouth: green pepper and butterscotch. Finish: lots of chocolate and cocoa.

"I'm blue da-ba-dee da-ba-daa"
44.57 22yo d.1990 Sea salted caramel pebbles (52.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 300b): nose: summer flowers, roasted pears, perhaps. Mouth: soft and easy. Finish: green as in: fruit-seed bitterness, milk chocolate, and a tiny whiff of smoke.

4.181 16yo 1997/2013 A muscle man from Orkney (54.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 650b): nose: burnt compote, heavily sherried, this. Some nuts in the back, which is better, almost redeeming. Mouth: slightly drying, unbalanced. Finish: light peat smoke and tons of sherry. Not my thing.

3.209 20yo d.1992 Out of the ordinary (53%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Second-fill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 154b): nose: farmyard galore. This one smells like the wheels of a tractor. Mouth: simple but balanced, farmyard. Finish: yup, still very much farmyard-oriented with a bit of a damp campfire. Good, but well.

129.3 4yo d.2008 Unwind and set your watch to Islay Time (60.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 256b): nose: garden fire, a day at Peatneyland. Mouth: actually quite easy and palatable (with water!) Finish: a diffuse peat discharge (with water). Fixou reckons it does not make any sense without water, so I do not try it without.

127.33 11yo 2002/2013 Mouth-numbing mountaineering dram (63.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 182b): nose: so wide, this! We are in a different category. Tannins, leather and farmyard. Mouth: between leather saddles and horse's sweat. Controlled in a lovely way. Finish: long and definitely present, but balanced. Black pepper, farmyard. Lovely drop, this. The kind of things that drew me into whisky in the first place. 7/10

36.65 15yo d.1997 Apple flavoured tobacco in a Hookah (58.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 208b): nose: lots of pine sawdust, cologne and white wine. Mouth: white wine indeed, very dry and fruity (Riesling?) Finish: lingers on on a white wine impression. It is becoming quite late for proper notes.
27.104 14yo d.1998 Cowboy’s delight (55.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Gorda, 659b): nose: meaty, slightly sulphury, with leather and Marmite. Finish: drying. Cowboy alright (it is in the name), with lots of soy sauce and such. Not my thing. PS likes it, but then he is drunk, I reckon.

One of the usual suspects
72.28 30yo d.1982 What a wonderful world (51.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 144b): nose: some easy wood, bakery things, gentle custard, pears and quince. Mouth: light and easy. Finish: milk chocolate with pine needles and quince jelly.

36.63 15yo d.1997 There is chilli in the fruit pie (58.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 195b): exclusive for people who join today, if I understand correctly, though it was in the September outturn. Nose: a plant stem dunked in jam. Mouth: easy and soft, lovely. Finish: long and fruity in a satisfying way.

G10.5 23yo d.1989 A ‘Schweppervescence’ moment (61%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill Hogshead, 332b): it seems a good one to end with. Nose: metal and bakery -- that'll be a baking tray, then. :-) Mouth: quaffable. Finish: more baking tray things, I like it a lot, unsurprisingly.

Time to go to bed. Epic tasting in good company. Hard to believe the thirty-or-so bottlings they brought along represent only half of the monster outturn. Good location (some even went to the terrace), good organisation, good food (though too little of it) and good drams.

4 November 2013

01/11/2013 November outturn at the SMWS

It is that time of the month again. Fixou drops out, as he is called back at work. We meet PS there, though.

76.108 11yo 2002/2013 Raspberry Ruffles (57.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 235b) (JS): nose: vanilla, butter biscuit, a vague hint of coffee and some flowers. Mouth: lively, hot (green chilli) and slightly bitter (grape seeds). Finish: warming and powerful, coating, with bakery flavours. A nice, non-meaty Mortlach (tried it blind and only guessed it after five attempts), but I preferred last month's. 7/10

55.22 14yo 1998 Backstage at a burlesque (54.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 113b) (me): my first Society Brackla, an opportunity that cannot be passed. Nose: flowery and perfumey, then varnish, plum eau-de-vie and a touch of pine wood, which becomes really rather powerful. Water makes it a lot jammier and more herbaceous. 'Well brackish,' says PS, committed to providing the bad pun of the day. Mouth: fiery pepper, then fruit -- dried apricot, dates and quince. Yep, it is jammy alright. Finish: long and heart-warming, still, rather fruity. Water renders it fruitier, with some bitterness from the wood. Not an extraordinary dram, but very pleasant. 7/10

46.22 20yo 1992 An Italian kitchen (50.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 219b) (me): nose: fruity sweets (pear drops) and honeysuckle. Some rather impressive strength too: it burns my nostrils. Mouth: hot, packed with red chilli, hot paprika. The texture is pretty oily. Finish: it becomes very bitter, all of a sudden. Lots of plant-stem juice as well as fruit (apple?) A rare distillery here, but this is not a great success. 6/10

36.68 21yo 1991 Sweet and salty combo (50.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Second-fill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 229b) (JS): nose: green hazelnut, cut apples. An amazing nose, in fact. Mouth: honey, flower broth left to soak in a decanter. Finish: crisp and sharp, though a bit bitter again. 7/10

The food we have with that (fish & chips, lamburgherini) is so great that I suspect they have followed a training on how to fry chips in Belgium (i.e. not Belgian standards, but close). The tasting is less good. Entertaining, but the place is too crowded, noisy and hot to be perfectly enjoyable. We are right next to the roaring fire place and I have to ask to turn it down once I have stripped down to my undies, as I am boiling. Ah well.