27 January 2014

25/01/2014 Burns to be alive (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

Invergordon 25yo 1988/2013 (46%, Berry Bros Selected by Berrys', C#8997) (brought by kruuk2): nose: varnish, coconut, toasted oak, paint thinner -- the archetypal grain, if you like. JD does not like it, everyone else does. :-) Cinnamon, ginger bread. Mouth: ginger bread and toasted coconut. Finish: lovely, full of ginger bread, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Not the cleverest, perhaps, yet full of goodness. Top grain. 8/10

Cakes make it to the table. They are the usual, but one of them is enhanced with Port Dundas C#120306, which is a first. Mrs. sonic has an allergy that is triggered by alcohol, but she indulges anyway because she is weak.

Glencraig 1970/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice) (brought by sonicvince): finally get to try this, which was bought a couple of years ago and transited through my place. Nose: citrus aplenty (lemon, kalamantsi, waxy grapefruit), an orange tree in the sun. Mouth: slightly acidic, to then become smooth and easy. It feels a bit watery, rather than creamy, but is balanced enough. Finish: a faint, metallic bitterness, before bakery takes over in waves. I am not raving as enthusiastically as sonicvince, but it certainly is a very good dram. 8/10

Lost in contemplation
Lochside 30yo 1981/2011 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Bourbon Hogshead, 246b) (brought by dom666): an old friend, this one. dom666 has managed not to open his bottle thus far and is looking forward to it. Nose: bonded warehouse with a clay floor in which hundreds of mossy casks are ageing. And fruit behind it: maracuja, peach. Mouth: stings a bit at "merely" 55%, what with it being the first cask strength of the night. Other than that, it is full of win. A pungent fruit juice. Finish: unripe, ripe and overripe fruit compete for attention, all in one bottle. There is an unexpected amount of bitterness (the unripe) and a drop-kick of passion fruit (the ripe and overripe). The star of the night. Poor JD finds this is the only dram he likes tonight, which is a pity. I think he is drunk. :-) 9/10

Port Dundas 17yo 1991/2008 (61.5%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Barrel C#120306, 180b) (brought by me): again, JD is against the grain and therefore does not care for this one. Nose: coffee, super dark chocolate. Mouth: powerful, round, sweet and liqueur-like, not unlike a Bourbon. Varnish, wood glue. Finish: wonderful, coating, full of bakery and coffee. 7/10

Home-made truffles (enhanced with HP 1990) and shortbread appear (and disappear rather quickly).

After this third grain to reset our taste buds once more and before we start unleashing the Islay, why not try something special?

Banff 35yo 1975/2011 (42.4%, Douglas Laing Old & Rare A Platinum Selection, Refill Hogshead, 158b): we had this one last year. It is one we bought together. If we do not have it for Burns' Night, then when is good? Nose: dust, fresh laundry (kruuk2), Provence herbs (thyme, oregano, sage), wax, fabric softener. Mouth: yup, wax, soft cheese, herbs, fruit too, though I cannot tell which one. Finish: dried herbs again. It is missing the Chaumes-rind I felt the first time I had it at the Whisky Show 2011, but remains a great, great dram. 9/10

dom666 -La pollution, je dis: "non." Le whisky, je dis: "oui."

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (50%, OB) (brought by JD): nose: braised bacon (not smoked), burnt tyre (ruckus), burning embers and some nail varnish for good measure. Mouth: honey, wood influence and cured meat. Finish: barbecue with gravy sweetness. Last week's PC was better, I thought. 7/10

Ar2 b.2009 (60.5%, Speciality Brands Elements of Islay) (brought by ruckus): nose: burnt merguez (dom666), the same impression as eating a cigar (sonicvince). Lots of burnt, charcoaled wood.  Mouth: wood smoke alongside a sweeter note. Finish: long and invading, full of embers and wet camp-fire smoke. It is big and bold... and unsubtle to the extreme. It is OK to finish on, but is otherwise not very interesting. 5/10

sonicvince and Mrs. sonic leave. JD, JS and adc go to sleep. Off-tasting, the final four have the following:

North British 45yo 1963/2009 (50.7%, Signatory Vintage, Hogsheads CC#117362, 117363, 117365, 290b) (brought by dom666 and myself): kruuk2 and ruckus could not attend the Novermber tasting, so this is a catch-up session, really. Nose: varnish, flat cola, lots of pastry scents -- violet croissant. Superb! Mouth: aaaaaaarrhhrhrhrrhhh! Bakery, violet jelly, lavender. Not usually very popular notes in a dram, but we all love them. Finish: flat cola, wonderful blackcurrant jelly on warm croissant. Wonderful drop of whisky! 9/10

We call it a night at 4AM. ruckus had prepared some mighty fine music (a disco mix, including, of course, Patrick Hernandez), but due to a missing cable, we had to listen to it on a tinny phone speaker. Good fun, though.

The following day, we have haggis leftovers with melted cheese on top of grilled mushrooms -- absolutely outstanding. Not a dram to go with it, though. My fellow tasters seem to have had enough. :-)

The rubbles

25/01/2014 Burns to be alive (Part 1)

Our biggest private whisky event of the year is here again: Burns' Night. dom666 gave this "theme" as a joke, years ago and now, it is implemented. Ha!

While the guests arrive one by one, we have a dram of Dailuaine 27yo 1982/2009 (46%, Speciality Drinks Single Malts of Scotland, C#809, 230b) to clear up some shelf space.

The suspects: adc, sonicvince + Mrs. sonic, JS, kruuk2, dom666, ruckus, Psycho, JD and myself. PS unfortunately calls off.

The menu:
Mammoth's bollock

The mammoth's bollocks

Deanston Virgin Oak (46.3%, OB, P030146 L5) (brought by dom666): nose: ballsy (sonicvince; "il a des Burnes," in original version). Plum eau-de-vie, liqueur pralines, then plum fruit. Mouth: almonds, toasted coconut, sweet and oily. The virgin oak is speaking, then. Finish: almond bitterness kumquats (adc). Long and warming; a pleasant dram to start with.

Enters the starter: leek soup with herby toasted croutons.

Linlithgow 24yo 1982/2007 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50, C DL REF 3560, 303b) (brought by me): nose: herbaceous, slightly metallic, before it moves towards bonded warehouse and lichen. Then apple comes out, as well as a bit of leather (sonicvince). Mouth: dry and fruity, packed with more acidic apples. Finish: lovely apple juice, spring flowers, barley sugar and hay. The first St Magdalene I ever bought and it still delivers.

In comes the main dish: haggis (it spent hours behaving perfectly in the oven, then exploded in the last sprint, unfortunately), potato, swede and leek bake, potato and parsnip gratin, as well as enhanced gratin dauphinois (with mushrooms). For the first time, there is also a sauce to go with it (secret ingredients).

Highland Park 8yo (40%, GMP The MacPhail's) (brought by ruckus): nose: peat, heather, slightly animal, with a whiff of smoke. sonicvince finds it medicinal. Mouth: heather honey, really sweet and soft -- splendid. Finish: some sulphur, now, but mostly embers, smoke and light peat. A bit rough, I guess, but very pleasant, if not perfect.

Longrow (46%, OB, ca 2013) (brought by JD): nose: a farmyard and all that goes with it. Mud, coffee, manure, straw, cattle, ... JD finds it too chemical. Mouth: oily and muddy. Finish: woah! farmyard with a touch of dark fruit. Dark cherries, barley sugar and black pepper. Nice.

Psycho has to leave: he has to wake up early for a ballet-dancing jamboree tomorrow. I am in charge of his bottle, though we end up not trying it at all. We had it a while ago and have so many other things to try anyway.

Go, Belgium!
Lambertus 10yo (40%, OB) (brought by sonicvince): Belgian whisky. Most of us know the name, but have not tried it, so this piques our interest. Nose: nice grain, gentle and easy. Varnish, vanilla, marzipan and sultanas, all impressively balanced. Mouth: light to the point it is nearly watery. Much less convincing than the nose. Finish: fruit cake, sultanas again, cinnamon, a lot longer than expected and surprisingly good. Nice one, Belgium!

The 17th serving of everything
Belgian Owl 8mo (46%, OB, C#4018731) (brought by adc): we had this one when we visited the distillery, a few years ago, and thought it was better than the 3 year-old whisky they were selling at the time. Nose: pears, apples and shoe boxes. Old leather. Mouth: pear juice, though watery again. Too diluted for my taste, today. Finish: pear and -- wait! Is it chocolate? Well, it is a Belgian malt after all... Excellent dram, pity about the low ABV. Maybe it would do a better impression under different circumstances.

We talk about how the Monty Python tickets sold in seconds when they were put on sale and wonder if the show will be any good.

sonicvince -Isn't one of them dead?
me -Yeah: Graham Chapman.
kruuk2 -There's his brother too...
me -...?
kruuk2 -Poday. Poday Chapman.
(The above only makes sense if you understand French, I suppose)

"I'll make a note while you stroke your chin."
Continue with Part 2.

20 January 2014

18/01/2014 LoLoBridgIDa

If you read this blog regularly, you will know I am not one to shy away from ridiculous puns and unlikely themes (if you do not know what I am talking about, may I suggest you read the other articles?) Now, one of the challenges when hosting a tasting with friends is to make sure they can bring something that fits the bill. Whether it is something they already have or something they have to purchase for the occasion. The risk with existing collections and given tastes is that we could end up doing Islay tastings, Ardbeg verticals, Laphroaig round-tables or Glenmorangie finishes. All nice, but awfully monotonous.
Dodgy puns are my way out of those sterile selections. In this case, anything with a name that contains 'Lo', 'Bridg', 'I' or 'Da.' Now, that should offer some interesting variations. Please note some prefer to try n expressions of the same distillery in one sitting -- their choice. I am perfectly happy with that if they are, of course. Each to their own.
The suspects: md, idealrichard, Fixou, JS and myself.
Oh! I discover at the end of the shindig that not one attendant knows what the pun is about -- in fact, md even thinks I have arranged bits of names of things I want to taste to make up a word. No. Here she is.

Before Leia, there was Gina

Longmorn 16yo (48%, OB, ca 2008) (me): nose: nice, this, full of oranges. Mouth: lots of oranges and a bit of leather. Simpleish and easy, without pretension. Finish: soft and delicate, with sweet orange rinds. People say this is horrible and a lot worse than the 15 year-old Chivas used to sell. I really cannot remember the 15 (over a decade since I last had it), but I think this one does not deserve the bad press (thanks kruuk2 for the sample). 7/10

Lochside 21yo 1989/2011 (48.2%, DL Old Malt Cask, Refill Barrel C#6953, 126b) (idealrichard): we tried this one last summer, but Fixou and md have not had it. Plus a Lochside is always worth trying twice (or more), is it not? Nose: figs (Fixou), overripe fruit, decaying fruit, a touch of sweaty feet and varnish. Very consistent with my notes from June. Also blue cheese and menthol, after a while in the glass. Mouth: yep, fruit and polished wood, as last time. Finish: slightly dry, with more fruit and walnut shells. It definitely is the same drink. To be honest, it is more interesting than good (it is not bad by any means), but I like it a lot. Sufficiently weird to keep one intrigued. 8/10

Glenlochy 1974 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b.1990s) (me): nose: lots of dust, as is usual with those old bottles. Varnish then emerges, with some berries behind it. Fixou finds it herbal and floral and says that, like other 1970s' bottlings he has tried, it gives out a note of balsamic vinegar. He is right too: very noble balsamic vinegar is there indeed. idealrichard detects perfume in it. Mouth: herbs to a point it becomes slightly metallic. Berries again. It feels like licking a knife that was used to cut berries, sprinkled with high-quality vinaigrette. Finish: super complex, this! Bonded warehouse, lichen, berries and vinegar again, morphing from one to the other and back again. Wow! 9/10

Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 (62.5%, OB) (md): nose: plums aplenty. In fact, I am convinced we are nosing plum eau-de-vie blended with a bit of grain. Mouth: powerful, yet not anaesthetising and quite round. Finish: balanced, grainy, rather jammy with some fruit. Interesting and certainly easier to drink than the 62.4% suggest. Definitely eau-de-vie related -- Quetsch and Slivovice come to mind. One for P, this.

Longrow's new packaging
A long row of people waiting for the pour
Longrow 18yo (46%, OB, b.2012) (idealrichard): nose: if you have ever walked into a farmyard, dear reader, this is it. Manure, mud, earth, hay, dried fern, rubber cement (JS -- it is a glue, apparently). Mouth: fresh and grassy, before it moves on to subtle manure. Then mud comes back. Finish: oh! yes, lots of very fine peat, which gives a distinctive impression of being at a farm. This does not disappoint! 8/10

G4.1 29yo 1979/2008 Mellow Menthol (53%, SMWS Society Cask, 236b) (me): our only 'bridg' comes in the shape of this Cameron Bridge that I "picked up" after a tasting in July. JS and I have tried it last year, but I cannot say I remember it much. Nose: vanilla, bakery, rose water (Fixou), orange water (Fixou). Girly, but well built (Fixou -- he must be talking about Gina). JS reckons it smells really sweet, with marshmallow candy. Croissant dough and noble wood for me. Mouth: perfect balance. Finish: a flash of fleeting exotic fruit (mango, maracuja), before it settles on the traditional bakery. A beautiful grain that has everyone under its spell (heartfelt thanks to PS). 9/10

Imperial 1969 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b.1980s) (me): nose: grassy and mineral, dusty (another old bottle, innit). This is very, very complex! Lots of different herbs and all kinds of stones. Mouth: light and balanced, still quite grassy and unexpectedly powerful for its meagre 40%. Finish: some chocolate, a white-wine edge, maybe even some restrained leather. This is wonderful stuff. Another great CC brown label. 8/10

Dailuaine 16yo (43%, OB Flora & Fauna, ca 2010) (JS): nose: orange juice, a leather workshop. Pleasant nose if there ever was one, with nothing that shouts louder than the rest or louder than it should. Mouth: dark chocolate. Finish: chocolate with a citrus kick. Useless notes, by now, but what a great dram. It remains my favourite F&F (the Rosebank is not too far off, in a different price bracket) and, by the reaction it caused, I doubt I am the only one to think that way. 8/10

md likes tha sausage
Dailuaine 22yo 1973/1996 (61.8%, OB RMS) (me): nose: eau-de-vie, acrid (Fixou), bacon, strangely enough. It then evolves towards banane flambée with citrus rind. Mouth: smooth and powerful at the same time (Fixou). Pepper- and chilli-infused, banana-flavoured pudding. Finish: great kick, loaded with black pepper. I have not had a bad RMS bottling -- this is not breaking that rule. Fierce stuff too, at 61.80%. 8/10

md -Banffshire? It seems as though they make up names that you cannot pronounce. Does it even exist?
JS  -Banffshire? Oh yeah, that's a place in Scotland.
md -No shit.

md and idealrichard unfortunately have to leave at this point.

Fix   -You will love the Port Charlotte, JS. It is not at all as usual.
me    -It does not smell of smoked bacon, it smells of braised bacon!

Cooley 21yo b.2013 (56.3%, Cad World Whiskies, 210b) (Fixou): strictly speaking, this one is not in theme. However, Fixou has been willing to open it for months. Besides, if you spell Cooley backwards, it reads yelooC. Good enough. Nose: bacon and fruit. Strawberry, banana, mango and peat. Mouth: ooooooh! Lots of bitterness alongside warm embers and green things (it is an Irish whiskey, after all), with a note of vanilla. Lovely. Finish: long, warming, drying, with some charcoal, flowers and some subtle fruit. And then: bam! A dropkick of fleeting passion fruit. Excellent dram. 8/10

127.33 11yo 2002/2013 Mouth-numbing mountaineering dram (63.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 182b) (Fixou): here comes the Port Charlotte, then. Nose: lots of peat, of course, but also something else -- candle wax? Wick? This is the right whisky to end with: not only is it big and peaty, it also boasts an ABV to make one blind (63+%). Fruit and alcohol, as well as a touch of discrete vanilla. Mouth: lots of horsepower, with light fruit (white grapes, white plums) and tons of peat. Finish: an onslaught of peat with a dash of fruit. Not the kind of drams one could drink a lot of, but it is well pleasant in this context. 7/10

Still quite a mess, in the background

As an apotheosis to this first successful tasting at the new gaff, 127.33 will not do, though. Having said that, we need something that is able to follow it convincingly. Time to pull out the big guns.

Lost in contemplation
Lochside 46yo 1964/2011 (42.1%, TWE, C#8970, 139b) (me): nose: such fruitiness! Is it really necessary to say more? I have commented on this one on this blog and it is still the same quality, even after the monstrous Port Charlotte that should have rendered it pretty much tasteless. Fixou calls it a contemplative whisky. I call it bliss. Pity md and idealrichard had to leave early.
Splendid afternoon.

17 January 2014

17/01/2014 Blitz at Berrys' #5

Linkwood 26yo 1987/2013 (46%, Berry Bros Selected by Berrys', C#1043): fresh, subtle, rather green, in a good way. An enjoyable dram that opens up to deliver grass and hay.

Bunnahabhain 25yo 1987/2013 (46%, Berry Bros Selected by Berrys', C#2448): shy, this one. Citrus in the nose, milk chocolate and herbs in the finish.

BenRiach 17yo 1996/2013 (49.7%, Berry Bros Selected by Berrys', C#45754): leather, which is unexpected from a BenRiach. Shoe polish too. All tame, though. A second fill sherry butt which must have been quite active. Fruit shows up on the nose, after a while, whereas the mouth is quite metallic.

Speyside 18yo 1995/2013 (56.1%, Berry Bros Selected by Berrys', C#33): meaty, sherried, medicinal, even, in a pharmacy kind of way. It turns sugary, chock-full of caramel, toffee, with dark chocolate in the finish. Lovely and interesting.