24 March 2014

21/03/2014 Benjamin, Benedict and Bennet are on a boat, celebrating spring

Yes, I know.

Benrinnes 1968 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b.1980s): nose: immediately sparkly, full of soda drinks, effervescent tabs (Alka Seltzer?), ground green pepper, straight off the mill, citrus rinds (unripe orange), and citrus-scented detergent (the kind one uses to clean sinks, not washing-up liquid). Some dry fruits wave discreetly from far behind. Dust and old cardboard, a trademark of those old bottlings. A whiff of old leather shoes comes out at second nosing. With water, it simply becomes shy. Mouth: quite pungent for its modest 40%. Lots of pepper, dried orange zest, truckloads of sea salt too. Unexpected. With water, mellow, peppered cream. Finish: oh! the salt assault! It is a plain assalt. Long and drying, with more than a hint of sawdust, unripe-lemon zest, more pepper and lots and lots of salt. Very particular. Tequila frappée, anyone? With water, bitterer and the salt is more controlled. This is not unlike licking fruit stones. This experience could hardly be further from the recent 36.6x at the Society. Almost no fruit and tons of salt. 6/10

Benromach 1968 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b.1980s): nose: the sherry influence is obvious, here. Citrus rinds, orange liqueur (Curaçaõ, Grand Marnier, Cointreau), yet also leather belts and horse saddles. A deeper sniff reveals cocoa butter with mocha shavings in it. Water turns it into pure orange liqueur. Mouth: an elegant blend of leather and citrus, with the bitterness of orange pits and faint, dark chocolate to keep it interesting. The chocolate grows stronger with each sip. With water, the chocolate is gone, leaving only orange liqueur. Finish: dark chocolate, now, even a touch of mocha and paprika. It is long and comforting, pleasant indeed. There is a slightly sparkly note in the aftertaste that makes it quite lively, despite its respectable age. With water: thin and bitter, full of orange rinds and liqueur, still, but ruined all the same. Do not add water. 8/10

Ben Nevis Traditional (46%, OB, ca 2012): nose: roasted cereals, summer camp fire -- never has it been so close to a trailerful of cereals after a long, sunny harvesting day. Some smoke is perceptible, but the warm cereals are not what speaks out the loudest. Far from it. Mouth: smooth texture, sweet and soft, still full of cereals. Rude Health porridge? Oh yes! Smoked cereals in the back and they are trying to be heard alright. Finish: more roasted-and-toasted goodness. The smoke eventually settles in to complement the roastage. Superb balance and a pleasant mix of flavours. 7/10

12 March 2014

08/03/2014 10th anniversary of the Iraqi Constitution, 197th anniversary of NYSE

Any excuse, eh? Finding a theme is easy. Finding one everyone can stick to is harder. It is tough enough to find a date everyone can make. Anyway.

The suspects: idealrichard, JS, MJ and myself.

The menu:
Yes, the menu.
Tormore 12yo (40%, OB) (brought by MJ): a dram that is often overlooked and dismissed as sub-par by enthusiasts. I have not had it for a decade, so quite excited. Nose: warm cherry pie, burnt dough and a bit of soot. Mouth: smooth and subtle, dark cherries and melted chocolate. Finish: this is nice, gentle, delicate chocolate and dried cherries. I thought the recentish string of 105s at the Society were unique, but it seems those cherry notes are characteristics of the distillate -- and they are lovely! 7/10

Johnnie Walker 15yo Green Label (43%, Blended malt) (brought by idealrichard): this is a Wall Street drink. Nose: toffee and caramel, green, unripe banana (MJ), cooked plantains, I say. Light smoke (a distant fireplace), it also has fudge and all sorts of good, buttery things. Not challenging, but pleasant. Mouth: watery. Toffee again, very diluted coffee, fudge. A bit indistinct. Finish: a lot peatier than anticipated, then black pepper (courtesy of the Talisker inside, presumably). 7/10

Nice socks
Coleburn 14yo 1983/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage, C#796, 3650b, 97/1173) (brought by me): first ever Coleburn, here -- yay! I suppose it was more Oilburn in Iraq, but hey. Let us say Cole as a banker, and burn as did the bombs during the many Iraqi wars. Nose: dust, old car engine (a Jeep from the Second World War's), game, stoat -- this is surprisingly animal, with a little bit of coffee. Mouth: suffers from the low strength, unfortunately. My fellow tasters think it tastes of grain. Air-freshener (idealrichard), cereals. Finish: toasted cereals (Kellogg's Smacks), roasted beans, oil and coal. This is certainly particular! Lovely stuff from the "good old days," but not for everyone. 7/10

Saddam Magdalene 26yo 1982/2009 (59.1%, Douglas Laing for The Whisky Shop Glenkeir's Treasure Cask Strength, 144b) (me): 'nuff said. Nose: gooseberries, redcurrant, then marzipan, milk chocolate, some varnish and pine dust. Dear, this is nice! Flint and cut apples come last. Mouth: more wood, now, with also toffee and milk chocolate, but also bay leaves. The texture is quite milky. Finish: lovely! The perfect amount of alcohol, wood (coconut, vanilla) and flower juice. 9/10

Matured in green-pepper casks.
That's the experiment.
Experimental Batch v4 (43%, Compass Box Great King Street, b.2013) (MJ): nose: bubblegum (MJ), fruit (cut apple again), sweets -- apple bubblegum it is, then. Mouth: green pepper, green capsicum, a little honey. Finish: more of the same -- green capsicum and green pepper with a bit of salt and caramel. 7/10

Ardmore 14yo 1991/2006 (57.9%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask, CC#6158, 6159, 6160, JF/BAF) (idealrichard): this is the only other bottle idealrichard could reach in his cupboard. Nose: full of farmyard goodness (cow dung, and manured haystacks) with some fruit. Not quite 1992 fruit, but it does the job. Peach and quince. This is close to a Brora to me (see yesterday's notes). Mouth: sharp and lively, though still very full of mud (farmyard) in stone alleys. Finish: yes, very 1982-Broraish. Earth, dry clay, ploughed fields, but also potato, believe it or not. Ash and soot come out later in the game. 8/10

Springbank 18yo (46%, OB, b.2009, 09/131) (me): nose: the more I drink this one, the better it gets. Aniseed (MJ), dark cherries, a dryness that I would relate to lichen or dunnage warehouse. Later moving toward leather belts and melting butter. Yes, the sherry is well present, in this one. Mouth: dark cherries and lichen dryness -- this reminds me of the Lochside 1981/2011 from Cadenhead, now! It flows easily, with coal particles sticking to the palate. Finish: dark chocolate and burnt rubber with a touch of dark fruit goodness. Beautiful! 8/10

idealrichard leaves. Off-tasting and to impress MJ, we have G5.5 and Ben Nevis Traditional.

Excellent times. Good to welcome a new face too.

07/03/2014 Two lunch drams

Unlikely finds in a secret lunch spot. Of course, I take advantage while I can.
Here is a clue
Brie buttery
Rosebank 1991/2009 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, Sherry Cask, JI/JABB): nose: citrus, grassy garden full of flowers. Not very complex, but incredibly fresh. An hour later, subtle, yet unexpected sherry notes emerge: coffee and orange rinds. Mouth: honey, flowers, mango juice with a dash of lemon -- superb, if a little thin, perhaps. Finish: more honey and fruit (peach), milky, light and easy. One would drink litres of this! 9/10

'The salmon mousse!'
Brora 1982/2008 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Butt): nose: very earthy, big farmyard scents, ploughed fields, a light coal mist, far in the back. This is very pleasant indeed! A tractor's exhaust pipe. Mouth: bold for its 46%. Ashy, earthy, yet creamy and mellow at the same time. A great sponge cake. Finish: long, long, long. Would benefit from a higher ABV, but otherwise terrific. Black tea, earth, ground coffee beans. Looking forward to trying this one again. 8/10

With that, we have a brie and cranberry buttery (a sort of hot croissant) and salmon pâté with a lentil salad. Then a piece of cake. A hail storm falls from the sky while we are there, then it is grand sunshine again.

11 March 2014

06/03/2014 P/O/U/R/S at the Kilderkin

One of the two main reasons we are in Edinburgh today is that this tasting is taking place. The line-up does not contain anything I would go for if I had to choose, but then that is part of the appeal. The venue is a back room in a local pub, the audience is around thirty-strong, connoisseurs and first-timers, the host is well-baked even as we walk in (he got a drink or two from the Finns we met at the show last year, amongst others), the purpose is simple: Peaty, Old, Unusual, Rare and Sherry, and the proceedings are even simpler: we try everything blind, then share impressions before the host tells us what we just had.

A Krautpleaser
Craigellachie-Glenlivet 14yo 1999/2014 (55.1%, Cadenhead for 10th anniversary of Berlin shop, 234b): bottled to celebrate the German branch of Cadenhead's -- only a handful of bottles in the UK, this is the Rare. Nose: sawdust aplenty, burnt custard, stale Grand Marnier. With water: more flowers come out and white grapes. Mouth: sawdust in milk, a bit stripping, it has quite a sting. With water: immensely improved. Most of the bitterness went in favour of white grapes and chocolate milk. Finish: dry -- pleasantly so, but dry. Dryish white wine and strong coffee. With water: still wine and coffee, but shy enough to be agreeable. This is ok, not something I would buy, though it gets A LOT better with water. 5/10

JollyToper, 'This was 46.70£, but if you want the last bottles, suckers, it'll cost you 55£, 'cos my boss is a capitalist.'

JollyToper, 'When we tried this one in the shop, we thought it would be a Krautpleaser.'

Invergordon 25yo 1988/2013 (51.5%, Whiskybroker, C#8117, 86b): this could be the Old, but it is in fact the Unusual. Nose: butter and all sorts of dairy, a whiff of glue (J), some kind of wood paste, liquid paper. Fruit and caramel, says our table neighbour. Mouth: creamy, coconut milk with wood shavings again. Big wood influence, here. Finish: this is Invergordon alright. There is a fleeting discharge of blackcurrant, then loads of woody sawdust. I am proud to have recognised it (should not, really, it was dead easy). 7/10

Successful rum maturation
Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 22yo 1991/2013 Rum Cask (56.8%, Cadenhead, 498b): this one is the Old. Nose: dry and ripe -- I thought some wine maturation, but it might be rum after all. High strength and a rough edge -- in a nice way. Cough syrup with an orange tang. Water takes the edge away a bit. Lots of vanilla, now. Mouth: oh! yes, drying. This is a rum cask, but a well-balanced one. Lots of orange that coats the tongue. With water: a lot more balanced and pleasant, full of blood orange and caramel. lovely. Finish: long and nice, with lovely orange. With water: the same, but less pronounced. 8/10

Glentauchers 16yo 1997/2013 (54.3%, GMP Cask Strength for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Hogshead, C#5580): nose: SHERRY! That would be the Sherry, then. Meat, leather, unsalted biltong, smoked haddock says our neighbour, 'proper smoked haddock, not that crap from the supermarket' (another fellow taster at our table). Old saddles, cured meat, an old man wearing a smoking jacket in a library (J). Burning candle wick. With water: better -- the meat is more discreet. Mouth: fortified wine it is, very sherried indeed, full of meaty and gamey notes. Finish: smoked haddock is now taking over in a huge way, very salty and wide. Subtle peat smoke. Water does not alter it, it only makes it everything tamer. Good finish, otherwise not exactly my bag. Good swimmer, but it does not improve so much. 6/10

Lagavulin 12yo b.2013 (55.1%, OB Natural Cask Strength): obviously the Peat. Nose: barley, smoke, peat, chewing tobacco, one-dimensional and overpriced (the whole room says the same). Lots of alcohol and easily decipherable peat. Mouth: shellfish, oil rigs, all sorts of maritime shenanigan. Finish: invading and ashy. Smoked mussels, but nothing really noteworthy. This is soooo unsubtle. Certainly not bad, but simply not interesting. Well, after a while, blackcurrant emerges. Simple and monolithic and not at all good value for money. 6/10

There is a raffle at the end. Nearly everyone gets something and so do we: a mini of Gentleman's Jack and a mini of an Aldi blend. A nice touch.

JollyToper is sorry that none of those drams really did the trick for me, but it does not matter. The whole experience was nicely informal and a good night out. The drams were good quality, just not my thing. And -- hey! It cannot always be White Bowmore.
Mac Ukulele

06/03/2014 Lunch at the Vaults

The weather is dry and it is only a thirty-minute walk from home-base to Leith, so no excuse. A strange walk it is, going from the posh streets of Edinburgh, through gradually more and more run-down areas, diving deep through the layers of social classes, before reaching the Scottish Government district, an island of great wealth in a distressed, post-industrial town. Similar to Liverpool in many ways, what with the city centre being rehabilitated and gentrified, while the surrounding parts, some of them beyond repair, are still on the waiting list.

Once at the Vaults, the atmosphere is, as usual, laid back and cosy, posh and comforting.
The oldest building in town.
With a cellar in use since the 16th Century.

64.53 12yo 2001 Retro and Kitsch (57.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill Bourbon Barrel, 232b): missed out on this one in London, the other day. Now is the time to catch up. Nose: flowers essence (daffodils spring to mind, but it could just as well be forsythia), white pepper and a bit of mustard -- quite strong on the nostrils, in fact. Mouth: hot grape juice, with more ground white pepper straight off the mill, hot English mustard. Once the alcohol wanes out, bakery sweetness settles in, éclair territory. Finish: very milky chocolate, now, invading and smooth, with a sprinkle of wine vinegar. This is lovely! 8/10

Lovely ceiling
36.71 22yo 1991 Lemonade in a garden centre (52.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill Bourbon Hogshead, 261b): nose: sexy! Coconut, vanilla and other traditional wood influences. Behind that, blonde tobacco and burning hay. Some herbs (tarragon, sage) to a near-metallic point. Body butter, crushed nuts (aouch!), toasted oat and caramel (J). Mouth: milky and hot, fiery even, red chilli in a coconut-milk curry. This one is hugely influenced by the wood, but it works. Finish: a ride through spicy, nutty butter, milk chocolate paste, bay leaf and oily salad. Mint, maybe? Swoosh! 8/10

80.1 11yo 1978/1990 (56.8%, SMWS Society Cask): an old glory that was offered at a tasting recently; the members' room has the leftovers -- oh! not much of it, mind. Too good an opportunity to pass. Nose: seems very neutral at first nosing. At second nosing, it seems to contain a lot of grape seeds. Lemon tart, lemon curd, even Victoria sponge cake, but mostly the bitterness of grape seeds. Rather unusual. With water, pretty much the same. Mouth: green-chilli-infused milk. It takes a bit of time to feel the chilli (hence green, the well-known time-bomb chilli), but once it is there, it is quite damaging. With water, the mouth remains fiery. Finish: white grapes, milk chocolate and white spirit. This has potential, but it is too strong, neat. The bitterness is quite intense. With water, more milk chocolate, yet again, it remains wild. This one is more interesting than good and less good than the far more recent 80.6, but an interesting dram it certainly is! From an era when SMWS was bottling fierce stuff young, and thought turning blind was preferable to adding water (they still do, I suppose). 6/10

The rather cosy bar
20.1 9yo 1976/1985 (64.5%, SMWS Society Cask): we missed out on an Inverleven last night, much to my disappointment. This time, we will not let it slip! Nose: my nasal hair is dissolving again (64.5%, w00t!) Lots of solvents, with also peach stones, leather saddles, faint mocha, liquorice, ... Yes, this is an old man's dram -- a bit of a surprise, for a Lowlander. With water: a lot more toasted oak, now. It then evolves to become a grape sorbet, sprinkled with Nesquik powder and crushed mint leaves. Very nice. Mouth: very strong again, yet it seems more balanced than the previous dram, strangely enough. It is still quite fierce, however. Milky, varnishy, liquorice-y. With water: the varnish disappears almost completely to make room for fruit (grapes and their seeds). Finish: grape-seed-infused alcohol vinegar. Some burnt caramel too. It is tongue-stripping, unfortunately. Probably needs water. Butterscotch and herbs try and make an appearance, but are pretty much muted by the high ABV. With water: much more pleasant, with milk chocolate, melted in a milk coffee. Not extraordinarily complex, but a nice dram. 6/10

"I can have euh,
23 bottles?"
Several obnoxious Frogs walk in, spending time on the phone inside the venue (not allowed) and talking loudly ('Excuse me, euh, I can smoke here?') They want to buy 24 bottles of 36.71, much to the annoyance of the bar staff. I cannot express how happy I am that my French friends are not like that.

6.2 12yo 1974/1987 (62%, SMWS Society Cask): another old glory, this. Not sure how it ended up here, but delighted, as I have never seen a Macduff from the SMWS before, and it is a rare-ish distillery to begin with. Nose: a leather workshop, shoe polish on all kinds of leather belts and boots. Stewed prunes too, as well as a platter of seafood. Mouth: quite tame at first (remember that 64.5% Inverleven!), then black pepper (lots of it) and game casserole, hot and saucy. With water: orange comes out more assertively. Finish: oomph! Hot and drying, sticky like a napalm bomb (not that I ever tasted one). OXO broth, Marmite, biltong (Pistorius, if you're reading us...) Big and meaty, with lots of pepper. A good example of strong sherry maturation. The recent Cadenhead bottling was probably more balanced, but this is good too. 7/10

We have a soup of the day (tomato) and sandwiches (chicken and mayo for JS, brie and tom salad for me).

10 March 2014

05/03/2014 An evening at the Bon Accord

After spending a day in Cardonald (for those who know), a night in G-town seems inevitable. This one had made a good impression. Have they got anything that might tickle our fancy? Boy, do they!

Banff 30yo 1975/2006 (42.2%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#3416, 147b): a modest dram without much interest. Nose: very perfume-y. Sandal wood, orange blossom, custard and a little bit of leather. Excellent nose, this is! Flowers (daffodils?), dill (JS), a mixture of coconut paste, pineapple juice and happiness. Mouth: milky, with a tiny, bitter note of dandelion stems. Altogether sweet and comforting. Finish: woah! Long, rich like custard, soft like peach, sweet like honey and spicy like a cinnamon pancake, mellow like a pillow, juicy like a mango, oh-oh-oh. The best Banff I have tried, so far. Must go buy. 10/10

Glenugie 25yo 1981/2006 (51.5%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#5188, 323b): another supermarket dram. The waiter breaks the cork, argh. Nose: a completely different profile; this is an old man's dram, with pipe tobacco, chesterfield sofas and a warm fireplace, liquorice and game casserole. Roasted cocoa beans, discreet, torrefied coffee. What is it, in the back? Melon? Pineapple? Some exotic fruit, in any case. Tame, but it is there. After a while, punch emerges, with chunks of blood oranges and cherries floating in it. Mouth: turpentine, solvents, blood orange bitterness, and it is unexpectedly strong too. The second sip brings wood and enough leather to fill a saddlery. It remains creamy, still. Finish: a festival of blood orange juice spilled on a leather belt. Lots of white-peppered steak too. A great example of perfectly controlled sherry maturation. Very nice. 9/10

My preciouses
Glen Mhor 31yo 1975/2007 (41.8%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#4037, 157b): they have an Inverleven and this. Since I enjoyed the Mhors on Sunday, I go for this one. Nose: this is taking the old man's whisky into tuberculosis territory: pipe tobacco, cigar, chewing tobacco, then bay leaves and black cardamom, black peppercorn, sumac, even decaying pears, probably. Mouth: slightly fruitier than the nose (pear again, not really the sweet kind), but mostly tobacco again. Definitely an old man's dram. Texture is oily and pleasant, warming and comforting. A touch of chocolate, at third sip, and even marzipan. Finish: again, ample, warming and comforting, full of chocolate. I want Mhor of it. 8/10

When I order the Mhor flight, a guy at the bar asks me what it is. He is an SWA agent, but does not seem to know this distillery. I have him nose mine, as well as the below, after he says he does not tend to like Islay malts. He goes for a Mhor as well and tells me later how much he enjoyed it. He adds, 'I'm glad I ordered that without asking the price and not [the below] without asking the price!'


There's nothing in the world as black
Black Bowmore 42yo 1964/2007 (40.5%, OB The Trilogy, Oloroso Sherry Casks, 827b): hehe. Nose: an oil slick (JS). Right. White Bowmore was top of the shelf, last night? This is on the same level -- perhaps even higher. Some sherry influence (no shit, Sherlock!) and tons and tons of fruit. Stupid amounts. Litchis in full force, mango, papaya, super juicy quince and a faint peat smoke, hardly noticeable. What is noticeable, on the other hand, is a rubbery note -- but it is far from annoying. Barbecued pineapple, roasted jackfruit, ash, to some extent. Such complexity! Mouth: now, the rubber is becoming more assertive, but it is still in check. With it come many fruits again, starting with blood orange and ripe melon (cantaloupe, this time), then passion fruit, decaying pears and stewed prunes. Very creamy and so, so beautiful! Finish: picking fruit at high speed and burning tyres (JS). A perfect balance of fruit, sherry rubber and black tea. Absolutely amazing. Black pepper, liquorice, some smoke that lingers on for a long while, alongside strong coffee, black tea and, indeed, stewed prunes. Excellent dram, very special. I give it a 16/10 too.

We are joined by two maltless friends, one of which notes that whisky is now priced for Russian Elton Johns. JS observes NYC has become so Disneyfied, since 1998.
For supper, we have a lasagna and chips (hi dom666) and steak & ale pie and chips, all very good.
The Disneyfication of the dram of God

04/03/2014 Supper at Albanach MkII

Back in Albanach, and this time, there is no shying away. Considering we want to make the best out of it, we even start with it. "It?" Brace yourself, dear reader: here comes...

I am the One, the only one
I am the God of Kingdom Come
Gimme the prize
White Bowmore 43yo (42.8%, OB The Trilogy, Bourbon casks, 732b): do a double-take -- yes, that is the 1964, 43 year-old that came out in 2008 indeed. Nose: name a fruit, it is there. Mango, guava, maracuja, jackfruit, grapefruit, peach, strawberry, greengage, ... Should I go on? A whiff of paraffin wax, then pear, juicy apple, apricot, ... It feels like a how-many-fruits-can-you-name test. Grapes? Check. Blackberries? Check. Quince? Check. Next to that fruit basket (it is more of a fruit market), we have a tractor saddle, which is less expected, but hints at a very old whisky (which this is). This nose is so fulfilling it is ridiculous. I need another pair of trousers immediately. This is even more exuberant than the 1968 and 1966 I have had the fortune to try. A spoonful of fruit jam dunked into a bowl of fruit juice in which pieces of fruit float calmly -- all that in the middle of a fruit market, naturally. When all that fruit finally becomes quieter (a good thirty minutes in), butterscotch, custard and vanilla pudding emerge, alongside ground Macadamia nuts. Mouth: it seems stronger (spicier, really) than the modest 43% suggest. A good balance of delicately fruity barley juice, vanilla, and tame spices (white pepper, hot paprika). Oily, rather than creamy (it is almost thin, without being weak) and ever so slightly drying. This mouth is a notch or two behind the nose, I must say -- not too surprising, when you have a nose like that. Finish: swallow this and it becomes a torrent of fruity slaps again. Litres of passion fruit first, but all the ones from the nose soon come back in a peppery cavalcade. What a ride! Such a symphony of fruit, overripe fruit (yes, even decaying papaya) and pepper. Grand. Despite the disappointing mouth (relatively speaking), I give this one a 16/10. Best whisky I have had? Hard to say (come on!) but it is a damn fine candidate.
The only way to drink this.

Tomintoul 33yo (43%, OB, b.2009): had this one at the Whisky Show, last year, and loved it. Nose: lovely apple, juicy pear, roasted nuts and white wine (the spicy kind they make mulled wine with). Coconut-shell shavings, vanilla pods, almond milk, then chocolate milk (milked-up Nesquik). Mouth: outstanding balance of toasted wood and spices, vanilla pudding and all recipes of crème anglaise. Finish: long and creamy with unexpected notes of dark grape skins to complement the almond milk. Great dram, though in the shadow of the Bowmore, obviously. 8/10

Glenmorangie Claret Wood (43%, OB): I was going to get a Nectar d'Or, but this one, along with a 30 Oloroso, shouted at me. Not something you see every day. Nose: very big wine influence, here. Butter, red wine, grapes in a tun under the sun (should make a pun, just for the fun), almond paste with a tang, blood orange juice, peppy apple and strawberry. Mouth: tannins -- talk about suggestion, but it almost feels like sipping wine to me. Well, apart from the notes of wood, of course; toasted coconut, vanilla and all. Very smooth. Impressive marriage. It often does not work, but it does, here. Finish: again, take a so-called "modern" whisky, add a few drops of red wine, ta-da! this is it. Wine without the bitterness, whisky with sun-drenched grape juice. I was afraid this was going to be laughable, but far from it. Great dram! 8/10

With that, we have a haggis-topped burger and venison sausages with black pudding and mash.

3 March 2014

02/03/2014 Mhor and Mhor and Mhor + a swan song

It is not a secret that I have a soft spot for closed distilleries. Amongst those, I feel the Invernessian tripplets are often the unloved children, which, funnily enough, makes them even more interesting to me.

Glen Mhor 21yo 1976 (43%, The Whisky Shop Glenkeir Treasures Gold Selection, 299b): had this one multiple times, including on the nearly synonymous More and Mór and Mhor tasting, and loved it each time. At 43% ABV, it is the perfect starter for tonight. I have always been curious to understand how a 21 year-old distilled in 1976 landed in the shops in 2012, by the way. Nose: ginger bread with orange zest. Cherry liqueur pralines, old leather, perhaps old books and some tame solvents. The orange scent becomes louder and louder, to the point it smells of a mix of rum and orange juice. Mouth: the bitterness of almond skins, then the sweetness of skinned almonds. Think Amaretto without sugar and a few additional horsepowers. Orange peels make a comeback too. Beautiful! Finish: very light coffee, with a spoonful of cocoa powder (or a melted, dark-chocolate Côte d'Or Mignonnette) with a sprinkle of fresh orange juice. Absolutely lovely. Very Mhorish (boom-tsch!) Why did I not buy 12 of these bottles? 8/10

Glen Mhor 30yo 1982/2012 (53.7%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead C#1606, 201b): tried this one at last year's Whisky Show and remember liking it quite a lot. Let us see if it fares well outside of that context. Nose: a different beast! A lot lighter (this is unlikely to be a sherry cask), perfume-y. Apple peels, old books, with faded, leather bindings, perhaps a very distant whiff of smoke. But yeah, the dominant notes are apple peels and perfume -- I think it is peach essence. After a minute, a hidden touch of cedar wood becomes apparent. All delicate and subtle. Mouth: apple Acid, light and pleasant, with the sharpness of citrus. The citrus morphs into orange peels, though it does remain discrete. Finish: wow! Orange rinds in milk chocolate. Any PiM's enthusiast will snigger at the thought (it must be dark chocolate!), yet this works quite well indeed. The second sip shows a newly found bitterness to match the acidity of the mouth. Orange-rind chocolate dipped in rum? Surprisingly fresh for its age, this is another splendid dram, and I wish I had Mhor of it. 8/10

Glen Mhor 28yo 1976/2005 (51.9%, OB Rare Malts Selection): nose: alcohol screams, here. Then it shuts up and smoke takes the lead -- oh! it is no Islay, mind! A second later, it is a deluge of orange marmalade, then smoke and cured meat settle for good -- no! It is now caramelised-orange clafoutis. This one keeps bouncing back and forth! There is also some dust, a shelfful of old paperbacks and liqueur pralines. Mouth: surprisingly smooth and gentler. As elegant as can be, with mild orange juice, in a room with a burning candle (not for the wax, for the wick). So subtle becomes the smoke. Soft as a plum. Finish: a different story again! Light, milky coffee with a drop of orange juice. Very, very, veeeeerrrry long, if more one-dimensional than the nose hinted at. It remains strong in alcohol, though. The second sip gives embers, as well as unripe greengages (acidic and bitter). Another terrific RMS! (thanks pat gva for the sample) 8/10

Let us have a bonus dram.

Craigduff 40yo 1973/2013 (49.6%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Refill Butt C#2516, 616b): this one needs to go to make some shelf room. Nose: this could just as well be a Croftengea, so straightforward it is (not meant in a bad way). Marinated and barbecued meat. The marinate is extremely well balanced, between the Provence herbs and warm olive oil. A delight, this is. Herbs end up taking over for a grassy, almost metallic moment, then meat is back. It might even be venison. Or is it Chinese, salt-and-pepper chicken after all? Water turns it into a basket of black fruit. Mouth: incredibly controlled. Nothing overpowers the rest; it is a perfect symbiosis (I can hear the Frogs calling this watery). Milky texture, very, very tender meat -- if it is indeed chicken, it was precooked: it comes off the bone in a melting fashion. There is also, however, chocolate milk, with an added touch of almond bitterness. Finish: barbecue, still, but under control again. So much so, in fact, that it only lasts for two seconds, then it is chocolate milk all the way. Wunderbar! And close to never-ending, to boot. Excellent dram! 8/10