The suspects: MS, MJ, JS, myself, as well as all the regulars and manager JMcG, who, we learnt earlier, is leaving the Society in a week or two to embark a new adventure. Well, that calls for a celebratory dram, does it not? But first, the new list. Both MS and MJ decide to follow our lead and order the same, at least in the beginning.
50.55 23yo d.1990 High class luxury (53.9%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 70b): a new Lowlander is always a time to rejoice. We cannot not try it. Nose: vanilla and gingerbread, toffee and caramel (MJ), blackcurrant tart and green olives in brine. An unusual combination. I like it. With water, coffee, blackcurrant and raisins. Mouth: sweet and syrupy with a light bitterness. With water: it remains quite hot, with notes of dry sherry or Madeira. Finish: raisins, molasses; this is sweet and never-ending -- not too far from a bourbon, in fact, which might explain why MS likes it so much. After a while, the sweetness makes room for a distinct dryness. The whole thing becomes very warm and powerful. Rancio sherry, according to the tasting notes (I know nothing about sherry, you see). A great sherried dr... Wait! This is a bourbon cask!? Even the official notes hint at a sherry maturation. Everyone else in the room agrees. Puzzling. In any case, good dram, but the latest offerings were more convincing. 7/10
Since we were a bit short on cheese last time, MS brought cheese and crackers as Vorspiel to the plates of... cheese and crackers we will get whenever we are ready. A blue, one with a slightly softer paste and one that is wrapped in garlic leaves. Lovely. The crackers are excellent too!
59.49 30yo d.1983 Celebration in a glass (49.2%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 196b): this is the expensivest and venerablest of the lot, this month. Nose: WOOD! Lots of herbs too. What have we got? Citronella, nettles (it does not sting, fortunately), lemon thyme, hints of verbena, maybe tarragon, even. Lovely nose. After a while, butter comes up. Water renders it a little fruitier -- nothing exuberant, mind. Mouth: balsa wood, sawdust, wood shavings, sour milk (!). With water, the balance is better, as in: the wood is less invading, yet we all feel it loses its interesting features. Finish: rather hot too, this, as well as woody -- drying, even. Water turns it into milky wood. This is an alright dram, though none of us is overly seduced. Of course, it is good to get a Teaninich (not a usual sight), yet I expected more of a thirty-year-old. 7/10
9.89 25yo d.1988 Balanced and harmonious (57.5%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 516b): nose: the alcohol is very present, here. Behind it are farmyard scents and stale butter (for those who like that). When all that disappears, stone fruit come up (peach and apricot). Water brings out a dusty cardboard profile. Mouth: thin, woody and hot. With water: oooh! a lot better, now, with notes of ripe cherries and a pinch of ginger. Finish: dry, super-strong white wine, peach pieces in a glass of kir and a big dose of vanilla. With water: lots of black pepper, barbecue sauce... Cherry-flavoured barbecue sauce, to be accurate. This one is ok, we are not too enthusiastic about it. 6/10
39.101 23yo d.1990 Sophisticated adult sweetness (46.9%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 243b) (MJ): nose: decaying grapes that morph into very dry hay and finish with honeysuckle. Mouth: plant-stem juice, i.e. bitterness and livelihood. I find it is reasonably hot, though it might be the wonderful weather we are having today. Blackcurrant jam comes up in the end. Finish: hot and spicy blackcurrant jam again. This turned out quite alright, actually. 7/10
3.223 24yo d.1989 Sweet, floral, perfumed smoke (51.2%. SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 213b): nose: I find it rather medicinal, which is unexpected from this distillery. Hospital corridors, yet also farmyards and stables. Mouth: warming, yet smooth and silky. Cut hay, fruit (cut apples) on top of a creamy texture. Finish: barley, some peat smoke kept under control, old engines and a tool shed. This is very, very good. MJ likes it a lot; it is pushing is price limit a bit, and we tease him as he is trying to clear the expense with Mrs. J. 8/10
67.5 24yo 1975/2000 (63.6%, SMWS Society Cask): now obviously, this is not part of the outturn. It is the latest Society Banff -- and considering it was bottled 14 years ago, it is probably the last too. Someone in the room who has been a member for ages brought this to toast JMcG's departure. That takes place at the next table, but we know most people there and they end up offering a small dram -- yay! Nose: engine oil, tar and porcelain dishes (now, that is a first!) Mouth: this tickles like mustard, but that is not all. Acidic orange is also there. Fiery mustard takes the lead quite quickly, though. Finish: long, never-ending, old-school and oh! so fantastic. There is not really enough for proper notes, not to mention the emotional aspect that is hard to get over (and the previous drams), yet this is a superb dram. Thanks to the owner, whose name I did not catch. 9/10
JMcG joins our table and lets us try a drop of 118.3. Too little of it for notes, I am afraid, but we like it. I reckon last year's bottling by Cadenhead was better, though: fruitier. We also get:
24.126 23yo d.1990 The artist's lounge (56.1%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 191b): nose: cured meat and rubber. Mouth: OXO broth, very meaty again, not far from biltong, even. Finish: more meaty notes, as well as dark chocolate. Not exactly my favourite profile, yet I am a firm believer that one should carry on trying things they supposedly do not like to make sure their taste is still the same. Especially if said things come offered (thanks, JMcG). 5/10
My time to offer a celebratory dram. It is Tomatin 35yo 1978/2013 (44.2%, Cad Small Batch, Hogshead, 594b). I do not take notes; everyone seems quite pleased with it. I am, in any case. :-)
Cheese plates enter. Too much cheese after all. We just about finish it but leave a couple of crackers behind.
Next is a cocktail combining, amongst others, orange juice and Society rum. It is "named after the same book as [my] blog" -- The Old Man and the Sea. My blog is named after a stack on Orkney, but I am touched JMcG reads this blog. And thanks for the cocktail too! Recommended.
We then discuss price vs. age vs. region vs. other factors. More importantly, how evaporation impacts maturation speed and price. At which point MS comments: -Well, that's fucking chemistry, right?
No need to mention it amuses us immensely.
Second celebratory dram from yours, truly is served: Traditional Ben Nevis (46%, OB, ca 2012). A lot more pedestrian than the Tom', yet it is successful too.
JS and I have one more to choose from the list and that is going to be:
29.157 17yo d.1996 Heidi's holiday to Islay (59.2%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 675b): peat, of course, but also hard-boiled eggs, barbecue sauce, then cow dung and cow backside (for those who like that sort of things, you know). Mouth: dark cherries aplenty!1 This is really well balanced, while remaining quite hot. Finish: hot embers, hot, spicy and warming. Never overpowering, however. Simply a very nice Laphie. 8/10
In the meantime, MS has G4.6 (quite upset I gave him the incorrect reference!) and 35.122. MJ and MS then both have G4.5 (the one I was trying to recommend) and love it.
MJ has to leave around 17:30. The other two and I witness the light going down right before 21:00 and make an exit. Most of the regulars are still there, sharing the joy with JMcG. Before we go, though, we are treated to one more:
33.131 7yo d.2005 The Mad Scientist on the Dockside (61.3%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd fill ex-Sherry Butt, 679b): I really do not bother with notes, at this stage. Most attendants are lost in contemplation and I cannot help but disagree. This is too young, the alcohol is not well integrated, the peat is invasive in the extreme and masks everything else. A shame, because what is underneath the peat seems promising (even soft fruit). I imagine in a couple of decades, those casks will be terrific. For now? Well, it qualifies as a bowel-stirrer, I suppose.
Excellent times. 67.5 was obviously the highlight, as far as I am concerned. Most of the new outturn left me lukewarm, with warmer feelings towards 3 and 29 -- that is probably good news for my finances. :-)