So, Boisdale. We sort of agreed not to come again, seeing as the service left to be desired each time we have come. Remember the latest attempt?
But then, yeah, they still rock an impressive list. Therefore, when an exclusive concert comes up, there is the promise of at least a couple of good (if expensive) drams on top. This is Midge's only London gig; it seems like the right opportunity to see what Boisdale has stocked up on, over the last couple of years. The answer is: loads, while many other things have not moved at all -- that BenRiach 1966 we had last time looks like no-one has had a drop since they opened the bottle for us.
Anyway, we came prepared.
Springbank 39yo 1968/2007 (47.2%, Acorn's Natural Malt Selection, C#617): will Acorn deliver once more? Nose: oh dear! A fruity Springbank! Apples, melon (cantaloup), mango, fresh coconut, carambola, sharon, and a touch of sandal wood. Even juicy watermelon is represented! Throw in a twist of sumac for good measure, wow! Much later a fleeting scent of extremely fresh, gutted fish (gutted on board, that is). Mouth: the fruit symphony continues, this time in a silky bath of almond milk -- is this good or what? Almonds, shallow-fried mushrooms, pleasure. Crisp, fresh and lovely, while exuding nobility. The last sip comes with added bitterness, that of chicory (chicon, that is). Finish: it takes a while to get over this one! Again, tons of fruit, a healthy dose of good wood, and just what it takes of bitterness to make it perfectly balanced and complex. A grand dram! 10/10
Inverleven 36yo 1973/2010 (48.85%, OB, Deoch an Doras): one I have wanted to try for a while, this. Nose: all sorts of sweets and bonbons, as well as a cascade of wax. There is a hint of smoke in the back, and crusty pastry, augmented by a whiff of cedar wood. Mouth: this is quite robust, full of candle wax, bitter fruit (greengages) and a syrupy sweetness to it (elderberry). The wax is still very present, encaustic, old cherry-wood furniture, polished mahogany. Finish: wood, now, slightly drying. Underneath the wood, hot wax, old-school wax seals. This is posh indeed! Once it slowly fades away, the dominant note is dark chocolate. Absolutely love this one. 9/10
Food comes in: crab salad and scallops (served raw! and without the foot) as starters, then venison pie and burger (with disappointing chips -- I should have known!)
When we order our second dram, we find out that Boisdale's own Longmorn is not available any longer. JS finds a Rosebank she has not had. Fortunately, we always ask to see the bottle: they poured a 12yo Flora and Fauna! We rectify quickly and get this one instead:
Rosebank 27yo 1976/2004 (56.7%, SV Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead, C#2702, 159b): how did we miss this Rosebank!? Nose: smoke?!? Definitely! It soon disappears to make room for squashed, dark grapes, a spoonful of honey and juicy plums. After 20 minutes, wax starts to emerge too. Mouth: plum juice, with both its sweetness and acidity. It remains pretty hot too. Chilli? Pepper? No, it is beef rendang marinade! And fruit. Finish: this now feels like a mix of grappa and vieille prune, with a few apples thrown in for diversity Plummy and powerful, wow! 9/10
Auchroisk 1998/2012 (46%, BBr for Boisdale, Hogshead, C#13423, 300b): nose: exuberant fragrance of wild flowers: daisies, poppies, belladonnas. It also reminds me of a village-fair rubbish bin in the summer: full of half-eaten sweets, badly-emptied soda cans and wasps feasting on the whole. It burns the nostrils too! Is this really 46%? Mouth: more of the same -- the wild flowers have macerated for a bit and this is the resulting broth. Warming, comforting, with a not-unpleasant bitterness (the flowers, yeah?), balanced out by honeysuckle. Finish: behind the bitter flowers, warm latte, melted honey. It stings like the wasps from the nose, though. Difficult to believe this is only 46%. After 30 minutes, what comes out the most is hazelnut chocolate. Good, this. 7/10
Glen Ord 25yo (58.3%, OB, b.2004): this one is a punt, based on the description. Nose: leather, dry grass (that will be hay, then), prunes and marzipan. Complex and tantalising! Mouth: pungent, with more prunes in a Guinness stew and a pinch of grated ginger. Finish: the finish is super complex again, with lots of different flavours -- leather, Guinness stew, prunes, boiling carrots and back again. Superb. 8/10
Glenugie 32yo 1977/2010 (55.48%, OB Deoch an Doras): let us finish in a bang. This version I thought was a bit pricey when it came out. I had never had a Glenugie before and had one waiting at home (different bottling). When I realised how much I liked that distillery, this particular expression was already out of my reach. Glad to try it at last, then. Nose: raisins, and dried figs at first, then the sherry flavours become drier, closer to coffee beans and burnt bread crust, without ever falling into rubber territory. It soon moves to walnuts, roasted chestnuts and medlar, to finish with the finest Bordeaux wine. Mouth: good and robust, with dry fruits, nuts, plum liqueur, raisins, blackcurrant and -- wait for it! -- Cumberland sauce. Or Huntsman sauce. Finish: wow again! Prunes, raisins, dried figs, blackcurrant, cola, the noblest furniture polish. In fact, it is the well-polished dashboard of an E-Type Jaguar. Very classy, fruity and noble at the same time. There is even a fleeting impression of passion fruit in the end. This is excellent. Nay! Superlative. 10/10
My head is on fire!
I still have a hard time understanding how few customers order whisky at that venue, though. A notable exception was the guy at the table next to us, who hardly touched his chicken, then asked for, 'the next best Macallan at a similar price.' That made me giggle.