20 January 2015

17/01/2015 Memories and regrets

At last, we manage to get a quorum to do a tasting. I need an excuse to propose something I bought on a 17th January, hence the theme.
The suspects: PS, KidJ (JH today), Fixou, JS and myself. JH texts me he will be an hour late, though that ends up being 1h30. We have a dram while waiting (Old Orkney for me, Five Lakes for PS and Fixou; no notes).

PS wants to show how seriously he took the theme, this time, after I teased him last time: he pulls out a bottle of Brora 30yo b.2005. 'The memories part is that I remember it being a great drop. The regrets part is that is is empty.' Motherfucker. :-)
A few are willingly kept a surprise
He also brought an SMWS bottling from distillery 63. Since it is not something we taste every day, I am excited. I also do not know where to fit it in the line-up and need to smell it to decide. Opening it, I break the cork. We will not have it today.


Tomatin 16yo 1995/2011 (46%, GMP Exclusive for Inverness Airport, Refill Bourbon Barrel, C#5128) (provided by me): a well-known dram for me, yet PS, Fixou and JH have never had it. I regret not being offered a taste at Inverness Airport: I would have bought two bottles. Nose: allspice, lime juice, citrus aplenty. Mouth: very fresh, bursting with lemon tonic and citronella. Finish: hugely citrusy here too. I do not remember it ever being so citrusy. 8/10

Soundtrack: Mamer - Eagle

Dailuaine 17yo 1996/2014 (56.9%, ADR Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, C#10622, 281b) (proposed by JS): JS bought this one after liking other Dailuaine expressions and regrets doing so, as she does not find it as good. Nose: dried leather, custard cream biscuits, some spices, green grape juice and apricots. Mouth: mead, then it becomes drier and more acidic with a few spices. Cloves, ground cardamom, garlic. Garlic!? Finish: powerful, but controlled, with green wood, grape skins, dry white wine (Riesling) and a little pepper. Much better than the first time I had it (no notes from then): it was too hot then. The alcohol is now more integrated and the whole is better balanced. No regrets to have, after all. 7/10

JH is quickly catching up and admits he has not had any food yet today, which means he starts to feel the effects of alcohol already. We start nibbling on dried sausages (duck and fig, both of which are very popular) and oat cakes.

Arras b.2009 (>50%, TWE Straight from the Cask) (brought by PS): a memory, since it is a thank-you present PS received for taking the official pictures at the Whisky Show 2009. JH suddenly leaves no doubt regarding his sobriety, 'where can I get this? This is AMAZING!' :-) Arras is a blended malt TWE had in a small cask in the shop. They still have those casks that they bottle in front of whoever buys some, yet this very expression is long gone. Nose: grassy smoke, moss, lichen, clay floors and a curious impression of wax seals. This is spectacular, so far. Salami, prosciutto (JH), Serrano ham, I say. Mouth: fresh and soft, at first. It has the texture of yoghurt, with a smoked apricot taste. Pleasant indeed. Finish: smoke, plums, blueberry pancakes and even notes of blue cheese (JH). Much more complex than expected. Very nice. 8/10

Soundtrack: Tropic Of Cancer - Restless Idylls (I need something suitably moody for the next dram)

Its majesty, the King
Laphroaig 40yo 1960/2001 (42.4%, OB, 3300b) (me): purchased on the 17th January 2004 (the memories), I opened it in good company in 2006 and loved it as much as I had hoped. In 2005, I found a 750ml bottle in a store in the USA. At introduction price. It was still a lot of money for something I had not yet tried and I was not rich at the time (even less than nowadays, that is). I passed (the regrets). Of course, buying a bottle today costs ten times more -- if one can find it. Nose: Fraise Tagada (Fixou), banana (Fixou), basalmic vinegar (Fixou), tropical fruit (PS). It is fruitier than it has ever been, in fact. Blackberry (JH). There is an unbelievable depth of mild peat smoke (JH says incense), as well as white peach, melon, papaya and basalmic vinegar. With water, fruit becomes even more pronounced. Mouth: Fixou summarises thus: smoke, liquorice, aniseed. I note melon again, guava and a bucket of coal in the back of the room. The bucket is made of galvanized metal, obviously. With water: again, the smoke takes the back seat to make it even fresher. Finish: smoke and soot finally become more obvious, alongside shy fruit. Barbecued pineapple, banane flambée. With water: woah! Freshly cut papayas with a veil of dark smoke. This could only have been made in the 1960s. Brilliant. 10/10

The gloomy music has a strong 1980s feel. JH observes that the same sort of music is made today, to which I reply that the circumstances are rather similar: huge gap between rich and poor, uncertainty, constant threat and not much hope it will improve. We talk about innocence and the perpetual quest to claim it back. A pointless quest of course, yet one comes across interesting things and people in the process.

We need something to cleanse the minds and the palates.

Soundtrack: Speedy J - !ive

G5.5 18yo d.1993 Rich, sweet and comforting (65.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Virgin Toasted Hogshead, 243b) (me): I remember having to down the leftovers at a tasting with Dave Broom, a couple of year ago. I regret not having had a flask then (the headache was epic). I also know that MJ will regret not being here today. :-) Nose: bakery and blackcurrant. Blackcurrant waffles, then. JH detects Piña Colada and After Eight. Mouth: blackcurrant juice, really. It becomes drying after a while -- it is hot, of course. Finish: bloody hell! The blackcurrant is amazing here. Maybe the sequence makes it come out more than usually, if that is possible. Fixou, not a devout grainhead calls it a grain with bolloques, while JH now tastes mothballs. 9/10

125.? b.2007--2009 Something strawberry (?%, SMWS Society Single Cask) (PS): PS used to have two bottles of this. He lost one (don't ask) and the other broke. He managed to save most of its content by transferring it into smaller bottles. However, he regrets not labelling those, because he now does not remember what the content is, other than 'probably a Glenmorangie, bottled between 2007 and 2009 by SMWS, with strawberry in the name.' Nose: custard cream biscuits, shortbread, butterfingers, nail varnish. This could just as well be a grain, based on the nose. With water: more custard. After letting it breathe for a couple of hours, Nesquik and Nutella suddenly appear. Fixou finds it too girly -- too la-la-la. Mouth: easy and soft, full of barley water. Candied apples, perhaps? Something sugary, in any case. Spicy too: white pepper stings a bit. Finish: lovely tropical fruit in the back, behind the pepper. Once tamed, it remains a summery, fruity, flowery whisky. It requires a very long breathing time to give its full potential, though. Not unlike 125.36 that Fixou brought a while ago. 8/10 (7 at first)

The umpteenth plate of sausages is another hit with everyone. I apologise for having finished the donkey sausage last week. PS, 'don't google "donkey sausage!"'
JH talks about a controversial pen retailer called Pen Island who did not see the giggles coming when they put up their Web site: http://www.penisland.net (or did they?)

Longmorn 19yo 1992/2012 (46%, Acorn Friends of Oak, 120b) (JS): JS regrets yet another messed-up order from TWE's Web site. She had ordered two of these, only to be told four days later that only one was available, despite what the site said. Passing by the shop, she found another couple, proving once again that TWE cannot manage stocks or communication between its warehouse and its shop. Nose: peaches, pears, cut apples (of the cox variety, soon available on www.penisland.net), chocolate pralines, then citrus (grapefruit). Mouth: balanced fruit, apples in custard, vanilla pudding. This is still as great as the first time. Finish: slightly herbaceous -- Fixou finds gentian in it. Light milk chocolate and big lemony notes. 8/10

PS talks about his previous job, which involved locking down kinky sites. JS interjects, 'I like how you try to shock everyone talking about the weird things you saw on porn sites and JH says, "yeah, actually , it's not uncommon in gay porn" every time.'


Clynelish 24yo 1990/2014 (47.5%, Cadenhead London Exclusive, 228b) (brought by Fixou): Clynelish was the first whisky that prompted Fixou to look elsewhere than Islay. Memories, then. Nose: forsythia to me. Fixou says it is, 'close to having melon, but it's just below the boundary,' which cracks me up. White wine acidity and a delicate note of leather. Mouth: this is acidic! White wine, marc de vin blanc. It seems quite simple until something pops up -- brie rind!? Finish: more white wine and the resulting acidity. Medium long, with lots of vegetal tones. An atypical Clynelish, this. The acidity bothers me a bit. It is decent, yet I expect more of a 22yo Clynelish. I was not convinced when I tried it in the shop and am not more so now. Fixou prefers the Small Batch offering we tried recently. So do I. 6/10

Speyside 18yo 1995/2013 (52.3%, SD The Single Malts of Scotland, Sherry Butt, C#0018, 600b) (courtesy of JH): JH is excited to have found this one. He likes it a lot, yet, although the seller told him everything about it, he regrets not remembering which distillery it is actually from (hint: Speyside is a distillery. ;-) ) Nose: rotten grapes (Fixou), winey (PS), dark raisins. Leather, evolving towards dried fruit (figs and Corinth raisins, mostly). Earl Gray tea (Fixou), rubbish (you are not selling it to me, JH); this keeps changing. Cured meat, I say. JH reckons it smells like the carpet of a pub -- vomit, stale beer, musk. Christmas cake, now. Yep, it evolves a lot. Fixou makes me laugh again, 'I can't say I like it, I can't say I don't. I'm lost,' precisely when Bertrand Cantat is singing 'Lost'. Marshmallow and rancid (JH, ever the marketer). Mouth: cured meat again, with gravy and prunes in broth. Irish stew. Finish: Irish stew through and through. Prunes and meat in stout-y broth, as well as very dark chocolate. Good sherry maturation, this. 7/10

JS climbs behind the wheels of steel to play a selection of 1980s obscurities, as well as moody, more recent numbers.

We discuss ratings and gradings. JH observe that, 'we should start grading, like, stuff!'

Laphroaig 17yo 1996/2014 (50.7%, SV Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead, C#8519, 271b) (Fixou): memories again -- this was Fixou's leaving present from his previous job. Nose: barbecued pig (JH), coal smoke, toasted barley and pickles. Dried sausage, dried herbs. Mouth: hot, spicy, smokey, but not overpowering. JH finds it extreme, Fixou finds it a typical Laphroaig. It is a manly and naked Laphroaig, perfect at this point in the line-up. Even JS agrees, who is not really a peat freak. Finish: again, toasted barley, distant caramel and lots of smoke. Might not be the most subtle Laphroaig we have had today, but it is very efficient. 7/10

Fixou has to leave, but the others stay behind for a post-tasting drink. I pour JH a G4.1. PS insists on stealing the bottle (he offered it to me) or finishing it on my behalf. I give him a dram of Glenury 23yo RMS instead, which he mistakes for a Glenburgie. Not too far off. Both have a Port Dundas 17yo ADR after that.

Superb tasting. Good drams, delicious food, outstanding company and wonderful music, if I say so myself.

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