23 February 2015

21/02/2015 An afternoon of rarities and oddities at the SMWS

ruckus is visiting. He has wanted to visit the SMWS for a while; time to take him through the ordeal. JS and MS join us later. Of course, PS is on site, as are a handful of other regulars.
Both my camera batteries die on me. No pictures today.

64.55 24yo A sultry soirée (55.8%, SMWS The Tasting Panel's Choice 2014): I ask for a recommendation and am shown this. It was never part of any outturn, I never saw it. Nose: tobacco and faded rose petals. It opens up to reveal sherbet, banana and vanilla. Wood-driven, then, as most of the output of this distillery I have had; I see it as a good thing, though. ruckus finds it akin to cough effervescent tablets. Nail polish makes an appearance at some late stage (burgundy in colour). Mouth: more tobacco, tar and pine planks. Rather acidic... and hot. Finish: Suc des Vosges sweets, lime, pine needles. Good and refreshing, if not the best dram SMWS released in 2014. 7/10

50.60 24yo d.1990 Complex and interest sustaining! (53.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 34b): lowest outturn I have ever seen here. Another one that was not part of any outturn. Nose: caramel (Werther's Original, says ruckus), wood glue and white melon. This one shifts a lot! Freshly cut hay soon comes out, as well as whiffs from a jam cupboard, then apples and jonquils. Apricot shows up too. ruckus reckons it smells like a paedophile grandfather (that would be cigars, old wood and sweets, probably). Mouth: balanced and pleasant, with cigar leaves, bay leaves, honey and a bit of embers heat. Finish: long and beautiful, round, sweet and full, with dried dates and dried figs. Beautiful, this. 8/10

PS shows us a bottle of St. George's Pedro Ximenez (19%, OB, b.2011). An interesting concept: the English Whisky Co. buys full sherry casks because they cannot buy empty ones. To maximise profit avoid wasting the sherry, they cut it with their own new make, bring it down to 19% ABV and sell it as a liqueur.

35.117 17yo d.1996 Cock-a-hoop with happiness (54.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First-Fill Designer Barrel, 185b): what the deuce is a designer barrel, you ask? A marketing term is probably the right answer. Nose: light and ethereal, with hints of lemon sweets. Mouth: the Whisky Cyclist chooses this precise moment to talk to me, which means I have to swallow quickly. No notes. Finish: yellow flowers. Pleasant, if not revolutionary. 7/10

41.64 30yo d.1984 Sharing, caring loving dram (53.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 210b): shock! Another one out of nowhere. Nose: pine wood, perfume. Mouth: pine again, acidic and incisive. Finish: long and big, with tons of pine stuff (Gocce Pino, to be precise). MS samples it (blind) and is taken. He ranks it close to 41.61, which I think is funny. I find it OK. Good whisky, but not on the same level as 41.61 to me and more expensive. Pity. 7/10

85.26 28yo 1985/2013 Fragrant perfumes and deeper resonances (44.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First-Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 186b): staff recommendation for JS. Nose: dry earth and coffee. The initial hint of meat vanished quickly. Very perfumey (hence the name, innit). Something from a tuna sandwich, says JS. It appears it is neither the tuna, nor the sandwich, but celery, she says. Water makes this one more leathery. Mouth: warm and comforting, with a quiet fireplace in the background. With water, it becomes fruitier, revealing tame peaches. Finish: wine, yet the dominant notes are dry clay, ash and black-leaf, milky tea. Water, again, makes it fruitier, still adding tame peaches. 7/10

We are invited to PS's secret pad for a couple more.

Linlithgow 25yo 1982/2007 (57.4%, SD The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#1872, 85b): nothing at first, yet that void is quickly filled by cigar boxes, then cut pears. With water, it becomes jammier and fruitier, with blood oranges and juicy plums. Mouth: very warm honey, then embers and burning vegetables leaves. With water, blood orange juice, augmented with a few drops of lime juice. Is there a pinch of salt too? Finish: indistinct fruit and flowery soap. Water makes it warmer, strangely enough. 8/10 (thanks PS)

Linkwood 11yo (60.5%, James MacArthur In Celebration 500 Years of Scotch Whisky, Sherry Cask, b.1994): meat, then decaying flowers and rotting mushrooms. Mouth: white wine, gin, even. Finish: powerful and stripping, with paint thinner and stainless steel plates. Interesting experience, though not my favourite whisky. 6/10 (thanks GT)

Superb afternoon, as usually.

10 February 2015

09/02/2015 February outturn at the SMWS

Doing it on a Monday, this time. No cheese on the Monday, but steaks. A good chance to catch up with friends as well -- MS, JH, JS and myself.

25.68 23yo d.1990 Vichy kisses (57.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 214b): obviously, this is the most anticipated bottle of this outturn. It sold out in minutes (a recurrent issue, that), but is still available by the dram. Nose: peach, yellow flowers (jonquils), pepper. As it unfolds, another scent surfaces -- bacon? No! Beef jerky! And finally green tea leaves. Tantalising nose. Mouth: soft and sweet, though it quickly makes way for a strong pepper kick. Slightly acidic and drying, like fresh apple peels. Once the dryness fades away, honey emerges. Finish: peach and apricot, as well as crisp apple and tea leaves. Wonderful. 8/10

112.9 14yo d.2000 Cooper's apron; perfumed mink (58.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 204b): we missed 112.7, a couple of months ago. Good to have a new 112 so soon afterwards. Nose: this smells like a grain, a bit. Dough and herbs (tarragon, sage) with a touch of honeysuckle and an ounce of vanilla. Mouth: mellow and doughy, with daffodils and tea leaves. JS reckons it tastes like putty. Finish: big, yet gentle, long, sticky and never-ending, with herbs on custard. 8/10

Steaks come in. We were asked how we wanted them cooked when we ordered. One went for rare, three chose medium-rare. Interestingly, the maître d'hotel managed to bring four rare steaks. The SMWS waitress sent three back. They brought them to us... rare again.
Why do they do that? If the meat is not cooked to my satisfaction, I will be mildly frustrated. If I am asked how I want my meat cooked and it ends up not being cooked to my satisfaction, I will be frankly upset, dammit! Even the SMWS waitress was annoyed with the kitchen staff.

121.77 19yo d.1995 Dunnage warehouse orange boxes (53.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 276b): unfortunately, I never get to try this one, due to lack of time. My companions love it.

G3.8 35yo d.1979 Eccentric and exotic (53.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 198b): nose: gunmetal, sage and lemon. Mouth: yellow flowers and honeysuckle. The usual grain pastry really takes the back seat, in this one. Finish: there is the pastry! Bakery and herbs. Another winner. 8/10

Many seem to think this is a Cambus, including the staff, who confuse G3.8 with G8.3. Oddly enough, the following morning, I feel as though I have had a G8: headache and ruined tongue. It is an almost automatic reaction to any Cambus I have had, though I had never had that with Caledonian, thus far.

4.202 27yo d.1986 Salt and pepper (45.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 261b): nose: lots of bitter oranges, worn-out leather and lots of buttercups (yellow-flower day, is it?) Burning heather far in the back. Mouth: balanced, with honeysuckle (sweet and fragrant) and buttercups (bitter). Finish: at last, the heather-peat smoke, so typical of the distillery, takes over, supported by more yellow flowers. A magnificent malt, this! 8/10

Unfortunately, that is the point I need to leave. Brief, but good times nonetheless. 8/10 for all the drams is almost unheard of.

My preciouses!

2 February 2015

01/02/2015 CoCa-CoLa

CoCa-Co29, maybe...

Coleburn 14yo 1983/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage, C#796, 3650b, 97/1173-): yes, that is a mini. They do not yet make casks that hold 3500+ big bottles. ;-) Nose: wow! The first time I had this, it smelt of dust. Not so today! Fermenting pears, quince and marzipan. It swiftly moves towards white wine, Madeira, then a mix of daisies and tangerines. Sherry takes over, after a bit -- funny, as it is likely a bourbon cask. Mouth: lots of wine, now, though never over the top. Citrus complements it (grapefruit, this time). There is a splash of bitter plant juice too, yet the whole is coating and velvety. Finish: dried grapefruit peels, toast, a dash of Madeira again, then polished wood. A drinks cabinet, perhaps? Sticky toffee pudding spiked with Mandarine Napoléon and a teaspoon of milk coffee. This remains a good Coleburn; not legendary by any means, but more than merely interesting. 7/10

Caol Ila d.1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, b. early 1980s): I wanted to keep this and drink it with Psycho, but he has not made a move in this direction for years. I have waited long enough. Nose: dust, then something perishable that has expired. Indeed, this one gives faint peat, burnt coal, yet also a more peculiar smell -- either full rubbish bags, or a field, freshly sprayed with manure. Fortunately, the nose keeps evolving. Soon, the nasty smell is forgotten and makes room for incense, iodine, burning cinnamon sticks, smoked mussels, balsamic vinegar and a healthy dose of engine oil. Spent matches show up too, next to a pot of cooked turnips or cabbage. To finish it off, a femme fatale's dark red nail varnish. Hang on! Not over yet. Here comes the fruit: sangria-macerated fruit. Phew, that was something! Mouth: balsamic vinegar first, and dark fruit in sangria -- although that lasts for a moment only. Chilli-sprinkled smoked salmon comes in quickly, with charcoal, barbecued seafood, a fireplace where fishermen gather. Their wives are gutting fish near the kitchen fire, eating olives in brine. Finish: is this big, or what!? Hard to believe it is only 40% ABV. Fire meets the sea, in here. The coal room of a steamboat, braseros on the seashore, barbecued salmon, coated in balsamic vinegar. Burning wood, grilled eels. This is coating, sticky, never-ending. An ashy, metallic note appears underneath all that -- the cast-iron door of the steamer's boiler. A legendary dram, really. 9/10

Convalmore 16yo 1984/2001 (43%, Ian McLeod Dun Bheagan): this one, I had more recently. It has got to go all the same. Nose: roasted almonds, cashew oil, a glass of brandy, hazelnut-stuffed pralines. A fleeting smell of boiled potatoes comes up, then average red wine and cereals (puffed oats) to finally settle on stewed oranges. Mouth: baked potato skins, geranium (yep). The palate is a bit light, perhaps. Nail varnish remover, then some pine wood. At last, the orange stew starts dominating. Finish: slightly bitter, sappy, with pea pods and flower stems, as well as unripe hazelnut shells. A couple of sips in, it unleashes medium-dark chocolate, blood oranges and roasted cocoa beans. 7/10 (thanks mars for the sample)

29.128 21yo 1990/2012 Deep, dark and hugely entertaining (58.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 601b): I tried this one when it came out, then completely forgot about it. Nose: a woman varnishing her finger nails in a leather workshop. Cured meat, kippers and lots of dried peat. Not so much TCP as is the house style, rather farmyard, here -- tractor wheels, actually. Hints of chestnut in the back. Mouth: some sulphur and some kick, what with this being the only cask strength of the lot. Anchovies, shoe polish, tar, spent matches, gun powder, charcoal and soot. The farm seems absent, this time. No! Freshly ploughed fields in the distance. The ash and burnt peat is the dominant, however. Finish: a huge discharge of dark peat smoke, bonfires, Lapsang Souchong, but also a maritime feel -- fishing nets, barbecued crab. There might be one dark cherry lost in the mix, but it is almost too subtle to mention. Finally, the hospital opens its doors (TCP), though it is a burnt-down hospital, if the ashy overtones are to be trusted. Better than the first time, still no winner. 6/10 (thanks DK for the sample)