15 June 2015

14/06/2015 One imperial dram

One dram to celebrate those who recently became citizens of the British "Empire" and those who turned 37 today. You know who you are.
How could we kill the two birds with just one stone, though? With this, perhaps.

Imperial 37yo 1977/2015 (53.5%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, 204b): this one flew off the shelf even faster than any other before it from this esteemed bottler. Expect to see it soon at auction at inflated prices. Nose: Virginia tobacco, cold wood stove (cold ashes from wood fire), prunes, dried apricots, a wooden dashboard (polished walnut), a bucket of soot in an adjacent room, even roasted barley. After the first sip, juicy fruits timidly emerge (peaches, ripe apples, quince jelly) and still a pouch of Virginia tobacco. Cold tea makes a late appearance as well. Mouth: lively and youthful as a Kawasaki Ninja 250R (a 1984 motorcycle). Some honey? No! Raspberry jam and orange marmalade, green chilli heat. It is coating and velvety, bar that green-chilli heat. Everything is so well-blended that I am finding it difficult to detect specific flavours. Finish: long and warming, with hot cocoa and a spoonful of honey, hot toddy-style. Once more, the individual characteristics are so tightly woven together it is hard to tell them apart. Good whisky. Cannot help but wonder if it should have been bottled sooner. I feel this cannot decide whether it wants to be catchy (fruit) or austere (ash). It should be right up my alley, yet simply leaves me puzzled. I was expecting more from this. It is good, not blinding. We will see what further tastings give. For now, it is 8/10

8 June 2015

07/06/2015 Kinclaith Tierce #2

I missed last year's celebration, as I was ill on the fateful day. Today, we will right that wrong.
For the record, we are celebrating the birthday of tennis champion Kim Clijsters, because I back away from no pun, however bad others think it is.
As a side note, I am not half proud to have another opportunity to show off try three of those rarities again -- all different from two years ago!

Ki, ki, ki sont les whiskies?
Kinclaith 1966 16yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, b. ca 1983): nose: immediately, it reeks of spice and fruit, rather than the usual dusty books one gets from those old bottles. Mango chutney, coupled with chilli pickle. I am suddenly in a Bangladeshi restaurant and I think I like it! Do not be fooled, the dust is present; yet it is subtle and is more akin to black pepper than old cardboard. After a moment, tropical fruit tries very hard to be heard -- in the distance, initially, then more pronounced. Starfruit, mango and empty coconut shell. Evergreens make a late appearance, pine cones and needles. Wow! Nothing is in-your-face, in this nose, yet it rewards the patient taster. Leave it too long in the glass and the whole disappears, unfortunately. Sixty minutes maximum to drink it! Mouth: assertive orange juice in the first sip. It is not more than lukewarm (spicewise) and velvety, as comforting as a blanket. Wood spices come up a bit: ground cassia bark and a little pepper. Upon swallowing (second sip), an odd note comes forth: a mixture of cough syrup, melted plastic and brass. Finish: long and coating, with notes of cold, milky coffee, or chicory instant coffee (l'ami Ricoré) and tingling spices. Although not invading at all, the finish is very persistent, not unlike a good chocolate truffle. An excellent brown label again, though the note when one swallows makes it lose one point. 8/10

Kinclaith 1967 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, b. ca 1991): there were five versions of this 1967. No bottling date on my miniature, which means I do not know for sure which one it is. Nose: a lot darker in colour, it is also deeper in the nose, with ripe (blood) oranges. There were probably more sherry casks in this one, boldly assuming that it is not a single cask. Again, ground white pepper is easy to detect, as is the wood influence: wood dust and varnish hint at a carpenter's workshop. The blood oranges dissipate to let pink grapefruit emerge. Instead of growing assertive, this one seems to becomes more timid with time and air. Very faint leather -- the carpenter's weathered boots, certainly. Mouth: peppery, though the pepper soon fades away in favour of orange juice, augmented with the juice of one pink grapefruit and orange zest. Pepper comes back with the numbing power of ground cloves. I reckon cinnamon is also present, perhaps caraway seeds. It is a ping pong between those spices and fruit juice. Not supremely complex, yet pleasant and interesting enough. Finish: fleeting vanilla, then citrus-y custard (not strong or buttery enough to be lemon curd), spiked with various spices (pepper, clove, ground cardamom, fenugreek, nutmeg) and fruit, this time, tropical. The whole dances a happy jig in the throat. Absolutely lovely, although it is, again, for the attentive drinker. Nothing here punches one in the face. 9/10

Kinclaith 40yo 1969/2009 (47.3%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead, C#301445, 217b): this is the one they were pouring at the Whisky Show in 2013. I managed to get hold of a sample for this very occasion. Nose: an altogether different beast, lighter and seemingly more complex at first sniff, showing its age at once. At second sniff, its lineage becomes more obvious, with ground white pepper and citrus peel -- probably grapefruit. Time helps it give out a refined vinaigrette, with sherry vinegar and virgin olive oil, pepper and oregano. Interestingly, tinned fish in oil also rears its head in the distance (sardines, mackerel or pickled herring). Mouth: this is far bolder. Cask strength, of course, but at 40 years old, I did not expect it to be so lively. Tropical-fruit juice, drowned in orange juice. Mango, papaya, persimmon, peach... and orange. Pepper kicks in thereafter, as well as a certain green acidity (or is it bitterness?) -- lime? Tea leaves? It is surprisingly wild and unpredictable. Bounces on the tongue! Vanilla is in there, under control -- definitely not a modern malt where vanilla does all the talking. Finish: high-quality milk chocolate (that reads like an oxymoron, I know), before chai storms in with its usual blend of overboiled tea leaves, generous milk pour and mix of spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon). Once swallowed, the liquid leaves the mouth slightly dry, an impression perhaps similar to that left by a Chablis or a Pouilly. Or indeed, tea. I suspect that is the sugar, which this Kinclaith has quite a bit of. Once that bitter dryness vanishes, the way is clear for chocolate and cocoa to settle (Nesquik-style; rendez-nous Groquik!) 9/10

I forgot to blend the three, this time. The 1967 is my favourite, today.

Very satisfying session again. Not quite sure I will ever be able to do #3. The amount of expressions available is staggeringly low and none of those is exactly cheap. If anyone is willing to donate the 1963 PC, 1965 CC, the Mo Ór, JMcA or another RotR or SV, I will be happy to celebrate their generosity...

Happy birthday, Kim!

06/06/2015 June outturn at the SMWS

It seems we were here last week only. Crazy how quickly time flies. The May outturn was not particularly impressive and we secretly hope June is better -- or not, depending on how we look at it.
MS initially refused to join, claiming to be skint. At the last moment, he caved in, very probably because of the new 41. My answer to his asking me what time we should meet up was: "14:30ish. You're weak."

17.39 12yo d.1990 Relax, take it easy (56.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 243b): the previous 17 was in November 2013, so it is with excitement that I see this on the list. Where did .37 and .38 go, by the way!? Nose: green-chilli heat accompanies more rounded pastry scents, plum juice and almost liquid shoe polish. After shave and scented shower gel -- cherry-scented shower gel, actually. Fruity shit. Love it. Mouth: it feels a bit green, at first, then fruity jam kicks in, thick and comforting. Finish: the alcohol is well integrated and lets more fruit and pastry emerge -- raspberry, blackberry and blueberry roll. Beautiful. 8/10

29.161 14yo d.2000 A bodega is burning (60.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 494b): nose: punchy and bold, yet noble at the same time. A horse stable in the sun, overheated hospital corridors. Mouth: surprisingly easy and soft. It does remain very present, do not get me wrong. Finish: a tranquil force bringing earth and ploughed fields, horse sweat and pleasure. MS claims it "tastes like a burning hospital." 8/10 (thanks EG)

41.65 30yo d.1984 Sweet couscous with Argan oil (48.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 86b): with the recent run of excellent, old 41 expressions, it is no surprise this one comes full of expectations. It is priced in line with the previous ones, which means I cannot afford it at the moment, and it pisses me off: 86 bottles are not going to stick around forever. I am even more upset to realise the dram is a tartan, the top end of the price spectrum. Three years ago, it took another £100 per bottle to make a dram a tartan. Anyway. Nose: wide and unctuous, with tobacco, bay leaves, verbena and thyme. Raspberry gum tames the grassy character. Enticing, confident. This one says very clearly: "I know my value, I don't need to show off." Mouth: oh! what a balance. Mild chocolate, chai -- that will be clove, cardamom, cinnamon, milk and tea leaves. Finish: a hint of mint, a drop of apricot juice, white pepper and chocolate. Wonderful. JS finds it disappointing. MS gets agitated about the silver polish note the panel wrote about in the official tasting notes. It triggered childhood memories in him: he used to have to clean silverware as a chore. He reckoned that he would hate the whisky or that the notes would be wrong. He is stunned to detect the note, stunned that someone else got such an obscure reference too and stunned that, on top of it all, he loves it. 9/10

35.128 11yo d.2002 A tropical tango of taste (60.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 239b): I first think this is a Clynelish, which gets me EG's sarcasm. He is astonished to find a good Glen Moray -- his only experience were the dreary official bottlings and he is pleased alright. Nose: wax and field flowers. Boules Magiques bubble gum, ie full of nasty colorant. Mouth: warming, with many green tea notes. Finish: white tea and mild chocolate. An adequate 35, once more. 7/10 (thanks EG)

7.117 24yo d.1990 Mouth-coating, viscous and weighty (55.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 244b): 7.116 was the donkey's bollocks, so it is obvious we need to try this one. Nose: cologne, effervescent medicine and hay. Hm! Not a great start, is it? Mouth: lots of citrus (lemon and lime juice) first that pave the way for... What is this? Cucumber? Tzatziki? Finish: more lemon, alongside milk chocolate, now. Refreshing and decent. Certainly not a patch on .116, however. We keep telling EG that. He is confused that 116 is not the same distillery: it is a Japanese one, he just bought one. 116 is the cask number, EG! 7/10

G8.4 25yo d.1989 Summer meadow hoedown (59.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 275b): PS brings this to celebrate Cthulhu-knows-what. Nose: banana skins, nail-varnish remover, then a weird note I never get a chance to understand. Mouth: hot, with green chilli, wood shavings and coconut shells. Finish: the wood speaks loudly now, with a good dose of roasted dry coconut shavings. It does not leave my tongue dry, not does it give me a headache. Rare enough with G8 to be mentioned. 8/10 (thanks PS)

27.109 16yo d.1998 Guns on the grouse moor (58.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Gorda, 738b): nose: lots of leather, cured meat, roasted nut shells and even old shoe (JS cracks me up). Mouth: tingles a bit, with green peppers, green chilli and paprika. Finish: wide and prominent, with hints of bakery, gingery dark fruit and jam. 6/10

Two groups walk in in separate occasions. One with a baby, the second with what I gauge to be a six-year-old. Both are turned away, of course: the licence does not allow children. I am more than a little surprised people would try and bring kids to a private whisky club.

After this, EG whisks us off to try this:

Tamnavulin 15yo (45%, Moon Import The Birds, 3600b): first Moon Import here, I am not half excited! Nose: flour and sugary sweets. Everything is so well put together and integrated it is tough to isolate and identify particular smells. Honey? Smoke? Heather? Thyme? Mouth: superb balance, with honey indeed, mead, banana sweets. Finish: coconut shavings, coconut cream, rose water, custard, honey. The wood ultimately gives it a slight bitterness, yet the whole remains amazing. We are rushing a bit, unfortunately. Probably 9/10 (thanks EG)