31 August 2015

31/08/2015 The Man with three Bals

A twisted pair is inconvenient, yet three Bals might be even more uncomfortable. They beat a punch in the dick, I suppose.

Balblair 10yo (40%, GMP, b. ca late 1980s): nose: immediately woody and nutty, with tins of paint thinner, wood lacquer, polished dashboards, turpentine. Warm resin too, from a pine-wood log fire. Perhaps even lukewarm, flat cola. This is comforting. A cloud of sawdust, mixed with a pinch of ground white pepper. Drying earth after a few days of rain and a teak cabinet on top. Mouth: the wood is very present here too, with a hefty dose of spices (cassia bark, galangal, ginger), old sandalwood and teak. It is surprisingly hot for a 40% dram from so long ago. Finish: behind the restrained spices are vanilla, fudge, caffè corretto, a hint of dark chocolate, maybe mulled or fortified wine? Yes, Port. Roasted walnuts. Pleasant dram. Tough to discover any distillery character in this, however: the sherry wood (presumably) is providing all the action. Good, though! 7/10

Balmenach 1973/1995 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, IE/AEH): nose: cabbage and potato purée. Never before have I smelt this as clearly. So peculiar! It soon calms down to move towards cola, cold coffee, with a few grains of coal dust thrown in (double-black coffee?) Again, it changes: next are cured meat and baking soda -- Yep! odd combination. Log fire makes a late appearance too, alongside toasted barley. Mouth: caramel water. This seems thin at first... Caramelised apple, slightly burnt apricot compote. Finish: strangely, it is both watery and teeming with burnt wood, soaked in water. Overcooked caramel (the point at which it sticks to the pan), warm bakelite (Belgium raprazent, yo!), gunpowder -- yes, it is rather sulphury, if still acceptable. Not very good, this: watery and sulphury, it is not too well-balanced. Not awful, yet also not enjoyable. 5/10

Balvenie 15yo 1989/2004 (47.8%, OB Single Barrel, C#8419): the lightest of the lot. At the same time, it is the highest ABV, hence its position as last. This is  an old friend, as the bottle level suggests. Nose: citrus freshness -- waxy lemons, unripe kiwis, melon skins. Bananas show up too, eventually, alongside the modern markers: vanilla and gentle, white-wood sawdust. Unripe blueberries emerge, late in the game. This is definitely a style of whiskies much newer than the other two. Mouth: whilst it is obviously more powerful then the previous two, it remains gentle and mellow, seducing, even. The general feel is custard, coconut, vanilla, with a pinch of grated ginger. Finish: more custard, vanilla and coconut -- did I say, 'modern malt'? Haribo Bananas. This is nice, yet unchallenging, hence the lowish score today. 7/10

If the Man needs a Bal chopped off, it should probably be the 'menach.

A thought for TC: my notebook is full

18 August 2015

16/08/2015 Songs

The traditional mid-August tasting in the homeland. dom666 forgot that the 15th is a bank holiday and the 16th is a Sunday. All the shops are closed and he is left with little to host. Luckily, he has a backup plan for food.

The theme is a rehash of the Youtube tasting last year: whiskies that connect to songs, artists, or anything.
The suspects: dom666, JS, PSC, kruuk2, ruckus and myself.

Glenmorangie Port Wood (43%, OB, L6 242 20:54 3ML) (brought by kruuk2): we all recognise the song, but fail to see the link... until kruuk2 points out that Glenmorangie is crafted by the Sixteen Men of Tainted Love. Jaws are dislodged. We raise our glasses to Psycho, who could not join us, due to being stricken by an XVIII Century illness. Nose: tons of biscuit spices (cloves, cinnamon, cumin), leather, soft and sweet wine. Mouth: mellow and easily accessible, with notes of mulled wine and spices (more cloves and cinnamon). The texture is pretty oily too. Finish: long, luscious and lovely. It is interesting to confront old loves and find out they live up to the memories. 7/10 (thanks Syb the Beast for the pun)


Glencadam 12yo Port Wood Finish (46%, OB, 14FL02/14BL03) (brought by ruckus): L'Opportfinish, boom-tsch. Nose: more caramel than in the Glenmorangie. Slightly-burnt pie dough, old papers. Mouth: oily, with a similar mixture of spices and bakery action (biscuits). Finish: burnt caramel and over-baked biscuit. It remains sweet, light and easy, though a little less so than the Glenmorangie. 7/10

Tasting the first again after the Glencadam, the former is less appealing, flatter, yet also fruitier.

The next pair are together and make up something I am proud of. The welcome it gets is lukewarm, to say the least. I am disappointed.

Bon Novis - Inverleven On A Prayer

Ben Nevis 12yo 1996/2009 (46%, The Vintage Malt Whisky The Coopers Choice, Refill Butt, C#817, 420b) (yours, truly): nose: farmyard! Cow dung and eau-de-vie. It evolves to become a walk in an orchard, with unripe fruit hanging from the trees. Herbs end up showing up en force. Mouth: pears and apples, very crisp and fresh. Peach stones too, perhaps. Finish: verbena and milk chocolate -- no-one else gets the obvious chocolate. Red chilli, ginger (PSC). A pleasant, if unusual Ben Nevis. What exactly constitutes a usual Ben Nevis, anyway? 7/10


Inverleven 1991/2008 (40%, GMP, JH/BCB) (me again): nose: bakery and citrus (mandarin, orange), dried fruit. Mouth: dried fruit, sultanas, dried dates, figs. The fruit becomes fresher and fresher, verging on fruit gosette (for those who know). Finish: more dried fruit, soft and plummy. 8/10

Cragganmore 11yo 2000/2011 (56.8%, Berry Brothers & Rudd Selected by Berrys', C#3673) (PSC): nose: a walk in a pine-tree forest. Lots of dry, white wood. It is dry and woody. How insightful. Sawdust. With water, citrus emerges. Mouth: warm and peppery, with lots of wood dust and spices. With water: again, more citrus comes up -- the sweetness of orange, with the kick of lemon. Finish: warm, wood-driven, with peppery custard (white pepper). Water brings out the acidity of orange pith and a teaspoon of sugar. Good dram, if one likes wood. 7/10

Enter tagliatelle Bolognese to replace the planned cold dishes. Note for next year: do not expect to do any shopping on the 15th August.

That is all that is left for me once I have served everyone :'(

Strathisla 1963/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail) (dom666): Heidi Hei-Strath- isla, geddit? Nose: sugar pie, pineapple in custard, grapefruit. Do I like this? Do I! PSC finds liquorice and burnt rubber, as well as light marshmallow. A candy shop (PSC). Mouth: fresh and lively as a young goat in springtime. Pineapple and lime juice. It kicks harder than the 43% would have you think too. Finish: warming, rich, wide and unbelievable, with a touch of minty lime juice. Liquorice, perhaps? Toothpaste, wood splinters. It does become a bit woody, towards the end. It is under control for most of the ride all the same -- and what a ride! 9/10

Another pair to spell out Bunny and Strathclyde, of course.

Bunnahabhain 42yo 1968/2011 (43.8%, Whisky-Fässle, Refill Sherry Cask) (offered by the group): nose: this is a fruity bonded warehouse in early autumn, with a whiff of smoke and decaying cherry. Mouth: lichen and warehouse goodness, musty rooms, clay floors. Finish: long, rich and humbling. Too bad if the notes do not reflect it much, this is a wonderful dram. 9/10


Strathclyde 13yo 2001/2014 (64.4%, OB Cask Strength Edition, B#ST 13 002) (brought by JS): we tried this one last week in Edinburgh, and were convinced, despite the low age. Nose: dessert, bakery, custard, varnish. Mouth: warm croissants. It becomes hotter and hotter -- 64.4%, innit. Finish: a bakery explosion, with a metallic note and a touch of fruit. Wunderbar. 8/10

Dessert is served: griddled cherry pie and pineapple-and-custard pie. Both excellent. The latter goes particularly well with the Strathclyde.

Look mum: no hands!

Port Askaistle - 19 (yes, that is pushing it)

We discover there is a French, a German and a Japanese version of the song, which crack us up immensely.

Port Askaig Harbour 19yo (45.8%, Speciality Drinks) (ruckus): Nose: burnt wood and dry earth. Mouth: balanced and gentle, with a drop of gherkin vinegar. Finish: barley, puffed barley, toasted barley, all behind a veil of smoke. Not exactly what I am in the mood for, but it seems well made. 7/10

What is this supermarket whisky you are pouring?

Talisker 30yo (51.9%, OB, 3000b, b. 2006) (dom666): the link was easy, I suppose, though the band has not exactly reached worldwide recognition. Nose: peppered peat, rich and full-flavoured, with swirls of cigar smoke and Lederhose scents. It has an animal feel to it. Mouth: a drop of apricot over a pudding of peppery wilderness. The pepper is a bit loud for my taste. Finish: the pepper is suddenly way overpowering. Not my thing at all. I find it flawed. 4/10

PSC and kruuk2 leave. ruckus, JS and I prepare to do the same when I realise I forgot to pour something else.

Because we're worth it!
Linlithgow 26yo 1982/2008 (63.7%, Speciality Drinks The Single Malts of Scotland, Butt, C#1622, 601b) (me): this one only makes sense when you know that Linlithgow is St Magdalene, of course. Nose: an austere bakery, with scents oscillating between herbs, stones and flowery bakery goodness. Mouth: lively and kicking, with lots of fine white pepper. Finish: phwoar! Hot custard, herbs, lime stone. Unfortunately, we cannot spend too much time on this (trains do not wait). It is not the best St Magdalene I have had, yet it is a good dram. 8/10 (thanks PS for the sample)

Superb tasting, as usual. The food was particularly delightful.

Some funky cookbooks too!

11 August 2015

07/08/2015 The Whisky Fringe (Part 2)

The story started here.

We split up and take position strategically. I move back to Glenglassaugh.

Glenglassaugh Torfa (50%, OB): nose: young barley and gentle peat smoke. Not exactly stunning. Mouth: young and not very good. Some smoke. Finish: more young spirit, with barley, smoke and no appeal. 4/10

The whistle blows: it is time for the half-time orange dram. The concept is simple: every visitor gets one voucher. However, it can only be redeemed after the whistle has blown, halfway into the game. Some stalls become rather hectic, needless saying.

Glenglassaugh 35yo 1978/2014 (42.9%, OB, Port Hogshead, C#1810, 279b): nose: sultanas, leather, unlit cigars. Mouth: fresh, minty, with still a big sherry influence. Finish: balanced, with a mix of leather and sultanas again, cola and corn syrup. Good dram, yet nothing too special. Disappointing. 7/10

Tomatin 36yo (46%, OB, B#1): nose: phwoar! Tropical fruit (mango, lychee, peach). Mouth: soft and juicy. It could probably use more power, but then my palate is half-fried, at this stage. Finish: fruity and velvety, with mango pieces in a broth of coconut milk. This is amazing. Chances are it would reach top score in better circumstances. 9/10

Glenfarclas is next.

Glenfarclas 21yo (43%, OB, b. ca 2015): nose: fresh and flowery, with notes of green wood. Mouth: milky. It has not much else to say. Finish: more cream -- Bourbon cream, custard cream. Pretty good, if rather generic. 7/10

Compass Box as a next stop.

Hedonism Quindecimus (46%, Compass Box, 5689b, b.2015): a blend of Dumbarton, North British, Cameronbridge and Port Dundas. Nose: not very complex, but nice, soft, with touches of white wood (pine, birch), coconut. Mouth: more rounded softness, mellow and milky. Finish: wood-driven grain whisky, with vanilla, custard, coconut shavings. Again, not terribly complex, very pleasurable. The presentation is the best bit. 7/10

Knockdhu is next.

anCnoc 18yo (46%, OB, b. ca 2015): nose: putty (JS), plasticine and few spices. Mouth: gentle, yet still has a gingery bite! Finish: ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves and cardamom. Solid dram, this. 7/10

Gordon & MacPhail is the following port of call.

Inchgower 2000/2014 (46%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): nose: herbaceous, with hints of caramel. Mouth: fresh, bitter and mentholated. Finish: orange-y, with lots of bitterness. 6/10

Everywhere, the room starts smelling of fart, sweat and regret. The ventilation is good, but nothing stops it ruining the experience.

A short trip to the pompously-named Malts of Distinction.

Highland Park 21yo (47.5%, OB, b. ca 2015): nose: this one is more animal than the previous batches. Mouth: leather, pepper. Finish: leather, tobacco. Jolly Toper likes it, I find it inferior to the older bottlings. 6/10

Benromach Organic 2008/2015 (43%, OB, Virgin American Oak): nose: wide, full of walnut shells and walnut tree, waxed cupboards. Mouth: mellow, though still woody and full of tannins. Finish: long, wide and distinguished, with the influences of a gentlemen's club. 7/10

Back to Hunter Laing's.

Port Dundas 25yo 1990/2015 (51.9%, HL The Sovereign, Refill Hogshead, C#HL REF 11593, 236b): nose: trademarks of a grain, with almond croissant and all kinds of wonderful bakery goodness. Mouth: custard, coconut and wood-driven shenanigan. Finish: phwoar! More untainted bakery loveliness. Love it. 8/10

Final trip to Gordon & MacPhail's.

Teaninich 2006/2014 (46%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): nose: grassy and bitter, with notes of buttercups. Mouth: the same. Finish: the same. Not very pleasant, but then I am baked too. I am actually surprised I can still take notes (it took me a while to read that line back, mind). 5/10

Struggling to decide what to take as a final dram, I end up at the Springbank stand.

Kilkerran WIP 7 Sherry Wood (46%, OB, b. 2015): nose: lovely plum tart. A bit of peat smoke, I suppose, but the sherry is louder. Dried plums, dates, prunes, wine. Mouth: good balance, with juicy raisins, dried figs and cooked wine. Finish: more cooked wine and dried fruit. Pleasant and well balanced, better than this year's Bourbon Wood, in my opinion. 7/10

A quick trip to the shop (they have to drive something in from the warehouse for us, as it is sold out already, both at the venue and in the shop), then we leave. Intense, interesting experience.

Amongst the good points, the venue is wonderful, the amount of people they let in is adequate, the queues are quick-moving, the short time frame (four hours) prevents ridiculously-drunk people, compared to other festivals, it is affordable (£30 a pop, including a half-time orange dram coupon and a £10 discount at Royal Mile Whiskies) and the atmosphere is friendly enough.

The only negative point would be the generally average selection (again, compared to other, bigger festivals). Well, that and the smell of fart.


07/08/2015 The Whisky Fringe (Part 1)

The Edinburgh Fringe is a yearly city celebration during which street performers take over and tourists are even more numerous than usual. On top of that, lots and lots of events take place in various venues across town, mostly comedy... and of course, there is a whisky festival too. That is what we will talk about here. Naturally, the notes will be short and generic. It is a festival, not a poetry contest.

The venue is a converted church and is as grand an event hall as I have ever seen, only beaten in my opinion by the Vinopolis complex, in London.

But enough. JS and I reach there a few minutes after door-opening time and frown at the queue. It is very quick moving, though and we are in in less than ten minutes. Quick look-around, we say hello to Jolly Toper and start thinking about a strategy.

Now, a strategy is essential for anyone who plans to seriously attend a whisky festival. This being our first Fringe and the fact we do not know the configuration, the exhibitors or what is on offer, we are utterly unprepared. As seasoned Whisky Show goers, we quickly realise that should be alright: the number of exhibitors and the drams on display should make chance an option, as long as we stay focused.

First stop: Hunter Laing.

Braeval 13yo 2001/2014 (48%, Langside Distillers Distiller's Art, Refill Sherry Butt, 784b): nose: eau-de-vie-like, white wine, burning alcohol. Mouth: more eau-de-vie. Finish: long and powerful, but thin. Meh. This is too young and hard to enjoy. 4/10

Glen Garioch 20yo 1994/2014 (50%, Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask 50°, Refill Hogshead, C#HL REF 10899, 322b): nose: leather, dried meat. Mouth: peach juice, with more leather. Finish: more fruit, with a hint of animal skin. 5/10

Let us stay in the family: Douglas Laing.

Auchroisk 16yo 1998/2014 (48.4%, Dougls Laing Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, C#DL10572, 273b): nose: daffodils and other yellow flowers. Mouth: butter, slightly spicy custard. Finish: more custard. It becomes quite creamy and lovely, if unchallenging. 7/10

Invergordon 26yo d.1988 (50.6%, Douglas Hamilton The Clan Denny, North American Oak Cask, C#DH10250): nose: toasted barley, sugar, with notes of custard. Mouth: velvety, with a few wood splinters (cedar? balsa?). Fresh, but tamed. Finish: blackcurrant-flavoured custard. Meow. 8/10

We meet up with Whisky Cyclist.

Auchentoshan 14yo 2000/2015 (48.4%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, C#DL10716, 324b): nose: darker meadow flowers (violets, poppies), lots of shampoo, then hay. Mouth: thin and a bit insipid, to be honest. Meadow flowers grow, alongside an unwelcome acidity. Finish: the acidity taints the notes of custard and coconut milk. Pity: it had potential, but becomes too acidic. 5/10

Royal Lochnagar 17yo 1997/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, Refill Butt, C#DL10434, 746b): nose: burnt compote, orange marmalade, both discreet, then sea breeze (really!?) Mouth: orange water. This is thin and soft. Finish: burnt compote and marmalade again. 7/10

North British 21yo (50.9%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, C#DL10797, 294b): nose: very original, with overripe melon, quince, papaya and toasted coconut. Mouth: velvety, with something reminiscent of old lamps (the pewter stand, to be precise). Slightly metallic, it is, then. Finish: mix of prunes, quince and papaya. 8/10

We move to the Last Great Malts of Scotland stall (modesty, innit).

Craigellachie 17yo (43%, OB, B#98-ZC21): finally get a chance to try this. Nose: cologne, super-dry hay. Mouth: gives a spicy tingle, alongside forsythia. Finish: short and unspectatcular. Nondescript. Nothing terribly wrong, nothing terribly worth it either. 6/10

Craigellachie 13yo (43%, OB, B#83-LH88): unripe fruit, drying corn. Mouth: more unripe fruit in syrup. Finish: finally, the fruit becomes just about ripe, with syrup again. This is uninteresting, really. 6/10

Across the room to Ian Macleod.

Tamdhu 10yo (40%, OB, Sherry Casks, b. ca 2015): this one was hyped up a lot, recently. Quite excited to try it, then. Nose: strangely there is a bit of smoke in there, alongside unripe fruit. Mouth: soft and easy. Finish: short and timid. Not quite as special as I expected. Hype not deserved. 6/10

Trip to The BenRiach Company.

Glenglassaugh 30yo (44.8%, OB, B#2, b.2015): I was not completely taken by this one, at the Whisky Show (edit: this is not the same batch). Nose: a lot fruitier than I remembered it, with melon and liquorice. Mouth: soft, silky, milky, with a small trait of cider vinegar. Finish: never-ending, with waves of cut fruit, custard and coconut water. I like it much more, this time. I try to get a dram of my own and witness the last drops being poured to someone else. 8/10

Slide to Tomatin.

Tomatin 1988/2014 (46%, OB, Bourbon Casks and Port Pipes, B#1, 2500b): nose: caramel and fruit, particularly lychee. Mouth: mellow and pillowy, with squashed sultanas. Finish: more traditional, with raisins, some smoke and milk chocolate. Wow! Tomatin! 8/10

Tomatin Cask Strength Edition (57.5%, OB, Bourbon Barrels and Oloroso Sherry Casks, 15000b, b.2015): nose: less noble, full of eau-de-vie (pear?) Mouth: little chocolate and eau-de-vie. Finish: unsubtle, with more eau-de-vie and alcohol burn. Bleh. 4/10

Carry on reading here.