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%, DL 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%, DL 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%, DL 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%, DL 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
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