30 September 2015

30/09/2015 Blitz at Berrys' #10

You know the score. Whisky Show at the weekend, Berrys' very near, why waste the staff's time over the weekend when a portion of what they offer is available already?

New staff and very little change on the shelves, really. Nothing from 2015, most from 2014, with a few bottlings from 2013, still. Unexpected, yet that will help keep this session brief. And the notes.

Westport 18yo 1996/2014 (56.7%, BBR Selected by Berrys', C#2503): plum eau-de-vie immediately jumps at me, followed by gentle citrus. Finish is long and lukewarm. Easy and inoffensive, like a typical Glenmor@ngie can be (this is the Tain distillery, teaspooned with Glen Moray, if you are not aware). 7/10

Tomatin 20yo 1994/2014 (51%, BBR Selected by Berrys', C#6393): crisp green apple, soon followed by white chocolate. The label talks about "a smokey edge." Now they say so, I can see where that is coming from. I will challenge anyone to detect smoke without reading the notes prior, though. 7/10

Blair Athol 22yo 1991/2014 (46%, BBR Selected by Berrys', C#7279): this one comes recommended by the vendor. I have to admit it is not something I would have picked up myself. Lemon balm and fruit -- the label is right about green melon. It is creamy and fruity, light, delicate, with very well-integrated alcohol (cut to 46%). It might be the second best Blair Athol I have drunk (the RMS is still the first). 8/10

Auchentoshan 21yo 1992/2014 (46%, BBR Selected by Berrys', C#7757/8): another novelty: this one is not single cask. I believe it is a first, or at least it has not been seen in a long time. After an initial herbaceous impression, I identify an amazing note of tzatziki, shouting into the nostrils. Diced cucumber and fresh yoghurt. Oh! That and lemongrass. Odd to say the least. The latest Auchentoshan BBR released was a cascade of violet. This one is tzatziki. What next? Caviar? Tarama? Cuberdons? 8/10

29 September 2015

27/09/2015 Belgian French-speaking Community celebration. In Frenchlandia.

An opportunity to do a little Heimat-pimping. Well, an occasion to drink drams, really. For the record, this has nothing to do with the French expats in Belgium and everything to do with the French-speaking part of the country.

As a recovery for yesterday's feast, we go out for brunch and stop by JML's for a quick session afterwards. Yay.

The master of ceremony behind his goodies

Glenglassaugh 38yo 1975/2014 (40.7%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Hogshead, C#7301, 215b) (JML): nose: light coffee, mild Virginia tobacco, mint or verbena. Mouth: some wood, ginger warmth, mint, light caramel. Finish: the sherry influence is under control, though it is also not shy. Stewed plums, balsamico, dark raisins, cocoa powder. Nice dram. 7/10

Glenglassaugh 41yo 1973/2014 Massandra Connection (44.5%, OB, Sherry Puncheon, 388b) (JML): a lot fruitier, this: yellow pears, starking or Flemish beauty (not really the day for that, is it?) and quince. Mouth: citrus juice, perhaps a drop of peach, white pepper. Finish: fresh, light, spicy and woody, with distinctive notes of dessert rice. It is rather long, pleasant and laid back. 8/10

Glenglassaugh 39yo 1972/2012 (57.2%, OB Selected by Andrea Caminneci for Germany, Refill Butt, C#2896, 516b) (JML): nose: banana yoghurt, rice pudding, custard, pear roasted in butter. Mouth: ample, syrupy, with peaches in syrup (the sort one uses to make pêches au thon), squashed mandarins. Finish: long and wide, bold, muscular, with hot custard and white pepper. Wonderful. Better than 21.28, in my opinion. I still prefer 21.27, yet it is the same sort of level. 9/10

Spot the geek

Caledonian 1963/1989 (40%, Moon Imports Costumes, Butt, C#3369) (JML): nose: caffè macchiato, raisins (JS), shaved coconut, plums (JS). Mouth: milky coffee, woody tones, coconut shells and some dark caramel. Finish: big and powerful, with more caramel. It has the bitterness of coffee beans, yet it remains balanced. Well made, this. 8/10

Superb afternoon.

In other news, a well-known bottler is branching under a localised name

26/09/2015 Nothing Toulouse

After a grand day out, time for party. The programme is ambitious, which means there is no time Toulouse! So much so that JML sings an impromptu session of choir tunes. He must think his final moments have come.

The suspects: JML, CT, Arribba, JS, myself.

A selection of delikatessen and nibbles of all kinds populate the living-room table, which is a more relaxed approach than the three-course Burns' dinner, while as tasty and copious.

We have beer too! (thanks pompix)

On to the drinks. We try most blind, so as to not taint the first impression and also because it makes for great fun to try and identify the liquid. CT pulled out at least 25 minis. Of course, many of them will not be opened.

Dram 1 (JML): nose: soft sherry notes. It is slightly salty, with a hint of nail polish. Fruit comes up in waves, a bit later on. Mouth: watery, although it grows to become ever-so-slightly smokey. Finish: a light veil of smoke -- I reckon coal-fired stills. The coal dust and smoke become more intense as time goes by, complemented with a hint of fruit. Marvellous. I think Glengarioch, Glenlochy or Glen Ord. Numerous clues help me narrow it down to St Magdalene 18yo d.1964 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice) 9/10

Dram 2 (CT): nose: hard caramel (JML), hard biscuit (Arribba), grape juice and candy, hints of burnt earth, ham. Mouth: not very assertive at first. Old cardboard, dust, then pickles and soft chilli (Espelette pepper). Finish: slightly drying, with dust coal dust, roasted pineapple. Nice, this. We have a hard time identifying it -- we even think it might be a grain, or a rum. It turns out to be, brace yourself, Berry's Blend (unknown ABV, BBR, b.1902) 7/10

Dram 3 (me): nose lemon drops (JML), acidic sweets (JML). Arribba finds it herbaceous, while JML (in full form) detects preserved lemons and preserved angelica. I am astonished that no-one seems to detect the crisp-apple peels that are so obvious to me. Mouth: star anise, angelica (JML) and apple peels. Finish: long, warming and fresh at the same time, with a shovelful of fruit. As I expected, this proves extremely hard to identify, even with a multitude of clues. I am very excited that all like it (unless they are being overly polite). JML ends up finding it, though strangely, this is his first guess from that distillery -- remember that Loch Lomond, who produced this, make about 12 different whiskies. It is Old Rhosdhu 1967/1999 (40%, OB) 9/10

Dram 4 (CT): nose: farmyard, vegetable fields, old, ripe cheese, old bread, cow dung and faded leather sandals. Mouth: soft, slightly salty with a note of smoked ham and a light bitterness. Finish: nail varnish. With tons of help, JML identifies it as Glenlivet K (43%, OB Orlandi Import, b.1960s) 7/10

Dram 5 (CT): this one we see from the get-go. Cardow 100% Pot Still (43%, OB, b. early 1980s): nose: an old library -- dusty, leather-bound books and mildly overbaked plum pie. Mouth: mellow, with notes of peppered yellow fruit. Finish: much dryer than anticipated, with coal dust. I like. It is austere and old school. 7/10

Tuna loaf and courgette quiche are served and liked.

Dram 6 (CT): we see this one too. Perhaps CT is getting inebriated. Berry's Best (43° G.L., BBR): nose: a crazy mix of flat cola, melted chocolate, seashells and fruit. JML detects frozen medlar, while JS is spot on with tamarind. Mouth: this is rather powerful, with squashed apricot. Finish: light smoke and white pepper. Quite a ride! I like it. 7/10

Dram 7 (CT): Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB, b.1980s): nose: a nasty smell of enclosed space ('remugle', in French, thanks JML for the lesson). Clogged sink, pickled onions, rotting onions (JML), rubber. This is clearly a sherry cask gone wrong. Mouth: pickled onions again -- big, fat ones. Finish: it is not horrible, yet well disappointing. Interesting, not good. 4/10

Everyone loses the will to live. CT cracks open a big bottle of the same for comparison.

Dram 8 (CT): Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB imported by Auxil, b.1980s): nose: smoke at first, then lemon and grapefruit come through. Mouth: warming with a twist of black pepper. Finish: neverending, with smoke and a hint of fruit. Lovely. This is very, very close to the recent Bowmore Tempest (B#1 to 3; have not tried the more recent ones). 8/10

Blend of both: it is OK. A waste of the big bottle, to be honest, as the rotting onions emerge quite boldly.

CT, JML and Arribba have a mini of Talisker 10yo from the 1990s. JS and I do not drink supermarket whisky.

CT and JML also start cooking (and flaming) scallops. Massive and delicious. The flaming is done with a Caol Ila I fail to note the references of.

We carry on with disclosed drams for a while.

Dram 9 (CT): Lagavulin 12yo (43%, OB White Horse, b.1980s): nose: immediately, sherry notes jump out of the glass, with a little peat, then earth, nail polish and turpentine. The nose is very wide. In the the back, a whiff of mould on grated cheddar cheese!! -- the kind that smells of dust and is beyond salvaging. Mouth: hot and powerful, with dark tapenade, peat, earth and lots of pepper. Finish: neverending, muscular and ample. At the same time, it retains some dignity. Earth, seashells, fishing nets. This is better than the modern stuff! 8/10

Dram 10 (Arribba): Dumbarton (Inverleven Stills) 27yo 1987/2015 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Bourbon Hogshead, 240b): nose: pear, crêpes with cream, baba au rhum (JML), lemon (JML), pineapple. Mouth: chillied pineapple, soured cream (JML). Finish: massively warm, with a drop of pineapple in it again. Wonderful dram. Once the whisky has breathed a bit more, I trust it will score higher. 8/10


Dram 11 (CT): Dumbarton (Inverleven Stills) 30yo 1969/2000 (57.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 150b): nose: strawberry sweets, nail-varnish remover -- is this a grain? Mouth: super soft, mellow, with chemical fruit -- Fraise Tagada. Finish a whiff of (dark red) nail varnish, then Fraise Tagada soaked in lacquer. Lovely! I cannot decide which of the two Inverleven I prefer. 8/10

Dram 12 (me): Tobermory 20yo 1994/2015 (57.8%, Cadenhead Wood Range, Sherry Cask, 570b): nose: leather, wine (JML) -- very wine-y, actually. Cured meat, a buccaneer's boots. Mouth: more leather, wine, cloves. Finish: powerful, with marinated ribs and mulled wine. Meh. 5/10 (thanks SW for the sample)

JS wakes up to pour her dram just as JML and CT finish their arsonists' take on giant gambas. The things are big as lobsters!

Flaming monsters, I'm telling you!

Dram 13 (JS): nose: papaya and other exotic goodies. Mango is rather expressive too. Mouth: a lot more powerful than expected, in this sequence. Lemon and other exotic fruits explode in the mouth. Finish: loads of exotic fruits, as well as some lichen on a cask. Love it. JS was scared it would be a little mute or spoilt, after the big, bold ones. It is not -- far from it! This is a big hit. CT's dram of the day -- and he does not even like the distillery, usually! Arribba finds the provenance, while the others think of BenRiach 1976. It is Littlemill 28yo 1985/2013 (50.4%, Robert Graham Treasurer Selection, C#99, 230b) 9/10

Dram 14 (JML): nose: buttered pear, buttery croissants, peaches. Mouth: again, a mixture of pastry and fruit. Finish: marmalade on buttered crumpet. Even the slight bitterness or orange rinds is there. We all love this. It takes me many, many attempts to identify the distillery: Macduff 27yo (53%, James MacArthur In Celebration 500 Years of Scotch Whisky, b.1994) 9/10

Cheeses are served. Epoisse, Chaource, Fourme, Bethmale and a brie-like whose name I cannot remember. I fail to try the Epoisse. The Bethmale is spectacular. JS prefers the Chaource.

Dram 15 (JML): nose: lemon curd, acidic and creamy at the same time. Mouth: more lemon curd, apple peels and a sprinkle of white pepper. Finish: lemon pie, meringue pie. This is orgasmic. Dram of the day for JS and me. Again, it proves difficult to identify the distillery, as it is off the beaten path. It is 8.27 33yo 1967/2000 (48.2%, SMWS Society Cask) 9/10

Dram 16 (me): nose: candied sugar (JML), mint, wood shavings, salted plum (JML), colour pencils (JML). Mouth: the wood influence is huge, as usual -- this is an old acquaintance for me. It combines herbal and woody notes. Finish: lemon tart and soured cream (JML), lots of wood. It remains balanced, yet woody. Mint-flavoured toothpicks and salted plums. Love it! Another hard-to-find one: 64.40 22yo 1990/2012 Gingery heat and oaky tannins (53.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 172b) 8/10

Dram 17 (me): nose: banana, squashed banana, to be accurate. A bit of peat (JML). It has a thin veil of smoke indeed, as well as lemon pie (JML again). Mouth: vanilla (JML), banana yoghurt (JML). This is creamy, with ginger heat. It also grows bold and assertive. Finish: liquorice (JML), ginger, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. ßανίλια intermingles with woody notes. No-one manages to identify Glenlossie 12yo (55.5%, OB The Manager's Dram, b.2004) 8/10

Dram 18 (Arribba): Port Charlotte 8yo 2001/2010 Port Sgioba (66%, OB Private Cask, Sherry Hogshead, C#826/2001, 286b): yes, this will be the last dram. ;-) Nose: burnt earth and coq-au-vin. Mouth: hot, really hot, then wine-y. Finish: peat, meat and wine. This is unsubtle and brutal. Not really my style. Funny, though. 6/10

Epic. High quality throughout, lots to eat, good company. What more could one want?

25/09/2015 A few drams in France

Visiting friends in Frenchland. What a great opportunity to try new things, eh?

CT, JS and myself.

$57.99, yay!
Edradour 20yo 1965/1985 (82° PROOF, Cadenhead): this one was opened earlier this year for the 50th birthday of its owner. Everyone attending hated it with a passion. Nose: soap and tons of herbs. It also has cold coal. This is full of ash and fat, exactly what one finds in a soap factory. Mouth: carbolic soap, ash, even. This is most peculiar. I can understand why it was such a miss when it was first tasted, as I imagine it is a bit of an acquired taste! I kind of like it myself. :-) Finish: woah! Soap ahoy! Extremely odd, teeming with soap and ash. Loaves of soap. Very interesting. 6/10

VAT 69 (unknown ABV, unknown era): CT knows how to pull out unlikely stuff. Nose: something peachy in there. JS finds butter and popcorn, melted butter and a hint of apricot juice. Mouth: this seems watery, though it builds up to reveal a bit of smoke. Finish: same sort of things with fruit and smoke, balanced and pleasant. I like. 7/10

Jameson (43° GAY LUSSAC, b.1970s): nose: seal wax, old cardboard boxes, ink, pencil lead, even. Light years away from the current bottlings. Mouth: same sort, tame in alcohol, with notes of pencil lead, ink and old parchments. Finish: long and sticky, pencil sharpener, ink, phone diaries -- that sort of things. Another well interesting dram! 7/10

I have come PREPARED!

14 September 2015

12/09/2015 Defying description

Some names come with a clue. It has always amused me that Glendullan, for example, is mostly dull. I am happy to be proven wrong, by the way -- simply never found one I really liked. Other names give the same sort of hints. This tasting is to find out whether those clues are true or false.

The suspects: JS, EG, OB and myself. PS and JH called off late in the game, unfortunately.

Is the first one enviable?

Balvenie 15yo 1989/2004 (47.8%, OB Single Barrel, C#8419) (me): I had this one two weeks ago, so will not spend too much time on it. The bottle is almost empty and we need a starter. Why not have this one last time? Plus the anagram (provided by JS) is masterful (b-a-l-v-e-n-i-e / e-n-v-i-a-b-l-e, see?) Back to the whisky: it has woody tones, peach, apricots and mint, today. Some tobacco in the finish. It is dry with character, rather enviable indeed. 7/10

Is this classy?

Glenglassaugh 30yo (44.8%, OB, B#1, LG101350, b. 2013, 1002b) (EG): EG shifts gears with this one. We discover that the one we had at the Fringe last month is in fact a different batch. This one is a lot darker and the prints at the base of the bottle are different -- the one we tried at the Whisky Show in 2013. That explains the difference in perceptions! What about today, in a calmer setting? Nose: sherry influence, at first, with oil and diluted molasses. Shortly thereafter, fruits come out: figs and barbecued apricots in yoghurt. A cup of coffee in another room and liquorice (EG). Mouth: mellow and gentle, it rolls on the tongue like ice cream -- mocha ice cream, that is. Finish: long, slightly drying, it has treacle (EG), toffee, mocha praline. Beautiful stuff, classy indeed. I find it better than in 2013; at the same time, I prefer this year's release: it is less sherried. 8/10

We make our way to the terrace. After all, this might be the last time we enjoy it this year.

Is this bland?

Bladnoch 20yo 1990/2011 (60.6%, Càrn Mòr Celebration of the Cask, Bourbon Barrel, C#30005, 194b) (JS): Bland-noch, geddit? Nose: violet and fruit (green melon skin, to be precise), custard and vanilla ice cream. OB finds quince jam in it too. With water, it turns more gentle (have you seen the ABV?), and bursts with fruit in vanilla cream. Mouth: zesty, fresh and lively, with fruity yoghurt and tutti frutti -- the dried fruit, full of colorant and preservatives they used to sprinkle on top of or stuff into ice cream in the early 1980s (do they still do that?) With water, it becomes even fresher, more springy, yet slightly tamed. Finish: greengage, unripe green melon and other green fruit. Water makes it fresh and minty. Definitely not bland. Beautiful Bladnoch that will probably improve again once it has breathed more! Dram of the day for OB and JS. 8/10

Is the next one garish, or gregarious?

Glengarioch 21yo (43%, OB, L591, b. ca 1990) (me): after all that reading about old Glengarioch, finally an opportunity to try one.  There are several versions of this 21yo. Some score less than well with aficionados, while others (mostly vintage one) are beloved. This one was probably not distilled in the glorious 1960s, yet it is likely from the early 1970s all the same. Nose: OB finds bread dough, whilst EG finds it metallic. To me, it appears fresh and draped in a very refined peat smoke. It even has a coastal quality to it (warm sand). Cut pears emerge as well -- blimey! this is amazing. Mouth: JS dislikes the big soapiness that wraps the whole thing. I am entranced by the lavender and fruit in the soap (melon, maybe?) Finish: soap again, for a few seconds, then earth and fleeting fruit. Once those have gone, soot settles in for good. Garish? No. It is more subtle, in fact. Gregarious? It certainly triggers conversation amongst friends. I love it and am willing to bet it will improve in the bottle and will make it to 9. For now, it is 8/10

Is this one sprinkle-y?

Springbank 16yo 1997/2013 (56%, OB for the UK, 10y Bourbon Cask/6y Madeira Cask, C#07/178-3, 630b) (EG): EG is obviously making it up as we go. That will do. Nose: starts with soot, hot cigars and damp staves, as well as chargrilled ribs. This is old-school and rather assertive. Maitrank notes fight their way up the nostril, eventually. Unusual, eh? Mouth: powerful and austere, with flint, dark fruit (dark cherries, blackberries) and salty sea spray. Finish: slightly metallic, with more dark fruit, a veil of dark smoke and a pinch of salt. Not sprinkle-y, no -- it will not even break the bank to procure one (perhaps in the future). JS likes it a lot, which is unexpected, considering the flavour profile. 8/10

Olives, straight from the olive tree

Does this taste like the small plague?

Providing the bling
Loch Lomond (Inchmurrin) 29yo 1974/2003 (54.4%, Cadenhead Chairman's Stock, Bourbon Barrel, 210b) (OB): now, this one requires some preliminary explanations. An inch is a small measurement unit. Easy. According to The English dialect dictionary, a murrain, or murrin, is "a nuisance, a 'plague'; freq. used in imprecations and execrations." Inchmurrin, then, would be a small nuisance. Talk about shoehorning a bottle into a theme! At the same time, the bottle was bought recently and OB sort of pried it from JS's hands; which in turns means that JS pushed the price up for OB -- consequence of failed synchronisation. OB wanted to bring the bottle because of that. A classy touch, really. Nose: EG finds pickles, marinated cabbage and kimchi. To me, it has scents of a wood stove, with a simmering cauldron of apple compote. Hot, juicy pastry is next, with custard and even tropical fruits. EG further detects tobacco leaves. Mouth: unctuous and velvety, creamy. Butterscotch, custard, hot apricot compote. Finish: a fleeting kick of clogged sink and hiking boots, then a mix of herbal and fruity characters -- very fruity, actually. It is a green salad with mango slices in it. Not a small nuisance at all, this is wonderful! Dram of the day for me. For the record, Inchmurrin means island of Mirren (for the next film tasting, perhaps). 9/10

Inchmurrin in full of win

Is this ordinary?

Glen Ord 25yo 1978/2004 (58.3%, OB, 3600b) (JS): the phrase 'Glen Ordinary' pretty much gave JS the idea for the theme. It would have been rude not to have one in the line-up. Nose: herbaceous, leafy, even, walking under the ivy. Hints of citrus (lime, orange, grapefruit). It becomes flinty after a while. Mouth: bitter oranges, moss and a touch of nail varnish -- lovely. This is powerful and quite manly. Finish: austere, now, with rocks, leaves and lichen, a twist of the pepper mill and a touch of red fruit. It seems a little less complex than the first time (the bottle was opened today), yet it would be foolish to call it ordinary. 8/10

Is this mhormidable?

Glen Mhor 21yo d.1976 (43%, The Whisky Shop Glenkeir Treasures The Gold Selection, 299b) (me): this only works if one knows that 'mh' is pronounced 'v' in Gaelic -- which of course you do, if you read this blog regularly. This particular bottling is an old friend. Neither OB nor EG have had it, so I feel entitled to pour it once more. Nose: earth and soot, with touches of dark fruit. Mouth: this might lack horsepower to follow the previous drams, unfortunately. Dark fruit, earthy tones. Hard to take insightful notes. Finish: long, fruity and beautiful. I have loved this one each time; today is no exception. It suffers a bit from the sequence, yet it is indeed mhormidable. 8/10

We go back in to finish the dram, as it is getting chilly.

Does the following represent a loss of money?

Glenlossie 12yo (55.5%, OB The Manager's Dram, b.2004) (me): having almost never had a Glenlossie that I thought was worthy of buying, I am pretty excited to try this one. Also, one does not try a Manager's Dram every day... Strangely, it does not seem to be a single cask, now (bottle #900), and it is a lot easier to find than older bottlings. Perhaps Diageo have made this widely available? Nose: chicken stock, says OB, chicken feed, says EG. Lots of citrus (lime, grapefruit peels). It is a little simple, I suppose -- compared to the previous string, at least. That is the game, though. Sometimes, you win, sometimes you lose. Mouth: powerful, teeming with grapefruit and some vanilla. Nice and sparkly (JS), with a popping-candy impression (JS). Finish: long and pleasant. A good, fruity, young dram. I cannot wait to try it again. I call it the best Glenlossie I have had, until JS reminds me of the ridiculous 21yo Cadenhead we had last year. That hardly counts. 8/10

Is there agave in the last one?

Lagavulin Triple Matured 1991/2015 (59.9%, OB Feis Ile 2015, American Oak/Pedro Ximénez & Oak Puncheons) (OB): nose: peat and sea action, earth, kelp, mussels, basalmic vinegar©. Bold and assertive, if not too complex. Mouth: it has a bite to it, with vinegar, grilled meat and fishing nets, salty shells, winkles and a soft, metallic edge. Finish: long, ploughing, unsubtle. Bouillabaisse (a fish soup speciality from the South of France), fishing nets, algae, shells, mussels again. Good whisky and I can understand why it is popular. I think I expected more of a 24yo Lagavulin, though. More subtlety and elegance. 7/10

That is enough. We start talking about Chinese tourists visiting these shores. I hardly need encouragements to start a pointless rant and make a fool of myself. In any case, it probably shows what a bitter old fart I am. Since that is indeed the case, fine. I would rather, however, not alienate my friends. Time to call it a day. :o)

Superb tasting of a very consistent quality.