29 December 2015

27/12/2015 Recovery drams

Christmas was a bit of an adventure, this year.

Deanston 17yo (40%, OB, 15:20 4354 P003816 L16): an old favourite that will not get full notes, this time. Nose: raisin paste, stewed plums. Mouth: mild, mellow and pleasant, gently fruity, compote-y or jammy. Finish: jammy fruit, or fruity jam again, candied nuts. Lovely, innit. 8/10

Tomintoul 27yo (40%, OB, 07/05045 18/05/07): nose: pine needles and sap, both gentle. This one is even more delicate than the Deanston; walnut oil that does not jump at you and Fraise Tagada. Mouth: a little more outspoken, though it remains quite subtle. More oil (this time olive). This is silky smooth and easy to quaff. Hints of apricot jam and honey. Finish: a woody note (apricot stone), polished furniture, still very gentle, despite the initial lukewarm kick upon swallowing -- nothing aggressive, mind! Lovely too, this. 8/10

37.64 30yo 1985/2015 A real charmer (51.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 188b): nose: pine cones and citrus. Lime peel and pomelo zest are also there. This is very deep and rich. Mouth: notes of pepper, green-grape or lime juice. It tickles and tingles. Finish: lots of pepper upon swallowing, then a little green wood bitterness. It is long and warming, with dried citrus peel. Looking forward to trying this again. 8/10

26/12/2015 Boxing Day dram


Ardbeg Lord of the Isles (46%, OB, L5 285 243 4WL): nose: a lovely mix of brine in a farmyard. Seaspray, fishing nets, whelk, mussels and oysters, kelp, wrack at low tide, yet also muddy paths. Oddly, this all comes accompanied by cotton candy. This is complex and not shy at all. Brushed aluminium surfaces. Wet sand and damp cellars. It turns vaguely fruity after twenty minutes. Mouth: velvety as caramel, it has more of the sea notes (seaspray, fishing nets), as well as a tiny bit of rubber or bakelite (tractor tyres, perhaps?). Apples -- nay! Cider. A gently salty tang, probably biltong. Sweetend orange juice is there too. Finish: peat smoke and muddy fields, smoked mussels, Serrano ham, sun-heated rubber. The second sip brings more orange juice; it is served in a burnt-rubber cup. I will stand by what I always said: these reduced small batches beat the single-cask bottlings of the same era in terms of complexity, balance and value for money. 9/10

25/12/2015 Christmas drams

Inspiration hit me, this week.

Dailuaine 23yo (46%, Cadenhead): nose: dusty orange juice, in pure old-miniature tradition. Musty warehouses, quince jelly and some vinegar. After a few sniffs, distant OXO broth appears, then it is peppery rocket leaves and ground peach stones, fresh herbs (oregano? mint?) and old tins full of coins, as well as... tulips! Later on, smoked ham also shows up. My, what a ride! Mouth: starts out mellow, then gives out a metallic note. This one has an unsuspected strength. Mild coffee? Tea? Sage infusion? We will settle for milky tea or chai, with a few tulpi petals. Finish: more metallic notes: old coins and a dusty toolbox. It has quite a bit of white pepper and a bitter aftertaste: plant juice, or, well, old coins again -- slightly oxidized coppers, that is, not golden doubloons. Complex and ever-evolving, this one requires time. It does reward the patient taster, however! 8/10

9.72 17yo d.1996 Lockets Honey and Lemon Lozenges (62.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 272b): nose: citronella, lemon curd, sweets, lemon-flavoured pastry, Biscuits à la Cuiller, then cough drops (that'll be lozenges, I suppose), and even plasticine. I cannot remember ever nosing such a nice Glen Grant! Well, GMP's at this year's Whisky Show, probably, though in a completely different style. Coconut cream shows up, then it becomes vaguely animal, at some point, though never invadingly so. Mouth: mellow for 62.7%. It becomes warm alright, never too much is all. Verbena timidly walks into the picture, with custard, "cocoghurt" and a touch of lemon juice, or zest. Chocolate milk (Nesquik style) with lots of milk. It is silky as satin, astonishingly. Finish: Oh yes! Gently warming, with comforting custard, coconut cream, curd, a twist of the black-pepper mill. This one tingles and sparkles beautifully. It never feels like a modern malt either, interestingly enough. 8/10 (thanks JMcG for the sample)

24/12/2015 Christmas Eve drams

Pretty self explanatory, would you not say?

Tomatin 25yo 1989/2015 (51.9%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 204b): nose: some alcohol, some grapes -- it is really rather discreet, believe it or not. Some fruit comes out after several minutes (pears) and nail varnish, alongside walnut flesh. With water, it becomes rhubarb tart or compote. Mouth: lively and peppery, spicy, with hot chilli and a light bitterness. Water gives it a bakery feel, not unlike apricot turnover. Finish: milk chocolate first, then some fruit, mostly unripe. It is a bit green, this. With water, it becomes more mello, with notes of apricot turnover again. Alright; I cannot say I am very impressed. 6/10 (thanks SW for the sample)

Old Man of Hoy 12yo (43%, Blackadder, C#2001/H05 385-R-OM-43 / 343-R-OM): all that gibberish hints at a Highland Park bottled in 2001, does it not? Nose: leather, liquorice, oxtail broth, earth, gravel under the rain (adc) and even some sulphur, after a minute. Mouth: consistent with the nose -- liquorice and dry earth. It has the zing of liquorice allsorts, or those black, flat-cable-shaped sweets, while remaining gentle and smooth, with a hint of blackcurrant and prunes. Finish: more oxtail broth with lots and lots of liquorice and stewed prunes. 6/10 (thanks adc for the dram)

23 December 2015

22/12/2015 More drams at the SMWS

Yes, two nights in a row. This time, I am meeting with OB and we are joined by JS. Short notes again.

35.140 20yo d.1994 Cornucopia of incredible creativity (55.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill Toasted Oak Hogshead, 241b): because what the hell! Still great, though less ridiculously so than yesterday. The nose is more closed, almost metallic.

OB has 44.69, which I do not try.

53.232 15yo 2000/2015 The perfect ending to a perfect day (62.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Sherry Butt, 276b): I ask the staff for something fruity, whether peaty or not. SMcD recommends this. Nose: bacon and warm earth, roasted ham (JS), gammon. This ain't fruity! Mouth: mellow, with an earthy side to it. Smoked ham. The peat smoke is certainly discreet. Blackcurrant end up emerging, as well as elderberry. Finish: long and warming, with honey-roast ham. I like this. 7/10

46.35 17yo 1998/2015 Confident understated cask (54.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 251b): nose: perfume, a bouquet of flowers, then hints of fruit. OB finds shandy in it -- he has probably had too much to drink already. Mouth: milky, with the slight bitterness of almond. Finish: fruity and velvety, now. 8/10

OB has 80.7. I do not try it, today.

28.28 10yo 2005/2015 Lay your head on my pillow (60%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 223b): I want the other two to try this. Nose: alcohol, milk chocolate and herbs. I take no notes for the mouth. Finish: strangely, I get a note of leather or shoe polish, today. I reckon the sequence does not do it justice. 7/10

128.5 9yo 2006/2015 As purple as Prince! (60.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 213b): JS wants this. SMcD says it is not there, yet badabing, his colleague finds a bottle; ha! Nose: tropical fruit aplenty, with some brioche. Water makes it even more fragrant. Wunderbar! Mouth: mellow fruit flesh and silky brioche again. Finish: a bit of clogged-sink action here, meaning overripe fruit galore. 9/10

117.3 25yo d.1988 Hubba-bubba, mango and monstera (58.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 199b): not pushing or anything, yet OB has not tried this yet. He agrees it needs righting. Nose: overripe tropical fruit with a lot more depth than 128.5. Incomparable. Mouth: mellow, full of mango flesh -- or is it papaya? Jack fruit? Finish: a catatonic discharge of ripe tropical fruit. This is superlative and a proper gigglefest, akin to that caused by TWE's Lochside 46yo. 10/10

Happy days.

22 December 2015

21/12/2015 Celebrating the new gigs (and winter) at the SMWS

MJ got a new gig in town, after a longer-than-foreseen break for family reasons. Time to meet up and try some of the things that have come out since last time.
The focus is on catching up, meaning the notes are succinct.

28.28 10yo 2005/2015 Lay your head on my pillow (60%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 223b): you do not see a 28 every day. Nose: apple-y, almondy, says MJ. The alcohol is very present. Mouth: it seems rather thin and strong, though it is balanced all the same, if that makes any sense. Finish: milk chocolate-coated almonds with a few herbs. 8/10

80.7 16yo d.1998 Indian Summer Sangria (54.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill Sauternes Hogshead, 162b): this is for MJ to try, of course, since I had it last time. Nose: meat? Fleeting, yet the impression is there. Overripe grapes, melon (MJ), clean fruit and crème brûlée (MJ). Mouth: mellow as flan, pulpy as grape flesh. Finish: more grape flesh. It is warming too. One of the best ex-Sauternes casks I have had the pleasure to try. 8/10

35.140 20yo d.1994 Cornucopia of incredible creativity (55.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill Toasted Oak Hogshead, 241b): no idea where this comes from; it was not in any UK outturn and is not available by the bottle. The only 35 on the shelf is 35.103 -- quite a gap, there! Nose: gingerbread and all sorts of yummy pastries, cotton candy and blackcurrants. Mouth: custard-y in texture, with the taste of currants. Finish: mellow pastry with more gingerbread, warm custard and fruit coulis. This is amazing. 9/10

112.10 14yo d.2000 A comforting hug in a mug (57.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 147b): I choose this one for MJ, although he hogs 35.140, which means I end up drinking this most. No complaint -- simply, I had it last time. Nose: stewed fruits, boiling water into which apples are dipped, as well as a dro pof custard. Mouth: warm and comforting, it is also soft and nicely fruity. Finish: tropical fruit now appear en force, accompanied by quite a bit of horsepower. Love this. 8/10

117.3 25yo d.1988 Hubba-bubba, mango and monstera (58.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 199b): if you are going to celebrate, celebrate. Nose: need I say more? This is stupidly exuberant, chock full of tropical fruits, even more so than last month. Mouth: overripe tropical fruit with a stupendous depth. Finish: more of that unbelievable tropical fruit cascade. It deserves more today. 10/10

Good times.

Despite the suit.

21 December 2015

20/12/2015 Clearing the shelf #8

76.123 27yo d.1987 Warm, joyous and gratifying (52.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 214b): leftover sample from the October tasting. Nose: warm apple pie, candle wax and a good dose of spices. It further develops to reveal waxy cork stoppers and crayons. Not really any meat to speak of (a traditional marker of this distillery), though if anything, it would be blood sausage with raisins. (a typical Christmas delicacy). It becomes waxier and waxier, with notes of plums in syrup and the very faintest hint of wood fire, in the back. Mouth: feel the heat! Chilli pepper, hot paprika, ginger and hot wax (no, not the latest vinyl releases!) This is assertive without being arrogant. The spiciness is balanced by waxy fruit -- apricot and plum again. Finish: green chilli, kaffir lime leaves, then it oscillates between wax, fruit (unripe plums), and the bitterness of green-plant sap, almost metallic -- sage- and oregano-like. It eventually dies out with a note of milk chocolate (though it is bitter as dark) and green tea. This is alright, I suppose, yet the finish is too bitter for me to like it too much. 7/10

18 December 2015

17/12/2015 Clearing the shelf #7

A few half-drunk samples need to make room before they go bad.

Glen Albyn 26yo 1975/2002 (54.8%, OB Rare malts Selection, 6000b): long time since we had this. Over two years, it seems. Nose: a wonderful cocktail of moss, damp wood, wax, autumn flowers and just the right amount of horse's sweat. Enticing! If one like horses, that is. I do. Wood varnish or glue appears, timid at first, then more pronounced. Jam tart soon emerges, quince jam, overly-ripe blood orange, and still that comforting horse sweat. Mouth: an infusion of flowers, beeswax, before spices start growing. Hot paprika, allspice, ground coriander -- never over the top. Nutmeg and sawdust too, with even a gentletouch of fruit. Dried citrus peel, perhaps. Finish: warm and drying, at this point, with more wood dust or wood shavings, ground pepper, nutmeg and smoked paprika. I guess it means that this whisky has a little smoke, yet it remains very subtle. The jam tart from the nose is here too; it was baked in a woodfire oven and is slightly caramelised on the top. Beautiful Rare Malt, this! 8/10 (thanks pat gva for the sample)

7 December 2015

6/12/2015 Two drams for St Nicholas

Forget that Christmas malarky. St Nicholas is da man.

Glen Elgin 32yo 1971/2003 (42.3%, OB, 1500b): nose: earth -- nay! Mud! It is amazingly concentrated, akin to walking through a ploughed field, or a muddy forest path, not too long after the rain, which means there are dead leaves in the mud. This is perfectly in keeping with the grey, grey weather outside. Wet gravel, perhaps? Pebbles? Wet cobblestone? Mouth: unbelievable. It is a perfect continuation of the nose, with wet earth, clay, forest paths and wet stones. The whole is balanced by a dollop of honey and a healthy sprinkle of white pepper. This is countryside at its best! Funny, coming from a town distillery. Finish: lots of pepper here, though never annoying as in Talisker 10yo. The honey is still present, whilst the earth is more subdued. It leaves a chewy impression in the mouth, that is for sure. Humid stones, gravel, flint, even, and lots of pepper. What a lovely dram! 9/10

Columban of Iona 23yo 1991/2014 (57.5%, The Stillman, C#16, 231b): nose: paint thinner and mild peat, at first -- this will not be a fruity glory... Oh! wait, fruit does come out, after ten minutes. Nail-varnish remover remains the dominant -- or is it hair spray? In any case, and although there is some fruit, it is no 118.3. Well, until twenty minutes in, that is, at which point it reeks of dusty mangoes. Mouth: hot and powerful. My poor, injured palate suffers. I burnt myself with hot, crusty bread at lunch. :-) Once the heat calms down, custard-y dough comes through. Little fruit to speak of, still, and not much more peat. It is vaguely earthy, I guess. A veil of tropical fruit appears in the back of the mouth, still tame. Finish: ah! Now, it becomes great, with mild peat and lots of fruit -- mango and papaya above the rest, though also pears, pineapple (tinned) and persimmon. Fruit becomes more dominant with each sip. Very good, rather than great. The alcohol does not feel very well-integrated, which prevents a fantastic score. 8/10 (thanks CD for the sample)