28 January 2016

23/01/2016 Burns Night 2016 -- Oddities and comparisons

Today, I have something special I want to open. The theme is really made to fit around it. It is from a distillery we do not try often (never have with this group) and, looking closer, I have a gift for someone who is coming tonight: it is the same distillery, the same bottler and the same age. Now, there is an idea! Oddities (exit the usual suspects) and comparisons. Great if both are mixed together.

We will be cosy

The suspects: adc, JS, ruckus, dom666, kruuk2, FN, JD and myself. sonicvince calls off at the last minute: he is conducting a dangerous electricity experiment at home and is concerned to leave the house.

More for us!

When everyone is in, we start the list. And the munchies. adc made blinis with tarama, and others with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

And lots of whisky!

Spirit of Freedom 45 (45%, Springbank Distillers Ltd., 14/534) (brought by adc): this is odd for us, in that we very rarely have blends. Not that we are too good for blends or anything -- we simply rarely buy them. It was bottled to celebrate the 45% of Scots who voted for independence in 2014. Nose: turpentine, nail-varnish remover. JD reckons it smells of grappa, while adc finds it rather neutral. I find it opens up to reveal dry earth and hay. Mouth: grappa-like indeed, this is soft and neutral, probably sweeter than the Italian eau-de-vie, with a hint of earth and berries. The sweetness becomes very pronounced, when one keeps it in the mouth. Finish: milk chocolate, berries. A solid blend, this, and a great way to start. 7/10

In the kitchen, the haggis has exploded in the oven. I am frustrated. I increase the temperature, confident that there is no risk, now, only to find the veggie haggis has exploded, when I check on it later on. Argh.


Starter is served: leek and Brussels sprout soup. Excellent.

The Brussels sprout soup proved unexpectedly popular

Craigellachie 13yo (46%, OB, 83-LH88, b. ca 2014) (JD): JD thought he had never come across this distillery. We had two expressions last year, yet this is the first official bottling with this group of people. It works. Nose: coconut milk with crushed mint, unripe, unpeeled pineapple. It is well citrus-y. Mouth: hot, watery custard, with a dash of lime zest. It is acidic with bakery flavours. Finish: hot custard and lime. This feels much, much better than the Craigellachie OB we had at the Fringe, last summer. 7/10

FN enters the game and tries to catch up. He is good at it.

Penderyn Independance (41%, OB Icons of Wales, Madeira Casks Finish, Release 2/50, b.2013) (adc): this was presented as a blend -- it is not. A NAS bottling of Penderyn, a distillery whose production we have not drunk often. adc initially thought to compare it with Spirit of Freedom (both about independence, see?), but JS decided against it when doing the lineup: a) the Craigellachie seemed to fit better in between, b) FN was bringing another Penderyn to compare this with. In any case, this one celebrates the American Founding Fathers of Welsh origins. Jefferson, Lincoln and many others, all listed on the box. The bottle is screen-printed and it comes with a feather. Nice packaging. Nose: woah! Full-on decaying tropical fruit and bitter orange (adc). dom666 jokes it is close to Pendarin Napoleon. Ha. Ha. :-| Sweet bakery, marzipan, says JD, who will find marzipan in everything, tonight. Mouth: more marzipan and sweet custard. Finish: amaretti (Italian almondy biscuits), marzipan, frangipane, ground almonds and juicy fruit. Blimey! This is extraordinary! 9/10


128.3 5yo d.2006 Chestnut puree and hiking boots (61.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First Fill Barrel, 229b) (FN): this one, we had a few times in 2012. I have good memories associated with it. There is not much left, so short notes. Nose: marzipan again, carrot cake (JS). Mouth: warming and soft. It has become really nice and mellow, with oxidation. Finish: a gentle bite, then the fruit comes back -- a mix of almonds and tropical fruit. Superb. 8/10

Main course is served. Potato and mushroom gratin, neeps and tatties, and both exploded haggises.

Glenlossie 21yo 1993/2015 (56.1%, Cadenhead Small Batch, bourbon Hogsheads, 492b) (FN): another one we rarely have, and never have had with this group. Even better, we will compare it to another expression from the same distillery, of the same age and released by the same bottler... thirty-five years earlier. Nose: entering Humblet's, i.e. pet cages, wood shavings (kruuk2, recalling his pet addiction in the Liège area), entering a carpenter's workshop, sawdust and tools to work wood (chisel, saw, file). Mouth: peppery, though it is sweet too. Spices grow in intensity the longer one sips it (red chilli). Finish: spicy again, with fruit, this time, and frangipane (JD). Spices from the wood dominate, however: pepper, nutmeg, wood shavings. Much better than the recent (and younger) SMWS expressions. 8/10


Glenlossie-Glenlivet 21yo 1957/1979 (45.7%, Cadenhead, Sherry Wood) (me): this is a sister cask to the glorious dumpy we tried at a masterclass last year. The colour is so singular, it deserves a mention, for once: it is red, like a good kriek. Nose: cigar boxes (FN, who reminisces of his grandfather), kumquat (adc), quince -- this becomes fruity! Damp earth, a walk in the undergrowth -- ooooooft! Woodworm, dry wood (adc), as well as a touch of exotic fruit and exotic wood (teak). Hours later, mint and basil appear alongside juicy cherries. JS finds the nose is that of a refined, sherried whisky. Not bad, considering it is not her favourite style. Mouth: watered-down coffee, almond liqueur; this is mild and civilised, with a certain freshness to it. Finish: drying, now, with wood and coffee, mocha chocolate and a hint of fruit. Great, great, yet I think I preferred the one bottled in May 1978. JD finds it unusual and not his style. He pours his share to dom666 who seems extremely distraught at the additional quantity to drink... 9/10

"The frangipane is fleeting. It jumps at you, then goes away. It is jumping frangipane." (kruuk2)

Tormore 29yo 19842013 (53.9%, www.whiskybroker.co.uk, Barrel, C#3674, 107b) (JS): nose: a mix of wood, fruit stones and polished dashboards. Mouth: nut liqueur, fruit praline, chocolate coulis -- this is nice! Finish: complex, it oscillates between fruity, chocolate-y and woody notes. Beautiful. JS finds Macadamia nuts in it and, indeed, water pumps it up with oily Macadamia nuts. This one was a nice little discovery when we had it in July, JS decided to impress everyone with it in January, and it worked. 9/10


105.19 28yo d.1983 'O come all ye faithful' (55.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, ex-Sherry Hogshead, 315b) (dom666): when dom666 poured this three years ago, I remember being a little distressed that it was not as fruity as I remembered it. It has now had a couple of years to open up, let us see... Nose: Mon Chéri, initially, cherry-liqueur pralines, in other words. It then fades away to let coffee emerge, then that goes too, to leave dunnage warehouse and moss on wood. Mouth: cherry liqueur and dark, bitter chocolate. Finish: long and powerful, with a few herbs, chocolate and even mild coffee. This is as lovely as it was the first time. 9/10

Here come the marching drams
Your colours wrapped around

To mark a pause after this glorious run of four, I serve dessert -- the traditional cake. It is pretty much devoured in no time at all.

Paul John (55.2%, OB, B#001, b.2013) (kruuk2): first Paul John for this group and only my second, after the one at last year's Show, for which I did not take notes. Nose: "it smells of haggis -- oh! no, it's my hand!" (JD, not sure what he does with his hands). Nose: gouache and plasticine, freshly-stuck carpet. It smells a bit chemical, obviously, yet it is not really disturbing. Mouth: the alcohol tingles, with herbaceous notes, dried herbs, dried tobacco. Finish: drying, it has notes of herbs and metal. Water creates a blend of sweetness and rubber, shellac, even. Aight. 6/10

A second cake is eaten, this time with a speculoos case. It proves popular, if a bit less so than the traditional one.

What've we got here?

Banff 35yo 1975/2011 (42.4%, DL Old & Rare Platinum Selection, Refill Hogshead, 158b) (the group): JD remembers he does not care for this one too much. Everyone else thinks he is mad (and of course, he is). Nose: I look for the Chaumes-rind notes, as usual... It is more herbs and lichen on stone or on casks... Oh! Overripe cheese rind is here at last! Dust, mould and a vague medicinal note (bandages or plasters). Mouth: mellow and elegant, it has the delicateness of honey. Finish: long and dignified, it is delicate, soft, with a sprinkle of mustard powder. Excellent. 9/10


Banff 23yo 1976/2000 (55.5%, SV, C#2249, 00/312, 268b) (me): Banff is not one we try every day, so let us have two. Because we can. Nose: mustard powder, soy sauce -- this is pretty savoury. Mouth: mustard-y, with a certain mellowness to it. Sweet mustard, perhaps? Sparkling cola with mustard powder. Finish: flat cola, lukewarm coffee. It lingers on forever. Most like this one better (including me, tonight), but yeah, they are both magnificent, even if my late-night notes do not do them justice. 9/10

North Port 20yo 1979/1999 (61.2%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (ruckus): with this group, this might still be the first North Port we try (some of us have had it once before). We will improve, though: two North Ports, today, same bottler and same collection! Nose: phwoar! Typical RMS power, big, bold and wide, it screams at you with notes of coffee and Virginia tobacco. Coming back to it after having had the next one, this seems a lot more citrus-y. Mouth: warm, with white pepper and hot peach sauce. Water makes it more palatable, rounder and more pleasant, with a touch of caramel. Finish: thin, but bold, with big lashes of peach stones and a bit of drying rubber. 8/10


JSpring roll time
North Port 23yo 1971/1995 (54.7%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (me): nose: musky, full of fox skin, cured meat, wet beaver. Some sulfur is soon to appear. Water makes it even more animal (wet cats join the foxes). Mouth: a lot softer than the 20yo, with honey and green pepper. It becomes hot in the long run, though. Water accentuates the mellowness. Finish: quite explosive, at this stage, with notes of coffee beans. The gang finds it merely interesting. I suppose they are right. It is late to understand the full potential. 7/10

Difficult whiskies, those North Ports; what a chance to get to try both together, though! adc goes to bed.

Caol Ila 1993/2004 (43%, MMcD Maverick, Bourbon Cask/Chenin Finish, C#W0404, 04/0651) (dom666): obviously, Caol Ila does not qualify. It is not being compared either. However, a Chenin finish is odd enough to make this a valid entry. Nose: lots of peat smoke, with cigarette ash, roasted cereal and a bit of paint. Mouth: sweet, sugar-glazed cereal (you know, the ones with Tony the Tiger on the box). Finish: the peat smoke becomes very prominent, with coal, soot, roasted cereal, caramel. Powerful and pretty good. Not sure what the finish brings to it (the sweetness, perhaps?), but it is good. 7/10

We shall meet again!
We skipped the comparison of Bowmore Tempests. Firstly, sonicvince is not here with his B#IV, secondly, we have had enough to drink as it is. We also skipped kruuk2's Balblair 1989, since sonicvince's own Balblair 1989 is not in.

JD goes to bed. It is 2am.

Off-tasting, we have a final dram. North British 45yo 1963/2009 (50.7%, SV, C#117362 + 63 + 65, 290b). No notes, this year - it still rocks.

FN calls it a night at 4:20. We all clock off at 5.

Epilogue, the morning after

Three hours of sleep and it is time to eat another piece of cake to accompany a nice dram. We have:

Bunnahabhain 42yo 1968/2011 (43.8%, Whisky-Fässle, Refill Sherry Cask) (the group): nose: less fruity than I remembered, it is waxy, today. The fruit ends up showing up in a gentle whirlwind. Mouth: oily and fruity (exotic fruit, apricot, plum), with a hint of Virginia tobacco and aromatised olive oil. Finish: very long, entrancing and elegant, with ripe apricot, a touch of dried moss and buttery pastry. This is wonderful. 9/10

Everyone slowly ventures back to their own homes and the place is vacated by 11:59.

Epic tasting, as usual. Miffed that both haggises exploded, though.

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