30 March 2016

28/03/2016 A couple at the Bon Accord

Two years since JS and I were last here. If you remember, last time, we had a string of wonderful Rarest of the Rare, and an incredible Bowmore. Well, two years later, they still have several of the bottles we did not get to try that day.

I'm back again on a higher stage
Listen to my party beat and get in rage

JS is not feeling too well and FMcN joins us after a bit. The drams we are looking at require undivided attention. Since FMcN does not drink whisky, I do not want to favour the drink over a friend we rarely get to see. Only two drams, then.

Interestingly, they seem to have changed the prices of many of the drams today. The prices on the iPad (the menu) do not match the new prices on the bottles themselves. I point that out to the bar tender, who checks with his boss what the right thing to do is: charge the old price... and update the iPad! Thanks. \o/
I order. The boss (the pub owner) looks at me: "Where are you from? I'm PMcD."
We exchange a few words. He has an interest in whisky (surprise!) and is delighted to see someone who seems to know what they are ordering. Just like in Dornoch, it is apparently a minority.

Caperdonich 41yo 1969/2011 (41.8%, DT Rarest of the Rare, C#3245, 179b): C#3254 was very, very much to my liking. It is fantastic to get a chance to try this one too. Nose: a delicate blend of yellow flowers and yellow fruits. We have apricots and peaches, both fresh and dried, alongside daffodil and forsythia, perhaps kerria japonica. There is buttery pie dough in the distance. It goes from assertive to rather discreet and brings up satsumas, eventually. Mouth: delicate again. Some would say weak; I think it rather demands one's attention. Dried apricot, Smyrna raisins, bathing in apricot juice. This is gentle, thin, but by no means watery. Finish: it grows in intensity, with yellow fruit again, though this time soaked in punch. There is a vaguely rummy note to it, as well as those wonderful fruits. Oh! and a dash of chocolate coulis. 9/10

Bowmore 38yo d.1957 (40.1%, OB, C#216--220, 861b): yes, ordering this does make a few heads turn. :-) Nose: an unbelievable mix of tropical fruit and salty sea spray. Pears, seared in butter, cut peaches, hints of kelp or cockles, wet sand and drying shells. There are whiffs of an open fire in the chimney, then polished dashboards (Jaguar Mk7 from 1953), walnut flesh, antique, precious furniture. This develops in a wonderful way, with peach stone (flesh still attached), then, behind all that, more tropical fruit -- passion fruit, star fruit, quince, juicy satsuma. Mouth: gentle and refined, almost quiet, it turns milky after a moment (semi-skimmed), with vague reminiscence of the nose -- fruit and polished wood, then. The second sip brings forth more juicy peach. Finish: all at once, it delivers velvety fruit, coal fire and precious, tropical wood (teak, mahogany). The whole is delicate (tired?), but holds together all the same. It is now the well-weathered dashboard of an XK140 Jaguar, upon which is resting a basketful of fresh fruit, including pears, mangoes, jack fruit. Is there a life after Bowmore? Ich don't think so! 12/10

What a selection! With FMcN having to leave and JS feeling worse and worse, we call it a session. We will be back!

Old Men meet

26/03/2016 Annandale distillery visit

I spot at least three herons on the premises

JS and I reach the place (under the rain) at 11:45. I am about to buy two tickets for the tour, which starts at 12:00, when I think it wise to confirm that the standard tour is indeed the only one available today.
No, it is not. The Owner's Tour, with the founder of the distillery, starts at 14:00. Well, we will have some soup and browse the shop, then!

ze broth
Carrot and coriander soup is in season in the Lowlands
Tea and hot chocolate

For two hours, we wonder how many people are taking the tour and whether we will have to compete for attention, or be under the spotlight a bit too much. The tour is the most expensive by far, not exactly what generic tourists will go for, but then the place is becoming really busy around lunch time.

When Pr. DT, the founder, shows up, a group of six gathers up around him. Just like at Rattray's two days ago, DT (I will drop the title from now on) asks us what our knowledge of the golden liquid and its manufacturing is, so as to gauge how many shortcuts he can take. We have a member of the Drambusters, the owner of Whiskey's Orchard (IJ), a Scot who worked for a maltster (KMacK), then in the whisky industry and another Scot (DH) who is studying to move into the industry -- and is doing an apprenticeship at Strathearn.
Hm. Not quite yer regular tourists, then!
I observe it is a difficult question to answer without seeming stupid or pretentious (which is the same) and say I have been drinking the stuff for twenty-five years. JS is gently ignored -- absent-mindedness or bold assumption that she is merely accompanying me and not interested in whisky? She does not seem to take offence, in any case.

DT explains that this is the first-ever tour of this format he is doing. Also, this is the first day of the season the distillery is open for tours. Talk about good timing!

The chimney serves no purpose other than aesthetic
The tour is, as one would expect, very detailed. We are told about planning applications, building history, construction, craftsmanship and wizardry, cereal chemistry, marketing, psychology and cash flow.

A few things worth noting:

Annandale started out as a distillery, then became a farm. Usually, it is the opposite, with a farm picking up distillation to use up the surplus of cereals during the winter months. Also, it started as a distillery in 1836. It was shut down in 1918, then bought, revived and resumed production in 2014.

The distillery went through few proprietors -- namely the Donald family, a Mr Gardner, spirits merchant from Liverpool, then Johnnie Walker. The distillery was then shut for decades before being bought in 2009 by the current proprietor.

The whole distilling equipment is new, with six washbacks in traditional Oregon pine, a wood-clad, stainless steel mash tun (incidentally, it is being cleaned as we pass by; always fascinating), one wash still and two spirit stills. Yes, twice as many spirit still as wash stills, oddly enough. All courtesy of Forsyths from Rothes.

KMacK insists on teaching some Gaelic to DT, which I find a little too academic for this early in the afternoon.

I am given an opportunity to be a smartarse myself when DT points at a piece of kit and asks whether we know what it is: a Porteus mill. A thing of beauty and what caused the company to go out of business, as is well known: the mills were so reliable that they never needed replacing. As soon as every distillery had such a mill, Porteus never sold any.
This one comes from Caperdonich.

On the back of that, I enquire about the stills: if the mill is here, why are the stills new, rather than Caperdonich's? (the latter are in Grâce-Hollogne, making the Belgian Owl)
DT confirms he was given the option to purchase the stills too, but passed, as they were too tired. He also comments on the questionable reputation of Caperdonich's output, which I disagree with.

"If I turn this clockwise, you all die!"
Annandale does both peated and unpeated spirit, one batch at a time. A batch is six washes (logically, since there are six washbacks) and the distillery produces six days a week (one wash a day).
We ask whether there are plans to experiment with blending of both unpeated and peated spirit: no, there are not. KMacK, DH and I insist that it would be most interesting. DT argues that he really cannot afford such an experiment, at the moment. Honest enough. KMacK says that, should he crowdfund such an initiative, he would have three people willing to participate in this very room.

We take a deep breath from each washback: the difference with only a few days in between is very obvious.
DT explains he wanted to do unpeated whisky, as that is what the market wants, whilst he also wanted to do peated whisky, as that is what he prefers. I express my surprise: virtually no distillery on Islay can produce enough to quench the thirst of peat enthusiasts, these days, whereas many of the same customers usually look down on anything unpeated.
A discussion follows on how "one grows to like peat," which is the historical perception, but, in my experience over the last ten years, is proven completely wrong. New drinkers are seduced by the big peaters and, sometimes, grow to like more delicate flavours later on.
I am swimming against the current, here: no-one agrees with me. I know I am right all the same.

At the filling station, we are told the bourbon casks come from Kentucky manufacturers exclusively (providers for Jack Daniel, Buffalo Trace and Early Times), while the sherry butts come from a Bodega with which Annandale has an agreement.

The original still house
We hear a lot about the water source and how DT would not believe the water diviner's diagnostic ("Dig here, it is 90m below the surface," based on his use of "unscientific" equipment). Hearing the story, I cannot not think of La Guerre des sept Fontaines. I keep thinking that, without being able to explain it scientifically, any child who has read Johan et Pirlouit would not be surprised by or doubting of the diviner's conclusion and find it amusing that DT, a highly-educated scientist, just would not believe what he sees because he cannot explain it.

The first-ever casks
Eventually, we all enter the bonded warehouse -- always a magical moment, a smell like no other.
The floor is concrete because forklifts do not operate well on clay floors. We take a quick tour before reaching the end of the journey: a cask full of glasses.

The description of the tour mentioned a taste of two new-makes (peated and unpeated, I envisaged). At this point, we realise we have eight cask samples to go through on top of that. Ten drams. Take a deep breath!

"What you don't want, throw on the floor. It adds to the bouquet of the distillery," says DT with a smile. It puts the "smell like no other" in a different light, all of a sudden. Less romantic than the angels' share I had envisioned. :-)

Given the number, the provenance and the fact I am driving, notes are short, of course.

Rascally Liquor New Make Malt Spirit (63.5%, OB): this is the unpeated version. Nose: plums and apples. Mouth: sweet and silky. Finish: big, bold and fruity.

KMacK and DH wax lyrical about how good this is, how it should be marketed and sold en masse as is. I agree it is very good distillate, but perhaps they are overegging it. :-)

Man O' Words 6mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, Refill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#535, filled 20/08/2015): nose: dried banana skins and pears. Mouth: banana yoghurt. Finish: plum and banana eau-de-vie. This is actually impressive!

DT explains the need to distinguish the peated version from the unpeated, so that customers do not have to take a punt and be put off if they pick the wrong one. With his marketing hat on, he declares that whisky, especially peaty whisky, is associated with masculinity. A very masculine character of this region is famous warrior and early king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce. The Man O' Sword.
When it comes to the unpeated version, another local character used another weapon, the nib. DT goes on to say writing is perhaps a more feminine approach, which gave the unpeated spirit its name: Man O' Words, associated with Robert Burns.

I ask DT what his wife thinks of making a dram more feminine by associating it with a man and wonder if he is simply alienating half the world population. He says it is a risk he is prepared to take.

"Mate, with your marketing skills and my Gaelic knowledge, the world is our oystercatcher!"
More seriously, I disagree with him that a) whisky is a purely masculine dram: historically, it was presented that way; today, more and more women drink the stuff. Two are here with us; and b) that peat is exclusive macho territory. Not only do women drink more and more whisky, they seem to like peat more and more. Based on what I read on fora, see in bars and tastings and the people I have met personally, those who enjoyed Octomore the most are women. The world is changing and I find it weird that the whole marketing of Annandale seems based on a possibly retrograde conception.

Man O' Words 14mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, Refill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#103, filled 29/01/2015): nose: back to plums. Mouth: plummy and slightly rough around the edges. Finish: plum eau-de-vie. This is more typical of the new makes I have tried.

Man O' Words 14mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#142, filled 05/02/2015): plums, parmesan and... oregano! Mouth: abundantly yogurt-y, with lovely mango skins and banana peel. Finish: long and warming, with reminiscence of the mouth. Wow.

Man O' Words 3mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, ex-Sherry Butt, C#843, filled 17/12/2015): nose: plums in syrup. Mouth: varnish, polish and juicy prunes. Finish: very plummy, now, with more syrup.

Rascally Liquor New Make Peaty Malt Spirit (63.5%, OB): nose: a veil of smoke and plums. This is only lightly smokey. Mouth: delicate smoke, a bit of coal. It is fruity too, behind the obvious peat influence. Finish: the smoke comes out in full force, now, with a dash of syrup thrown into the mix.

IJ: I work for the NHS; it funds my whisky business.
KMacK: You work for the NHS? I hate what the Tories have done!

KMacK: If you are Mc withoutan 'a' and without Irish lineage, your clan has been punished.

Man O' Sword 14mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, Reill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#20, filled 15/01/2015): nose: similar to the previous, to be honest. Mouth: velvety. Finish: hot, with syrupy plums again.

Man O' Sword 14mo (unknown ABV, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#21, filled 15/01/2015): nose: smokey plums. Mouth: syrupy, with a faint hint of smoke. Finish: long and slightly smokey.

Man O' Sword 3mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, ex-Sherry Butt, C#777, filled 02/12/2015): nose: similar again, with plum and smoke. Mouth: syrupy plums, perhaps apricot? Finish: smoke, now, with infused plums.

It seems to me that Man O' Words is a lot less predictable and therefore more interesting to me. Man O' Sword is more consistent, which is probably the aim, but makes for a less exciting ride when you taste several in a row.

Despite only having minute quantities, it becomes clear I need to stop. All the leftovers, we pour into one glass, as pouring it on the floor is inconceivable to me. We share the blend with the others who are well merry, now.
The last one, I do not get to try. It is closing time, DT's wife has kindly told him he is on his own and needs to shut everything down so the staff can go home.

The tour was planned to last for two hours. It lasted almost four. Everyone had a cracking time, everyone spent money in the shop, everyone shared contact details and tips.

Merry we are!
If the purpose of whisky is to make merry (© Dave Broom), then Annandale seems to be doing well.
A visit is wholeheartedly recommended.

Oreo cows

24/03/2016 Old and Rare tasting at A.D. Rattray's Whisky Experience

Four years ago, while I was trying to clarify why Dewar Rattray became A.D. Rattray, the staff invited me to visit the shop and tasting room in Kirkoswald. It took that long to get round to doing it (rushing is for gin drinkers), but now I am here, I will not settle for anything but the best and most desirable, because why aim for run-off-the-mill?

On the day, I call them to postpone the tasting: the journey gave JS a bad migraine. I am not operating at 100% myself either.
Once we finally reach the venue around 15:45, I admit that we still have not eaten. Fortunately, the hostess is understanding and goes as far as recommending a place down the road.

Carrot and coriander soup
Chicken liver pâté
Half a Scotch egg

We end up starting the tasting two-and-a-half hours after the booked slot. Just as well it is a quiet day and the staff is flexible...

When we finally sit down, the hostess cleverly asks us whether she needs to explain how whisky is made (answer: no). We can move on to the tasting and an open discussion, rather than a generic lesson.

Invergordon 43yo 1972/2016 (49.3%, A.D. Rattray for Whisky Experience): bottled exclusively for the shop, this is pretty exciting stuff for this grain lover. Nose: bakery and fruit, this has the nose of a blackcurrant turnover, as well as notes of toasted coconut. Typical Invergordon, in other words. Mouth: rich and velvety, it is coating and soft. Finish: the wood becomes slightly drying now, though it remains most pleasant. 8/10

Strathmill 23yo 1992/2015 (47.7%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, C#668072, 280b): always thrilling to try a Strathmill, so rarely is it bottled. Nose: rose and plantain, says JS, whilst I think lemon custard develops more and more. Mouth: mellow and pillow-y, with the texture of chocolate fondant. Finish: refined, with a note of nail varnish or shellac that prevents it from scoring higher. It is still 8/10

Macallan 19yo 1995/2015 (49.1%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, C#10454, 310b): on paper, this is probably the least interesting, for me. Seeing as I would probably never choose a Macallan myself, it is good that some pour it for me to try, from time to time. Nose: toasted wood, varnished wood, coconut shavings. Mouth: velvety and coating, it has caramel and gentle toffee. Subtle sherry influence (it is a Bourbon cask, tOMoH!), well balanced. Finish: lemon-y and sherbet-y. A decent Macallan, shall I say. 7/10

Fettercairn 26yo 1989/2015 (54.5%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, C#001, 218b): yet another distillery one does not see every day. Nose: cereals and a strange medicinal aroma -- gelatine capsules, probably. It smells powerful. Mouth: fiery chilli, with hot, chilli-infused caramel. Finish: cuberdons (liquid-filled sweets), more chilli-infused caramel. Very good Fettercairn, this! 8/10

Glenturret 28yo 1986/2015 (50.1%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, C#342, 191b): if there is one distillery that everyone used to neglect, it is this one. For the last four years, everyone has been proven wrong, of course, with high-quality bottlings that became the talk of the town. This is not one of the desirable 1977, though; what will it give? Nose: flowery, with buttercups and bubblegum. Mouth: silky, with a hefty dose of spices and fruit. Finish: long, flinty and lemon-y. in fact, it turns pretty austere in the finish. Yes, yes, great things from this distillery, after all! 8/10

Bruichladdich 22yo 1992/2015 (50.2%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, C#3801, 258b): the hostess could not decide whether to swap one of the above drams for this one or not, so although not in the lineup, we get to try it anyway. Nose: coastal and fruity, it has sea air and citrus. Mouth: not sure how to put this. It is soft with what feels like the grip of sandpaper. Interesting! Finish: salty, coastal and, again, fruity. Unripe fruit, this time. 7/10

For my sins, I am driving. It means I cannot do much more than ingest a drop of each, hence the short notes. It is not an unknown situation here, though, and I end up  taking away samples containing the lovely drams for a rainy day. Yay!

Unexpected link with Scottish techno label Soma

Lovely tasting, lovely place. A visit is recommended. The inn down the road too -- we go back for supper before taking the road.

Chunky fish soup

8 March 2016

05/03/2016 March outturn at the SMWS

A new outturn and a rare chance to catch up with JH, whose jet-setter life is keeping him away from these gatherings.
JS joins us, as well as newcomer T.

41.70 34yo d.1980 C'est magnifique! (48.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Ffill Sauternes Hogshead, 102b): this is recommended by the staff, though even they have a hard time not mentioning the price tag -- only £50 shy of the official bottling's that came out a few months ago. Nose: lots of sawdust, toasted coconut shavings, cinnamon and nutmeg, then lime juice. Honeysuckle is well present too. Mouth: peppery custard, with a velvety texture and a distinct spiciness. Finish: lots of wood spices again, sawdust; it is drying. An OK dram, though too woody, to be honest. And too pricy for the quality. 8/10

50.76 25yo d.1990 Booze up in a bakery (59.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 150b): nose: very powerful honeysuckle, a hint of skunk (JS), then sugar takes off -- dark moscovado sugar. Mouth: velvety and coating, with creamy cake. Finish: the most lovely milk chocolate, at this stage. Another superb 50. Keep them coming. 8/10

Not Lea, Lychee!
9.104 27yo d.1988 Lychee Martini (55.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 504b): nose: JH finds it is perfume-y, with patchouli. I reckon it is full-on Christmas cake, yet flowery at the same time. Black bun, sultanas, and dark pastry (whatever that is), the crust of a cake baked for too long. Golden syrup (JS). It does becomes perfume-y indeed. A bottle of perfume next to a stack of fluffy pancakes (JS), a soap bar. Mouth: spicy cake again, with lots of cinnamon, cassia bark and squashed sultanas. Finish: more of the same -- cake sultanas, dried figs, with a pinch of spices. Chocolate emerges, including a slight bitterness. 8/10

95.20 18yo d.1997 Glazed cocktail sausages (53.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Ffill ex-Sherry Butt, 252b): nose: crisp flowers (forsithia) and an alcohol level that is rather pungent. Mouth: hot custard, sprinkled with cinnamon. It is fairly hot, whilst remaining amazingly soft and silky. Creamy vanilla pudding. Finish: delicate and velvety, with juicy apricot compote. Astonishingly, the heat almost disappeared in the finish. 8/10

We go off-piste and try more ancient expressions.

72.30 30yo 1983/2013 Fruit, fruit, fruit! (49.9%, SMWS Still one of a kind, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 221b): nose: melon, peach and ivy. We had this one when it came out and I remember not being totally convinced. It seems much, much more immediate, today. Mouth: mellow with yellow-flesh fruit (apricot, peach). This is very, very velvety indeed. Finish: more of the same fruits, with a touch of chocolate thrown in for good measure. Love this. 8/10

41.69 12yo 2013/2015 Making your mind twitch (57.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 42b): nose: deeply flowery, with also bakery notes. Mouth: good power, a nice mix of flowers and bakery. Finish: oomph! It opens up to reveal tropical fruits aplenty. This is very much to my liking. 8/10

G3.4 27yo d.1984 Pride of Bengal (57.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 219b): T tries it first, "Once you swallow it, there's a really interesting taste left in your mouth." JH: "That's what she said." Hem. Nose: tinned pineapple. Must have been a faulty tin, because the metallic taste is very prominent. Metal, verbena, sage. Mouth: warm. Finish: full-on verbena and tin cans. It is good and interesting, yet probably not my favourite expression from this closed distillery. 8/10

Good times.

1 March 2016

27/02/2016 Themeless (though heavily Campbeltown-centric) tasting

JS, OB and I decide to have a few after all. MR joins for the first time and she cannot do any other date. Notes are short, as is the session. Shortish.

Glen Scotia 17yo (40%, OB, b. late 1990s) (me): it seems like we had this one not too long ago, yet OB and MR have never tried it and the general feel of the lineup kind of calls for it. Nose: oregano, thyme, a full botanical garden, actually. Herbal breakfast, apple juice, sprinkled with herbs. Mouth: viscous, herbal tea. Finish: herbs, sprinkled on custard, then milk chocolate. Still lovely, this. 8/10

35.131 19yo 1994/2014 Cherries, chocolate and chai (55.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 117b) (OB): somehow, this one seems to have gone by unnoticed. Not sure it ever was part of an outturn. Nose: after-shave lotion, then a fresh morning in a forest undergrowth, cedar-wood shavings, ground, green cardamom. After a while, the promised cherries show up -- red ones. What is that? A hint of smoke from a fruit-tree fire? Mouth: lovely, peppery cherries. Finish: butterscotch, toffee. 8/10

Littlemill 24yo 1990/2015 (50.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 144b) (me): nose: boom. Starts with trademark herbs, wood, then banana bread, dried plantain peels and doughnuts. Mouth: silky, then the citrus grows and grows, lemon and lime. Finish: butterscotch, then an explosion of tropical fruit, ripe, almost to the point of clogged sink (which is overripe tropical fruit). This is superlative. 9/10 (thanks SW for the sample)

Springbank 16yo 1997/2013 (56%, OB for the UK, 10y Bourbon Cask/6y Madeira Cask, C#07/178-3, 630b) (courtesy of EG, who is not here): nose: ooh! Sticky barbecued ribs, smokey barbecue, but also digestive biscuit and fortified wine -- the madeira, no doubt. Mouth: dry, very dry, it becomes quite hot quite quickly. Finish: juicy and fruity, though it retains the smokey ribs flavours. A great Springbank. 8/10

The barbecue flavours prompt me to cut the remaining jamón from our trip to the South, five months ago.

Kilkerran 9yo 2006/2015 (57.3%, OB Single Cask, Calvados Cask, 282b) (OB): first ever Kilkerran at a tasting. Tried some in festivals or shops, but good to get to try it in more adequate circumstances. Especially this one, which is pretty limited. Nose: cinnamon-topped apple pie, eau-de-vie (the Calvados influence, I would wager), even cork stoppers. Mouth: eau-de-vie again, perhaps peaches in syrup, with peach stones too. Saké, cut pears and apples. Finish: the saké returns, more eau-de-vie and berries. This is good, provided one likes eau-de-vie. It is not overpoweringly eau-de-vie flavoured, yet it is hard to miss. 7/10

Springbank 10yo Marrying Strength (49.2%, OB for Cadenhead Whisky Shop Campbeltown, b.2015) (MR): nose: an animal character -- wet dog. It has a bubblegummy side to it too. All in all, it smells a bit like a beef casserole with apple slices. Mouth: fresh and lively, it has a bite to it! It becomes dry pretty quickly -- dry white wine, Riesling. It has corn flakes too. Finish: yes, white wine here too, barley (local?) and hints of coal. Another good one. 7/10

Undisclosed Distillery 49yo 1966/2015 (52.9%, Private bottling, Bourbon Cask, re-racked into Sherry Cask, re-racked into Rum Cask, 1b) (me): nose: as with all things of such a venerable age, the depth is unbelievable. My co-tasters think it remains very fresh at the same time. Olive oil, old apple species, aged cider. Mouth: velvety, soft and and well-mannered, like an old woman (lots of teasing about this note), yet it does remain fresh indeed. Tapenade. Finish: again, fresh, very deep, with green olives. Perhaps less impressive than the first time, yet what a delight to be able to try this and share it. 9/10 (thanks SW for the sample)

Balvenie 12yo (62.7%, OB Single Barrel, 1st Fill Sherry Butt, M16132007) (EG who is still not here): nose: molasses, leather, crushed Brazil nuts, walnuts, black bun. This is really far away from the regular Balvenie profile!  It even has a whiff of cured meat. Mouth: powerful as hell, with concentrated sultanas (black bun, eh) and bitter nuts. Finish: sticky, almost tarry, now, with figs, dates and sultanas. This is as good as it is unexpected. 8/10

Wonderful times, as usual.

Special message for EG