11 April 2016

09/04/2016 London MkII

Considering how many brilliant ideas came out of London MkI, it would have been a pity not to explore the same theme again. First tasting of the spring, then, and the turnout promised to be high. Until MS and OB cancelled a couple of hours before it started. Their loss.

That leaves JS, MR, EG, TR and myself -- five is pretty good anyway.

Ladyburnum Grove

Ladyburn 20yo 1966/1987 (46%, Cadenhead) (JS): for the few who are not aware, this is not something one sees every day. Cadenhead stopped doing dumpy bottlings in the early 1990s and the format reached cult status since, never selling for cheap. Ladyburn is one of the rarest distilleries to appear anywhere, really, especially in this collection. This is the last and oldest one Cadenhead ever bottled. For the record, the distillery was a set of stills within the Girvan complex. It operated between 1966 and 1975, making it potentially the shortest-lived malt distillery in Scotland. This is then one of the first distillations of Ladyburn too. To make it even more special, very few Ladyburns have been bottled under that name: Wm. Grant, the proprietor, is protective of its brands. Only the official bottlings bear the name, except for a couple of miniatures bottled by James MacArthur, three bottled by Blackadder (who usually do not give a rat's arse), and five bottled by Cadenhead (who can do whatever they want, because, well, they really can). We try this blind. Nose: a dusty library. Let us give it some time to open up. Dry olives, now! MR explains the various types of olive oils and how they are made. No-one else can follow, since none has ever been involved in olive-oil making. Cereal dust (EG relates it to grain), ground cloves. This is fresh and increasingly fruity. Mouth: velvety at first, yet it becomes powerful and acidic, with a distinct grassy note. It is slowly becoming a beast, as far as power is concerned. Dried mangoes, dried apricot, compote and a generous dash of salt. Finish: long and rich, with more dried fruit and a slightly metallic, herbaceous note (verbena, basil, mint). It has a vaguely rummy edge to it -- sweet and a bit brash simultaneously. This is amazingly complex and surprisingly good. I hoped for it to be good, I did not expect this good. Excellent. I could even go to top score (dram of the day for me). 9/10

Glenkinchieveley Road

Glenkinchie 1986/1999 Double Matured (43%, OB The Distillers Edition, Amontillado Sherry Finish, G/273-7-D) (MR): hot off the delivery belt (EG brought it for MR): we had a Glenkinchie DM a while ago. This is the first-ever edition, so it is rather special. It is the 12yo finished in Amontillado casks. Nose: prunes, dried figs, soft leather. Later on, it gives scents of humidor, cigar leaves. Mouth: the palate starts out with warm velvet, then evolves towards crushed macadamia nuts. Gentle spices start appearing, after a bit. Finish: it is now full-on mulled wine, with ginger, cloves and cinnamon sticks. JS has gingerbread cookies, while I still detect the controlled bitterness of cigar leaves, perhaps dried tea leaves, even. Not overly complex, a bit polished, compared to single casks (after all, Diageo goes for consistency over originality), yet it is very pleasant. 7/10

MR brought a spaghetti frittata which we all partake in.

Royle Locknagar Building

Royal Lochnagar Triple Matured (48%, OB for Friends of the Classic Malts, b.2013, 3000b) (TR): TR went straight for it on his first tasting with us, choosing a specific building in a residential area and combining it with the assumption that one would be able to see a lock from that particular building (one can indeed: it is near the lock between Crystal wharf and Hanover Primary School). Even without that, we try Lochnagar so seldom, it is always interesting. This one is rather exclusive to boot, yay. Nose: rich and spicy, with faded leather coats and distant whorls of smoke. Then, suddenly, candy floss emerges, as well as wormwood. TR is disappointed: he was told it smelt of the queen's armpits and now doubts whether it actually does. Mouth: shallow and narrow, it turns warm and spicy, with red, hot chilli pepper. Finish: short, though the chilli heat stays present. 7/10

MR: "Happiness is true only when shared"
TR: "No, happiness is seeing someone who is worse off than you."

We said: the queen's armpits, not a queen's armpit!
EG brought lupin beans. A long demonstration takes place to explain how to eat the beans while getting rid of the skin. I say f- that and eat the skin. It is full of vitamins.

Elgin Crescent

Glen Elgin 1971/1985 (50%, Duthie for Samaroli, 1200b) (EG): ha! Nose: hot sandstone, this is austere alright, before a bit of shy fruit emerges (cherries?). Earth, dry consolidation paths, then a whiff of caramelised meat in the back. Shall we call it a barbecue party in the countryside? Water makes it closer to a wood undergrowth, again, with a minute amount of fruit. Mouth: this is powerful, very powerful, packed with gingery heat. Water turns it into something more bearable, earthy, with fresh ginger shavings. Finish: spicy, woody, gingery again, with cassia bark and lemongrass sticks. Water renders it long and mellow. Challenging malt. Better with water, though still not my favourite. A lovely opportunity to try it all the same. 7/10

Broradway Market

Brora 21yo 1982/2003 (46%, Direct Wines First Cask, C#279) (me): I think this is the first Brora of mine that I open. I am rather excited. Nose: cut quince, candle wax and a hint of smoke. MR finds Danish pastry and reckons, "this is more of a marrying whisky, not a take-it-for-a-ride one," which amuses us a lot. A hint of rose water on this nose. Mouth: it starts slowly, with gentle wax, then grows and grows, delivering lots of gingery heat and hot candles and spent wick. Finish: soft, yet long, with more wood influence (ginger, wood shavings). This is a soothing and comforting dram, unanimously liked (dram of the day for TR and JS). 9/10

EG, while trying to mix air into his whisky, manages to spit half of it onto the carpet.

Campione del mondo!

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Greville St

?.1 20yo b.2003 (56.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask) (MR): MR simply wanted to bring this for kicks. We shoehorn it into the theme, because we all want to try it. An interesting one. The distillery is undisclosed and seems to have been forgotten by everyone. There is no additional information about it anywhere to be found. We reckon this might well be an older bottling rebottled into 10cl containers for gifts and such. Nose: dusty old books with brine in the back, pickled onions. It becomes dry, very dry, with drying plaster, plaster boards, dry walls and vinegar. Mouth: dry and powerful, with a welcome touch of fruit in the back. Finish: big, powerful, long, with a light bitterness. This is nice! 8/10

MR asks me for recommendations on books about whisky. We take a look at the bookshelf and she is amused to see In Viagio nelle Valle del Whisky. From the other room, EG interrupts his conversation and shouts the name of the author, the town he used to live in and the name of his house. He apparently went there and saw his collection, though did not manage to convince the son to sell anything. He posts a picture of the book to Instagram. Seconds later, someone asks him if it is for sale. Hm. :-)

Lots of research went into that one
North Port 23yo 1971/1995 (54.7%, OB Rare Malts Selection) (me): we tried this one for Burns' Night and were less than impressed. Today? Nose: pineapple, apricot, empty casks and dusty books. It also smells of dried banana skins and perhaps even clogged sink. Bathroom detergent too. Mouth: big and bold, muscular, uncompromising (RMS, innit). It feels very peppery, today. Finish: long, immense, with more pepper and dried herbs. Much better than the first time. I reckon air did it good (dram of the day for JS, at a draw). 8/10

This is not a sleeveless shirt
tOMoH "Colin and Dave do that all the time, every day. They are probably not as passionate about it as they used to be, or as we are."
TR "That's why I'm not a prostitute."

MR and EG have to leave, unfortunately. EG leaves two bottles behind, though. Woo.

Frogs in London

Laphroaig 10yo b.1987 (43%, OB, 87251) (EG): the French have always been in London, but there seems to be more and more of them (yes, shoehorning again). Nose: the smoke is there, refined, but it does not smother the rest: melon skins, grapefruit peels, lime and sugar-cane syrup. Is this beautiful, or what? Barbecued melon, barbecued grapefruit. Woah! Mouth: again, the medicinal peat is very much in the back seat and leaves a lot of room for grapefruit and green melon to express themselves. This is mellow and lush. Not exactly what one typically associates with this distillery. Finish: the peat is at its most prominent, here, yet still much more discreet than in more recent versions, allowing the fruit to shine further, with acidic grapefruit and tinned pineapple thrown onto the barbecue. 8/10

Ardbeg Dark Cove (55%, OB Committee Release, Ex-Bourbon Casks & Dark Sherry Casks, b.2015) (EG): just because. Nose: a cow's behind, farm-y paths, perhaps lemon juice, stone. This is sharp and to-the-point. Shoe polish and anchovies show up later. Mouth: big, bold and peaty, with a touch of vinegar and green chilli. Finish: barley, now (Ardbeg-style), it has the sweetness of cereals, yet also some coal dust. Probably not the most complex dram ever, still enjoyable. 7/10

TR has a Port Dundas 23yo Vom Fass when he tells me how he was convinced to start drinking whisky by a 21yo Mannochmore. We finish off with a dram of 64.40 to celebrate.

Excellent tasting, as usual.

5 April 2016

02/04/2016 April outturn at the SMWS

Everyone knows the drill, by now. MS, JS, PS and tOMoH, as well as numerous regulars.

7.129 30yo d.1985 Heavenly fragrance (57.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 72b): this one is a bit controversial in that it is twice the price of previous editions of 7 with a similar age. It is also extremely limited and was pimped to the max (though less so than 7.127); let us find out if the price hike is justified. Nose: black shoe polish, unripe pears, then peaches, shallow fried in butter. Mouth: syrupy peaches, with acacia honey and caster sugar. The spices become rather bold, numbing, even. Finish: behind the heat, tropical fruits abound. It needs water to get past the heat, though. 9/10

50.77 25yo d.1990 Good old days (57%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 114b): another month, another 50. The novelty is starting to wear off and it is hard to keep up. Nose: baking marzipan and a broth of yellow flowers. Sawdust, a sweet note of gummy bears, shoe polish (?) I would lie if I said I did not like this. Mouth: almond liqueur spilt on the wooden arm of an old-school sofa. Finish: slightly bitter, now, before seared yellow flowers cool down in melted butter. 8/10

46.38 23yo d.1992 Fresh as a winter waterfall (53.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 264b): nose: paint thinner, delicate perfume. This nose is penetrating. Mouth. thin, it has fruit syrup and a drop of citrus, as well as a hefty dose of spice. Finish: a lovely mixture of gentle fruit, shy pastry, perfume and paint thinner. Nice. 7/10

30.89 24yo d.1991 Deep, dark and pleasantly attractive (58.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 150): nose: a veil of smoke, perhaps rubber too, leather, honeysuckle, perfume. The perfume-y note turns into very concentrated pot-pourri and the more traditional butter (a regular for this distillery). With water: coffee and butter are more prominent. Mouth: melted butter, then more and more leather. It is becoming quite hot. Water makes the coffee disappear and helps acidic fruit juice emerge. Finish: caramel and the bitterness of plant juice. Dark coffee, maybe? Water makes it simply tamer. The plant juice might be slightly more pronounced. I am tempted to call this a good Glenrothes, yet I spend the following day with a headache and a stripped tongue. I blame this dram! 7/10

Enter plates of cheeses. Excellent, as usual.

Look, you are wearing the same shirt
on this picture
66.82 17yo d.1998 Gritty-turned-Pretty (57.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Gorda, 606b): nose: the first whiff seems very deep, with dark fruit and faint leather, then bacon, sizzling. MS finds very ripe brie in it. Mouth: it gently ignites to become rather spicy. Finish: quite short (MS calls it a cliff), but the peat smoke that arises gently persists, as well as the crispy bacon. Lovely. 8/10

Time to go. We bid good bye to everyone, make appointments for next tastings and leave.