31 May 2016

30/05/2016 PS's birthday bash at the SMWS

Private events at the SMWS cannot go wrong. Really, they cannot. Especially if PS is there. And he always is.

Three years ago, JS and I were kindly invited to PS's 10th membership anniversary. I learnt then that he is an unreasonable person. Very unreasonable.
Today is not a membership anniversary, though, it is a milestone birthday. Surely, unreasonable things will not happen. Not today, they won't. Oh! no.

PS had a pre-birthday bash on Saturday, hence why he did not attend the other birthday bash. The official do is today.

JS and I make it there shortly before 14:00, which is the official start time. We are introduced to a lot of people we already know (well done, PS!) and are handed a dram. No time to waste.

26.117 14yo d.2001 (56.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Sauternes Hogshead, 282b): nose: this one seems strong in alcohol. Unripe green fruit comes through (gooseberry) and eau-de-vie (grappa, to be accurate). Mouth: waxy fruit (apricot) and tincture of iodine. Finish: warm tincture of odine, merbromin, then faint waxy fruit again. 7/10

We are ushered to the private room where the fun really begins. We choose a table for three that we will share with MG. Nibbles are on display.
PS gives a few words for each dram, nothing over the top. I reckon he should let us drink blind, rather than disclose the distillery at once, but hey! It is his tasting, after all.

25.37 15yo 1990/2006 Lemon meringue pie (59.5, SMWS Society Cask): we already started with a 25 three years ago. A tough act to follow it was too. Nose: hawthorn, dried heather, dried lavender. It is a flowery one, though dried flowers. With water, lemon comes out, dried lemon-y mint, dried lemon thyme. Mouth: sitting around a tame camp fire of dried heather, holding a cup of lemon tea. It is warming on the chest. Water does not alter it. Finish: long and lingering, with lime pieces near the fireplace. It is warm and comforting, almost like a prosecco, says MG. Water, again, does not change it. 8/10

G7.8 30yo d.1984 Sweet seduction in a car-wash (59.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 264b): nose: baking pretzels, nail varnish, glue (JS), custard. It is pretty strong in alcohol again -- oh! almost 60%... Very fresh, with a newly-bought leather coat and cotton candy. Mouth: the softness of velvet -- this is 60%!? It has faded leather and warm caramel cream. Finish: lovely varnish, custard, caramel-coated leather, caramel tea. This is good! It reminds me of Crosstown's chocolate, caramel and banana cream doughnut. Meow. Water does not alter it at all. If anything, it makes it a little more bitter in the finish. 9/10

117.3 25yo 1988/2013 Hubba-bubba, mango and Monstera (58.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, First Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 199b): this needs no introduction. I joke that every time I corner a newcomer into trying it, I can see the ecstasy cover their faces and their trousers turning wet. PS replies that, "this has never wet my trousers. It goes so high it usually wets my t-shirt!" The classy touch. Nose: mango juice, innit. Mouth: pure fruit. Finish: I will not even bother. This is purely orgasmic. Not worth spending much more time on the description. It is legendary and everybody in the audience knows it. 10/10

Enter food: cheeses, dried fruits, delikatessen, sushi and fried Asian bites. And sauces. A hot sauce, a very hot sauce and a "medium hot" wasabi. DW, whose wife prepared the sauces and the bites, warns everyone. Of course, I have to show off and try the wasabi as if it were perfectly normal. The first bite being inoffensive, I take a big dip for my second sushi. And attract all the attention as I choke, cough, gasp and cry like a kitten. Serves me well.

9.93 17yo d.1997 Interplay of light and shade (55.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 295b): nose: barley sugar and vociferous alcohol (white spirit?) JS finds spearmint, while MG detects lychee. I find it spirit-y. Behind the spirit, lovely flowers flap in the wind. Rose water and orange peels. Mouth: it seems balanced, with apple pulp and ground pepper. Finish: warm apricot compote with a generous dash of ground black pepper. I am miffed PS did not tell me about this one. It would have been interesting to drink it alongside 99.3. 7/10

61.22 26yo 1978/2004 Intimacy with angels (57.2%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill Hogshead, 273b): this feels like a repeat of three years ago, when we had another 61. Nose: waxy and farm-y. This is lovely as a pig wearing elegant make-up and delicate perfume. Gentle smoke (MG), wax and perfume, orange peels. Mouth: hot candle wax, white wine vinegar, more farmyard goodness, then it bursts into an ashy fruit crumble. Phwoar! Finish: long, warming, ashy. A shovelful of dirt from a day's ploughing. It even has a coastal aspect to it: hot sand, oysters and the seashore. Every time I have a Brora, I feel the same: I want to hate it, because of the hype and the prices, but I invariably like it. Argh. Dram of the day, if we except 117.3 (and we should). 9/10

There is a bit of a scene when PS passes the bottle around for everyone to top up and some pour more than politeness would dictate. GK then asks PS to pour for him, to which PS refuses: GK must do it himself. Hmm.

Gifts enter the room. Well, it is a birthday party, is it not? Quite natural that gifts should be given... except PS is providing the gifts, here: every attendee receives a pack of six samples. I am floored again and ashamed. The samples are from extremely high quality bottles too. PS can be such a gentleman.

93.22 14yo 1992/2006 Heavenly harbour (61.1%, SMWS Society Cask): nose: a smokey farmyard, cured ham, diesel engines. The alcohol is pretty powerful, yet it gives way to leather saddles and a flowery touch (dandelion). Bandages are the last thing to emerge. Mouth: roasted sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, soy sauce, wasabi and paint tins. Finish: earth, wet soil, a sweating horse, saddles, liquorice. This is nice, without being out of this world. 7/10

As the tasting reaches a conclusion, R steps up and produces another bottle. Not just anything.

87.4 15yo 1983/1999 (57.3%, SMWS Society Cask): several people have never had a Millburn before, and at least one has never even heard the name ("is it like Melbourne?") Nose: pistachios (MG), putty and lemongrass (JS). I get ground pistachios and strong brandy, marzipan and granola in milk. Mouth: unexpectedly velvety, soft and nice, akin to a swim on a long-haired carpet. Green chilli shows up later on. Finish: very dark chocolate, wood spices, but mostly that chocolate with a few drops of fruit juice. This is good. Not as austere or chiselled as other Millburns, yet very good all the same. 8/10 (thanks R)

A trip to the loo and I get stuck downstairs, sipping more things with a couple of people on the move.
127.44 12yo d.2003 Cantina Mexicana (65.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Oloroso Sherry Butt, 588b)
Lagavulin 1991/2015 (59.9%, OB Feis Ile 2015, American Oak, Pedro Ximénez & Oak Puncheons, 3500b)
Invergordon 7yo (Bladnoch Forum)

The whole gang appears downstairs. After having a Crosstown banana, caramel and chocolate doughnut pumped up with the latest 10, I eventually finish my dram of 117.3, which is still the best. Time to get some sleep: tomorrow is a school day.

Amazing day again. Good to catch up with people I have not seen in a while and good to meet others. The generosity on display was ridiculous throughout the afternoon. Happy birthday, PS!

Discussing rating systems

28/05/2016 A few birthday drams on the terrace

The weather has been rather uncooperative, so far, with no more than a handful of uncontiguous days of sunshine. This morning was on the humid side and not very warm. In the worst case, we will stay indoors, eh?

MS, OB, EG, MR and I are gathered to celebrate JS's birthday. It was kept quiet, but MR connected the dots and spills the beans.
TR has guests and cannot make himself available, while JH calls off, due to a hangover.

MS is cheating
MS has not had breakfast or lunch, therefore he jumps on the nibbles -- cured beef slices, sausage, camembert-like English cheese and crackers. Later on, EG offers flat bread, olives, lupin beans, houmous, falafels and more, while MR provides more delikatessen and cheeses, including a great pistachio-ed parmesan. OB Brings a home-made raspberry tart. Decadence.

We try all the whiskies blind -- for kicks. Everyone has a go at finding out what it is, with EG making a show out of it. And failing rather miserably at almost every attempt.

Benriach 1976/1991 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, IA/ACB) (offered by me): as apéritifs go, this should be as good as any. Nose: very faded leather, orange rinds and candle wax. Mouth: sweet and rich, caramel-y, full of bakery flavours -- plum tart, icing sugar and crushed strawberry. Finish: caramel again, milk chocolate and... incense. I was disappointed with this a couple of years ago. It is a good enough dram, though it is nowhere near what its pedigree would suggest. 7/10

Shifting gears.

Littlemill 39yo 1977/2016 (42.5%, Cadenhead Cask Ends, Bourbon Hogshead) (EG): nose: a clay-floor warehouse -- woah! Fruit follows course, as it usually does (raspberry), as well as a hint of mercurochrome. Mouth: hot raspberry coulis, crushed pink pepper, cherry pie -- rhaaaaa! Finish: more dunnage warehouse, resting casks with raspberry coulis on top. EG and MR detect menthol, while MS finds fennel. Over time, it delivers notes of steamed brocoli and kale, with perhaps a slight touch of verbena. Amazing. 9/10

We move to the terrace to enjoy the later-afternoon sun.

Glenfarclas 40yo b.2016 (40.2%, William Cadenhead) (OB): a tongue-in-cheek bottling from our friends at Cadenhead's, who decided to give in to Glenfarclas's requests to not disclose the distillery name on the label. They did not, this time. The name is still on the bottle itself, though. Shits and giggles. The introduction price for this one was outrageously low. Anyway, to business. Nose: bubblegum-y, with a mix of apple and plum flavours. Water helps bakery scents come through. Mouth: considerably hotter than the 40.2% would let one think. Spicy fruit tart. With water, it turns more earthy, yet it retains the lovely bakery style. Finish: spices dance in the mouth, now, alongside more of that fruity bubblegum goodness. Water does not suit it too well: it seems to morph into flat beer. Still acceptable, simply not as good as neat. Hands down the best Glenfarclas I have had. A high 8/10

Glen Grant 40yo 1972/2012 (51.6%, Maltbarn, Sherry Cask, 49b) (JS): nose: this is earthy as fook, with ploughed fields and a dash of orchard-fruit juice (mirabel plum). It then turns flinty, granite-y, even, very austere, with lichen and moss on stone. Mouth: ashes, rocks, earth and power! There is also a fruity thing going in the back. Water helps it unleash more fruit (squashed plums) and flint. Finish: ash again, smoke, the bitterness of plum stone. Water makes it slightly milder, perhaps with more fruit. It does not change it dramatically. Meow! 8/10

Glenglassaugh 40yo b.2013 (42.5%, OB) (JS): we have had this one a couple of times in the past, never from a fresh bottle. How will it be? Nose: coffee!?  Buttery pastries, with plenty of very timid fruit underneath. The coffee features quite heavily. Mouth: sweet, soft and smooth, with marzipan and a horseradish kick (or is it ginger?) Finish: long, soft and gentle, with more marzipan and bakery goodies. This is lovely, yet I was hoping for more. Let us leave it to rest for a bit... Thirty minutes later, nose: it has opened up nicely, with more and more tropical fruit and delicious custard. Mouth: soft, smooth and fruity, with acidic fruit and pillow-y apricot. The spicy touch comes through with a beautiful balance. Finish: lingering, with fruit-stuffed pastries (apricot turnover) and hot custard. This is not as fruity as I remembered it; I am convinced it is because it is a fresh bottle and oxidation will make it a deadly killer. Great stuff all the same. I initially gave it an 8; after 30 minutes, it has become a 9/10

Glenury Royal 40yo 1970/2011 (59.4.%, OB, American Oak Refill Casks, 1500b) (JS): not messing about, are we? Nose: earth, clay floor, warm saddles. JS finds it perfume-y. It is rich, teeming with scents of nut shells and dunnage warehouse before, ultimately, the trademark orange rinds emerge. Mouth: hot, powerful (how did it get to almost 60% after 40 years in casks anyway?), with ashes and lots of red pepper. Finish: this carries the punch of a Rare Malts Selection! Hot stone, tons of chilli and, finally, orange rinds. Wonderful, powerful, masterful. 9/10

35.59 39yo 1971/2011 Arabian nights (40.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 74b) (me): an old friend, this. Nose: fruit! Black grapes, dark olives (JS reckons green olives), papaya (EG), mango (MR), lime. The complexity of this nose is stunning. It also feels very different to the other times. Mouth: mild and balanced, it feels sweet, with a pinch of dried herbs (sage, thyme, mint). Beautifully made. Finish: slightly bitter, it becomes warm, complex, with damp cellars and mossy casks. Superb. EG recognises it. OB is delighted I convinced him to buy one just before it sold out. 9/10

The hit list:
MS: Glenury Royal
OB: Glenury Royal and Littlemill
MR: Glenglassaugh
JS: Glenury Royal and Glen Grant
EG: Glenury Royal
Yours, truly: Glenury Royal and Glenglassaugh

OB would not sit, so as to dominate all

Glenury a clear winner. Hard to imagine it did not tick all the boxes when I tried it in 2012. What a beast!

OB leaves. Off-tasting, we have:
EG: Glenugie 26yo 1982/2008 (50%, DL OMC 50, Bourbon Barrel, C#DL 4703, 310b)
JS and I: Springbank 16yo 1999/2016 Local Barley (54.3%, OB, 9000b)
MS: Laphroaig 10yo b.1987 (43%, OB, 87251) and Ardbeg Dark Cove (55%, OB Committee Release, Ex-Bourbon Casks & Dark Sherry Casks, b.2015)
MR: Bunnahabhain 42yo 1968/2011 (43.8%, Whisky-Fässle, Refill Sherry Cask)

MS was made to feel little

What a day. Happy birthday, JS. Roll on the next decades!

Deserving of the regal adjective

11 May 2016

07/05/2016 May outturn at the SMWS

Yet another new outturn. I am supposed to meet up with MS and a friend of his, but I am also waiting for DH to join me... and we have to try a few things before going to the SMWS. MS says he contacts me several times, yet I never receive any message. Let down by technology once again.

On the sunny terrace, we have Glenmorangie Cellar 13 (43%, OB second edition), Glenugie 26yo 1982/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask 50°, Refill Hogshead, C#DL 4703, 310b) and Glenugie 31yo 1977/2008 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead / Oloroso Sherry Butt Finish, C#7, 577b). Good times.

At the venue, MS has left. The regulars are all there and, within ten minutes, we have five glasses in front of us. Oh, dear.

46.39 23yo d.1992 Continental breakfast (59.0%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 240b): nose: cereal, gently smokey. It has a soft verbena touch and a lot of horsepower. It mellows down with pleasant field flowers and milk chocolate. Pencil shavings appear too. Mouth: warm and sunny, with thin wood shavings. Finish: warm, melted chocolate, peppered with herbs (chives) and bathed in sunshine. Pears come out, DH points out. I cannot detect anything else once he has said that: very distinct pears in syrup. 8/10

123.16 10yo d.2005 Madagascan white chocolate mice (57.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 216b): probably the first 123 from a decent cask I try (read: none of that ex-wine malarky). Nose: a bit flat, with toasted coconut shavings. It is a little caustic and has hints of latte macchiato. Mouth: subtle and mellow, it grows a gentle acidity, soon to become lemony. Finish: dark chocolate, with a massive dose of lemon juice. It is coating and lingering, very nice. 8/10

30.91 18yo d.1997 Deliciously dark and sweet (58.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Gorda, 744b): nose: raw meat, rotting meat, even, before it turns into concentrated oxtail broth and gnu carcasses in the African sun. Marinade for the barbecue, heavy treacle. This is not exactly subtle. Mouth: spicy filet américain (that will be martino mince, a sort of tartare mince), this is leathery, with dark cherry and a sting. Finish: dark chocolate caramel with cherry filling. Awful nose, the rest happily makes up for it. 7/10

9.106 23yo d.1992 Fun without fireworks (51.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 198b): nose: fruity and lively, with marzipan. It is strong. Clears the nostrils. Greengage, dried apricot, plum? Not plum -- shy carambola and Chinese gooseberry. Mouth: vanilla, custard, pine shavings, mouthwash (Listerine) and a hint of fruit again. Finish: drying Riesling, the finish stays present for a long while. Good nose, less impressed by the rest. 7/10

29.180 d.1999 An apothecary shop on the shore (52.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 264b): nose: smoked grain, smokey malt, rather than coal, ash or campfire. Burnt cotton candy, caramelised sweets. This is rather nice. It then moves on to unleash diesel fumes -- Oxford Street at 11:32am on a weekday. Hm. "Diesel fumes in a good way," says DH. "Yeah, bus fumes, not lorry fumes," I reply. Mouth: light and sweet, with cotton candy and a growing smoke that ends up reaching ashtray level. Finish: hot styrofoam, burning pine sap, (black) paint drying in the sun, marzipan and TCP. 7/10

117.3 25yo 1988/2013 Hubba-bubba, mango and monstera (58.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 199b): have to introduce DH to this, do I not? It is the usual high quality. DH detects lemon grass in it, while I find more ginger and galangal than usual. But yeah, the mango dominates the whole thing. 10/10

Off-tasting, we have the following two:

Knob Creek (unknown ABV, OB, unknown specs): I hardly see the bottle and cannot write down what it is exactly. Nose: Listerine, bakery scents. Mouth: mellow, it has the texture of a pillow. Finish: liquorice allsorts and ginger biscuit. 6/10 (thanks B and happy birthday!)

Ailsa Bay (48.9%, OB, b.2016): nose: tons of peat smoke and lovely cereals. Mouth: light but harsh. Finish: evanescent, fleeting, which makes it easy and alright, if not very interesting. Could be good once older. This is probably too young, still. 6/10 (thanks MJ)

Cracking afternoon.

One happy Scotsman