29 September 2016

28/09/2016 October outturn at Cadenhead's

Yep. Another regular event to frequent that is less a chore than a delight. OB and JS, who are both involved in most interesting events, you will have noticed, attend, alongside ten or so others. The session is brief and to the point. Not a masterclass to celebrate such and such bottling or distillery; merely speed dating with a few drams -- fourteen of them, to be precise. All are served in plastic cups. Notes are therefore short and unimaginative. Blame the format.

Mortlach 13yo 2003/2016 (46%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads): nose: quite thin, with a note of white alcohol. Mouth: thin again, watery, even. JS finds it Calvados-y, which I agree with. Finish: finally some action, with velvety grapes, i.e. soft, with a gentle bitterness. JS finds peanuts in the finish. I find it completely uninteresting. 5/10

Glenrothes 14yo 2002/2016 (57.4%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 516b): nose: dried leaves, drying moss, overripe peach. Mouth: coating and acidic, it quickly heats up to deliver hot wax. Finish: hay and wood bitterness. More to my taste than the Mortlach, still, I do not care for it much. 5/10

Auchroisk 14yo 2001/2016 (46%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 1008b): nose: tame, almost silent. Mouth: lively on the tongue, it has orchard fruit. Finish: more delicious orchard fruit and a lightly drying streak. This is better. It makes OB think of the 27yo that came out earlier this year, though without the same depth, of course. 7/10

Teaninich 10yo 2006/2016 (46%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 684b): nose: peach stone. Mouth: spirity and spicy, almost vinegary. JS detects corn -- I agree again. Finish: spirity at first, it then delivers corn syrup. 6/10

Rich Fruity Sherry 36yo (44.5%, Cadenhead Creations, B#2): a blend of Tamdhu, Highland Park, Macallan and Invergordon; all matured in sherry casks. Nose: glue, wood varnish. Mouth: dark fruit and wood glue. Finish: more wood glue, glued wood (spot the difference!) and dark fruit (the blackcurrant from the Invergordon, presumably). Nice. 7/10

Royal Brackla 18yo 1997/2016 (54.4%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 402b): nose: grass, straw, even, and an animal, farmy touch to it. Mouth: soft green grapes, very different to the nose. Finish: bold, drying, with a kick of farmyard flavours. 8/10

Glentauchers 39yo 1976/2016 (43.8%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, 180b): this is sold out, we are told. Miffed. I loved the 38yo from 2015, how will this fare? Nose: we shift gears to a point we break the gear box! Japanese, tea relaxing hot towels in a restaurant after a spice-rich meal. Mouth: Japanese tea, water melon (JS). Finish: a stream of tropical fruit amongst Japanese tea and a thin veil of smoke. Yep, it is beautiful indeed. 9/10

William Cadenhead Blend 43yo (44.2%, Cadenhead): Glenlivet, Glenfarclas and Invergordon, this time. Nose: a mushroom cave, mould, dusty and humid cellars, cheese rind. Mouth: velvety and soft, woody, yet fruity too. Finish: mix of fruit (apricot, mango) and wood. A complete oddball, this. I think I like it, yet the nose is very peculiar. 8/10

Glen Grant 31yo 1984/2016 (46.1%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Sherry Butt, 414b): nose: wood glue, hay, wicker. Mouth: warming. Finish: balanced, slightly drying. 6/10

Highland Park 30yo 1986/2016 (46.5%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 174b): nose: lavender, heather, super dry, super fragrant pot-pourri, before a little smoke comes up too. Mouth: velvety, with a bit of smoke and warm lavender. Finish: smoke (lots of it), heather on the hearth and a lot of violet sweets. The sort of profile people like in HP, not in Bowmore. I love it in both. 8/10

Dufftown 26yo 1988/2015 (51%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 214b): this is not from this outturn, yet it is so kindly offered, it would be rude to refuse. Nose: chocolate, corn on the cob. Mouth: warm, earthy. Finish: very long, vaguely grape-y, with a whiff of bandages. 7/10

Ledaig 19yo 1997/2016 (53.9%, Cadenhead Single Cask, 252b): nose: untanned leather, with a bit of flesh left on the skin. Overipe peach. Mouth: meaty and animal, leather in a tin of varnish. Finish: one third smoke, one third meat, one third varnish. Not my style. Most in the group love it, though. 5/10

Inexcusable typo on the label, here!
Caol Ila 34yo 1982/2016 (60.1%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 264b): how can a 34yo whisky still be that high in alcohol, eh? Answers on a postcard. Nose: deep, smokey and massive, with a note of nail polish. Mouth: warming, peppery and ballsy. Finish: long and warming, with a lot of nail polish. Not convinced by this. 6/10

TMAH 24yo 1991/2016 (62.6%, Cadenhead Cask Strength): nose: nail polish, turpentine. Mouth: more of the same. It dances on the tongue quite nicely. Finish: bitter as ink, with all the complexity of nail varnish and polish. This is a nice rum. Will not make me sell my soul, yet pleasant enough. 7/10

The Invergordon 43yo and Burnside 26yo are unavailable, unfortunately.

Good session. Nice to meet new faces, great to catch up with old ones, and really, a mixed bag of whiskies to please everyone, this month.

27 September 2016

24/09/2016 Garden birds

MS kindly offered to host this tasting in his newly-refurbished garden. The weather looks like summer, still, so it would be rude not to seize what might be the last opportunity of the year.

He called me up last week to throw in the towel regarding the theme: he said he could not come up with one, though he had been fascinated with the birds in his garden and tried to work up something that would hint at that. My answer was simple: "How about garden birds?"

We had visitors, too

JS and I make the trip South, along with JK, who is visiting from New York. BA, PS and RMcC called off, too busy as they are, doing the inventory of their extensive collections of toothbrushes. I rummage through the collection to try and find something to make up for their absence (and their bottles').

Allt-a-Bhainne 1991/2007 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, JG/BAB) (me): I brought this because it smells of gentle garden fruits. Nose: freshly-cut apples, citrus peels and juicy cut grass. Mouth: lemon, water, custard with a twist -- a twist of what, I will never manage to figure out. Finish: lovely warm custard and a dash of pepper. This is a modern malt indeed: it has coconut shaving, vanilla pods and lashes of lime water. Pleasant, though. 8/10

Food enters. Salami, cured beef slices, garlic pods, pickles and onions, blue cheese, English camembert and crackers. All excellent.


Glentauchers 26yo 1989/2016 (48.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 108b) (me): I stumbled upon this one while rummaging, did not see how to make it fit the theme, yet I thought I would still take it along and try to wing it. Garden birds. Wing it. See? Nose: this one has a touch of pickled vinegar. I first think I am too close to the onions and pickles, but it remains. Cut pears appear too. Mouth: more powerful than expected, yet it is balanced. Fresh grass, and still that vinegary note. Simple, but nice enough. Finish: boom. It is bitter and thin for a second, then fruit waves come crashing in. This is almost too thin and green, yet the fruity punch in the finish is gold! 8/10 (thanks SW for the sample)

Old Rhosdhu 1967/1999 (40%, OB The Original Whisky Collection) (me): this, I know, smells of garden fruits again. Nose: baked apples, grapes (JK), quinces (JK), old weatherproof boots (MS). MS reckons this has an oily quality to it, whilst JK confirms it is perfume oil. I find tomato plant (ooh! That's new) and even a note of faded leather, later on. Mouth: apple compote to the max. This is velvety, soft, sweet and fruity. Finish: long, fruity and laden with Austrian apricot liqueur (JK). I still love it! 9/10

Deanston 35yo 1977/2012 (40.4%, The Whisky Agency/The Nectar, Refill Hogshead, 253b) (JS): this bottle has a bird on the label. It might be a hummingbird, it is still a bird -- and even a garden bird; just not in Europe. Nose: green grapes, peach, apple, Chinese gooseberry. It also has a slight vinegary note and... Virginia tobacco!? Cut meadow flowers, cut grass, even a drop of coffee. Mouth: JK finds it has heft and musk and the texture of sikhye, a Korean rice drink (식혜). MS says pineapple -- there is green pineapple indeed. Finish: a small explosion of tropical fruit (pineapple, papaya, mandarin and even a hint of mango). I love this. The best Deanston I have had and I am looking forward to trying it again. 9/10

Dailuaine 16yo 1997/2013 (52.9%, The Scottish Liqueur Centre Beinn A'Cheò, C#4237, 302b) (MS): MS just received this and cannot wait to open it, even if it is not in theme. Who are we to refuse? Nose: pickled red onions, brine, whiffs of earth, dry soil and a mineral side to it too. Water tames it to a more approachable profile, less briny. Mouth: interesting turn -- it is nothing like the nose. Coating custard, melted caramel -- actually, a lot of it. Chocolate éclair. Water brings out more gentle caramel. Finish: in line with the palate -- chocolate éclair with a caramel coulis and the bitterness of unripe green grapes. This is most peculiar. The nose is more interesting than good, but the mouth and finish make up for it. 7/10

Chocolate enters: candied orange rolled into dark chocolate sticks, as well as cigarillos de chocolate.

24 blackbird, geddit?
Longmorn 24yo 1990/2015 (53.7%, Speciality Drinks The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#191954, 216b) (MS): Sing a song of sixpence / A pocket full of rye / Four and twenty blackbirds / Baked in a pie. 24yo, blackbirds, there you go. That is pretty good, I think. Nose: a vague sensation of thin smoke. Apricot compote left in a cauldron on the rack and pinion too low for too long (in other words: caramelised), apple sauce at room temperature (MS), peach (JK), hot iron, marshmallow, tobacco leaves. Mouth: it has a metallic edge and the acidity of lime, though it becomes creamier with time. Pencil shavings? A pencil-sharpener blade, rather. Finish: lemon sharpness with a veil of thin smoke. This is lovely! Complex and unexpected. 8/10

MS's Solera Blended Malt (±58%, MS's Collection, 1b) (MS): MS was having a lark doing this. :-) It contains 123.13, 85.13, 77.41, 46.35, 2.92, 44.72. Nose: a satsuma tree, butter, slowly melting in the sun through the kitchen window, cheese rind -- another strange and unexpected one. Mouth: it tingles the front of the tongue with orange peel, white pepper and cocoa powder. Finish: warming, it dies out with remnants of orange rinds, drying on the radiator. 8/10

JS even dressed in theme!

G5.5 18yo d.1993 Rich, sweet and comforting (65.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Virgin Toasted Hogshead, 243b) (me): this typically tastes of blackcurrant, garden fruit. Nose: "It's like taking the lid off a matte-emulsion paint pot. I would say: white." (MS) Pencil shavings (JK), Graham crackers (MS). To me, it is indistinct pastry at first, then an onslaught of blackcurrant turnover. Mouth: hot, with warm custard, pastry galore, toasted coconut... and the fabled blackcurrant kicks you in the teeth. Meow, blackcurrant. :-) Finish: "The blackcurrant is just a more intense version of pencil shaving," says JK. It feels powerful to me, akin to sucking a blackcurrant cough drop. Unfortunately, MS is not a huge fan of blackcurrant and it is a bit strong for JK. Ah! well, I love it. 9/10

Bunnahabhain 42yo 1968/2011 (43.8%, Whisky-Fässle/Whiskybase.com, Refill Sherry Cask) (me): although not strictly speaking a garden bird, the label sports a mallard. For people who live near a waterway, a mallard is close enough to a garden bird. Nose: deep and noble, it is also very fruity (squashed strawberries, plums and peach stones). Dunnage warehouse, apple slices, orange slices. Mouth: mossy and slightly drying, this has dunnage warehouse written all over it (see previous tasting for an explanation). Red grapes with their pips, apple peels, even balsamic vinegar. There is a tropical-fruit touch to it, as well as a hint of coal smoke. Finish: phwoar! All is there in harmony -- the fruit, the smoke, the happiness. Red grapes, apples in syrup, hint of coal smoke. It feels a little weak; it was probably not too clever to have it after G5.5. It still holds its own, though. JK is confused as to whether she likes it or not and blames G5.5 for her destroyed palate. 9/10

Off-tasting, we then have:

St Magdalene 1982/2008 (46%, BBR Berrys' Own Selection, C#2199) (MS): an old friend, this; I finished my own bottle during the 2011 riots. MS heard me talk about StM and wanted to try it. Nose: flint, lemon, crisp apple, a surprising trace of smoke, then garden flowers. Mouth: the lemon affair goes on, with a lovely shortcrust addition. The dominant notes are lemon and apple, still. Finish: subtle, mellow, lemony, creamy, it displays apple slices and a murmur of smoke. This is still bloody marvellous. Should have bought a dozen bottles at the time. 9/10

9.109 12yo d.2003 (59.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 90b) (MS): a small outturn if I know one. Nose: very clear cow dung in a pasture. Who poured me a Brora? Caramel (JK) (note to self: do not eat JK's caramel when in NYC), richly purple s'mores (MS), grape juice (MS). The fruit gets more expressive over time and other scents come forward too. Wet grass, a stencil machine, drenched in purple (MS) -- that would be xylene. I still have an interesting combination of cow dung and grape juice. The cow dung disappears, making room for lavender and violet sweets. Mouth: hot and gently drying, with violet boiled sweets. Actually, when the violet sweets kick in, they take over completely. Finish: blackcurrant emerges, as said on the label, with more violet boiled sweets. There is a greenness to it, the bitterness of a plant stem. It is very interesting and highly unusual, especially for a Glen Grant. Not that I claim much familiarity with the distillery, mind. 7/10

It is now dark and chilly. We call it a tasting, venture into the pub next door, destroy cheeseburgers (we spent the afternoon pigging out, too!), then part. What a beautiful day!

20 September 2016

17/09/2016 Rare Malts Closed Distilleries at The English School, Zürich

After a day in town, during which JS and I stop lengthily in a store and are treated to six very nice drams, we end up where we left off last night.

Tonight is, of course, the reason tOMoH is here, in this neutral country of chocolate imposters. CD and PG are hosting this extravaganza, which JS, EG and I attend, alongside half a dozen locals, whom will henceforth be called the Swissky Mafia (© JS).

In pure RMS style, the Glenlochy's cork had to be replaced.
The other five are intact. We all reckon they are fake...

Now, Rare Malts are frequent guests at many of our tastings, as are closed distilleries. Even closed distilleries from the Rare Malts range are no strangers to this blog. This time, we are talking about six closed distilleries exclusively from the Rare Malts range, mostly off the beaten path. In other words: no Rosebank, Brora or Port Ellen. This should be very interesting.

Banff 21yo 1982/2004 (57.1%, OB Rare Malts Selection): I had this with adc a couple of years ago and remember being very impressed. Nose: it seems very gentle and ethereal, though that is perhaps due to the huge glass. Baked apple, a hint of smoke, strawberry juice, even. The impression is warmer and warmer, eventually delivering a drop of nail polish. Mouth: the fruit is now bold -- mostly baked apple, roasted apple, even. It is now rather hot with a bit of ash and burning straw. Strawberry bubblegum too, now -- phwoar! Finish: warming, waxy and jammy. The apple becomes so sweet it is close to apple chutney. At this point, the smoke has become the delicatest and elegantest. A class act. I like Banff. 9/10

Convalmore 24yo 1978/2003 (59.4%, OB, Rare Malts Selection): this is maybe the one I am most excited about: love Convalmore, never had this particular expression, not on my shelves. Nose: it has the delightful scent of a dunnage warehouse, bitter marmalade on slightly overdone toast. The heat is a little numbing -- it is an RMS after all. Apples in sizzling butter and, much later on (hours), smokey bubblegum. Mouth: this is a massive slap of old-school madness -- coal smoke, dark marmalade and numbing power. The marmalade survives the passing of time, as do the sheer power and a veil of smoke. Oxidation does not change it much, actually. Finish: long, powerful, big, with the smoke of a campfire and candied fruit. This is beautiful. 9/10

A brief interruption to explain this dunnage-warehouse note I use so often. A dunnage warehouse is a low-ceiling, clay-floored warehouse in which casks are laid to rest, stacked no more than three high, separated by wooden blocks. It is the more traditional storage way, as opposed to the more modern racking warehouse and its concrete floor, where casks are held in metallic structures that can reach much higher. The dunnage warehouse has an unmistakable smell that blends damp clay, old wood, moss and a titillating fruitiness attributable to the alcohol evaporating (the angels' share). Many distilleries do not allow visitors into their warehouses, and if they do, pictures are often forbidden (due to the rather obsolete risk of flash photography igniting alcohol vapours). Not to mention all the casks in there are in bond, subject to the taxman, who would not be impressed to see visitors pour themselves a dram. Given the chance, walking into one is an experience not to be missed, perhaps similar to entering a crypt.

Glenury Royal 23yo 1971/1995 (61.3%, OB Rare Malts Selection): another exciting one; I am deeply in love with the 29yo RMS, a big fan of Glenury in general, and I have not yet had this one. With the Convalmore, it is also the only one we are having tonight that is not on my shelves. Nose: another old-school heavy hitter. Musty warehouses, old staves, mushrooms in a pan and cured ham. This feels like a part-Sherry maturation to me. Quick debate on that: PG states all RMS are exclusively Bourbon casked, which I am sure is not the case. Interestingly, everyone has the decency to not check on their smartphones. We simply carry on with the tasting. Mouth: peppery, gingery, laden with green chilli and lots of horsepower. Time makes it slightly more accessible, though it does remain gingery. Finish: mamma mia! This is big! Burning petrol, dark, oily and... on fire. Ginger and wood spices. JS does not care much for it, I love it. At first pass, it is my favourite. It ends up kneeling before the Banff, though, which I prefer in the long run. This Glenury is exhausting. Very challenging. 9/10

This gets tOMoH's
seal of approval
At this stage, TK, of the Swissky Mafia, pulls out some munchies and I am forced to ingest inferior chocolate -- for research purposes, you understand. I admit it goes really well with the Glenury, bitter and pistachio-ed. I concede the Swiss now make relatively decent chocolate... since they bought up all the famous Belgian producers! :-) Good laughs all round. This one must be from a former Belgian factory indeed: honestly speaking, it is brilliant.

This, not so much

The others are yonks ahead of me in the sequence. After mistaking the Hillside for the Banff in a blind tasting, EG claims, 'I like the Hillside. I was surprised by the nose.' to which his neighbour interjects, 'You were surprised it had the nose of the Banff?'

Hillside 25yo 1971/1997 (62%, OB Rare Malts Selection): ecstatic to try this too; I reckon it is the first Hillside I have, despite having tried multiple expressions of Glenesk/Glen Esk, the other names for the same distillery. Nose: apple liqueur, decaying peach, peach stone in fruit juice, ground fruit stone, zabaglione (EG). After a couple of hours, all scents are completely blended into each other and it becomes impossible to tell them apart. Another elegant dram. Mouth: initially a lot "lighter" than the strength suggests, it quickly grows into a frightening beast of a dram. Spicy broth with infusing prunes, hot marmalade. Amazingly, there is also a note of cold cream. A few hours in, a vague mustiness emerges. Finish: beastly again, with soaking stone fruit and dry cork. Musk too -- it is foxy, all things considered. Water does not change the character much; it merely makes it less strong. Just. 8/10

Millburn 35yo 1969/2005 (51.2%, OB Rare Malts Selection): the last and oldest RMS... until 2016's ridiculously limited batch (Talisker 40, Lagavulin 40, Caol Ila 40) released for a charity sale in China. Nose: it is a little funky at first, though that impression fades away quickly. Waxy red apple, slightly overly-baked tarte tatin. Mouth: a lot mellower than I expected (mind you, it is 11% lower than the previous), it has the elegance of old age, a nice, fruity balance, very gentle smoke and a creamy texture with a pinch of spices. Yum! Finish: this is beautiful and complex. It dances on the tongue in whorls of gentle smoke (a mere ghost, at this point) and yellow fruit (peach, apricot). Phew! 9/10

Glenlochy 26yo 1969/1995 (58.8%, OB Rare Malts Selection, B297): one of the hardest to get and most expensive of the RMS, this Glenlochy was bottled for the South African market. There were five Glenlochy expressions in the RMS, none of which was released on the old continent, it would seem. The few that found their way to Europe keep changing hands on auction sites for a lot of money. Nose: meaty! Is this a Mortlach? Rotting flesh, meat on the bone, left too long in the sun, game, roadkill. It quietens down a notch or two, though it never reaches the "usual" Glenlochy profile, which is more mineral and austere. In fact, it seems to become softer and more mellow. Mouth: the meat does not appear here. Instead, we have peach juice with a peppery kick. The pepper is slightly out of control. Finish: crushed peach stones, ever-so-slightly bitter. Vanilla and pistachio-tainted cream. This is complex and beautiful, though quite polarising -- JS does not like it. 8/10

In typical RMS style, all six were brutal, indomitable drams, difficult, fierce and wild, yet also very rewarding for those who give it the time and attention they deserve. They really put up a fight, those.
I personally thought the tasting was lacking the ceremony and guidance to set the pace and explain some of the history behind those bottlings. When I discuss it with the hosts, they answer that here are seasoned whisky geeks who need no fluff. At the same time, my neighbour had never had a Banff before and one in the audience is attending his first-ever whisky tasting. Without going into a full masterclass for novices, I reckon a little bit of introduction for each dram would have worked a treat.

'Morning piss, or evening piss?'

Bottles then appear out of bags and secret pockets and the whole thing takes another dimension. Most of them, I do not try. Pittyvaich 20yo 1980/2011 OB makes an entrance, much to CD's content. I tell him it is my favourite Pittyvaich. Upon hearing that, TK digs up a sample from his bag and pours it to me.

Pittyvaich 14yo (54.5%, James MacArthur Fine Malt Selection): nose: cracked eggshells, velvety cream, panettone (EG, sniffing out of my glass). Mouth: this is smooth as fook, velvety and pleasant, unlike the bottlings by GMP. Finish: sweet and soft, with rice tart and custard. Lovely, this! 8/10 (thanks TK)

Glen Mhor 15yo b.1997 (40%, GMP, IG/DJE): nose: phwoar, another old-schooler, full of dusty libraries and green tea (JS). Mouth: it suffers from the sequence, of course. This feels awfully watery, at this stage. Finish: marmalade, nigella seeds, black cumin. Watery, though. Hope to try this another time. It was obviously a mistake to taste it now, after the RMS monsters. At the same time, when will I have another chance to try this without forking out for a bottle of my own? 7/10

Distilled Somewhere in Speyside 41yo 1975/2016 (52.8%, Acla Da Fans Acla Selection, Fino Sherry Butt, C#19, 120b): brief notes, here. Nose: apples and lemon custard. Mouth: mellow, pleasant, with custard and coconut cream. Finish: custard, with a lot of pepper. Not bad for an active distillery. ;-) 8/10

TK pours me something else -- blind, once more. Nose: milk, lemon, grape seeds. The Swissky Mafia teases me to know what kind of milk -- it is yak milk. Mouth: again, this is milky and gentle, with a kick of lemon juice. Finish: a bit low on the ABV, yet it is well balanced. I very proudly manage to guess it is a Coleburn. I fear I might turn cocky for a minute. I has got to raprazent, yo. Coleburn 12yo (43%, James MacArthur Fine Malt Selection) 8/10 (thanks TK)

We hop onto the next-to-last tram back into town for a night's sleep.
What a tasting! Great drams with great friends, old and new. Yay to a flourishing network!

Stack to the plahn, Ahndy!

16/09/2016 Vorspiel in Zürich

JS and I are visiting friends in Zürich. Whisky friends. CD & RG, whom we met at the London Show, a couple of years ago. They invited us for supper tonight: a raclette. Funnily enough (ha!), the flight is delayed. For a country who supposedly master clocks, that is not a little surprising. Anyway.

When we reach the place, around 22:00, our hosts and the other guests are three bottles of wine down already. And supper is over. They kindly postpone dessert until we have caught up on the raclette and pierrade. Our hostess asks me if she may be so bold as to turn my meat, which amuses everyone immensely... and then she realises and blushes.
We leave no man standing.

Well done, pumpkin pie!

That is when CD brings out the goods. Ten or so bottles appear on the table out of nowhere.

Springbank 10yo d.2004 (54.9%, Duty Paid Sample, RS Butt, Rotation 570): whatever RS Butt means. Nose: initially rather sulphury, it then gives way to tar and charcoal-toasted leather (think of a blacksmith's leather apron), even a touch of cured ham. Later on, roasted apples show up too. Mouth: warm and peppery, it has stagnant water in an old tyre. There definitely is a mix of wet, burnt wood and hot rubber. Finish: burnt wood, melted rubber and overly tanned leather. This one is too extreme for my feeble palate, tonight. 5/10

Glen Grant 30yo 150th Anniversary Reserve (45%, OB, b. ca 1990): nose: milk chocolate, Amaretto and a certain fruitiness -- is it elderflower? Elderberry? Peach? Mouth: full-on peachy Amaretto. Finish: orange rinds, custard, Amaretto again, as well as soft peach. There is a less pleasant rubber note, which is why it will not score higher than 7/10

Benriach 28yo 1975/2004 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Hogshead, C#7221, 208b): a sherried Benriach from that era could be good, though the sherry might also be too strong and smother the distillery's character. What it does is pique tOMoH's interest. Nose: phwoar! Marzipan, custard and a hefty dose of fruit (peach, apricot, mango). The fruit becomes louder and louder, bringing rose petals on its trail. Mouth: the beautiful tingling of chilli on fruit. Finish: dunnage warehouse, fern, moss on wood and lovely, lovely fruit. Winner. 9/10

RG, seeing how we like the Benriach, allows us to try her favourite expression.

Benriach 16yo 1997/2013 (59.2%, OB Distillery Exclusive, Sauternes Hogshead Finish, C#3764, 293b): nose: fruity too, though so much sweeter. Turkish delights, Greek pastries, meringue, Nic-Nacs biscuits. Mouth: soft, sweet and fruity. This is very pleasant, yet I am not sure I could drink more than a dram or two in a row. Finish: long, sweet and syrupy, with the softness of peaches in syrup. Lovely. 8/10

Tomintoul 46yo 1967/2013 (47.6%, The Whisky Agency, Refill Hogshead, 215b): been willing to try a Tomintoul from that famous year for so long! Nose: this is classy. Blackberry bushes, blackcurrant juice, dunnage warehouse and a hint of crushed mint. Majestic. Mouth: mellow, soft and round, with lovely cake icing -- not over the top. Finish: dunnage warehouse again, with drops of soft, ripe fruit. 46 years in wood make it a bit nutty, but it is surprisingly under control. Excellent. Dram of the day for me. 9/10

Port Ellen 25yo 1982/2007 (58.7%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Butt, C#2845, 491b): nose: refined peat, sandy beaches, drying fishing nets, flint and a bucket of soot in the distance. This is very elegant. Mouth: big, bold, yet not arrogant. It has refined peat again, citrus and chilli pepper. Finish: this is where it turns less interesting; hot paprika, ginger, lots of peat. All that is submerging everything else. Very good, not blinding, and the finish a reassuring sign that Port Ellen is vastly overrated, in tOMoH's opinion. I still like it, mind. 8/10

3am. Time to clock off and get some rest before tomorrow.