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.

MmMmmMMMMmMmmmM!

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!

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