Surprisingly fresh after all that sampling yesterday, JS and I comfortably arrive at the venue 15 minutes before the doors open. The queue is long already, but it matters not: we have weekend passes and belong to the other queue of returning visitors. PS, BC, DW and others are there already; their position in line suggests they have been there for some time.
We are in in a matter of minutes.
If we had no plan yesterday, today is even more of an improvisation. The only thing that is set is a 16:30 meeting. It does seem relevant, however, now that we have gone through the "whole" show for one day (it is a figure of speech -- I mean: we know what is where), to tick the dream drams off the list. The ones we have not yet tried, that is. Straight to the jugular it is, then. Signatory Vintage. Oh! whisky.auction has something to pair SV's with too. We grab a table for a parallel tasting, then. OB joins us there, we meet DR, MC, BC and his pal we met at Cadenhead's earlier this week.
Glen Mhor 50yo 1965/2016 (47.1%, SV Cask Strength Collection, Refill Butt + Oloroso Sherry Finish, C#3934, 353b): this one has been tickling my fancy since the day I discovered its existence. Considering the price of a full bottle, it is probably fair to say it will be my only chance to try it. For this Glen Mhor fan, this is pretty exciting indeed. Nose: Christmas cake, dark and rich, sultanas, dried figs, dried apple flakes, maybe dried mango slices too and dried plums. Rich and fruity alright! I am relieved, at this point, that it is good, though probably not worth the price tag. No desire to shell out, then. It later opens up to reveal dusty bookshelves, which I adore. Mouth: blackberry liqueur, old brandy, a smoking pipe, seasoned with Calvados. The fruit is still dark, a little dryer and the spices grow. It ends with a lush note of dark cherry pulp. Finish: wow! More dark-fruit action (prunes, cherries, blackberries, blueberries) and old, soaked wooden staves. Is this wonderful, or what? I changed my mind. It is worth the price tag. 10/10
Glen Mhor 28yo 1982/2010 (56.8%, SV Cask Strength Collection, Wine Treated Hogshead, C#1328, 272): nose: cut apples, fresh grass, a sunny morning in the garden and oily, sappy flowers. Mouth: a gently spicy omelette, creamy with a touch of woody bitterness, then crisp apples. Finish: it is now a beautiful ping-pong of fruit and spices, green and yellow, fresh, woody, but not overly so. Lovely. It bows to its ancestor, naturally, yet manages to shine all the same. 8/10
scotchwhisky.com is the next port of call: they have something special too...
Port Ellen 20yo 1978/1998 (60.90%, OB Rare Malts Selection): yep, the bottling that put Port Ellen on everyone's radar. The first PE RMS. I am not ashamed to say I have never tried it, as it was an expensive leap of faith at the time, provided one could find it. Will it live up to the myth? Nose: peat smoke, of course, yet also dry sage, verbena, a camp fire, drying hay. Then the shells come forth: clams, cockles, smoked mussels, whelk, drying fishing nets and warm, sandy beaches. Mouth: very mellow, at this stage. It has pâtes de fruits (red and green). It is assertive, yet nowhere near as brutal as other RMS, not as damaging. Finish: the mastery of this is unbelievable. It has all sorts of shells and smoked seafood, alongside the sweets form the mouth (pâtes de fruits). It is never-ending. This is a delicate PE, on the same level as the Dovr-Toutes-Mares -- actually even better. Meow. 10/10
Back to whisky.auction.
Bowmore 15yo (43%, OB for Glasgow Garden Festival, Ceramic Decanter): nose: phwoar! honeysuckle, ripe melon, mango, even passion fruit. This is a nose I like indeed. Mouth: it feels thin after a few cask strength drams, yet so fresh! Milky, vaguely herbaceous, with a gentle fruitiness. Scratch that! It is very fruity. Leave it in the mouth for long enough and it cuddles you with fruit. Finish: yogurt, fruit, with mango again and canary melon. The low strength makes it suffer, in this sequence. It would otherwise score higher, I am sure. 8/10
Time for lunch, where the efficiency is, again, impeccable. As is the staff's lack of humour. Why do I even bother? I have roast chicken, JS has cullen skink. Sticky toffee pudding for both. Excellent.
Loch Lomond is our next stop. The guy with the imported accent is busy with other visitors and his colleague is not there. I take pictures, resign to coming back later... and he makes an entrance. I want to try two or three more things, here.
Loch Lomond 12yo (46%, OB, American Oak Casks, 73721F): nose: nutty, sticky toffee-like in character, with orange rinds. Mouth: it feels watery, with a splash of orange juice and gentle spices (nutmeg?) Finish: a lot more fruit now comes out, not too dissimilar to the Inchmurrin 12yo from yesterday. 7/10
I receive a text from MS: he is not coming today. He regrets not having a chance to ask Dave Broom to sign his book, yet he needs to recover -- I suspect agoraphobia more than hangover. Pity, but his call.
Loch Lomond 18yo (46%, OB, American Oak Casks, 73921B): nose: dark-fruit tart. This is really full of pastry and fruit, with added Scottish tablet (JS). Mouth: mellow and fruity, with melon and sponge cake. Finish: very mellow, with dark chocolate and muffins. Lovely again. Loch Lomond, mate. Believe! 8/10
In between all that and to thank them for the nice time, I pour both boys a drop from my flask. Their reaction suggests they love it (or they are being very polite). I am delighted that they get to try their own product. :-) It is Old Rhosdhu 1967/1999 (40%, OB The Original Whisky Collection), which I pour all day to pretty much everyone I know.
Time for the big guns.
Littlemill 25yo (50.4%, OB Private Cellar Edition, Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish, 1500b, b.2015): we had this last year and I remember thinking the quality-to-price ratio was disastrous, especially when compared to that of the Inchmurrin 12yo. It was, however, one of the last drams of the weekend and poured in plastic cups. Need to make a second opinion. Nose: lots of fruit, with a hint of toffee and dough-y pastry. Is that coffee cream, in the far back? Mouth: round and fruity, it tickles the sides of the tongue like citric powder capsules. It also has a dash of green pepper and... passion fruit? Finish: a wave of delicate tropical fruit comes in (mango, jackfruit, banana), followed by sweet pastry. This is much more appreciated than last year. 9/10
We finally manage to stop at Gordon & MacPhail to try some of their bottlings. Well, only one, as the stand is rather busy.
Glenallachie 1999/2015 (46%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): an unusual distillery sighting indeed, and one that the staff brought on purpose, as they knew no-one else would have any. Clever, SR! Nose: perfume-y, it has jasmine, then... spirit. Mouth: this is thin, with cut pears, green wood and fern. Finish: milk, milk chocolate and some herbs. I am sure it suffers from the sequence. I do not find it terribly appealing. 6/10
OB goes for a dream dram and I get to try it.
Ardbeg 27yo 1976/2004 (51.4%, OB Single Cask, Sherry Butt, C#2398, 504b): nose: farmyard aplenty, a seashore farm, that is. Ploughed fields, oil engines and smokey whelk. Mouth: what a wonderful balance. Perfectly integrated, with all sorts of old tools, old engines and smoked shells. Finish: a smokey chimney, more smoked seafood, old engines. This is amazing. I keep telling everyone and their dog that I prefer the reduced small batches to the single casks, when it comes to 1970s Ardbeg, but this is on the same level. I believe it is the first 1976 I try too, which might be where the difference lies. 9/10
JS convinces us to stop at Hunter Laing's, where she spent a long time yesterday.
Bunnahabhain 26yo 1989/2016 (49.8%, Edition Spirits The First Editions, Refill Hogshead, C#HL12627, 114b): nose: now, that is an interesting mix! Cheese (brie) and fruit. I have not smelled such a cheesy whisky since 2011, when Douglas Laing poured their 1975 Banff at this very festival. Mouth: lots of fruit, here, dunked into a bowl of yogurt with a pinch of spices. Finish: gentle smoke, spices and lots of yellow fruit (jackfruit, apricot, peach). This is beautiful. 8/10
We have time for a couple before our first meeting of the day. Yes, JS signed us up for a pre-meeting meeting. We run to TWE's stall.
Rosebank 21yo (55.1%, SD True Love, 498b): nose: floral and fruity, it has peach and melon. Mouth: soft and fruity. Finish: honey, apricot, peach, melon. The notes do not do it justice, really. This is great. 9/10
OB brings back another dream dram.
Deanston 40yo (unknown ABV, duty sample bottle): nose: thick honey. Thick, thick, thick. Yellow flowers too (forsythia). Mouth: coating, fruity and balanced. Finish: long, it has honey, honeysuckle and cut peaches. Two great Deanstons in a row! (Remember we had a great one last week) 9/10
Time to take a break.
JS and I attend a mini masterclass in the Secret Garden: Exploration of Peat with Dave Broom. OB is on the waiting list; first on it, even. Unfortunately, no-one bails out, which rules him out. See you later, then!
I am surprised JS is interested in this, to be honest. Firstly, she is not a peat fan; secondly, it is time spent drinking pedestrian drams instead of being on the floor, trying potentially more interesting ones; thirdly, it is right before the other masterclass we are attending. Regardless, I welcome the break and an opportunity to sit down and switch off.
Broom leads this group of eleven and talks about the different types of peat from the different regions of the world. The audience is a mix of aficionados and newbies, which makes for interesting interactions with the host.
Broom is his usual self, full of humour and interesting facts, and he presents this with as much passion as he puts into any masterclass. Groovy shirt, too.
"Those of you who have been to Scotland, Ireland, Northern England, know that the weather is occasionally moist."
Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, HPF023, b. ca 2016): nose: farmyard, before the more traditional heather furnace comes up. Mouth: delicate honey and blooming heather. Wonderful. Finish: delicious touches of heather honey on the stove. It still manages to hold its head high after the dream drams. 7/10
Dave states that, to know a distillery, one must be familiar with its core expression, which HP12 is. It makes me think twice. He is probably right, actually.
Benriach Peated Quarter Cask (46%, OB, Quarter Casks, LK10469, b.2016): nose: the farmyard is much more pronounced, as well as forest undergrowth and some barley. Mouth: woody, gently smokey -- a dry smoke, this time -- then spicy ginger. Finish: lots of peat smoke, dry and warm. 6/10
Hakushu Distiller's Reserve (43%, OB, LS5KPB): nose: light and fruity, with hardly any smoke at all, or so it seems. Mouth: again, fruity and flowery -- is it lychee? Dave reckons green bamboo -- what a panda! Finish: green grape, sweet and soft, easy and delicate. With water, refined smoke emerges a little. 7/10
Connemara Peat Single Malt (40%, OB, L15089, b.2015): nose: this is muddy, with decaying vegetation. Broom, in poetic mode, notes bicycle inner-tubes and turf. Mouth: smoked nuts, muddy bogs, algae, almost. Finish: algae and funghi, decaying plants, clams. 7/10
Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB, L65667 16004 918, b.2016): nose: oily, with peat smoke, charcoal, scorched earth, dry earth. Mouth: fresh, dry and earthy, almost sooty. Finish: barley and smoke, chimney-like, says Dave, who also detects lime marmalade. It is sooty indeed, manly and straightforward. It still does the trick after all these years. 7/10
"Old Ardbeg aromas remind me of the old Glasgow underground."
I bounce back on that remark (it takes a long time to do so: two gents monopolise Broom for ten minutes) and ask Dave whether he knows Proust and his famous madeleine. He does -- he is reading Proust right now, he says. I tell him whisky often has such a "madeleine" effect on me it is puzzling. He seems to agree. We chat briefly. I wonder if he would like to try the Rhosdhu I brought, but he politely defers it to after the other masterclass he is presenting shortly. It will not be relevant, then, I think, yet it is the professional thing to do. Fair enough.
OB, JS and I have a second lunch (cullen skink for me, butternut for JS, sticky toffee pudding for both), offered by people who "do not have time to eat, when there is so much whisky to try." We need to replenish our stamina for the last act of this extravaganza.
Read on here.