The theme, then, is anything that can be related to Tolkien's work, easily or not (and of course, extra points for the most far-fetched connections).
Small attendance, today, with several calling off in the week leading to. Gold medal for JH, who tells me he will make it after all... one day after the facts.
No matter. The few who do make it (OB, BA, JS and myself, bunch of Tolkien nerds too!) are committed to making this a tasting to rule them all. If you follow this blog on a regular basis, you know it is not easy.
|And in the darkness bind them|
tOMoH presents the opening act. In French: Le Seigneur des Annandale
Man O' Words 14mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, Refill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#103, filled 29/01/2015): the provenance of this is top secret. There is just enough of it for four people, which makes this the perfect occasion. Nose: apple turnover, plum eau-de-vie, cotton candy. Water brings out a flinty touch that I like. Mouth: plum eau-de-vie indeed -- this is new make after all. It has the texture of custard, or cream with vanilla-ed sugar. With water, it becomes more mineral, rocky, flinty and almost metallic. It has sage and pepper too, just to balance it out. Finish: long and big, though behind the heat, it is delicate, custard-y and full of cotton-candy notes, soon joined by juniper berries. Water makes it richer and more complex, herbaceous, whilst retaining a pleasant fruitiness (apricot, pineapple). Nice and promising, this. 7/10
tOMoH presents: Return of the Kinclaith
Kinclaith 1968/1995 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, ID/DIB): although they initially act unfazed, OB ends up spilling the beans: this is his first-ever Kinclaith. BA follows suit and admits it is his second -- third at most. None of us has had this particular one. Not a surprise, as it is particularly difficult to obtain. Nose: strawberries, mint, cider apples (OB), apple compote on the open fire, blond caramel (OB), tarragon, browned apples (BA). This smells old-school! Bubblegum, a whiff of distant smoke, then beer foam. Mouth: lively, with crushed strawberries, mint, grape pips -- actually, tomato pips! Mustard seeds, galangal shavings. Finish: smoke!? Putty, caramel, burnt apples, charred wood, dunked in water. The low ABV shows at last, though it is anything but weak. This merely confirms my general impression of the distillery: my type. 9/10
BA tells us he was really pleased, the other day:
-For the first time ever, DR asked me a question. He messaged me on Facebook to ask about Jack Daniel's Rye.
Well done, BA. You are now the official Jack Daniel's expert. :-)
JS presents: Gimlittlemill
Littlemill 16yo 1991/2008 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50°, C#DL4064, 276b): when JS realised that neither BA nor OB had had this before and that OB has very little(mill) experience with this distillery's output, the choice was easy. Nose: hazelnut, hazelnut oil, wood varnish. It soon becomes creamier -- hazelnut cream. Later on, in the far back, shy tropical fruits emerge (rotting mango), as well as green wood and dead leaves on a wet, autumn day. Mouth: crushed green pepper, hazel tree bark, hazelnut, strawberry bubblegum and even marzipan. Meow. Finish: it has turned fruitier than it was when we previously tried this -- behind the green hazelnut and hazel tree sap, there is a whisper of gentle tropical fruit. 8/10
Cheeses from la Frodomagerie and artisan bread enter: truffle brie (Bree, geddit?), Rouelle (shaped like a ring, geddit?) and Comté (which is the precise French translation for the Shire).
To accompany that, we have three dried sausages: figs, Espelette chilli and Calavados cured. Everything is wonderful.
BA presents: a whisky. Despite being quite the geek on the subject, he could not find a pun to fit this one in.
Clynelish 28yo 1982/2011 (43.1%, SD The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#3985, 175b): I am convinced TWE's staff tried to sell me this, years ago. At the time, I thought it was pricey... and it was a Clynelish. It has never been my favourite distillery. Nose: wow! Oranges, mandarins, satsumas and my beloved dunnage warehouse. This is close to a Lochside in profile, with a slightly less exotic fruitiness. Lichen on soaked wood, car polish, furniture wax. Mouth: amazingly in line with the nose -- a dunnage warehouse with satsumas and mandarins thrown all over the place. It is delicate and balanced, and very, very fruity. It has the trademark beeswax (gentle), nothing invading. No musk, though it does have melted butter. That is as animal as this one gets. Finish: the pleasure ride continues, with ripe satsumas, mandarins, orange blossom water, a few drops of lime juice, lemon curd and a subtle, sour touch in the back. Phwoar! Best Clynelish I have had, without a doubt. 9/10
OB presents his favourite character: Tomatin Bombadil
Tomatin 25yo 1990/2015 (53.6%, Whiskybroker, Refill Sherry Hogshead, C#18824, 166b): nose: this reminds me of the Blackadder offering for Park Avenue Liquor Store. A clean dram that has everything where one expects to find it. Grape juice, olive brine, flour, wet cardboard. It reads weird, but it makes sense in the glass. With water, strawberries show up in a bubblegummy way. Cheap strawberry ice cream (BA and OB). Mouth: round and pastry-like, yet also a lot more powerful than expected, with ground pepper and crushed raspberries. With water, it becomes mossy and algae-like, though it retains a certain fruitiness, probably not as cheap and artificial as in the nose. Finish: it loses a point, here, on account of a mild acidity. Caffè corretto, marc de Bourgogne. With water, the whole becomes more peppery before the fruit speaks louder. Unfortunately, the acidity remains, which gives one the same impression as licking an inflatable rubber balloon. 7/10
JS and I present: The Two Turrets
Glenturret 35yo 1977/2013 (47.5%, BBR for La Maison du Whisky, C#25): nose: roar! fruity jams, mosty. Is there a burnt-wood note in the back? Yes! With time, the fruit from the jam becomes juicy and exotic -- peach and pink grapefruit. Mouth: all sorts of jams and chutneys, seasoned with nigella seeds and black sesame. It has a yogurty texture and an acidic kick. Finish: an unexpected chocolate-y note explodes and sticks to the palate. This is long, bold and of high quality. None of that Swiss counterfeit. :-) Fruity yogurt (pineapple, melon, quince) and cork. Love it. 9/10
Glenturret 35yo 1977/2012 (46.2%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams): nose: it seems more closed at first sniff, with a bit of leather and the inside of a chip shop (cold grease, fried food, cheap sauces). Herbs soon join in (thyme and sage), then floor wax and fruit -- watermelon the loudest. Mouth: waxy and jammy, it has notes of orange chocolate (PiM'S, for those who know), pink pepper and a remarkable freshness. It is slightly bitter too, on top of that wonderful chutney. Eventually, black sesame emerges here, as it did in the BBR. Finish: yes, a lot more peppery, flowery, it displays the leftovers of the jam jars. Milk chocolate comes on, and the acidity of a white wine. This is stunningly complex. Perhaps less immediate than the BBR, but certainly not more boring: it changes constantly, without ever stopping for long enough to let itself be identified with certainty. 9/10
Stunning whiskies. Hard to say which one is better. The BBR for me, today, BBR for OB, TNotDD for BA. JS is unsure.
OB digs deep and presents: The MineMoria
|Was there not going to be melon?|
Glenlivet (Minmore) 42yo 1973/2015 (40.2%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 630b): I tried this in the shop a few times, never in the right circumstances (quickly, in a plastic cup). Great to have a chance to give it a proper go. Nose: more expressive than in the shop, this has quite a bit of fruit (of the Haribo kind, according to the boys), persimmon, strawberry bubblegum (again!?), a hint of damp earth. Everything is perfectly integrated and discreet. Mouth: a wonderful balance of earthy, flowery and fruity tones. Once more, the whole is so tightly coupled it is hard to pick the individual flavours. Finish: it now has the vaguely drying quality of sandy earth, brine, mustard, while still showcasing that lovely fruit. Great dram that requires time and attention. 9/10
I present: Bowmorir
Bowmore 30yo (43%, OB, ceramic bottle, B230 10/01, b.2006): another old favourite that this group has never had. OB fell in love with the 1996 version of this bottling at the Whisky Show this year; I know this one is very different, so I look forward to his impression. Also, both BA and he acted very blasé about it being in the line-up. "Oh yeah, that one. Whatever." Not to worry, though: "Even after all the previous ones, this is still fabulous," says OB. Nose: tarry, petrol-y, it has drying sand and the fabled basalmic vinegar (© Fixou). The whole has a tractor feel to it (tyres, diesel, mud, metal). It is complex, balanced and noble. Nothing shouts or sticks out. A tranquil force. Harmonious. Fruit ends up emerging, with a mix of overripe apples and apricot compote. Mouth: velvety, thick and coating, like crude oil. It still has drops of balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar in a gentle, mustardy vinaigrette. This is magnificent. Finish: yes, lots and lots of petrol, mud, tyres. A hint of peat, industrial revolution-era smoke, heat, metal, vinegar again, pleasure. This is not the b.1996 (in fact, JS finds it a lot manlier), yet it is fantastic all the same, with touches of a mechanic's workshop, tools, and a petrol station. 9/10
BA -I remember the Roundhouse 20 years ago. There was no upstairs. And I vaguely recall a mess in every corner. Which makes no sense, because it has no corner. It is round.
BA presents: Broramir
Brora 37yo 1977/2015 (50.4%, OB, Bourbon Hogsheads, 2976b): BA received a sample of this for his extraordinary flexibility around the date he had to publish notes for it. JS and I had it as the pinnacle of the Special Releases tasting in January and were very impressed -- both by the quality and the ridiculously small amount we were given. I am ecstatic to get another chance to try it. Nose: cheese rind, ploughed fields, butter. Once those farm-y scents turn quieter, they make room for waxy fruits -- plums, mirabelle plums, greengages and crisp apples. Mouth: apricot juice and candle wax, this is warming and velvety, even though it packs some gingery heat and ground black pepper. Crushed garlic and red onions make a late appearance. Finish: simply perfect. It has everything from the nose and the palate: wax, fruit, earth, complemented by dark smoke, the diesel fumes from a heavy-duty tractor. Beautiful, complex, bold, balanced. This is amazing. 9/10
What a tasting! Nine killer drams.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die
Next edition, perhaps we can find seven other whiskies for the Dwarf lords, then. :-)
For comedic purposes, here is the exact transcription of the text exchange with JH on 11 December:
-Think I might come after all! Do you have a vacant seat for me and can you tolerate my lack of a dedicated pun?
Sorry, I'm an idiot -- the tasting was yesterday. How was it?