27 December 2017

22/12/2017 Two Cameronbridge a quarter of a century apart

Cameronbridge 30yo 1954/1985 (46%, Cadenhead, Sherry Wood): nose: immediately, it is noble wood aplenty. Teak cabinets, mahogany chests of drawers, teak oil, wood varnish, resin. Then, some fruit makes it through: blood-orange peels, drying away in a warm room. It is woody, but not spicy; more sap-like. It reeks of sophistication, like an artisan carpenter's workshop. Brazil nuts appear, oily and generous, with rapeseed oil, fresh tobacco, and more fruit: squashed banana, orange, coated in chocolate, stewed rhubarb, Christmas cake... Wow! This nose has so much happening! Several minutes in, strong wood glue shows up, puffed-rice cakes and banana-bread crust. Mouth: roasting beans (coffee or cocoa), a touch of warm earth, ground hazelnuts and that refined woody tone, still (teak oil, wood varnish), orange rinds in a pot-pourri, cocoa butter, crystallised oranges, raspberry-flavoured boiled sweets, dried tangerine segments... this is even has candied pineapple cubes. In the background, the teak notes remind you they are there. A mulled-wine spice mix in custard and caramelised honey. It works! Finish: woah! Long, comforting, it has a good balance of wood and fruit, again, with teak and mahogany, as well as crystallised orange and pineapple. It seems a little drying, for a second, just enough to realise how mellow and fruity it really is, rather than dry. Mince pie, dries apricots, Smyrna raisins, a dollop of custard and caramelised honey again. It is always nice to try something from another era, and this is no exception. Cracking dram, although the score might be a little emotional. 9/10 (Thanks for the sample, OB)

G4.1 29yo 1979/2008 Mellow menthol (53%, SMWS Society Cask): an old friend, this, and the star of many a session. Time to give it the attention it deserves. Similar age, but distilled as the previous was reaching its bottling date. Nose: much less fruity, at first nosing. The wood is there, though it is much drier wood. Then it opens up and bears an obvious affiliation to the Cadenhead offering. Cocoa powder and cocoa butter, wood varnish, wood glue, crumbly brownie, chocolate pudding, sticky toffee pudding, high-chocolate-content pralines, crushed almonds. Not so much fruit, and little of the advertised menthol, but then I am not very sensitive to that. Much, much later on, cooked potatoes seem to appear, too, softly sweetened. Mouth: mellow, custard-y and, yes, mildly mentholated. The ABV is perfectly controlled, as is the wood. Sure, there are spices (pepper and nutmeg), but nothing invading. Milk chocolate, sandalwood, fudge, cloves, cinnamon, bird houses, recently glued together and scented pencil eraser. Finish: mentholated chocolate, dried lime segments, Chinese gooseberry, milk-chocolate coulis, pineapple drops, mixed peel. Interesting that the finish is now pretty fruity indeed, despite the start being noticeably less so than the first dram. Pear drops, even lemonade, perhaps, though the whole is hidden behind that mentholated chocolate. In fact, could it be a crossing between a mojito and a gin & tonic, augmented with crushed After Eight? That would not be too far off, though it has wood, naturally. Excellent drop, this. It will be missed. 9/10 (Thanks again, PS)

15 December 2017

14/12/2017 DW's birthday bash at Cadenhead's

It is that time of the year. DW invited a collection of friends to the tasting room for an evening of socialising with whisky. MSo, JS, BC, PP, PS, Cavalier66, EC, WK and several other regulars are here for the occasion, with SW running the show, whilst RO (who built the lineup) JL & JMcI stand quietly in the corner.

All the drams are poured blind from bottles concealed in jute bags (or hessian sacks, for the posh), including the extra ones brought by the audience. On top, we have the traditional fruits, cheeses and chocolates, all of which are mighty fine.

SW is a little unsettled by the number of people in attendance. DW kindly underlines that two or three were not invited by him. They quickly reply that they felt a bit out of place, not getting all the private jokes flying across the table, but promise they will behave, and are enthusiastic about the whiskies to come, whose quality has already been hinted at. It is unclear whether they showed up on the wrong day, or if someone booked them in tonight, despite the tasting being private. In any case, they are made to feel welcome.

The notes are brief. The pace is frenetic, and it is more about sharing the moment with friends than reflecting on drams for hours.

Auchentoshan 25yo 1992/2017 (44.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Barrel, 198b): nose: lime, cucumber peels, glazed cocktail glasses (with the rim covered in sugar). Mouth: unctuous, milky and softly bitter -- almond milk. Finish: lots of tropical fruit. The big reveal comes and I am reminded how much I liked it when it came out. 8/10

WK: "Are we trying the new Highland Park?"
SW: "We do actually have a Highland Park. In Scotland. In a cask."

Aberfeldy 21yo 1996/2017 (54.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 270b): nose: all sorts of ripe fruit, citrus, blood oranges and lemon. The mouth is soft, with a discreet acidic touch. The finish has the vague bitterness of nut shells. I declare this to be a 13yo Dufftown, but SW assures us it is a 21yo Aberfeldy. I note RO's cunning: he obviously emptied a bottle of Aberfeldy 21yo, and refilled it with Dufftown 13yo. You don't fool the Old Man of Huy! 6/10

Glenburgie-Glenlivet 25yo 1992/2017 (54.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 240b): nose: slightly ashy, it also has green-grape pips. The mouth is strong and citrus-y, while the finish is mellower, with more fruit and, in this one too, a vague bitterness. BC guesses the distillery, teacher's pet that he is, and I observe I like it less than the first time (perhaps because it is actually not the same -- duh). 7/10

Undisclosed Distillery d.1960s (38.9%, private cask, 1 bottle): from the fabled Mayfair stash, this might be from an Inverness distillery, but definitely not Mhor or Albyn. Nose: musty, it has cloves, teak shavings and heavy wine. In fact, orange slices, macerated for hours in sangria, under the hot sun. Mouth: a mix of leather and red wine (have you seen Can't Buy Me Love?) Musty, still, with also decaying grapes and a touch of smoke. Finish: much smokier, here, with red wine, still clamouring about. The legend says that this cask was stored alongside wine casks and that transpires. Highly interesting, educational, even, emotional, considering where it comes from, the era it is from and the story around it, but ultimately, it is a masterclass in how whisky goes wrong when allowed to. 6/10 (at least one point of which is emotional) (Thanks for the experience, SW)

Glen Grant-Glenlivet 22yo 1995/2017 (57.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Refill Sherry Butt, 486b): nose: strawberry stems, a hint of farm-y smoke and rose petals. Mouth: creamy fruit, melted butter, squashed mango, paprika. Finish: peppery fruit in a puddle of melted chocolate. This is good. 8/10

Ben Nevis 21yo 1996/2017 (51.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 240b): nose: Cavalier finds it very fruity. He is obviously wrong: it is very meaty. This smells of rotting carcasses. Mouth: the mouth is thin, tea-like in texture and leafier than the nose suggested. It has rancio, too. Finish: bitter, with rancio, dusty concrete, rotten fruits. Meh. This is popular (Campbeltown's own JMcI's favourite), but not my thing at all. 5/10

Aberlour-Glenlivet 17 2000/2017 (52.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 258b): nose: subtle strawberry, almond cake, laundry detergent (what?) The mouth is soft and sweet, while the finish is really akin to licking teak. 6/10

SW observes that one of the guests has not yet shown up.
SW: "CC is obviously not coming..."
EC: "He messaged a while ago. He's got train problems."
SW: "He needs to stop driving them."

Auchroisk 29yo 1988/2017 (44.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 180b): nose: hazelnuts and bursting fruit -- berries, peaches, even tropical fruits. Mouth: soft and silky, with a pinch of red chilli. Finish: gentle, elegant and fruity, slightly drying, but lovely. The lashes of fruit are superb. Dram of the night for me. Funnily enough, it was also an Auchroisk that won my preference, last year. 8/10

SW has one more from his secret reserve, a smoky affair, but now is the time for me to interject and pour Bladnoch 23yo 1977/2001 (53.6%, OB Rare Malts Selection, b#0565) blind. DW guesses the distillery. I take no notes and, in fact, I get none of the liquid myself. Bah, there is half a dram left in the bottle, notes will follow. :o)

Now that I have derailed the course of the tasting, goodies are coming out of many bags. I do not try them all. I lack time to try DW's Springbank 21yo b.2017 (46%, OB, 17/173) and BC's Glenburgie 29yo 1985/2014 (55.3%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, C#95/36/10, 222b) and Pulteney 25yo 1990/2016 (50.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 180b): too busy socialising. I do try the following, though. Blind, of course.

128.5 9yo 2006/2015 As purple as Prince! (60.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 215b) (Cavalier66): nose: überfruity, with a whiff of hiking boots and buttery mango. Mouth: rancio, fruit, and hiking boots (remember that is close to decaying tropical fruit). It has the texture of milk and lots of spices. The finish is extremely fruity too. I guess it is Irish, but am pleased when Cavalier puts us all out of our misery. As good as I remembered it, if not better. 9/10

Another bottle is passed around in a hessian sack. I palpate it.
PS: "Bringing SMWS bottles in..."
FH: "Here is another one."
DW: "Weird move."
FH: "I was just feeling the shape and the girth of the bottle."
All: "Ha ha!"
DW: "What was that?"
JS: "He said he was feeling the shape, the sack..."
PS: "You're making it worse!"

5.57 18yo 1999/2017 Strawberry summer flan (51.5%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill Toasted Oak Hogshead, 88b) (DW): nose: hawthorne. The nose is very herbaceous, in fact, with a hint of flowers too. Mouth: mellow and caramel-y, it has squashed fruit as well. Finish: herbs and chocolate. Very good. 8/10

We are properly evicted, and rightly so: it is late. I still have a couple of glasses that need emptying.

Undisclosed Islay 35yo (unknown ABV, private cask, Sherry Butt) (SW): from the Mayfair stash? I cannot remember. In any case, no point calling; this is not available and wil not be. We are told immediately it is not Port Ellen. That leaves half a dozen possibilities. Nose: jute bags, farmyard, tractor tyres, then the coastal character opens up and fishnets join the party. Mouth: hot, pepper and leathery. Finish: balanced, with hessian and farm paths. Lovely drop, likely an active distillery on south-coast Islay that is not Lagavulin or Ardbeg. 8/10

Excellent evening. I managed to embarrass myself a few times, most notably during a toast, but all in all, great whiskies, great company and good times. Happy birthday, DW!

Another time, baby

11 December 2017

9/12/2017 The Italian job

Last tasting of the year at tOMoH towers with this lot. MR is soon flying to Soot Murka for an extended trip, we want to send her off on a high. It has to be an Italian theme, seeing as MR is from the boot of Europe. I wanted to craft a selection of Italian music, but never had the time. It will be only remotely Italian, then.

The suspects: MR, OB, PS, GL, JS, BA, Cavalier66 and Mrs. Cavalier, and yours, truly. You will notice MR is popular: it is an overfull house.

Mystery Dram #1 (MR, pouring blind): an unmarked sample, how exciting. Nose: custard and olive oil (the Italian connection), engine oil, balsamic vinegar, then fine ash and cardboard. Mouth: probably under-strength, as it feels a little weak. It is nice anyway, with cold custard, gentle vinegar and orchard fruit. Finish: gently ashy, dry, it has custard, still, cardboard and olive oil. Odd, but quite pleasant. 7/10

Food for and from everyone

Soundtrack: Various - Pronto Pronto ??!! A New Generation Of Italian Dance Hits

Coleburn 17yo d.1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice imported by Pinerolo for Giacinto Nicolai, Series 27, 120b) (tOMoH): an odd one. There is another version not for the Italian importer, but completely similar in all other aspects. Seeing as this one is limited to 120b, one gets to wonder whether they are the same liquid. Perhaps 120b of it made its way to Italy? Anyway. Nose: slightly metallic and fruity (OBE?), dusty, gently musty. Later, leather and a tame wood stove come through, then squashed raspberry. Mouth: the texture is milky and mildly bitter -- almond milk, then. Perfect balance at 40%, even after all that time in glass. It even has a twist of the black-pepper mill. Finish: an old-school touch, with mild coal dust, cracked black pepper on squashed raspberry. Love it. 8/10

PS (about the next dram): "Pretty bottle. It looks like a perfume bottle. It looks like it was advertised by David Beckham's great grandfather."

Tomintoul-Glenlivet 8yo (43%, OB distributed by Liquorama, b.1980s) (BA): Liquorama was (is?) a spirits distributor in Milan. Nose: nice, it has dusty vinaigrette and macerated red onions. Mouth: stronger than expected, with more vinaigrette and gentle cardboard. Finish: milk chocolate, then soft vinegar. Pickled gherkins and onions. 7/10

Sountrack: Wolfsheim - Spectators

We have the next two in parallel.

Mosstowie 18yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, SC999) (me): if you read this, you must know Mosstowie was the Lomond-still output from Miltonduff, between 1964 and 1981. Nose: odd mix. It is very light, with a drop of caffè macchiato. Amaretti, slightly-burnt cake crust (MR). This is wonderful. Artichokes, says Cavalier. Mouth: light, ethereal, milky, citrus-y and even mildly herbaceous. Finish: light and fresh again, with the gentle bitterness of almonds, chives, a notch of cocoa and milk chocolate. This is elegant and clean, lovely. 8/10


Miltonduff 1974/1988 (46%, Brae Dean Int. imported by Moon Import The Birds, C#1538, 600b, b#103) (JS): nose: strong fruit and fragrant flowers, cut peaches and Virginia tobacco. Even later, blood orange and orange rinds. Mouth: balanced, juicy, fruity, it has lychee, white peach, shaved, green peppercorns. Finish: warm custard, pepper, lots and lots of juicy fruit (lychee) and a pinch of dried bergamot. Perhaps milk-chocolate ice cream, too? Badalapuppi! 9/10

Cavalier's shirt, also bottled for Moon Import's The Birds

Soundtrack: ClockDVA - Buried Dreams

Caol Ila 13yo 1978/1991 (40%, Speymalt Spirits of Scotland imported by Taverna degli Artisti, IA/AGA) (BA): nose: smokey seaweed, peppered with nutmeg (MR), fish sauce, then soot and coal dust. Oysters are next in line. Mouth: soft, it has more of that elegant smoke and oyster freshness, kelp. Finish: long, sooty, ashy, with quite a strong bitterness. Magnifico. 8/10

Bruichladdich 15yo (43%, OB imported by F. Ili Rinaldi Importatori, b.1980s) (JS): nose: melon, loud and clear. Pink grapefruit, fresh olives. Mouth: bitter custard (!), crushed amaretti, melon skins and -- what is this? Mint? Finish: lovely custard again, melon smoothie and the bitterness of melon skins. Great, if a little less impressive than the first time. 8/10

Cavalier (pulling out his contribution): "Tell me how this is Italian."
tOMoH: "Certainly not the Spanish tax stamp..."
PS: "Is that it has a tax stamp, but no tax was ever paid on it?"

Soundtrack: Various - Cold Waves + Minimal Electronics Volume One


Springbank 12yo (46%, OB imported by Jabur, b. early 1990s) (Cavalier66): this Springbank's label contains all the colours of the Italian flag. Well done, Cav. Bizarrely, the label is the green thistle, whilst the box has the red thistle. Mismatched box? Nose: heavily sherried, with a rain of leather, stewed prunes, farmyard. In fact, despite the sherry, this is very Springbank-y. Mouth: dry prunes, rancio, tanned leather, dark tobacco, dried figs and that great smell of horses' stable. Finish: stewed prunes, hay, varnished wood. The finish is mostly fruity, and that is for the best, if you ask me. Che bello! 8/10

Wonder if this offer to buy a 50yo Springbank
for £500 is still valid...

G7.2 27yo d.1984 Fascinating and inspiring (60.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 270b) (PS): the label of this mentions "Italian sponge." Nose: cake indeed, with also sharp citrus, cleaning agent, baking bread and herbs, sage and dried basil. Mouth: citrus-y, quite stripping and sweet at the same time. Finish: citrus aplenty, crushed sage and lots of horsepower. This is very sweet and not completely unlike mouthwash. It works. 8/10

50.71 25yo 1990/2015 Alfresco brunch (58.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 165b) (GL): Alfresco brunch is, of course, the connection. Incredible that this came out two years ago already. Nose: honeysuckle and jasmine. This is subtle and light, easy on the nose, despite the rather high ABV. Mouth: more gentle flowers (jasmine and forsythia), Turkish delights and a soft, metallic bitterness. Finish: soft, sweet, with sage in powdered sugar, even chocolate. And then the bitterness of metal or sage comes back, tame. 8/10

BA (about the Bladnoch): "It is a bit hot for me."
me: "That's because you have the Dyson blowing hot air on the back of your head."

Speyside Region 43yo d.1973 (51.6%, Mancarella Limited Edition, Sherry Cask) (Cavalier66): nose: watermelon, strawberry bubblegum, sweet, rich and fruity. Mouth: fruity, but also hot, bitter and, frankly, slightly off-balanced. Finish: back to a wonderful mix of fruit (overripe apricot), metal and gentle sage. Excellent Speysider, likely from a Grant-family distillery, likely a Fino cask. Only the mouth is noticeably weaker. 8/10

Garlic quiche

Cavalier66: "How can it taste like a Swiss cheese plant?"

Sountrack: A Cryo Chamber Collaboration - Azathoth

9.51 6yo Summer holiday dram (62.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 244b) (PS): double whammy, this: summer holiday in Italy, and Glen Grant is the best-selling malt in Italy, and has been for decades, owing to its affiliation with Campari. Nose: warm and ashy, splintery and hot. Mouth: warm, simple, but decent, with hot marzipan tart. Finish: invading, warming, with an almost musky character. It does not work terribly well in the sequence. What a mistake-a to make-a! 6/10

Soundtrack: Jacques Brel - Brel

Mrs. Cavalier joins us as MR leaves, prompting Cavalier to produce two more bottles -- it was limited to two a pop, you see. Shit just got real. I will not try one of them (37.81).

Glen Grant-Glenlivet 23yo 1992/2016 (53.1%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Barrel + Bourbon Hogshead, 414b) (Mrs. Cavalier): of course, this is because Glen Grant is the best-selling malt in Italy. Nose: is this slightly smokey? That is unexpected, but yes, it is. A Gentle barley note, hay, cold green tea and citrus complete the bouquet. Speaking of which, why did no-one bring the Glen Ord, or the Bowmore Bouquet? Bottled by Italian maestro Samaroli, after all... Mouth: sweet, it has corn flakes, hay and bay leaves. It is hot, too. Finish: roasted barley, slightly smokey, with a hint of lemon tart. Good. 8/10

Inchmurrin 14yo 2003/2071 Trias Usquebaugh (54.6%, OB Single Cask specially selected by WhiskyNerds, Sherry & Bourbon Cask, C#17/171-1, 495b) (OB): for Inchmurrimini, no less. :-) I will let you research why this is a single cask. Nose: lots of dried fruit, dates, figs, sultanas, prunes. The fruit becomes fresher, with mango and maracuja, even. Mouth: more powerful than expected, it has lots of ground chilli on dried fruit -- prunes, mostly, pressed sultanas and dried dates. Finish: warm, extremely fruity, long and lovely. All the dried fruits are there, alongside mango, apricot and others. Amazing. 9/10

Ar8 (54.3%, Elixir Distillers Elements of Islay) (MR): MR has left, but she gave us the connection to the theme before disappearing: orange, melon and Parma ham -- all Italian things. Nose: it smells like a more ancient Ardbeg -- one from the 1970s. Roasted barley, then horse's hair, farmyard, farm paths and refined smoke. Mouth: soft, milky, with more horse's hair and farm paths. This is subtle, though, again, not unlike an older Ardbeg. Finish: big, with lots of roasted barley and old-school smoke, soot, coal dust. A subtle touch of fruit, too. 8/10

Caol Ila 35yo 1982/2017 (53.6%, Cadenhead Single Cask 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 156b) (OB): for Caol Italia -- boom-tschhh. Amusing to see Cadenhead still use the black, Small Batch labels for those single casks, as opposed to the golden ones, but have now changed the text to read "Single Cask." Nose: wow. It has smoke which is even more refined than the Ardbeg's, lots of fruit -- Fraise Tagada, Chinese gooseberry, white peach -- and also farm paths. Crayons, cantaloupe melon, green tomatoes. Mouth: superbly balanced, with elegant smoke wrapped around fresh fruit. It also gives out metal, as in: hot machinery. Maybe a distant rubber note? Finish: ashy fruit, smoked orange slices, hot engine, hot metal plates. A dusty, hot, cast-iron fireplace comes to the fore. Wow again! Amazing Caol Ila. A few drams in, so my notes are probably not the best, but Fraises Tagada and gentle smoke sum it up quite well. This is probably the best of the early-1980s Caol Ila that Cadenhead released over the last couple of years. At least of the ones I have tried. 9/10

What a tasting again! What a selection! Not twice did we have the same Italian name. Only Glen Grant was her twice with the same connection to the theme.
Fare well, MR, see you soon.

The awakening was a bit of a surprise

6 December 2017

5/12/2017 Clearing the shelf #14

adc's final  night in town, better make it count.

Glen Keith-Glenlivet 23yo 1993/2017 (51.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 240b): nose: juniper leaves, crushed juniper berries, pink-pepper shavings. Soon, wood joins in, polished dashboards, logs, drying outside before being cut. A bit of varnish, too, rather shy. Extremely-faded moccasins, perhaps a sprinkle of lime on flowery pastry. Mouth: sharp, acidic, almost green -- definitely green, in fact. Green hazel, unopened flower buds and lots of lime juice. This is surprisingly acidic! Finish: lime juice, milk chocolate, lime chutney. The finish is long, but thin, cutting a trench in the centre of the palate. White-wine vinegar. This is nice-ish, drinkable, but a bit too acidic, even for me. 6/10 (Thanks for the sample, SW)

Longmorn 28yo 1984/2013 (46%, Montgomerie The Single Cask Collection Rare Select, Sherry Wood, C#3213, 281b): nose: this is very, very discreet. It has a little dust, a drop of thin custard and dry earth. One really has to dig (pun intended) to find all that, though. Mouth: again, extremely faint, almost absent. A bit of green-grape juice and thin custard. The texture is milky and soft. Boy! is this shy. Finish: some action, at last. It has plums in syrup, plum compote and warm, thin custard, as well as a bit of marzipan. Boiled violet sweets appear for a second. Decent dram, yet very imperceptible. 7/10 (Thanks for the sample, LM)

Isle of Arran 21st Anniversary Limited Edition (52.6%, OB marking the 21st anniversary of the distillery, ex-Sherry Hogsheads, 5988b): nose: surprisingly, this has leather and dusty fabric, then apricot stones, old maps, a captain's log book. Surprisingly shy nose too, however. Is my nose shot? Hazelnut shells and, finally, grappa. Mouth: honey, fruit liqueur, pineapple drops. This is now warm and pleasant, if less impressive than in May. Pine sap, pine-flavoured cough drops. It is really fresh and the wood is kept in check. Nice distillate. Finish: pineapple and violet boiled sweets, long and comforting. It is sweet and unctuous, quite like pine sap, dripping from a fresh gash in a cypress trunk, or, in fact, like honey. Mountain-flower honey, that is. Lovely. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, Bishlouk)

Time to make it propah special.

Tullamore 41yo 1949/1991 (65.3%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection): Cadenhead is rumoured to have filled 214 of these miniature bottles. Who knows for sure, though? Do not believe the fake-news sites that claim this is a Tullamore Dew blended Irish; it is juice from the Tullamore distillery, which closed in 1954. Yes, that is the same which produced the glorious old Knappogue bottlings. Nose: mesmerising! Prunes, marzipan, pine drops and a whiff of dust open the game. It swiftly moves in another direction: precious wood, an antiques shop and  a carpenter's workshop, resinous spruce and a blend of spices. This nose has a depth that the previous three drams cannot even dream of! Dunnage warehouse aplenty: wooden staves on a clay floor. Said clay floor cranks the volume up, with shovelfuls of earth appearing and taking centre stage. In the back, elderberry and blackcurrant jam. Perhaps even a touch of gentle rubber. Cachous (black liquorice cough drops) come up, slowly, but surely. Water does not change it much. Maybe it becomes slightly woodier. Soon, it turns mildly rubbery, with a note of toasted bread too. Later on, farm-y notes appear as well. Mouth: "le maquis," says adc, i.e. thyme, oregano, marjoram. Hot, with warm liquorice, liquorice or blackberry cough drops (Cachous again). The dark-fruit jams are still there, but honestly, the heat is intimidating, coating and stripping. It has a woody touch, whilst retaining the fruity jam profile. Cachous and black liqorice bootlaces end up dominating fresh wood, galangal (lots of it) and dried lemongrass. Water underlines the toasted bread of the nose. The rubber, not so much, thankfully. Finish: huge, powerful, frightening, with lots of liquorice, elderberry cordial, all sorts of pine goodness and antique furniture, wood spices and fruity marzipan. Water unleashed more Cachous. It is then rubbery and cough-drop-like. Better without water, if one can face the strength. Water makes it just a little too rubbery and tones down the fruit. This is quite close to a venerable, sherry-matured, old grain, I find. In any case, it is amazing. Humbling. 10/10

4 December 2017

3/12/2017 Four Springbank

Springbank 12yo 2000/2012 (52.7%, OB Wood Expressions, Calvados Casks, 9420b): we had this a while ago. JH kindly left a sample behind. Nose: soot, ashes, coal -- no, charcoal is more accurate -- apple pips. Dry grass, or hay appear, with very distant whiffs of cider. It opens up to reveal more farm-y tones and horses' stable -- it is a Springbank, after all. Mouth: remotely ashy, it has a bit of earth, then lots of apple peels and pips. The relatively high ABV is controlled and never invading. The fruit is acidic, but also kept in check. Finish: here, the apple grows in power, but it is overripe apple, rotten, almost. They carry an overpowering flavour of decay. It works! It does retain this wonderful ashy touch that reminds one it is truly a Campbeltown malt, robust and smokey. Of the coastal character, on the other hand, nothing remains. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, JH)

Springbank 17yo 1996/2013 (54.2%, Douglas of Drumlanrig for La Boutique du Chemin, Sherry Butt, 270b): nose: heavy leather, freshly-polished boots, teak oil, walnut oil. Later on, linseed oil also pokes its head out. Behind all that, engine oil, the boiler room of a puffer, diesel fumes, and it ends with paint. Mouth: mellower and more pleasant, here. It has soft rubber and nutty delights (Brazil nuts). Petrol makes a late reappearance. Finish: a huge sherry influence, with leather nuts, cured ham, biltong, lots of rubber, camphor, lamp oil, shoe polish and burnt meat. This is too sherried for me. It smothers the distillate. 6/10 (Thanks for the sample, LM)

Springbank 14yo 2003/2017 (57.7%, Cask Sample for Cadenhead's 175th Anniversary Dinner, C#980): this one, I sampled in May, unable and unwilling to drink it on the spot for fear of spoiling it. Nose: nutty and sweet, it has mastic, humid putty, figs and dates, crushed Brazil nuts, and cured bacon too. The back nose has a faint ashy tone, yet the dried fruits prevail. Distant cleaning agent and burnt wood are there. Water helps more smoke come through -- smoked mussels. Mouth: mellow, with a (generous) pinch of ash. Wood polish, dried fruit here too (pressed prunes and sultanas). The fruit becomes slightly fresher, with dried apricots (still dried, innit!) This is soft and sweet. With water, the profile is similar, but more velvety. It benefits from having the ABV toned down a bit. The fruits speak out more. Finish: great balance of wood, nuttiness and dried fruit. It is globally gently drying, fruity and almost rum-y. Even then, the finish retains the mild peatiness that is Springbank's trade mark and gives this a soft note of burnt wood. Water, here too, tones down the strength and allows more fruit to shine, including fresh persimmon. It is an 8 with water. Without, a more modest 7/10

Springbank 1965/2002 (46%, Lombard Jewels of Scotland): nose: this is another beast altogether, as expected. Cut apple, carambola, persimmon flesh, Chinese gooseberry and a more acidic version of lychee, according to adc. This is the best smoothie in town, tonight, no doubt! Creamy almond milk, Thai curry sauce (lemongrass, coconut, curry leaves). The freshness of sea air just about makes it through, but the creamy, fruity avalanche is much more powerful. Mouth: this is balanced, milky, gently salty, and retains much of the fruitiness advertised by the nose -- persimmon, Chinese gooseberry, Granny Smith apple. Is that rubber too? So vague it is hardly detectable, but yes, it is. Perhaps a drop of pink grapefruit is there, in the mix. Finish: long, unctuous, it has the creamy fruit smoothie, cashew-nut paste (adc) and a soft, rubber-glove bitterness. Carambola, Chinese gooseberry and, again, persimmon are the dominant fruits. One would be hard-pressed to find smoke in this, yet it might have scents of an old engine. In any case, it is superlative! 9/10

Let us call it a session.

2/12/2017 December outturn at the SMWS

Much time has passed, but JS, adc and I are back to try this month's new outturn. Well, some of it, at least: forty-or-so bottles came out. We will stick to a more reasonable tally.

50.96 27yo 1990/2017 A day trip to heaven (53.7%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 94b): nose: delicate honeysuckle, jasmine, gentle custard-filled pastry and yellow flowers -- ah! Bladnoch's yellow flowers... Mouth: yellow flowers again, mellow, but it has a bite all the same. Finish: more flowery goodness, with a soft bitterness, and also milk chocolate. Love it. 8/10

125.74 11yo d.2005 Caribbean semi-freddo (57.9%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 199b): nose: buttery pastry with apricot jam, glazed lime, very fragrant. The nose even has a hint of tobacco. Mouth: warm and honeyed, it is strong indeed. It is augmented with a pinch of dried herbs. Finish: more lovely honey, a gentle heat and another touch of herbs -- chiefly dried sage. Lovely. 8/10

93.78 25yo 1992/2017 Like a vintage dessert wine (53.3%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Sherry Oloroso Butt, 186b): nose: this is a mechanic's workshop, with engine oil, hot metal and Victorian-era machinery. It reminds me of the old 100 Proof Scotia JS and I had at Dornoch Castle, last year. Smoke and engine fumes. Mouth: pickled vinegar, more engine oil and exhaust fumes Finish: it is rounder than anticipated, but still has flavours of hot metal and mild peat smoke. This is excellent. Will try it again and might revise my note upward. For tonight, it is 8/10

46.55 24yo d.1992 Raindrops on a lavender bush (52.7%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 281b): nose: soft and mellow, it has peach skins and the associated warm velvet. Mouth: fruity, with green grapes, white wine, even. Is that a hint of nail polish too? Finish: super fruity, with tons of grapes and peach flesh. Love it. 9/10

G10.12 39yo d.1977 Chocolate-covered macadamia nuts (57.9%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 67b): nose: sweet corn, powdered sugar on doughnuts, then pine cones and a walk in a forest clearing. Finally, wood varnish and putty. Mouth: sweet pastry, creamy doughnut. This is unbelievably sweet, while also pretty hot. Finish: sweet again, with caster sugar, more doughnut goodness (not that Krispy Kreme dross) and a mildly metallic note. Another winner. 8/10

5.60 16yo d.2000 Sweet surrender (56.5%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Oloroso Sherry Hogshead, 220b): nose: green soap bar (yes), then something gently burnt. Mouth: mellow, with apricot flesh, pine needles and lots of chilli. Finish: sweet, with lots of pepper and chilli. Behind that, lashes of fruit. Lovely. 8/10

What a selection! BA joins us for a bit, then PS does the same. The latter explains there is an Imperial behind the bar that appeared out of nowhere, not part of any outturn. It does not take long before JS has a glass of it.

65.5 21yo d.1995 Old-school Speyside (50.8%, SMWS Society Cask, Re-Charred Hogshead, 65b): nose: extremely fragrant, it reeks of rose water, flowers, ivy leaves (?), honeysuckle, jasmine and an unexpected touch of ash. Mouth: soft and sweet, with more flowers, apple compote, crushed pears and a pinch of pepper. Finish: long, fruity and sweet, elegant, soft and -- dare I say -- feminine. Winner. 9/10

Cannot remember such a good selection for a looooong time. Then again, that was seven out of over forty. Thanks to everyone at the venue, who offered advice.