Amusingly enough, Cadenhead is hosting a shindig on the same night. The whole street is celebrating Christmas and how better than by pouring whisky to everyone? Representatives from Dalmore and Cotswold are present, the shop is packed, the mood is merry. JS, EC, OF, cavalier66, jazzpianofingers, DW and others are there, happily trying whiskies and rums.
Around 19:00, JS and I take a leave with two more (N&C), since we are attending the Squad do at the Red Lion pub. That is the most common pub name in the whole country. Try locating it, ha!
The four of us are last to arrive and BA is about to start when we do. Yes, BA is the Whisky Squad.
Six Glencairns in front of each person, all will be tried blind. We are all encouraged to try the whisky together, then guess the ABV, the age, the provenance, the price tag. BA tells us the bottle prices range from £150 to £375. High End? We will see about that. ;-)
Dram #1: nose: perfume-y, with rose petals, dry earth and ivy leaves. The audience says Turkish delights, which I can understand. Mouth: fresh, if dry. The perfume has gone, leaving only dust and earth, perhaps gunpowder tea. Finish: drying tea leaves, green and black, gunpowder tea again. The perfume comes back too, discreetly. This is very good, elegant and delicate. The tea could be too much, but it is not. I guess the ABV right, everything else, we all get wrong. It is Aberfeldy 28yo b.2017 (40%, OB, First Fill Casks + Refill Hogsheads + Sherry Butts, b#ABZB02133, L152872 A805 2307) 8/10
Dram #2: nose: wine, fortified or not, and nuts. The back of the nose is a little spirit-y for me. Mouth: varnish-y, spirit-y, woody, with the decomposing carcass of a dead animal. I immediately think of Mortlach. Finish: spicy, mildly meaty, with coating corn syrup. Water pumps it up with nutty butter. This is not my thing. No-one guesses any detail accurately. BA explains it is a £150 Diageo blended malt containing produce from their twenty-eight active distilleries -- including Roseisle, which means this is 3 or 4yo: Roseisle started producing that recently. It is Collectivum XXVIII (57.3%, Diageo, Refill American Oak Hogsheads, Refill European Oak Casks, 3105434231) 6/10 (pushing it)
Dram #3: nose: ha! I come alive again! Extremely flowery and fruity, with honeysuckle, carambola, lychee, jasmine and physalis. Very beautiful. It seems to grow thicker and more suave, with squashed apricots and scented plasticine. Mouth: "cola," says my table mate. Flower petals, mango juice; this is perfectly balanced, elegant, fruity and rich, soft and well-mannered. Finish: fizzy, with lots and lots of lovely fruit. If BA had not given the price range, I would guess this is a 1960s Bowmore. In the circumstance, I am wonering if it is the Garden Festival decanter. Killer dram, in any case. BA seems delighted that JS and I like it so much. He bought the bottle recently, after long hesitations. He knew we would be there and that helped him decide, he says. True or not, it is nice to tell us that story. :-) I guess 45% and the highest price tonight (£375), which is the only thing remotely correct BA will get from the audience. It is Littlemill 1985/2013 (46%, GMP Rare Old, B#RO/13/02, 260b, AC/ADIA) 10/10
Dram #4: nose: sweet sherry influence, I say (PX or Oloroso). It moves on to give more fruit (blood oranges) and soap. It feels warm. With water, the nose becomes very fruity, with sweet lipstick. Mouth: sweet and fruity, it has figs, prunes... and a lot of power. Some suggest it could be Bourbon, but then it has no vanilla. Finish: sweet, with some mulled-wine spices and toasted milk buns. I had it one point higher, but it turns out to be rather tiring a profile. BA puts us all out of our misery and reveals it is the £180 Midleton Dair Ghaelach Grinsell's Wood Ballaghtobin Estate (57.9%, OB Virgin Irish Oak Collection, Finished in Virgin Native Irish Oak Hogshead, B#1, Tree #07, b#0754). BA is excited about the wooden plinth and its bottle spur. Click. He also mixes up blended and pot-still whiskeys; a quick word in private and he happily corrects his explanation to all, which is pretty elegant. 7/10
|BA hints at things to come|
Dram #5: nose: pine wood, the smoke from a fruit-stone fire, a whiff of ash, apricots, peaches. JS mentions the Dovr-Toutes-Mares Port Ellen from Dornoch and she is right: fruit and ash, akin to that stellar dram. Fruit-tree wood on a bonfire -- the smoke grows bolder. "Smells of what you get behind... kebab fan," says one co-taster. Wax and plasticine are here too. Mouth: unripe-orange juice, served with caramelised, barbecued cutlets. This has a perfect balance, with wax and souped-up raspberries. Finish: a huge peat discharge, now. It opens up to reveal lots of fruit as well; juicy peaches and a drop of raspberry. Nice, perhaps a bit too peaty for me, tonight, yet awfully well made. BA reckons it is close to a Brora, while I think it is a 1992 Ardmore. It turns out I tried this last month and am unable to recognise it. It is in fact a £205 Inchmoan 1992/2017 (48.6%, OB Island Collection Vintage Release, Refill Bourbon Barrels), LB/166/17) 9/10
Dram #6: nose: smoke and biscuit (digestive biscuits or Custard Cream -- without the custard). A pine-wood fire, with some berries thrown into the flames. Mandarin segments, Kashmir curry (mango and almonds in a creamy sauce), squashed strawberries. Mouth: squashed berries here too, the tiniest veil of smoke, maybe, but it is really fruity, here, with also a hint of minty freshness. Finish: lovely fruit, with a distinguished cloak of smoke. Cracked black pepper appears once we are told what it is (suggestion, eh?), though nothing overpowering. This is ca £200 (down from £265) and, if we list the island whiskies that this could be, it is only BA's clue about the ABV that tips off the provenance. It is Talisker 25yo b.2013 (45.8%, OB, 5772b, b#0042) 8/10
Great session, pleasant, entertaining and it shook some of my prejudice too. Good night out.