8 January 2017

01/01/2017 NYD drams at Dornoch Castle Hotel

Last day here. Make it count. It is increasingly obvious we will not get to try everything we would like to, which means we have to select wisely.
adc insists she is whisky-ed out, though she is happy to drink the gin cocktails. JS and I soldier on, of course.

Scapa 1965/1988 (46%, Brae Dean Int The Sea imported by Moon Import, Hogshead, C#2879, 240b, b#091): it is not every day one tries an old Scapa, let alone one bottled by an independent. This is from a collection that has since become legendary too. Excitement everywhere. Nose: old bottle in full effect -- old books, vinegar, orange peels. It has a note of dunnage warehouse, though different to that of, say, Lochside -- less humidity, more drying lichen. Sawdust, dry cork and a vinegar that becomes rather invading, alongside gentle coffee. Later on, it turns more civilised, with honeysuckle and dill (JS). Mouth: mellow, honey-like. It retains the vinegar's acidity, as well as cedar branches, warm mead, slightly bitter, but mostly gentle. Banana bread dough is there too. Finish: long, gentle and elegant, with notes of honey, creamy custard, and still the lovely, dry dunnage warehouse touch. Delicate fruit crops up, slowly but surely, presented on wooden boards, vanilla custard, with a drop of dark-chocolate coulis. Wonderful. 9/10

Speyburn 1967/1988 (46%, Brae Dean Int The Sea imported by Moon Import, Hogshead, C#1198, 360b, b#319): really, I could make the same comment about this one! How many Speyburn have we tried, on this blog, until today? One. On two occasions, I will give you that. Nose: here too, the nose is very, very vinegary, almost sulphury. That will be dark-sherry vinegar, then. It turns vaguely animal, after a while, musky and warm. Sulphur takes off, with a box of unfresh eggs. Mouth: warm caramel, yet also vinegar, chocolate coulis, crushed raspberries, gherkins, black pepper (adc) and burnt wood (adc). Finish: the same, odd mix of chocolate and vinegar, gentle musk and gherkins. This is as strange as the 25yo OB, as interesting and as good. 8/10

Pouring Moon-shine

Glen Garioch 15yo b.2016 (59.6%, Three Rivers for Shinanoya Ginza 21st Anniversary, Bourbon Barrel, C#657, 207b, b#77): nose: buttery pastry, sweet shortbread, thick custard, unbaked banana bread (the dough), daffodils, lemon curd, maybe. Time makes it more perfume-y. Mouth: it feels gentle and flowery, at first, yet it quickly shifts gears to deliver spicy oak and gingery heat. It keeps the milky texture and hot-banana flavours, though now with lemongrass and galangal shavings! Finish: despite the high strength, this flows like custard, sweet, soft, warming and comforting. βανίλια, butterscotch, custard cream. Is this really a Glen Garioch? It tastes like a gentle Speysider to me! 8/10

This Western cardinal is following the birding tradition

Food time. Today's buffet has a selection of cold salads, which I carefully stay away from to concentrate on the hot goodies: honey-glazed roasted ham, roast beef, steamed veg' and the same killer gratin dauphinois they had last year. I don't even have dessert (cranachan or strawberry pavlova); instead I have a third serving of the above.

Just about enough

Need some liquid to wash down all that food goodness. Ooh! Here is the bar! Nice quink-y-dink.

Glen Scotia 12yo (54%, A. Gillies imported by F&G Bruino, b#0030, b.1980s): nose: old parchments, old ink, old ledgers, brine, old engines, a mechanic's workshop. This is austere! Whiffs of coal smoke come puffing out too. The sheer power becomes rather stripping. Pears emerge at some point, soon smothered by soot. In the end, thick honey wraps up the nose. Mouth: motor oil, an old toolbox with rusty tools, spilt petrol, screwdrivers. It is big, bold and difficult, untamed, ruthless, wild even, yet not childish. Finish: big and virile; picture Jeremy Clarkson wrestling the Stig, under the bonnet of an Aston Martin DB4GT. Or better, a fistfight to the Death between Staff Sgt. Max Fightmaster and Dr. Duncan Steel. Apricot compote, baked on a hot engine, slightly caramelised, then coal dust and hot wood shavings. This is incredible. So far from more modern, OB Glen Scotia. Maybe, it is closer to the SMWS offerings, yet with more of an industrial-revolution feel than peat. A great, if intimidatingly difficult dram. 9/10

Auk's Choir 34yo 1975/2009 (41.3%, Daily Dram for Bresser & Timmer and The Nectar, 97b): anagram experts will decipher the distillery easily. Nose: odd mix again -- juicy, yellow fruit and dust. Newspapers, hot off the press, copious amounts of ginger, toffee (adc), wet dust (adc), then more yellow fruits (plums, apricots) are joined by red ones (strawberries and blueberries). Mouth: hot peach pulp, kumquat. This becomes syrupy, then creamy, with honeysuckle, manuka honey, quince jelly. The whole is sprinkled with ground white pepper and ginger powder. Finish: soft and comforting, with tablet, custard, gentle cola. It sparkles on the tongue, whilst also anaesthetising it with lots of white pepper and ginger powder. Top dram. Lovely fruit with the right dose of spices. 9/10

adc calls it a night, but The T twins have another suggestion for JS and me:

Adelphi Liqueur (unknown ABV, Black & Ferguson, b.1930s): nose: amazingly coastal, with sea spray, brine, yet also thyme infusion, a thick cloak of dust and distant game (venison or pigeon). Coal dust rises to take over completely. Mouth: it goes all delicate in the mouth, with honeycomb, honeysuckle, vanilla custard, canary-melon juice and thick tapioca soup. This is creamy and grand, total craic! Finish: long, with an unbelievable balance of all things gentle (sweet custard) and austere (tools, engines, even gravel). Spectacularly good! Hot sand, lukewarm concrete, freshly poured, apple crumble -- my head is going to explode! I would never have chosen this over other bottles here, but I am very pleased someone pressed me into doing it! 10/10 (Thanks PT)

One last round.

We want your keys
Your bottles
And your motorcycle

87.2 13yo 1979/1992 (62.3%, SMWS Society Cask): Dornoch has two 87s available. Which other bar claim the same? The other one, we had last year, but this... Nose: boom indeed! Such power! Leather, melting chocolate, spent barbecue and gunpowder. Later on, it is farmyard scents, then green-grape marc. Mouth: ba-da-bing! Super powerful again, bold and austere; it has pickles, mustard seeds, gravel, wet stones in sea water, ginger, galangal, sawn teak. The growing power of it is impressive, menacing, even. This is a Wagner overture! Once past the sheer power, peppery grapes appear, morphing to become plum juice. Finish: long, powerful, spicy, wide and devastating. It quite simply strips the tongue naked and anaesthetised, leaving a feeling of having chewed on cork. 9/10

9.30 28yo 1972/2001 (56.6%, SMWS 18 Anniversary for Japan, 556b): nose: an immense sherry influence, here, with lots of moscovado sugar, oxtail broth, then fresh liquorice allsorts and peppermint. Mouth: stripping peppermint, wood varnish and paint thinner. This is a terrifying mouth, even so late in the game. Finish: a huge peppermint kick, sweet mint paste, dark chocolate (After Eight, innit) before dried, dark fruit starts shining (prunes, plums, dates, raisins). Cold meat (roast beef) and cold gravy are there too. I reckon this is a Pedro Ximénez cask, so sweet it is. 8/10

So much for the planned early night: it is past 2 o'cloch (typo intended). We thank the hosts and bid good bye. That would be ignoring the legendary Scottish hospitality, though: we will not be left to go to bed without trying one more thing.

Caol Ila 34yo 1982/2016 (60.1%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2x Bourbon Hogsheads, 264b): just look at that ABV, ffs! Nose: ash, hay, farmyards and a touch of fruit, fishing nets with the day's catch in them. Next is stagnant water, anchovy paste, and vinegar, hot sand, sea spray... rrrrrhhhoooooooooooo! PT reckons it is the closest one gets to Port Ellen, these days, and I tend to agree. Mouth: as expected, this is also alarmingly strong, acidic and stripping, with fishing shenanigans (nets, boats, rod). Finish: long, warming, with a huge sea influence (clam chowder, shallow-fried scallops with the roe!), though it is not the cold North Sea, nor is it the deep Atlantic; it is too warming for that. Whelk, shrimps, crabs and bramble jam. Very nice. 8/10 (Thanks PT)

We finally hear how the SLTN Bowmore ended up here -- a story of a raffle, ages ago, lost bottles passed from generation to generation, a tale of debt and a resulting, pressing need for money, a middleman with a baby in tow and a rendez-vous on a dodgy parking lot in the Lowlands, involving flashy cars and suitcases full of money. It has a happy-ending too: we tried it yesterday. :-)

I end up hitting the sack at close to 3am, exhausted, dreading the day of travel tomorrow, sad to leave, yet so happy about the glorious weekend that is ending.

Memories of last year

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