You know the deal: small samples in plastic cups, standing in the back of the shop. Little time and room for notes, yet a great opportunity to decide whether to buy or not, as well as great socialising.
Ord 10yo 2006/2016 (58%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 612b): we start with this "to open up our palates," we are told. At 58%, it will open it indeed! Nose: soft custard pie. Mouth: lemon curd with quite a bit of white pepper. Finish: punchy, custard-y, it has lemon zest in chocolate, then pepper. 7/10
Auchroisk 10yo 2006/2016 (46%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 696b): another month, another young Auchroisk, it seems. Nose: buttery and flowery. Mouth: bitter as a yellow-flower broth. Finish: bitter indeed, leafy -- is that sage? Bay leaves? 5/10
Linkwood 19yo 1997/2016 (53.2%, Cadenhead Small Batch for Denmark, 1 x Bourbon Hogshead, 270b): I tried this recently and liked it a lot. It is obviously not part of this outturn, but we get to try it against its sibling (see below). Nose: the plastic cup does not do it justice! Mouth: sparkly, it tickles, then spices grow in intensity. Finish: long, fruity and gentle. 7/10
Linkwood 20yo 1995/2016 (55.5%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 480b): nose: this one is more pronounced, full of cough drops (elderberry, violets, berries). Mouth: it rolls on the tongue with a little spice (cinnamon sticks). Finish: long, with chocolate and herbs, yellow sweets -- whatever that means! Lovely. 8/10
Aberfeldy 19yo 1997/2016 (55.3%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 528b): nose: ...yes, pan-fried mushrooms. Mouth: bold, ample, with lots of pepper and lemon juice. Finish: lemon-y as fook, with also white pepper (lots of it) and red chilli. Slightly unbalanced with the spices. 6/10
Glenburgie-Glenlivet 24yo 1992/2016 (51.6%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 384b): nose: bread and "burnt" chocolate. I am not sure what I mean by that, to be honest. Mouth: velvety, with a few pine cones thrown in for good measure. Finish: long, chocolate-y -- very much so, in fact. Best Glenburgie since that wonderful 29yo, a couple of years ago. 8/10
Glenrothes-Glenlivet 27yo 1989/2016 (53.7%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 1 x Bourbon Barrel and 1 x Rum Barrel, 264b): nose: soured cream. That changes from the trademark butter note! :D Mouth: wood and not much else. Finish: heavy nail varnish, intense. This is too woody for me. 6/10
Arran 19yo 1997/2016 (52.4%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 1 x Bourbon Hogshead and 1 x Sherry Hogshead, 486b): nose: lemon custard, coconut shavings -- the wood is talking. Mouth: lemon-y, peppery. Finish: ginger, oak. This is a decent, if wood-driven, Arran. 6/10
Bruichladdich 24yo 1992/2016 (53.3%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 3 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 588b): nose: dried leaves. These plastic cups, dammit! Mouth: light, with cut pears and apples. Finish: lemon pie, meringue and dough. In many ways, this is quite close to the recent Bunnahabhain 26yo Authentic Collection. 7/10
Bunnahabhain 16yo 1999/2016 (49.7%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Finish in Sherry Hogshead since 12/2013, 276b): speak of the Devil and you will... have spoken of the Devil. Nose: wine-y, with toffee, tablet, overly baked marzipan. Mouth: heavy wine again, peppery, gingery, it ends up revealing some berries. Finish: big, meaty, wine-y, with nuts and berries. 7/10
Highland Park 20yo 1996/2016 (50.6%, Cadenhead Single Cask, 1 x Hogshead): keep your trousers on, this is sold out. Nose: seafood!? It is an odd HP, with algae and decaying vegetation, as well as not-so-fresh seafood. Mouth: almost undetectable. Perhaps I am reaching my limit... Finish: gently earthy, with heather and dried mud. 7/10
Tobermory 21yo 1995/2016 (52.5%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 x Bourbon Hogsheads, 450b): nose: chestnut purée. Mouth: this has much more horsepower than I expected. Ginger and nuts. Finish: earthy and nutty, with a thin veil of smoke -- is this a Ledaig in disguise? 7/10
The atmosphere is now very merry. Someone explains that 'cheers' in Czech is said 'Na zdraví.' I note that it is close to the Russian 'на здоровье' ('Na zdarovie'), though it is the first time it strikes me as close to the French 'Notre vie' -- 'Our life.'
Are the Slavs toasting to their lives? Any linguist in the room may add their 2p.
Following this notable lack of peat, I produce the very last bottle of Cadenhead's 1842 Live Cask Islay. I take no note (not sure I even drink it myself), but Cavalier says, 'It reminds me of my trip to Mongolia, where they were pouring mare's milk* vodka that smelt of old feet!'
Someone else (T?) argues it only, 'reminds me of a pond with ducks!'
* Corrected, thanks Cavalier.