4 January 2017

30/12/2016 Pre-NYE drams at Dornoch Castle Hotel

Back again for Hogmanay -- yay! JS and adc came along. We are also here to celebrate adc's birthday, after all.

Our welcome drink this year is a bramble-infused gin and tonic, made with the local distillery gin. Considering the T twins were only thinking of ways to crowdfund the distillery, last year, it is exciting to see how quickly things have moved on!
On to the real stuff, though.

Balblair 20yo d.1964 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice for Highlands Fabricators): a rare bottling indeed, this was bottled for a local-ish business, based in Nigg, who specialised in oil rigs repairs (link). Needless saying there are not many of these bottles around any longer. Nose: exotic woods, dark earth, then coffee -- roasted coffee beans. Sherry vinegar, candy floss, cristallised sugar. Finally, prunes, dried dates, figs, raisins and Brazil nuts. Is this from a sherry cask, perhaps? :-) Lavender makes a late entrance, and, really, it becomes fruitier and fruitier with time -- greengage, gooseberries, redcurrant. Mouth: soft and gentle, it has dried apricots, prunes, even dried papaya, cough syrup too, probably, though it is not thick. It is an infusion of dry-ground flowers (lavender, heather), mildly sweetened, certainly not overly so. Finish: more dried fruit (raisins, dates) and a hint of liquorice. The finish has all the softness of tulip petals. Lovely! 8/10

Caperdonich 14yo d.1968 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): nose: dusty bookshelves, brine and a bowl of freshly-prepared seafood -- yes, salty, briny, slightly coastal, however improbable that might seem, from Caperdonich. It becomes fruitier shortly thereafter, with baked pears covered in custard, and flour. Mouth: milky, elegant, custard-y. It has coconut-flavoured yogurt and a hint of fruit. Finish: strawberry-and-vanilla milkshake, with a dash of milk chocolate. It is quite simple, yet so beautiful. Wonderful. 9/10

Tomintoul 30yo 1985/2016 (50.7%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 192b): nose: green wood and yogurt-y notes, at first nosing, then cold coffee, ripe hazelnut, green chilli, dark-chocolate pralines, honey (JS). Mouth: quite a bit of chilli, then, behind it, a copious dose of wood, lively and fresh, with oak spices and ginger. Finish: a mix of green wood, ginger, milk chocolate, dried lemongrass. This is very good. Although it does not have the depth of the brown labels, it compensates with more power. 8/10

Time for food. Pigeon breast, grilled-pepper soup, pork belly and dark-chocolate tart for me, smoked mackrell, pepper soup, cod fillet and cheese plate for adc, goat's cheese salad, pepper soup, butternut salad and sticky toffee pudding for JS.

adc discovers on the late tip that the staff put a gift on the table for her, then it is off to the bar again... where we sample the gift without further ado.

Knappogue 1951/1987 (40%, Knappogue Castle Ltd, C#7, b#260): yes, it is an old, old whiskey (aged and bottled a long time ago) from the Tullamore distillery. We had another 36yo from the same distillery several times, yet that one was a vatting of several casks, whereas this one is a single cask. Exciting, innit. Nose: it starts out quite herbaceous (sage, oregano, thyme, hawthorn, barbecue herbs, crushed bay leaves), fresh (cut grass) and sweet (custard, dulce de lecche). Mostly herbaceous, though. Compared to the multi-cask, it is more elegant and pure. It is almost metallic, though not quite. Punchy, too. An oddball that feels higher than 40%. Twenty minutes in, fruit comes out massively, in a Lochside way (JS): pink grapefruit, satsuma, clementine, unripe mango, blue oranges. Mouth: it has the texture of yogurt -- coconut yogurt. Fresh, vibrant, herbaceous and fruity. The metallic side is a lot more pronounced, without being over the top. Grapefruit peels, mandarin pith, sage, oregano and crushed bay leaves. Meow. Finish: the aromatic herbs take the back seat to make room for coconut cream and custard, yet the herbalist shoppe never really disappears. Marvellous. 9/10 (Thanks adc)

Upon trying the above, ST compares it to another, which we promptly sample too.

Dunville's Special Liqueur (70° PROOF, OB, b. ca 1948): nose: meaty and animal, not too dissimilar to a Clynelish or a Mortlach. Actually, it smells like a recent, sherry-casked Mortlach bottled by Cadenhead in November this year, with game in a red-wine sauce. It also gives away scents of extra-strong glue, old books, falling to pieces and rotting, wet felt (adc). Later on, spent matches, gunpowder, firecrackers. Mouth: pork sausages with herbs, sage infusion, beef stock, ink, nail varnish. The wine-sauce-and-meat combination has all but vanished, making room for butter (JS). Finish: another weird one! Black ink (JS says blue), herbs, strong nail-varnish remover, paint thinner, almond butter, even coconut cream. Acrid ink dominates, while the red-wine marinate makes a come-back, in the far end. This one is more interesting than brilliant (it is also not bad), but for the ghost hunter I am, it is a dream come true! 7/10 (Thanks ST)

Bas-Armagnac Baron V.Fournier d.1943 (40%, OB): another recommendation -- by PT, this time. Nose: dark grapes, prunes in syrup, dark red, boiled sweets. Mouth: here, the brandy character is more pronounced and therefore less to my taste. Liquorice, dark prunes in syrup. Finish: black lace sweets, full of liquorice, aniseed, bitter and strong. The prunes end up coming through, alongside a lot of caramel, but yeah, liquorice. A good Armagnac, yet the liquorice is too present for me. I cannot rate this. (Thanks PT)

Time to go to bed. Tomorrow is a long day.

We get a cake too. They know how to host, here!

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