6 January 2017

31/12/2016 NYE drams at Dornoch Castle Hotel

Today should be an interesting one. Certainly one that requires good pacing, in any case. And an early start, because there is a lot of work to be done!

Talisker d.1957 (70° PROOF, GMP, red screw cap): I am not usually a big Talisker fan, but I will gladly make an exception for such old juice. adc is a fan, so it is an easy choice. Nose: amazingly fruity -- ripe plums, overripe grapes, very ripe, very sweet conference pears. It also has a gentle, coastal character, akin to a log fire on a boat. Melon (cantaloupe or canary), crushed strawberry... Roar. Mouth: delicate, with soft fruits, yet also something bitter -- a hint of rubber, perhaps? Finish: similarly fruity, with a very delicate touch of rubber indeed, and black pepper. This finish is long and mellow, with lashes of strawberry bubblegum, extremely beautiful. Best Talisker I have had. Woo! 10/10

Good start. Next?

Bowmore 1969/1979 (56.2GL / 98.8° PROOF, OB imported by Fecchio & Frassà, Sherry Cask, C#322, 300b, b#28): hehehe. :-) This one sort of smiled at me last year already, but I thought it was a bit pricy and probably not close enough to my sort of profiles. I passed. With the level further down, it goes without saying this might be my last chance and I cannot miss it. Nose: dry earth, then soil, then mud, then wet sand. This is more coastal than I expected, to be honest. It soon smells of a smoky peat fire in a bothy. It goes back and forth between dry and wet earth and scents of a fishing port. Super complex, of course. Fruit joins the party -- blood oranges, green hazelnut shells. The fruit stays long enough to be noticed, not enough to be recognised fully -- a bit like a rare bird. It goes away, making room for fishing nets, mild coffee, melon skins and baking bread. Phwoar! Not half interesting, this! Mouth: earthy melon (whatever that is), white pepper (lots of it), acidic lemon -- this is both earthy and lemon-y, perfectly balanced, with a dash of melon juice. Finish: huge! Powerful, with the acidity of lemon juice, a few drops of peach nectar, pink grapefruit, pomelo, persimmon, ground coriander and bold pepper. Love this! 10/10

Even ST is a bit stunned at how rare this next one is
That will be hard to top... What is this?

Bowmore 30yo (51.4%, OB for 30th Anniversary of Scottish Licensed Trade News, b.1994, 3b): I do not know whether to laugh or cry. When whiskyfun tried this a couple of months ago, I was consumed with envy. Now I get to try it, I am both thrilled to sample it and phlabbergasted that I will never have a bottle of my own. Three bottles in existence, with one almost empty. It simply is not going to happen. Anyway. Nose: rhaaaaaaa! Those Bowmores! It has a gentle sherry influence (nuts, polished dashboards, furniture polish), but above all, the same amazing starfruit as in the 1964 Duthies for Corti Brothers we tried last year, in this very boutique. Further come faded leather, pressed apricots, decaying peaches, unripe mangoes (almost there), crushed walnut shells, then lychees, plums -- did I say 'phwoar,' yet? Let us recap: peach, carambola (or starfruit), pomelo -- pomelo indeed! The longer one waits, the fruitier it becomes. Passion fruit kicks in, late in the game. Ten hours later (who said, "get a life?"), it will still produce the crazy fruitiness. Mouth: pure pomelo juice, with no added sugar. This is so beautiful! Lime water with a creamy texture and a gentle, acidic edge. A tiny pinch of chilli powder, burnt wood? Yes! Finish: long and devastating, with more of that pomelo goodness, gentle lime and a good punch in the teeth. This moving Bowmore is not the most exuberantly fruity one (if you read this blog regularly, you will know which ones they are), yet it is quite high on the scale. Believe! 14/10

Can you spell W-I-N?

It seems clear we will not top that. Besides, the clock is ticking. Supper is calling.

The feast is slightly less copious than last year, though there remains more food than anyone could wish for -- six courses, you know. It is better, too, in tOMoH's opinion. Less fancy, maybe, but I like it more. It is also warmer, which is welcome. The seemingly smaller portions and the fact that there were fewer canapés during the apéritif also mean we are not completely stuffed by the time we reach the table, as was the case last year.

Ham hough and duck terrine, Seafood bisque, Mushroom salad, beef fillet, egg-custard tart, Scottish cheeses. Each of those has a more poetic name on the menu, but this is not a food blog.
Alright, see below.

Ham Hough and Confit Duck Leg Rolled Terrine
Served with bramble gel, crushed pistachio and bread tuile
Pan Seared Fillet of Halibut, King Scallops, Langostine (sic) and Steamed Cockles
Served in a rich shellfish bisque, samphire and wilted spinach
Sautéed (sic) Wild Mushroom, Chestnut and Glazed Green Beans
Served with rocket salad
Seared Fillet of Scottish Beef
Served with braised feather blade, smoked bone marrow, thyme fondant potatoes, scorched baby
onions, glazed chantenay carrots and white mushroom puree (sic)
Classic Egg Custard Tart
Served with blackberry gel, nutmeg and vanilla tuille (sic)

Selection of Scottish Cheeses
Served with Scottish oatcakes, homemade chutney, celery and frozen grapes

Our table neighbours are a couple from London who signed up for this nonsense at the last minute. He works for the company who designed the Master of Malt Web site, which amuses me enormously. It gave him an appreciation for whisky -- he tells me his favourite; I know exactly what he is having as a digestive, then.

ST brings a jar thus:
-This is the jus for the featherblade and marrow.
-What is it? asks our neighbour.
-Gravy, her husband replies.

Tomatin 20yo d.1976 (46%, Direct Wines Limited First Cask, C#27628, b#85): our table neighbour has this too, as per my recommendation. Nose: delicate pastry, fruit turnover. The fruit becomes quite exotic (lychee), with warm custard and gorse, quite close to an egg-custard tart. Mouth: caramel-y fruit juice, with crushed prunes, squashed berries, walnut oil, walnut cream -- wow! Finish: more fruity debauchery, with pressed prunes, berries aplenty (blackberries, gooseberries, brambles), walnut oil. It might not be overly complex, yet it is very pleasant, perfectly balanced. It opens up to unleash more fruit (peach and walnut cream). Love it. 9/10

Our table neighbours leave at this point, which surprises us. Still over an hour to midnight.

Slaney Malt 23yo 1991/2015 (48.3%, Adelphi Limerick Selection, C#10694, 204b): since we are stuck in fruit extravaganza, this seems like a good candidate. Nose: bold, fruity and herbaceous, with polished mahogany tables. Hours into it, it unleashes bursts of tropical fruit (mango, avocado, jackfruit) and a pinch of aromatics (sage, mostly). This reminds me of a newly-opened bottle of 117.3. Mouth: ripe fruit, with peach, mango, papaya, jackfruit. The texture is that of peachy yogurt -- with chunks. Finish: boom! Tropical fruit galore again; a mango explosion with a dash of rubber in the back, vanilla and coconut cream. Magical Irish. 9/10

Time to venture out for the street party. Lone piper, fireworks, Auld Lang Syne, whisky and what not -- it is as cliché as it is enjoyable, despite the distracting drone hovering about. The hotel staff is all merry, and joins in on the fun. I pour Glenmorangie Cellar 13 second edition to everyone and their mothers, which seems to be appreciated. ST cracks me up when he guesses it is an old-school dram, pre-mid-1970s distillation, probably 1960s. :-)
Somehow, we manage to completely miss the pop-up gin bar. adc is disappointed, but really, I am here for the W.

Back from the cold of the Northern streets, we need something to warm us up. adc is too tired to take another dram, while JS and I volunteer to fill in for her. It does not take long before we receive mystery drams, selected by the T twins.

Also soup and haggis cake, because if there is one thing
we need now, it is more food!

Mystery Dram #1: nose: old school, with salty water, brine, white spirit, turpentine. Thirty seconds later, it sparkles like a Piemonte spumante. Newly-picked apples wrapped in newspaper. Later, still, overly-sweet shortbread and vaguely fruity bubblegum kick in. The fruit grows, before it is overtaken by natural gas and volcanic stones. Mouth: sparkly, chalky, effervescent. It has limescale, and lemon juice poured over it. The second sip is more welcoming, with orange marmalade and berries. Finish: long, bold, chalky and fresh. This has "old school" written all over it; coal, burnt wood, spent matches, crushed strawberries and raspberries. I reckon it was distilled before the mid-1960s, probably coal-fired still. We are not told what it is, but it is wonderful. 10/10 (Thanks ST)

Mystery Dram #2: nose: austere, with old books and brine, old medicine, bandages, old engines, then ripe fruit, then leather saddles. Plasticine, clay figurines -- this will not stay put for a minute! Coal smoke grows in intensity to become quite strong in a yesteryear fashion. Mouth: it feels old school here too, with more old books, dusty newspapers, the brine and orange juice from the nose. A brown-label GMP, maybe? It is spicy (pepper), not aggressive. Finish: vibrant, yet also dignified. Old cardboard boxes containing brass candelabra, sepia-ed parchment, a smokey coal stove -- the smoke gets bigger as time passes too, industrial-revolution style. This is an old man's whisky. Another one that will remain a mystery, unfortunately. I love it. 9/10 (Thanks ST)

Mystery Dram #3: they always come in threes, do they not? Nose: meaty barbecue, nail varnish. Soon after that, it morphs into a dark-chocolate tart, sticky toffee pudding. The meat comes back in a jiffy, marinated in red-wine sauce, then served with a thick cranberry sauce. Mouth: another ancient one, this, with a mix of brine, pickled gherkins, old books, leather-bound, of course, coal dust, anthracite and marinated meat. Finish: similar, combined notes of coal dust and smoke, red meat, red wine, fortified wine, even, and thick cranberry compote. This is good. I should have guessed that it is a Macallan, since it is what PT gave me last year to celebrate the new year. This is not the same, though: Macallan 37yo d.1940 (43°GL, GMP imported by Pinerolo, Sherry Wood). 8/10 (Thanks PT)

What a day! We finished 2016 as we started it and started 2017 as we mean to go on.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful pictures of fond memories...