30 October 2017

29/10/2017 Clearing the shelf #13

Tomatin 36yo (46%, OB, B#2, b.2016): nose: concentrated wax, with drops of peach juice thrown in for good measure. It does not take long for tropical fruits to emerge (mangoes, physalis), competing with crushed nuts (macadamia, Brazil, cashew). A whiff of wood polish is also present. It teasingly alternates between lively, tropical fruit and noble, exotic wood; neither is too loquacious, unfortunately. This one does not have the first batch's exuberance. Mouth: similarly taciturn, it has more fruits than wood, though it retains a certain gingery heat too. That aside, it is all juicy cherries, papayas, cut peaches, dried apricots and a drop of wood varnish. The texture is velvety and unctuous, and one could easily overlook the most minute "green" bitterness, on the middle of the tongue. Finish: pleasant, if somewhat discreet, it delivers apricots, peaches, perhaps papayas, but no mangoes. There is a dollop of custard and fluffy doughnut, as well as half a pinch of ground green pepper. This is very nice, yet it suffers from the comparison with its illustrious ancestor. 8/10

Lochside 22yo d.1981 (50%, Lombard Jewels of Scotland, b. ca 2003): nose: dead branches, forest floor, and a definite animal characteristic -- fox's skin, wet dogs, the cat's basket. Shortly thereafter, dry cork, dried red-wine stains and forest mushrooms, sizzling in butter. This is a most unusual Lochside 1981! Crushed nutshells, nut liqueurs, as well as raspberry vinegar... this is interesting and complex; just unexpected. I wonder what type of cask this was matured in. Mouth: soft and fruitier, with apple compote, flat peary (scratch that: it does turn fizzy), galangal shavings on a slice of pan-seared gammon. The texture is thick, coating and waxy, reminiscent of cork (the stopper, not the town in Ireland). Finish: smoke!??!? Yes, it definitely has smoke. After the first sip, it becomes clear that the nose also has smoked ham and scorched earth. Back to the finish, there are caramelised apples, roasted on an open log fire. A pan, in which mushrooms were shallow-fried, and which was deglazed with apple cider. The smoke becomes more and more assertive, funnily enough, and it is wood smoke, not another kind. Smoke and apple cider. Essentially, that is it. Not much of the expected tropical fruit to be found. They fleetingly appear, for a tenth of a second, long after swallowing, but it is hard not to put that down to autosuggestion. Regardless, it is a cracking dram. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, PT)

Lochside 42yo 1964/2006 (47.7%, Robert Scott Scott's Selection): the single blend that started it all, so to speak. Nose: immediately, this is another beast, with lots of nail varnish, wax seals and an unmistakable fruitiness. Juicy peaches, mangoes, satsumas, a dose of pomelo, pink grapefruit and lime, perhaps unripe maracuja too. It even has a vague whiff of smoking wood chips, but nothing like the Lombard expression above. It is mostly yellow-fleshed, slightly tropical fruit and waxy fruit skins. Dunnage warehouse (in other words: lichen on staves and alcohol vapours), though not too bold. Mouth: milky texture, with the same waxy fruit from the nose. The citrus is much tamer (pink grapefruit and pomelo, mostly), the peaches are much less ripe. Wax seals are here, nail varnish (the grain influence, likely), and a very faint bitterness. The whole becomes creamier and creamier, not unlike lukewarm fruit yoghurt, or coconut cream. Finish: here, it is a cascade of buttery fruits -- mangoes, peaches, papayas, tinned pineapples in syrup, overripe satsuma slice. It is creamy as hell, and gorgeous. The mouthfeel after swallowing is that of avocado (but no the taste). A delicate note of persimmon-flavoured nail varnish shows up (if that does not exist yet, you read it here first!), ripe bananas and coconut cream. A great drop. All the same, I prefer it TWE's 46yo by a rather comfortable margin. We will have them back to back at some point in the future. Because we can. 9/10

27 October 2017

26/10/2017 Three Lowlanders

This could fit under "clearing the shelf," but since they form a cohesive whole...

Rare Ayrshire 35yo 1975/2010 (45.5%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrel, C#553, 150b): I tried this a few years ago and liked it a lot. The circumstances were very different, though. Nose: candle wax, crayons and honey, primary-school glue (the white stuff in pots with a small, oar-shaped spoon), custard cream biscuits and milk chocolate. It even has a distant whiff of latte. A few minutes later, the glue becomes more heavy-duty (or heavier-duty; will the Grammar Police please send suggestions in the comments section), and it is joined by tame shoe polish. The biscuits are soon back, though. Doughnut batter. Coming back to it after the next dram, gentle incense is also to be found. Mouth: soft and mellow, it has more custard cream biscuits, doughnut batter, chocolate milk, almond milk. This is silky as silk. Not hugely complex in the mouth, but pleasant, it is. Finish: again, it is soft, milky, with a touch of chocolate, crushed almond, custard and raw doughnut batter, as well as late ashes from a spent incense stick. Agreeable and dangerously easy to drink. 8/10

Ladyburn 27yo 1973/2000 (50.4%, OB for the USA, Bourbon Cask, C#4467): first official Ladyburn on this blog. Strangely, official bottlings of this ill-regarded distillery are always expensive. Nose: it is stronger and that feels. Metal polish and powerful glue. It also has crushed herbs (gentian, bay, marjoram, maybe sage). This nose is much less welcoming than the Signatory's, yet it works for me. It might have some berries, but they are hidden behind the alcohol. Timid apricot compote ends up appearing, yet one has to look for it. Tree bark is here too, warm and dry. Much later, candle wax shows up. Mouth: milder than expected, it displays similar characteristics as the Signatory's -- raw doughnut batter, custard and bakery shenanigans, augmented with crushed herbs (the same as in the nose, with the sage more assertive) and a metallic edge (or is that the sage again?) The texture is milky and would be silkier, were it not for the metallic bitterness. I can see that metal bothering some (hi, SW!), not me: I like it. Finish: similar odd mixture of custard, pastry and crushed herbs. This is not very far from some grains' profile. The metal note lingers on and on, obfuscating fruit that is really too shy to be properly detectable. The finish then move to fish scales and sardines off a tin, and the blade used to gut them can still be tasted. This is one for metal fans only. If the hardest you like is Bon Jovi, avoid. Works for tOMoH. Less immediate pleasure, more cerebral. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, Vit and RO)

Littlemill 22yo 1992/2014 (53.8%, Hunter Laing Old & Rare, Hogshead, C#HL 10882, 194b): nose: a little closed at first, it seems to make a promise of overripe, tropical fruits. It better deliver, now!... and it does! Jackfruit, mango, papaya, Chinese gooseberries are all there and have spent much time in the sun, as has that bowl of sangria, next to the fruit. It is not all, however: nail varnish is in the picture, and so are apricot turnovers. Mouth: warm and peppery, with the skin of the fruit from the nose, not so much the flesh, here. Powerful white pepper, a vague touch of wood (the wooden crates they sell six bottles of wine in). It is a bit of a let-down, compared to the nose, to be honest. Finish: this has a hefty dose of bitter wood (even thickly-lichen-covered staves), yet also a reminder of the tropical fruit from earlier -- jackfruit, papaya. Unfortunately, the wood is too loud and bitter to allow the fruit to shine and, therefore, the score is not higher than 8/10

That's a wrap!

23 October 2017

21/10/2017 Dead or Alive

This was going to be a low-attendance shindig, and I struggled to define a theme. JS, OB and MS, who confirmed their attendance, were not completely enthused by my ideas, and were not helping me with their own ideas. "Bring whatever you want," I said, "we will shoehorn into some kind of theme." The same day, I had a eureka moment: we will do that, but pour everything blind, and try to guess whether it comes from a dead distillery, or a live one. Since few people confirmed, I also take the opportunity to pull out samples and miniatures.

We have not even started and the room is
already spinning!

Dram #1 (me): nose: unripe hazelut, sugary wood (MS), almost cough syrup, corn syrup, then straw, hay bales. This smells strongly of corn syrup. It also has a touch of cardboard. Mouth: the corn syrup persists, old paper, perhaps old ink. This is subtle and pleasant. Finish: soft and sweet, with a gentle note of wood glue, and, of course, more corn syrup. 7/10

MS says alive, OB says dead, JS is not here yet. This was a trap: the distillery (Loch Lomond) is alive, but it has stopped making this particular style.

Old Rhosdhu (40%, OB, L5/L6 1602)

That is better than its reputation, even if it is not the best dram in the world.

Dram #2 (MS): nose: dry mud, dried manure, discreet rubber and perhaps a timid vanilla aroma. Nothing screams. Sandalwood (MS), incense (MS), the glue one uses to stick balsa wood planes together, as well as candy floss. Mouth: it is spicier than expected, with cassiah bark, ground cardamom, drying cumin and wood splinters. Finish: hugely long, unbelievably so, for a 46% whisky; it has peppery custard, crushed cardamom, fruity sweets. This is great. I hesitate between 8 and 9. OB teases me that it should be 8.5, the fool. Thinking back to it at the end of the tasting, I mentally decide it will be 8/10

OB says alive, I say dead. Another trick question: it is likely a blended malt that might contain whisky from a dead distillery (Hanyu), along with some from a live one (Chichibu). The label is fashionably vague about the whole thing.

Ichiro's Malt Mizunara Wood Reserve (46%, OB Ichiro's Malt, 47), which makes sense, considering MS's recent fixation with mizunara. Incidentally, I was just telling him about the tasting JS and I went to a few weeks ago, and how he should look into Chichibu and Dave Broom's book. MS was convinced as a result that I knew what he had poured.

JS joins us.

JS: "I'm trying to think what that taste is, in the finish."
OB: "It's the rotting decomposition of a dead distillery."

JS: "Did you buy this at the Show?"
MS: "No, I got it from an auction site."
tOMoH: "You buy from auction sites, now?"
OB, JS, tOMoH: "Slippery slope!"

Dram #3 (OB): I immediately guess that this is not whisky. Ahem. Nose: shoe polish and leather. This is refined, as in: men in smoking jackets. Polished dashboards, unripe oranges, spiked with cloves (MS). Rosehip, rose perfume (OB), then a touch of light wood or incense. Mouth: soft and velvety, it has rose-petal jam, orange blossom and very subtle fruit (apricot and quince). Finish: wood dust, spent incense on rose-petal jam, a hint of leather, more orange blossom and polished or exotic wood. Again, I hesitate between 8 and 9. At the end of the tasting, I decide it must have been 8/10 but I hope to have a chance to try it again.

tOMoH says alive, MS says alive. JS is still catching up. It is indeed alive.

Glen Grant-Glenlivet 31yo 1985/2017 (44.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Sherry Butt, 312b). It is even more to my taste than the first time we tried it.

Lomar's dry sausage and chorizo enter, souvenir from a trip to the south-west of Europe.

Dram #4 (JS): nose: dusty fruit (melon, carambola, blue orange), then much warmer notes -- quiche crust, shepherd's pie. Much later on, pine needles appear, bold and pleasant, Suc des Vosges sweets. Mouth: the gentle bitterness of almond milk, augmented with peach nectar. This is silky and fruity, with a tiny bit of bitterness. Unbelievable in balance and complexity. Finish: "Amaretto," says MS, and he is dead on! Silky, syrupy, with crushed almonds, crushed apricots (stones included). Absolutely wonderful. 9/10

OB says it is dead, MS says alive, I hope it is alive. It is dead with a twist: it was built as Glen Grant 2 (observe the sequence), and Glen Grant is still alive. Glen Grant 2, however, later renamed Caperdonich, is dead.

Caperdonich 11yo d.1968 (70° Proof, GMP Connoisseur's Choice)

Dram #5 (tOMoH): nose: smoke!? OB finds soap. He has obviously not tried the Edradouche! It becomes increasingly smokey and metallic. Soap appears indeed, and violet sweets. Mouth: this packs some unsuspected horsepower and displays violet boiled sweets -- those boiled sweets that are so popular on the Continent. The smoke is subtle, the violet, less so. It works, though, in a Highland Park-12 sort of way. Horse's hair, lemon juice... no! pomelo juice. This is really nice. 8/10

MS says dead, OB says alive, JS says alive. Another booby trap: this distillery was closed twice since this was distilled, but revived both times and is now active. A zombie distillery, then.

Bladnoch 11yo d.1984 (43%, James Macarthur Fine Malts Selection)
Bladnoch from the mid-1980s can be hit or miss. This is a hit.

Dram #6 (tOMoH): two of mine in a row, as this is supposedly the last low-strength dram of the day. Nose: oooooh! The depth of this! The noblestest wood for antique furniture, musty cellars, leather desk blotters, blotting paper, old books, old bindings, dunnage warehouses -- this is amazing! Plum tarts, powdered sugar, aged, dried-cured ham and coal smoke. Mouth: a dusty fruitiness shines, with blackberry jam, blueberry pancakes, pressed raisins. OB: "The taste is good; I would like it a bit stronger." :-) Farm-y tones (horse's sweat?), berries liqueur. This is phenomenal. I wish I could spend more time with it to understand all its intricacies. Finish: blackberry jam and smoke. Actually, it is blackberry jam, cooking on a wood-fired stove. This reeks of yesteryear! Old desks, ink, empty flower vases, memories. Wow. Hard for words to do it justice, really. 10/10 (Thanks for the sample, pat gva)

OB, JS and MS all say it is alive. They are right.

Strathisla 35yo (43%, OB for the Bi-centenary of Strathisla Distillery, b.1986)

Dram #7 (MS): nose: a tannery, oats (MS), something cider-y (OB) -- yep: apple mash. Wine notes start competing for attention, with more leather, decayed grapes, a flower broth, earth and peppermint. This is pretty hot. Mouth: it is rather tannic, yet it also has bakery notes, softened leather and syrup, poured on earth -- or earthy syrup. Breathing makes it sweeter. Finish: smoked leather, biltong and, later, a huge sweetness. Not quite maple syrup, but honey-glazed, smoked ribs. Water does not change it. 7/10

I say alive, OB says dead. MS tells us before JS can guess: it is alive.

Dailuaine 9yo 2007/2017 (57.2%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Sherry Butt, c#151, 656b)

Playthatgame the tucan approves

Dram #8 (OB): nose: elegant peat, hot with boiled cabbage, dry straw, tree bark, seafood and sand on the shore. Sea salt, tanned leather, coal dust and soot. Eventually, toasted bread too. My guess is this is a 1980s Caol Ila. Mouth: hot, dry, with hay, smokey peat, but also crushed berries. This is sweet and ashy. Tar (OB), hot sand. Powerful and satisfying, it has tarry ropes and hay bales. Finish: salty seafood (oysters, mussels, clams) and a distinct sweetness. "Clean, chalky, powdery, ashy quality," says MS. It is ashy indeed, very ashy, in fact. Spent incense, the ashtray of an open fireplace, salty oysters, diesel engines. 9/10

JS says dead, MS says alive, tOMoH says alive. And it is another trick question: it is dead, but the proprietor advertised its reopening last week. Another zombie.

Port Ellen 28yo 1983/2011 (58.9%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, C#MoS11011, 267b, b#60)

OB: "Peat tends to level things like that."
me: "Yes, he's a dick, like that."

I don't mind looking like a dick, when I drink whisky.
JS (with a blender's glass in her hand): "I don't mind looking like a dick, when I drink whisky."
OB: "I don't mind drinking a dick, while looking at whisky."

Dram #9 (JS): nose: an unbelievable richness, with cascades of flowers (yellow and white) and juicy fruit. So much fruity jam! Mouth: fresh and silky, creamy, with more fruit compote and jam. It has a pinch of green chilli, melted caster sugar and a green, mildly bitter note. Finish: all sorts of fruit jams -- baking, on toast, in sauces. Fruity and sweet. The fruit turns gently tropical too -- persimmon. Absolutely beautiful and humblingly perfect. Do not think it is a jammy one-trick pony; it is complex, yet so integrated it is impossible to detect all the flavours... and we are nine drams down. :-) 10/10

OB cannot believe anyone would have closed a distillery that produces something like this, so he says alive, MS goes with dead. I say dead. It is, unfortunately, dead.

99.11 29yo Tickled by 'monstera deliciosa' (43.4%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 192b)

We stop there. I had one more foreseen, but it feels superfluous and everyone has to go anyway. Bizarrely, considering the almost modest number of drams, I feel that I have had more than enough to drink. What drams, though! Quality throughout from all the participants!

20 October 2017

18/10/2017 Clearing the shelf #12

The Moray trio. Kind of.

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 24yo 1992/2017 (50.9%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 3xBourbon Hogsheads, 684b): this seems to have become a belated best-seller at Cadenhead's London shop. Nose: it is shy, with hay bales, at first, strangely enough. It soon opens up with squashed strawberries, rosewood, heather buds, unripe berries (elderberries, blackcurrants). The whole is ethereal and perfume-y -- fragrant, without being intrusive. In one word: elegant. The back nose reminds me of Terre d'Hermès. Weird. That would mean a pinch of ash, a fistful of earth and men deodorant. It works. Mouth: lively palate, it has a bite. Green chilli, thorny brambles, hazel, pistachio shells, but also strawberries, squashed on a slice of toasted bread... with salt. A lot of salt, in fact. I cannot remember finding so much salt in a dram before. Finish: similar touches, here; hazel, squashed strawberries on toast, salt and ash. It ends with a salty-bitter note that lingers on for a long time. Good dram. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, SW)

Glendullan-Glenlivet 20yo 1996/2017 (52.4%, Cadenhead Wine Cask, Château Laffite Cask Finish, 252b): this 'dullan, finished in a wine cask since July 2009, was apparently named best Scottish single-cask single malt by a Jim Moray (see what I did, there?) in his latest Whisky Bible, much to my mate BC's satisfaction, who could not repress an I-told-you-so moment on social media. Nose: this one does not hide its pedigree: it is earth and wine to the brim, almost masking ripe fruits (apples, strawberries again, decaying pears). It also has unripe rhubarb, autumn leaves, ink, spilled on the forest floor. Later, it is leather that appears, with rotten grapes and more earth. Mouth: tannic, it has unsweetened blackberry jam, raisins, the dryness of a good Claret, and the fruitiness that goes with it. It also has enough of a kick to please those who like a little alcohol burn. The texture is that of unsweetened jam, pleasantly enough. Finish: wonderful wine maturation, with lots of raisins, dried prunes and figs, earth and new leather belts, as well as lingenberry compote. Very complex and very well made. This is the donkey's! Good pick, Jim! 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, SW)

Glen Mhor 1982/2017 (50.8%, Cask Sample for Cadenhead's 175th Anniversary Dinner, C#1352): if you read this blog regularly, you will remember this Glen Mhor-ay is the sample from the dinner that closed the Campbeltown festival, in May. Nose: sugar and coal, yellow flowers and crayons, wax and metal polish. It grows in intensity and becomes rather powerful a nose, if not quite stripping. Pencil eraser, ether, and even freshly-cut hazelwood. Milk coffee shows up, in the end, mocha, as well as dried pomelo and lime peels. The nose keeps oscillating between austere, old-school Highlander and robust, but fruity Speysider. Mouth: sharp and hot like a lit candle, it has the hot wax of the candle too, brambles, hot honey, disinfectant and boiled sweets (purple ones). Keep it in the mouth for a few minutes and the boiled sweets become bolder. Bold sweets, innit. Citrus peels end up appearing here too, and it is a small wonder to have the softness of warm custard and the acidity of lime under one house. Finish: long, warming, with wax and a memory of soot in another room. The more one sips it, the more soot comes out -- certainly enough to fill a bucket, after all. The finish has remnants of the boiled sweets, and, half a dram and thirty minutes in, it is citrus that shines brighter and brighter. Marvellous dram! Glad I saved some to savour later, as it is much better today, with time, attention, and cooler weather. 9/10

16 October 2017

15/10/2017 A couple of drams on the terrace

Polishing off some samples during this mini heatwave.

St Magdalene d.1966 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b. early 1990s): nose: it seems quite wine-y at first; hopefully, the vessel was cleaned properly before this was poured into it... Soon, mushrooms emerge. I would like to say it has the trademark flint and lichen, but it would be autosuggestion. The nose is shy, with a definite wine note -- perhaps red wine, spilled on stone. Odd. Ten minutes in, the lichen makes a real appearance, at last, then limestone and a zesty freshness. Tarragon, a hint of toffee. Mouth: it is a St Magdalene alright, with the traditional mix of lime juice on stone, yet also lovely custard -- it is a Lowlander, after all. It works. Some ground black pepper lurks, discreet, but present, and radish stems. That is a first! Finish: the St Magdalene bitterness is there (dried sage, marjoram, bay leaves), on top of more custard and caramel biscuits. Only the bitterness stays longer in the mouth. This is good, even though I had higher expectations. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, EG)

Linlithgow (49%, Cask Sample, Butt, Wine Finish, C#4384, b.2017): even if this is a 1982 distillation (Linlithgow's last year, and that is most likely), it is a 34 or 35yo, making it the oldest St Magdalene/Linlithgow I have had to-date. It is probably one of those wine-treated butts Signatory Vintage had several of. DW visited a distillery which offered this cask for visitors to bottle their own. Wow, right? No point asking which distillery that was, I will not give it away. :-P Nose: this smells softer and rounder than the GMP, but also more wine-y. Fluffy lavender cake, lime juice, herbs in creamy custard. Stones appear, eventually, not invading. Mouth: another lime-y, custard-y St Magdalene. Much less herbaceous than the 1966, but it has just as much stone -- limestone, to be accurate. This is both austere and welcoming at the same time, which is impressive. Finish: here, the herbs are in full display; gentian and dried sage in custard. Said custard contains a dash of white wine, and it is poured on a piece of lukewarm lavender cake, soft and fluffy. Another very good drop. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, DW)

13/10/2017 Three drams by Cadenhead

No particular occasion, but those miniatures are not going to drink themselves. Or indeed, they will: the level on these is not the best. I would rather enjoy some of it, not leave all to the angels.

Edradour 18yo (46%, Cadenhead, b. ca 1990): not many Edradours on these pages. It is not a distillery that excites many enthusiasts, and certainly not one that is often bottled independently -- even less so since the Signatory Vintage take-over in the early 2000. This is a treat, then. And watch that font on the label! Nose: OME, which is to say: dusty books and pickles in vinegar. Once the OME (Old Miniature Effect, if you have forgotten) has taken the back seat, this turns into a soapfest; a blend of Sunlight, Nivea, Badedas and Neighbours. You know: Holly, Nicole, Jason, Kylie -- Neighbours. Twenty minutes later, wood emerges, shy. It really is a wooden plank with litres of soap spread onto it. A soap sandwich, in which the bread is replaced with wood. I need to correct all the above: it is not soap, but shampoo! Elsève de L'Oréal, Garnier Ultra Doux, Clairol Herbal Essence. Not a good start. Washing-up liquid, and not the nicely-scented ones. This is proper Edradouche. Mouth: aouch! Soapy water, lukewarm, with wine, a hint of white wood and loooooooaaaaads of shampoo. If anyone ever wondered how they used to clean the mash tun and washbacks in the 1970s, I think I have an answer! The texture is also that of soapy water, by the way. Green chilli appears -- this is the hottest shampoo I have ever drunk. :-) Finish: eurgh. I am not very sensitive to soap, but this is way beyond my tolerance threshold. Chilli powder on green leaves, a little minty custard and more litres of Garnier Ultra Doux shampoo (chamomile, the yellow-top bottle). To paraphrase Jim Murray, "Pitlochry must have run out of soap for months after this was produced." I do not and will not often quote Murray. It is worth it, today. Worst whisky on this blog, to-date. 2/10

Glenfiddich-Glenlivet 22yo (46%, Cadenhead, b. ca 1990): one of the best-selling malts in the world (it was number one for the longest time), Glenfiddich is also a rare occurrence on this blog. One can easily see why: when is the last time you saw an independent bottling of it? As for the official bottlings, prices tend to get silly as soon as one moves away from the NAS-12-15yo. This is a rare opportunity "to make of one beer two gulps," to quote a Belgian expression. Nose: OME again, with with more old books and pickled gherkins. Then, it is HP brown sauce, marrow purée, wine, decanted for too long, old-school larders in old castles (think: Duart), game sauce, chestnut purée and teaks cabinets. Definitely teak cabinets and nut shells. Nice. Mouth: crushed peach stone, more teak furniture and green-chilli heat. Do I detect washing-up liquid? Perhaps. Hard to tell. Am I paranoid? Is it leftovers from the previous dram? In any case, it has nowhere near the same level of soap as the Edradouche. This is elegantly woody, with exotic wood, to be accurate (teak). Finish: exotic wood here too (teak, mahogany), velvety fruit (peach, soft apricot flesh), a drop of liquid soap. This is warm, quite comforting, and rather pleasant, in an old-school sort of way. 6/10

The Glenlivet 14yo (80° Proof, Cadenhead, b.1970s): Cadenhead still called it The Glenlivet, at the time, not Minmore, nor Glenlivet. Wonder what Chivas Brothers, the current owners of Glenlivet, would think of that. In any case, this is likely a late 1950s, or early 1960s distillation and, judging by the colour, a sherry maturation. What could go wrong? Everything, if tonight's first dram is an indicator. Nose: very deeply sherried, with walnut oil, raspberry vinegar, old tools, hazelnut shells, chestnut purée, crushes hazelnuts, linseed oil -- scratch that: it is wok oil, past its prime, in a sheet-metal wok. The texture is milky, bordering on creamy, and it has a faint bitterness (the metal). Finish: similar notes, here, with a mix woody and metallic tones. Shoe polish, teak cabinets, wood varnish, sesame oil in a sheet-metal wok, chestnut purée, chesterfield sofas. The pick of the litter, although I do not consider it a total winner either. 7/10

11 October 2017

10/10/2017 A few drams at the SMWS

A few months ago, the SMWS opened new venues in London and Edinburgh. They are called Kaleidoscope. They are open to non-members. Tonight, JS and I try one of them.

9.128 24yo d.1992 Scented candles on a fruit cake (51.3%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 172b): nose: alcohol burn and perfume, then apple cider, lots of meadow flowers, jasmine and lime juice. Creamy doughnut emerges (but not that Krispy Kreme shite, you know). More citrus comes out (pink grapefruit, pomelo), but the heat is still intimidating. Mouth: mellow as dough, yet beware! It has enough horsepower to knock out a pony. Green chilli, warm broth, potato peels. This mouth is rather dreary, to be honest. With water, it becomes even drearier. A drop of peach nectar in a glass of water, drowned and uninteresting. Finish: fruit comes out, here, soft, baked apples, some green wood, soft butter. Meh. Alright, nothing special. With water, it is a teaspoon of coffee in a jug of watered-down peach juice, with, perhaps, the most delicate hint of chocolate. 6/10

50.95 27yo 1990/2017 Magical moments (59.8%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 144b): nose: sweet pastry, golden but not fully baked yet. Further, it is nail-varnish remover and flowers -- is this a grain in disguise? It also has a note of cold steel, which is unexpected. It becomes juicier, after a while, with peach nectar showing up. Mouth: similar flowery/floury notes, with an alcoholic bite -- this is strong and woody. Birch splinters. The second sip is softer, more gentle, though it still presents a lot of wood. Woody yoghurt it is, then. Finish: more flowers and pastry dough, yet they are mostly buried under a lot of wood and alcohol. The second sip is more bearable, but not much happens, any longer -- just a few flowers and a little dough. 7/10

7.128 12yo Swaying palm trees at sunset (60.1%, SMWS Society Cask exclusive to Devonshire Square, 160b): Devonshire Square is the Kaleidoscope's address, you will have understood. Nose: milk chocolate, chocolate truffles, decaying cherries; this is nice and fruity, if fiercely strong. It very much swings from cherries to milk chocolate and back, like a good praline. Later, a whiff of wood varnish appears, pipe tobacco, then vanilla and Scottish tablet. Mouth: surprisingly soft, it has darker chocolate than the nose, with cherries again. Squashed raspberries join the party. Pink pepper and, still, chocolate. Finish: magnificent chocolate with raspberry coulis and strawberry stems, hot custard and crushed cardamom. This one is much more to my taste! 8/10

25.70 26yo d.1990 In a perfumed garden (58.3%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, finished in a Sauternes Cask, 170b): this one caused a bit of a stir on social media and other circles. It is allegedly the last cask of Rosebank the society had (in light of the announcement yesterday, that Rosebank is to re-open, take that with a grain of salt) and was launched with adequate fanfare, alongside a similarly-aged Macallan. The labels are black, supposedly answering members' request for an easy way to distinguish desirable bottles on the shelf (when are they going to introduce crystal decanters and wooden boxes?, tOMoH asks thee). Both were available to prebook, and a preselected panel was meant to receive samples (paid for?) in order to further promote the bottles on social media. All that is well and not groundbreaking. There was much debate about the finishing, but the real point of contention was the price. This Rosebank retails at £875. The Macallan is even more expensive. 25.69, which was released in 2014 and was limited to 35 bottles (!) cost a whopping £160. One can imagine how a 540% price increase was received by members. It is nice, then, to be able to try it by the dram and decide. Nose: an odd mix of manuka honey, flowers and leather -- and it works. It turns dryer and dryer; after giving out scents of a pony ride at a village fair, it morphs and smells of dried flowers in an empty vase. Perfume-y indeed, with a touch of jam, after a while. Mouth: soft and milky, discreet, but spices quickly turn up -- ginger, lemongrass, galangal. Lemon drops are in the background. Actually, the lemon drops become bolder and bolder. Finish: long and powerful, with potent lemon drops, quite some drying, woody notes, dried flowers, hay bales, Fisherman's Friends. This is a decent dram with a good nose, but the price is really extravagant for the quality. Waste of money, innit. 7/10

Glad to have visited the place, if not entirely convinced by it. Music -- argh. Hip hop does go down a treat when drinking exclusive whisky -- not. Air conditioning -- argh. It dries my eyes so much I start crying, on the way back. No ice cream; they discontinued it. One of the shelves contains a couple of dozens of old-style bottlings, but they are not available for general consumption -- only for special events... and to tease punters, obviously.
It feels like a regular bar, and to a degree, that is what it is. I do think, however, that the atmosphere is not very cosy. The staff is helpful, but they hardly project an aura of passion.

As I said: not really convinced.

6 October 2017

04/10/2017 The Way of Whisky

A Japanese-whisky tasting at Bull in a China Shop that doubles up as a launch event for Dave Broom's new book? What a good idea!

The cask is made by Alphaville

The venue is what looks like a tent at the back of the pub. It is pleasant and open, but on this October Wednesday night, is is also windy, chilly and noisy. The complimentary highball does not help and I do not drink tea, which is also offered.

"Can you hear me at that back table, lady on the phone? I didn't mean to embarrass you..."

Odd choice of glasses

The session is a mix of anecdotes, findings, gathered during various trips to Japan, over the past eighteen years, excerpts from the book and some dramming.

The Yamazaki 12yo (43%, OB imported by Morrison Bowmore, b. ca 2017): I have not had this in a very long while. Good to revisit it. Nose: freshly-cut orange slices and dry, white wood. Mouth: light and gentle, almost absent. Soon, orange slices appear, delicately acidic and fruity. Finish: again, orange slices, yet this time with vanilla and a touch of white sawdust. This is perfect, yet also rather boring. I am sure the huge tumbler does not help the nose shine brighter. 7/10

"Whisky writers rarely read from their books. We usually pour whisky down your throats, then you buy the book."

About Masetaka Taketsuru and Shinjiro Torii's notorious fall-out:

"Taketsuru and Torii had musical differences. That difficult third album."

Nikka From the Barrel (51.4%, OB imported by La Maison du Whisky, b. ca 2017, 5-4-31, 6/060?): just like the other day, the HMRC sticker is on the bottle code, hence the question mark. Nose: mild spices, beard (yep, we are in Shoreditch), dried apricots and walnuts. Mouth: nutty, with more dried apricot and very old sofas. Finish: it packs a punch, with wood, nuts, dried apricots and a warm stove. 7/10

"He went to Yoichi, which is a bit like the Campbeltown of Hokkaido. Except, less violent."

Hibiki Japanese Harmony (43%, OB imported by Beam Inc. UK, b. ca 2017): we had this a few days ago. Nose: jasmine flowers, honeysuckle, rosewater. Mouth: soft, velvety, with orange blossom and rosehip. It feels watery, after a moment in the mouth. Finish: suddenly very watery, with a vaguely bitter touch -- Brazil nuts, even Kluwak nuts. I preferred it the other day. 7/10

Fuji Sanroku Signature Blend (50%, Kirin Distillers, JU854): this blend is very exciting, as this bottling of Fuji-Gotemba is not available in Europe. Straight from Broom's collection. Nose: sweet almond paste, warm, sweet laces being shaped. Mouth: soft, marzipan-y, it then opens up with gentle milled pepper. Finish: mellow, with cherries, magmarzipan, chewy Turkish delights. It also has balsawood and sawdust. This is great, if a little drying. 8/10

Nikka Coffey Malt (45%, OB, b. ca 2017): from Miyagikyo distillery. Nose: Heavy bakery scents, banana turnovers, hot custard. Mouth: mellow as silk, with custard, yoghurt sauce (korma) and a hint of vanilla. Finish: custard, coconut cream, hazelnut paste. Lovely drop. 8/10

JS: "Japan is Number One Drinks."

The Chita (43%, Nikka imported by Beam Suntory UK, b. ca 2017): have not yet tried this either, yay. It is the first we get in a Glencairn too. Nose: chocolate éclairs, yet very subdued, very discreet. Chrysanthemums. Mouth: bad sequence, this. It feels like water. Diluted custard, a touch of liquorice and aniseed. I find it quite bitter. Finish: some action, with lots of flowers, honey and Turkish delights. The whole is delicate, subtle, but flowery. 6/10

Chichibu 2012/2016 The Peated (54.5%, OB Ichiro's Malt imported by Number One Drinks, Bourbon Barrels, Sherry Butts, Hogsheads, 6350b, b#5697): nose: roasted barley and toothpaste. Despite that, it is elegant like a rosewood fire, with pencil lead and pencil shavings. It becomes wider as time goes on, and certainly benefits from being in a Glencairn glass. Mouth: more roasted barley, warm embers, decaying roses Finish: burnt wood, smoked blackberry-tree wood, caramelised honey. 7/10

Good little tasting. The cold and the noise were occasionally inconvenient, but not enough to be a real nuisance. Two girls chatted behind us during the whole tasting. That irritated me more. Not sure why only two out seven drams were served in Glencairns, with the rest in tumblers -- shortage of glasses?

We exchange a few words with DB afterwards, which is always a pleasure. Also, MR makes a late appearance, as does OF. MR starts pouring Elements of Islay; I try Ma2, Lp8, Br7. Tomorrow will be a delicate day. :|-)

01/10/2017 The Whisky Show 2017 (Day 2 -- Part 2)

The story starts here.

I have the lamb, today, then then sponge cake.

PP sits next to me. He has to clear a couple of glasses to do that. I tell him that the seats are taken already, that they are collecting their dessert and will shortly be back.
"If someone wants to fight for this space, I'm up for it!" :-D
No-one ever comes back.

OB leaves some of his crumble on his plate which I tease him for.
OB: "It is orange. They put oranges in the crumble."
tOMoH: "Oranges in an apple crumble is like four people in a threesome -- disgusting!"

Quick visit to BA.

Glentauchers 19yo (53.5%, Elixir Distillers for The Whisky Show, 152b): nose: earth and herbs, with some earthy fruit. Mouth: hot, metallic, with jam fruits. Finish: that lingering metallic note, hot earth and marmalade. 7/10

Someone makes me try Littlemill 27yo 1990/2017 (51.3%, OB Private Cellar Edition, 500b): extremely fruity. 9/10

JS and Cavalier head off to their respective masterclasses. Cavalier booked two that overlap. He goes to R-Patz's, whilst JS goes to Lumsden's. The time has come for me to run like a maniac, suddenly aware that the show is three-quarters done and I am not even halfway down my list.

Teeling 14yo Revival Vol. III (46%, OB Revival, Pineau des Charentes Finish): nose: light, fruity, with berries, Demerara sugar -- this is quite sweet, in fact. Mouth: the Pineau des Charentes now shines, with sweetness, yellow fruit, grapes. It is very fruity indeed. Finish: again, sweet and fruity, full of win. I love this grape-y profile, which, unlike a brandy, will not give me a headache. \o/ 8/10

Teeling 15yo Revival IV (46%, cask sample, Muscat Finish): this is a future release. Nose: Virginia tobacco and dried apricots. Mouth: drying, with tobacco and bitter coffee. Finish: some fruit, some coffee bitterness, Demerara rum, caster sugar. I think I have had too much booze. All the same, this does not excite me. 6/10

Ah! Glen Moray!

Glen Moray 18yo (47.2%, OB Elgin Heritage, 1st Fill Bourbon Casks, 28N24): nose: vanilla, pastry, custard. Mouth: soft, velvety, with all sorts of custard and a hint of wine. Finish: nut oil and liqueur pralines. 7/10

Glen Moray 25yo 1988/2013 (43%, OB, Port Cask Finish, 21M88/28N15): nose: jammy toasts, distant pralines and chestnut puree. Mouth: rum -- sweet, yet drying. Is that rancio? Finish: long, sweet, with rancio and lots of caster sugar. 7/10

TC and I venture outside for a breath of fresh air. HMS Waverley is here, running back and forth between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Last time I saw it, it was sailing between Arran and Kintyre. Wonder why it is in London. Tower Bridge soon opens to let it go.

I have hit my wall, yet I need to push forward. I did not pay for a weekend ticket to drop out!

Glenfiddich IPA (43%, OB, India Pale Ale Cask Finish, L34B44311005130830): I finally get to try this popular bottle, though it took an inordinate amount of time to even get the bar tender (yes, it is themed as a bar) to acknowledge my presence. Nose: wood, staves, beer kegs, cream soda. Mouth: light and fresh, with barley sugar, boiled sweets and, perhaps, a drop of fruit beer (unless it is the power of suggestion). Finish: it feels fizzy, with barley, hay, wooden staves and cider. Nice. 7/10

JS and Cavalier come back from the masterclasses... with lots of masterglasses. I do not take notes about the future £50,000 50yo Dalmore. It tastes like a decent £150 whisky, though.

Glenmorangie 11yo 1991/2002 Missouri Oak Reserve (55.7%, OB, Bourbon Casks, 1000b, b#702): nose: vanilla, shortbread, sweet shortcrust. Mouth: soft, sweet, mellow, with shortbread and a gentle bitterness. Finish: yep, soft, sweet, shortbread-y, with a touch of honey and some bitterness. 8/10

Glenmorangie 1993/2005 Truffle Oak Reserve (60.5%, OB, 886b, b#347): nose: this one is more metallic, herbaceous, while still shortbread-y. Mouth: stronger and more acidic. Finish: strong, metallic, it has sage and hot chilli on custard. 7/10

Glenmorangie 10yo 1993/2004 Burr Oak Reserve (56.3%, OB, Bourbon Casks, 1152b, b#887): nose: herbaceous, with hot dough. Mouth: this is meatier, without being really meaty. It also has a nutty touch. Finish: nuts, chestnut puree. This is good. 7/10

Glenmorangie 12yo 1993/2005 (55.7%, OB Single Cask, Swamp Oak Cask, C#1946, 247b, b#133): this one is extremely rare and sought after. Nose: almost grain-y, it has toasted coconut and charred oak. Mouth: rich, thick, coating, nutty, with polished dashboards and dried orange rinds. Finish: long, leathery, drying, with orange syrup. 7/10

Glenmorangie 12yo 1993/2005 (58.2%, OB, Post Oak Cask, C#1947, 296b, b#23): I did not even know this one existed. Nose: burnt chocolate, toasted wood. Mouth: darkened dough, chilli, oak -- this is strong. Finish: chocolate and chestnut. Nice. 7/10

Oh! We have dream-dram tokens left, and less than an hour to spend them. Off to Springbank's!

Springbank 25yo d.1974 (46%, OB to celebrate Frank McHardy's 40 years in distilling, 610b, b#132): nose: orchard fruit, dunnage warehouse and pastry. Mouth: meow. Apple turnovers, dunnage warehouse, dust, musty casks. Finish: caramelised apple, dunnage warehouse, old-style varnish (whatever that means). This is amazing. 9/10

The BenRiach 40yo 1975/2016 (53%, OB, Sherry Butt, C#7028, 511b, b#171): I have always been wary of these peated BenRiachs. The non-peated are great, but I always feared the peat would offset the distillery's typical fruity profile too much. Nose: refined smoke, spent cigars, musty warehouses and potato purée. Mouth: warm, with caramelised apricot compote and hot pears. Finish: wow! Farm-y peat, earth, hay and much overripe, tropical fruit, in a clogged-sink kind of way. Of course, notes do not do it justice. This is stupendous. 10/10

Tomatin 36yo (46%, OB Small Batch Release, Ex-Bourbon Casks & First Fill Spanish Oloroso Sherry Butts, B#3, 800b, b#211): nose: tropical fruits. Mouth: soft, sweet, delicate and fruity. Finish: a round-house kick of passion fruit. Smashing. Again, short notes for a great dram. Much better than B#2, almost as good as B#1. 10/10

EC shouts: "D!"
The GlenDronach man halts his conversation, turns around, all smile.
EC: "Not you, the other D!"
DW joins us. I am giggling.

EC also shows me what CB's notes look like.
Teh lolz.

This morning, I planned to have another after-party. It does not seem such a good idea, now. We are all whiskied-out to a point that has not been reached in years.
All the same, dom666 and I have a nightcap, courtesy of JS. :-)

You might remember it from last year


All in all, it is a well-oiled machine run professionally. The brasserie, in particular, has seen major improvements over the years and is now functioning smoothly, with no excessive queue, no shortage (well, apart from the veggie option, but then we went late). We cannot help but feel this edition was more sanitised and streamlined than ever, meaning it was also less exciting. Just as with The Meaning of Life, however, that is until we start thinking of specific moments. When we do, those moments turn out to be as precious as they ever were:
  • We did have an awful lot of drams
  • Those drams were globally of a similar quality to every year's, albeit from different exhibitors, perhaps
  • There were some extraordinary drams and, despite the glories on display the previous years, I cannot recall giving more than 10/10 to anything outside a masterclass in the past; I did yesterday -- to a dream-dram
  • The social element is taking a more important place, with our circle extending to a considerable number of party-goers, as well as exhibitors, with all the pre- and post-party shenanigans that involves
Things that mildly irritated me were:
  • The queueing: some queued for over an hour to get in -- and that is after the doors had opened. The queue to buy dream dram tokens was also long and frustrating -- certainly at the beginning of the show, when everybody had the same idea
  • It is now explicitly forbidden to bring bottles into the venue, which is a shame, as it clamps down on sharing. Although it is fully understandable: it is impossible to stop bottle-nicking, if people can freely circulate with their own bottles
  • The tables: not enough of them, not placed centrally enough. In fact, the whole concept of tables in such a big venue makes little sense, as opposed to the Whisky Show Old & Rare, where the smaller venue is the perfect setting for tables
  • The crowd: it seemed busier than previous years and it was often difficult to reach a stand. Or chat with the celebrities
  • The stands: there were so many of them, I could not visit them all -- not even the ones I really wanted to visit (A.D. Rattray, anyone?) A nice problem to have, this
I blame the general "morosity" about this year's show on the lack of a life-changing masterclass, this year. I did not attend any and did not want to. Even the Glenmorangie one and its extremely rare cask experiments did not appeal to me.
One could see that as a massive blow, after the crescendo in excitement and wonderment of the previous years (2011: Exotic Fruits and Sherried Manager's Drams; 2014: Gordon MacPhail's A New Generation, Aurora Brorealis and I did it my way; 2015: Gone but never forgotten; 2016: Bowmore -- from one master to the next). The reality, though, is that no masterclass looked tempting enough in 2012 (in hindsight, the one with Japanese whiskies and Gold Bowmore would have been an obvious highlight) and 2013, so skipping a year is not a first occurence. besides, it is nice to not spend insane amounts of money and enjoy the floor instead. Finally, a reality-check is welcome. Last year's Bowmore extravaganza was likely the pinaccle of one's whisky journey. There will be other peaks, and it is good for those to come in later, lest they pale in comparison with the One.

But yeah, all in all, I will be back next year, I would imagine. :-)