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. :-)

5 October 2017

01/10/2017 The Whisky Show 2017 (Day 2 -- Part 1)

The story starts here.

First, breakfast. We go back to The Modern Pantry and all have the Dhansak veal mince omelette. I had it yesterday and loved it. Instead of the green juice, I take the orange one. Full of carrot, ginger ad other healthy stuff. The whole sorts me out.

A quick walk takes us to the venue, where the queues are already long, but they are made enjoyable by some sharing souls (chiefly PS who brought the 6th release of Brora and other bits and bobs). I pour my Benriach 1976/1991 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice) to whomever cares to try it, and we are in in no time at all.

We never made it to the Loch Lomond stand, yesterday, so it feels right to start there, today. GM recognises me from the previous years and teases me for not joining them yesterday. Fair enough. There is a lot of work, here.

JS asks OB, dom666 and me if we want to attend a mini tasting in the Secret Garden on the theme Japanese whisky. OB dares not join -- after all, he cannot place Japan on the map. dom666 and I say yes. A chance to sit down and relax. With Dave Broom.

I manage to catch the very Dave Broom for a second and exchange a few words, mostly about our surreal encounter on Islay, this summer. We will see him on Wednesday for another shindig. He confirms the content will not be the same. It is a yes for the Secret Garden, then.

Back to Loch Lomond.

Glen Scotia Double Cask (46%, OB, 15121F/15120B, b. ca 2017): nose: cut apples, apple crumble and a minimum of smoke. Mouth: hot custard poured on apple crumble. Can you tell I am looking forward to dessert? Finish: slightly dry, it has roasted apples, tarte tatin and a drop of caramel. 7/10

Glen Scotia Victoriana (51.5%, OB, 19121F/19121B, b. ca 2017): nose: this is manlier, with petrol, metallic tools and lime, maybe cold, diluted coffee. Mouth: apple compote on a cast-iron stove, metal and smoke. The whole is gentle, though. Finish: long, with warm compote and hot iron, as well as dark chocolate and a drop of black coffee. This reminds me of the fabulous 12yo we had in Dornoch. 8/10

Glen Scotia 25yo (48.8%, OB, American Oak Barrels, b.2017, 16122F/16122B): nose: butterscotch, shortbread, sweet and salty, with caramelised honey and sea-salted caramel. Mouth: soft, creamy, with lots of salt and shortbread. Finish: salty shortbread and pastry. This is great. 9/10

Inchmoan 12yo (46%, OB Island Collection, 15531F/15530B, b. ca 2017): this Inchmoan is made in three different types of stills (pot, Lomond and Coffey), matured separately, then married together. Nose: lots of bandages, coal and smoke from a stove. Mouth: soft, velvety and milky. Finish: peat, burnt wood, honey and roasted corn. I like this. 7/10

Inchmoan 1992/2017 (48.8%, OB Island Collection Vintage Release, Refill Bourbon Barrels): this one, we are told, is made in two types of stills only (pot and Lomond, I think), then matured separately and married. Nose: gentle, with peach and heavily-faded leather. Mouth: it is a bit more acidic here, but still soft and gentle, with unripe mirabelle plum. Finish: finally, some peat appears, mild and pleasant, with a tiny bitterness. 8/10

Yes, good products again, at Loch Lomond. dom666 falls for their single grain, which is only called that because it is distilled in a Coffey still: it is in fact a silent malt -- 100% malted barley distilled in a Coffey still. The Japanese call that a Coffey malt, not bound by the SWA's rules.

Hunter Laing, here we come!

Tormore 28yo 1988/2017 (50%, HL The Old Malt Cask, Sherry Butt, C#13189, 391b): nose: green hazelnut, unripe medlar, thin and spirit-y. Warm wood joins the game, alongside sweet green grapes. Mouth: yup, it has the sweetness of green grapes. Finish: nice, with the fruitiness and the sweetness of white wine, yet it feels a bit green for my liking. 7/10

Time for the Secret Garden, which is soon rechristened the Whisky Jungle. I immediately wonder if it is such a good idea after all. It is too early for me to need to sit down, and, let us face it, Japanese whisky is not exactly my bag. Nothing wrong with it; I simply have no time, money, or shelf space for it.

The Hakushu Distiller's Reserve (43%, OB imported by Morrison Bowmore, LX7 ALA): nose: super elegant, with jasmine and honeysuckle, honey and powdered sugar. Fresh. Mouth: delicate, custard-y and flowery. Finish: again, subtle, fruity, with flowers (jasmine) and honey. We had this last year, in this very garden, as part of a tasting on the theme peat. I detect no peat, this time. Broom claims there is a little of it, but I think he is on the sauce. 7/10

Hibiki Japanese Harmony (43%, Suntory Whisky imported by Beam Inc. UK): nose: very grain-like, with lots of chou dough and a touch of Virginia tobacco, soft chocolate and lychee. Mouth: creamy, velvety, with custard and milk-chocolate coulis. Finish: soft, sweet, dough-y, with chou dough, flower paste and jam. Succulent. 8/10

Nikka From the Barrel (51.4%, OB imported by La Maison du Whisky, 5-4-31, ?1506): the HRMC sticker is on the bottle code, hence the question mark. Nose: dried fruits (figs, dates) and a slightly medicinal note. Mouth: very velvety, with spices and nuts, hazelnut paste. Finish: nuts and overripe red apples. This is still not totally my style, but it is drinkable. 7/10

DB: "This is a bottle that fits in your hand. I'm from Glasgow. We don't always tend to use a glass."

Mars Shinshu Komagatake (52%, Hombo Shinshu Nature of Shinshu imported by Number One Drinks): now, this is new to me! A whisky from It is not imported into Europe, which explains. Courtesy of Dave. Nose: more farm-y, it is still elegant, with decaying red grapes. Mouth: more powerful, spicy as hell, whilst remaining a fruity type. Finish: big, powerful, with a subtle farm-y note and nuts. 7/10

DB "This is a raucous, boisterous night out in Osaka!"

Nikka Coffey Malt (45%, OB imported by La Maion du Whisky, 6/08F38001): nose: lemon pie, custard and toffee. Mouth: pastry, toffee and a little custard. Banoffee pie is what it is! Very creamy. Finish: lots of grain character -- custard, banoffee pie, banana sponge cake, vanilla. 8/10

Chichibu 2012/2016 The Peated (54.5%, OB Ichiro's Malt imported by Number One Drinks, Bourbon Barrels, Sherry Butts, Hogsheads, 76350b, b#5200): nose: farm-y, in an elegant way. Mouth: custard, toffee, shortbread and a hint of smoke. Finish: hot custard, toffee, brownie, roasted beans -- though I do not think it is coffee. 7/10

DB: "The smoke is like cow breath." AND HE IS RIGHT!
tOMoH: "How do you know that?"

Well, it was a brilliant time, after all. Good whiskies, a nice presentation and some quiet tasting, rather than frantic elbowing at the stands.

We join up with the rest of the gang and imagine the bouncers touting: "Mitsubishis? Supermans? Masterclasses?"

We go for lunch. That mini-tasting had hefty pours and the water came late. I am not my usual self.

Read on here.

30/09/2017 The Whisky Show 2017 (Day 1 -- Part 2)

The story starts here.

I have the roast haddock, then the lamb shoulder (yes, two meals), then the apple crumble. The vegetarian option is depleted, so I cannot try it.

Lamb shoulder

Apple crumble with supermarket-whisky-custard

Back to Whisky.Auction, where we recognise N, whom we met at the Campbeltown festival.

Tomatin 10yo (70° PROOF, OB, 26²/³ Fl.OZS, b.1970s): nose: jammy fruit. Mouth: velvety and very good, jammy, fruity, with a hint of pepper. Finish: wonderful, soft, sweet and fruity. Love it. 8/10

The Glen Garioch 8yo (40%, OB, b.1980s): been willing to try this for a while. Nose: vinegar, jute bags, humid earth. Mouth: soft, but a bit acidic too. dom666 finds it sulphury. He is obviously drunk. Finish: peat smoke, farmyard. This is nice and interesting, though it still has too much vinegar to be a real winner for me. 7/10

We scramble to find more things to try -- preferably on our to-do list.


Benromach 15yo (43%, OB, b. ca 2017): nose: caramel and sherry sweetness, with a timid nuttiness. Mouth: nutty sherry, perhaps a bit too bitter, but it is ok. Has it smoke in the back? Finish: big, smoky and nutty -- roasted, caramelised chestnuts. 7/10


Linkwood 14yo 1972/1987 (61.6%, GMP, 246b): nose: dusty and acidic, vinegar-y, with a super-long finish. This deserves more time, as it is a challenging dram. It does not shine immediately. 6/10

Elements of Islay/Single Malts of Scotland, where we discover that MR is leaving her job at the end of the year.

Tamnavulin 40yo (40.6%, SD The Single Malts of Scotland Director's Special): had this one last year, but cannot resist having it again. Nose: mint an honey -- this is so beautiful! Flowery and sweet, with powdered sugar and Turkish delights. Mouth: soft, yet strangely bitter -- imagine crushed, dried sage on pastry. Finish: very fruity, with still lots of pastry. Good! 10/10

Ben Nevis 20yo 1996/2017 (53.7%, Elixir Distillers The Single Malts of Scotland, Sherry Butt, C#1528, 466b): it would seem Speciality Drinks is now called Elixir Drinks. Nose: jammy. Mouth: jammy. Finish: super fruity. This is an excellent, most unexpected Ben Nevis! 8/10

Glen Grant 25yo 1992/2017 (57.2%, Elixir Drinks The Single Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Barrel, C#35957, 153b): nose: herbaceous fruit, sage and berries. Mouth: strong, with souped-up jam. Finish: strong, with quite a bit of smoke and squashed berries. 8/10

Glengoyne 40yo (56.8%, SD The Single Malts of Scotland The Director's Special): nose: liquorice, peppermint, sherry and fruit. Mouth: woody, but goody, with liquorice, mint, ginger. Finish: tar and liquorice. Well made, though a bit much for me. 8/10

dom666: "You want to try?"
OB: "What is it?"
dom666: "Talisker Skye."
OB: "Talisker Skye!? Ha! Ha!... Sorry."


Laphroaig 20yo (53.8%, SD The Single Malts of Scotland Director's Special): nose: soft and peachy, pretty sweet. Mouth: peaches and Turkish delights. Finish: the most delicate smoke and loads of fruity sweetness. 8/10

At this point, an Aussie girl and her Italian partner enter the conversation in French. They seem nice enough, but also quite heavily imbibed. He asks me what I am having.

tOMoH: "Laphroaig."
him: "Maaaaaaah, you cannot have a Laphroaig now. There is nothing but peat in that. It is not good."
tOMoH: "Well, I find it nice."
him: "How old is it?"
tOMoH: "Twenty."
him: "Maaaaaaah, that is pointless, not good. It is only wood. A whisky is only good between twelve and fifteen. After that, it is only wood."
tOMoH: "Ma tu, non sai niente al whisky, vero?"
him: "Seriously, after fifteen years, it is only wood. That is not worth drinking. Throw it away."
tOMoH: "OK."

Fortunately for me, unfortunately for dom666, said dom666 announces he is of Italian descent. It turns out his ancestors were from a village... next to this bloke's. They become best buddies (at least, one becomes the other's best buddy), while I can finish my tasting.

The world's newest best friends

Glenburgie 18yo 1998/2017 (59.5%, Elixir Distillers The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#751399, 252b): nose: pepper and squashed fruit, with a hint of coffee. This smells strong. Mouth: hot, with fruit, sizzling in butter. Finish: wonderful compote and fruit jam. Excellent 'burgie. 8/10

This is a finger.
That is also a finger.

Time to go; we are kicked out, as usual. I try to locate kiwi DH and Ingvar Ronde, who both said they would come to the after party (dom666 and I met Ingvar at TWE, yesterday). No trace of either, nor of OF, whom I also want to invite. Tough luck.

JS, dom666 and Cavalier make it. It is a gentle session with no notes, during which we have:
Benriach 1976/1991 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice)
Glenesk 1984/2004 (43%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, JD/DCG)
Lochside 22yo 1966/1989 (43%, SV, C#7253--55, 800b, b#444)
Bladnoch 23yo 1977/2001 (53.6%, OB Rare Malts Selection, 6000b, b#0565)
Cameronbridge 25yo 1979/2005 (59.9%, DT Rare Auld, C#3523, 194b, b#92)
Exotic 4.3 Cognac (40.3%, Old Brothers, 528b)
Laphroaig 27yo 1980/2007 (57.4%, OB, 972b, b#29)

I observe that it was perhaps too leisurely a day, that I did not make the best out of it, trying only ten or twelve whiskies. And then I count and notice it was actually twenty-nine. Hm. Good thing we had an after-party to break the thirty barrier. ;-)

Read on here.