6 November 2019

05/11/2019 Banffire Night 2019

Another 5th November, another load of fireworks gone up smoke.

Banff 34yo 1976/2010 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice, Refill Sherry Hogshead, AJ/AFGJ): nose: mmmMmmMmMMmMmmMh! Immediately, it is precious wood (polished teak cabinets) and musty dunnage warehouses, then soaked prunes, banana rum and stewed rhubarb, served in an oaken fruit bowl. Next are leather-bound books in a lacquered cabinet, brandy, bone-dry orange peel, stewed plums... Say! this nose is fantastic. It takes on a distinctly brandy-like bouquet that is very pleasant. Clay floors and dirty socks show up upon second sniffing, giving it a mildly-dirty edge that makes it even more interesting. A pinch of balsa-wood sawdust completes the nose. The dominant remains ester-y and wine-y, though, with brandy and stewed fruits. Mouth: hm! It feels reduced. Quite badly, for once. I am rarely bothered by reduction, but this is too watery. Shy on the palate, it is silky, milky, softly fruity (peach pulp), but also quite thin, unfortunately. Crushed red capsicum, cellophane, custard powder, cream soda -- all that is very quiet. Lemon-sprinkled almond paste -- the taste, not the texture, which spells almond milk, I suppose. Only at the third sip does this gain a bit of mouth presence, with mustard tickling the tip of the tongue. Finish: fruity and nutty, it redeems itself in the finish, with hazelnut vinegar, dark-grape skins, walnut stain and almond oil. Strangely enough, the dilution creates no disappointment, here. In fact, the finish is rather long and coats the front of the mouth, chewy. Mustard powder appears in the back, after a wee while. Superb nose, weak mouth, good finish. Why have Gordon & MacPhail bottled this at 43%? Even 46 would have been better, I would wager. Pity. 8/10 (Thanks for the dram, JS)

1 November 2019

31/10/2019 November outturn preview at the SMWS

Yes, mid-week. HT, SD and JS are there.

9.170 24yo 1995/2019 Australian outback (53.7%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-PX Hogshead, 195b): nose: pine nuts, at first, that soon make room for overly-baked apricot tart. Insistent nosing shows just how strong this is: it burns the nostrils. Next up is a mahogany drinks cabinet, elegant and polished. Mouth: soft, silky and almost bland. It has the texture of squashed apricot, but little taste. Is that a touch of cigar smoke? Yes. Finish: silky, soft and sweet, it has thick dark-chocolate pudding and a touch of overly-toasted coconut shavings. Good. 7/10

35.245 16yo 2003/2019 A conversation piece (54.9%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill Barrel/Custom Cask, 250b): how dark is this one, then? Nose: full-on polished dashboards and a shoemaker's workshop -- leather, polish, polished wood, varnish, lacquer, peculiar glue -- but also seared shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and roasted peach stones. Mouth: mellow, with nut liqueur and a lick of soaked staves. Whilst keeping it in the mouth, it starts to tickle, with dried ginger shavings and dried lemongrass. Finish: super-nutty, here, it has polished walnut shells. Really nice. But it turns plank-y at the second sip. 7/10

36.167 21yo d.1997 Nuts in velvet (58.3%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 148b): nose: pine needles in custard, body butter, then a little dry tobacco leaves. Pineapple peels, pomelo skins... it really smells a lot like moisturiser! Mouth: mellow again, it has a creamy, yoghurt-y texture, augmented with cracked green pepper and green chilli. It develops a slight bitterness, too: cucumber skins, to be precise. The second sip is very acidic, with grapefruit and unripe lime, as well as ginger. Finish: it is bitter, here, with large gherkins, cucumber skins again, before a citrus-y acidity storms the scene, carried by cinnamon and nutmeg (JS). Excellent nose. The rest does not live up to the expectation, as far as I am concerned. 7/10

66.157 20yo d.1998 Eternal bliss! (59.2%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 253b): nose: barbecued peaches and char-grilled pineapples, yoghurt, burnt pine cones, embers. This is the best nose of the night, so far. Much later on, farm-y scents appear: farm paths, farmyard, henhouses, barbed wire. Mouth: citrus-y yoghurt and a softy-soft palate, though the citrus grows in intensity (lemon and grapefruit). Unripe Chinese gooseberry and crystallised pineapple drops also emerge. Finish: long, earthy (scorched earth), peaty (baked clay), and citrus-y (lime, grapefruit), it also has pineapple and Turkish delights. I like this a lot. 8/10

26.129 8yo d.2010 Pineapple ramen (57.8%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 231b): nose: wow, this is waxy and a half, with candle wax, apple peels, waxy mandarins, mango skins and grapefruit segments -- this is beautiful! Mouth: it starts mellow, yet turns fiery quite quickly, with soft red chilli, shredded mandarin peels, a pinch of nutmeg, bay leaves... no! Kafir lime leaves and solidified candle wax. It manages a lovely balance of spices and fruit, this one. Finish: long and very fruity, it has soft citrus, a drop of milk chocolate, chocolate pudding and a pinch of nutmeg here too. Drat. I like a young Clynelish. The second in a row. Am I in trouble? 8/10

Good times.

27 October 2019

23/10/2019 Pip Hills -- Stories from our Founder at the SMWS

Tonight, the founder of the SMWS is in town to lead a tasting celebrating the publication of his book. Not a little excited.
detachedblue, PS, HT, ZC, CS and JS are also here, making it a proper social event.
My mood changes quite quickly, when PS tells me the same event in Edinburgh had five drams, a copy of the book and a full meal, whereas we will have a copy of the book and three drams. For the same price. Double standards are not something I disregard easily. This feeds my growing pile of discontent towards the Edinburgh venues -- you will remember that almost every experience there is tarnished by mishaps that can mostly be attributed to the staff in the venues.

Anyway. Replenished with a few sips of an excellent, recent 46 courtesy of PS, I follow everyone upstairs for the tasting, and prepare to cut the host some slack. After all, he is not responsible for the management of the venues of a company he left a long time ago.

Time for the first dram, which is not poured blind. JS and I fall off our chairs. The Founder came all the way from Edinburgh to present drams from the current outturn. Those are drams that have been available throughout the month and have been tasted by most in attendance, possibly including tonight, whilst waiting for this shindig to start. For £35 a head, I was not realistically expecting a 1.1, a 62.x or a 99.x. At the same time, I also do not pay to see a DJ play the flipping radio!

We do our best to hide our disappointment and focus on the stories. After all, the important part of the evening is the presence of Pip Hills. Speaking of which: he looks at the pipettes on the tables: "What is that?"
"It's for precision," replies someone from the audience. Hills ditches the pipettes and pours from the jug into his glass -- 1/3 whisky 2/3 water. Interesting.

46.82 26yo d.1992 A journey from light to dark (53.5%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 230b): nose: cured ham, crayon shavings, daffodil leaves, perhaps some ink and shy tobacco leaves. Nothing jumps at me. It is rather quiet, even if the alcohol turns more assertive. As time passes, caramel shows up. Mouth: soft and shy, it has a little pomelo zest, diluted vanilla custard and very little else, until ginger powder appears. This is remarkably shy on the palate, though. Lime zest, ginger powder, not much else. Finish: big finish, ample, zesty, with white peach slices and pomelo segments and a minuscule spoonful of caramel flan. Simple, but efficient. PS's 46 from earlier was more to my taste, though. Water seems to make this more talkative -- or slightly louder, rather. 7/10

PH: "It's like racing a car. If you do it every day, it starts to lack the exciting factor. Apart from the possibility of being killed, which improves that perception no end."

1.215 15yo 2004/2019 Formidable chocolate (58.7%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Oloroso Sherry Hogshead, 278b): a sherry cask, no doubt. This has liqueur-filled pralines, smoked bacon, but also polished furniture, polished leather belts and earthy cola. Rhubarb leaves in the back. Burnt paper and burnt wood also appear -- after a while, burnt paper is all that is left, unfortunately. Mouth: mellow and lush, velvety, with polished dashboards and soft leather, then hazelnut liqueur and almond purée, including the skins. It is nutty and gently bitter, though also quite powerful. Finish: nutty, it has caramelised chestnuts, almost charred, crushed nuts, nutty purée (chestnut, hazelnut, almond) and a lick of wood varnish. I cannot decide whether I like this. It is ok, I guess. 6/10

PH: "[My friends] were prehistoric palaeontologists. And they couldn't bear with the pressures of being prehistoric palaeontologists."

PH: "What surprised me is: I wasn't ill the next morning... or at least not as ill as I usually was."

PH: "We used to live in New Town Edinburgh. It was new in the 1860s. It's not exactly Milton-Keynes."

66.151 10yo d.2008 Tiffin in a blackhouse (59.5%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 214b): nose: earth and old ink on parchment, old cardboard, calligraphy, pencil shavings, burnt clay and burnt Sienna earth. Mouth: milky, ashy and earthy at first, it turns quite fruity, after a while, with chocolate-coated strawberry, maraschino cherry and squashed raspberry, chocolate-flavoured almond milk. Finish: hot caramel flan and chocolate coulis, pistachio shells, mud, a pinch of ash and chocolate-coated hazelnut. This is nice. 8/10

PH: "He was a hell of an organisation. And by that, I mean he had a secretary."

PH: "I have never found a distiller who was keener on the Sabbath as [sic] they were on the money."

PS comes to the rescue. I do not try his 46 again, but I do have a rerun of this:

128.7 5yo 2013/2018 Down the old fruit mines (61.1%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Sauternes Barrique, 288b): nose: initially, it is mud and dusty leaves. Then it is tropical-fruit galore: mango, guava, papaya and dragon fruit. Mouth: soft, velvety, with a distant touch of acidity and lots of fruits -- exotic ones again, mango, guava and dragon fruit. Finish: long, it leaves one with the same feeling as a good hike and a mouth coated in lots of tropical fruit -- once more, it is mango, guava and dragon fruit, perhaps a cube of papaya, too. The proverbial hiking boots are there, but the prominent note is that of gorgeous tropical fruit. Amazeballs. And at that age! 9/10

PH: "Perhaps you should read the book..."
His sister: "Perhaps we should go to the restaurant, soon."

PS has clearly been here a while, heckling and interrupting, insisting on stories that are not always very relevant. Hope the head is ok, this morning, PS. ;-)

PS: "Excise said, 'There's a law against this!'
PH: 'I know, but it's an old law...'
Excise: 'Yes, but it's still the law.'
That sounded rather uncompromising."

It was nice to hear the stories PH had to tell us, even though it is difficult to shake off the conclusion that the whole Society venture was a combination of chance, luck and good timing. PH explained how he spent £2500 on the first cask of Glenfarclas. I could not not think that:
  1. It was a lot of dough for the late 1970s or early 1980s;
  2. Grant would not have sold the cask, had Hills not been a friend of a friend; and
  3. Glenfarclas would probably not have sold a cask at all, had the economical climate of the early 1980s been different (Whisky Loch, anyone?)
Fortunately, Hills did acknowledge some of that:
  1. Some of his mates were minted;
  2. He had connections;
  3. No, he did not talk about this in depth.
But yeah, in essence: posh Edinburgher buys whisky for his posher mates; his mates tell their mates; things grow out of control; SMWS is born.

Nice time, but disappointing, altogether. Drams from the current outturn? That is not very inventive. Borderline insulting, in fact. And then, there is the double standard mentioned above, which is hard to swallow.

24 October 2019

20/10/2019 One blind dram at home

Nose: estery from the off, it smells of pear drops and pineapple cubes, candied kiwi and crystallised tangerines. A soft, herbaceous touch emerges, a minute in: vine leaves and mandarin foliage, soon joined by baked butternut squash -- or is that dinner? In the distance, cereal struggles to make itself heard: bran, draff, cooked swede and faint iron tonic. Mouth: fresh and rather sharp, the palate showcases jasmine tea, manuka, but also oregano and a tiny pinch of chilli powder. The second sip brings fortified wine, which I find it to be closer to Port than Sherry or Madeira. A little astringent, it challenges the taste buds with its mild acidity that never becomes unpleasant. Finish: not at all in line with the nose and mouth, the finish delivers lovely chocolate pralines, perhaps with a cherry-liqueur filling, Brazil-nut butter, a lick of water-based paint, chewy marshmallow, discreet lime zest, poached figs and Bourbon-infused marmalade. Very nice and works a treat as an apéritif. Actually, it is something to drink all night. :-) Bladnoch 1990/2018 Exotic Fruit Sorbet (46%, Wemyss Malts, Hogshead, 186b) 7/10 (Thanks for the sample, Gaija)

I am told we have time for one more.

Speyside-Glenlivet 27yo 1991/2018 (48.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 318b, 18/418): I liked this, last time I had it. Nose: delicately woody, the nose has Scottish tablet, toffee and dark chocolate chips, cocoa beans, even, though it never announces bitterness. Resin and cigar boxes are there too, barely concealing chestnut and berry purée. Yes! Squashed chestnut, crushed strawberry, pressed gooseberry, apricot skins, baked-apple skins and a whiff of dry earth. Mouth: here, it is fruit galore, with the squashed strawberries from the nose, overly-baked apples, slices of juicy Chinese gooseberry, rhubarb jam and peach pulp. The texture is velvety and quite coating, and there is a whisper of sweet cereals in the back, via retro-nasal olfaction. Finish: lemonade, peach slices, a pinch of sawdust, a drop of ink (oh! it is not 1965 Ardbeg, mind) and crushed berries -- raspberry and blackberry, this time. The second sip brings slightly-burnt-cake crust, pink-grapefruit zest, dates and blackcurrant liqueur. An lovely drop. Ignore it at your own peril. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, SW)

17/10/2019 Whisky Squad -- The High-End

Everything is poured blind, as usual. JS and I arrive late "the one time we are ready on time," says BA. I can live with the shame. PP and ZC are there too, as well as nine others.
BA tells the audience he saw JS last night and her reaction made him decide against including a "very nice" tequila in tonight's line-up. Phew.

Dram #1
Nose: pastry, vanilla and a faint metallic whiff. It opens up to reveal peach turnover and a touch of glue. Mouth: pastry and notes of glue alright -- a grain, I am sure. It has a slightly green edge, though I do not find it prominent. Others say it is very herbaceous -- go figure. Finish: lemon juice, sprinkled on sugared pastry and peach turnover, as well as a discreet note of wood spices. Relatively simple, but perfectly drinkable. I reckon a North British. Incorrectly -- it is a rye. Canadian Club 41yo Issue N°1 (45%, OB Chronicles, 7000b, L18239IW09:49) 7/10

The hosts talk about the way that was marketed: "we came across the last hidden cask in the warehouse," then announced a 42yo the year after. Also "limited" to 11000 bottles. How can you misplace that many bottles and how big are the warehouses are the questions on everyone's mind.

BA: "[unknown] has never been through a warehouse. She might have seen one on a picture."
E: "She's never seen one. Unless it's on the way to the salon."

Dram #2
Nose: pastry again, then rubber boots, before turning pretty herbaceous -- dry hawthorn and bunches of dried flowers. Mouth: soft, sweet, gently aromatic, it has maple or corn syrup and tinned peach. This is really very soft and sweet. Finish: very soft, very sweet, very easy to drink, and very much lacking in character, despite some rosemary on baking croissant. I suspect a North American. Indeed, another Canadian made of 97% corn. That explains the maple and corn syrups, then! It is from the Gimli distillery, home of Crown Royal. Entrapment 25yo 1992/2017 (41%, Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling, L7283K1001) 7/10

E [talking about Canadians]: "You tell them to work around the clock and they work."
tOMoH: "It's called slavery."
BA: "They're Canadian. They're happy about it."

Dram #3
Nose: melted chocolate, sticky toffee pudding, mocha chocolate, chocolate thins. Roasted malt surfaces, shy, then polished walnut. Mouth roasted malt alright, it has Kellogg's Smacks and melted mocha chocolate. The coffee flavours are assertive, alongside dark toffee and tree bark. Finish: soft, sweet; it tastes like a grain again, creamy and toffee-led. Perhaps another North American? Hedonism Quindecimus (46%, Compass Box 15th Anniversary Limited Edition, 5689b, b.2015) composed of North British, two kinds of Port Dundas, Dumbarton and a mystery blend. 7/10

Seeing the label, I wonder if I have had this before. Sure enough.

Dram #4
Nose: ah! A single malt. Juicy apricot and quince, bergamot infusion, lemon-and-ginger Greek tea -- this is very fruity! I end up spending a lot of time with the nose. Roasted fennel seeds, apple peel, orange peel and cassiah bark. It is spicy without overwhelming the senses. Mouth: mellow and velvety, creamy, even, it has similar fruits (orange, apple, yet also baked satsuma, this time) and soft herbs. I love this. Finish: lovely fruitiness (more apple and orange), a teaspoon of nigella seeds and melted white chocolate. This goes down a treat. I guess a 1992 Longmorn, half-expecting a 1996. Humiliatingly for all, it is The Macallan Whisky Maker's Selection (42.8%, OB Fine Oak, Bourbon and Sherry Oak Casks, L0931H L10) 8/10

tOMoH: "I feel violated."
BA: "When you said you liked it, I felt: YES!"

BA is in stitches. He knows how much I dislike Macallan and is excited that I was proven wrong (for which I am sort of grateful, I suppose).

We operate a last-minute change in the sequence.

Dram #6
Nose: mudflats, cockles and all sorts of farm shenanigans. Crusted mud, timid fruit behind tractor-tyre action -- peach, I suspect. Much later on, it is toothpaste that joins the party. Mouth: spicy, earthy, it has yellow fruit and apple-chip smoke. Refined smoke, mind. Very juicy and a little smokey. Finish: medicinal peat and lots of farm action again. It is earthy with a mild coastal influence -- drying fishing nets and apple-tree fire. Much later on, squashed raspberries appear on top of the peach. That should be a dead give-away, but I am slow to connect the dots, tonight. It is excellent. I am ready to guess an ancient bottling of Lagavulin when BA inadvertently says it is still available for RRP. I am lost. The Ardmore 30yo d.1987 (47.2%, OB, Refill Bourbon + 1st Fill Bourbon Casks, L8 299 2319 08 20) 9/10

Dram #5
The colour alone announces a boisterous Sherry cask, here. Nose: dark chocolate, augmented with a pinch of coffee grounds. Later on, it will turn into concentrated prune syrup. Mouth: super chocolate-y and quite big on the palate. I can see why we end with this, as I think the Ardmore would have struggled a bit. It is rather tannic, with liquorice, cinnamon sticks and cassiah bark. Finish: bitter coffee, thin chocolate, cough syrup, cinnamon and wood tannins. It is not really my thing, this. Not bad, but a sip is enough for me. I guess a Kavalan. Daftmill 2006/2019 (57.4%, OB bottled exclusively for Berry Brothers & Rudd, Sherry Cask, C#039/2006, 621b, b#576) 6/10

Good, lighthearted times.

8 October 2019

07/10/2019 Six whiskies with Charles Maclean

Tonight is the official launch of Cask Trade, a company that intends to provide casks of whisky to a varied clientele. The audience is made of investors, collectors, enthusiasts and everything in between. Little press that I can recognise and few bloggers, if any. The founder of the company (SA) and tOMoH happen to be on friendly terms, hence my being graciously invited. I do not believe said founder is aware of the existence of this blog, so it hardly seems an commercially-motivated move.

Now the disclaimers are out of the way, the evening starts out with SA presenting the company, its ethos and its mission, then switches to a tasting of six cask samples -- casks owned by the company and, presumably, up for grabs. Charles Maclean is the celebrity who has been invited to present this, joined by Colin Hampden-White.

I make a mental note that this is the first tasting I attend that is (co-)hosted by Maclean, despite having seen him countless times at festivals.
SW is here with me. JS was invited, but she has a clashing meeting. With Gwyneth Paltrow. You could not make it up.

The whiskies, then.

The label has a mistake, yes.
It is from 1978.
Glenlivet 40yo 1978/2019 (41.7%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Hogshead, C#13523, gauged at 115b): the presenters underline that most tastings would culminate with the oldest, most expensive and most desirable whisky, something that often falls flat for two reasons: 1) old whiskies tend to be low in alcohol and more subtle in taste; saving them for last sees them compete with much more powerful and youthful predecessors; 2) when bumped into dram number six, an old whisky finds tired taste buds in one's mouth. So we have this dram first, tonight. Nose: soft and delicate, it has the subtle grapes of an old brandy, perhaps sawdust, sandalwood (Maclean) and dried bramble. It is really shy. Mouth: amazingly soft, it soon starts fizzing on the tongue with some gentle spices (crushed cloves). Rehydrated, dried cranberries appear, custard powder and droplets of Alka Seltzer, maybe. The wood is in check, if present. Finish: blackberry cough drops and very little wood: crushed bay leaves and a minute quantity of liquorice. This one is elegant and complex. I like it. Later, I will try one big gulp, chew on it for a long time and swallow it whole. That way, it becomes much more assertive, without the fierceness of a higher ABV -- interesting experience. 8/10

Aberlour 26yo d.1989 (51.1%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Hogshead, C#11040, gauged at 274b): not sure when the sample was drawn; clearly several years ago. Nose: putty, toothpaste, crushed-mint paste, meadow-flower stems (just the stems), then quite a kick of alcohol. Wax (neither candle nor furniture, though), pencil lead and crayons. Mouth: oooh! This is lively. It has some ginger shavings and hot apple pie. Later on, it turns waxy as hell. Finish: a bit green, here, strangely enough The alcohol is less well-integrated, with cut plants and dandelion stems. The second sip brings out sticky toffee pudding. Much later on, it turns out better, though it remains a bit bitter, behind the wax. 6/10

Charles Maclean puts on a monocle to read a label. I had never seen a monocle in the wild!

Glen Moray 9yo 2008/2017 (57.1%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Barrel, C#5796, gauged at 149b): nose: a pastry shoppe, with overripe pear, flan, vanilla pudding, then hard plastic. Mouth: similar notes of pastry; it has hot, sugar-sprinkled  apple turnover fused with warm croissant crust, lemon zest, and heat. Water helps integrate it more; the alcohol bite cools off. Finish: a touch more pepper, now, but the pastry is still glowing, augmented with a pinch of herbs (hawthorn and oregano). Water seems to mess up with the balance and turn the finish into alcohol-soaked chocolate. 7/10

Fettercairn 10yo 2008/2019 (56.6%, Cask Trade cask sample, Bourbon Barrel, C#5755, gauged at 227b): nose: lemon peel and white chocolate (SW, who loves white chocolate), lemon sage. It becomes very fruity, after a short while. Mouth: full-on white chocolate, now, with lashes of melted Mon Chéri praline thrown into it. It has a rather noticeable spiciness (galangal and crushed bay leaves) that is not overpowering in any way. Finish: huge, fruity at first, then becomes a little less impressive, with unripe-peach flesh. Much later on, it turns mellow and waxy, with plasticine and Blue Tack. 7/10

North British 12yo 2006/2019 (52.1%, Cask Trade cask sample, Sherry Hogshead, C#818392, gauged at 271b): nose: pastry ahoy, of course, with custard and unbaked croissant dough, as well as nougat. Mouth: big, it is reminiscent of the nose, with more croissant dough and crushed strawberry with some white pepper. Typical grain, not much altered by the sherry maturation -- a n-th refill, perhaps? Finish: paper paste, thick custard, flan. Very good. I like it. 7/10

Bunnahabhain 10yo 2009/2019 (56.2%, Cask Trade cask sample, Oloroso Sherry Butt, C#900034, gauged at 705b): nose: well, it is a huge sherry cask, with lots of wood varnish and a frankly meaty side as well. It does not dodge the sulphury note, yet it is tame. None of those notes are shouting too loudly, but they are all there. Mouth: big and chocolate-y, it has Mon Chéri and shovelfuls of earth. In fact, it is earthy, this! Finish: super-long, earthy and lightly meaty. Again, it does not try to hide its Oloroso maturation. This is not my personal favourite, but I can see people going mad for it. 6/10

An interesting selection and a very pleasant evening. Best wishes to Cask Trade!

23 September 2019

18/09/2019 Another blind sample under the Milky Way

Well, in the hotel room, really, but the stars are out, tonight, to a degree that induces vertigo. And yes, one can see the Milky Way. That is normal, since this is the USA. It is commercialised as Mars in Europe, as Milky Way in the US. Used to, at least. Both are now found in Europe. Not sure if the recipe is different.

Nose: bacon, burning hay and hot ink, poured into the flames. Behind that, charcoal, peaches, scorched earth, barbecued citrus and a medicinal touch: bandages and disinfectant. Laphroaig? Mouth: thick citrus, with grapefruit pulp and pineapple chunks, but also mango in syrup (the syrup easily dominates the fruit), as well as a distant note of merbromin. Heat: yes; peat: not so much. Green-chilli chutney keeps the tongue well warm, and it is augmented with a pinch of nigella seeds. Sweet and spicy alright. Finish: the peat comes back, rich and hot, yet it completely fails to mask the fruit: ripe satsuma and mango in pineapple juice happily float on a bed of gentle, boggy peat. Only a few drops of tincture of iodine hark back to the medicinal side. Whoever the hospital patient is, they clearly received a fruit basket as a get-well-soon present. I guess a Laphroaig. A fruity one, at that. I am wrong, of course. Ledaig 15yo 1997/2013 (51.9%, The Whiskyman Age Matters) 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, Gaija)

18/09/2019 Waiting for sunset at the Grand Canyon

Trying this blind. Remember drinking alcohol in the open is not allowed, here. Do not try this yourselves. I do not know what it is, yet. Perhaps it is not an issue, then?...

Nose: delicate, but assertive prunes, waxy plums, freshly-polished Chesterfield sofas, dried dates -- I sense a dense sherry maturation. Plum juice, waxy mirabelle plums and, later, cigar leaves. Mouth: unripe plum and quite a dose of wood. This seems like a different dram, completely! It is lively and powerful, peppery, even. It has some of the fruit from the nose, mostly covered by woody tones -- sawdust, nut shells and varnished wooden beams. Finish: another dram again, with custard powder, hints of cocoa and softly-drying wood polish. I now wonder if it is a Bourbon (in fact, I am convinced it is). Dried peach slices, dried dates. Decent, but rather woody, this one. 139.5 b.2019 Midnight Espresso (57.8%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Port Barrique, 181b) 7/10 (Thanks for the sample, Gaija)

17/09/2019 One Straight Bourbon on Route 66

Bourbon, of course, is made of at least 51% corn and aged in charred, virgin oak. It is traditionally made in Kentucky, though that is not a requirement (it is also made in California and Texas, amongst others). Straight Bourbon, however, has to be over two years old. Any Bourbon, straight or not, under four years has to state the age on the label. This one does. Woo.
As for Route 66, the mythical cross-continent road from Chicago to Los AngelesLas Vegas, San Francisco, Santa Monica, the last bit of it was decommissioned in 1984. That is right: it has not existed for 35 years. Might want to reconsider that Corvette Stingray you had your eye on. Also, the number of French tourists in the area might put one off. ;-)

Yellowstone Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 3yo (40%, Yellowstone Distillery Co., b. ca 2011, B22310): is it not weird? Kentucky Bourbon, named after a National Park in Wyoming, bottled by a company in Missouri, itself named after the same Wyoming park. Ah! well. It sells, I suppose. This is a remnant of a 2011 trip to said park. Nose: baked half peaches, wood chips and sawdust, custard powder and even strawberry slices. Toasted coconut, strawberry-flavoured clotted cream on pine cones. The wood influence is undeniable, but pleasant. Mouth: soft, caramel-y, with lots of butterscotch, toffee and slightly-overly-baked crème brûlée. The strawberry comes back on the tongue, unexpectedly, and brings a gentle, fruity touch. Strawberry in yoghurt, it is. A little less agreeable is the minor bitterness of a relatively young wooden cask too. Finish: comfortably warming, with custard powder, toffee, more crème brûlée and the soft bitterness of soaked oak stave. This is inoffensive, but perfectly fine. An enjoyable drop. 6/10

3 September 2019

02/09/2019 More drams at the SMWS

Last night in town for Gaija, we try to make it count.

39.180 29yo d.1989 Smokers on a new carpet (51%, SMWS Society Cask for The Gathering at the Vaults, Refill Heavily-Toasted Medium-Charred Hogshead, 206b): this is from a special wave of bottlings for a string of events called The Gathering. Bar only, not for sale. Nose: sweet and rich, with maraschino cherries and custard triangles, fluffy bread and buttery scones. Mouth: pillow-y, with shortbread action, sweet, salty and crumbly. Sticky apple crumble. Finish: long and mellow, subtle, but with everything in the right place. Cherry skins, cantaloupe, just past its prime. It is more acidic and bitter than the nose suggested, but it remains pleasant nonetheless. It also does retain the cherry-turnover side. I have too little of it to make better notes, but I like it. Perhaps not quite Starry, starry night, but not too far off. 9/10

JS arrives.

35.239 23yo d.1995 Sweet Seduction (52.9%, SMWS Society Cask for The Gathering at the Vaults, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 202b): nose: lush, it has rose-petal jam, red cherries, candied cherries and a whisper of tobacco. The second sniff brings... raw white asparagus. Soon, fruit comes back, sweet, grenadine style. It is all a little artificial, but remains lovely. Mouth: a huge sweetness on the palate too, with those candied cherries, crystallised angelica, candied pineapple cubes and mixed peel. Finish: quite big, with similarly sweet notes, balanced by a gentle metallic edge -- think of the knife the confectioner has used to cut candied pineapple cubes for six hours. A drop of chocolate appears in the distance, but it is mostly candied fruit. This is great, even if the candied cherry can become a little heady. 8/10

50.109 28yo d.1990 Mangroves and marshmallows (57.7%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 111b): nose: this one is in another league, unexpectedly, with rose petals, fruits (cherry and raspberry) and faint leather. Crow-black hair-dye (a goth's whisky, then) and broccoli stalks. The floweriness grows and grows, with lilac, augmented with spices, sink funk, then seal wax. Mouth: sweet, it struggles to completely hide a certain plant-related bitterness that reminds me of flower stems. It is coated in powdered sugar, though. Strawberries, stalk still on, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Finish: hugely fruity, here. Poached pear, candied apple and a full apricot clafoutis. It is warming and frankly never-ending, but not as spicy in the finish. What a beautiful Lowlander! 9/10

77.51 26yo d.1992 Flower power shower (46.9%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 160b): nose: fresh, it has putty-like toothpaste, mastic, polyester-clad settees, hot off the assembly line. Later, lukewarm Virginia tobacco and freshly-ironed jeans come to the fore. Crisp apple, cut on the chopping block, then dried strawberry chips. Mouth: the symphony continues, with raspberry sorbet, dried strawberry chips again, lilac, frozen in time with hair lacquer, then sticky marmalade, slowly simmering in the cauldron. Wow! Finish: slow-moving, it is assertive regardless, with berries, purple lilac, peach jam and apricot purée. This is probably my favourite Glen Ord to-date. 9/10

JS sniffs half a dozen before settling for the last dram.

9.157 22yo d.1996 I drambled lonely as a cloud... (60.9%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 228b): nose polished-oak chests, teak oil, then more delicate notes of peach slices and flowers (buttercups and daffodils). This nose makes me think of a sherry cask, strangely enough, with hints of nail varnish to boot. Mouth: soft and elegant, the palate sees the peach return, alongside a metallic edge (is it verbena?) and growing spices, surprisingly (galangal shavings, ginger root). Finish: more traditional, with coconut cream and vanilla custard, before dry-ish wooden stave storm the scene. Nutella-coated churros, says Gaija. Now, I finally admit it is a Bourbon cask, yet, if the whole is very good, I find the finish the least interesting as well. Not quite Boringside, but also not Thrillamore. 7/10

Time for food and bed. Very good selection. On the way back, we joke about how nothing interesting supposedly comes out, these days. Ah, well.

01/09/2019 My precious!

This was an old-ish idea and it felt the right time to realise it. Bronze, silver, gold, platinum, jewelry, gems and other precious stones, treasures, guineas, doubloons or sovereigns will all be accepted. Yens, dollars and euros are fine too. Keep yer sterling, however, as that's as good as Monopoly notes, these days. Or toilet paper. The Scottish poond is fine, at a push. ;)
Since today is a Sunday, I am hoping for a seven-or-eight-bottle sesh, but that is forgetting that this is a school night for three people only. We end up with a monstrous line-up worthy of a Saturday morning.

The intercom is out of service, my phone decides to die an hour before guests are supposed to arrive, yet everyone manages to make it in, woo.
The suspects: JS, PS, BA, WhiskyLovingPianist (the artist formerly known as jazzpianofingers, who, during his fifteen-month hiatus, changed identity), LR (first appearance), Gaija and tOMoH.

His identity may have changed, but this stayed

Richie Hawtin - Pete Namlook - From Within I is playing when they arrive.

LR: "I acquisitioned this..."
BA: "Acquisitioned!?"
LR: "I don't pay for anything. Ever."

Dimple (70° Proof, John Haig & Co., b.1970s) (BA): this one is "bound in shiny, precious gold," says BA, jubilantly. Nose: fragile and delicate, it has a distinctly flowery nose, with honeysuckle, jasmine and lots of dust. A pinch of tobacco, perhaps? It is all very integrated and hard to pick apart. Mouth: marvellously soft and pillow-y, it has flower petals, honeysuckle sap, morning dew in jasmine blossom, and a very gentle tobacco feel to it. Finish: I love this. It has dust and even ash, peppered on a similar flowery profile, next to a beehive. Excellent and a perfect opener. It is hard not to think blends, especially the cheap ones, were better in the past. 8/10

Awld skewl

Soundtrack: Axiome - Ten Hymns For Sorbetière Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Freezer

Balmenach 1980/1999 Hogmanay Dram (43%, Undisclosed Bottler for Members of The Malt Whisky Association, 100b, b#94) (WhiskyLovingPianist): WLP showed me this in Campbeltown, but I cannot remember having tried it. The connection to the theme is simple: Hog-money. Eyes roll. Eyebrows raise. Sighs are emitted. I am loving it. Nose: grass, herbs and a touch of gentle metal, straw, flint, verbena, oregano and citrus foliage. Mouth: mellow, meadow-like, it has lush pastry, though not much sweetness -- fluffy dough, unseasoned doughnuts, the acidity of lime peel, not overpowering at all and, in fact, very balanced. Finish: yep, a very pleasant affair, with shortbread, custard powder and a little citric action. 8/10

The Arran Malt 1999/2012 The Golden Eagle (46%, OB Limited Edition, Bourbon Barrels + Sherry Hogsheads) (BA): gold-en eagle, innit. This collection is colloquially known as Icons of Arran, of which this is bottling number 4. None of that appears anywhere on the packaging, however, so it does not belong in the formal description. Get over it. Nose: fresh pineapple, Champagne (LR), olive pits in brine (I know). It is fresh , fruity (orchard fruit) and welcoming. A typical Arran, in other words. Mouth: balanced, honeyed, with honeysuckle sap, crushed meadow flowers and the associated pillow-y lushness and plant bitterness. It delivers some peppery power, regardless of the modest ABV. Finish: well, it is a modern malt, with plenty of vanilla, quince, lemon jelly, lemon-y custard and lots of fun. A very good Arran -- but is there another sort anyway? (do not mention ze Var the Fixin). 8/10

BA breaks the cork and pours it from a jug

Nibbles enter.

Cheeses (Applewood cheddar, scamorza),
crisps (sea salt and cider vinegar, posh prawn cocktail),
dried sausage, sourdough bread and houmous

Soundtrack: Keosz - Ava

37.107 14yo d.2003 Running through a field of wheat (60.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 254b) (PS): PS explains the interview to Gaija, in which Theresa May admitted running through a field of wheat as a naughty child and how this bottling is a hint to that. We manage to dodge the B-word conversation, however. Mostly. I spot the connection immediately: fields of gold. "I am a Sting fan," I claim. Not really, but that song is nice. Although, fields of barley, not wheat. Nose: sweet, it has forsythia, barley sugar, cold wort, plum and raspberry (LR). Mouth: assertive, bold, even (at that ABV, no wonder!), it has the sweetness of the nose, with green capsicum, crisp and peppery. Finish: big, with a touch of chocolate on chopped capsicum. Hot and crisp. I like it. 7/10

Springbank 1965/2002 (46%, Lombard Jewels of Scotland) (me): jewels, of course. Will this be a gold-plated tart with too much make-up on, then? Well, I know it is not, as I have had this before. Nose: rhaaaaaaa! It is still a killer, this. Carambola, crisp pear, greengage, plum, grapes and a whisper of rubber. Mouth: juicy and fruity to the max, brimming with seedless green grapes, carambola, and the freshness of sea breeze. This is amazing. Finish: huge fruitiness again, with lots of green grapes, a pinch of ash (WhiskyLovingPianist), wax (Gaija), darker grapes too, ripe plum, prune juice. The fruits are less tropical in the finish, yet not any shyer. This is amazeballs. Longer notes here. Now it has opened up in the bottle (this is pretty much the last drop), it gets top score. 10/10

Soundtrack: Tan Dun - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Bache Gabrielsen 1971/2016 (40%, OB, b#1539) (WhiskyLovingPianist): this is a coin-gnac, says the owner. More eyes rolled. He is on fire, he is! Nose: very brandy-like (no shit, Sherlock), with grapes and tinned-prune juice. It is relatively simple, yet "bloody alright" (WLP). Soaked cork, Pineau des Charentes, maybe even vin jaune from Jura. Mouth: velvety, fruity, soft and... I cannot decide if it is sweet or acidic. What I do decide is that it is excellent. Finish: very, very fruity. Plums, prunes, grapes and a touch of almond skin. With a little more complexity, it would do even better. As it stands, it is a strong 8/10

We take advantage of the nice weather and proceed to the terrace.

...aaaaaand life does not suck

Cambus 25yo d.1991 (52.1%, Claxton Single Cask, Refill Sherry Butt, C#1725-103028, 571b, b#496) (WhiskyLovingPianist): "Bureau de Change" -> "Cambio" -> "Cambus." The boy is unstoppable! First Claxton for me and a sherry-matured grain (which is the exception, rather than the rule). I will only have the tiniest drop, as I fear a rerun of Thursday's experience. Nose: a whiff of metal and lots of pastry. Mouth: bitter metal, thyme, some distant pastry. Finish: now, you're talking! Croissant dough and more pastry. I like this enough, though it is a little more austere than I expected it to be. The following morning, no headache, but my tongue is stripped, despite the ridiculous amount (half a sip); it loses a point, because of that. 6/10

Diamond 9yo (Port Mourant Still) (55.9%, That Boutique-y Rum Company, B#1, 461b, b#265) (WhiskyLovingPianist): yes, he did bring four bottles. Diamond is forever, of course. Rum is interesting. Distilleries exist, but sometimes, they will use a travelling still to make a run -- imagine a lorry with a still in tow going from one distillery to the next and helping producers make something completely different. Enmore is one of those, Port Mourant is another. Nose: boat varnish (LR), industrial plastic, industrial glue, wallpaper and cucumber peels. It later emits scents of cabbage and pak-choi leaves. Mouth: warm and spicy, very spicy, with nutmeg, cracked green pepper and cinnamon cross buns. This is a bit too powerful for me. Finish: glue, caramelised cane sugar, hydrocarbons and a touch of chocolate, towards the end. It is OK. Not my thing much. 6/10

Longmorn 29yo 1985/2015 (51.9%, Hunter Laing Old & Rare A Platinum Selection imported by DJK Imports for K&L Wines, Refill Hogshead, 251b) (JS): JS rocks out the platinum card, ha! I remember being slightly puzzled, the first time we had this. Good, not blinding. Naturally, the packaging sets expectations, and I thought they were not totally met. Nose: sharp, blade-like. There is citrus, flint and... to be honest, not much else comes out. Shy. It does settle on lemon marmalade and unripe green grapes and blueberries, with a side of orange pith and black cumin. Mouth: acidic and spicy, with grapefruit skins, unripe currants, white pepper, sawdust and lime skins. The second sip brings dry and bitter Seville orange segments, so dry and bitter. Finish: surprisingly creamy, with a lot of wood and orange-y tones aplenty -- pith, peels and segments coming back. I like it better than the first time, but it still does not quite match the flashy packaging, I think. I am tempted to go for 7 because of that, though I think it really is worth 8/10

Sweet-teeth of the world rejoice. Here comes Orsatti Pampapatto di Ferrara (Thanks, SB)

LR explains: "It entered the masters competition and won master. Not bronze, or silver, or gold. Master."
tOMoH: "The only thing that is not a precious metal."

The Lost Distilleries Blend (51%, The Blended Whisky Company, B#10, 1041b, b#91) (LR): "this is my precious," states LR. I discovered this series a while ago with B#6 and loved it. It was my first contact with That Boutique-y Whisky Company, I think. This edition contains Port Dundas, Caperdonich, Rosebank, Imperial, Mosstowie, Glen Mhor, Glenisla, Glenlochy, Craigduff, Brora and Port Ellen. Nose: this is quite a mix. See breeze, candied lemons, strawberry drops. It is subtle, though. Very shy. Even going back inside to avoid the wind, one has to work hard to decipher much. Old-school smoke and a clear mineral character. Mouth: very balanced, with slightly-bitter oranges and a few thyme leaves. Smoke is only a shadow, here, and it is pleasant. Finish: elegant and long, with the tiniest note of coal-stove smoke; most of what is displayed is strawberry bubblegum. I like this, but it is a bit too timid. 8/10

We move back inside.

Soundtrack: FUSE: Dimension Intrusion

Clynelish 20yo 1997/2018 (55.9%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, C#6526, 310b) (LR): the label only reads Woolf/Sung -- the company behind this collection. This one is gold in colour. :-) Nose: fresh, with lots of waxy citrus peel, burning herbs and a touch of ash. It has its share of minerals too, though are they precious stones? Granite, more like it. Mouth: honeyed, beehive-y, it is very coating, ashy, while also sweet. I can almost feel the bees' wings around my nose. Finish: long, it has similar notes: wax, of course, ash, granite and yellow fruits. Beautiful Clynelish, but I am too far behind to spend much time with it. 8/10

3.284 14yo d.2001 Salt and smoke (56.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 186b) (PS): PS explains how salt used to be precious indeed (look up the origins of the word 'salary', if you need to be convinced). Nose: wow! FRUITY! It has a lot of satsumas, more than mangoes, gently wrapped by a soft layer of smoke. The fruitiness is immense, though. Lemon and pink grapefruit are loud. It has a whiff of clogged-sink funk, but it is quite simply gorgeously fruity. Farm paths end up emerging, subtle enough. Mouth: meow. Juicy mango, roasted over a charcoal barbecue. This is ridiculously juicy. The second sip is enormous, with horsepower, tractor diesel and hair balls (hi MG!) Finish: big, long, with the vague bitterness of grapefruit skins. Here too, the fruitiness is flabbergasting, with pink grapefruit kissing mangoes in a ploughed field, Wow. Just wow. Leave this in a cask for another twenty-thirty years and we are in 1966 territory, I believe. Tempted to give it top score, but I will contain myself. 9/10

Caol Ila 34yo 1984/2018 (57.6%, Cadenhead Single Cask 1 x Bourbon Hogshead, 162b, 18/228) (Gaija): presented for its shiny golden label. Nose: another odd mix, with melon, ash and dunnage-warehouse dust. Tantalising! Crushed, dried raspberry, crushed hazelnut shells, cedar-wood sheets. The fruit grows in intensity. Water turns it into something more intense, with an almost toothpaste-like freshness and pine needles. Mouth: perfect balance, despite the undeniable strength. I get a clear strawberry-bubblegum tack and a lick of liquorice (a lick-o-rice?) It dries the mouth a bit, that lick-o-rice, with its sidekicks cinnamon and ginger, yet not quite aniseed. With water, the palate turns more mellow. It retains some of the fruit, whilst the cinnamon remains the clearest note. Finish: elegant as hell, with lots of berries here too, a bit of woody spices (ginger, cinnamon and, this time, aniseed) and strawberry pulp. Water makes it a little more drying, ironically Ginger and cinnamon are the main characters of this story, though the dried raspberry and pepperminty-strawberry bubblegum are still there alright. I love this. 9/10

LR: "I am getting swimming pool. But nice swimming pool."

LR: "Cow poo -- in a good way!"

Bond villain stroking his pet

Soundtrack: X-102 - Rediscovers The Rings Of Saturn

JS: "Who's Terry?"
tOMoH: "It's a Miss Terry."

We are a couple of hours behind the projected closing time. One last one? But of course!

Caledonian 28yo 1987/2016 (52.3%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, 246b, 16/196) (me): you may recall (you may total recall) that I poured this a couple of weeks ago, but did not have it myself for lack of time. Obviously, it is a gold label as well. Nose: hugely metallic, with lots of aromatics (hawthorn and rosemary, mostly), and, behind that, pastry. The second whiff brings almost an anaesthetic touch to this. Medicinal? Well, it is homeopathy, rather than chemistry. Mouth: creamy, with custard-y goodness, milk chocolate, βανίλια, yoghurt and flan. This is seriously good on the tongue, after a few years of being open. Finish: meow! A touch of metal, a pinch of herbs and creamy vanilla-custard happiness. Liquid pastry. I love it. 8/10

Epic session, considering today was a Sunday. Excellent drams, terrific music, good weather and company... What more could one want?