30 January 2019

27/01/2019 One dram after Burns' Night

Just one dram, courtesy of adc.

63.36 26yo d.1989 A Carribean dram (51.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill e-Bourbon Barrel, 180b): nose: crunchy coconut flesh, a whisper of horse's hair, mango-and-pineapple yoghurt, with a dash of lime. This smells like a piña colada -- so much so it is hard to detect anything else, now. Perhaps a dollop of chocolate milk, peach slices, juicy satsuma and tangerine. Mouth: mellow and unctuous, the palate has all sorts of buttery, tropical fruit (mango, papaya, jackfruit), peppered with... crushed black pepper. A drop of coconut milk and pineapple, squashed into a pulp. It is sweet, soft and lush. Finish: similar notes her, with fruit and milk, overripe pineapple in coconut syrup, squashed mango, papaya and jackfruit with a pinch of black pepper. Piña colada indeed. This is really pretty; very fruity. 8/10

26/01/2019 Burns' Night 2019 -- Jeckyll and Hyde

We have already had duos of expressions from the same distilleries during Oddities and Comparisons. This time, we will do the same for distilleries which have produced different types of spirit, e.g. peated and unpeated.

Haggis monsterous

The suspects: adc, JS, kruuk2, dom666, sonicvince, ruckus, Psycho and myself.

dom666 and kruuk2 are late, so the rest of the guests have a drop of Ardmore 19yo 1978/1998 (46%, Cadenhead Original Collection) and seem to like it. No Ardlair to pair it with, unfortunately.

adc serves some nibbles (pigs in a blanket, halibut-and-gherkin toasts and Orkney cheese), whilst JS takes care of the music.

Soundtrack: Michael Nyman - Drowning by Numbers

When the Liège pair finally join, it is time to move to the table for food. We can start the tasting, at last.

Not before building the line-up, however

Parsnip-and-apple soup

The soup is very popular

Glencraig vs. Glenburgie -- Glencraig was the whisky made in Glenburgie's Lomond stills from 1958 to 1981.

Glencraig 31yo 1974/2005 (40%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#2930, 262b, b#067) (dom666): this is an old acquaintance, but it always a pleasure to try it. Nose: light and dry, close to white wine in character, with additional sawdust. This is subtle and needs to be early in a line-up, I would imagine. Mouth: very soft, yet still characterful, mildly acidic, with crisp apple, cut pear and vanilla custard (the taste, not the texture). Finish: wonderful, long, despite the low strength, with soft milk chocolate and vanilla custard, pear and yoghurt. I still love this to bits! 9/10


Glenburgie 19yo d.1995 (46%, Signatory Vintage for Direct Wines First Cask, 3 x Hogsheads, b#197) (Psycho): nose: sweet and fruity, this has marmalade and all sorts of yellow-fruit jams (apricot and peach) that soon bring more acidic notes as well. Mouth: pure jam, at this point. This is amazingly fruity, with bags of apricot, caramelised apple and caramelised peach. Finish: milk chocolate and wonderful fruit, plump and juicy, with peach and apricot leading the dance. Is there a bad First Cask? 9/10

Soundtrack: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The Boatman's Call

Main course is served.

Exploded haggis (argh!)

Neeps and tatties

Potato-and-butternut gratin
Potato-and-mushroom gratin

Full plate \o/

Soundtrack: Tindersticks - Tindersticks

Tobermory vs. Ledaig -- the names were used more or less interchangeably in the past, but today, Tobermory is the regular whisky, while Ledaig is its peaty sibling.

Tobermory (40%, OB , b.1980s) (tOMoH): curious about this one! Many tonight find something not quite right with it, without being able to articulate what. What is not quite right is probably everyone's lack of taste. Of course, I destroy the cork. Nose: ashy and shy. It is not extremely expressive, but still ashy and dusty, with charred dark wood (ebony). With some time, the nose turns deeper and nuttier. Is that a hint of vinegar? Rolling tobacco appear, later. Mouth: baked apples, caramelised apples, burnt apricot compote, a hint of vinegar again. This is surprisingly bold and assertive, ample and nice. Finish: sweet and fruity, it is, again, full of caramelised apple. The third sip has more tobacco as well. I find this excellent, but it is very divisive. 8/10


Ledaig 1974/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Rare Old, JJ/CB) (tOMoH): nose: the shy nose from the newly-opened bottle opens up: after thirty minutes, it is waxy as hell, with lots of citrus peel and mirabelle plum, peach stone and purple nail polish. Fruit develops in a big and waxy way and contributes to an amazing nose. Mouth: a very soft note of farm-y peat, though the dominant remains the yellow fruit (peach and plum). This is rather soft, of course, at 40%, but beautiful regardless. Finish: again, farm-y tones, much bolder, in the finish. The second sip brings about fantastic fruit, in keeping with the nose and mouth. An excellent Ledaig, with the perfect balance of fruit and farm peat. 9/10

1980s driven cork in full effect


It is a miracle it held together in the bottle

Soundtrack: Xorcist - Nomad

Tomatin vs. peaty Tomatin -- they call it Cù Bòcan for their official range, but the indies of course call it Tomatin. And Tomatin has been making peaty stuff for a bit, though it never reaches Laphroaig levels of peat, naturally.

Tomatin 1976/2001 (43%, John Alexander's Collection exclusively distributed by S.L. Major) (sonicvince): after the huge tasting last June, sonicvince decided that great whiskies were meant to be shared and that he would therefore share this one tonight. What a good thought! This is the second half of the cask bottled by James McAllister that we all loved so much in 2011. Nose: exuberantly fruity, it has passion fruit, guava, mango, jackfruit, perhaps overripe satsuma and lychee. Blueberry makes a late appearance for shits and giggles. Mouth: mellow and fruity, the palate has mango yoghurt, grapefruit juice, crushed passion fruit, fresh fig, ... Woah! Finish: long and tropical, fruity . Pure pleasure in a bottle. Fingers crossed sonicvince manages to not empty the bottle too soon and shares it with us again. 9/10


Tomatin 23yo 1994/2018 (47.4%, Cadenhead Sherry Cask, 234b, 17/591) (JS): I remember liking this when it came out, but not being impressed enough to buy a case of it (it is an expression). I also note it was released in 2018, but the bottling code suggests a 2017 bottling. Nose: surprisingly fruity too, though slightly less tropical, it has citrus and heavily-fragrant peaches; later, it is nail varnish and subtle smoke. The smoke grows and grows, augmenting the whole thing without ever smothering any of the other aromas. Mouth: chewy, the sherry influence is felt, but it still has lots of fruit, with dates, figs and soaked sultanas. Tobacco smoke, black tobacco and wood lacquer. Finish: warming, with more of those wonderful, lush fruits and elegant smoke. A-ma-zing. 9/10

Soundtrack: Mentallo & The Fixer - Where Angels Fear to Tread

Amrut vs. peaty Amrut vs. blended Amrut -- the Bangalore-based producer makes peated batches, but also blends other whiskies for its domestic market.

MaQintosh Silver Edition (42.8%, Amrut Distilleries Delhi Exclusive, B#61, b.2016) (ruckus): and this is the blend. Nose: a thin veil of smoke, caramel and roasted hazelnuts. Nothing else. It smells like any old blend, really, a bit generic, but also not repulsive. Mouth: yup, a rather simple blend, with caramel and a bit of smoke. It is well made, probably with a level comparable to that of the Striding Man's. Finish: a cloak of smoke over caramelised apples. Again, not overly complex, but well pleasant. 6/10


Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (62.8%, OB Single Cask for Europe, Bourbon Cask, C#3448, 161b, b#134) (ruckus): nose: solvents, citrus juice, a vaguely farm-y note. This is nice. Water helps chocolate emerge. Mouth: powerful, big, it is full of lime, leather, hot hay, red embers. This is huuuuuge. Finish: the long and hot finish carries a lot of wood. 7/10


Amrut Peated b.2016 (46%, OB, B#55) (ruckus): nose: dried mud, loud and clear, manure, more subtle. A one-trick pony, truth be told, but it does its trick well indeed (provided one likes mud and manure, of course). Mouth: soft, it has mandarins and dried mud. It is now fruity, yet still muddy. It works. Finish: a dash of coffee, dried mud, farm paths, wood splinters -- in fact, it is pretty woody. A good entry-level whisky. 7/10

Dessert makes its way in.

ruckus: "The cake was very good. I hope there is another one!"


Soundtrack: Project Pitchfork - The Early Years (89-93)

Laphroaig vs. unpeated Laphroaig -- Psycho has a bottle he calls the UFO, seeing as it has "virtually no peat."

Laphroaig 18yo (48%, OB, 1LAPH18F01) (Psycho): nose: unctuous, it has copious doses of juicy fruit, but then it also has leather and distant peat. Mouth: leather and mandarins. I am way behind and am rushing my notes in a bid to catch up. Finish: long, it has burnt wood and fruit juice. This is good, but it suffers from the sequence. It does not have the calibre to follow all those great drams. 7/10


Laphroaig 8yo 2001/2009 (46%, Signatory Vintage The Un-Chillfiltered Collection, Refill Butt, C#629, 853b, b#346, L09/242) (Psycho): nose: diluted ash, despite Psycho's claim this one has no smoke or peat. It is very ashy, with sun-drenched leather, ink, old engines and old copper coins. Mouth: rather soft at 46%, it has lots of farm-y notes, (it is the day, is it not?), with tractor tyres, farm paths and a touch of fruit (ripe pear, I reckon), as well as a dash of lime juice. Finish: big and ashy, with perhaps a touch of vinegar, pickled gherkins and a weird mix of sugar-coated seafood. 6/10

Soundtrack: Download - III

JS clocks off, soon followed by adc. We boys soldier on at a leisurely pace.

Loch Lomond vs. Inchmoan -- Loch Lomond distillery makes in excess of ten different whisky styles with its varied pieces of kit. Inchmoan is one of them that has been enjoying its time in the spotlight, lately.

Loch Lomond 1814 Finest Malted Barley (46%, OB, L2/266/16 09 36, b. ca 2017) (dom666): Loch Lomond makes grain whisky, but this is not really it: it is made of one hundred percent malted barley (which usually makes single malt), but distilled in a column still; the SWA declared a long time ago that that was not allowed to make single malt, so it has to be called a grain whisky. In the 19th century, it would have been called a silent malt. Nose: sweet custard, coconut, pomelo juice and icing sugar. Mouth: super soft, sweet, it has custard and fruity yoghurt. Finish: big, sweet and custard-y, a cracking silent malt, even if it is late for good notes. This one pleases the grain heads we are. 8/10


Inchmoan 10yo 1994/2005 (54.8%, OB exclusively selected for The Whisky Fair, C#646, 210b, b#10) (dom666): Inchmoan has enjoyed a renaissance, over the last couple of years. It is one of the peaty expressions made at Loch Lomond; it is distilled in their Lomond still, which has seen its rectifying plates either removed or rendered immobile to please the SWA. Nose: sulphur and vinegar, baked rotten fruit, sea water (sonicvince), sweaty feet (Psycho). I find the nose entertaining, but everyone else hates it with a passion. Mouth: salty-sweet, it has algae and caramelised oysters (yes), combined with drying embers. It is hot indeed. Finish: it becomes amazing, here, with grass, fruit, embers and perhaps roasted chicken. An interesting enough dram, with a terrible nose and an excellent finish. Drama of the day for most. 6/10

Psycho: "Ah! The one that smells like feet!"
(sonicvince adds water to it)
Psycho: "Now, it smells like wet feet!"

The Inchmoan suffers from a ridiculously bad cork

Soundtrack: Xorcist - Insects & Angels: Differences & Indifferences

The second cake enters. It will last a whole ten minutes. adc and JS will be rightly annoyed tomorrow to not have tried it.

...much to ruckus's amusement

Psycho: "Je suis en train de déveloper une allergie aux mèches à métaux."
me: "Elles te trouent le cul?"

Bunnahabhain vs. Moine/Margadale -- the latter being peated Bunnahabhain, when their usual output is only two or three ppm.

Bunnahabhain 28yo 1989/2018 (43.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Dram for The Whisky Fair 2018) (adc): nose: überfruity from the word 'go,' it has green grapefruit, fruity yoghurt and pineapple slices. Mouth: acidic, yet custard-y at the same time, with pineapple and grapefruit slices. Finish: again, fruity, light, it has fruity yoghurt and tropical fruit (pineapple, grapefruit, dried-mango cubes). This is lovely. Hope to try it again in the future. 9/10


Bunnahabhain 25yo XXV (43%, OB, 78413/78415) (kruuk2): we had this a few years ago (2011?), and I remember liking it a lot; a sherried, unpeated Bunna, if I remember well. Nose: raspberry, a whiff of pickled vinegar, cut grass, cassiah bark... God! The raspberry is assertive. Coming back to it after the next dram, much more smoke comes up -- farm-y smoke, with diesel and mud, rather than seafood. Mouth: it seems a little watery, but it has a nice sherry influence, with raspberry coulis and a soupçon of wood splinters. It is a bit acidic, too. Finish: yes, a mix of raspberry coulis, wood yoghurt and peach pulp, complemented with hints of cocoa. Woah! What a dram! 8/10


Bunnahabhain 27yo 1978/2006 (55.6%, Signatory Vintage Cask Strengh Collection, Sherry Butt, C#2542, 509b, b#84, 6/0098) (JS): JS poured this years ago (how time flies), and had mixed feelings about it. She is no longer here to enjoy it, but we will. :o) Nose: one can smell the woody and smokey sherry influence; it has mint, cinnamon and ginger powder. It grows fruitier, with peach in wine and Fino sherry. Mouth: big, leathery, full of horse's hair, dry hay, drying and nutty sultanas and prunes. This is close-to-perfect sherry maturation. It appears to have lost all the bitter rubber it used to have. Finish: rhoo! This is nice, with lots of dried fruits -- Smyrna raisin (all guns blazin'), dried prune and, finally, a distant touch of drying rubber, with perhaps a whiff of smoke. 8/10

What an awesome trio!

Soundtrack: kruuk2's compilations #1 and #2 from a previous edition (2010?)

Ballechin 13yo 2004/2017 (55.2%, OB / Signatory Vintage The Un-Chillfiltered Collection specially selected by and bottled for Tasttoe and Vinothek Massen, Port Cask, C#197, 292b, L17/216) (kruuk2): kruuk2 brought this as a sparring partner for an Edradour... but no-one brought an Edradour. For the record, Ballechin is the peated whisky made at Edradour. He brought it, we might as well taste it. Nose: once again, a peaty whisky that smells very farm-y, with shoe polish, earth and ashy embers. Mouth: big mouth (strikes again), drying earth, burnt orange skins. This is really drying. Finish: huge finish, earthy, with more embers, farm paths and ash. This is very good and a pleasant surprise. But it is late for meaningful notes. 8/10

ruckus: "I was a teenager..."
Psycho: "You were a teenager? Were there still dinosaurs?"

We all retreat to the sofas, in front of the now-roaring fire (to think adc struggled to get it going earlier!) The after-party is spent with the traditional...

North British 45yo 1963/2009 (50.7%, Signatory Vintage, C#117362+117363+117365, 290b, b#19)

117.3 25yo 1988/2013 Hubba-bubba mango and monstera (58.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 199b)
We never get to the Port Charlotte

Psycho and dom666 succumb to slumber, kruuk2 stops drinking, victim of a burnt oesophagus. ruckus and I are relatively awake, but decide to call it a night. It is 6:24. I tidy up a bit before turning and tossing in the bed for a couple of hours. Tomorrow, the lack of sleep will be felt.

What an epic night! The first six impressed me most, but all were good and interesting.

Dram of the day by suspect:
tOMoH: Tomatin 1976 or Ledaig
JS: Tomatin 1976
adc: Tobermory and Glenburgie
Psycho: Bunnahabhain 27yo Signatory
ruckus: Bunnahabhain 27yo Signatory
dom666: TBC
sonicvince: both Tomatin
kruuk2: both Tomatin

21 January 2019

18/01/2019 Oily and Coastal at the SMWS

Here we go again. The  SMWS introduced this formula recently. They already had the five-drams-and-a-cheese-plate on the first Saturday of the outturn, the five-drams-and-a-steak-dinner on the first Monday of the outturn, this is five-drams-and-fish-&-chips on a Friday (I have not yet cracked which Friday, and it does not matter). I promise no G8/Cambus, today!

37.112 16yo 2002/2018 Cream tea with a difference! (54.8%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Madeira Hogshead, 258b): nose: flowers that quickly make room for buttery fruit. From buttery papaya and apricot, it turns into Christmas pudding and mince pies, then juicy greengage, sunflower oil, rubbed honeysuckle leaves and fig relish. The second nosing is full of dry-ish plums, mirabelle plums and greengages. Mouth: wine-marinated peach skins, fig relish, the delicate acidity of citrus (bergamot? Tangerine?) and orange pith. The second sip is spicier. Finish: a mix of unripe-fruit juice and tame milk chocolate with a pinch of herbs thrown in. 7/10

GK and Dr. CD are next to JS and me, which means that, despite the huge pours proiding enough to do so, socialising  gets in the way of breaking down "a pinch of herbs" into a bullet-point list of herbs. Get over it.

39.172 28yo d.1989 Starry starry night (48.2%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill Toasted Hogshead, 182b): nose: berries aplenty (blackberry, gooseberry, blueberry, rowan berry, rose petal and pressed raisins, as well as a touch of ash and hot, crusty bread. Mouth: mellow, prune-y, plummy, soft and fruity. The sherry influence is wonderful and balanced (it is not mentioned, but I am convinced it is an ex-Sherry cask). Lingonberry compote, slightly caramelised. This is very juicy! Finish: amazing. It has more plums and soaked prunes, soaked raisins, then purple passion fruit -- fleeting, but present. There is indeed a dollop of tropical fruit that I cherish. The finish is 9/10 material, and the whole is one of the best expressions I have tasted from this distillery, flirting with the mighty Rare Malts' quality. 8/10

Food enters. It is probably one of the best fish & chips I have had.

36.155 20yo d.1997 (56.9%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 185b): nose: curry leaves, Brazil nuts, nutmeg, oil paint, strawberry vinegar, almond paste. The second nosing brings milk chocolate. Mouth: a bit neutral, it has spicy almond paste and distant boiled sweets. The spices grow in intensity, and paint develops, after a few sips. Finish: pine needles and shortbread. This is very fresh, Gocce Pino or Suc des Vosges style. It has a lick of cork and lots of pine lozenges. 7/10

7.213 13yo d.2004 Moistify your leather (59.9%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 161b): nose: lots of various cakes, flour, plaster (yep), then toffee, cinnamon, speculoos spice mix, nougat and dried watercolour. With water, the watercolour becomes more prominent, as do crayons. Mouth: nougat-y and milky, it has an aggressive bite of green chilli, tamarind paste (though not quite as acidic), Thai curry paste. Oooh! it is hot. Water improves the balance. Finish: dried fruit, covered in ginger powder, dried tamarind, cassiah bark, crushed bay leaves. This is nice, but a bit strong for me. Water makes this bitter and green to a point that is not enjoyable. 7/10

9.158 22yo 1996/2018 Heavy weight cake (59.2%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Oloroso Sherry Hogshead, 239b): nose: nose: colour pencils, red-leaf lettuce, a pinch of dry earth, watercolour (again?) Mouth: crushed bay leaves, crushed cloves, kaffir lime leaves... This is dry and spicy. Finish: dry, drying, even, it has lots of earth, desiccated grapes, raisins, twenty years past their sell-by date, cork, dry staves. I chose it tonight because I liked 9.150 so much, but I am much less convinced by this one. 6/10

CD and Jas come back from Jas's leaving supper -- they had wine and are well merry. :-)
CD kindly offers us the following dram to celebrate Jas's last shift here.

85.16 18yo 1987/2005 Afternoon tea on the lawn (55.3%, SMWS Society Cask): nose: some leather, some mud, some white wine, a hint of shoe polish. This is very earthy! Of course, that is one of the trademark distillery markers. New shoes alongside the polish, which is less expected. Water brings out more varnish and polished wood. Mouth: soft and honeyed, with a dash of mud. The texture is oily and pleasing, mellow and mildly fruity. Water does not alter it. Finish: long, comforting, it has honey, a splash of mud and blackcurrant sweets. H2O makes it bitter. It is definitely better naked. 7/10 (Thanks for the dram, CD)

46.70 17yo d.2000 Rustic farmhouse kitchen (56.2%, SMWS Society Cask, 1st Fill ex-Madeira Hogshead, 235b): nose: urgh. An interesting-but-by-no-means-pleasant mixture of watery coffee and baby sick. Not very enticing, this! To think this is one of my favourite distilleries!! Pine-tree sap shows up, dry tree bark and decaying plum, rotting hay. How charming! Mouth: soft, it ends up plummy and gently earthy, not dissimilar to drying sand. Finish: long, and plummy. The last impression is that of fermenting grapes. This is unripe, in my opinion. The finish is much better than the nose all the same. Not taken. 5/10

While I order the next round, S offers home-baked carrot cake, which is cracking. Thanks!

50.104 28yo 1990/2018 A rosewood Dalek (51.3%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 139b): nose: super fragrant, it has all sorts of flowers (honeysuckle, dandelion, buttercup), incense, cut pears, quince, pencil erasers, burning balsa wood and cinnamon sticks. The flowery-fruity ping pong is amazing. Mouth: very soft, fruity and silky, it has peach, apricot, persimmon, a dash of light wine and ground pepper. Finish: juicy, with quince, pear, honeysuckle, peach in syrup, persimmon again and crushed cherries. Yum! 9/10

38.22 25yo d.1992 Love letters on linen paper (51%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 270b): nose: orchard fruit and ginger powder. I take no further note. Mouth: soft, subtle, it has more orchard fruits and banana skins. The fruit actually becomes more tropical, with jackfruit and banana stealing the spotlight. Finish: hot, very hot (it feels as though I just inhaled this), with lovely tropical fruit, banana and guava, chocolate and caramelised apples. 8/10

Great night out.