14 May 2019

12/05/2019 Because... why not?

Our little group was supposed to meet up for a tasting, today, but everyone who had signed up for it has called off. Might as well try a few unpretentious things without them, to show the world the consequences of standing up tOMoH. :-)

Brora 38yo 1977/2016 (48.6%, OB, Refill American and European Oak Casks, 2984b): leftover sample from Diego's Special Releases tasting, -- woah! -- two years ago. Nose: assertive and full, it is immediately reminiscent of a farm, with farm paths, ploughed fields, tractor tyres and barns, yet also burnt wood, an open fire place and ink -- lots of ink, in fact! Old parchment, old notebooks, old newspapers, old ink well, dried up ages ago. 'Old' and 'dignified' are key words, here. Further, it deliver firecrackers, incense, ash, mixed with cow dung and rubber soles. Woah! again. Next in line are nutty apricots and red-apple peels. Stupendous nose, this. Mouth: the attack is contained, by no means weak. It has the perfect strength for me, in fact: that magical zone between 42.6 and 49.4%, lowered by nature, rather than addition of water (really, I like them all from 40 to 50%, but that made you smile, did it not?) The palate is fruitier than the nose; it has plums and apricots, soaked in punch with walnut kernels, roasted ginger shavings and cedar-wood sheets (the ones they use to light up cigars). Mixed peel is present, dried, but zesty, as is rubber. It turns bitter and almost rubbery (there is a nuance between there being a little rubber, which is fine, and it being overtaken by rubber, which is unpleasant -- rubbery). That rubber detracts from the excellent farm-y fruitiness, if such a thing exists. Finish: similar notes, here, with the zesty, dried citrus peel at the front, and ashy/gunpowder-y tones growing in strength. The latter becomes a tad too prominent for me and provides a bitterness that I could take or leave. Burnt plastic-doll heads, tractor tyres and dried ink, dirty shotguns (yup, it has a metallic edge) and spent fireworks. Good dram, but it does not fully convince me, this time. 8/10

Brora 1972/1992 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, IB/BEF): nose: holy smokes! This is 40%!? It smells higher, assertive too, this one. The affiliation with the previous is undeniable, though this one is ashier. Lots of ashes, gunpowder, Lapsang Suchong tea, scorched earth, dry fields, farm paths in the sun, and a more medicinal aspect to it, this time (tincture of iodine, neoprene, carbolic soap). Aside that are cigar ashes and dry peat, lint, peppermint and burning cinnamon stick. Coming back to it at the end of the line-up, it seems to exude wafts of sea air and scents of baking white pudding (with herbs). It smells salty, fresh, bread-y and savoury. I love it. Mouth: big on the palate too, it is a lot fruitier than the nose suggested, with crystallised pineapple cubes, pear drops and ripe peach slices, carried by a smokey undercurrent -- fireworks, incense, guaiacol and gunpowdered black tea. Finish: how can a reduced whisky be so huge? The fruit is shy, but present, sticking with the pineapple cubes and pear drops, though it is hiding behind an intricate net of all things smokey. More gunpowder, firecrackers, ashes and smoked, exotic teas, incense, as well as menthol and sea spray. Farm-y, smokey, verging on medicinal, and fruity. Two hours later, it displays squashed raspberries and a rubber note, in the same fashion its sibling did -- tractor tyres, but less bitter. These old Connoisseurs Choice, the first ones with a map on the label, can be hit or miss, in my experience. This one has a glowing reputation, and it is not usurped. 10/10

Brora 13yo 1982/1996 (59.9%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection): this is widely believed to be one of the youngest Brora ever bottled as a single cask under that name. Although, to be fair, Cadenhead released no fewer than four 13yo Brora, including one, six months prior to this one... and, staggeringly, two as part of the same outturn -- this one and a sister cask. Imagine this today! Two Broras from the same bottler released simultaneously! There would be riots on the streets! Anyway, I managed to bag the last sample from Dornoch Castle Hotel, a few years ago. Yay, me. Nose: well, the difference in strength is pronounced, with this one seemingly more aggressive. At an almost-20%-higher strength, it is hardly a surprise. It is the difference in profile that is striking, however: not much farm action, here; it starts out with very dry gunpowder, dusty earth, crusty earth, even, baked by years of uninterrupted sunshine, then fruity notes -- almost-ripe peaches, cut apples, dried pear cores. Soon, the gunpowder returns, ready to ignite and self-combust. The next sniff brings forth fruit aplenty, almost without trace of the gunpowder/firecrackers. Then it flips back again, with hot sand and a glassblower's workshop added into the mix, gunpowder pouches and decades-old black tobacco, too dry to smoke in a pipe. Schizophrenic nose, this. Very exciting. Mouth: powerful and sharp, it is a sword, rather than a bulldozer. Surgical spirits, menthol, peat-reek, smoked peaches, smoked grapefruits and a plastic tub of smoked pineapple in juice, left out in the summer sun. It may read odd, but it works. Of the lot, this one has the best fruit/peat balance, to my taste. The plastic is just about under control too. Finish: as the 38yo earlier, this one delivers smoked fruit, somewhat spoilt by a bitter, plastic-y touch that reminds me of plastic-doll heads (troubled childhood, see?) The plastic dissipates to leave the mouth coated in smoked fruit and dark chocolate, which is always a good thing in this Belgian's opinion. Banana rum, and roasted plantains add to the picture, hot bakelite, a plastic bucket full of sand and char-grilled peanuts. The plastic never invades, so this scores better. 9/10

Brora 40yo 1972/2014 (59.1%, OB for World of Whiskies, 160b): ha! ha! Yes. The age statement makes no sense (if 2014 is the actual bottling date, it is 41 or 42), but regardless, this is the oldest Brora bottled to-date. The Swissky Mafia had it as the pinnacle of their first tasting, several years ago. I could not attend, but they had enough for a few additional samples. And here is one of them. Yay. Nose: back to the farm, with muddy boots, manure, muck, midden (can you believe the French 'fumier', 'lisier' and 'purin' are all translated into 'manure', in English? There's a language that does not know shit! ;-) ) All the same, this is, all in all, the freshest nose of the farm-y ones, today -- no scorched earth, rather fresh peat, boggy marshlands and moss water. 'Fresh', he said! It even has a distinct fruitiness, with decaying raspberries, soaked walnuts, moss and lichen, sheltered from the sun in a shadow-y crevice. The nose of this one is remarkably wide, rich and warming. Damp logs on a jetty, waiting to be loaded onto a cargo ship; the ship's crew is warming up around a nearby brasero; girls use too much nail-varnish remover in the town ashore. Coming back to it later, it has turned amazingly waxy, with pastel crayons, candle sticks, hot seal wax, smoked peach skins and polished dashboards. Manure comes up again -- in fact, it is a proper poo factory, newborn style (smoked poo, of course). Mouth: a whisper of rubber, though it is only fleeting. Next up is juicy fruit, then a growing cloud of smoke, intense and impressive -- bonfire, logs on an open fireplace. It is warm, but does not feel too hot, at nearly 60%. Exotic smoke, burning teak... I am suddenly wondering if Indonesia smells like this, what with widespread deforestation (read: burning) of the tropical jungle (including teak, one would think) to make room for palm-tree plantations (frowned upon by the international community, but state-sponsored). Fruit moves to the foreground, pineapple and satsuma first, followed by smoked-apple cider and waxy, smoked apricot. I would say apricot compote in the cauldron, but it is smokier than that. Finish: immense, smokey and peaty, whilst also surprisingly soft and fruity (I know: I cannot comprehend it myself). It has smoked pineapple, smoked kiwi slices, smoked satsuma segments, smoked apricot and various sorts of honey -- pouring, summer honey, dark, dense and intense, thick wood honey, acacia honey, manuka honey, spring clover honey. Then, it is turf and sponge-y bogs, overripe figs, blackberry jam, stewed sultanas and smoked fruit teas. What a ride! It was extravagantly priced when it came out, and it is even more out of reach today, provided one can find it. I still do not think the RRP was in direct correlation to the quality of the juice, let alone today's prices, but I can see why some went mad for it. It is clearly a capital whisky. I am tempted to go with a 9 to wind CD up, but really, it deserves top marks. 10/10 (Thanks for the dram, JS and thanks for the opportunity, PG and CD)

Let us call this a session.

Good book, overall. Full of little-known information and archive pictures,
and it shows the author knows the subject well.
On the other hand, the layout is often clumsy and one can
easily tell the author is not a native English speaker.
Brora, A Legendary Distillery (1819--1983) and Whisky, Dr. Patrick Brossard, self-published

7 May 2019

04/05/2019 May outturn at the SMWS

They roll like bowls in a bowling alley. bottlings coming out. A boom if I know one!
JS and I meet at the SMWS to try the new outturn. CD, GK, BA, HT and others are there, of course. No PS, who left a couple of hours before I arrive.

38.24 26yo d.1992 Princes Street Gardens in summer (51.2%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 270b): nose: perfume-y and loaded with boozy pastry. It feels strong in alcohol, with almond skins, curd, walnut oil and strong perfume (as in strong, scented alcohol). Lime joins the dance, sparkling pomelo juice, then back to walnut, and... smoke!? Mouth: vanilla pudding, here. On steroids, though -- it is rather strong, as hinted at by the nose. Poached pears, poached peaches, oregano, rosemary, nutmeg. Finish: meow! Moreish lemon curd, vanilla shortbread, buttered scone, apricot jam and hints of rosemary. Beau-ti-ful. Caperdonich can be hit or miss, especially these later vintages; the ones the SMWS has been releasing recently are all top notch, however. Just as well, because they are not cheap. 9/10

54.75 16yo d.2002 Refined, refreshing and redolent (58.8%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill Toasted Hogshead, 187b): nose: a strange combination of polished dashboards, a toolbox and an auld sweet shoppe. The second sniff brings forth mercurochrome. After the first sip, it smells like a grain, with coconut and lemon juice. Later on, it wafts through scents of a musty warehouse and Demerara sugar. Mouth: the combination carries on, with metallic tools and copper coins, polished walnut tree and some distinct power, with lots of spices, whilst the fruit is toned down. Finish: green and spicy at first, it soon explodes into a myriad of flavours covering pastry, metals, fruit (cut peaches) and herbs. Very original. It reminds of the wonderful 23yo by Cadenhead for its whacky profile, complex and unexpected. 8/10

The following are not in the outturn. They were part of an unanounced mid-month release. We feel compelled to try them before they run out; check the number of bottles for each!

50.107 26yo d.1990 Full of surprises! (54.7%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 64b): nose: dusty and fruity, it has wood, juicy butter and rotting peaches -- it works! Mouth: soft, even more interesting than the nose, complex, it has ashes, alongside peaches and orange peels. Finish: citrus, mandarins, to be precise, tangerines, squashed apricots, apricot turnovers and squashed strawberries. Nice! 8/10

50.108 26yo d.1990 Darkness of the edge of brown (56.5%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 95b): nose: this one is more perfume-y, with fragrant-if-shy jasmine and Virginia tobacco and crushed, overripe peach. There is also more pronounced wood, on the nose of this one. Mouth: soft, fruity (yellow peach, white peach, plum), balanced and well pleasant. Finish: baking aplenty, with vanilla sugar, baked choux dough, vanilla custard and coconut shavings. This is excellent. Would probably score one more point in a more relaxed setting (the clock is ticking and we have one more to try). 8/10

50.106 28yo d.1990 Smashed with an antique melon mallet (55%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 61b): this one is not available to buy any longer, but since we just had 107 and 108, it would be silly not to try it while we can (last bottle at the bar). We are told it has turned mustier than when the bottle was opened. Nose: lemon-y, it also shows a high strength that clears the nostrils. Fruit-scented, acidic cleaning agent -- and none of that washing-up liquid: something much more radical. Super-acidic grapefruit. Nice, but challenging, this one. Water brings up leather and hay!? Yup, upholstery, which is most unexpected. Mouth: better behaved, here, it has lemon curd, grapefruit peel, grapefruit segments, acidic and sharp, stripping, almost drying. Water makes it more balanced, with peach juice, a dash of grapefruit juice too, then assertive spice, green-chilli style. Finish: an onslaught of acidic grapefruit and sharp lemon. This is impressively intense. With water, it remains very acidic, with added green chilli. It feels slightly less spicy than on the nose and mouth, but it is still strong. What a treat to try three of those sister casks back to back, though! 8/10

Incidentally, I am warming up to this new livery. I still think
that having different labels for the high-end defeats the idea
of the SMWS (look past the presentation), but the black
labels are very stylish!

Well, the prices, they keep climbing, yet the quality, it stays high. The place is becoming a bit stingy with the cheeses and crackers, on the other hand. Four crackers and four minuscule pieces of cheese. Well, we did see more than one who did not finish their portion, all the same. QED, I suppose.