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:
- It was a lot of dough for the late 1970s or early 1980s;
- Grant would not have sold the cask, had Hills not been a friend of a friend; and
- Glenfarclas would probably not have sold a cask at all, had the economical climate of the early 1980s been different (Whisky Loch, anyone?)
- Some of his mates were minted;
- He had connections;
- No, he did not talk about this in depth.
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.