Strathmill 23yo 1992/2015 (47.7%, A.D. Rattray Cask Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, C#668072, 280b): nose: it smells fresh, lively and young, with hay, straw and apple-cider vinegar, Chenin blanc and unripe gooseberries. In fact, it seems borderline spirit-y, which, at that venerable age, is no small surprise. Allow me to use the phrase: "it must have been a tired cask." There is an almost-sandy aspect to this, until it turns more vegetal at last, with green hazel, jasmine not quite blooming yet, and -- wait for it -- marzipan-coated bergenia. How unusual! Well, breathing does good things, if not miracles, and the initially-difficult nose does become more welcoming, after all. Phew! The second nose adds gravel into the mix, the bedrock of a clean aquarium, before fish are introduced. Mouth: dry and chewy, this is reminiscent of scented pencil erasers, or new-flip-flop soles. Surprisingly enough, that is not a bad thing. It opens up on the palate to release almond paste and cashew burfi, augmented with a few drops of royal-blue ink. Alcohol integration is optimal, and how little wood spices there are are very much under control, merely elevating the liquid from bland to pleasant. It does remain a tad rubbery, though no complaint from tOMoH on that front. The second sip witnesses a skirmish opposing gritty salt and bold sweetness, which adds another dimension. Dry raspberries appear via retro-nasal olfaction too, woo! Finish: chewy and rubbery indeed, the finish sees more of a five-spice kick, as well as ground cassia-bark and a coconut-milk thickness that rocks my boat, even if it seems totally disconnected from the nose. After a few sips, the salty/sweet fight from the mouth spills over into the finish, though here, there is no doubt sweetness wins. Sweet and acidic fruits (grapes, plums, gooseberries) point back to the vinegar from earlier, though it is more pleasant now, obviously part of a greater whole. The grapes turn drier, more Chenin blanc than Thompson, and flirt with gravel -- gravel upon which plums have been crushed, that is. 7/10
12 July 2021
Mosstowie 33yo 1975/2008 (48.4%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#5816, 184b, b#008): nose: ripe yellow citrus-y fruit shoots up immediately; pineapple, yellow kiwi, calamansi, Sicilian lemon, as well as physalis. Pretty soon, all that is joined by a lovely custard-y wave that carries not only vanilla powder, but also woody tones: balsa-wood sawdust, lemongrass, and the softest swirl of toffee. The citrus is quick to reply, this time with pomelo and lime peels, mandarin foliage, chewy mandarin paste (if such a thing exists), accompanied by a drop of teak oil. This is a rollercoaster nose that only has peaks, not a single trough. The second nose has combava leaves and apple mint, which is as refreshing as it is unexpected. Mouth: from the get-go, it is sweet lemonade and delicious fruits -- as expected: pineapple, calamansi, yellow kiwi -- bathing in a river of creamy custard. The alcohol integration is flawless, the 48.4% giving just enough of a spicy kick to make this the perfect breakfast dram, for a gentle-but-resolute wake-up. The second sip produces a greener hue, less ivy than citrus foliage, perhaps, yet it is certainly leafier. Some kind of mint, maybe? Why! yes, it is lemon mint. In the long run this mouth also becomes chewier, which hints at leaves as well. Finish: for half a second, it seems in danger of showing a bitter side, gained from thirty-three years in wood. For half a second only, though: the cavalcade of ripe fruits nips that bitterness in the bud with an assertive level of acidity. Again, it is pineapple, pomelo (perhaps even grapefruit, here), calamansi and Sicilian lemon, and they are more acidic with each sip. It is a medium-long finish that leaves the mouth as if coated in lemon zest. In the long run, sawdust grows in influence, with custard powder, baking soda and ground white pepper, yet the woody side wisely remains in the shadow of the aforementioned fruit. Winner. 9/10
7 July 2021
If one were dyslexic, one could easily conceive that, on this fourth day of July, the Arran mice are in fact, Amerrican.
Moving on. The video resumes at 33:53.
Nose: another wine maturation, I would wager. It has earth and roasted chicken wings, focaccia, but also shoe polish, leather belts and lacquered shoes. The nose is not shy with the wood, and it is exotic wood, here. Ebony and pangium, to be precise, also known as kepayang tree. To be fair, I have no clue what the latter smells like, but this reminds me of its seed, the kluwak nut. Several minutes in, a nut liqueur appears, sweet, heady, and, well, nutty. Hair lacquer? Check. Wood varnish? Check. Strawberry liqueur is about too, added to a spoonful of melted dark chocolate. Mouth: nice attack, with enough wood spices to keep one on one's toes (ginger, cinnamon, cedar wood) and crushed hazelnut shells. The back of the palate welcomes more nut liqueur, though it is not as bold as it was on the nose; it is better balanced by the gentle wood spices. Come to think of it, it might be that mysterious strawberry liqueur from the nose too. Whichever it is, it is very pleasant. The liqueur comes a little too close to black-liquorice bootlaces for comfort, perhaps. Fortunately, the sweetness keeps it on the straight and narrow. Finish: a decent kick, even if it does not feel particularly strong. It is, however, mildly drying, with cinnamon-stick splinters, ginger peel, yet also something rather sweet and fruity. Is it candied apples? Actually, it is marzipan, soaked in fortified wine. Repeated sipping increases the winey notes at the detriment of all else. Comment: it is OK. It could be any sherried or Port-matured whisky, though. Arran 21yo b.2020 Kildonan & Pladda Island (50.4%, OB The Explorers Series, Volume Three, Sherry Butts, Puncheons and Ruby Port Pipes, 9000b) 7/10
Nose: with this one, we are firmly in earthy territory. It is herbes de Provence, barbecue marinade and herbs-infused oils. How is that earthy? Well, to me, it smells like scrubland. Thyme, dried rosemary, oregano, yet also watercolour. I feel like this has chicken too, although it is butter chicken, not (yet) roasted. And then, further in the back, I detect Bourbon-sprinkled custard cream. The herbs soon come back, lemon thyme leading the charge, this thyme (Ho! Ho! Ho!) Later on, we have wine or liqueur, once again, yet it does not stray too far from Bourbon, now; coconut and vanilla, custard and cake -- raspberry ice cream cake, if you please. Mouth: strawberry or raspberry cream and pink-and-white marshmallows fight with spearmint and cedar-wood sheets for the spotlight. It also has grapefruit peel, and a definite wood bitterness. The second sip is juicier, still on a grapefruit tip, yet the bitterness will not go away. Finish: grapefruit peel is prominent, at this stage. Unfortunately, alongside the fruit comes an unmistakable bitterness, and it is a little too loud. Repeated sipping brings about a citrus-y-custard touch, acidic and sweet in equal measures, with vanilla and grapefruit flesh. The bitterness seems better incorporated, yet it is still there. Comment: despite its clear fruitiness, I find the bitterness throws this one off. My least favourite of the flight. Arran 23to b.2021 Drumadoon Point (49.5%, OB The Explorers Series, Volume Four, Sherry Puncheons, 9000b) 6/10
Nose: watercolour and plasticine, wax and modelling clay. A basket of citrus grows in intensity, behind that, hinting at another Bourbon cask (not that there have been many thus far, mind). Here are grapefruit peels, dried at first, then fresh. Then, all of a sudden, it is a bunch of jasmine, honeysuckle and lilac that rush through the nose. This is fragrant and floral, light and spring-like. Sure! There are tender wood shavings, too, yet it is a flower show with a basket of fruits, mostly. The second nose raises the stakes by introducing a lovely citrus-y custard to a shortbread base. Mouth: meow, this is fruity. Pineapple, calamansi, tangerine. In amongst all that juicy fruit, a few lily-of-the-valley stems stick out a bit, and bring out some bitterness, although it is not bothersome this time. That is especially not bothersome because the fruits come crashing in waves, supported by custard and some kind of menthol cream or pine resin. The second sip serves an excellent lemon custard with shortbread soaked in it. Finish: all the citrus regroups for the final assault on the taste buds -- grapefruit, calamansi, mandarin, pineapple, juicy and acidic. Mind you, it is a lot sweeter and custard-y than the nose suggested: the acidity is subtle, here. It is a pretty long finish that leaves the tongue bathing in citrus-y vanilla custard. Comment: easily my favourite of the selection. Also, it is not a Bourbon cask, regardless of what I thought. Arran 24yo 1996/2020 (47.8%, OB Ultimate Selection The Festival Single Cask for Arran Malt and Music Festival, Sherry Hogshead, C#1996/048, 271b) 8/10
Well, it does not replace a tasting in real life, but at the same time, I liked that I could stop the video to concentrate on the drams.
(Thanks for the samples, MR)