15 December 2017

14/12/2017 DW's birthday bash at Cadenhead's

It is that time of the year. DW invited a collection of friends to the tasting room for an evening of socialising with whisky. MSo, JS, BC, PP, PS, Cavalier66, EC, WK and several other regulars are here for the occasion, with SW running the show, whilst RO (who built the lineup) JL & JMcI stand quietly in the corner.

All the drams are poured blind from bottles concealed in jute bags (or hessian sacks, for the posh), including the extra ones brought by the audience. On top, we have the traditional fruits, cheeses and chocolates, all of which are mighty fine.

SW is a little unsettled by the number of people in attendance. DW kindly underlines that two or three were not invited by him. They quickly reply that they felt a bit out of place, not getting all the private jokes flying across the table, but promise they will behave, and are enthusiastic about the whiskies to come, whose quality has already been hinted at. It is unclear whether they showed up on the wrong day, or if someone booked them in tonight, despite the tasting being private. In any case, they are made to feel welcome.

The notes are brief. The pace is frenetic, and it is more about sharing the moment with friends than reflecting on drams for hours.

Auchentoshan 25yo 1992/2017 (44.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Barrel, 198b): nose: lime, cucumber peels, glazed cocktail glasses (with the rim covered in sugar). Mouth: unctuous, milky and softly bitter -- almond milk. Finish: lots of tropical fruit. The big reveal comes and I am reminded how much I liked it when it came out. 8/10

WK: "Are we trying the new Highland Park?"
SW: "We do actually have a Highland Park. In Scotland. In a cask."

Aberfeldy 21yo 1996/2017 (54.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 270b): nose: all sorts of ripe fruit, citrus, blood oranges and lemon. The mouth is soft, with a discreet acidic touch. The finish has the vague bitterness of nut shells. I declare this to be a 13yo Dufftown, but SW assures us it is a 21yo Aberfeldy. I note RO's cunning: he obviously emptied a bottle of Aberfeldy 21yo, and refilled it with Dufftown 13yo. You don't fool the Old Man of Huy! 6/10

Glenburgie-Glenlivet 25yo 1992/2017 (54.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 240b): nose: slightly ashy, it also has green-grape pips. The mouth is strong and citrus-y, while the finish is mellower, with more fruit and, in this one too, a vague bitterness. BC guesses the distillery, teacher's pet that he is, and I observe I like it less than the first time (perhaps because it is actually not the same -- duh). 7/10

Undisclosed Distillery d.1960s (38.9%, private cask, 1 bottle): from the fabled Mayfair stash, this might be from an Inverness distillery, but definitely not Mhor or Albyn. Nose: musty, it has cloves, teak shavings and heavy wine. In fact, orange slices, macerated for hours in sangria, under the hot sun. Mouth: a mix of leather and red wine (have you seen Can't Buy Me Love?) Musty, still, with also decaying grapes and a touch of smoke. Finish: much smokier, here, with red wine, still clamouring about. The legend says that this cask was stored alongside wine casks and that transpires. Highly interesting, educational, even, emotional, considering where it comes from, the era it is from and the story around it, but ultimately, it is a masterclass in how whisky goes wrong when allowed to. 6/10 (at least one point of which is emotional) (Thanks for the experience, SW)

Glen Grant-Glenlivet 22yo 1995/2017 (57.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Refill Sherry Butt, 486b): nose: strawberry stems, a hint of farm-y smoke and rose petals. Mouth: creamy fruit, melted butter, squashed mango, paprika. Finish: peppery fruit in a puddle of melted chocolate. This is good. 8/10

Ben Nevis 21yo 1996/2017 (51.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 240b): nose: Cavalier finds it very fruity. He is obviously wrong: it is very meaty. This smells of rotting carcasses. Mouth: the mouth is thin, tea-like in texture and leafier than the nose suggested. It has rancio, too. Finish: bitter, with rancio, dusty concrete, rotten fruits. Meh. This is popular (Campbeltown's own JMcI's favourite), but not my thing at all. 5/10

Aberlour-Glenlivet 17 2000/2017 (52.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 258b): nose: subtle strawberry, almond cake, laundry detergent (what?) The mouth is soft and sweet, while the finish is really akin to licking teak. 6/10

SW observes that one of the guests has not yet shown up.
SW: "CC is obviously not coming..."
EC: "He messaged a while ago. He's got train problems."
SW: "He needs to stop driving them."

Auchroisk 29yo 1988/2017 (44.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Hogshead, 180b): nose: hazelnuts and bursting fruit -- berries, peaches, even tropical fruits. Mouth: soft and silky, with a pinch of red chilli. Finish: gentle, elegant and fruity, slightly drying, but lovely. The lashes of fruit are superb. Dram of the night for me. Funnily enough, it was also an Auchroisk that won my preference, last year. 8/10

SW has one more from his secret reserve, a smoky affair, but now is the time for me to interject and pour Bladnoch 23yo 1977/2001 (53.6%, OB Rare Malts Selection, b#0565) blind. DW guesses the distillery. I take no notes and, in fact, I get none of the liquid myself. Bah, there is half a dram left in the bottle, notes will follow. :o)

Now that I have derailed the course of the tasting, goodies are coming out of many bags. I do not try them all. I lack time to try DW's Springbank 21yo b.2017 (46%, OB, 17/173) and BC's Glenburgie 29yo 1985/2014 (55.3%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, C#95/36/10, 222b) and Pulteney 25yo 1990/2016 (50.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 180b): too busy socialising. I do try the following, though. Blind, of course.

128.5 9yo 2006/2015 As purple as Prince! (60.2%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 215b) (Cavalier66): nose: ├╝berfruity, with a whiff of hiking boots and buttery mango. Mouth: rancio, fruit, and hiking boots (remember that is close to decaying tropical fruit). It has the texture of milk and lots of spices. The finish is extremely fruity too. I guess it is Irish, but am pleased when Cavalier puts us all out of our misery. As good as I remembered it, if not better. 9/10

Another bottle is passed around in a hessian sack. I palpate it.
PS: "Bringing SMWS bottles in..."
FH: "Here is another one."
DW: "Weird move."
FH: "I was just feeling the shape and the girth of the bottle."
All: "Ha ha!"
DW: "What was that?"
JS: "He said he was feeling the shape, the sack..."
PS: "You're making it worse!"

5.57 18yo 1999/2017 Strawberry summer flan (51.5%, SMWS Society Cask, 2nd Fill Toasted Oak Hogshead, 88b) (DW): nose: hawthorne. The nose is very herbaceous, in fact, with a hint of flowers too. Mouth: mellow and caramel-y, it has squashed fruit as well. Finish: herbs and chocolate. Very good. 8/10

We are properly evicted, and rightly so: it is late. I still have a couple of glasses that need emptying.

Undisclosed Islay 35yo (unknown ABV, private cask, Sherry Butt) (SW): from the Mayfair stash? I cannot remember. In any case, no point calling; this is not available and wil not be. We are told immediately it is not Port Ellen. That leaves half a dozen possibilities. Nose: jute bags, farmyard, tractor tyres, then the coastal character opens up and fishnets join the party. Mouth: hot, pepper and leathery. Finish: balanced, with hessian and farm paths. Lovely drop, likely an active distillery on south-coast Islay that is not Lagavulin or Ardbeg. 8/10

Excellent evening. I managed to embarrass myself a few times, most notably during a toast, but all in all, great whiskies, great company and good times. Happy birthday, DW!

Another time, baby


  1. It's so good you take the minutes otherwise I would never remember. Although you are clearly wrong about the Ben Nevis, the Auchroisk was indeed also excellent and the pick of the rest, the 1985 Glenburgie 29 that Ben brought was superb, and my new nickname ("doughnut shirt") seems to be sticking at the shop... Great night.

  2. Yes thanks for taking minutes! I love how you remember all the big gags. Happy Christmas :)