31 August 2016

28/08/2016 Auchentoshan distillery visit

JS and I have an apointment with DH, whom we met at Annandale. He kindly offered to drive us around. Of course, that translates into a distillery visit.
Auchentoshan offers six different tours, and any of those can be done at night. I booked the Auchentoshan Experience, a 90-minute tour with four drams. After a very good lunch, we barley (pun intended) make it on time to the place -- down to the minute.


The group is fifteen strong, which is a lot more than I anticipated. Oh, well.

We are told a summary synthesis of the history of whisky in front of a map of Scotland, including several mistakes ("There are only two distilleries in Campbeltown," " Auchentoshan is one of only two distilleries left in the Lowlands") and interesting trivia (e.g. Auchentoshan means corner of the field and the distillery was built on the site of an abbey, centuries ago).
DH and I shiver when the guide tells us Auchentoshan is the only distillery in Scotland to triple-distill its whisky (Hazelburn does the same), though we make no fuss about.

Too clean for spleen

I am struck by the cleanliness of the place: it looks like a visitor centre that happens to host distilling equipment. The guide reminds me that it is Sunday and there is no production, today. Still, the effort spent cleaning the equipment each week is enormous, in that case.

Guide: "If you want to wax lyrical about lime and shaved coconut, you're in the wrong place. I like my whisky to taste of whisky."

Auchentoshan American Oak (40%, OB, Bourbon Barrels, L3978): nose apricot compote and milky porridge. Mouth: touches of young wood, apricot jam and lemon marmalade. Finish: gently spicy, with more lemon marmalade. this is decent, not particularly noteworthy. 7/10



Before we proceed to the mash room, with its four Oregon pine mash tuns (the other four are hidden behind a wall), a visitor asks if the drying barley is still turned with a wooden shovel. The guide answers that it is, that nothing is mechanised. He does not seem to think it fit to mention there is no malting floor left at Auchentoshan and that the malt they buy is, of course, mechanically turned.

Auchentoshan Three Woods (43%, OB, 10y in American Bourbon Barrel, 1y in Oloroso Sherry Casks, 1y in PX Casks, L4451): this used to be a sure shot ten or fifteen years ago; something easy and affordable, yet slightly more demanding than e.g., a Glenfiddich 12yo. Nose: Quality Street Strawberry Delight (the one with the pink wrapper). Mouth: good balance, with mild chocolate, strawberry touches and a drop of Chinoto. Finish: Americano coffee, Chinoto, gingerbread, ginger beer. Yep, still decent. 7/10



In the still room, we get to smell fore shots (full of fusel oil) and are told that the triple-distilled spirit comes out at 81%. "Like a good vodka," our guide underlines. "A summer vodka," reply the two Russians in the group.
We get to try it.

Auchentoshan New Make Spirit (81%): nose: plum eau-de-vie. Mouth: feinty and plummy. Finish: long, plummy and chock-full of macerating plum skins.



Next stop is the warehouse, where pictures are not allowed and where we discover Auchentoshan use their casks three times. I learn that, in Scotland, whisky must not be matured in a vessel larger than 700 litres.

"A 3yo whisky is really not good enough to drink. The sort of things you would get at an all-inclusive holiday resort, when you think, 'Ah! I might as well have malt whisky!'"

Pictures from the outisde are OK
The warehouse is rather generic. The Bourbon casks come from Heaven Hill, mostly, there are quite a few French wine casks and all of them have barcodes. The guide tells me nothing goes to blending. The whole production is dedicated to the single malt market.



The final stop is the lounge, a room that looks more set up for corporate events than anything else, yet it has a few lovely industrial-era features. It also has two sofas that are as uncomfortable as they are low and deep, which means it is impossible to sit in them them and retain any dignity.

Auchentoshan 18yo (43%, OB, American Bourbon Casks, L4242): nose: warm wood, kept in a wicker basket near the stove, gentle coffee, toasted bread. This is much richer than the previous ones. Mouth: it falls completely flat, here; watery, with hot chocolate, diluted in too much water. Finish: watery again, it has notes of cola. Disapointing. 6/10

I am hoping we get to try the 21yo as the final dram, but no luck.

Auchentoshan 10yo 2006/2016 (59.2%, OB Distillery Cask, Bordeaux Cask, C#199): nose: liquid chocolate, caramel, merbromin, cinnamon, red-hot candy and a bit of sulphur. Mouth: wine, mulled wine, with cloves and cinnamon sticks. Finish: warm and invigorating, with milk chocolate, peppered with rum or some liqueur. This one is full of character and personality -- and pretty nice, in fact. 7/10

The tour ends. There are a couple of interesting bottles in the shop, though it is clear they are trophies more than souvenirs (high price point). They do not sell polo shirts, t-shirts, sweat shirts or suchlike, unfortunately. When asked, the staff replies that they discontinued them, because units were not shifting. Since doing that, everyone has been asking why they did not sell shirts... Perhaps the design did not look good?

It was fun, though as far as distillery visits are concerned, this is one of the worst I have been on. Factual errors, lack of passion, big group, average dram selection... It all felt like a standard 30-minute tour at any distillery. Except it cost four times the price. Unimpressed.

Blackstreet - No Dignity

30 August 2016

27/08/2016 An evening at the Bon Accord

Back here, yay! The place is busy, though it does not deter JS and me.

Scapa 25yo d.1980 (54%, OB, 2000b): the cork is floating inside the bottle. It worries me a little, though it is too late: I did not notice until it was poured already. Nose: a mixture of fresh brioche, red-fruit-soaked boiled sweets, tropical wood (mahogany, teak), raisins. After a while, tree bark comes out, moist after a light drizzle. A soft whiff of varnish ends up teasing the nostril, and even a bit of musk. Much later on, moist cake appears, frangipane, even. Mouth: acidic at first, it has the character of unripe stone fruit (apricot?) It is warming, with plant sap, almost soup-y (carrot, spinach), with a copious dose of chili powder. Finish: delicate, soft wood abounds, as well as coconut cream, hot custard and a certain vegetal acidity. At the same time, it leaves a velvety impression of chocolate. 8/10

St Magdalene 1982/2013 (46%, GMP Rare Old, B#RO/13/01): nose: simultaneously generous and austere, if such a combination were possible. The trademark flint is there (austere), lemon-flavoured boiled sweets and a note of sweet pastry (apricot pie or turnover -- generous). JS detects mortar (austere), while tOMoH thinks the pastry becomes more and more prominent (generous). Mouth: it seems soft, almost silky, until one realises that the lemon is pretty piercing. Regardless, it is not aggressive; simply closer to fruit juice than to cream. Finish: the generous austerity continues with ripe citrus (preserved lemons) and ground apricot stones, gentle herbs (chives) and flint. This masterpiece even has a medicinal aspect to it. 9/10

Inverleven 26yo 1978/2004 (50.1%, DT Rarest of the Rare, C#1873, 216b): we had to skip this one on the last couple of visits for lack of time. Time to right that wrong. Nose: pâtes de fruits, lush and chewy, then vanilla-ed rhubarb emerges. Shards of black marble, wet gravel. It retains a fruity note all the same (citrus initially, then berries). Mouth: silky and characterful, if that makes sense; it is soft and delicate, though it also has some imperfections. And by that, I mean asperities that stick out and make it interesting, rather than flaws. It is slightly spicy and stings like a pruned bush of roses, if one is not careful, yet it is very elegant. It becomes woody after a while, with polished-dashboard features. Finish: long and quietly assertive, it carries notes of crushed flowers, dark chocolate, tarragon, gentle milk coffee, bitter. Pâtes de fruits make a comeback (lemon-y ones). Flower petals eventually come to the foreground (roses and cherry blossom). Is this good or what? 9/10

Oishii Wisukii 36yo (46.2%, The Highlander Inn, Sherry Cask): of course, blends are not usually something we go for. But then blends are not usually 36yo small batches exclusively bottled for a highly-respected whisky bar. Nose: perfectly-controlled sherry influence -- coffee and leather kept on a leash, hazelnut, walnut and even a hint of smoke. Brown toast (JS), sizzling portobello mushrooms, roasted chestnuts. Mouth: oh! yes, buttered, brown toast. This is a breakfast whisky if tOMoH knows one! it is rounded and velvety as a smoothie too. Of the coffee and leather, there is not much left; instead, we have gentle marmalade on toasted bread. Finish: it feels too short and sharp, really, yet it retains the softness of the palate and the same general notes -- jam on toast, smoky and sweet. An excellent blend. Water disintegrates it. Careful. 8/10

Good times.

21 August 2016

14/08/2016 Moses and the Ten Commandements or Brexit or Pretzels

Yes, you read the theme correctly. dom666 is hosting this one and he was so ambitious he did not even find anything to fit into his own theme! The second part of which, I should add, is there because he thought the first would perhaps be too difficult. Ahem. :-)

The suspects: MQ, PSc, ruckus, dom666, sonicvince, JS, Psycho and yours, truly.

The theoretical start time is around noon. JS and I make it there a little before 14:00, only to be shouted at from the balcony -- they are thirsty.

"Hurry up! We're thirsty!"



Glengoyne 17yo (unknown ABV, OB, ceramic decanter, b.1990s) (Psycho): Glen is an English Brexiter and cannot wait for the UK to be goyne. Ahem. Nose: candied apples, strawberries and a distant fire. Mouth: spicy caramel, Americano coffee, chocolate coulis, flat cola. Finish: more lovely chocolate-y coffee, strawberry and candied apple roundness. I like this one every time Psycho pours it; today is no exception. 9/10


Caperdonich 11yo d.1968 (70° PROOF, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, b. ca 1979) (JS): as one can see from the label, "onnoisseur's " is parting the red C's. Note the use of an apostrophe in "Connoisseur's." It was dropped on all subsequent labels (brown, old map, new map, new new map). Just like Moses. *cough* Nose: wonderful, full of dust and antique furniture, ground fruit stones, pepper and paprika. Mouth: balanced as fook, with honey, furniture polish, wax, honey and a hefty dose of spices -- whoa! Finish: a pinch of herbs join the notes from the palate: polish, antique furniture, dust and black cumin. This is monumental. 9/10

Come to think of it, Hoi is also parting the red C's

Glencraig 31yo 1974/2005 (40%, DT Rarest of the Rare, C#2930, 262b) (dom666): still waiting to hear how this is in theme. Nose: lemon, lime, sage. Mouth: lemony honey. Finish: this is fresh and lively, full of lemon, with a touch of custard and choux dough. Despite my poor notes, this is as good as I remembered it. 9/10

Glenmorangie 10yo (43° G.L., OB, b. ca 1985) (Psycho): 10yo, 10 commandments, one year of age per commandment. There you go. Nose: wide, with a toffee touch, a pinch of earth, and a lot of lemon. Mouth: peppery toffee, paprika, milk chocolate, soy milk, even. Finish: more peppery toffee and caramel. This is soft and beautiful. 8/10

Enters food: chervil soup, followed by baked salmon with steamed broccoli and a good potato salad. Yum.



Scapa 1988/1999 (40%, GMP) (PS): Brexiters want to eScapa the EU. *snif* Nose: squashed strawberries, leather and crisp apple in the back. Mouth: velvety and soft, it has almond milk and vanilla milk. Finish: long and assertive, full of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch. Another one we all love revisiting. 9/10


Teeling Whiskey (46%, OB, L14 009 281 08/01, b.10/2014) (MQ): the group shoehorns this into the theme thus: Darteeling, favourite jea of the Brexiters. Ahem. Nose: wood varnish, tinned pineapple, hints of pear. It is not very expressive, yet it is nice. Mouth: warmer, lemon-y, zesty, almost flinty. Finish: butterscotch, chili custard, shaved coconut. This one is simple and very pleasant. 8/10

Springbank 1965/2002 (46%, Lombard Jewels of Scotland) (me): Moses led the Jew(el)s out of Egypt. *cough* Nose: we shift gears -- a gentlemen's club with floor-to-ceiling wood panels and old bookshelves (PSc). Dunnage warehouses, star fruit, decaying cherries. This is as complex as it is noble. Mouth: a mouthful of pebbles, dunnage warehouse tones and old staves. Finish: long, powerful, distinguished; this is superlative and requires no further comment for now. I will try it on its own to give it the time it deserves. 10/10

The Ardmore Legacy (40%, OB, L521657A 14:35) (MQ): no connection to the theme. Nose: farmyard and pickle vinegar, burnt custard. Mouth: oily, with honey, wet burnt wood. Finish: distant burnt wood, oily acacia honey that leaves a viscous mouth. Nice, though it certainly suffers from its place in the sequence. 6/10


Bowmore 16yo 1996/2012 (46%, Càrn Mòr Strictly Limited, Sherry Butt, 844b) (PSc): PSc argues that, given another chance, a Brexiter Càrn vote not Mòr to leave. *coughs furiously* Nose: delicate smoke, dark fruit (blackberry and elderberry) and a farm-y note too. Mouth: velvety and soft, with a veil of barbecue smoke. Finish: long and wide, with a farmyard impression again. This is nice, if not very noteworthy. 6/10

Dessert is served: rice tart and griddled cherry tart from Tihon, a bakery in Huy.

Knockando 18yo d.1994 (43%, OB, Sherry Casks) (sonicvince): after receiving the law tablets, Moses took his staff and knocked on them for all to do what was written on them. *Achoo* Nose: chocolate milk and gentle sulfur. Mouth: mellow, with soft caramel and heavily-diluted chocolate milk. Finish: butterscotch and milk chocolate. This does not impress me much, today. I blame the sequence. 6/10

Longmorn 19yo 1992/2012 (46%, Acorn Friends of Oak, 120b) (sonicvince): Moses's staff was made out of oak. Sinking to new lows, we are. :o) Nose: powerful, fruity, full of bakery goodness and mango. Mouth: deliciously fruity (mango) and velvety, with a hint of sage, interestingly enough. Finish: big, long, fruity, wonderful. Love it. 9/10

The Arran The Bothy b.2015 (55.7%, OB, Quarter Cask, B#1, 12000b) (ruckus): Moses's full name is Mosche Ben Amram -- Ben Arran, for today. Nose: overly herbaceous (oregano, marjoram), it has banana (sonicvince), plantain (JS), vanilla (sonicvince). Mouth: a metallic bitterness to it, balanced out by coconut shavings. Finish: long, herbaceous. This is very nice. 8/10

Others have this back to back with the Arran Machrie Moor. We had it not too long ago and we are behind schedule; I skip it.

Gerston b.2013 (46%, The Lost Distillery Company, B#1.I) (me): Moses was the main character in The Ten Commandments by Cecil B. De Millburn (yes, I almost did). He was played by Charlton Gerston. Boom. I am excited to try this. It is obviously not an original Gerston (the distillery closed forever in 1882), but a reproduction, based on historical documents. In other words, it puts a rare name on a blended malt to make it more desirable, yet I find it both intriguing and original. Nose: gentle smoke, barley; not hugely assertive or complex, but agreeable. Mouth: sparkly, lively, with lashes of sweet soda. Finish: the peat is a lot louder here, with even coal smoke and dried herbs on a campfire. Good show. 7/10

Nice t-shirts too

Next up is PSc's Caol Ila 18yo, but I skip it too. Now late for the journey home.

Great tasting. Lots of silly nonsense to boot.