30 July 2012

28/07/2012 Summer whiskies + after at the SMWS

Tough to get a decent attendance with the 'lympics keeping Fixou at work and md being sick. We decided to go ahead regardless, as it has been a while since we last had a tasting with this group. Well, the group is only JS, idealrichard and myself, but all the same.
Mr. ideal came up with the theme, interested in trying something that would not be meaty and peaty. Seeing as it has been summery the last few days, the theme is spot on.

The line-up:

Imperial 1990/2000 (40%, GMP) (brought by myself): the bottle is agonising, so I thought we should finish it. Nose: toffee, plums, almonds, then red fruit, after a while (cherries?) Mouth: mellow, vanilla-tainted, vanilla pods. Finish: peach bit and the associated bitterness, unripe red currant. Still love this one. There is about one dram left in the bottle too. 7/10

Glenkinchie 1995/2008 Double Matured (43%, OB Distillers Edition, Amontillado Sherry Finish) (brought by idealrichard): nose: a whole different kettle of fish, this. Bit of wood, smoked kippers (very subtle, though), a whiff of sulphur, then orange. The sherry takes over in the long run. Mouth: fruity with liquorice (idealrichard). Finish: long, syrupy, sugary, then unveils notes of liquorice again. Very nice, this one. I prefer it to the sandard 12yo. 7/10

Bruichladdich 12yo Second Edition (46%, OB, Bourbon Casks, b.2006) (brought by idealrichard): nose: bit of leather, salt, a bit of smoke, cooked apples. Mouth: smoked meat, at which point idealrichard tells us he is vegetarian and therefore always laughs at that comment, because he cannot compare himself. Tons of salt too, though it is bizarrely smooth and fruity at the same time. Finish: "lots" of smoke (compared to the previous, that is). Very nice again, way better than the 10 year-old they released at some point.

St Magdalene 26yo 1982/2009 (59.1%, DL for TWS Glenkeir Treasures Cask Stregnth Selection, 144b) (brought by myself): nose: dunnage, warehouses, quite austere. Lots of verdigris, then fruit kicks in, honey and a bit of vanilla. Mouth: honey, toffee, silky smooth. Finish: an explosion (idealrichard). There is an odd impression of delicate smoke, but in all, it is very light and subtle. dom666 recently opened his own bottle of this and told me he found it weaker than other StM we have had. I like this one a lot, in fact. 9/10

Littlemill 16yo 1991/2008 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50º, Refill Hogshead, C#DL4064, 276b) (brought by JS): nose: refreshing! (idealrichard) There is a bit of dunnage and wood, here, a little verdigris at first, it is very waxy too (thanks to idealrichard who helped me put a word on what I could not identify), candlewax, that is, maybe some soap and it finishes on apple. Mouth: light and floral. Finish: very fruity, today. Still some wax, then a mix of grapefruit, lemon and other, unidentified, red fruit. Even better than in my memory -- this was one of the many stars at this year's Burns' Night. 8/10

Lochside 19yo 1991/2010 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50º, Refill Hogshead, C#DL6553, 315b) (brought by idealrichard): nose: faint citrus, envelope glue, some waxiness (idealrichard, who is in a waxy mood), and finally, some marmalade. Mouth: honey, then I do not take note of what else was there. Finish: pear, apricot, berries. Very good, but a bit bland at this point in the sequence. Also suffers from the more or less unconscious comparison with Cadenhead's 30yo and TWE's 46yo. This is a good 7/10, but would probably climb to 8 under different circumstances.

Glenury Royal 29yo 1970/1999 (57%, OB Rare Malts Selection, Oloroso Sherry Casks) (brought by myself): nose: medicinal (idealrichard), berries, bit of leather, at first, apricot (idealrichard), marmalade, though less than usually. Powerful, says idealrichard. Mouth: jammy! Finish: delicious and sweet, though dry tasting at the same time (idealrichard again). He cannot decide between this one, the StM and the Littlemill for the dram of the day. This one is lovely, in any case (thanks adc for the sample). 9/10

With only one guest, and knowing said guest would be interested, it seems logical to then have a dram at the SMWS (where we meet PS, obviously).

17.32 9yo 2002 Boiled Sweets And Grapefruit Peel (56.2%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 214b) (idealrichard): nose: toilet freshener, maybe pine cones, citrus. Mouth: more citrus (mostly lemon and lime). Finish: citrus-flavoured detergent.

125.26 16yo Liquid Dessert (52.2%, SMWS Society Cask, American Oak Cask, 243b) (me): I ask for a recommendation at the bar (light, summery dram), which makes the staff think a bit, as they want to chose not only a good one, but one I have not had. I end up with this one, though it later appears I have had it at some point. Nose: marzipan, ginger bread (both light), oranges, marmalade, then butterscotch and brioche. Mouth: brioche and croissant all the way. Bakery galore. Finish: vanilla, croissant dough. Blimey! This is great.

Great times. Low turnover, but quality drams and company. Roll on the next one!

23 July 2012

21/07/2012 Fête Nationale at the SMWS

The 21st of July is traditionally a tasting day. With Belgian friends in town, the opportunity to catch up with that tradition is too good to pass.
Once there, usual suspect PS is at the bar, chatting to the bar tender working his last shift before moving to pastures new. I spot a couple of old-school looking bottles -- PS's, of course. Upon inspection, I am offered a dram of one on the sole condition that I try it alongside G2.2. Although I could have been reluctant due to my having a bottle, I think it is worth it.

G2.2 35yo 1976 A Vaudeville Act (53.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 139b) (myself): nose: marzipan, wood syrup. Mouth: spicy, sparkly, velvety and very nice. Finish: pastry, white pepper, herbs (sage, bay leaf) and a slight impression of hiking boots / clogged sink. Still happy to have this. Only one bottle behind the bar, now, as this one was emptied by me. 8/10

vs.

G2.1 16yo 1989/2006 Approach with Caution (65%, SMWS Society Cask, 164b) (myself): nose: narrower, but it is obviously from the same family. Dryer. Mouth: the alcohol is less well integrated. It is watered-down wood juice, definitely weaker than .2. After a while, wood essences come out as in a herbal infusion. Finish: very, very woody. Evolves towards brioche, after a bit. I prefer G2.2 by a rather long shot, but this one is certainly not bad either.

R1.3 (Rolf): tried this one without taking notes -- it is a rum after all. Rolf thought he was ordering a rum-finished whisky, which is quite amusing. I tell him he should have started with the other two rums and finished with that one, seeing as it is 67.4%. He then points out the other two are seventy-something and a whopping 81.3% (R5.1). I snigger at the ridiculous ABV and go back to my mild, straight-from-the-cask grains. Rolf eventually does not try the other rums: this one is good, but too strong for his little-girl palate.

121.51 9yo 2002 Amazing waves of sweetness (61.3%. SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 642b) (JS): this one turns out to be a bottling for Australia, which is why we have not seen or noticed it before. Nose: leather and grape juice -- what a bizarre combination! Mouth: lots of rubber and alcohol, then some grape-based alcohol (Cognac or Armagnac, I cannot tell). Finish: quite rubbery and leathery. It gets better with water, but it is not my thing. 4/10

31.23 23yo 1988 Sugared almonds in a mattress factory (51.7%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 235b) (Rolf): nose: some smoke, a bit of oil (petrol), burnt rubber, then mature, hard cheese. Yep, really. Mouth: warm and relaxing, quite mellow and quaffable. Finish: shortish, but soothing, with black pepper notes. 8/10

Not a debauchery of drams like the other years, though still nice to follow that tradition, if for a few drams. Besides, after a day of walking in the sun and so long after we last had food, two high-ABV drams were enough to make us feel the need for food.

10 July 2012

08/07/2012 K-Ka-Ca

In the midst of a hectic weekend, there was no way I could efficiently and credibly cook for ten. I appointed dom666 to do just that, while Psycho and I took care of dessert, which, with a theme like that, was quite an obvious choice, though cannot be documented online for fear of offending the PC police.
What theme? Looking for something original and suitably offensive (always the mischief, me), I settled for K-Ka-Ca. Before anyone imagines a group of hooded white supremacists (we considered it for a laugh, of course), that is whiskies whose names contain 'K', 'Ka' or 'Ca'.
Having said that, food preparation started long before the guests arrived. With such hard work ahead of us, we decided to have a prequel with off-theme things, so as to still enjoy the later line-up. Well, to be perfectly accurate, Psycho was there the night before, so we started even earlier, but well...

The suspects: Psycho, dom666, adc, JS, myself.

Linlithgow 25yo 1982/2008 (59.2%, SV for LMdW Collectors' Edition, Wine-Treated Butt, C#2201, 388b): nose: not as winey as previously, which is a good thing. A bit of vanilla, some herbs, thatch after rain, cheese crust (Psycho). Mouth: a touch of chilli powder, paprika leeks. Finish: paprika, more herbs (oregano, bay leaves), furniture wax (Psycho). It leaves the tongue very dry and rough. I like it more than before, but it remains my least favourite StM. 6/10

Ben Wyvis 31yo 1968/2000 (51.5%, SV, C#687): nose: woody, varnish. Mouth: round and mellow, still as agreeable. Finish: wood again and dark chocolate, with a hint of orange (Psycho), vanilla and even some coconut (adc). 9/10

vs.

Ben Wyvis 31yo 1968/2000 (57%, SV, C#685): nose: woody, with a bit of bacon, Bindenfleisch / Viande des Grisons (Psycho); wider, in any case, with a little smoke and sugar cane in the back. Mouth: woodwork, sawdust, wood glue, varnish, none of which is overpowering. Finish: wax, polished furniture and a bit of chocolate (there will be lots of that today, causing my fellow tasters to recurrently extract the urine) with ginger (?), verbena, wet forest. JS finds both too bitter, while dom666 thinks they are both too discrete to form an opinion. 8/10

The rest of the guests arrive from 12:30 on: ruckus, kruuk2, P, JD + K (yep, she is in theme), Psycho, dom666, adc, JS, myself.

Knappogue 12yo (40%, Terra) (brought by ruckus): nose: flan, lemon, butterscotch (?), custard, cut grass. Mouth: lemony, though more the feel than the taste -- acidic? Finish: custard and vanilla with a whiff of herbs. Wonderful. I reckon this edition is a Bushmills. 8/10

Enter the food (traditional spaghetti Bolognese).

Knappogue 36yo 1951/1987 (40%, Terra) (brought by adc): datz right, we are making history again by tasting one of the oldest Irish whisky ever bottled. This is to be one of the tasting's stars, of course, though the anticipation is perhaps unfounded, as no one has ever tried Tullamore before (and that is Tullamore distillery, that shut in 1954, not Tullamore Dew). Nose: flint, metal, some herbs, pine tree forest before the storm, after a few drops have fallen already, resinous. Mouth: soft and smooth. Finish: mint chocolate, verbena. Great dram, if not the most complex. 8/10

Black Swan (brought by JD): this blended malt was bought in Spain and seems to be pretty much exclusive to that market. Nose: flint again, sheep's skin (adc), herbs -- are we having the same dram over and over? Mouth: smooth and liquorous. Finish: caramel and more herbs. Unpretentious yet very honest dram. A bargain for 14 EUR. kruuk2 jokes that, for a Spanish whisky, it lacks in the final department... Spain won the latest world cup -- gettit? :-)

Glen Breton (brought by kruuk2): another curiosity; this one is Canadian, therefore in theme, and was made famous when the SWA objected to its 'Glen-' name. It is made at Glenora distillery. Nose: marzipan, pink pepper, then plum after a time. Mouth: quite oily, with white pepper. This is nice indeed. Finish: more almond paste, nutmeg, Tiger Balm, green mint (kruuk). Another nice surprise from a dusty shelf.

Knockando 1989/2001 (43%, OB) (brought by Psycho): I do not spend too much time on this, but it as nice as usual. 8/10

Cardhu 12 (40%, OB) (before scandal) (brought by Pat): as most whisky drinkers are aware, Cardhu stopped producing a single malt in 2003. The new product, with similar labels, was a Blended ('Pure') malt. They resumed single malt production in 2006. This is the single malt from before 2003. Nose: wood (cedar, according to adc), lemon detergent. Mouth: aniseed (Pat), mellow, with a slightly sparkly feel. Finish: hint of chocolate. Not blinding, but very decent malt.

vs.

Cardhu 12 (40%, OB) (after scandal) (brought by Pat): this is the post-2006 single malt. Nose: more alcohol, herbs and unpleasant flowers. Mouth: some sulphur here; it is thicker, but also more drying. Finish: flat, dry and a rather boring. Not bad, but definitely the weakest of the day. Bottoms-up, it feels like a bland blend: short, flat and uninteresting. Maybe Diageo should have stuck with the blended malt after all, if they could not carry on with their original recipe.

Caperdonich 12yo 1997/2009 (46%, DMG Provenance, Refill Hogshead, C#DMG5569) (brought by moi): nose: full of herbs, with some lemon, not very different from a camomille infusion. Mouth: watery, with some honey and a hint of pepper. Finish: honeysuckle with more herbs (really a herbs day!) 7/10

I believe this is where we cut the cake (and eat it).

Highland Park 12yo Batch 3 (46%, Adelphi Fascadale Highland, b.2012, Refill Bourbon Casks, 1152b) (brought by Pat): nose: Tiger Balm (that is a warming ointment, by the way), lightly medicinial. Mouth: quite smokey, though not to the levels Highland Park usually reaches. Finish: herbal with a bit of smoke, then white pepper. This is more akin to last week's Highland park than the typical house style. It seems less peaty. Decent.

Cameronbridge 25yo 1979/2005 (59.9%, DT Rare Auld, C#3523, 194b) (brought by myself): nose: sugar, wood, varnish, so nice, this. Ginger bread, cake, loverly. Marzipan. Mouth: coating, varnishing. Finish: wood juice, innit. Verbena? There is a distinct taste I cannot place. Herb? Chewing gum? It used to be a bit of a curiosity, but nowadays, every grain we try gets a round of applause, even from those who have never had a grain before. We seem to be turning into grain heads. Now there is an idea for an epic tasting... :-) 8/10

Another cake, left over from yesterday makes a quick appearance.

Nikka Coffey Grain 1992 No. 19 (63%, OB) (brought by dom666): nose: varnish, lacquer. Mouth: dessicant. Too much for me, actually -- at 63%, this is also the highest ABV today. Finish: very hot. Peppery, grassy. Nice one, though not as much so as the Cameronbridge.

Bowmore 16yo 1996/2012 (46%, rn Mòr, ex-Sherry Butt, 844b) (brought by Pat, who is in generous mode, today): this one is from rn Mòr -- the first bottling we have had from that collection or bottler. Nose: switching gears on the peat level, with a very little bit of white fruit. Mouth: it has the texture of a light fruit juice (no pulp). Finish: smoke, smoke and unripe white fruit (apple, grape, white peach). A bit of a disappointment, actually. We will need to try it again under different circumstances.

Caol Ila 25yo (43%, OB, b. ca 2010) (brought by Psycho): nose: less peaty than the Bowmore, bizarrely enough. Hay, summer heat. Mouth: mellow, oily, slightly peppery, with some honeysuckle. Finish: peat smoke at last, some barley, which is unexpected from a 25 year-old. Quite like this one. 8/10

Exquisite tasting once again. So nice and refreshing to see we mostly manage to dodge the widespread snobbery by rating cheap and common bottlings rather highly. Well, the highest-rated dram today was also the most expensive, but it was not unanimous at all, as shown by the list below.
Some geeky conversations about phones and music apps (JD to ruckus, 'Your music? On MY Google Music? I don't think so!' :-) ), impressions about Scotland, mountain biking, climbing the Old Man of Hoy, GPS devices and silly nonsense -- we banned sterile political discussions.
Pity we had to disband on the early side to catch the last train home. The few hours were loaded with quality, though.

Dram of the day by suspect:
dom666: Cameronbridge.
JD: Fascadale.
K: Knappogue 12.
P: Knappogue 1951 and Cameronbridge.
kruuk2: Knappogue 1951 and Cardhu before scandal.
ruckus: Cameronbridge and Knockando.
JS: Fascadale.
adc: both Knappogues.
myself: Knappogue 1951.

4 July 2012

03/07/2012 July Outturn Preview Tasting at the SMWS

We were invited to the SMWS for a preview again. At the regular venue, this time, rather than Bistro du Vin.

G2.2 35yo 1976 A Vaudeville Act (53.6%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 139b): excited to see this one, as I have never tried this distillery. One smell and I ask for a bottle to be kept aside for me -- turns out it is the last bottle already, seeing as quantity is so limited (I am at the venue five minutes before the start, but still). Nose: Marzipan, ginger bread. Mouth: some slight wood attack. Finish: smooth and elegant. Happy to score the last bottle. More detailed notes when I try it again. 8/10

41.52 8yo 2004/2012 Boiled Sweets And Playdoh  (59.1%, SMWS Society Cask, First-fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 226b): nose: mushrooms, forestry and some fruit juice or onion confit. Mouth: a narrow sting, there, affecting the center of the tongue, not the sides. Finish: wood and vanilla with some herbs (bay leaves) and varnish. Nice. Not a common distillery and a nice try.

35.67 23yo 1988 Winter Spice For The Summer (63.2%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 239b): nose: dunnage, warehouse, some fruit (apricot? plantain?), old school. Mouth: overly-boiled oranges, cooked wine. Finish: drying, warming and vaguely tarry. Interesting. The bar tender finds it soapy. 7/10

64.37 7yo 2004 Candy-Man (59.3%, SMWS Society Cask, ex-Bourbon Barrel, 242b): there has been a string of consistently good bottlings from this distillery; have to try this new one. Nose: soap at first, then oranges. Orange soap it is, then. How big a role suggestion plays in here is debatable (we just discussed soap with the bar guy). Mouth: punchy and full of sting. Pine tree, pine cones. Finish: long and spicy, then some sparkling cola. 7/10

121.53 12yo 2000/2012 Saddled-Up Cuddy In Woolly Socks (56%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 320b): nose: forestry and varnish, nail polish, then cardboard. Mouth: crayons, quite mellow with a tight balance of alcohol. Finish: woody. Just OK, this one.

76.91 22yo 1989 Caballero In An Orange Grove (57.9%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 618b): nose: I first think I was poured a grain. Then it is a full-on meat attack, leather with a bit of tar. Mouth: still meaty, barbecue, leather coats with a bit of Seville orange. Finish: oooooh! That burns. More oranges. Marmalade-glazed duck breast or beef steak. This is for Fixou, I think.

4.165 22yo 1989 Soft Peat And Seaside Piers (50.5%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 211b): nose: Speyside nose, this. Some fruit, perhaps some rhubarb. Mouth: grape juice, fruity and slightly bitter. Finish: grape seeds. Interesting take on Highland Park. Unusual stuff.

36.57 23yo 1989/2012 Puff Candy And Vanilla Sponge (53.4%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 251b): nose: some bandages, overheated warehouses (Amrut!) Mouth: hot and honeyed. Finish: the weakest link. Not good. Akin to swallowing dried flowers.

29.120 13yo 1998 Satisfyingly Smoky And Sweet (54.7%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 258b): JS wants to try this, but I end up finishing it, unsurprisingly. Nose: smoke, innit. Mouth: surprisingly smooth. Heather, honey with tons more smoke. Finish: fire, coal, smoke. A good Laphroaig.

5.35 12yo 1999 Laundry In The Bakery (54.7%, SMWS Society Cask, Second-fill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 195b): nose: quite a bit of alcohol in there. PS gets some gelatine and gummy bears. Fruit drops indeed. Mouth: hints of cassis (the blackcurrant liqueur), untoasted, doughey bread (still PS speaking). Finish: blackcurrant indeed with an undecipherable bitterness. Lemony washing powder and some herbs. A nice Lowlander, also rather unusual.

Jokes start fusing, at this point.

'I live in Beckenham.
-Where Davenid is from?
-...
-You know, Davenid Beckenham...'

48.31 23yo 1989/2012 Honey And Flowers On A Knicker Drawer (53.1%, SMWS Society Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 262b): nose: a weird mix of chocolate, caramel and wine. Not too seducing. Mouth: mild and delicate with a rather oily texture. Finish: honey, flowers. Quite nice, but the nose is not all that. 6/10

I go for another shot of G2.2 before being kicked out. :-)

Excellent one. Hopefully, we keep being invited to these: it is a wonderful opportunity to try everything (or nearly) from the new outturn without having to buy full glasses of each bottling. Also gives a chance to get first dibs on limited bottlings.
The venue is perhaps a little less convenient (fewer tables and seats and it feels a bit awkward to move about at times), but more comfortable in case one wants to carry on at the bar afterwards or buy bottles. The food (bites provided by the Bleeding Heart) was also very nice.

J  'Will we bump into you again, like _every time_ we come here?
P -Well, stop stalking me!
me -I have a thing for pony tails...
P -Shuffle on!'