28 December 2016

26/12/2016 Clearing the shelf #11


Boxing day, triple birthday, as usual. A few drams to make room on the increasingly busy shelves.

Knockdhu d.1974 (40%, Captain Burn's Selection imported by Ryst-Dupeyron): nose: apple compote, brine and rhubarb compote. This is gently acidic, in case it was not clear from the notes. That gives way to cooking Brussels sprouts and a whiff of peppery cologne, perhaps. Mouth: the fruitiness from the initial nose is back (apple, pear, rhubarb), accompanied by a hefty dose of black pepper. Finish: yes, definitely cut apples and the acidity that goes with them, rhubarb compote, thyme infusion and ground black pepper. Nice. 8/10

Rosebank 11yo 1989/2001 (43%, SV, C#708+09, 01/323): nose: aromatic herbs! Verbena, dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried heather, bay leaves, dried sage. Roasted chicken and rosemary crisps (for those who know). It is delicate, yet not much comes through of the distillery markers, which are closer to cut flowers and honeycomb. Mouth: fresh and grassy, with freshly-mowed lawn, herbs (sage, hawthorn and bay leaves), yet not as prominent as on the nose. A hint of gentle spices too (cumin). The texture is more Rosebank-y, honeyed and milky. Finish: the Lowland markers shine at last; creamy honeysuckle, and flower broth. At the same time, milk chocolate emerges too -- herbaceous milk chocolate. I would even go as far as saying the herbs are warmed over a wood fire, as it presents a certain smokiness. Yes, a smokey Rosebank. Oh! it is no Ardbeg, yet smoke it has. The longer one sips it, the closer it comes to a Rosebank -- gentle, mellow and full of honey. 7/10 (Thanks GL for the sample)

Man O' Words 14mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, Refill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#103, filled 29/01/2015): nose: eau-de-vie, initially, then ham, before coming back to plum eau-de-vie and hints of wax. Mouth: pungent wax, hot chilli pepper, hot plum compote and ground green pepper. Finish: once past the pepper, it is a full-on plum avalanche. Later, crayons and rubbers make an appearance (pencil erasers, for readers from across the Pond). We tried this not too long ago, so not spending too much time on it. It is a promising distillate alright. 7/10

Springbank 14yo 2002/2016 (47.4%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 168b): nose: coastal as hell, with whelk, cockles, drying fishnets, sea air, fishing boats at quay, then gherkins in brine, and finally, farm-y scents. Hang on! there is more. It becomes amazingly fresh towards the end, with cedar wood -- a walk in a pine forest. Algae and kelp come back in force, later on. Mouth: balanced and noble, it oscillates between sweet notes and more leathery influences. Baked potatoes, salt, which suggests the coastal character is still here, even if less predominant. Finish: crispy bacon, smoked whelk, drying fishing nets and farmland paths. It even has a note of lingonberry compote -- wow! Springbank! Believe! 8/10 (Thanks SW for the sample)

Caol Ila  21yo 1968/1989 (58.5%, Intertrade, 297b): nose: huge bacon and old sherry notes give way to capers in brine and rollmops. It swiftly evolves again to reveal a log fire in the fireplace and pickled pearl onions. The back-and-forth between all things pickled and burning wood is astonishing. Later on, teak furniture and wood varnish join the dance. Mouth: big again, with black pepper-coated pickled pearl onions, briney as fuck. Old furniture, freshly polished, green chilli, hot sand, tapenade, balsamic vinegar and, at last, coal smoke comes in to roast all those pickled onions. Finish: amazingly, the notes from the nose and palate are all there, in perfect harmony: pickled pearl onions, brine, marmalade kept in teak cupboards, furniture polish, tapenade and a roaring furnace, half log, half coal, entirely evil, in a steam-engine sort of way. This is massive! 9/10 (Thanks OB for the sample)

That is all, folks. Happy birthday MD, FH and JPH.

16 December 2016

15/12/2016 21+ private tasting at Cadenhead's for DW's birthday

JS and I are kindly invited to this yearly event in the London shop. This is the last 21+ tasting of the year, which means the staff is relaxed and enjoying it with us. It is also a private tasting, where everyone knows each other -- well, everyone knows DW, at least, the other connections are promptly made. BC and PS are also here.

The circumstances are roughly the same as for the monthly outturns: tasting room, quick pace, limited time, short notes. We have cheeses and chocolate, today, which is nice.


North British 26yo 1989/2015 (58.4%, Cadenhead World Whiskies, Bourbon Barrel, 120b): nose: aaah! Banana butter, custard, shortbread, toasted coconut. Mouth: banana, custard, pastry dough, coconut shavings. Finish: long and sweet, with lots of vanilla-ed sugar. Typical grain. Some will hate it, I love it. 8/10

SW produces a DIY bottle from his personal stash. He insists this is not something that will ever come out, rather it is an old bottling that he happened to have a few drops of left over. In other words: do not call the shop, this is not available to buy.

Rosebank 23yo (46.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Fresh Bourbon Cask): I had been advised that this would probably be poured; it was hard not to tell JS, seeing as it is her favourite distillery, but I was brave: it is a surprise for everyone but me. nose: grassy, it has notes of thyme, oregano, hawthorn and some custard too. Lovely nose. Mouth: warm custard, cut flowers, turf. Finish: velvety, with similar notes as the palate -- vanilla and herbs. Delicious Rosebank! 9/10

Inchgower 25yo 1989/2015 (52.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 210b): the oldest Cadenhead bottle in the shop; everything else was bottled more recently. Nose: it starts rather custard-y, but soon turns very grassy, then plasticine emerges, shortcrust and mincemeat pie. Mouth: herbaceous and metallic, with hay and cut dandelions. Finish: herbaceous alright, with berries, aromatics and quite a bit of power. 8/10

Auchroisk 27y 1988/2016 (48.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 258b): nose: herbs and medicinal plants again, juniper leaves, honey. Mouth: soft and gentle, with yellow flowers, custard and aromatics. Finish: lovely custard, with sage and juniper berries. Still a favourite, this. 8/10

Rich Fruity Sherry 36yo (44.5%, Cadenhead Creations, B#2): nose: deep, earthy, with varnish and hot embers. Mouth: velvety, syrupy, full of dark berries. This is close to elderberry cordial. Finish: rich and generous, with lots of elderberry, honey, straw and apple pie. Nice! 8/10

Bunnahabhain 26yo 1989/2016 (45.9%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 246b): nose: lots of cut pears, apricot peels, dried quince, apple compote, hot dough. Mouth: peppery and gingery, but mostly gentle, civilised, with a drop of citrus juice. Finish: lots of cut fruits and a pinch of white pepper. This is lovely. Better than the first time. 8/10

SW pours the last dram of the day, another one that is not and will not be available. A bottle for another market, presumably. Half a bottle made its way here and we will empty it tonight, yay.

Caol Ila 31yo 1984/2016 (56%, Cadenhead Cask Ends, Fresh Bourbon Cask): nose: unbelievably farm-y, with ploughed fields, dried mud and tractor tyres after a day out. Mouth: warm mead, honey, hazelnut liqueur. Finish: warm liqueur indeed, then warm earth and lukewarm mud. I really believe those old Caol Ila are the equivalent of the old Ardbeg bottled ten or fifteen years ago. 8/10

The line-up is finished. We have time to wrap up and chat for a bit. Just as well, because I brought something too. It was a challenge: I wanted to bring something exclusive enough, yet I also wanted to bring something that is available in the shop. After all, we are in a shop...

Linlithgow 24yo 1982/2007 (50%, DL The Old Malt Cask 50°, Refill Hogshead, C#DL REF 3560, 303b): nose: oooh! That wonderful mix of grass, cut flowers, flint, chocolate, lemon juice and medicinal notes that only St Magdalene could come up with. Mouth: acidic grapes, flint, dried grass, whilst it is also voluptuous and soft. Finish: great balance, with a ping-pong of mineral, grassy, chocolate-y and flowery notes. Amazing how it is austere and subsequently generous. This is spot on and a bottle I will miss! 9/10

One more, as a toast to the birthday boy's father, who did not live to see today.

10.91 10yo d.2005 A well-mannered dram (62.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 210b): nose: toasted wood, hot stove, hot towels. Mouth: warm and big (check the ABV!), without being aggressive. It is comforting, actually. Finish: big, slightly fruity, with dark-fruit liqueur and hot cushions (yes). 7/10

I have had enough to drink. We are all being thrown out anyway. :-)

Happy birthday, DW!

12 December 2016

10/12/2016 The Lord of the Rings MkI

If you have not noticed that Gaelic bears some resemblance with several languages invented by Tolkien, either you have not had enough whisky, or it is time to find that copy of the Silmarillion you have given up on, when you were in uni.
The theme, then, is anything that can be related to Tolkien's work, easily or not (and of course, extra points for the most far-fetched connections).

Small attendance, today, with several calling off in the week leading to. Gold medal for JH, who tells me he will make it after all... one day after the facts.

No matter. The few who do make it (OB, BA, JS and myself, bunch of Tolkien nerds too!) are committed to making this a tasting to rule them all. If you follow this blog on a regular basis, you know it is not easy.

And in the darkness bind them

tOMoH presents the opening act. In French: Le Seigneur des Annandale



Man O' Words 14mo d.2015 (unknown ABV, Refill ex-Bourbon Cask, C#103, filled 29/01/2015): the provenance of this is top secret. There is just enough of it for four people, which makes this the perfect occasion. Nose: apple turnover, plum eau-de-vie, cotton candy. Water brings out a flinty touch that I like. Mouth: plum eau-de-vie indeed -- this is new make after all. It has the texture of custard, or cream with vanilla-ed sugar. With water, it becomes more mineral, rocky, flinty and almost metallic. It has sage and pepper too, just to balance it out. Finish: long and big, though behind the heat, it is delicate, custard-y and full of cotton-candy notes, soon joined by juniper berries. Water makes it richer and more complex, herbaceous, whilst retaining a pleasant fruitiness (apricot, pineapple). Nice and promising, this. 7/10

tOMoH presents: Return of the Kinclaith


Kinclaith 1968/1995 (40%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, ID/DIB): although they initially act unfazed, OB ends up spilling the beans: this is his first-ever Kinclaith. BA follows suit and admits it is his second -- third at most. None of us has had this particular one. Not a surprise, as it is particularly difficult to obtain. Nose: strawberries, mint, cider apples (OB), apple compote on the open fire, blond caramel (OB), tarragon, browned apples (BA). This smells old-school! Bubblegum, a whiff of distant smoke, then beer foam. Mouth: lively, with crushed strawberries, mint, grape pips -- actually, tomato pips! Mustard seeds, galangal shavings. Finish: smoke!? Putty, caramel, burnt apples, charred wood, dunked in water. The low ABV shows at last, though it is anything but weak. This merely confirms my general impression of the distillery: my type. 9/10

BA tells us he was really pleased, the other day:
-For the first time ever, DR asked me a question. He messaged me on Facebook to ask about Jack Daniel's Rye.

Well done, BA. You are now the official Jack Daniel's expert. :-)

JS presents: Gimlittlemill



Littlemill 16yo 1991/2008 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50°, C#DL4064, 276b): when JS realised that neither BA nor OB had had this before and that OB has very little(mill) experience with this distillery's output, the choice was easy. Nose: hazelnut, hazelnut oil, wood varnish. It soon becomes creamier -- hazelnut cream. Later on, in the far back, shy tropical fruits emerge (rotting mango), as well as green wood and dead leaves on a wet, autumn day. Mouth: crushed green pepper, hazel tree bark, hazelnut, strawberry bubblegum and even marzipan. Meow. Finish: it has turned fruitier than it was when we previously tried this -- behind the green hazelnut and hazel tree sap, there is a whisper of gentle tropical fruit. 8/10


Cheeses from la Frodomagerie and artisan bread enter: truffle brie (Bree, geddit?), Rouelle (shaped like a ring, geddit?) and Comté (which is the precise French translation for the Shire).
To accompany that, we have three dried sausages: figs, Espelette chilli and Calavados cured. Everything is wonderful.


BA presents: a whisky. Despite being quite the geek on the subject, he could not find a pun to fit this one in.

Clynelish 28yo 1982/2011 (43.1%, SD The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#3985, 175b): I am convinced TWE's staff tried to sell me this, years ago. At the time, I thought it was pricey... and it was a Clynelish. It has never been my favourite distillery. Nose: wow! Oranges, mandarins, satsumas and my beloved dunnage warehouse. This is close to a Lochside in profile, with a slightly less exotic fruitiness. Lichen on soaked wood, car polish, furniture wax. Mouth: amazingly in line with the nose -- a dunnage warehouse with satsumas and mandarins thrown all over the place. It is delicate and balanced, and very, very fruity. It has the trademark beeswax (gentle), nothing invading. No musk, though it does have melted butter. That is as animal as this one gets. Finish: the pleasure ride continues, with ripe satsumas, mandarins, orange blossom water, a few drops of lime juice, lemon curd and a subtle, sour touch in the back. Phwoar! Best Clynelish I have had, without a doubt. 9/10

OB presents his favourite character: Tomatin Bombadil


Tomatin 25yo 1990/2015 (53.6%, Whiskybroker, Refill Sherry Hogshead, C#18824, 166b): nose: this reminds me of the Blackadder offering for Park Avenue Liquor Store. A clean dram that has everything where one expects to find it. Grape juice, olive brine, flour, wet cardboard. It reads weird, but it makes sense in the glass. With water, strawberries show up in a bubblegummy way. Cheap strawberry ice cream (BA and OB). Mouth: round and pastry-like, yet also a lot more powerful than expected, with ground pepper and crushed raspberries. With water, it becomes mossy and algae-like, though it retains a certain fruitiness, probably not as cheap and artificial as in the nose. Finish: it loses a point, here, on account of a mild acidity. Caffè corretto, marc de Bourgogne. With water, the whole becomes more peppery before the fruit speaks louder. Unfortunately, the acidity remains, which gives one the same impression as licking an inflatable rubber balloon. 7/10

JS and I present: The Two Turrets


Glenturret 35yo 1977/2013 (47.5%, BBR for La Maison du Whisky, C#25): nose: roar! fruity jams, mosty. Is there a burnt-wood note in the back? Yes! With time, the fruit from the jam becomes juicy and exotic -- peach and pink grapefruit. Mouth: all sorts of jams and chutneys, seasoned with nigella seeds and black sesame. It has a yogurty texture and an acidic kick. Finish: an unexpected chocolate-y note explodes and sticks to the palate. This is long, bold and of high quality. None of that Swiss counterfeit. :-) Fruity yogurt (pineapple, melon, quince) and cork. Love it. 9/10

vs.

Glenturret 35yo 1977/2012 (46.2%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams): nose: it seems more closed at first sniff, with a bit of leather and the inside of a chip shop (cold grease, fried food, cheap sauces). Herbs soon join in (thyme and sage), then floor wax and fruit -- watermelon the loudest. Mouth: waxy and jammy, it has notes of orange chocolate (PiM'S, for those who know), pink pepper and a remarkable freshness. It is slightly bitter too, on top of that wonderful chutney. Eventually, black sesame emerges here, as it did in the BBR. Finish: yes, a lot more peppery, flowery, it displays the leftovers of the jam jars. Milk chocolate comes on, and the acidity of a white wine. This is stunningly complex. Perhaps less immediate than the BBR, but certainly not more boring: it changes constantly, without ever stopping for long enough to let itself be identified with certainty. 9/10

Stunning whiskies. Hard to say which one is better. The BBR for me, today, BBR for OB, TNotDD for BA. JS is unsure.

Teh winz

OB digs deep and presents: The MineMoria


Was there not going to be melon?


Glenlivet (Minmore) 42yo 1973/2015 (40.2%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 630b): I tried this in the shop a few times, never in the right circumstances (quickly, in a plastic cup). Great to have a chance to give it a proper go. Nose: more expressive than in the shop, this has quite a bit of fruit (of the Haribo kind, according to the boys), persimmon, strawberry bubblegum (again!?), a hint of damp earth. Everything is perfectly integrated and discreet. Mouth: a wonderful balance of earthy, flowery and fruity tones. Once more, the whole is so tightly coupled it is hard to pick the individual flavours. Finish: it now has the vaguely drying quality of sandy earth, brine, mustard, while still showcasing that lovely fruit. Great dram that requires time and attention. 9/10

I present: Bowmorir



Bowmore 30yo (43%, OB, ceramic bottle, B230 10/01, b.2006): another old favourite that this group has never had. OB fell in love with the 1996 version of this bottling at the Whisky Show this year; I know this one is very different, so I look forward to his impression. Also, both BA and he acted very blasé about it being in the line-up. "Oh yeah, that one. Whatever." Not to worry, though: "Even after all the previous ones, this is still fabulous," says OB. Nose: tarry, petrol-y, it has drying sand and the fabled basalmic vinegar (© Fixou). The whole has a tractor feel to it (tyres, diesel, mud, metal). It is complex, balanced and noble. Nothing shouts or sticks out. A tranquil force. Harmonious. Fruit ends up emerging, with a mix of overripe apples and apricot compote. Mouth: velvety, thick and coating, like crude oil. It still has drops of balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar in a gentle, mustardy vinaigrette. This is magnificent. Finish: yes, lots and lots of petrol, mud, tyres. A hint of peat, industrial revolution-era smoke, heat, metal, vinegar again, pleasure. This is not the b.1996 (in fact, JS finds it a lot manlier), yet it is fantastic all the same, with touches of a mechanic's workshop, tools, and a petrol station. 9/10

BA -I remember the Roundhouse 20 years ago. There was no upstairs. And I vaguely recall a mess in every corner. Which makes no sense, because it has no corner. It is round.

BA presents: Broramir



Brora 37yo 1977/2015 (50.4%, OB, Bourbon Hogsheads, 2976b): BA received a sample of this for his extraordinary flexibility around the date he had to publish notes for it. JS and I had it as the pinnacle of the Special Releases tasting in January and were very impressed -- both by the quality and the ridiculously small amount we were given. I am ecstatic to get another chance to try it. Nose: cheese rind, ploughed fields, butter. Once those farm-y scents turn quieter, they make room for waxy fruits -- plums, mirabelle plums, greengages and crisp apples. Mouth: apricot juice and candle wax, this is warming and velvety, even though it packs some gingery heat and ground black pepper. Crushed garlic and red onions make a late appearance. Finish: simply perfect. It has everything from the nose and the palate: wax, fruit, earth, complemented by dark smoke, the diesel fumes from a heavy-duty tractor. Beautiful, complex, bold, balanced. This is amazing. 9/10

What a tasting! Nine killer drams.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die

Next edition, perhaps we can find seven other whiskies for the Dwarf lords, then. :-)

For comedic purposes, here is the exact transcription of the text exchange with JH on 11 December:
-Think I might come after all! Do you have a vacant seat for me and can you tolerate my lack of a dedicated pun?
Sorry, I'm an idiot -- the tasting was yesterday. How was it?
-Legendary.

:-D

2 December 2016

30/11/2016 St Andrews at the SMWS

Meeting up with a visiting friend. Where better than the SMWS?

63.36 26yo d.1989 A Caribbean dream (51.8%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 180b): nose: powerful glue at first, then caramelised fruit (orange, candied lemon). Soon, tobacco leaves come up, then melon and orange water. Mouth: candied lemon, juicy melon and a touch of green chilli. This is thick and syrupy. Finish: the fruit ensemble goes on, with all sorts of jams, candied lemon and orange, as well as cantaloupe melon. 8/10

50.90 26yo 1990/2016 Apple-Calvados Fruitcake (60.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 150b): nose: marzipan, turpentine, apricot, sweet lipstick. Very fragrant. Mouth: silky and fruity, with peach, marmalade and apricot jam. It becomes drying, after a while. Finish: white pepper, bitter apricot stone, juicy jam. 8/10 even if the drying mouth almost brings it down to 7.

29.190 17yo 1999/2016 Divine dark temptation (58.1%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 582b): nose: bandages and hospital corridors. Mouth: dark-fruit syrup. Finish: big, bold, peaty and full of dark fruit. 7/10

37.81 13yo d.2002 Orange Turmeric Margarita (56.6%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill Sauternes Hogshead, 270b): nose: citrus, oranges, lemons, marmalade. Mouth: acidic citrus and green pepper. Finish: long, warming, citrus-y and peppery. 7/10

50.89 26yo 1990/2016 Sweet sensuality (59%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel, 173b): nose: flowery, buttery. Mouth: powerful! This stings like a blade, or Thai red pepper. Finish: long, invading, salty, vinegary, even (kimchee, says JWB). It has pastry and hot dough, towards the end, as well as a bitter side. Not for me, this. 6/10

35.159 21yo d.1994 Waves of intensity (55.5%, SMWS Society Single Cask, 1st Fill Toasted Oak Hogshead, 270b): nose: butter scones, pastry, tobacco smoke. Mouth: soft, delicate and ethereal, perhaps esthery? Finish: wax, boiled sweets, marshmallows, tulip petals. 7/10

We meet MS on the table next to us, then BC and DW turn out to be upstairs the whole time, which we do not realise until the time they decided to leave. Good times anyway.