15 June 2017

14/06/2017 Bowmore debauchery

Just because.

Believe it or not, one more was foreseen that did not make the final cut

Bowmore 13yo 2003/2016 (56.7%, Cadenhead Wine Cask, Hogshead, Refill Burgundy Cask since 2011, 264b): nose: jalapeño in full force! Green chilli, chocolate dunked in wine, wood varnish and, behind it all, warm earth. The chilli is really distinctive and intense, though is it jalapeño, habanero, or, indeed, Scotch bonnet -- who can tell? Polished dashboards, crushed plums. Mouth: the wine influence is more pronounced, here, with dark grapes, earth and fermenting plums, but the chilli is still well present! Scotch Bowmore-net. The earthy notes grow and become warmer too -- as in: earth, warmed by the sun for a whole afternoon. Quite topical, with this brilliant sunshine. Finish: more of that warm, dry earth, augmented with lots of ripe plums. The chilli is now under control, though remnants of it are there. Far in the back, a delicate fruitiness develops (lychee in brine). The wine influence has all but gone. A superb B-more. Proof one does not need a 1960s legend for a good dram from that distillery. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, RO)

Bowmore 10yo (43%, Prestonfield House Malt, b.1980s): nose: white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, then dried citrus peels (lemon, unripe orange). It has quite a bit of finely-milled white pepper, then physalis and sawdust. Hours later, the nose has morphed into oil paint, fish paste and plasticine or Blu Tack -- and it works! Mouth: that dusty and peppery impression lives on in the mouth, though the vinegar makes room for grape juice. This is tame, compared to the nose. A gentle woody note appears, the bitterness of dried citrus peel, very faint. Later, the texture becomes heavily velvety, thick and fluffy, plump, with ripe peaches and apricots. Finish: a refined mix of citrus peel and delicate peat of the spongy, soil-like variety. Pepper and sawdust have gone. The citrus, on the other hand, is bolder, turning into grapefruit. Nice! Later, the finish becomes very soft, velvety and peachy (both the flesh and the skin). Makes it score one more point. 9/10

Bowmore 35yo 1970/2006 (51.3%, SV Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Butt, C#4687, 445b): nose: woah! Wax, waxy plums, nail varnish (is it shellac?), blackberry, maybe blackcurrant. No smoke whatsoever in this, but so much wax instead! Patras wine (a sweet, fruity, heavy and high-ABV Greek red wine), dark cherries, chocolate brownie, molasses, honey. If you have ever opened the last incarnation of an Old & Rare Platinum Selection by Douglas Laing, before the brothers split and that range became Hunter Laing's, that is what this smells like; varnished wood, glue and synthetic fur. Hours later, a cheese smell enters the scene; Old Leicester or aged Gouda. Mouth: the sherry imparts this one a mildly drying character. It is, again, reminiscent of Patras wine -- strong and fruity, drenched in sunshine. The heat becomes rather intense, with nail varnish and hot cherry compote. Later on, wax seals appear to take over the mouth. Finish: fantastic! All the waxy notes are here, alongside the fruit and the varnish, but they are augmented with a discreet touch of burnt wood, as well as a shy and fleeting tropical-fruit kick. It makes this one waxier than it first seemed. 10/10 (Thanks for the sample, OF)

Bowmore Bicentenary (43%, OB, WS2315, b.1979): nose: ooft! This is on another level of tropical fruitiness! Lychee, mango, guava, pink grapefruit. It is accompanied by a very distant note of tar, but I can barely detect it. Mostly fruity goodness, in here. Later on, mushrooms in soil. Hours later, it has become quieter on all fronts, though it still is very fruity, compared with any other whisky. Mouth: milky in texture, with lots of tropical fruits again (guava, papaya, lychee, pink grapefruit) and Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, sugar-cane juice, happiness, debauchery. Time and oxidation do not alter it much. Finish: fruit juice, pure and simple. Alfonso mangoes, avocado, pink grapefruit, guava, pomegranate, dragonfruit, and the most minute amount of rubbery tar, minutes after swallowing. At the risk of sounding French: pity they cut this down to 43%. It would have scored even higher at cask strength. Legendary, nonetheless. 10/10 (I know)

Bowmore d.1965 (50%, OB, Sherry Casks, b. ca late 1980s): one of my friends was born in 1965. For his fiftieth birthday, he decided to open a selection of 1965-distilled whiskies. Then, he organised a lottery and sent random samples from those bottles to all who entered the lottery. This one is what he sent tOMoH. I know, I am also shocked at the move and consider never speaking to that friend again. But I will. tOMoH's goodness knows no limit. Anyway, on to the juice. Nose: tar and rubber, decaying fruits (in an advanced state of decay, even), leather. It opens up a  bit to reveal more fruit, yet it is definitely not the same profile as the previous two. This is rather a sulphury, rubbery, sherry-casked beast. Acrid vinegar? Not sure, really. I reckon it is simply sulphur and I have a hard time smelling past it. With water, squashed raspberries and strawberries come up, packed in leather purses ("why would one do that?" you might ask). Mouth: warming, with sulphur and leather, un-fresh flesh in tatters. A note of wax takes over, coating the rest, hot candlewax. the texture becomes creamy, with a mild gingery heat. Water makes the wax more outspoken, perhaps, whilst the fleshy bits have more or less disappeared. Finish: this is where it is at. Clad in leather, fruit parades on a tarry road, under the summer sun. Tropical fruit, even, yet it is wearing so much leather and make-up that it loses its natural beauty, in my opinion. With water, red fruit shows up more; red cherries, strawberries, not fully ripe. To be honest, this is a mild disappointment to me. But then, in this line-up, it means little. It is still a very good whisky. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, pat gva)

Largiemeanoch 12yo d.1967 (54.2%, The Howgate Wine Co., C#2655/6/7): in case you, dear reader, do not know this one, it is one of the most mythical Bowmore ever bottled, eclipsing even the legendary Black Bowmore in the eyes of the few lucky enough to have tried them. It does not come cheap for those who can find it, these days, but just a sniff of it in February gave me goosebumps. Tonight, we confront the less-famous (but arguably better-looking) brother of Kylie and Danii -- Largie. Nose: call the cops; this needs to be locked in a safe! So fresh! Mint and fruit, Thai basil, greengages, lychees, Chinese gooseberries, papayas, white peaches, then mulch and a hint of leather. Dry earth shows up, later on. So complex, this! Later yet, liquid honey emerges, honeysuckle and stroopwafels. Mouth: perfect balance, oscillating between rich soil and juicy tropical fruits. It has a very faint rubber bitterness, then Thai basil, Kaffir lime leaves, perhaps laurel too. And then grapefruit, mango, papaya, dragonfruit, jack fruit, mint, pineapple skin. Honey joins in on the fun, a bit later on. Finish: thunderous slaps of earthy tropical fruits in the face. How can a whisky be so well made? Covered in earth, here are lychee, grapefruit, pineapple peels (and foliage), Chinese gooseberry, carambola, wrapped in Thai basil and mint. This is the best mojito in town, tonight! Time makes it less herbaceous and fruitier, still. Believe the hype. 15/10

Is there a life after Bowmore?

12 June 2017

10/06/2017 Anniversary drams

It is the Queen's official birthday, today. JS set the theme accordingly. "Royal-birthday drams" is a bit of a constraint, though, so she kindly extended it to be any anniversary whiskies, in whichever way.

The suspects: MR, OB, cavalier66, jazzpianofingers, JS and myself.

And these. Right to left again.

The soundtrack:
Ambre & Mark Spybey - Sfumato

Lochside 22yo 1966/1989 (43%, SV, C#7253-55, 800b, b#464) (brought by me): 1966 is the birth year of one of today's guests. Nose: tomato-plant stalks (jazzpianofingers), cannabis resin (cavalier66), waxy fruit (cherries, plums), then moss and, finally, strawberry chewing gum. Mouth: soft marzipan, crushed cherries and crushed plums. Finish: much longer than in my memories, with marzipan and a shy, bitter note. I remembered it as watery and tired, but this is great, today. 8/10

35.59 39yo 1971/2011 Arabian Nights (40.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 74b) (me): we had this one last year and OB regretted it was late in the line-up, leaving the measly ABV to suffer from the sequence. He is therefore delighted we have it again. Oh! and it fits the theme in that it is the same age as one of the guests. Nose: dunnage warehouse aplenty; this has moss, fruit, old wood and damp staves oozing from every pore. Honeysuckle, rose petals, then soft mandarin peels, melon skin and a hint of mint. Lovely. Mouth: it tickles the tongue, though mandarins swiftly come up. This is soft and balanced. Finish: comforting, creamy, with a mix of melon and mandarin. It feels like marzipan in the making. Wow! Fruitier than ever. 9/10

cavalier66 always makes sure we are stuffed
by the second dram

jazzpianofingers: "You spot the virgin oak easily. And I get really bored really quickly -- 'Och! Virgin!"

The soundtrack:
Urawa - The Most Boring Thousand Years Of My Life

Irish Whiskey 24yo 1991/2015 (46.7%, Whisky-Fässle 10th Anniversary) (OB): this was released for this bottler's 10th anniversary, obviously. Nose: a tin of mango and maracuja with a whiff of shoe polish. Green banana, say the others. I get horse saddle and pastry. Mouth: black pepper off the mill, sprinkled onto tropical fruits. Finish: wow. Hot and super fruity, with mango and maracuja, and even a touch of clogged sink. Beautiful drop that takes water very well too. 9/10

tOMoH: "You're really photogenic, aren't you?"
jazzpianofinger: "I'm a clown!"
tOMoH: "But you're not that funny..."
jazzpianofingers: "...and you're my agent."

Jazz hands

Littlemill 26yo 1990/2017 (52.6%, Cadenhead 175th Anniversary, Bourbon Barrel, 180b) (OB): this one came out only a couple of weeks ago. OB thought this was the ideal occasion to open it -- he was probably right, too! Nose: floral and fruity, ever-shifting. Buttery mango, hints of grass, Aspirin, say the boys. Obviously hungover. Mouth: fruity and herbaceous, with papaya, oregano, perhaps a faintly metallic edge. Great balance. Finish: it has buttery mango again and pastry, the finish is slightly herbaceous too. This is mango turnovers with a pinch of herbs (sage and oregano). 9/10

The soundtrack:
Black Lung - The Psychocivilised Society

Balvenie-Glenlivet 12yo 1979/1992 (59.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection 150th Anniversary) (JS): datz right, this is from Cadenhead's previous milestone anniversary, bottled a quarter of a century ago. I believe it is also the first independently-bottled Balvenie that I try, which is not ashamed of its name -- several have been bottled more recently under the name Burnside, though they are teaspooned. Nose: brine, vinegar, whelk (OB). A slow-cooked Marmite sauce, with that distinct smell of malt vinegar. Salt, cockles. Water gives it an over-baked-pastry feel, with added honeysuckle. Mouth: soft and silky, yet the ABV quickly catches up. It becomes rather salty and numbs the palate a bit. Yellow flowers and green chilli. Finish: huge and a bit metallic, with sage, salty mussel shells and green chilli, sprinkled on green hazelnut paste. Unripe apricot comes up, late in the game. Very interesting dram, if a bit cerebral. In fact, I find it close in style to an RMS. 8/10

It was a job and a half to extract the cork

The Living Cask 11yo b.2017 (56%, SMWS, 1st Fill ex-Oloroso Cask, Finished in a Quarter Cask, C#1) (MR): this was bottled to celebrate the opening of the SMWS's second London venue, the Kaleidoscope Bar, in Devonshire Square. It might be a distillery near Carron that is not Imperial. It is not Scotch, however, since it was matured and bottled in England. Nose: very flowery, with Turkish delights. Not much else, but what it does, it does very well. Mouth: similar to the nose, with Turkish delights, a growing spiciness and a milky texture. A note of verbena perhaps? Finish: oak-y notes (vanilla and coconut), with also flowers (honeysuckle), acacia honey and soft cake. Yum! 8/10

The soundtrack:
A Cryo Chamber Collaboration - Cthulhu

We talk about Auchentoshan Three Wood.
cavalier66: "It's a bit like razor blades, isn't it? First, you had one blade, then two, then three..."
tOMoH: "I hope someone does the same as with razor blades: 'This is a 26-cask-matured whisky. By the way: fuck you.'"

We move outside, since the weather is so nice and the sun a little less aggressive.

Strathclyde 36yo 1977/2013 (58.1%, Hunter Laing The Sovereign, Sherry Cask, C#HL9912) (jazzpianofingers): the Queen is obviously the sovereign, but she also celebrated her silver jubilee in 1977, when this was distilled. Double connection to the theme, which deserves a round of applause. Nose: raising bread dough, caramel-making, blackberry pancakes. Mouth: fresh, sweet, silky, with black pepper for good balance. Dark cherries, ripe and juicy. Finish: dark cherries from a tin -- it has a metallic edge to it. Greek wine, perhaps. A great old grain that has a gentle dusty mouthfeel. 8/10

The soundtrack:
Pete Namlook & - Silence IV

Laphroaig 32yo b.2015 (46.6%, OB, ex-Oloroso Sherry Hogsheads, 21835, 5880b) (cavalier66): this was bottled for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. I am very intrigued. The notes I have read so far let me think it would not be my thing, so it is nice to get to try this without taking the (expensive) risk of buying a full bottle myself. Nose: fizzy, with Cherry Coke and a very faint whiff of burnt wood, far, far away. Jack fruit, says cavalier66. Mouth: waow! The fruit on this! Blueberries, then notes of more tropical fruits, such as maracuja (cavalier66), papaya, tutti frutti (oh! rutti). Finish: dark fruit and gentle smoke. The fruitiness becomes more tropical again, after a few seconds. This is beautiful indeed, if not quite the same level as the 1960 and 1974 expressions. 9/10

jazzpianofingers: "I get a lot of acetone fruitiness."
cavalier66 and JS: "Acetone fruitiness!?"
jazzpianofingers: Yeah, I get that when I paint my nails."

Suddenly, this makes more sense.
Or maybe even less.

The time has come to observe that life does not suck, right now.

Cognac Vallein Tercinier Lot 65 b.2013 (47%, OB, L2-65002) (cavalier66): this was a birthday dram for cavalier66, last year. Nose: wow again! Lychee, nail varnish, far back, pink grapefruit, hibiscus (cavalier66), quince (cavalier66), verbena (cavalier66), orange blossom, clove-spiked orange (JS), syrup (jazzpianofingers), marjoram (jazzpianofingers), kombava leaves, very ripe green grapes. Mouth acidic and a bit stripping, with a big grapefruit-y tone. Finish: a roundhouse kick of tropical fruit, though none of us can pinpoint which one.  The mouthfeel is close to what one gets when licking ashtrays. Fruity, herbal tea (cavalier66 and jazzpianofingers), sweet Thai basil (jazzpianofingers). The fruit-kick is overripe green grape -- not so tropical, after all. Great old Cognac. 9/10

tOMoH: "What is the difference between herbal and herbaceous?"
jazzpianofingers: "Well, herbaceous is the plant -- this is herbaceous. Herbal is... the thing."
cavalier66: "Thanks for explaining that distinction."

OB and MR take a leave. I try to convince them it is not a good idea, but they insist. Their loss.

The soundtrack:
Pete Namlook & - Silence IV (again)

Ardbeg Perpetuum (49.2%, OB Distillery Release, b.2015, L61198 15002090) (cavalier66): this one was bottled for the 200th anniversary of Ardbeg. Nose: fishing nets, fish and chips, greasy engines, and then a whiff of toasted barley and salted pickles (jazzpianofingers). Mouth: warm, with drying fishing nets, hot apricot compote, black cumin, perhaps star aniseed. Later on, sugar barley sweets emerge. Finish: lots of hot embers, now, smoke, pickled onions and, again, that sweetness. 7/10

cavalier66: "Is there a sense of younger and older whisky, in here?"
tOMoH: "I don't know, but I can definitely smell the re-racking."

The soundtrack:
U 96 - Replugged

That is the end of today's selection. It has been very, very good. All the same, I cannot let those good people leave without a final dram. Tough luck for OB and MR, we will have something that I hope is special enough. I pour it blind.

Bowmore 32yo 1968/2001 (45.5%, OB for the 50th Anniversary of the Stanley P. Morrison Company, 1860b) (me): yup, it is even an anniversary bottling. Nose: "it smells like my dad," says jazzpianofingers. "Lovely fruity nose," says cavalier66. I can feel "Bowmore eyes" coming up (© DH). Squashed strawberries. This nose! I could spend hours, here. Pink-grapefruit-scented soap, pink pepper shavings. "Blimey," says jazzpianofingers. Shamone! Mouth: "Please don't say it tastes like your dad, too!" (JS to jazzpianofingers) Acidic, with pink grapefruit, a touch of smoke, say my fellow tasters. The balance is purr-fect, fruity as fook and simply spectacular. Finish: mango nectar and pink grapefruit goodness, with distant memories of a coal stove in another room. Meow. This is good. Velvety, mellow and dangerously easy to drink, if one were to not give it enough time. It seems a little less exuberant than the previous couple of times, but remains an incredible dram. 10/10

cavalier66: "You're a fortune-teller, aren't you? No, you're a pianist, which is the closest thing."

Strange, how the line-up was unintentionally divided by supplier. All mine in a row, all OB's in a row, all cavalier66's in a row, each punctuated by the one-bottle offering of the others. In any case, great selection and good vibe. Very pleasant to use the terrace too.

6 June 2017

04/06/2017 A few drams on a Sunday

DH was in town for a wedding; it was only logical to invite him for a few drams the following day. Only JS joins us.


Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental batch, B#1): nose: a citrus note (loud), lemon thyme, lemon-y sage. It turns into regular thyme, later on. Mouth: lemon thyme, lemon sage, aniseed (DH) and lovage seeds. Finish: narrow, with bay leaves and lemongrass (DH), as well as waxy Kafir lime leaves. 7/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#2): nose: very grassy, with hawthorn and juniper berries, a blackberry tree (without the fruit). Mouth: sweet, with syrup from tins of apricot in syrup, liquorice root (DH). Finish: bay leaves, this time, less citrus, but it has a nice sweetness to it. 7/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#3): nose: even grassier, with botanical herbs, hawthorn, juniper berries. Later on, slightly-burnt omelette. Mouth: sweet and comforting, like a flat lemonade. It grows in power, with black pepper. Finish: long and lingering, with black cumin and controlled pepper. This is closer to "traditional" gin. It is well made, but less my thing. 6/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#4): nose: a walk in a leafy garden, with holly, , hawthorn, ivy, Virginia creepers, lemon sage and pink pepper. Mouth: sweet and syrupy, with a faint leaf bitterness. Finish: sweet, leafy, with a gentle note of limestone. My favourite so far. 7/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#5): nose: all over the shop, with leaves (crushed bay leaves), plants (ivy), crushed juniper, berries, pink pepper, lovage seeds, cut carrots. It becomes feint-y. Mouth: milk, pine, crushed pine cones. Finish: lots and lots of liquorice roots. 7/10


Pastry is served: banoffee pie, sticky toffee pudding, custard pie, cheese cake. All great.

...and more gin

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#6): nose: leafy and citrus-y, with lemon mint, crushed tarragon and thyme leaves, warm cats (what?) Mouth: acidic, mineral, gravel-y more than flint-y. Finish: abrupt. A note of drying gravel, not much else. 6/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#7): nose: lemon-y juniper berries, hot iron, dry bushes (stop laughing). Mouth: lemon-y and mineral, with a pinch of herbs. Finish: very grassy, with also stones, flowers about to bloom, crushed pink pepper, perhaps ginger. 6/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#8): nose:  juniper berries and caraway seeds, medlar, pencil shavings -- including the slightly metallic touch. Mouth: metallic again, with a pencil-sharpener note. The texture is milky. Finish: much longer than the previous few, with that distinctive pencil-sharpener note again. 6/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#9): nose: very herbaceous, with lots of crushed juniper berries. Mouth: creamy, liquorice-y (DH), with also sherbet dip (DH). Finish: yeah, lots of liquorice, anise, star aniseed, caraway seeds. JS finds it dry. 6/10

Dornoch Gin (45.7%, OB Experimental Batch, B#10): nose: much more discreet, with tree bark and a hefty dose of grass. Mouth: warm milk, mead, and a pinch of indistinct spices. Finish: a harsh, alcoholic note shows up briefly, then milk chocolate. It dies out quickly, though the chocolate note remains. Nesquik. Nice, this, if perfectible. 7/10

Interesting experiment, though I am not about to become a gin drinker! All of them were decent to good, perhaps too close to one another in character to try them all in a row.

Time for whisky.

Clynelish 20yo 19954/2015 (55.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, 458b): nose: pickled pearl onions, cooked cabbage, dried-up candlewax. Mouth: milky texture, with a mix of brine and marzipan (DH). The pickled onions make a come-back too. Finish: boiled sweets and more pickled pearl onions. The nose is not for me, the mouth is ok, the finish is prertty good. Altogether not something I would buy, though. 5/10 (Thanks SW for the sample)

Caledonian 28yo 1987/2016 (52.3%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, 246b): nose: yer serving of coconut, lots of pastry, chocolate spread on crêpes. Mouth: a lovely texture, with the right heat; hot pastry and coconut shavings. Finish: a slight dryness, with custard, and then toasted coconut, hot custard and éclairs au chocolat. This seems rather different to when we had it a few weeks ago. 8/10

Glenlossie 12yo (55.5%, OB The Manager's Dram, b.2004, b#0998): how can it be bottle #998 from a single cask? Nose: pickled onions again!? It is a different glass, so that cannot be the reason. Faded leather, then cork and a whiff of faded shoe polish. Mouth: here, the more usual notes of warm custard and vanilla come through, mellow and warm. Finish: warming, with wet dogs, dead branches on the forest floor, hot custard thrown on top of it and a bit of aromatics. 8/10

We have that opposite the following:

Glenlossie 21yo 1957/1979 (80° Proof, Cadenhead, Sherry Wood): nose: dark fruit (blackberries) and dunnage warehouse, a hint of rancio, walnuts, all veiled in a cloak of coal smoke. Mouth: perfect balance, with dark-fruit juice, a slight nuttiness, blackberry jam and burnt wood. Finish: coal smoke, burnt wood, scorched earth, burnt walnut shells and unripe blackberry tart. This plays in a different league. 9/10

DH has Springbank 20yo /2017 (59.9%, OB for The Bottling Hall Dinner 2017), then a Benrinnes 18yo 1971/1990 (55.3%, Cadenhead).

JS and I have:

Glenugie (58.1%, Cadenhead, C#3657, b#170): nose: pickled pearl onions, then meat in sauce. This is game-y, though a seaside breeze joins in on the fun. It is then onion relish and a hint of sulphur. Mouth: meaty, with game casserole in a wine sauce, walnut oil. Finish: meaty, still, but perfectly balanced, with nuts, thick wine and venison casserole. This is a big, meaty noogie, not the most accessible and not my favourite, though it is of great quality. 9/10

As a nightcap, JS pours DH Glenury Royal 40yo 1970/2011 (58.4%, OB, 1500b). I am not so lucky. ;-)

Happy days.

31 May 2017

28/05/2017 Two Benrinnes

Back from the Ardshiel, MS and I are up for a nightcap. Incidentally, I have some candidates with me.

Benrinnes 27yo (49.9%, HL Old & Rare A Platinum Selection, Refill Butt, 137b): nose: unripe green grapes, wax (MS). This smells like a young whisky, which is disconcerting. Feint-y, spirit-y. Even the colour hints at it not being a long-aged whisky from a sherry cask. Probably a very inactive cask, or an n-th refill. Mouth: spirit-y again, with a tiny bit of turpentine. It is slightly more syrupy than the nose suggested, but it remains difficult to discern any sherry influence. Finish: warm rice tart, wood splinters, marzipan and the acidity of green grapes. The finish redeems it a bit. Overall, though, it is a huge disappointment. 5/10 (thanks LM for the sample)

Benrinnes 18yo 1971/1990 (55.3%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask): nose: allspice, black bun, Demerara sugar, sprinkled on dried fruit, then clove, cinnamon, ginger bread, precious wood and rancio -- sherry maturation at its best. Mouth: liquorice-y, fresh, yet also very hot -- watch the high strength! Pine wood, Suc des Vosges boiled sweet, perhaps even Fisherman's friends. The alcohol makes it feel almost mouthwash-y. It is that annihilating. Finish: wood, liquorice allsorts, black liquorice laces. This has bitterness too, with notes of old leather. Later on and with a drop of water, the Demerara sugar comes back. Very intense, this. Not too dissimilar to a Karuizawa, based on my little experience of that Japanese distillery. 7/10

That concludes our Campbeltown adventures. Tomorrow, the long and sad journey home.

28/05/2017 Supper at the Ardshiel Hotel

We tried coming here last night, but it was fully booked (and we ended up in a Bangladeshi restaurant, but that is another story). Tonight, however, is our night: JS, MS, Bishlouk and I have a table booked at 19:30. When we turn up at 19:10, the table is not ready. The bar, then.

To give some context, today was the Mull Of Kintyre Run (10km and half-marathon). JS ran the half. Mark Watt and his sister were running the 10km.

Choosing is the hard part
We have a look at the drinks menu. I spot a 35yo Caperdonich that I inquire about: it takes the waitress 15 minutes to find it... empty. I ask if I can have the remaining three drops (it is Caperdonich 35yo 1977/2013 (50.2%, Cadenhead Small Batch, ex-Sherry Butt, 384b)), but the head honcho makes it clear the answer is: 'no.' Strange. We choose something else.

Banff 36yo 1976/2013 (49.8%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogshead, 192b): yup, sister cask to the one we had the other day. This was part of the first Small Batch release, back in 2013, Mark Watt's way of showing he had entered the building. Nose: noble furniture, slightly dusty and lichen-y, old copper coins, perhaps balsamic vinegar, then ground apricot stones and blue mandarins, as well as dunnage warehouse. Mouth: delicate tangerine, a hint of gentle pepper, tangerine pith. It has a thin-cream texture. Finish: a slight bitterness (citrus pith), then old metallic tools, mustard seeds, olive oil, dirty mayonnaise, Seville orange marmalade. The finish is acidic and, well, wonderful. An absolute winner. 10/10

Later on, when the (heavily-sun-burnt) Watt siblings sit down to celebrate their race, I give Mark a blind taste of the Banff and ask him whether he would bottle that, for a laugh. He says he would.

Our table is ready. It is 20:15. So much for our booked time slot.

Hazelburn 13yo 2003/2017 (47.1%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Casks, 12000b, 17/139): JS's newest favourite distillery. Nose: hot game sauce, wine, then it becomes mildly vinegar-y and even has a soft sea feel. Mouth: milky and comforting, not too thick. Finish: syrup, burnt caramel and a hint of smoke (!?) It is warming and comforting, with thick, syrupy wine. 8/10

Starters are served. I have battered haggis balls with a pepper sauce.

Battered haggis balls

Mango chicken salad

Tormore 27yo 1988/2016 (51.5%, North Star Spirits Cask Series, Bourbon Hogshead & Madeira Cask, B#001, 200b): nose: mellow, with vanilla, custard and squashed banana. It quickly becomes rather hot on the nostrils. Mouth: warm, with thick, peppery sauce. It is creamy, but also quite spicy. Finish: a note of syrupy wine and a lot of pepper sauce. Or did I mistake my pot of sauce for a Glencairn glass? 7/10

Port Ellen 1980/2015 (46%, GMP Rare Old, B#RO/15/12, 236b): MS justly observes that if he does not shell out for this here, then, where? Nose: drying fishing nets, an emptied (but not cleaned) ashtray, refined peat smoke, peat-smoked mussels. The scent is powerful, at a mere 46%! Mouth: tangerine marmalade, fig relish on kippers. Finish: big, with more tangerine marmalade, then a huge, smokey kick in the teeth. Wonderful dram. 9/10

Mains are here. I have baked, smoked haddock with cheese sauce (and feel bad, because haddock is almost depleted).

Baked haddock


Another couple of drams, in the lounge, after dinner.

More choosing

Springbank 10yo (50.5%, OB Private Bottling to Commemorate The Decommissioning of HMS Campbeltown, Port Casks, b.2011): nose: heavy leather, saddles and a prominent smokiness (camp fire, peat furnace), cigar smoke, smoky cheese (MS). Mouth: acrid as cigar smoke, whilst also displaying some thick marmalade (made with smoked oranges). Finish: big and pungent, with more hot cigar leaves, smoke and ash. This feels like an old gentlemen's club after a big night out, when the smoke is still lukewarm in the smoking room. 8/10

Imperial 1996/2015 (43, GMP): nose: watery orange juice, a whiff of cork, chalk (MS) and hawthorn. Not the most welcoming nose, I suppose. Mouth: it is a bit similar, to tell the truth: watery orange juice, a touch of cork, or rather a cask bung. Finish: nice and easy, with drying oranges, bung cloth and bits of cork again. 6/10

Glen Scotia 12yo 2002/2015 (56.1%, OB Distillery Edition for Open Day 2015, Edition 001, C#196): nose: grated galangal, sawdust, ground fruit stone. It smells very woody. Water tames down the wood for a moment, but it comes back soon. Mouth: dark chocolate, sawdust. Behind that, apricot juice -- actually, very hot apricot compote. Water makes it more balanced, jammy. Finish: big and hairy, with smoke, burning hay, cigar smoke. Again, water allows citrus-y notes to shine through (marmalade). 7/10

Very good drams, great food, but I am disappointed with the experience, overall. The service was mostly average, for a start: with one notable exception, it felt like the staff was bothered by our presence, and in a hurry to not provide a pleasant experience. The worst aspect, though is the whisky selection. The bar is decently stocked up (Campbeltown and Cadenhead both well represented), there are many glass cabinets around the rooms, including a couple with bottles and paraphernalia for sale, yet the most interesting bottles are for display only, unavailable to order or purchase. Why rub them in the faces of willing customers, then?
It is not the first time I see that in Scotland, and I simply cannot regard a bar that does that as world class.

Looky, but no touchy
You can look, but you can't touch