Saturday, 13 September 2014

Tomatin Cu Bocan Sherry Cask

Cu Bocan is Tomatin’s NAS, lightly peated single malt, reviewed here some time ago.  This is lightly peated Tomatin spirit in a blend of virgin oak, sherry and bourbon casks.  With the Cuatro sherry finishes Tomatin have also released a sherry only Cu Bocan.  This is a limited edition run of 6000 bottles and matured in first fill sherry butts (like the Cuatro).

Cu Bocan, Sherry Cask (assumed 46%), A⊕

cubocansherryNose - Plums and peat, gentle warm spice on the nose - cinnamon and allspice.  Toffee and toasted wood.  Lightly musky with a little crayon.  The sherry is both bold and restrained somehow, the sweetness rides over the top very nicely.

Body - Sweet, spicy and numbing.  Cloves and peppercorns.  Granary toast and marmite.

Finish - Medium/short with chilli, and tropical notes at the end.  A bit like I’d expect a tiny pineapple rolled in chilli and other spices to taste like. Weirdly Christmassy in a summery way.

What’s not good about it - The finish is a little short, the numbing is a little unexpected given the rest of it but that kind of adds to the kookiness of this rather beguiling whisky.

What’s good about it - Warm spices, flawless sherry, that odd combination of peat and Tomatin comes together very well.  I didn’t expect to like this as much as I do, on the list.

Thanks to Tomatin for the official sample.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Ardbeg Supernova 2014

I won’t reiterate the back story about yeast cultures in space or whatever it was – this is another special release from Ardbeg (hot on the heels of Auriverdes and Kidalton 2014), and this time it’s very Ardbeg.  Supernova was a super (for the time) heavily peated expression originally released in 2009 to the committee and then a little more widely, then 2010 and now in 2014.  I was going to save these notes for an Islay special that’s been accruing due to everyone but me visiting Islay recently and shipping me back bottles and samples.  But as this is coming out to Ardbeg “embassies” tomorrow (Royal Mile Whiskies and TWE come to mind), I thought it’d be jolly to post it tonight.  Enjoy!

Ardbeg Supernova 2014, 55%

SN2014Nose – Golden Ardbeg; sweet, sour peat, ripe pear, perfume.  Sandalwood, liquorice allsorts, charred oak and some pine.  Tiny lemon boiled sweets (we really need some kind of way of finding out what sweets are called when you only have a vague taste recollection from 30 years ago).  Sherbet dib-dabs.  With water, some more of the sweet shop, some maternity ward – the peat retreats – and there’s some silly putty too.  Lovely.  There’s a lot of digging to be done here.

Body – Spicy, ashen, then lemon sweet toffee and tar from smoked fags (in that kind of earthy, satisfying, done a hard days work kind of way other ex-smokers may recognise).  There’s a musky lemon and almost fungus edge to that, quite strange.  With water, more of the dried chilli comes through, and less of the musky, and some salt and vinegar.  Salted caramel – it’s all salted caramel once you notice it and really someone should make a salted caramel laced with Corryvreckan on the basis of this.  Retains it’s character and intensity throughout.

Finish – Long, lemon fizzing and Sichuan peppercorns.  Toffee with hazelnuts in.  Very salty and oily, very oily – more so with water too.  Lots of body and character.

What’s not good about it – Musky and awkward in some ways without being totally amazing.  50% over priced.

What’s good about it – But the whisky itself is exactly what I want from an Ardbeg special edition (and what’s so lacking in the new Kidalton) – unmistakeable Ardbeg character with at least some of the knobs turned up to 11, loads of character throughout, loads of body, oil and peat

Thanks to Ardbeg for the official sample (not in a miniature, thank goodness) and thanks for gravity for its small part in the proceedings, whatever it turns out they were.  Good luck scoring one tomorrow!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

SMWS Glorious 12 Whisky and Game Bar

Another great micro-adventure from the beloved SMWS.  A short lived (couple of days) popup restaurant featuring a whisky bar, and a sit down meal with a great selection of drams from (mostly) this outturn paired with proper game tapas from The Wild Game Co.  I was very lucky to attend the preview which runs for the next couple of days – mostly sold out with some tickets left on the Saturday night, however the bar is definitely worth a visit and you don’t need to be a member to drink there.  The pop-up is at 31 New Yard Inn, London, EC2 and runs on September 11 and 12 2014 (tomorrow and Saturday!). 

A couple of things struck me about the experience.  First, even if some of the pairings jarred a little with me, the quality of the game, its cooking and (obviously) the whisky is so high that as a tapas experience, it really works even if the pairing doesn’t.  Second, game really does enhance interesting whisky – it brought out the earthy, bloody, primal nature of both elements.  Just being in the atmosphere of charring meat and deglazing fruits and sugars changed the experience of the whiskies (many of which I’m recently and intimately acquainted with) into something much more savoury, juicy, toothsome but removed some of the delicacy and finesse.   So while I have just given notes for these, I’m giving them again as an interesting comparison for my (pretty niche) audience.

I would definitely recommend this.  It’s not exactly dinner – you’re having tapas and might need something else afterwards, but as an exciting and invigorating food and whisky experience, it’s really good.

We started with a big whisky.

117.3 Hubba-bubba, mango and Monstera, Cooley, 25 years old, 58.5%

Nose – Complex, dark and wooded, goes very nicely with the smell of charring game.  Toffeed and herbal.  Almost a BBQed pina colada thing going on here.

Body – Spicy, balanced, toffee in a wicker basket.  With water, more fruit and sweetly wooded.

Then we moved onto the food.  There are four menus of 4 whiskies and tapas to choose from – fish, game, and more boldly flavoured game and whisky.  I went for the latter.

59.51 A refined cocktail, Teaninich, 30 years old, 51.5%

Nose – Jewelled, bright and malty sweet.  Candied barley.

Body – Epic structure, game, Sauternes, redcurrant… hang on.

Finish – Long, wood bitterness.  With water, opens up with more berries, more toffee on the palate.  Very good.

with Pigeon, apple, chorizo and balsamic syrup. 

Lovely pigeon, very salty chorizo.  A seriously good tapas.  The whisky goes with the apple, but the food is too earth and bloody to go with this sweet, jewelled, old, sexy whisky.

3.225, Galleon attacked by pirates, Bowmore, 16 years old, 57.2%

I already know I love this whisky.

Nose – Immediately more masculine, lightly sherried and wonderful peat.  Ripe and salted plums. 

Body – A little sourer than I remember, massively peated, earthy and exciting.. this is going to go well with the pig ribs.

with Wild pig ribs with radish salad.

The nose on the Bowmore really compliments the sweet musk of the wild pig.  Wonderful just smelling the whisky and the food together.  The ribs are sugary, covered in Sichuan peppercorns, soft and delicious.  This really works.  While I am particular about BBQed ribs, and have eaten a lot of them, this isn’t the same thing – these are much more in the Chinese style of short cut ribs in honey and spice.  The radish salad goes well with the Bowmore and the pork, and as a pairing it works as you are compelled to go back and forth and hold them in your mouth together.  Highlight.

9.91, A whispering dram, Glen Grant,  23 years old, 53%

Nose – Lovely and sweet with the gamey stuff working in around it.  The cereal and red berries really work with the general funk of the place. 

Body – Balanced and tasty numbness, great wood and fence panels.

with Mallard served medium rare with marmalade, soy and honey.

Really quite rare but lovely.  There is an oddly coastal element to this – think it’s the blood?  Maybe it’s the Bowmore still on my palate and in the glass next to me.  The pairing does clash though, the sweet old Glen Grant isn’t up to the blood and metal in the mallard  – perhaps when they made it there was more marmalade on the plate.

Next up was supposed to be 10.77, Beware of the monster, but I understand it was too rare and popular and it’s been substituted for an old Caol Ila.  Not that this is a bad thing, it’s a lovely dram.

53.198, Wasabi on a California Roll, Caol Ila, 18 years old, 59.1%

Nose – Sweet cigarette smoke, perfumed.  Undercurrent of glazed carrots, cereal bar, redcurrants and blood.

Body – Peppered, wooded, sweet peat.

Finish – Medium, toffeed, toffee apple.  Lovely balance.

with A selection of cured meats.

Very exciting, very dark, a small amount of dark cured game sausage and I think mallard breast.  Lots of salt, pepper and chilli.  Really brings out the blood and gunpowder in the Caol Ila, a very good pairing.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tomatin Cuatro Sherry Finish Series

Tomatin’s Cuatro range is a series of whiskies taken from the same batch of 9year old Tomatin single malt matured in American oak, from the same distillation run (January 15th 2002), transferred on June 29th 2011 and finished for a further three years in a set of four different first fill sherry casks  – Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX (Cuatro is Spanish for four).  All of the casks were shipped whole from the bodegas in Spain, rather than being split and flat packed over, so a really high quality, no expense spared sherry finishing and a great experiment in how the sherry affects the character of the resulting whisky. 

Each bottling is limited to 1500 bottles and is priced at £50.  We wonder if (and hope that) some of those sherry casks have been held back for older, longer sherry finishes?  Either way there are no more Cuatro casks waiting to bottle more 12 year old Cuatro, so when this is released 1500 bottles of each will be all there is. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

SMWS September Outtrun Micro-Notes

I didn’t think this outturn looked particularly promising (aside from the ancient Dufftown and the infant Bunna) but I was wrong.  Some solid buys in here (note that if I write buy, it doesn’t mean I bought it, but that you should.  I probably have bought it though).

G4.7, Flying saucers and foamy shrimps, Cameronbridge, 34 years old, 51.9% A+
Nose - Sweet, gentle grain.  UHU glue, foam sweets (starmix), strawberry shampoo.
Body - Sweet and soapy, yes definitely the foam shrimps, extraordinarily sweet and sweetshoppy
Finish - Long, very sweet but balanced.  Is there any point, though, in this being a 34 year old whisky?  Very drinkable though. 

BUY – but only if you’re a grain enthusiast. 

26.104, Runny honey and chilli pepper, Clynelish, 14 years old, 58.5% A-
Nose - Toasty cereal, some pork chop, burnt toast and honey, spicy wax and dried bananas.  With water, smoother and fruitier.
Body - Very spicy and hot.  With water, more toffee.
Finish - Long, menthol, very oily, numbing.
Overall - a lovely nose, too much spice on the palate.

121.75, Indian potpourri, Arran, 14 years old, 53.7% A⊕
Distilled on the first day of the millenium!

Nose - Quite dry, the non-violet parma violet sweets (what the hell are they called?), fruity- juicy red fruit and peaches.  The fried bits (sev) from bombay mix.  With water, more floral and even better integrated.
Body - Bold and oily, toffee apple. 
Finish - Long and numbing, rather good.


9.91, A whispering dram, Glen Grant,  23 years old, 53% A⊕
IMG_20140904_175310912Nose - Toffee sweet, cut red cherries, bright, sweet cut grass.
Body - Beautiful honey structure, lots of wax and oil - quite bright.  Lightly spiced and well balanced.

This is another solid, mature Glen Grant and very nicely put together but doesn’t excite me enough to get a buy.



35.112, Perfect storm of flavours, Glen Moray, 17 years old, 51.8%A⊕
IMG_20140904_181356542Nose - Toffee, grain sweetness, but structured and has a lightly sulphured, almost hoppy note to it.  Rather lovely nose.
Body - Unexpectedly dry and quite hot - almost a Sichuan meal with Sichuan peppercorns, red chilli, wok burnt rice and garlic and green pepper.
Finish - Long, numbing but toasty and balanced.  Rather good, challenging and interesting. 

The palate doesn't really match the nose but it works and comes together, particularly with

some water.  Nobody can work out where this has come from – it doesn’t appear to be in the new outturn, I can find it as an old release (the cask number is low) so presumably this will be in a top up?  It’s designer cask – something to do with Buffalo Trace experiment tree selection I think?   I may have just misunderstood – we’d been drinking.  It is good, I almost bought it because of the weirdness, but then went for the 35.120 instead, which is simply better.

35.120, Sugar and spice and all things nice, Glen Moray, 12 years old, 58.1% A⊕
Refill ex-chardonnay cask

IMG_20140904_183704342Nose - Darker, muskier, grainier, stilled sulphured. Almost sherried - a real oloroso wine edge.  The mentioned fried onions is there and light and works rather than being unpleasant.  Finally the sweet wine oak reasserts. 
Palate - Even toastier.  Long and oily, this musky onions edge isn't, honestly, unpleasant it works with the sweet oily intensity and is more of a sulphured, tannic edge.


59.51, A refined cocktail, Teaninich, 30 years old, 51.5% A⊕+
IMG_20140904_191437057Nose - Incredible intensity, just the most fantastic nose.  Old wooded panels, Sauternes, beeswax polish, herbal, menthol, musk, new leather belt, extremely shiny and fruity and berried.  Polished staircase.  With water, even more exciting, enticing and gripping, with ancient peat and more wax.
Body - Bright, sour and solvent, dark toffee and nuts, lemon refreshers.  With water - rounder and sexier.
Finish - Pear, licking oak wood, wood oil.  Lingering French polish.

It’s a very good one in a long line of 30 year old SMWS Teaninichs. 

BUY but only if you’re in the market for this kind of thing.  Better value elsewhere.

73.66, Toffee and humbugs in a tea chest, Aultmore, 24 years old, 57% A⊕+

IMG_20140904_194628994Nose – Ripe, intense sherry, marzipan, plum, plum skin, raw Christmas pudding.  Orange candle wax, candied fruit, dark marmalade.

Body – Winey, beautiful almonds and orange juice.

Finish – Long, bright and rich beeswax.  Apricot and almond tart.

This and the Glenlivet are probably the best value, top-of-the-middle end buy in the outturn, if you see what I mean!


91.20, The rumbling thunder of contentment, Dufftown, 37 years old, 46.9% A⊕⊕


Nose – Intense, wooded complexity, polish and toffee leather, new shoes, incredible varnish – herbal and musky. Like a well cared for 50s car – wax polished fenders, old leather and oil.

Body – Toffee, very light peat, old wood.  Reminds me of an old Glen Garioch.

Finish – Incredibly mellow and old, lightly waxed.

Needs further inspection.  It’s very good, and quite a lot of money.  Tempting.


2.88, Cinderella weeping over matchmakers, Glenlivet, 20 years old, 47.1% A⊕+

IMG_20140905_103650424Nose – Lovely petrol, truffle honey, butter, Jenga blocks, rose petals, rosemary, crackling.  A floral, light, approachable and expensive nose – deeply lovely.

Body – Oily toffee, apple wood, refreshers and heather honey.

Finish – Fried potatoes, woody herbs and liquorice root.  Black pepper and granary toast.  Challenging, exciting and lovely.

With water, even better balance and contrast, and more honey.  Good complexity.


3.225, Galleon attacked by pirates, Bowmore, 16 years old, 57.2% A⊕+

IMG_20140904_204820221Nose – Dark, ripe, salt and vinegar, honey on gorgonzola, marmalade and bonfires, burning wax torches, gunpowder.  Wonderful stuff.

Body – Flawless, intense pear and peat, water biscuits with butter.

Finish – Long, cereal dominated, incredibly numbing.

With water, more salt and vinegar, more jellied eels, devilled whitebait.  Lots of red berries – richer and seriously delicious.


26.105, Bumblebees by the sea, Clynelish, 29 years old, 57.6%, A⊕+

Nose – Balance.  Wax, sweet shops, grass, cardamom, incredibly sweet lemon and polished waxy grapefruit.

Body – Oaked, waxed lacquer and vanilla.  Floral, beautifully oaked and a little salty.

Finish – Surprisingly short, but not unsatisfying.  Wonderful.

I toyed with this, it’s probably better than the Teaninich.  Phil bought this round so no photo.


53.212, Peat smoke and Para Handy puffers, Caol Ila, 22 years old, 56.4%, A⊕+

IMG_20140904_214657801Nose – Dark salt and vinegar crisps (can’t stop noticing this now), dark sherry (it’s refill bourbon cask).  Sour, rich, dirty, just a beautiful Caol Ila – another one!

Body – Toast and vinegar.  Stunning, balanced and bright, lovely peat.

Finish – Long, wood wax, wood and musk.

I’m buying this as a long term option.  This supply of mature single cask Caol Ila stunners can’t continue forever!


My palate is probably in tatters now and I’m certainly a little worse for wear, but just the one more – we can’t miss this!

10.77, Beware of the monster, Bunnahabhain, 6 years old, 61.4%, A⊕

Nose – Numbing alcoholic citrus, lemon ash, wood fires, joss sticks, brine.  Damp cardboard, jellied eels and lemon juice.

Body – Coal tar, bring and lemon, whitebait again, crisp fried lemon, smoke and chewed lemon rind.

Consistent balance and intensity on this one.  If you were going to buy it you probably already have as it sold out on the site this morning in about 20 seconds.


One for the road!  The Jura from a while back, oddly unpopular and still available.

31.27, Bold sailor’s dram, Jura, 25 years old, 52.4%, A+

IMG_20140904_222846186Nose – Sharp but interesting, bright orange zest and light oak and peat, bread and marmalade, cut cherry.

Body – Juicy, but lacking intensity (although it has a lot to prove on top of the previous drams).  Orange zest, salt and light peat.

Finish – Long, ripe oranges.  With water, riper, lots of grapefruit, great peat integration.  Lovely dram.

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Glendronach–OB Vertical

I bought this lot from the Green Welly as a pack of 4 minis.  I would certainly recommend you do the same, lots of fun!

The Glendronach, Octarine 8 years old, 46% A⊕

glendronach-octarineNose - Sweet, oaty, sherried, musky.  Granary toast and butter, candle wax, kumquat and guava.  Bright and very sweet, and very orangey, with a rather pleasing muskiness and cereal rawness to back it up.

Body - Amazingly fruity.  Intense kumquat, some sour grapefruit zest, lemon and orange juice.  A little toffee and some balancing wood.

Finish - Very long and intensely orangey, especially given the age.  Is this really just distilled fermented barley in a sherry cask for 8 years?

What’s not good about it - Incredibly sweet, incredibly orangey.  Almost isn’t whisky.

What’s good about it - But the intense grapefruit sour does cut through that somewhat and the wood is pretty good.  This is actually quite a balanced, but very young and intense whisky. Rather good!

The Glendronach, Original 12 years old, 43% A⊕

glendronach-12-year-old-whiskyNose - Sourer than the Octarine, with lovely wax and light refreshing sherry.  The sweet citrus juice and wood are better integrated now, with this smelling less like neat kia-ora and more like a quality sherried whisky.  Again though, lovely toasty elements - buttered granary toast and honey or marmalade.  Beautiful sweet glazed duck and star anise, and some greener herbs like rosemary and sage.

Body - Less intense, a little more sulphur and a lot spicier.  The drop in ABV doesn’t help the intensity unfortunately but the quality is very high.  Dark marmalade, lime marmalade and red chilli.

Finish - Long, Seville orange bitterness and sweetness, well balanced and intensely sweet.

What’s not good about it - Lacks intensity, very sweet.

What’s good about it - Beautifully sweet nose and delivery, well balanced and integrated.

The Glendronach, Revival 15 years old, 46% A⊕

glendronach15Nose - The dial turned up that little bit more towards cereal, sweet toffee, dark and intense.  The nose on the Revival seems to mix the 12 and the 8 and bring out a lot more herbal wax with black pepper, salt toffee, more musky wood and toasted nori.  There’s also this enticing, slightly Indian, curry powder thing going on.

Body - Dark chilli toffee, wham bar, fruit salad chews and granulated sugar.

Finish - Medium, a little pancake and maple syrup.

What’s not good about it - Lacks complexity, finish is a bit short.  Not as good as the 12 (or rather, as good as the 12 should be at 46%).  

What’s good about it - Love the intensity.  Importantly, it is seriously delicious.

The Glendronach, Allardice 18 years old, 46% A⊕

glendronach-18-year-old-allardice-whiskyNose - Now we’ve arrived.  The component parts, while entertaining in younger expressions, are brought together - the change in integration is marked.  Toasted cereal bar, dark toffee, furniture wax, old bookcase, old leather belt, and Florida orange juice.  Juicy plums, BBQed ribs (where the hell has that come from?), watermelon, Cox’s Orange Pippin apples.  Incredibly sweet, juicy (with quite a lot of the Octarine about it) and balanced by sherried sulphur.  Wonderful.  With water, the juice intensifies with more orange and a little red chilli.

Body - Clean and sweet.  Lightly spiced with sulphur and red chilli.  Suddenly lacks complexity.

Finish - Long and toasted, chillied and wooded.  Cloying but just balanced.  However the sulphur does start to unbalance at the end - damn!  Final notes are of struck match and bitter oak.

What’s not good about it - The delivery disappoints - slightly one dimensional and the sulphur isn’t balanced.  

What’s good about it - Fabulously complex, balanced, juicy nose, incredibly sweet and beautiful to behold.  Great fun to take time over.

George T. Stagg 2013

This took significant effort to acquire and has been the whisky by which all other cask strength bourbons have been judged ever since I first tried it at the whisky show.  I haven’t tried the Stagg Jnr yet.
Here are the stats:
  • Distilled spring 1997
  • Bottled autumn 2013 (15 years, 11 months)
  • ABV 64.1% (lower than normal - highest was 2007 at 72.4%, lowest previously was 2004 at 64.5%)
  • Recipe: Large grain; Kentucky Corn – distillers grade #1 and #2, Small grain; Minnesota Rye, Finish grain; North Dakota Malted Barley
  • Cook temperature 240F
  • Double distilled, beer still and doubler
  • Strength off the still was 67.5%
  • 157 hand selected barrels
  • New white oak barrel, #4 char (55s), 55 gallons each
  • Warehouses I, K and Q, floors 1, 2, 4 and 8
  • 73.34% angels share (whisky lost due to evaporation)
  • Unfiltered
Its a beast.
George T. Stagg 2013, 64.1% A⊕+
Nose – Deep, old, furniture polish, layers of floral honey, glazed kumquats, pineapple, deep beeswax, raisin, polished wood.  Almond cake, rich tropical fruit, plastic cement 
Body – More furniture polish, a high note of fresh honey and herbs, oily, spicy dark fruit, a little bit of cardamom.  Deeply, richly sweet, yet with total balance.  An immense amount of hard, seasoned oak.
Finish – Extreme wood, spice, very long, moves into citrus wood.  Just massive with no let up in quality or balance.  Very oily.  Toasty BBQ edge (perhaps just by association).   After a couple of minutes you’re left with intense candy – like the cinnamon jawbreakers from the Amrut Kadhambam.  A few minutes later you’re still a bit numb but still getting balance.  Deep and wonderful.