Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Longrow Chardonnay “in-depth”

IMG_1825My second in-depth tasting with Ed. Last time was a fantastic Laddie Micro-Provenance in Brunello cask, this time it’s a cage bottle (“duty paid sample”) from Campbeltown.  These are full bottle cask samples and are unique, you can’t buy more than one bottle from the same cask and once it’s gone it’s gone forever! 

I really liked the idea of nailing this unique bottle in one sitting.  I was fairly sure this would be good (it’s well aged Longrow in a wine cask) but in any case I’ve never been let down by one of these cage bottles.  Either they are carefully picked or you just can’t go wrong in the warehouse.  I’m keen to do one of the Springbank or Longrow OB 18 year olds at a session one day, these are the kind of understated but elegant drams that really repay concentration.

Thanks Ed for running this session again, great fun and a real antidote to writing notes for many different, tiny drams in one sitting.

Longrow, Chardonnay hogshead, 15 years old, 56% A⊕

Cage bottle (duty free sample), 19.10.01

Dram 1

IMG_1826Nose - Sweet, dried peaches, slightly hot funk, dried mango? Warm Haribo? A really beguiling minerality with warm Summer earth. Approach it gingerly and there's joss stick and scented rubbers. A really complicated, fruity and quite dirty/sexy nose, with intense fruit and tobacco. With water, slightly more funk, a real "old Longrow" feeling to it. Not as exciting, however, as when neat.

This is absolutely lovely, really warm and compelling with a balancing minerality.

Body - Sweet but dry complexity, cherry sweets, dusty refreshers and quite chalky. Slight sulphur funk and a definite wine cask in the delivery (nutty). Quite aggressive peat on top of this (white pepper), but the intense sweetness and mineral/wine cask really works. With water, more fruit, dustier, retronasal Haribo. With time the wine cask really comes through.

Finish - Long with more fruit; orange zest, refreshers, dusty with a touch of swimming pool. With time, very clearly cloves, with a wooded, leathery edge.

Dram 2

IMG_1827Nose - More in-depth fruit, icing sugar, some candied ginger, dried fruits. Window putty and new carpet, new leather belt. Clear liquorice.

Body - Slightly dirty, more leather and leatherette. Real refreshers now with grapefruit and kia-ora. Delicious.

Finish – Still with the refreshers. There is a really deep, lingering sweetness and fruit. The peat really comes through with time, quite bandagey, quite medicinal.

Excellent fruit and balance on this intense whisky.

Dram 3

Nose - Sweeter now with more oranges, sherry cask, dried flowers, charcoal.

Body - Vanilla, some cake, cigar tobacco, salted caramel and blood orange / grapefruit zest. The wine cask is delicious. Peach tart with vanilla cream, really oily.

Finish - Cherry tunes, licked leather.

Ed has the leather at the fore now, I'm more on the fruit.

Dram 4

IMG_1829More new plastic book coverings, the orange is back with breakfast orange juice and aniseed.

Nougat, flower petals.


 

Two for two for well judged wine cask in-depths.  Great maturity shown here, lots of fruit and lots to hold our interest over the course of the bottle.  I’ll have reviews of the last two Longrow 18s coming up soon, the 2017 one is particularly excellent. 

Next stop, Cambeltown!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Dramboree Competition

Dramboree is basically a fan organised event, with 20 or so whisky nerds getting together somewhere in Scotland for some serious whisky drinking, some interesting talks and tastings and usually a distillery tour.  It’s self funding and done out of love.  I’ve never been but I did investigate it in detail (I was a bit worried it’d be a bit weird) but what I found out from talking to various people in detail (particularly Jon Webb) that it was great, not weird at all, and the scene of some serious whisky fun.  I’ve ended up not going ever yet because I realised I had too many children and I would get in trouble doing that as well as Campbeltown festival (which my love of Cadenhead’s and Springbank is too hard to resist). 

They have a couple of places left for this year’s event and it needs to get filled – as it’s fan run, good ticket sales means they can run it again next year.  Hopefully one day I will actually be allowed to go to it, so to chivvy things along I am offering a prize to the first two people to buy a ticket by clicking the link below, then clicking “Sound good? Come to this year's Dramboree!” and then buying a ticket and writing in the comments: “Copsey made me do it!”

http://www.dramboree.co.uk/2016/02/some-of-the-things-weve-done-in-the-past/

The prize will be 10x 3cl samples from my embarrassingly large collection of SMWS whisky, delivered to your house by ROYAL MAIL.

GO!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

SMWS May 2017 Outturn 1/2

More label chaos at SMWS, I’m guessing that without the clout of LVMH behind them they’re doing these by hand.  The result in May was two outturns, a “preview” of six bottles on first Friday and the rest (rather a lot) the week after.  The first Friday lot only hit the bar about 9:30pm on Thursday and I just couldn’t get to it in time, and my life wouldn’t allow me to get to the rest until a lot later.  Hence we are starting to think about June now and I’ve not even made notes for all of May!

So I’ve prioritised the bottles that are still in stock (at time of writing at least) here for notes, I still have quite a lot of the outturn left to taste.  There were 6+16=22 in the May outturn, plus there’s an extra 6 on the bar, making 28 in May.  I can’t do a November scale outturn every month!

Definitely a mixed bag so far this month.  My absolute favourites were the Scotia again, and the Glenlivet but there are some other crackers in here.  I am dutifully tasting all the virgin oak finishes because there is the odd really great one, but on the whole I find them too obvious, not very Scotch.  I don’t look forward to them for the same reason I don’t really drink much bourbon, it’s not the style I’m into, but obviously other people will have different preferences.

Preview

This was released on first Friday, a reduced outturn of 6 bottles.

One of these got away from me due to my late attack:

SMWS 36.130, Benrinnes, Summer wedding happiness, 12 years old, 59.3%.

You can read about it on Phillip Storry's website. Oh the ignominy, and I'm using his site to get the details*! The completist in me is sobbing…

* and to be clear, not reading his reviews in case I get auto suggested

IMG_1864

SMWS 48.89, Balmenach, Sweetie bags in a slate quarry, 11 years old, 57.9% B⊕

29th March 2005, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_1868Nose - Unexpected. There's a distinct acetic note, some Belgian beers are famous for it but I've never found it this obvious in the nose in a whisky before. Getting past this and the gastrique, this is floral on top with reduced red wine, vanilla sponge, blackboard/chalk and Turkish Delight underneath. Interesting but too clumsy for me so far, although better integrated with water.

Body - Absolutely a bag of sweets, old fashioned sweets in a paper bag.  Also there's a funny, funky Auchentoshan that pushes my buttons (all acrylic and peaches), that works with the floral and vanilla - absolutely delicious, and even funkier/funner with water.

Finish - But oddly bitter and biting in the finish, too new wood and too much pepper. The floral/sweet funk is raging behind that - very long and numbing, like a mouthful of cheap perfume.

Weird this, clumsy at the front, harsh at the back and absolutely delicious in the middle. Was this 11 years in the first fill bourbon or have we been experimenting with the casks again?

SMWS 84.22, Glendullan, Refreshing and bright, 8 years old, 57.2% A

19th March 2008, 243 bottles, 2nd fill white wine hogshead

IMG_1869Nose - Young, sweet, wax. I had feared a big wine influence here but 2nd fill (I'm not sure how long the finish was for but they seem to generally be under a year – although for example, the Glenrothes, 30.95 below is an exception) and with such young spirit perhaps there's not much influence. With time, floral and freshly cut pine boards. There is something clean and new here, but also reassuring, homely and satisfying, like new pine furniture in a clean and tidy room.

Body - Quite mouth puckeringly floral and sour here, citric rather than acetic, with twisted lemon peel, lemon bonbons, chewed Rennies and cocoa powder. Bitterer with water.

Finish - Long, with lots more yellow, but bitter and wooden.

While there is a general lack of excellence in this one, there's something compelling about it (it's in the need to have another sip to replace the fruit the finish doesn't have), and it has a lovely, calming nose.

SMWS 35.185, Glen Moray, Frightfully delightful, 22 years old, 57.5% A+'

17th November 1994, 242 bottles, first fill toasted oak hogshead

IMG_1866Nose - The colour on this and the first smell are all high impact bourbon. Rich and decadent, there's cherry compote, brown leather jacket, chocolate icing, candle wax and window putty here. Even better with water, loads of waxes and tropical fruit. Underneath the finishing cask, there's a massive scaffold of well matured Glen Moray propping up all these follies.

Body - Again a real Scotch/American blend, lots of red fruit with chocolate cupcakes and enormous tannins backed up by coffee. Quite harsh neat but water brings a much richer, chocolatier delivery.

Finish - Very long, intense sugars balanced by stone fruit, particularly peach. Wood sours and quite spicy, zesty tannins until it plays out with lemon pith.

This is very good drinking, a bit obvious but this time it doesn't matter. Worth at least a dram at the bar and if you like BTAC but can never get it, this'd scratch an itch.

BUY

SMWS 37.90, Cragganmore, The path less trodden, 12 years old, 57.5% B+

3rd November 2004, 278 bottles, virgin oak hogshead

IMG_1867Nose - Hard wood, coffee granules and cut hedges. Iced buns and more wood. There's pain au raisin here too, with custard filling, but it takes digging.

Body - MDF, fried onions with mustard seeds and turmeric. A touch of banana in the custard, but I keep being drawn back to the smoky curry.

Finish - Long with orange peel, bay leaves and orange jelly. That orangey sweetness makes the virgin oak make sense.

The virgin oak hammer has shattered whatever this Cragganmore would have been, although what's left is worth trying.

SMWS 66.101, Ardmore, Flirting with flavour, 9 years old, 60.1% A⊕

15th May 2007, 270 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1865Nose – From the first smell, this is obviously a cracking young peater. Quite earthy peat, with slightly burnt sourdough crust, a touch of liquorice imps and also an unexpected handful of midget gems.

Body - Rich, ripe and dusty, intense peat and charcoal dust, really savoury with burnt, black malt and fried panko. Absolutely delicious.

Finish - Long and zesty, fizzing with fecund peat. Mouthfilling, medicinal and sweet/sour. Cigar tobacco and exhaust fumes at the end, reminds me of a hot evening in America, but with more liquorice. There's an afternote of formaldehyde here too, but in a good way.

This 9 year old Ardmore stands up to much older Laphroaig, a real cracker. Get in there!

BUY

Main outturn (in stock)

IMG_1881

SMWS 9.122, Glen Grant, Daisy chain, 12 years old, 55.4% A+

2nd March 2004, 261 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1892Nose - I couldn't wait to go for this, who knew I'd miss young society refill bourbon so badly? This one is hard and slightly waxy, like a greased marble. There's a touch of vanilla cream and then it's white flowers all the way - that balance of floral and rich is lovely. An early summer air to this, including rain. More into icing sugar with water, there's a hint of Chinese supermarket behind it.

Body - There was a hint of chocolate and coffee in the nose which I passed over because I got distracted by summer rain, but it's big in the delivery. Cut hedge, liquorice cigarette papers and chocolate cigarettes (the chocolate in those things was worse than Hershey's but you got to pretend you were smoking). Swimming pool with water, and the austerity sweets continue, with something like seaside rock.

Finish - Long but quite young and hot, there's chewed caraway seeds and lots of tannins.

A proper, honest drinker, ideally suited to this time of year. A bit no-nonsense perhaps but I like it.

BUY

SMWS 2.98, Glenlivet, Frothy cappuccino, 13 years old, 58.2% A⊕

25th November 2003, 166 bottles, first fill bourbon. If my notes are right (or if I'm searching them right at least) we haven't had a Glenlivet since October 2015.

IMG_1888Nose - Immediately I'm impressed. It's gentle, of course, with polite cask (and cold sealing wax*), freshly picked dandelions, fresh laundry and a handful of pineapple cubes. There's something nagging at me which I can't place here, it might be "overpriced but good NAS OB Glenlivet" but it's been a while. Fruitier with water.

Body - Classy. Gentle fruit salad chews (same acidity) and again that herbal note - is it oregano? Makes me think it's from the garden but we only ever have oregano dry and it isn't rosemary.

Finish - Medium to long. A steadying burn and a touch of spirit sulphur balance all the fruit and beautiful cask.  That and the fruit acids bring you back for another sip.

I'm a big fan of this, I love its polite excellence.

BUY

* my Grandmother used to have a stick of this in her writing desk, I actually used to play with it out of desperation, imagining I could burn it and seal a letter. Kids are so spoilt these days!

SMWS 39.142, Linkwood, Who's for dessert?, 26 years old, 50.3% A+

30th April 1990, 222 bottles, first fill French oak hogshead (but 26 years in refill bourbon first)

IMG_1883Nose - A big, lacquered, Cognac nose here, formic and sweet, with dessert wine, a hint of warm honey and a lot of Christmas (holly, wooden beams, pine needles and a flaming xmas pudding). Behind this, a sweetshop (I mean the shop, not a load of sweets this time), and a touch of Germolene. More boiled sweets and women's perfume with water. I like this a lot, but I fear for the delivery.

Body - At first, the finish and the original cask fight. It's sour and woody up top but you can feel the original cask below. After a couple of sips they start to work better together, there's vanilla cream, coffee and cheap chocolate ice cream. A touch of funk with water, Neapolitan ice cream perhaps.

Finish - Mostly the original cask with supporting sugars from the finish, this is long, ripe and fruity, lots of ripe green apple and beeswax. Tropical burps (of course, thanks Linkwood). Delicious.

A confusing but ultimately very interesting and delicious whisky. A successful finish but it would be tiring after a chunk of a bottle, so a good dram for the bar.

SMWS G9.2, Loch Lomond, Chocolate mice and cinnamon spice, 16 years old, 62.4% A

25th July 2000, 261 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

IMG_1882Nose - Bright and sour; cold white wine and frozen blackcurrants. Chalky bonbons and recently painted and carpeted hotel corridors. Professional. More new paint and plaster with water.

Body - Classic hard grain, sweet but very drying with orange waxes and lots of blonde oak. Riper with water.

Finish - Quite hot, quite malty, hints of richness but that punch is pulled. Orange ice cream with water, and sesame snaps at the end.

A competent drammer.

SMWS 112.16, Inchmurrin, Shape-shifter, 10 years old, 60.5% A-

28th April 2006, 225 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_1887Nose - Wax, and almost overripe fruit. Liquorice torpedoes with a rusty iron file and a sour, almost slightly peated mintiness. Hot radiator later with lots of lemon.

Body - Spicy, zesty, burnt malt powder and lemon zest. More expressive with water, cut lemon slices and salt.

Finish - Numbing citrus and sour, even Sichuan peppercorns. Very long and drying.

Young, hard and unforgiving.

SMWS 46.52, Glenlossie, A storm in a barrel, 14 years old, 59.6% A+

31st May 2002, 462 bottles, refill sherry butt

IMG_1893Nose - Also hard but this has slightly more meat on the bones. Old wood varnish and liqueur chocolates, cut oranges.. Actually maybe that's Chocolate Orange. New sawdust, cut shelves again. There's something really down to earth and high quality about the wood used here.

Body - Intense and sour, pure orange oils and posh chocolates. It's shocking at first but repeated sips acclimatise you to the citrus. Richer with water, more orange tart than oils.

Finish - Long and oil driven, like the delivery. Intense varnish and orange oils right to the end.

An intense and oily whisky, this would be the perfect base for a cocktail (and I mean that respectfully, as in “it would make the cocktail”, not that “it'd need using up”). Worth a shot at the bar, but tiring for a bottle.

SMWS 30.95, Glenrothes, Opera in sequins, 26 years old, 54.3% A⊕'

24th September 1990, 179 bottles, 2nd fill toasted oak hogshead - previously 25 years in ex-bourbon. Why take a 25 year old Glenrothes and give it a long finish in toasted oak?

IMG_1884Nose - Fortunately this is immediately recognisable and definitely still a refill bourbon Glenrothes. That gentle, fruit-filled complexity, kind of apple, banana and waxes, a touch of buttercream icing. More apple with water.

Body - Full, ripe Speyside, then sweet and toppy with orange buttercream icing and a developing spice and pink wafer biscuits. Richer, more complexity, more class with water.

Finish - Tannins. Posh black tea and ice cream cones. Very long, plays out on Chardonnay.

Challenging, interesting, and very well pulled off. A superb whisky.

BUY

SMWS 10.115, Bunnahabhain, Free the imagination, 10 years old, 62% B+

6th October 2006, 202 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1889Nose - Very subtle, with silly putty, peeled pear skin, rose flowers and a little cooking polenta (perhaps some red wine stewed sloshed round it after). I told you it was subtle, richer with water though.

Body - Rice paper, honey, orange juice and crayons. Chocolate covered almonds with water.

Finish - Developing bitterness, sweet oily wood.

Competent and very drinkable, but non-fascinating.

SMWS 93.76, Glen Scotia, Beurre blanc and blue steak, 11 years old, 61% A⊕+

21st March 2006, 218 bottles, recharred barrel

IMG_1886Nose - You can really smell the Campbeltown in this! That restrained sweetness, slightly plastic where peat, malt, water and weather have made something much than the sum of the parts. Swarthy, perfumed, old wood and leather, with wax and star fruit. Phenomenal.

Body - Why are society Glen Scotias so good at the moment? Sweet, dusty and fizzy, lemon sherbets and old beeswax, this is gloriously intense.

Finish - Long and fizzing, a sudden flash of seafood; crab and lobster picked out with lemon slices and sea air.

Certainly the most evocative of the outturn, an enormous whisky that you will wish you'd bought two of shortly after opening the first.

BUY

SMWS 44.79, Craigellachie, Pandora's box, 13 years old, 57.4% A+

27th June 2003, 210 bottles, virgin oak hogshead - previously 13 years in a Oloroso butt

IMG_1891Nose - Wood, fireworks (literally not figuratively) and clean babies. As VO goes, this is a sour, floral one, with an undeniable balance and intensity on the nose. Like lemon drizzle cake rather than the full buttercream icing that bourbon would be.

Body - Sweet, clean and challenging with liquorice root, chewed flowers (petals and stalks) and what I have just decided I can refer to as "museum perfume" (they do smell of something specific). Gunpowder again. It's actually quite delicious.

Finish - Hand soap. Gentler on the perfume, more tannins with water.

As much as I didn't want to like this, the VO does do a good line in making you want another sip and this finish has worked extremely well. If you were going to buy something this toppy in the outturn, you could do worse than this.

BUY - if you want something a bit different

SMWS 35.186, Glen Moray, Pimms, punch and pavlova, 10 years old, 58.6% A-

20th January 2006, 172 bottles, virgin oak hogshead - previously 10 years in a first fill barrel, presumably bourbon

IMG_1885Nose - Wax again, this time it's school halls with the associated musk and chalk. I'm thinking big, thick slices of acrylic paint this time, the VO is a bit more obvious too. Fruitier with water, a touch of Sudocrem.

Body - Whiteboard markers, dessert wine splashed on oak chunks (much more grown up then). Big, hollow spikes of black pepper. That hard VO is quite brutal, although much improved with water.

Finish – Blackberries, mouth-watering citrus zest and alka-seltzer.

The great leveller strikes again. Not as good as the Craigellachie.

I’ll get to the rest of them in due course…

Monday, 15 May 2017

Cadenhead’s May 2017 Authentic Collection

A year of monthly releases at Cadenhead’s continues and we haven’t even got to the “anniversary” bottles yet.  And what will be released at the Cadenhead’s masterclass at Campbeltown festival?

Apologies this is late again, I really am having trouble keeping up with these releases, but most of this is still in stock anyway.  Strathisla, Bruichladdich and Bladnoch are my picks this month, but I know lots of other people who were very taken by the Glen Grant and Miltonduff.

Strathisla, 19 years old, 54.9% A⊕

strathislaNose - Clean and honest, but with that sparkling, fresh, wax cask that whisky "used to have" (you know, before you got so old and jaded). Floral, sweet and chalky. There is some youth here though, royal icing, vanilla cream and candy cigarettes… somehow reminiscent of hand soap and panna cotta. Milkier with water, more complex and gentle wood.

Body - Sweet but cereal, a little white pepper and dandelion sap. It's woody and numbing but the white, floral sweetness balances it out. Spicier with water.

Finish - Medium long, very chalky with more chewed petals and milk bottle sweets.

This is a cracking whisky. It is, quite rarely for me, a whisky that tastes younger than its years and that I love it because of that. Highly recommended.

Glen Moray, 19 years old, 50.5% B+

morayNose - Effortless quality. Again the floral spirit and waxed cask reminds me of old times. Orange juice, grapefruit pith, scented erasers, window putty and a little grated carrot. Fruit Polos.

Body - Unexpectedly earthy and chocolatey, then something very savoury like fried Padron peppers and chewed matchsticks. At the back, preserved lemons and roast chicken. This unravels with water.

Finish - A little short, that oil from the roast persists and the astringency is from the lemon pips and strawberry laces (realising that they mainly taste of plastic). Splints and a long, drying but slightly unforgiving finish with water.

A good, promising nose but a serious lack of fun on the delivery.

Bruichladdich, 23 years old, 47% A⊕+

laddieNose - More preserved lemon, but this is unmistakably Bruichladdich, you can just feel it. That intensely sweet, coastal nose, with green apple and gentle refill bourbon cask. There's a muscularity behind this - rich with clay and wax, perfectly balanced but restrained. I wouldn't have been surprised to find this over 30.

Body - Superb. This actually reminds me of old Longrow, not in the peating but in the alien, almost cheesy maturity. Rich, soft and remarkable with peach, toffee and cracked black pepper. Waxier with water, and a sudden burst of childhood banana amoxicillin.

Finish - Very long with medicinal notes, but the initial flash of tropical fruit subsides quite quickly. Chewed orange peel bitterness at the end, and the lemon is back. Actually no, after that a touch of funk in among the citrus. A little soft liquorice with water.

Phenomenal. I've felt that way about a lot of recent Cadenhead’s laddies.

Linkwood, 24 years old, 54.9% A+

linkwoodNose - Fresh again, more lemon! Like lemon handwash on a bracingly cold day. This has rich cask underneath, ripe complexity but the nose on this one is very restrained and it somehow doesn’t grab me like the Strathisla.

Body - Intense, tropical, toffee sweetness with new carpet and a touch of funk (and roasted orange halves). This is a proper Linkwood on the delivery - fruit, slightly clarty. More assertive with water, with wine gums and pine needles.

Finish - Chalky bonbons, chewed aniseed, long with lots of fruit toffee. Big tannins at the end.

This is a ripe, robust whisky in the delivery with an oddly restrained nose.

Tamnavulin, 25 years old, 52.9% B

tamnavulinNose - Drier, with malted barley and unripe pear, this has a beguiling, chalky character - a bit more grown up in its restraint than the Linkwood.

Body - Sweet but sharp, a little burnt, some lactic acid. Water doesn't help.

Finish - Long but one dimensional - there's more jelly sweets and tannins but it's too sharp and the maturity is lost.

A whisky I would describe as "unhappy".

Glenfarclas 28 years old, 53% A+'

farclasNose - Classy, winey, old matches and cigar wrappers. Soft bark and cold coffee. There's a slightly sweaty note here, like Special K breakfast cereal, behind that some really elegant barley. Better with water, loses the Special K, more coffee, more cask, and so it’s just… more elegant.

Body - Sweetshop, intense perfume, more barley and candy cigarettes. A really classy, laid back and delicious delivery. Again, better with water - more fizzers, more fruit (green apple).

Finish - Long with white wine and the dibber from a sherbet dib-dab (a touch of fizzer at the side of the tongue).

A delicious delivery, the nose doesn't quite work without water. An elegant and accomplished whisky, although no fireworks.

I kind of had my expectations set at the level of the October 2016 Glenfarclas when I approached this (although of course that was a sherry cask), quite unfairly probably, so this hasn’t quite lived up.

Bladnoch 26 years old, 49% A⊕

BladnochNose - It's Bladnoch from miles away, all cereal and fresh laundry (every time!). Some jelly sweets and fresh Marlboro light tobacco on top here, and superficially quite young feeling (as they often are) on the nose. Some porridge, some "hot baby", but there's really exciting, complex, mature cask underneath.

Body – Delightful.  This is proper old, "ordinary" whisky, a real refill bourbon! The tannins are barely softened by time and what wood there was isn't hidden behind sugar but it's tough and balancing the mellowed spirit.

Finish - Long and quite peppery for the ABV, Danish pastry with icing, hoppy burps.

Hard to argue with something this classy. Again no fireworks but this doesn't put a foot wrong. One for a really good sit down and a think about something worth thinking about (like, whether to take up a new hobby).

Miltonduff 38 years old, 46.5% A+

miltonduffNose - Reminds me of the other really old Miltonduff I've had, perhaps the definition of old and blustering Scotch, this is gentler though (on the nose at least), with new plastic, kola kubes, fresh mango and just the faintest gunpowder on exhale. There is a really persistent, classy, gentle tropicality here - very calming. Even fruitier with water.

Body - Unexpectedly floral, strangely peppery, harder than expected, like an unripe pear. It does very much taste of pear actually, pear drops perhaps, quite hot too. Green apple with water, much better but a touch of hot plastic.

Finish - Very long and fruity with coffee and midget gems. Lots of wood at the end, strangely unforgiving for 38.

A really phenomenal nose here but slightly strange in the delivery - too sour, too much plastic. It just doesn't sit well with me.

Glen Grant 31 years old, 44.8% A+’

GleGrantNose - Clean, given the colour, quite wooded - wood glue, beeswax, but floral with a bright, fresh maturity. The low strength, classic presentation and really lovely, balanced age makes this feel like a multi-grand old OB offering. And also, it really, really smells like a distillery visitors centre. Wow. More masculine, even classier with water.

Body - The delivery is highly reminiscent of very old Calvados, actually the nose makes sense in that context now too. Sweet, highly wooded, very lacquered with tart tatin and magic balloons. Delicious but unexpectedly appley. Biterrer with water, but a little richer.

Finish - Medium, with coffee grounds and the aftermath of a toffee penny. Longer with water, some black pepper and big tannins.

A simply wonderful nose but it doesn't quite deliver to that promise on the palate.

Potters Distillery, Canada, 31 years old, 57.1% B

pottersNose - Hard, slightly charred with a very distinct Battenberg note to it. Maybe almond croissant too, apple Danish. I haven't quite got my head round Canadian whisky yet and this isn't helping, it's like an upside down bourbon. Better with water, more pastry and not quite so simplistic (more smouldering charcoal though).

Body - Icing sugar sweet, hard again, with charred wood, slightly funky. Grapefruit and iced buns. More balanced again with water, but to me this is not a very competent whisky.

Finish - Long and excessively sweet, almost saccharine. Grapefruit bitterness at the end.

Weird - I would have said this was a *very* young whisky in a first fill cask blind, but maybe I just don't understand Canadian whisky.

Ledaig 11 years old, 61.8% A⊕

ledaigNose - That's a lot better, welcome back to Scotland. Sweet, cereal led and coastal, with cooking apples, a touch of melted insulation and a crisp, malty lager. This is robustly peated, but balanced sweetness, minerality (crushed shells), wood and salt make it very satisfying to nose. This is funky like society Caol Ilas used to be, including the salt and vinegar crisps with water.

Body - Again; sweet, crisp, orchard fruit and rich, slightly dank peat. Like the best heavily peated whisky, this is balanced with intense sweetness. Fruitier with water, like Starburst/Opal Fruits. Fantastic.

Finish - Long with just ripe pear and aspirin. Charred wood at the end.

I'm struggling to recall a youngish IB Ledaig that wasn't excellent, and this is another fantastic cask. The fruit and fireworks with water make this stand out. Sold out now of course but there will be another excellent cask along soon no doubt.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Recent Kilchoman

It’s been a while since I’ve caught up with Kilchoman, I’ve not been seeking out overtly peated whisky much recently, although the impending release of the next 100% Islay bottling (Spring in a bottle) has reminded me to try them again. 

These were from the end of last year.  The sweet wine cask Kilchoman’s struggle for balance in my experience, but the club bottling is always a good one.

Kilchoman Sauternes Cask Matured, 50% A

2011-2016

kilchoman-2011-sauternes-cask-matured-bottled-2016-whiskyNose - Kilchoman in "meant to be good young" mode here, with bright, sweet, sharply peated lemon (roasted) and a really rich Sauternes cask backing (I'm minded of Octomore Comus, but a lot less fetid). Ozone, charred lobster shell, caught barley. Quite musky actually (having mentioned the Comus), and a touch of bandage/Germolene. A lot fruitier with water, green apple and peach integrating much better with that lightly fetid peat.

Body - Chalky, mineral, toffee and chocolate brazil nuts. A lot less fruity than the nose suggested although confident and cereal sour with a ripe wax backing. It's young though, which is betrayed more with water.

Finish - Medium, sweet lemons and lipstick with a quite dirty finale.

This is an undeniably tasty whisky, confident and well put together - a good springtime glugger.

Kilchoman Club Release, 10 years old, 57% A+

Bourbon barrel and sherry butt. 1/11/2006-3/11/2016. Funny how 10 years seems old for a Kilchoman but very young on a Laphroaig!

kilchoman-10-year-old-club-5th-editionNose - Obviously more complex than the Sauternes, the age is apparently but not enormously so. More apple, a touch of swimming pool, brighter waxes (a little more lipstick) and lemon curd. Cigars rather than cigarettes, and pink wafer biscuits.

Body - Sharper lemon but deeper, lemon curd maybe - and pastry. Gently medicinal and slightly floral.

Finish - Deep, almost clarty waxes behind dazzling white peat, chewed flowers and a touch of clove chocolate. Fruit pastilles with water.

More complicated, slightly more mature feeling with a lovely, fetid, floral character. A lot more vanilla than the Sauternes.

Kilchoman Sanaig, 46% A+

Oloroso and bourbon casks.

kilchoman-sanaig-whiskyNose - Royal icing, glacé cherry and garibaldi biscuits. Roast pork and apple sauce, just a little, although having said that this is the cleanest of the three, even leaving traces of aspirin in the sinuses.

Body - Vanilla sponge, a touch more aspirin, raisins soaked in whisky and a really lovely retronasal refreshers note.

Finish - Quite long, with more of those refreshers and icing sugar. A tannic, white wine note at the end, and unexpectedly fruity (fruit salad chews)

Clean and workaday at the front, much more interesting at the back. Very well put together again though, I love that parting rich, slightly funky parting shot.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Some younger Bruichladdich

Three young-ish laddies here, two are even official bottlings!  These reinforce that careful casking is more important than colour – it’s all part of the blend.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008, 50% A+

bruichladdich-bere-barley-2008-whiskyNose - Light and bright, orange and mango juice, a little grapefruit zest, cherry lip salve for the wax. Hand soap. I do love these bright, fresh, young whiskies at this time of the year. This one is particularly "honest", lovely. More fruit boiled sweets and wax with water.

Body - Balanced young first fill bourbon (cake, wax) with pepper spirit and hard fruit - green apple, apple boiled sweets and maybe mint Pacers. Cut grass, pruned tree. Hotter with water.

Finish - Mr Kipling Bakewell tart. A long finish, quite spicy but very rich. More lemon with water - cut and squeezed.

I was quite excited to try this one - I love the barley specific whiskies as they tend to have more care taken over the selection of casks, quite apart from the controversial matter of whether the barley variety makes a difference. And this was everything I wanted it to be - that Bruichladdich confidence and quality of production, and a really honest drinking whisky.

Other whiskies I'm aware of that use this variety of barley are the Arran Bere Barley and of course the recent Springbank 11 year old local barley

Thanks Mark for the sample of this.

Bruichladdich, The Laddie Ten, second limited edition, 50% A+'

18,000 bottles, first fill bourbon, sherry and French wine casks

bruichladdich-10-year-old-the-laddie-ten-second-limited-edition-whiskyNose - Deeper and cakier than the Bere barley, but then there is the high degree of engineering in the casks with this one. Buttercream icing, blood and blood oranges, a touch of window putty. Then red wine cask is noticeable and well integrated, in fact it was one of the first things I noticed with this bottle - it's a drying, berried tannin with the buttercream richness. Even better integration with water, more fruit, slightly dustier.

Body - Soft, riper and much more luxurious than the Bere Barley, hot red wine (like an Australian Shiraz) and more sponge cake. Toffee pennies and a little crushed charcoal. Weaker with water, more obvious wood.

Finish - Very long and hot, tannic and peppery, with red fruit throughout.

Another excellent, honest drammer, which is exactly why (nearly) everyone loves Bruichladdich so much. Excellent production and a very clever piece of blending make this young whisky clearly greater than the sum of its parts. Highly recommended.

Bruichladdich, Old Particular, 11 years old, 48.4% B⊕

June 2005-November 2016, PX sherry hogshead, 185 bottles

bruichladdich-11-year-old-2005-cask-11509-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Dried fruits, slightly sour, quite winey with lemon juice (maybe a gastrique, it's got that reduced sherry vinegar note), ozone and glace cherries. Hot, hoppy wort and malt loaf with butter. Toothsome, juicy, fruity, Christmassy stuff. After sipping, a little more robust, like the unpeated style Caol Ila is secretly really peaty. Hangover peat. With water, much fruitier with orange peel and mango squash, but also beef jus. Having said that it's much more bourbon cask (I wonder if this was only finished in PX?).

Body - Sweet, but spicy with chewed paper and charred wood. Fruit polos on the tip of the tongue. Too weak with water, like flat cola.

Finish - Old Holborn rolling tobacco and charred dried raisins, black pepper at the side of the mouth.

An interesting but too young laddie, finished into a great nose and colour but without the depth to back it up.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Recent TBWC drams

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – not a bottler I spend an awful lot of time with (although that may hopefully change a little now that my friend Dave Worthington is a brand ambassador). 

Most of these were part of a tweet tasting I was signed up to but couldn’t take part in due to not being connected with the samples in time, so all this is a little bit late, but at least it formed the backbone of a good flight!

TBWC Loch Lomond single grain whisky, 19 years old, Batch 3, 49.7% A+

267 bottles.  Batch 1 reviewed here.

loch-lomond-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Sweet, slightly solventy (a touch of pritt stick too) but oddly classy - there's a cold, ozoney austerity to it, balanced by ripe green apple and varnish from the cask. There's something bready in here too, like a slightly undercooked loaf made with barley flour (I had that toasted for breakfast, before you ask).

Body - Newspaper, then cherry sweets, wood glue and talcum powder. There's a really deep sweetness lurking here, most ungrainlike.

Finish - Very short, yellow wood, citrus pith bitterness. A ghost of lemon at the end.

A strange but quite compelling whisky, really drinkable. I think this would have excited me more if I'd actually tasted it in the first throws of Spring rather than the inevitable "return to Winter after Easter", but this is much more than a "young" grain.

TBWC Blended Whisky #2, 18 years old, Batch 1 (Majestic only), 46.5% A-

It was a bit confusing seeing the different labels on this to Batch 2 and only one available on Majestic.  Dave filled me in on the difference between the two batches of blended whisky #2.

Batch #1 was an exclusive release for Majestic Wine Stores. Just 961 bottles were filled, and distributed across the 200+ stores nationwide.The label states the seven whiskies in the make up; four malts, three grains. There was a competition to win a bottle of our Macallan 29 Year Old if you could guess all of the distilleries.

Batch #2 was our own release of the similar style of blend. It could well be the very same blend but I've not been told this. Our release is a limited run of 1132 bottles.

The four malts in Batch 1 (and I assume similar malts are in Batch 2) are: Highland Park, Glenrothes, Tamdhu and Bunnahabhain. The three grains being Strathclyde, North British and Invergordon.

majesticNose - Soft, gentle, warm grain and cut oak, green apple, a very little flat cola and light floral perfume. The smell of hard but posh milk chocolates. A pleasing but soft wax.

Body - Interestingly balanced, quite dry and wooded, dandelion stalks and saccharin. Lolly sticks. There's a slight peat note behind this. Sourer with water.

Finish - Very drying, more artificial sweetener and chalky bonbons.

Honestly I'm not used to tasting blended whisky (rarely even vatted single malt), so I'm not really calibrated for adulterated grains. Quite interesting/honest on the nose with good wax, pretty drammable but a bit young in the delivery.

TBWC Blended Whisky #3, 23 years old, Batch 1, 48.2% A+

1132 bottles.

blended-whisky-3-23-year-old-that-boutique-y-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Sweet first fill bourbon here, orange zest and blood orange juice, honey glaze and wood glue… hot gluegun perhaps. There's something a little coastal underneath, maybe some fried patron peppers. The overwhelming impression is warm/hot though, airplane orange juice and toffee. It gets meatier with time. Christmassy with water.

Body - Sweet, spiced, lightly peated, probably some more of that Highland Park in there (a good call to have some peat, but like #2 the integration is a bit tricky). More peated and spicy with water, a touch more artificial sweetener.

Finish - ah, OK that is genuinely one of the longest finishes, as per the label. Starts fruity, becomes peppery and lacquered and ends fizzing and tannic (Sichuan peppercorns) with a lot of wood. There's something winey in here too.

A remarkable whisky, I suspect there is some quite big gear in here, and it has an extremely long finish. Not really my thing though (integration, balance aren't right) but it certainly makes a statement.

Thanks to Jon Webb for samples of these two blends.

TBWC Glenrothes, 25 years old, Batch 3, 49.7% A⊕

139 bottles

glenrothes-25-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Sweet, but darkly so - elements of warm white wine and sangria here, dates in chocolate and barley sugar. Old bourbon Glenrothes sometimes has this Chinese supermarket thing going on and this has it too, although faintly (it's the Durian, char sui buns and packets of incense). An old school, very high quality nose.

Body - Custard creams, dried malt extract, fresh mint leaves and orange skin. Less intense, a little more orangey with water.

Finish - Long and ripe, with lemon curd, lots of freshly crushed malted barley (I'll just have a quick taste of this carapils).

I'm just loving old Glenrothes at the moment, this is a good one.

TBWC Secret Distillery #2, 15 years old, Batch 2, 51% A

124 bottles, Glenmorangie, a rose tinted hue/spectacles on the label presumably means port cask?

secret-distillery-2-15-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Light and flinty, behind that there's vanilla sponge and liquorice torpedoes. Candy cigarettes, cinnamon swirl and satsumas. Young but competent; sweet, candy and light on the cask. Richer with water, a touch more malt.  With time, marijuana.

Body - More newspaper, malt loaf and seaside rock, it is like a boiled sweet with a dusting of black pepper and retronasal popping candy. A little more cask, more cake with water.

Finish - Quite long, quite drying, with lemon buttercream icing and chewed petals.

It's ok, a classy nose and a perfectly well balanced delivery. It's very drinkable and undeniably well made (the nose is particularly good). But a little boring overall to be honest, and feels young.

TBWC Mortlach, 18 years old, Batch 3, 48.9% A+

363 bottles

mortlach-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Ripe, lacquered, red fruits and dusty cask. It's fresh and fruity, then there's lipstick, then sawdust. Then chocolate, then leather jackets. Somehow this reminds me of a rehearsal studio, it's the sawdust and a kind of old cigarette smoke (and booze) in it. Fruitier with water, and a little more perfumed. I love it when whisky makes me feel younger…

Body - Soft, with white wine, peaches, chalk and candle wax. A touch of petrol, retronasally.

Finish - Buttercream, strawberry laces and extremely oily. Medium with a touch of cracked black pepper on repeated sips and chewed orange skin with water at the end.

An interesting and quite intense whisky. I was quite excited by the nose but the delivery, while delicious, isn't quite as remarkable. I think the strength is a little low.

TBWC Irish Single Malt #1, 24 years old, Batch 1, 46.8% B⊕

264 bottles

irish-single-malt-1-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskeyNose - Old cask, fresh and herbal spirit, with new carpets, freshly cut cucumber and a lovely, deep but elegant (restrained) toffee. With time, that new carpet becomes something more like leatherette and there's a hint of marzipan. Better with water, the fruit is more pronounced, the cask better integrated.

Body - Peppery, with more of that cucumber skin and unripe mango. Slightly funky (although there is a really fabulous fruit cask struggling to get out under the funky cucumber). There is a very evocative “bit pulled off a pork shoulder at a BBQ competition” here (swiney rather than smokey) which very few of you will have experienced and I probably shouldn’t have mentioned.  Fruitier with water and a nice cup of tea.

Finish - Medium, quite savoury against the fruit, quite drying. New teabags and stale Sichuan peppercorns.

A bit odd. An extremely promising (like a 40 year old fino cask) but punch-pulling nose. Restrained fruit, a touch of funk, odd tropicality, slightly chemical overall.

TBWC Springbank, 21 years old, Batch 3, 48.2% A⊕+

415 bottles

springbank-21-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Dark and vinous, the kind of spirit that you get from under the counter at a festival or at the bottom of a cask in a warehouse. Coffee, reduced red wine, cherry chocolate, and undeniable Springbank sherry* cask. It's like a darker, drier Springbank 15, it has a lot of the class of 21 year old Springbank but isn't so restrained.

Body - Balanced sweet intensity, sawdust and cherry cola. It's sweet, sharp and Springbanky but not quite so classy as the nose promises.

Finish - Long with engine oil and freshly laid asphalt. Chopped parsley and panko. Tropical peat burps.

A ripe, intense, complicated and extremely delicious whisky that is quintessentially Springbank and like a 15 turned up to 11. 

* I believe this is a port cask, but this is what it smells like to me.