Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Chorlton Whisky Summer 2018

On sale here

Miltonduff 9 years old, 58.3% B+

First fill barrel

miltonduff1Nose - Shiny glazed mineral, with iced rings and a some rolling tobacco. Lemon ice cream (soft) and some leather. It has a quite compelling wood to the nose, no nonsense and high quality. Brighter and riper with water.

Body - Definitely lemon ice cream, Christmas cake, an extremely sweet backing to the citrus. Some plastic book covering with water, mukhwas.

Finish - Short, hard and astringent, lemon sherbets and caramel. Much fruiter with water but this is where the summer fun ends to an extent.

A lovely nose and delivery to this summer drammer, a bit harsh at the end.

Linkwood 11 years old, 60.9% A


linkwoodNose - Light and professional, with fabric freshener, birthday candles and hand soap or moisturising cream - quite cold. French apple tart with water, boiled orange peel, a lot more wax; the beginnings of a lovely cask which develops and sweetens over time.

Body - Richer than the nose suggested, fizzing, some vanilla pastry, quite a lot of oil, with liquorice on repeated sips. Water opens it up, bringing baked apples and more orange zest, perhaps a little coriander.

Finish - Long, fizzing but not bitter, a little bit more liquorice and some hard oak. Softer with water, Sazerac.

Quite a hard, young whisky (in a bracingly Spring-like way) which opens up nicely with water. It grew on me.

Glentauchers 20 years old, 50.9% A⊕+

Refill barrel

glentauchers1Nose - Deep and beautifully fruited, with that sublime but understated complexity that old Glentauchers pulls off all the time. Green apple chews, warm sweet white wine from yesterday, lipstick. Perfect.

Body - Right on the knife edge of fruit and waxy, oily, nearly mineral cask. Oranges and unripe pears, fruit tea. Liquorice rizlas and chewed pencils, dry rolling tobacco and a little light engine oil.

Finish - Almost salty it's so dry. Quite spicy with pronounced wood at the end, bourbon fans would like this but that fruity Scotch side of the coin means it doesn't offend me as it otherwise would.

Utterly wonderful, the epitome of balance (and hence drinkability) and fruit in a whisky with big bags of tobacco too. Big props for being a whisky I didn't want to risk spoiling by adding water. Note that this isn't in your face, it isn't crushingly intense, it's just right.

Bealach Ruadh, 10 years old, 57.1% A-

Bourbon hogshead

bealach2Nose - Bright and dirty, gunpowder, iron filings and hot sand. Very sweet in front of the fried panko and crushed peanuts. Sweeter with water, more mineral.

Body - A gentle, white wine character in front of the nutty, coastal Caol Ila, slightly charred on the panko crumbs, charcoal even.

Finish - Dirty and coastal, a big bite out of the lip salve. Bitter peat at the end, burnt again. A little gentler with water, apple and swimming pool.

Robust and challenging although lures you in at first. Quite dirty, quite coastal, like crab in a Chinese restaurant.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Port Charlotte 10

New packaging for the Port Charlotte 10 years old Scottish Barley, which I just love.  Let’s not lie to ourselves and pretend we don’t like the bottle the whisky comes in, it’s all part of the joy.  This packaging is brilliant.

Now, I was actually (along with many others) sent a whole bottle of this to review, which I have been taking my time with and making the most of.  That doesn’t happen very often but I am not letting it influence my judgement.  I am letting the packaging influence it, but not the free whisky. 

Port Charlotte 10 years old, 50% A⊕

714495NVBNDNose - Balanced intensity. Medicinal, sharp (vinegar and cereal), sweet and dusty, an old, dirty cask. 50% is spot on. Lots of fruit too - raspberry in a sour beer, sweet teenager's perfume, baklava and incense. Complicated, challenging and really quite alien.

Body - Soft, cereal (barley) and cereal (granola). Hot lemon drink, aspirin and marmalade. Heavily peated, earth, fruit, sugar and cask well balanced. The overall feeling is one of warmth, comfort and age.  And salt and cracked black pepper kettle crisps.

Finish - Long peppery peat, with poppy seed bread and fizzing lemon sherbets. So soft at the end.

It's excellent. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection June 2018

Very late with the notes due to Campbeltown festival, everything that had stock at the end of day one is basically still in stock though.

Glenburgie 2004, 13 years old, 54.6% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead, 300 bottles

Glenburgie 13 54.6 VOL 300 bottles -750x1000Nose - Waxy and wooded - wood glue (maybe UHU), with bright, intense fruit (quite tropical, some orange zest and juice) and some dust. Very compelling, arresting even. There's a gunpowdery feeling after you've exhaled. Deeper fruit (soft mango), richer citrus with water.

Body - Sharp but serious, burnt orange caramel, bracingly bitter but tempered by Refreshers. That fruity bitterness is along the lines of a DIPA, the intensity of the sugar and overall profile carries the bitterness well. Sweeter and less bracing with water, seriously fruity and the bitterness is well balanced if still structural.

Finish - Bitter tannins but rich and biscuity, grapefruit zest and tropical juice at the end.

This is exactly the kind of young, bright, technically excellent but interesting whisky that launches long obsessions with independent single casks. This is seriously good, my opinion of Glenburgie continues to rise.

Benrinnes 1997, 20 years old, 55.5% A⊕'

Bourbon barrel, 168 bottles

Benrinnes 20 55.5 V 168 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Somewhere between ripe apple and apple chews, yet another tropically intense Benrinnes nose - good toffee depth behind this and that cigar box style of old cask. Fruit and warm, understated wood. Even fruitier with water.

Body - Beautifully fruited again, intense and surprising at first, sweetshop near the end of the delivery with blasts of aspirin and a touch of liquorice in the middle. More robust, oddly, with water, more drying.

Finish - Long and fizzing, twists of orange zest and Campari, wood and musk at the end. Water brings a little fresh mint leaf, chewed grass.

Another superb Benrinnes. Someone said to me (and it's non-sold-out status at time of writing confirms) that people don't generally go crazy for Benrinnes. I can't see why, it's up there with Linkwood for dependably excellent, tropical Scotch.

English Whisky Company 2010, 7 years old, 61.5% B-

Bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles

English 7 61.5 Vol 222 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Young and hard, wood glue like the Glenburgie but much less forgiving; unripe pear, porridge oats, Pritt Stick and a punch in the nose. There's wax and musk and a sort of cold fruit, maybe gooseberry fool, underneath but I think it needs water to get there. After sipping there's an instant coffee granules and starfruit feel to it - all very one dimensional and cold though. Much better with water - strawberry cheesecake, malted ice cream - but it still has that hard candy shell thing I associate with English whisky (Adnams – I do more often than not really enjoy English Whisky Company whisky).

Body - Much better than the nose, the fruit is still hard but it's sweeter and richer, the oats are extremely present. It's strange how different not-Scotch is, I'm always amazed at the contrast. Better with water, the fruit becomes somewhat roasted, there's a feeling of soft blue cheese and oatcakes, black pepper, slightly musky.

Finish - Short, cloying, awkward. Much better with water, I like the cheesy thing.

A young, challenging, awkward whisky.

Linkwood 1987, 30 years old, 57.2% B

Refill sherry cask, 480 bottles

Linkwood 30 57.2Vol 480 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Bright and surprisingly hard for the age and distillery, with hand soap, candy necklace and royal icing. Crushed ice. After sipping, the nuttiness continues in the nose with some crayon. It's very austere. Carrot cake with water, some swimming pool.

Body - Off-sweet, nutty (praline rather than peanuts), cracked, old wood varnish and whistle pops. Softer and sweeter with water, a little Wham bar even?

Finish - Quite hard, very light input from the cask - rolling tobacco and slightly burnt croissant. Black pepper crisps with water.

Having gushed about the Benrinnes, I'm surprised at what should have been a tropical masterpiece. Expectation management perhaps, but not a fan of this one. I'd much rather drink the Benrinnes.

Paul John 2011, 6 years old, 56.3% A+'

5 years in Goa, 1 year in Campbeltown. Refill bourbon barrel. They have to bottle them in India, shipped to Scotland and then disgorged into a cask there. Then rebottled after some time in the warehouse later. We had a cask at the warehouse tour at Campbeltown festival this year, which was fantastic.

Paul JohnNose - Brown sugar, hot malt extract, as sweet and dark and surprisingly complex as they always are (the three PJs from Cadenhead's I've had that is!). Damp cigar wrappers, damp cloths on a hot radiator, roasted plums, pomegranate molasses. But nutty, very masculine.

Body - More sherry cask than the Linkwood; deep burnt sugar and praline, pork crackling, soft liquorice, smoking a Marlboro light. Utterly delicious as always.

Finish - Slightly shorter and more one dimensional that the initial delivery suggested. A little clove chocolate though, bourbon soaked raisins. Still a rich and lip smacking experience, vanilla cream and icing.

Somewhere there's a cask that spent 5 years in Goa and is destined to have 15 years in Campbeltown, and that will be very, very special. For now these casks are brilliant drinkers.

Bowmore 2001, 17 years old, 53.8% B+

[sold out]

Bourbon hogshead.

bowmoreNose - A musky one at first, then fruit polos with French custard tart (maybe strawberry glazed), planed pine planks, cracked salt crust and ice cream wafers. More of that fruit with water, more cheap ice cream too, and a welcome medicinal note.

Body - Sweet but gentle and salty, like a cold seafood platter… and a Mr. Whippy. Then there's a big, tarry peat - I hesitate to go to rope as it's all a bit stereotypical but I can only say it how I find it! Softer and creamier with water.

Finish - Long and surprisingly dirty. Numbing wood, quite harsh by the end.

Having lived through endless months of mid-teens-refill-sherry Bowmore a few years ago (to the point of having to stop myself buying them), this is quite ordinary I'm afraid.  Unlike the…

Laphroaig 1998, 19 years old, 53.4% A⊕-

[sold out]

LaphNose - A fresh, fizzing, musky, estery one on the nose. Balanced sugars, some plastic, dirty medicinal (sort of TCP but more a cream, more bandage). Baked apple and dried orange slices, ozone. Almost in "old wound" territory, certainly some overheated electrics.

Body - Soft, creamy at first, then a really dirty TCP, quite rotten but bright with fruit (tropical squash) and fizzers/gunpowder.

Finish - Long and rich, more filth all the way through. Robust peat builds with each sip but the fruit and burning plastic rides it out. Tannic, black fruit at the end.

Dirty, dirty stuff, and extremely moreish. I didn't get to add water.

Cognac 45 years old, 60.8% A⊕

Single cask, 282 bottles

Gognac 45 60.8 Vol 282 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Sharp, slightly sour with magic balloons and green apple. Wood chips, cut grass and a little menthol cigarette. Smells a bit like cognac mixed with some crazy wooded rum - it's not elegant but it is full of character and HQ cask. More "cognac" with water, more sweetshop too.

Body - Varnish, waxed wood, charcoal and lolly stick. A new bag of damp compost. The dibber in a sherbet dibdab. Some good dryness with water, dustier.

Finish - Long and extremely oily, big fruits at the end. Rum and raisin, more menthol.

Scoring this "as a whisky" this is delicious, quite a bruiser and full of excellent wood and fruit character. 

Miltonduff 2008, 10 years old, 55.7% B-

Bourbon hogshead

[sold out]

miltonduffNose - Dry, biscuity (actually a bit like wood pellets), rich cereal and just a little dirty. Meaty but mineral, some iron, some pork. One of "those" bourbon casks that everyone thinks is really a sherry cask.

Body - Soft, balanced sugars, cakey and more of that sulphur from the nose. Sweet, hard candy shells on top.

Finish - Medium to short, quite bitter and hot, lonely wood at the end, perhaps with a little balsamic vinegar.

For some reason this reminds me of cat biscuits. If this was SMWS I would guess a 3 month PX finish. I'm not a huge fan although it does have some crowd pleasing charms. Probably fare quite well at a whisky festival.

Glenfarclas 2001, 16 years old, 54.1% A+

Bourbon hogshead, 252 bottles

Glenfarclas 16 54.1VOL 252 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Much more grown up, an elegant cask full of restrained wood and wax and fountain pen ink, plus fruit polos and a leather satchel. Beautiful.

Body - More of the same; restraint and wax, orchard fruit and more fruit polos, maybe a little cough candy. Softer, but more sweet shoppy with water.

Finish - Long and sourly astringent, with whiteboard markers and pear drops. Very long actually, building fruits, increasingly tropical.

A deliciously fruity and well-structured speysider that pushes the sugar just a little too far with water. Proper bourbon drammer though.

Strathmill 1992, 26 years old, 44.7% A

Bourbon barrel, 198 bottles

Strathmill 26 44.7Vol 198 bottles -750x1000Nose - Deep and earthy. There was a flash of gummy sweets and rich waxy cask but the earth took over almost immediately - loam, compost, some chews, cadbury snack! bars. Curly wurlys? The fruit comes back after a while, with some sawdust and gloss paint, but it's all a little clumsy.

Body - Loads more milk chocolate, biscuit and some pear. A great fruit to cake balance, chew sweets warm and soft out your pocket. Weaker with water, less interesting.

Finish - Medium to long, a little astringent, a little thin, an odd tinge of sulphur which might be from previous whiskies.

Macduff 1989, 29 years old, 55.1% A⊕

Refill sherry butt, 390 bottles

Macduff 29 55.1Vol 390 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Dark and dank, fly paper, men's perfume, brown leather jacket with chocolate cake and an espresso. Much more waxy cask with water, towards truffle and petrol, wonderful.

Body - Rich and cakey, and very "tasty" - it's meaty with baked/rotten apples and raisins.

Finish - Fizzing but very rich, backed by fence panel and liquorice imps.

This is a proper blustering old Scotch. Drops the ball on the luxury a little in the late delivery but the nose is proper.

Not Port Dundas 1988, 29 years old, 50.7% A⊕

Bit of a mix up with the samples here I think.

Nose - Bright and sweet, liquorice torpedoes, a really old (dusty) peat character- lemon curd or cheescake.

Body - Dry and dusty, big tannins, this has a distinct Campbeltown character to it.

Finish - Medium long with cigarettes and Mr. Kipling.

I reckon this is a late teen Longrow. Yum. I want a bottle!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

2018 Springbank Trio

Set faces to stunned…

Hazelburn 13 years old, Oloroso cask, 2018 edition, 47.4% A⊕'

9000 bottles. Last year's reviewed here.

Hazelburn 13 S 47.4 Vol -750x1000Nose - This smells like old Springbank, 21-24 years old. Dusty and slightly weird (that's the peat) in its excellence, with blackcurrant travel sweets, yesterday's gloss paint and aging pine planks stacked in a shed. It's beautifully balanced and grown up.

There's men's perfume in here too but that might just be who poured me the sample.

Body - Dry and dusty again, charred wood and wood dust, then an intensely deep, black fruit. But also a really tarry, almost sharp fruit and that Campbeltown edge.

Finish - Drying and oily, with toffee, pipe tobacco and its tar on the lips.

This is even better than last year's triumph. Now that Hazelburn is lightly peated, Springbank is heavily peated and Longrow is weirdly peated, Hazelburn is amazing. Two bottle job, if you can get it. I'll try not to gush anymore because I know what's next…

Longrow 18 years old, 2018 edition, 46% A⊕+

4800 bottles

LONGROW 18 2018 -750x1000Nose - Ancient peat, divine. What is in the atmosphere in those dunnage warehouses on Longrow? This is refreshers, maybe Rennies, rose wine and the fizzing bits in a wham bar. It's weird though, there's pork crackling, salty and swiney, that salt is verging on coastal.

Body - Perfect and complete, the balance of sweet, salt, fruit and refreshers. Is it creamy? It has poppadum, caraway and green apple.

Finish - Medium-long and dusty, with that orchardy, weirdly peated thing right to the end. It doesn't build on sipping though, the thing starts to slip away from you (not rich enough) but all the better for its ethereal character.

Pure Campbeltown, unmistakeable. Wonderful drinking.

Springbank 21 years old, 2018 edition, 46% A⊕+

3700 bottles. Imagine making this stuff and going into work to vat together 10+ casks of 21 year old Springbank. Hope you don't get it wrong! Accidentally stick in a random cask of 8 year old Ardmore.

SPRINGBANK 21 46 VOL 2018 -750x1000Nose - OK you can totally tell it's not Longrow, this is deeper and sweeter with that pure Campbeltown elemental richness from the world's best distillery. Deep toffee and fruit of course, but this has unripe pear slices with mango and pomegranate molasses, a hot laminator.

Body - Gentle; coffee and milk, cocoa powder and pistachio ice cream. Mouth filling, oily but clean and satisfying.

Finish - Medium with chocolate chips, toffee apples and just a little of that chocolate/clove thing I once had in Morocco but can't remember much about anymore…

The Springbank 21, I am realising, is all about drinkability. This is cork chucking territory of the highest order. 2018, up there with last year's but I won't do some nerdy side by side as this is drinking whisky. Get it while you still can!

Monday, 7 May 2018

Springbank Society 2018 Hazelburn

As this was strictly one per person there aren’t as many open bottles of this out there, so huge thanks to Ronnie for the dram of this to write notes. 

Springbank Society April 2018, Hazelburn, 10 years old, Sauternes cask, 53.9% A⊕+

hazelburnNose - Fresh and floral, slightly dirty right in the middle of that and also quite ashy. I don't think "unpeated" Hazelburn is very unpeated sometimes! It's a lovely balanced sweetness with the char though, like fresh wet rosemary twigs brushing orange juice and oil on a pork steak. That "empty" grown up waxiness is here too, much more elegant than the previous wine casks. It is such a sweet yet elegant nose.

Body - Deep, slow and gentle, really beautifully judged, this one is obviously better than the recent Springbank and Longrow society bottlings. I must buy a recent bottle of standard Hazelburn while it's briefly in stock, I think it's changed recently. Waxier but sweeter with water, more wood actually, the wine cask is becoming minty.

Finish - Long, woods and pepper, quite bracingly citrussy at the end. Delicious. Shorter with water, more emphasis on lightly waxed cask, but this is a very well balanced thing and the shift is slight.

Just a beautiful drink, the kind of effortless release that makes this single distillery the best in the world.

Last year was the year of Longrow for me, is this year the year for Hazelburn?

Thursday, 3 May 2018

SMWS Festival Bottlings


Some big, bold whiskies here for SMWS’s festival outturn, but why no Campbeltown for the most important whisky festival of the year! 

There’s membership offers linked below for either Speyside or Islay (not sure what’s in them at the moment) worth looking at if you’re on the fence.  Or there is a “split decision” offer here too.

This all goes live at 9am, 04.05.2018.  I suspect there will be a rush on this lot.

Spirit of Speyside

Get a membership deal with Spirit of Speyside here.

SMWS 107.13, Glenallachie, Andalusian Gazpacho, 9 years old, 65% A+

26th August 2008, refill oloroso butt

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0014Nose - Hot, young sherry cask at first, slightly burnt caramel with significant hard oak and a confident, bright but tempered sweetness. Cold soil (rich compost, earthy and clean), wet wood. Robust, sweet, fresh and promising on the whole. The fresh soil and wood come together, bright and fresh with water, fruit backing it up.

Body - Big, very sweet and oily, but balanced by the hard woods. Dark chocolate, instant coffee granules and dark marmalade. A toothsome, blockbuster delivery, although not very subtle! Water exposes this, knocks a hole in the midrange and leaves royal icing and orange pith.

Finish - Toast, perhaps fence. Numbing wood oils and medium long, a little caraway at the end. Peppery with water, bitter and drying, spicy and sweet.

This is a cracking whisky, young and unrefined but bright and confident. Drink it at its natural fighting strength, in large measures, in large groups of friends.

SMWS 9.143, Glen Grant, Graceful gravitas, 21 years old, 60.6% A⊕

23rd April 1996, refill bourbon

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0013Nose - Hard toffee, cut hedges, chocolate orange. Maybe orange buttercream icing actually, rich and clarty, very sweet and citrussy. After sipping, beautifully waxed with a sort of warm vanilla and cigarettes thing and chocolate sponge depth. After being used to having them monthly, it's been a while since I smelled mature Glen Grant but it's unmistakable. It's sweeter with water, no less intense but somehow even more fruity.

Body - Enormously creamy and orangey, liqueur levels of orange spirits. Spicy and very zesty, robustly bright. Warmer and richer with water, better.

Finish - Very long with numbing, intense wood. The orange is very present but a back seat to the spirit and wood.

Cream, wood, depth and zest are all in harmony with this well aged Glen Grant. Numbing orange oils make this robust and compelling, and with water the whole thing is seriously drinkable.

Feis Ile

Get a membership deal with Feis Ile whisky here.

SMWS 29.244, Laphroaig, Weaving wondrous dreams, 8 years old, 62.2% A+'

22nd January 2009, refill bourbon.  This is only available to buy on Islay at the festival.

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0019Nose - Fresh but fencey, with lemon peel, dry biscuity wood, salty rocks. Roasted lemon halves actually, and cold but slightly rotten phenols. Excellent balance though, very interesting too in the balance between dirty and fresh/fruity. Fruitier and more perfumed with water, no less robust though.

Body - Big, bright and sweet (at least at first) with more lemon and sweeter fruits (orange, apple), peppery peat rapidly takes over with splints and cracked black pepper in between a steak and the pan. No let-up in the flavour with water, more medicinal if anything.

Finish - Long and medicinal, bitter tannins and peat dominates at the end. Longer, palate crushingly peated with water, cloves and TCP. Delicious.

This is proper, I haven't had a young Laphroaig for a while. It's like young Ledaig but weirder. Recommended.

SMWS 10.141, Bunnahabhain, Indulgence by the sea, 12 years old, 59.5% A-

25th May 2005, refill bourbon

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0022Nose - Very sweet, salty and slightly sour, Seville orange juice and refreshers, some lightly musky, fusty waxes - just a little bit dirty. That restrained fruit is very nice.

Body - Quite bitter and sour up front, unexpectedly angular but it turns into the sour Sevilles at the back end of the delivery. With time it's compelling like a Sazerac, bitter citrus, fruit and wood.

Finish - Long, bitter, fizzing (like a Sazerac). The cask and wood backs it up.

Weirdly artificial for a 12 year old refill bourbon, maybe if it'd been first fill. Whisky cocktail. Nevertheless this is a tasty thing to drink.

SMWS 3.307, Bowmore, A journey into joy, 20 years old, 55.9% A⊕

25th September 1997, refill oloroso butt

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0024Nose - Dark, dry, wine-casky with very light sulphur, a touch of dust and an old school fruiting. There's a touch of gunpowder, and great depth. And yeah that fruit is very old school, lovely. But not without its challenges. Sweeter and waxier with water, nutty sherry cask rather than red wine.

Body - Sweet but dessicating, plywood and apricot jam, then sulphur and ripe red fruits. Gentler with water, including that sweetness, but a hole here and there in the midrange.

Finish - Very long and that weird woodsiness continues, this is very Devil's Casks (and I thought those were first fills too, maybe I've been away from SMWS too long). Almost Ribena at the end, but no end to the fizzing.

An extraordinarily sweet thing to drink but balanced by weird, pure fruit. There is a downside, an angular sourness that detracts from it’s general character, but that makes the whisky all the more interesting. On the whole, this is a dirty, lip smackingly tannic whisky – yum.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Delamain Cognac

I obviously have no experience with Cognac outside of a few SMWS and Cadenhead’s releases but my friend Shai got me into this Delamain gear and the Cognac show last Friday has very much focussed my attention onto the stuff.

Thanks so much Shai for sorting me out with samples, except my bottle of Pale and Dry which has taken a serious beating since opening it (and he made me buy that anyway).  I am a convert.

Delamain Pale and Dry, 40% A⊕+

IMG_4893Nose - Soft yet rich and salty. Sandalwood, light washing powder, melba toast and French pâté. Musky but deeply fruity, real fruit not just esters? Really warm and balanced, light but… salty.

Body - Tart tatin, peppery and a weird kind of wooded that I'm not used to at all, it's not the bludgeoning of fresh bourbon cask but it isn't mellow like a Scotch… but it does have some of the wax and orchard fruit. A kind of tobacco character, some wood glue. There's another gentle, green fruit in here, like an unripe pear or apple sauce - lurking, beguiling sweetness, whistle pops behind it.

Finish - Long and salty with perfect balance, it's a very long fade out with that bright wood, black pepper taking over very slowly.

Unbelievable balance, bags of fruit and elegant wood on the nose, and toe curlingly delicious to drink.

Delamain Vesper, 40% A⊕'

delamain-xo-vesper-cognacNose - Bright, polished wood, quite estery (spirit based varnishes) and then a deep fug of wax and fruit - dried raspberries, crayons, fizzers, baked apples again with hot sauna wood and caramel. Toffee apples. This is deep and fruity compared to the P&D's salty completeness.

Body - Incredible poise - there's a light liquorice in front of cigarette tobacco, orange flesh and pips, hiding toffeed tannins that desiccate your palate and demand another sip. There's a more luxurious depth and sugar in the delivery here and a more insistent caramel burnish.

Finish - Not quite as long as the P&D, but just as perfectly balanced, with green apple skin and crushed boiled sweets. A really insistent sweetness at the end.

This is a more luxurious drink, just as balanced but deeper and perhaps a little more obvious than the P&D.

Delamain Extra, 40% A⊕

delamain-extra-cognacNose - Even fruitier after the confident elegance of the previous two, pure apple sauce on old cask with travel sweets and birthday candles… and buttercream. Some mint?

Body - Soft but bright fruits (baked apples, spiced orange slices) that sits on top of floor wax, vanilla and pepper.

Finish - Very long and rich, double cream on jelly. Nougat with nuts and rice paper. Cigar tobacco at the end, ripe green apples.

I am trying to compare very delicate, quite similar drinks that are becoming softer, fruitier and more elegant as I move up the range, and as a whisky drinker I am struggling with the vocabulary for it. I know this is delicious but does Cognac bear this kind of dissection? I know I like this more than the Vesper when I taste it without writing notes, but right now it seems too gentle and I prefer the Vesper, then the P&D even more. I dunno.  I did tend to prefer the young ones, then the very old ones at the Cognac show.

These are all absolutely delicious though.

Delamain Tres Venerable, 40% A⊕+

delamain-tres-venerable-cognacNose - Flashes of mineral, hard liquorice, tropical cask. There's that musky, almost fetid note in here again (oh.. this is rancio), behind that intense fruitiness (picked rose petals on mango slices), and an ancient wood.

Body - Dusty and dirty, an enormous amount of soft fruit and toffee, vanilla and pepper.

Finish - Medium to short but rich, peppery and not overdone on the wood, given the age (although they don't sit them in active casks the whole time, right?).

Intense, ancient and delicate - for such an extreme experience it is of course, balanced, elegant and carefully delivered.

So anyway… I went to the Cognac show without guile, just for Friday night which wasn’t nearly long enough.  I tasted loads of stuff, and took photos of some of the Cognacs I liked.  Here they are (more for my benefit than anything else).  I didn’t go to Delamain at the show because I had all the above as samples.  The small or independent stuff was so amazing.  Ed’s gear, the Famille Esteve stuff, was superb, as was all the VT.