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.