Review: Arran 17 Year Old

Staying in the Arran frame of mind, it makes sense to whip out a quick review of their latest offering. Arran whisky seems to be getting better and better with time and I love many of their bottlings, especially their 14 year old (see what I thought of a range of Arrans here). Now have released their oldest bottling to date, let’s see how it is.

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Arran 17 Year Old

Nose: Incredibly floral with a light a fragrant sweetness. It’s like an orchard here with lots of sweet fruit to start, before a sweeter stewed quality appears. I get some zesty citrus (lemon or orange, I’m not sure) and some vanilla too. Lots hiding beneath the surface including cinnamon and sweet manuka honey, with a slight sawdust note. Pretty complex and really delicious. Great start.

 

Palate: Slightly prickly to start. Crunchy green apples dominate at the start (with a hint of pears). The floral sweetness on the nose is still present, but is balanced with some honeyed sweetness too. The sherry works well with the fruit here, some vanilla custard over apple crumble, with a small hint of gentle spice. Some fantastic quality maltiness here with a very gentle oakiness too.

 

Finish: Medium-Long. It lingers nicely with raisins, apples and a warming woodiness with some toffee. Not too much sweetness here and not that drying either. Beautiful warming throughout. Cracking.

 

Now let’s get something straight. This isn’t good. It isn’t even very good. It’s bloomin fantastic! Arran was great up to now, but this is some seriously mature, classy, quality stuff. These clever chaps have pulled it out of the bag (yet again). This is not only good news for Arran, but for the whisky industry in general; Non-chill filtered, no added colouring and simply delicious. This is my favourite Arran to date and will be purchasing a bottle. I would recommend doing the same before they all fly off the shelves.

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Thanks again goes to Arran for their generous sample.

An Array Of Arran’s

Recently, there seems to be a distillery that constantly turning heads… and all for good reasons! Arran distillery seems to causing a stir and once you have tried some of their whiskies, you can understand why. The water of life has an intriguing past on this island. In the 19th century, the Isle of Arran was once home to more than fifty whisky distilleries. Which for a island with only 432 square kilometres of land, is rather impressive. However, most of these distilleries were illegal, or known as moonlight distilleries. Hidden from many prying eyes (mostly the taxman I would expect), they spent years producing illegal malt whisky which was shipped across to the mainland to be drunk by the wealthy and elite. The last legal distillery on Arran was ‘Lagg’, which closed in 1837. So when Harold Currie stepped forward to build a new distillery, you would think it would have been plain sailing. Not quite! During the construction of this new distillery, a nest was found on a cliff near the site. This nest later turned out to be the home of two Golden Eagles; a protected species! Construction was temporarily halted, but luckily for us, the distillery opened in 1995.

For me it was a question of being able to get my hands on some samples to try. My good friend Toby Stokes, being the generous chap he is, gave me some samples left over from the Arran Tweet Tasting last year (how generous are Arran with their samples – good job!) I also acquired two very special samples during some swaps I had been involved in over the new year; with Dave Worthington and Ben Cops being the two bounteous fellows.

I tasted six expressions for this vertical, all OB’s:

- 10 Year Old
- 14 Year Old
- 12 Year Old Cask Strength
- Millenium Casks
- The Golden Eagle 1999
- Devils Punch Bowl II

Arran 10 Year Old

Nose: Light, fragrant, floral, sweet toffee. Slightly spirity and not overly complex.

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Arran 10yo

Palate: Pretty sweet, feels relatively heavy on top palate. I get some heather, honey and pears. Gets more floral and syrupy with time. Slightly perfumed too.

Finish: Medium/short, not lingering much at all. Heat on tongue sticks around though. For an islander, it leaves the mouth feeling pretty fresh. It’s young, energetic and bright. I enjoyed this, but at times it seemed quite young.

 

Arran 14 Year Old

N: Even more floral than 10yo. Demerara sugar. Dull sweetness before some sawdust and honey.

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Arran 14yo

P: Good mouthfeel and already feels more mature. The floral quality is there, less so than nose. Woody, slightly spicy, salty with some toffee.

F: Short. Slightly spicy on tongue. Leaving some stewed fruit and sugar. Nice smooth aftertaste and relatively robust. There’s been some quality work that’s gone into this. Without a doubt a session dram that you could enjoy all night long. The most easily accessible in the lineup. Put it in your collection.
Arran 12 Year Old Cask Strength

N: Relatively withheld nose to begin with. Some apples and melons, but with time in the glass, more complex fruitiness appears. Really fresh and zesty.

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Arran 12yo CS

P: Nice strong start. I love it at cask strength, works very well. Sultanas, apples, brown sugar. Some quality oak here too it seems.

F: Medium. Really warming with some lovely mellow fruity notes. It’s actually quite a delicate finish. Tad dry. Definitely more complex than the 10yo & 14yo, but I feel it gives a lot more too. (This is incredibly mature compared to most of the 12-year olds I teach at school!)


Millennium Casks

N: Sticks nicely to the Arran nose profile you get accustomed to. Slightly withheld again, but it really opens up in the glass. Pretty complex. Fresh. Fruitiest of the bunch. Quite spicy. I get loads of stewed apple with cinnamon here.

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Arran Millenium Casks

P: Mmm this works, pretty sweet again but not overpowering. Vanilla. Some great work between malt and oak. Warm spices build continuously. I applaud the balance between the bourbon and the sherry.

F: Medium/long. Beautifully balanced, lingering nicely on the tongue. Rich toffee, heather, and a hint of Manuka honey. Its great at CS again, yet soft considering the ABV. I really enjoyed this sample and would recommend getting hold of a bottle before they sell out…. not too many of them around.

 

Arran The Golden Eagle 1999

N: SWEET. Apple peel, sugar cane, peaches. Did I mention it was sweet?

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Arran Golden Eagle 1999

P: Malty. Very highland-esq. Bold fruitiness, especially sweet crunchy apples. Golden syrup and toffee apple sweetness. Old penny sweets. I did find it quite thin though.

F: Medium. Sits on tongue before evaporating quickly, leaving a lingering sweet sensation. I personally find the sweetness overbearing here, covering many other aromas. Nice delicate expression, but I feel like my teeth will all fall out if I drink too much of this. Just too much sweetness here for me… Shame.

(A big thanks to Dave Worthington from Whisky Discovery for the sample)

Arran Devils Punch Bowl II 

N: Slightly withheld to start before some dried fruit appear – apples and apricots. Some gentle spices, vanilla and a hint of milk chocolate. Nutty notes followed by fresh cigars. With time it becomes even fruitier. Incredibly intricate nose, which needs time due to its complexity.

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Arran Devils Punch Bowl II

P: Nice powerful spicy start, whilst remaining delicate. Far more sweet than the nose suggests. The spice sits playfully on the tongue; lovely. Juicy fruits and vanilla sitting together with some dry oakiness. Some bourbon, damp wood with a hints of peat towards the end.

F: Medium. Quite warming with a nutty and sherried dryness. Lots of chocolate, vanilla and lingering spice. Not as dark and scary as the name suggests, but that doesn’t stop it being an interesting and complex dram with lots to pick out and enjoy. I’d by a bottle to enjoy if they weren’t so expensive at auction.

(A big thanks to Ben Cops from Bens Whisky for the sample)

 

If you haven’t tried any of the expressions from Arran, then I would implore you to do so. You won’t regret it. Hey, if you don’t like it…. then just send it my way!

Whisky Live

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone… But I attended my first ever whisky show the other week. I know it’s bad. It’s taken me this long to get myself in gear. However, I can tell you something else. It will not be my last. I had heard quite a bit about Whisky Live from my numerous twitter/blogging friends, so I made sure I didn’t miss out on this years. Held at the beautiful Honourable Artillery Company (a somewhat hidden gem in London), Whisky Live gives whisky lovers the opportunity to socialise, try lots of new whisky and meet brand ambassadors.

After a fantastic night at the SMWS the night before, and an exciting tour round The London Distillery on Friday; a large rowdy group of us descended upon Whisky Live with Glencairns in hand and a gleam in our eyes.

 

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Teeling Single Grain, Small Batch Blend & Vintage Reserve 21yo

First port of call was the Teeling Whiskey stand. I’d heard too many good things about this whiskey, so I thought it would be a great start. I met the familiar friendly faced Sam (who gave me my first ever SMWS dram) who represents Teeling. He not only gave me three crackers to try, but also a great knowledge of them all.
Teeling Single Grain: Sweet grainy nose with slight menthol/smoke hint. Incredibly smooth leathery palate, with some grass, sweets & wine on the finish.
Teeling Small Batch Blend: Again quite a sweet grainy nose, but rum finish is apparent upfront. Warming, grassy, slight metallic rum note. Lingers nicely leaving cut grass & raisins. I liked it a lot.
Teeling Vintage Reserve 21yo: A powerful, fruity nose. Really intriguing palate delivering smooth sweetness before dark sour fruits bounce over the tongue. Mysterious & complex, I loved it! Thank you Teeling Whiskey, you’ll be in my cupboard soon.

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Mark Thompson: The Grain Man!

Following the Grain theme, I ventured over to the legends of grain – Girvan – where I met Mark who treated me to four of their delightful grains. And delightful they were.

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Girvan No.4 Apps

Girvan No.4 Apps: Oily, musky, floral nose. Palate was fresher & more vibrant with a slight savoury edge. Lingered nicely with a small hint of smoke on the finish.

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Girvan 25yo

Girvan 25yo: Slightly withheld nose, remaining fresh & vibrant considering age. Vanilla, pear drops, ginger & toffee with some dryness on the finish.

 

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Girvan 30yo

Girvan 30yo: Subtlety floral, musty, fruity & chocolate notes on nose (some corn too?!) Oaky, sweet, sawdust and leafy character. Stays fruity & smooth throughout whilst having a slight zestiness to it. Again pretty vibrant for age.

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Girvan 40yo

Girvan 40yo: Rich and quite spicy on the nose. Pretty creamy. More oak and sherry here. Warming with red berries and hint of sawdust. Nicely aged with lots of sawdust and sherry sweetness. Magnificently mature.

 

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Preparations for the masterclass

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Neil spinning his magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to attend two masterclasses on the day, the first being led by three cracking gentlemen: Rob Allanson, Neil Ridley & Joel Harrison (Caskstrength). Providing knowledge and humour, they led us through the previous nights WWA Winners – weren’t we lucky! All interesting whiskies in their own right, showing the vast quality and variety we are lucky to have in the current market.

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WWA Winners

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Nikka Taketsura 17yo

Nikka Taketsura 17yo: Gentle, mossy, spicy, floral, dried fruit and tobacco – complex nose. Dark arrival with oak, cinnamon and liquorice. Fruity, floral characteristics before hidden whisp of smoke appears. Relatively smooth & slightly drying.

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The Lost Distilleries Blend

The Lost Distilleries Blend: Strong but mellows. Grainy, woody & spicy before peat starts to appear. Some leather armchairs too. Floral/citrus notes upfront with coriander and gentle peat balanced with a hint of zest. Very smooth dustiness with hints of peat here and there. Quality!

 

 

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Sullivans Cove

 

Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask: Musty, oaky, bourbon, cereal and almonds on the nose. Quite thin on arrival. Vanilla, honey and spices.Woody, drying and complex. The vanilla continues into the finish with some nuttiness too. Nice, but not my favourite (although it was voted worlds best single malt!)

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Overeem

Oveream: Powerful, sherried & slightly metallic. Fruitcake, caramel and spice. Sweeter on palate, with BBQ and burnt barley. I keep getting cinnamon. Nutty with vague smokey notes. Long finish with dark fruits & spiciness. Some cocoa there too before the sherried fruits take over.

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Balcones Brimstone Resurrection

Balcones Brimstone Resurrection: Very different. Oily, sweet BBQ meat, burnt hay & smoke on nose. Even meatier on palate, with powerful dark dusty flavours coupled with some menthol on the long booming finish. Yikes!

 

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A selfie with Balcones Chip Tate – Legend!

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Balblair tasting

I obviously wasn’t content enough with one masterclass, so I popped along to Balblair’s later that afternoon. We weren’t led as well this time around, but we still got to try some of their nice vintages.

Balblair 2003: Spirity, grassy and floral, really fills the nose. Full on palate with sweet oranges and apricots. Similar to certain new-make. Evaporates quickly leaving apples, wet wood, vanilla and hint of sherry.

Balblair 1997: More tropical fruits on nose with raisins and a sweetness again. More fruity and delicate with some citrus and heather. Vanilla, brown sugar and bourbon notes on finish.
Balblair 1990: Fresher nose, with sherry soaked fruit and sawdust. Dusty, floral, smoothly sherried with very small hints of peat. Long warm finish with lots of depth.
Balblair 1983: Dark fruits, wet wood, toffee and an old sweet shop on the nose. Palate’s less sweet, giving a dry maltiness mixed with a fruity depth. Slightly edgy on finish showing its maturity and smoothness. I love this one.

 

Twas time to move away from the Scotch and try something else, and after chatting with my friend Scott, we decided to head to the Taiwanese distillery Kavalan. All five whiskies we tried were well made, with the Kavalan Classic and Kavalan Port getting some good nods and the KingCar whisky giving me a big juicy, fruity, briny, smile! It was the three ‘Solist’ bottlings that stood out however.

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Kavalan Soloist Bourbon

Kavalan Solist Bourbon: Strong bourbon nose with sour fruits and sawdust. Strong palate giving lots of berries, raisins and some earthiness. I could have drunk it for days.

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Kavalan Solist Sherry

Kavalan Solist Sherry: Big, rich and dark! This is serious sherry on the nose, palate and eye. Holds the tongue with dark fruits, brown sugar and sawdust. Long long finish.

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Kavalan Solist Wine Cask

Kavalan Solist Wine Cask: Cracking nose, subtle yet powerful. Sweet, wet wood, grapes, some tannins and dryness. I just wrote “lovely lovely stuff”.

 

 

 

We decided to try some non distillery bottlings after this, so slid over to That Boutique-y Whisky Company. The delightfully cool Cat Spencer guided us through some of the cracking bottles they had on show. I’ve got a few of TBWC’s bottles, and I can tell you that their awesome comic book bottle labels are just the start!

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TBWC Clynelish

TBWC Clynelish: Strong, meaty, salty and lovely. However, not a typical Clynelish. Some forrest fruits and nuttiness balanced with a whisp of smoke.

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TBWC Caol Ila

TBWC Caol Ila: Classic Caol Ila. Big peat, big smoke, some delicate TCP, earthy and strong. This was like smoking a quality cigar.

 

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TBWC Kilchoman

 

TBWC Kilchoman: Peat-tastic! Slight farmyard peat on nose, with floral notes lurking behind. Doesn’t feel too young (even though it obviously is). Great mix of apples, earthiness, peat and biiig sweet smoke. This was awesome and my favourite of the TBWC bunch!

 

 

Another indie cask strength stand, and our friends over at The Whisky Exchange offering some Elements of Islay. The wonderful Billy and (my good old friend) Andy had some great choices.

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Br5 – Bruichladdich

Br5: Old Bruichladdich nose, salty, briny, earthy with some grass and sultanas. Strong on the palate with apples, grass, bourbon and hint of smoke on the tail. Beautifully balanced with some toffe at the end. This seems like an older laddie to me…. but I could be dreaming.

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Bw3 – Bowmore

 

Bw3: Great nose. Mellow peat, some salt with a slight fragrance to it. Peaty clings to top palate with some ripe fruit (grape & blackcurrent). Nice stuff, seems like a mid-aged Bowmore to me.

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Lp4 – Laphroaig

LP4: Less TCP than other Laphroaigs. Sweet peat, smoke and a very small savoury hint. Smooth palate with peat gliding over the tongue with a earthy quality. The smoke here was spot on. All three bottles showed some real quality.

 

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Chris – Cracking Chap!

We did make it to various other stands, but sadly 6 hours just wasn’t enough time to  visit them all, which is a shame. A big shout out to Chris on the Compass Box stand. As usual, he was delightfully personable and gave some lovely whiskies to sample. [Watch out for an upcoming Compass Box vertical]

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Chris chatting to John Glaser… Mr Compass Box!

Some of the other whiskies I got to try throughout the day: Glencadam 14 Olorosso, Glencadam 18, Compass Box Hedonism, Balcones Baby Blue, Balcones Brimstone, Balcones Number 1 and Nikka 15yo.

 

A wonderful afternoon, trying some marvellous whiskies. Could you ask for more? Oh yes… the fantastic company I had throughout the day. New friends brought together by the love of this magical liquid. A big shout out goes to Scott (@saunders_afc), Tommo (@ifotou), Stevo (@steveprentice), Ben (@ben_copps), Jon (@dvdbloke), Dave (@whiskydisovery), Andy,(@ardbaggie) Dave (@whiskyrepublic), Kat (@whiskydiscovkat), John (LRwhisky), Adrian (@mynameisgone), Stewart/Kirsty (@whiskycorner). Just a selection of the #Whiskyfabric

 

* Thanks goes again to Whisky Live for the pass and for putting on a great event *

Love London? Love Whisky? Love the London Distillery Company

 

1-2013-03-30-13-13-56Not many people know (myself included until recently) that London had a rich whisky heritage at one stage, possibly dating back to the thirteenth century. Who knows…maybe even Chaucer himself, enjoyed a London whisky from time to time on his way to Canterbury. I’d like to think so. The important point to remember is that there hasn’t been a distillery in the capital since the early 20th century, when the Lea Valley Distillery (where some of the Olympic park now sits) closed in 1903 due to a crash in the market.

Step in Dareen Rook and co!

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Darren giving us some background info

 

A craft distillery I hear you cry? Well, plans for a new distillery go back to 2010. Four years on, lots of planning, searching, fundraising and renovating later… There is a converted Victorian dairy cold room in Battersea that is now known as the London Distillery Company. This is still a relatively new venture, but an exciting one nonetheless. One that will hopefully encourage an industry that was once active in this great capital to rise up again.

 

 

Do I sound excited? I would hope so. This excitement peaked when I got an invite (along with a number of other whisky blaggers bloggers) from the lovely Kirsty Chant, inviting us for a personalised tour with Darren himself. It was a great insight into his mind. His vision, enthusiasm & passion was intrinsic. They are still in what you might call the experimental stages; doing many experiments with yeast varieties whilst trying to find the perfect mix of yeast/barley etc.

 

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A heavy yeasty aroma greets us on entrance, coupled with the sound of hard work and excitement. Some could be fooled into thinking that this is just a bunch of enthusiastic guys throwing some stuff together for fun… But let’s get something straight. These guys know what they are taking about. Darren, a highly knowledgeable chap with years of whisky/spirit experience not only shows great enthusiasm, but a real understanding of this process and the science behind it. He was kind enough to let us nose a selection of his new spirit, explaining the different methods used in production before the filling of the casks and maturation. Darren explained how it will be interesting to see how consistently the sprit will mature over time.

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Matilda

Two stills currently sit, pride of place, in the distillery: Matilda and Christina (names after Darren’s Grandmother and wife). He was overflowing with pride whilst speaking about these two highly polished stills, even showing discomfort when noticing someone’s dirty handprint on Matilda! Christina, the smaller of the two, is currently used to produce the now infamous Dodds Gin produced at the distillery. However, she is also licensed to distill whisky spirit, which comes in handy during these experimental stages. Matilda on the other hand is a pot & column still, and will be the main still during the distillation of the future spirit.

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Christina

 

 

We all agreed from the nosing of the latest spirit, that there are many distinct, exciting and promising points to the spirit. We were told by Darren that they would eventually all be single cask releases which again shows great promise. I heard somewhere that the end of 2016 will signify the whiskies coming of age, but please don’t quote me on that one. Nonetheless, when we finally do see bottles of whisky leaving the doors of this place, it will be a day to celebrate. Whether you are a Londoner or not, watch out for these guys as there are exciting things brewing. I can guarantee that.

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Shiny Matilda

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Stay classy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I love London. I love whisky…. And I now unequivocally love the excitement, enthusiasm and passion that is driving The London Distillery Company forward.

SMWS Blind Tasting

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My table for the evening. Copsington, Jon, Stevo, Tommo, Adrian

 

 

I don’t like to take things for granted. I know that I am incredibly lucky in certain aspects of my life. I have my health, a wonderful wife, friends, a home, a good job and the time/means to pursue my numerous hobbies.Furthermore, I don’t like taking the generosity of the whisky community (or #whiskyfabric as it is quickly becoming known) for granted. So when I was invited by Joe McGirr to a special bloggers/writers evening at the SMWS, I considered myself very lucky.

 

 

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A host of whisky bloggers, writers, philosophers and all-round good eggs!

On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of attending this event at the Scotch Malt Whisky SocietiesLondon tasting room, for an evening of dramatic drams and glorious grub. For me personally, there was a distinct element of anticipation and excitement rising. Yes I was looking forward to trying what had been described as “Some very special whiskies”,but there was more. This proved to be a gathering of the many whisky bloggers/friends I have made over the last year and a half on twitter.Giving me the chance to meet many of the individuals I regularly chat to on the twittersphere. 

 

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John McCheyne leading the evening with panache and flair

The tasting was hosted by John McCheyne: a true legend, who passionately led us through the whiskies with humerous stories, anecdotes and his witty words of wisdom. Here are the six drams we tried…..blind!

 

SMWS 21.28 ‘Relaxing in a tropical garden’ (48.1%)

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Glenglassaugh 37yo

N: Rich and strong. Ripe fruit, brown sugar, marzipan, cherries. Some wet wood with ahint of spice in there too. Strong oakiness appears with time before the floral qualities start cropping up. Left in the glass a few hours, it becomes rather tropical. 

P: Nice and smooth on delivery. Tropical fruits here too. Spice becomes even more present. Some coconut and freshly cut grass here too. Slightly hot considering its ABV.

F: Medium/short. A nice creamy finish on this one. Brown sugar and spice stay present, but overall it’s soft and delicate, lingering gently on the tongue. Its maturity increases with time.

Quite a beguiling whisky this one. Many of us thinking it was a refill sherry cask, before John revealed it was a refill bourbon instead. Most were also out by 10+ years when guessing its age. Really interesting dram, which we were lucky to try, let alone start with.

 

SMWS 46.22 ‘An Italian Kitchen’ (50.6%)

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Glenlossie 20yo

N: Sour note here. Some grape notes and a hint of acrylic paint/poster paint. Apple peel, sultanas and dark chocolate. Creamy vanilla, some citrus and grassy notes too. Fills the nostrils right up.

P: Light on palate. Lots of fruit on delivery: apples, pears and grapes especially. Sour note quite obvious, chocolate éclairs, vanilla and slight nuttiness.

F: Long and fruity finish. Sweet and fresh. Slight savoury note right at the end too.

This was a solid whisky.  My main note was “This is pretty great!”

 

SMWS 26.93 ‘Cottage Garden Beside a Church’ (56.3%)

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Clynelish 28yo

N: Nice nice NICE! Sawdust, almonds, citrus, gently floral and classic Clynelish meatiness. Apple peel, melons and tropical fruit. Vanilla pod, lots of old school sweet shop sweets.

P: Lots of savoury coastal meaty and oaky notes here. Elderflower, malty and some burnt toast. Syrup sponge. Peppery now and slight hint of peat. Ah man….. I love this!

F: Smooth, and it just keeps on going. Quite herbal with a mix of meat, salty Parma ham and peat.

Ok, so I’m currently a big Clynelish fan. The 14yo OB is pretty flawless and gives so much bang for its buck. Most other indie bottlings I’ve tried are great too. This though, was not only powerful, meaty, and smooth, but also had an air of maturity to it. I’m off to get one!

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Some superb pork arrived during the interval

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John doing his thaaang

 

 SMWS 121.50 ‘Xmas cake and Afghan coats’ (61.3%)

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Arran 9yo

N: I automatically thought this was a Highland Park before it started opening up. Prickly. Coca Cola, dark chewy toffee and raisins with some savoury notes (smoked ham). Quite salty with a slight BBQ glaze. Dusty sherry and a slight ‘off’ note.

P: Dark, hot and powerful. Really peppery. More fruit on palate than nose and water just increases that. Sherry just gets bigger and bigger with time.

F: Long, sitting for quite a while. Some spiciness and ginger. Cloves and a hint of meat and leather. Quite drying.

I’ve tastedfive different Arrans in the last 3 weeks and would have never have guessed this was from the same distillery.This is a grower, and again we were very lucky to have been able to try this as there aren’t many of these around nowadays.

 

 SMWS R2.3 ‘Visiting a Gothic art gallery’ (69.5%)

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Rum 21yo

N: First note was “I’m not sure I like this one”. Sourness, rubber bands, old cheese paint and high metallic and old herbal notes. Very weird indeed. I can’t really place this. Most thought this was aged in a different spirit.

P: Bonjela and feels like I’m at the dentist. Cloves, chilli, very metallic and liquorice. Root beer, old bubble gum. Nah…

F: Waxy and peppery. Grapey, flat fizzy drink, numbing. Better than the palate… but for me that wasn’t hard.

This came out of nowhere! John told us that all the whiskies would be scotch. However, he “forgot” to mention that there might be a rum involved. I’m not a rum fan, and this never sat well with me. I’m sure some would enjoy it though.

SMWS 129.1 ‘A Smokey, Peachy, Yoghurt of Loveliness’ (60.2%)

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Kilchoman 5yo

N: Beautiful stuff. Peat, gentle smoke/ash, damp wood and moss. Slightly menthol and mossy. Stays fresh with some ripe fruit. I could have nosed this for quite a while.

P: Lovely stuff. Burnt wood and charcoal notes to start before punchy peat (not too heavy) arrives. Buttery goodness and peaches. Peat sweetens out with some nice oaky notes too.

F: Long. Smoke beautifully on the tongue. Sweet peach and woodiness lingers around the mouth tempting the taste buds.

The youngest whisky of the night, and an absolute cracker! Enjoyed by all, it was incredibly drinkable and moorish (John may have poured me a few extra glasses at the end). For its age, it is incredibly balanced, working really well. It instantly became my favourite Kilchoman that I have tried. If only I could buy one.

 

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A toast to John for the night and to Steve Rush’s health

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Lots of empty glasses and full notepads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a fantastic evening. The food, atmosphere, wisdom and whisky were fantastic. However, all this was eclipsed by my simply wonderful whisky companions. I want to thank Joe McGirr and John McCheyne for the most splendid night at this special venue.

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The Whisky Exchange Glenfarclas tasting with George Grant

London is a busy, noisy, dirty place…. But I love it. I could never live there, as I’m a country suburb kinda guy…. But that doesn’t take away its appeal. The hustle, bustle and atmosphere is great, but it’s what the capital offers you in venues, bars and events that makes it truly awesome. The Whisky Exchange is one of London’s leading whisky venues. Not only a Mecca for whisky drinkers in the bustling London Bridge area, but also an incredibly good venue to hold tastings. When I heard about the possibility of an upcoming Glenfarclas tasting event, I knew I had to get hold of a ticket. Lucky for me (and four of my friends) I did.

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All set

The whole evening was led by the man himself, George S. Grant of Glenfarclas – an incredibly engaging, knowledgeable, funny and passionate man. He led the tasting brilliantly, providing insight, tasting notes and a plethora of humorous anecdotes. We were treated to a fantastic range of expressions on the night with a collective age of 185 years of Glenfarclas matured whisky – older than Glenfarclas itself.

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George Grant leading this tantalising tasting

I’ve always been a quiet fan of Glenfarclas, after trying their 10yo a number of years ago, and having had the 12yo and 105 expressions on my shelf at different times too, I was excited to try more expressions. They are an incredibly reliable, honest distillery, providing quality whisky of numerous vintages; stretching back 61 years in their warehouse. George told us that they are soon to release a 60 year old: Six decades. 360 bottles. £10,000 per bottle!!! (Nice way of making £3.6 million!)

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Some of the special bottles

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The line up for the evening

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We’re ready to go!

I loved all seven whiskies we tried and can honestly say that there wasn’t a “let down” in the collection at all. (Even the Glenfarclas new make was great stuff: fruity, spirity and slightly oily). Huge amounts of quality sweet Olorosso sherry used to perfection here. These guys know what they are doing!

Glenfarclas 15 year old 46%

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N: Not too powerful, whilst retaining some good strong qualities. Fruitcake, sultanas, apple, hint of sawdust, toffee and some orange zest is present. Nice oak after a while and then the sweet sherry starts working beautifully. Cracking start.

P: Real sherried goodness here. Sweetness is very present but skillfully balanced with strong fruit flavours. Some zestiness reminds me of a chocolate orange. Small hints of cereal, wood and (very small hint of) peat. Sherry isn’t as dusty as nose wouldn’t suggest.

F: Medium. The sherry leaves a delicate sweetness. Fruit is still there, but with a more sugared/stewed quality. This isn’t too heavy at all, but works nicely at 46%. Smooth, perfectly balanced and simply lovely. I’m glad I have a full bottle of this in the cupboard.

Glenfarclas 21 year old 46%

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N: Seems more powerful on nose than the 15yo, with the sherry not as present here. It is still dark and playful, however it seems more complex. With time it becomes incredibly smooth and balanced. Fruits working wonders with sweet woodiness. Fills nostrils brilliantly providing a rich, brooding character. I could nose this for hours.

P: This is crazy smooth! No rough edges at all. The sweet sherry starts stepping up, but far less sweet than the nose suggests. Some grape, spice and floral notes show their heads too.

F: Smooth smooth smooth. Pretty long and lingering with a hint of oiliness. Incredibly light for the power this whisky brings. Hints of chocolate, zest and sawdust towards the end too. I love the gentle and elegant way it moves round the mouth. [I may or may not have purchased a signed bottle of this…]

Glenfarclas 40 year old (Batch 2) 46%

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N: Delicate old nose here with some cracking aromas… incredibly complex. When it starts to open up, some beautiful notes of fruit coated in olorosso sherry, chocolate, nuts and warm leather. Later on, I start getting some spiciness, cinnamon especially.

 

 P: This just gets more and more complex, coating the mouth beautifully with dusty sherry (less sweet than the 15yo & 21yo). Dark berries, chilli, light woodiness, sultanas and chocolate covered raisins. This holds the tongue delightfully, presenting some malt, sawdust and wet wood.

F: Medium-Long in length. Not as smooth as 21yo, yet it sits in the mouth really well, leaving it feeling quite fresh. Driest we’ve tasted so far and gets dryer and dryer. Maturity and complexity really made apparent on finish. Impressive old whisky here; shame its out of my price range.

Glenfarclas 25 year old Quarter Cask 42.4%

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N: Interesting nose, differing from the rest of the range. It’s an evolving one without a doubt. Strong one second and delicate the next. Sherry is there but the fruity notes are more present. Honey, fruit, wet wood, slightly floral with hints of vanilla pod. I find this one incredibly sweet compared with the rest of the range.

P: Nicely fresh and delicate on delivery. Vanilla far more present now, and the oak is at more at play. Far less sherry than 40yo. Sweet, fruity and slightly earthy this one. Less complex than the rest of the range.

F: Medium. Doesn’t linger too long, but gives some nice sweet flavours. The vanilla still hanging about. Fruit soaked in sugary sherry. Slightly dry with hints of oak. Again, complexity of finish isn’t as high as 21yo or 40yo. However, you can tell that there are far older whiskies than 25 years old in this one.

Glenfarclas 31yo Port Cask

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N: Wow, this is different. A bed of Glenfarclas covered in sweet heavy port. Slight sour note. Sawdust, citrus, vanilla & sour fruitiness. Wood becomes more present with time. Remains delicate throughout.

P: Very soft/light on tongue. Not as sweet as I’d expect. Delicate, with slight rough edges on lower palate. Less floral towards front of tongue. Some wet straw. Nice & mature.

F: Medium. Plays nicely & holds tongue with the sweetness of the port. Relatively dry, retains delicacy throughout. Evaporates leaving sweet vanilla & port soaked oak.

Glenfarclas 1979 family cask

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N: Powerful, rounded & edgy. Very fruity – in fact so many different fruits. Apples, bananas, pineapple and gooseberry. Some great sherry notes on nose. Fantastic balance of sherry/fruit/wood here.

P: Mmm powerful, whilst retaining the Glenfarclas smoothness and delicacy. Sherry is strong, dusty & wonderful. Not as sweet on front palate as I was expecting. Slightly tingly on the tongue. Sweetness comes in waves with butterscotch, candy floss and old school sweet shops. Wowzers!

F: Rich, strong, dusty, dry, ancient and beautifully mature. Lingers on the tongue tempting the taste buds with strong powerful aromas of wood, liquorice and old oil. Not overly sweet, and costs the mouth fantastically. Great at full strength, but more fruit cake with water. Great experience.

Glenfarclas 20yo ’105′

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N: This is the 105 nose I know, but stronger, more mature and knowledgable. Even for a 20yo this is complex. Lots of sultanas, banana and cocoa. Musty wood and sawdust. So strong and powerful (not like young feisty CS out there, but more mature and complex), really filling up nostrils. Tad closed perhaps?

P: Yep. Wham bam thank you mam! Strong on tongue, but not too overpowering as the nose would suggest. Strong woody notes, lovely chocolate covered raisins. Lots of gloppy sherry too.

F: Long. Good stuff. Really smooth and sweet considering strength. Combination of fruity flavours flickering around. Sherry stays strong & to forefront throughout. Powerhouse of an aged whisky.

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George passing over the signed bottle of 21yo

A fantastic evening had by all. A big thank you goes to The Whisky Exchange for organising it, and of course to the brilliant George Grant for leading such a fantastic tasting. I went a fan. I left besotted!

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Great meeting up with new friends and old! Wouldn’t trust these three…

 

 

Review: Four Core Laphroaig’s

Back in November I was one of the chosen “Tweet Tasters” for a Laphroaig Tweet Tasting, organised by the non stop Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire. The lineup included their 10yo, Quarter Cask, Triple Wood and 18yo. With the QC being an old favourite of mine, I was interested to know how the other expressions fared in this lineup. It was a fun evening full of peat, medicinal goodness and great company.

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Laphroaig 10 Year Old
Nose: Big, powerful and open. Strong heavy peaty notes
upfront, also spices, hints of liquorice and plenty of salty sea air. Sweeter than I remember, but big hits of the classic iodine we all expect. With some time in the glass, a slight sweet woodiness appears.

Palate: Oh I remember this first taste. Big sea saltiness leads the
way, before giving way to the TCP flavours coupled with vanilla. Fair
amount of oiliness with some delicate spices too.

Finish: Tarry notes are there, with lots of oak, iodine and smooth smoke.

Comments: It’s an old favourite of many, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not my favourite Laphroaig expression but it provides the peat bomb/medicinal whisky many crave.

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Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Nose: More delicate, oily & sweeter than the 10yo. You get the dirty soot, coal and smoke, but my favourite note is the barbecue. A real clean ripeness here with hints of fruit, chocolate and cinnamon. Sometimes find myself just sticking my nose in a glass of this it’s that good.

Palate: Man I love this mouth feel. It’s so rich, full bodied and
gusty. It’s so big, yet soft on arrival. Toffee, malty, oaky & and
strongly peaty. Waves of coal and peat splashing about, balanced with warm sweetness.

Finish: Lingers nicely on the tongue. It’s long, beautifully sweet,
dense and ashy.

Comments: I’ve always enjoyed this bottling. I feel like my shelf is empty without a bottle of this. It started my love affair with Laphroaig and due to its lovely balance of sweat peat, smoke and ash, it will always be a favourite of mine.

 

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Laphroaig Triple Wood
Nose: What strikes me most is the difference between this & the
10yo/QC. Straight away, the dusty sawdust note & woodiness makes
itself present. More oily again with some toffee too. I’m getting
vanilla with some sweet fruit & nuttiness. Some cool smoke too, but not lots. Seems that the woodiness slightly masks the heavier peat.

Palate: Strong and heavy on first sip (much more so than the QC).
Spice, wood and bits of fruit. You can tell this is MUCH more dry than the previous two also. The peat & smoke are still present here, but seem far subtler. The sherry notes really show their head, not only in the dryness, but the big fruitcake taste you expect from sherry notes. It’s interesting to have the blend of these fruitcake flavours balanced with Laphroaigs classic peat and smoke.

Finish: Dry dry dry….oh and quite oaky. The oil and slight spiceyness
hang around a fair bit, sitting on top of the musty sherry notes. Did I say dry?

Comments: Definitely darker in colour compared to the other too. The third maturation in Oloroso sherry obviously made a difference. This started out as a travel retail bottle, so it’s good to see they’re making it more accessible. It’s a different expression with lots to like…. I’m just trying to work out how much I like it….

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Laphroaig 18 Year Old
Nose: Nice big start, you can tell this is one mature beast just
from first sniff. You get the standard Laphroaig notes of big peat and smoke, but it is balanced with some cereal and citrus notes. After some time in the glass it mellows out somewhat, revealing some menthol, apples and lightly smoked wood. I could nose this
for days.

Palate: Wow, I know why people rave about this one. I actually smiled on first sip. The mouth coating is great and is the
creamiest of all the Laphroaigs I’ve tasted. It is loud yet quiet,
powerful yet soft and angry yet completely calm. The extra years on this has really mellowed it out, whilst keeping the fieriness Laphroaig brings to its whiskies. Incredibly rounded throughout,
providing charred wood, spice, honey, vanilla, chocolate & some briny saltiness. This all provides a lovely base for the coal, tar & peat
smoke.

Finish: Beautifully long, smooth and salty. Some liquorice, seaweed, orange & brine still hanging about.

Comments: This is a monster, but not necessarily the way you would expect. I find it less medicinal compared to its siblings. It is the gentle giant from Laphroaig. This
is gentler, softer, creamier, & more intricate than the others. Providing me with pure unadulterated whisky joy! (No chill-filtering &
at 48%…… what a bonus!)

What a great core lineup to have. Aren’t Laphroaig a lucky bunch. There is a reason why they are so popular, and that is down to the quality inside the bottle. If I *had* to rank the whiskies, I would put the Triple Wood last, followed by the 10yo and Quarter Cask, with the 18yo easily taking top spot. A beautifully aged whisky right there. I can’t wait to own one.

SMWS London Visit

Like many whisky drinkers out there, I had heard about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). Until last year however, I had never realised there was a tasting room/bar in London. And it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that I discovered how brilliant ‘St Greville Street’ was! Cue Adrian Barnet (@mynameisgone), a brilliant member of the twitter #Whiskyabric who I had got to know over 2013. He asked if I fancied meeting him and a few others up there on the first Saturday of January as he could sign me in. Well….. How could I decline?!

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[For those who don't know, SMWS bottle single cask whiskies. Each outturn of each cask is given a unique numerical identifier, representing first the originating distillery and second the individual cask from which the bottle was taken. The Tasting Panel also gives each bottling an awesome name with some whimsical tasting notes. It's my kind of place]

 

After a nightmare journey to Farringdon, I arrived to meet Adrian. This was only the second time I’ve met someone from the #Whiskyfabric, and the first time I had met Adrian. Top bloke. He took me into the rooms, where I discovered some sofas, a fire and what can only be described as a treasure cove of whisky. I also discovered two more drinking buddies in the form of Dave and Scott. Dave Worthington (@whiskydiscovery) was one of the first whisky-ers I followed on twitter, and is the author of the first whisky blog I properly read. We had chatted many times before online, but again, this was our first meeting. Scott (Saunders_AFC) on the other hand, had only cropped up on my twitter feed in the recent weeks, but this didn’t stop us getting along like a house on fire. Great company all round.

 

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SMWS 84.12 ‘Party in the Vineyard’ (58.2%)

Glendullan, 12yo
This was our first dram of the afternoon and chosen by Scott. This was my first Glendullan and I was pleasantly surprised. On the nose it was sweetly floral with some oakiness. On the palate it became incredibly fruity, especially green apples. Hints of woodiness became more apparent with time. This was Incredibly smooth for 59%. It was quite dry on the finish but retained its sweet quality.

 

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SMWS 2.84 ‘Katherine Hepburn in a Vintage Jaguar’ (53.3%)

Glenlivet 20yo
For the second instalment, the gentleman that is Joe McGirr (@SMWSlondon) brought over this little treat for us from the January Outturn that had been causing a stir on twitter. It matured for 20 years in a first-fill ex-sherry cask, with only 77 bottles of this release. The most notable thing about this dram was its unusual dark colour… Especially for a Glenlivet. The nose on this was fantastic. Huge sherry notes, woody/sawdust, nuttiness and some cocoa too. My main note was “Nose = Lovely”. On the palate sweet syrup, liquorice, anise, chocolate. Lovely level of woodiness. I did find this a tad thin on the palate, but man this has a smooth, delicate, lingering finish. This was special and know why people will go for it.

 

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SMWS 3.193 ‘Baby Faced Arsonist’ (58.2%)

Bowmore, 14yo
Dave’s turn to choose and he brought over one that really excited me. Originally the nose was interesting. Farmyard peat, peppery & nice sherry. Dave & I detected a slight hint of struck match, but not in a bad way. I wouldn’t have guessed bowmore straight away. The palate made me smile. Real POW factor. Beautiful marriage of slightly harsh peat and sherry, it tingled on tongue perfectly. There were sweet juicy fruit flavours at the front, whilst an explosion was occurring at back of the palate. This Bowmore didn’t hang around, and left my mouth feeling slightly abused, but clean. If there were any bottles left I would have bought one without a doubt.

 

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SMWS 29.150 ‘Hand Rolled Cuban Cigars’

Laphroaig, 18yo
It was my turn to choose the weapon of choice, and after looking through the menu, one particular bottle caught my eye. I’d heard SMWS Laphroaig’s were pretty nifty, so when I saw an 18 year old on the menu I jumped & ordered one for us all. I had also tried the OB 18yo on the #LaphroaigTT in November, and I LOVED it. The nose had similarities to 18yo OB. Rather sweet, with a smooth level of peat & smoke. Not as heavy a peat as 10yo or Quarter Cask. Beautifully medicinal. The palate was beautifully balanced. Peat works the tongue smoothly, whilst the sweet woodiness takes over. Medicinal, but less so on palate. It peters away nicely, with the gentle smokiness lingering beautifully. Great stuff. Plus I love the label!

 

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At this point, I thought we were drawing to a close. We’d had four great drams, and had been there a few hours. This, however was when Philip Storry (@philipstorry) jumped into the equation. I had never met Phillip before, but had been told he was a bit of a stalwart member of the SMWS. He was with another group, but that didn’t stop him popping over to chat throughout the afternoon. After a while he brought over a glass for each of us. “What dangerous substance could this be”, I thought to myself. He then handed me the bottle. It turned out to be a 1986 Bruichladdich bottled in 2005. I have come across very few independent bottlings of this awesome distillery, especially before it’s re-opening. It was sublime to say the least. The generosity of the surrounding whisky drinkers didn’t stop there, as two more “Money can’t buy bottles” found their way into my glass. Firstly a 20yo Heaven hill SMWS bourbon, followed by a Brora 2005 30yo special release. I was not only amazed by this generosity, from people who I had never met before and might never meet again, but the quality of these three fantastic bottlings.

 

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SMWS 23.52 ‘Teenage Dreams’ (55.9%)

Bruichladdich, 19yo
Some classic Laddie notes on nose, but amplified and more refined that usual OB’s. Beautiful, light, slightly floral, balanced, hints of peat there too. At first taste I fell in love with the stuff. It is Bruichladdich as its meant to be. Peat is there, but only showing its face now and again. Some real salty brinyness holds it all together. It stuck to my tongue and wouldn’t let go. Making sweet love with my taste buds. Incredibly drinkable. Correction. Incredible. [I love what Dave wrote on his blog: "Distilled in 1986, this would have been the Bruichladdich Mark Reiyner would have been enjoying before realising his dream and reopening the distillery in 2001". Well said Dave.]

 

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SMWS Bourbon (66%)

Heaven Hill, 20yo
Dusty, woody, yet sweet on the nose. Really pure & classy. I haven’t had a huge experience of bourbons, but man this was good. Full. Powerful. Massive on upper palate. Strong & sweet. Lingers forever… I was tasting it 2 hours later. Incredibly smooth for 66%. So different, yet so enjoyable.

 

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Brora 30yo Diageo special release 2005

I was so excited to try this, especially after a 10-minute chat with an enthused Philip on Brora/Clynelish. On the nose there were similarities to certain Clynelish bottlings. Spicy, coastal brineyness. Peppery, with hints of fruit & smokiness. The palate was serious stuff though. Meaty, peppery. Heavy and strong, sticking to my palate and powering through. A lovely delicate whisp of smoke on finish. Slightly dry, holding my taste buds for what seemed like days. After 15 minutes in the glass,  it just got bigger & smokier. Wow, this was something special!

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I had a truly wonderful afternoon. My eyes were opened to the glory of the SMWS & St Greville Street. I got to meet some cracking guys, who I look forward to meeting again. And it showed not only how fun the #Whiskyfabric can be, but how generous and encouraging too. Here’s to many more.

2013 Review

For some 2013 was a tough year. I’ve seen family and friends go through some difficult times and I hope that 2014 will be good to those that didn’t have it so well over the last 12 months. For me, 2013 was a good one as years go. Work went along nicely without too much of a glitch. I started playing more music, finally started this blog and we bought/moved into our first house.

The move took more out of me than I expected. I didn’t realise how much there was to do and my past times/hobbies such as whisky, golf & sport took a back seat. Luckily that didn’t stop me from trying some special whiskies along the way. Some of which I’ll highlight below. These aren’t necessarily my “favourite” whiskies of the year, just particular bottles that poked their heads above the crowd and made me take notice.

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Kilchoman Machir Bay
On the 3rd January 2013, I walked into The Whiski Rooms in Edinburgh, saw a bottle of the Machir Bay behind the bar & ordered a glass. Seeing as it was a mix of three, four & five year old whisky I didn’t know what I was expecting… But what I got was a punch of young, explosive but not overbearing peaty goodness. Simply a well produced, sherry-finished, peaty whisky.

Considering its youth, it sits on the tongue nicely with some intricate flavours. I found the finish long & delicate with an incredible complexity for its “age”. It’s an exciting young whisky that I enjoyed so much… I ordered one the next day. This really is a solid expression from the artisan ragamuffins at Kilchoman and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a different Islay.

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Bruichladdich The Laddie 10
I received a bottle of this from my brothers last Christmas. They obviously love their big brother to bits! Now I was lucky enough to try an incredible 1986 19yo bottling of Bruichladdich recently [But that will come in another post], the style of whisky it seems Bruichladdich are trying to bring back with this Laddie 10. This marks a new era for this distillery and shows of all the exciting things to come. It’s non chill filtered, no colouring & bottled at 46%, plus it lovely stuff.

Smashes round your mouth boldly, with all the sea salt, iodine, sweetness and hint of peat smoke (un-peated?!) you could ask for. It became one of my favourite bottles of the year rather quickly. If you don’t have one, do yourself a favour a buy it. For a smidgen over £30 it’s a cracker.

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Port Charlotte An Turas Mor
This was my first Port Charlotte and I was pretty excited to see how it was. As you can see above, I love Bruichladdich and I’m also a fan of strongly peated whiskies… Enter Port Charlotte. My good twitter friend Tom Thomson (@ifotou) from Toms whisky reviews sent me a sample of this back in March/April and I devoured it in record time.

It is a multi vintage whisky with its name meaning “The Great Journey”. The nose provides the coastal saltiness that Bruichladdich brings, but with an earthier, creamier base. The gentle peat smoke is there too. The palate is incredibly balanced and powerful, whilst retaining a gentle quality. It’s fiery and spicy with a combination of smoke, ash and BBQ.

This really excited me and I can’t wait to see what they do with this Port Charlotte brand. You can’t get bottles of this anymore… But if you see one, I’ll give you good money for it!

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Glen Garioch 1986
In June I received an email from Morisson Bowmores master blender Rachel Barrie (@TheLadyBlender) inviting me to take part in a lovely little tweet tasting of Glen Garioch for fathers day. We had a great time tasting the 12 year old, 1986, 1995 and (what we later found out was) the new virgin oak. I enjoyed each expression for different reasons & it increased my appreciation of this underrated distillery. It was this ’86 however that stuck out for me.

Most of us found peaches, malt and ginger on the nose. I also noted some toffee and a wisp of smoke in the background (interesting – noting the year). On the palate it was sweet, full bodied and fresh. Some ripe fruit, slight earthiness and even some gentle smoke in there too.

This was eloquent, easily drinkable and enjoyable (I’m all about the alliteration). Glen Garioch has produced an intricate and refined whisky right here. If it was an ’87 (my birth year), I would have snapped up a few bottles.

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Laphroaig 15 Signatory (The Whisky Exchange)
I stumbled across this corker of a dram on the 29th October. You may be wondering how I remembered that particular date? It was my birthday… And what a dram to celebrate with. My lovely wife took me up to London for the day and one of her lovely “gifts” was to let me look round as many whisky shops as I liked. We ended up at The Whisky Exchange and I was like a child in a sweet shop. I was encouraged/escorted/helped by Sam who gave me a pretty generous amount of special samples to taste (too many to remember/list), but this Laphroaig was the winner by a mile.

On the nose classically Laphroaig – peat smoke, medical notes, sea salt and gentle spice. The palate gives some earthiness, sweetness, sherry and spice. This is then followed with warm smoke, chocolate and fruit. The cask strength gives this a soft but lingering finish.

I would have walked away with a bottle (or three) if it wasn’t for the fact that it was £100. My wife was in a generous mood…. But I wanted to keep her that way!! I’m still trying to find away of getting this bottle, maybe even a bottle share at some point. I’ll be surprised if there’s any left though, as this is a slap in the face peat/sherry beast!

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Bunnahabhain 23 (Abbey Whisky)
I had only heard good things about Abbey Whisky’s bottlings. That’s why I was incredibly lucky to get on their tweet tasting run by the Whisky Wires Steve Rush (@thewhiskywire). For this tasting we tasted a Caperdonich 17, this Bunnahabhain 23 and a Ben Nevis 16 – the first three in their rare cask series. All fantastic. We also got to try a blind dram, which later turned out to be a ’93 single cask Glendronach. I’ll leave all that for another blog post.

All four whiskies in this tasting were great, but I kept coming back to this Bunna. Its nose, palate and finish were all stunning providing a huge complexity of flavours. The delicate nose is fruity, briney and smooth with some chocolate and a hint of peat smoke there. I could have nosed it all day. The palate is gentle and creamy before a build up of beautiful fruity flavours kick in. Some honey, cinnamon and vanilla hang about with hints of brine and smoke linger in the background. I didn’t want this to end.

In layman’s terms…. I liked it. A lot! Although I already have a Bunna 23 from The Whisky Broker, this one from Abbey Whisky is at the top of my wish list for 2014 and I better be quick as there is a limited supply.

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Flaming Heart Compass Box
If you follow me on twitter (I can only apologise), then you may have seen me tweet about a visit to Milroys of Soho whilst I was in London back in December. I timed this visit to perfection as I discovered Chris from Compass Box in there, armed with their core range of quality whiskies.

My first encounter with Compass Box’s GKS was great, as you can read here, but this was expression was even better. The Flaming Heart has a great nose, quite vegetal with touches of sea salt, pepper and refined coastal peat followed by some oiliness and soot. It improves with the palate. A lovely mix of fruit, brine, salt and zest. It’s very smoky too, with a beautiful warm peaty finish.

Suffice to say, I loved all their whiskies and would implore you to try them all too.

 

 

Some other ‘Honourable Mentions’
- Ardbeg Day
- Caol Ila 21 Old & Rare
- Kavalan Soloist
- Glen Garioch ‘86
- Invergorden Clan Denny 44yo
- Blair Athol 15 Old & Rare
- Laphroaig 18
- Caperdonich 17 (Abbey Whisky)

 

Here’s to a wonderful 2014!

Review: Ledaig 10 Year Old

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Review: Ledaig 10 Year Old

My first experience with whisky from the Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull was a glass of the Ledaig Single Malt a number of years ago. I hadn’t really got into any peated whisky by this stage and to be completely honest I was confused by the whole Ledaig experience. [The Ledaig Single Malt is actually not too bad of a sip and a fantastically priced dram, which you can pick up for less than £20 on most online retailers].

Now, a few years on; I’m older, arguably wiser (no chance!), and less freaked out by new flavour profiles. I had noticed that the “new” Ledaig 10 year old was getting rather a lot of good press. I couldn’t understand why though, thinking back to my first experience of peated Tobermory. It was the wise encouragement of Johanne McInnis, who goes by the alias @Whiskylassie, back in April that eventually encouraged me to revisit this intriguing spirit. If you don’t follow her on twitter or her blog, then do yourself a favour and do that now!

I ended up purchasing a bottle of this for a “Whisky Regions” tasting I hosted in May and enjoyed it so much that I purchased a bottle for myself. It has now made its way to my pile of empty bottles. So they must be doing something right.

 
Nose: This might split people I think. I’m now a fan of Ledaig, but sometimes find this nose slightly confusing. At times the cheesy note can be a bit too funky for my liking, but with time in the glass its improves. It is nicely balanced. It’s earthy, warm, hints of fruit & nut with overriding oiliness. Some lovely smooth peat present, with some soft smokiness balanced in there too. I find this nose rather organic, especially the peat. More of a farmyard feel than the strong salty, brininess of some of Islay whiskies.

 
Palate: Oh how I enjoy the palate on this whisky! It arrives boldly, before silently sloping away. Some nice rounded fruit flavours, before becoming rich, salty, and fresh. The smoky and spicy notes envelop tenderly together over the salty seawater and raw charred oak. The peat, like the nose, has more of a farmyard quality with earthy and peppery notes too.

 
Finish: Medium-long length finish here. Lingers nicely on the tongue before evaporating quickly leaving you with some cigar qualities – ash, smoke and spice. This truly is a fantastic finish.

 
I have to admit, I was really impressed with this bottle. I was expecting good things, but not to this level. For the price, it is bloomin marvelous. Another quality that makes us all a bit happier is that it is bottled at 46.3%. This higher than usual ABV could be one of the factors that helps this finish flourish. Some would think that adding water would be a must here, but that isn’t the case – this Ledaig provides an incredible smoothness for its ABV. A beautifully peated malt at 46.3% with little harshness or roughness… well done to the guys at Tobermory.

You can pick this bottle up for a smidgen over £30, maybe even under if you search around. It’s a great bottle to experience a different peat profile compared to the heavily peated Islays. If you get a bottle, it won’t last you long. I can promise you that.