North British 48yo (1962) : Day 21 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calender

2014 was the year I started discovering grain whisky, mostly thanks to Phil Story. I’ve tried some fantastic examples from the SMWS, but this one is a 2010 indie bottle from the Perfect Dram. You guessed it – Phil Story sorted me out on this one! 

North British 48yo 1962 (47.9%)

   N: Huge grainy nose, full of bananas, vanilla and fresh coconut. Subtly sweet and slightly rum like. Earthy, leathery, surfboard wax. With time furniture polish & banana milkshake comes to mind. Creamier with time in the glass, but then with compost and cigar box. Very moorish.
P: Delightful and scrumptious on first arrival. Like the nose there are some strong notes of vanilla, but with added coconut here. Nutty and fresh were my to first thoughts. Widens slowly in the mouth with some cinnamon and gentle spiciness. Chocolate covered nougat. Banana smoothie with honey and tinned tropical fruit
F: Long. You guessed it, bananas. Crème brule. Sweeter towards the end before some rough bitterness appears. Finish slightly unbalanced.
Comments: This is some quality aged grain. Remains relatively vibrant and silky throughout considering its age. At 48, it’s the same age as Halle Berry… and very similar in fact. Mature. yet beautiful, sexy and exciting. Like Halle Berry, how does it remain so good?! Very high 80s.

SMWS 1.168 28yo (1984) : Day 20 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calender

Always nice trying older bottles from the SMWS. This 1984 Glenfarclas was sent by Stumbler.

SMWS 1.168 ‘Delightfully Dulcet Deliciousity’, 28yo (1984) (53.8%)
   N: Not sure I would have pegged this for a Glenfarclas. A light start but with a hidden darkness; rather astringent. Cherryade, porridge oats, off fruit and wet grass. After 15 minutes it changes, with some strong paint thinner, pricstick and metallic notes. Some nice strawberries though. Need to stay focused or you get confused with this one. 
P: Light arrival at this ABV. Incredibly fruity – crazily so. Off fruits from nose now move to ripe apples. Cornflakes, strawberry laces, tropical fruit, walnuts and wood spices. There’s an overriding unbalanced sweetness to this throughout that I can’t quit put my finger on. 
F: Long, spicy and woody. Bitterness couples with some oiliness, covering the mouth. Peaches, marshmallows and some Glenfarclas style leather. 
Comments: There are similarities with this to the Tomatin 21yo (this is less balanced overall though). It has an thought provoking nose, overriding fruits throughout and in general, very different. Weirdest Glenfarclas I’ve had the pleasure of trying. Mid 80s.
Thank you Stumbleton

Balvenie 30yo : Day 19 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calender 

I’ve already reviewed most of the Balvenie core range here and always enjoy what they have to offer. I find them accessible, beautifully put together and always enjoyable. So when I received a sample of their 30 year old whisky from my Fascinating French Friend Franck, I had high hopes.
The Balvenie 30yo (47.3%)
   N: I really enjoyed this from the word go. Gentle yet bold, light yet feisty and perfumed yet smooth. Floral mixed with honey. Lots of sweet manuka honey with light fragrant grassy notes. Lightens rather than intensifies whilst in the glass. Water brings an oily edge, ripe fruits, apricot jam and a whisp of spices. 
P: Strong upfront delivery. Rich, fruit cake and honey on toast. Quite a silky sherry character with a nuttiness too. Fudge, mackies vanilla ice cream and brown sugar upon Greek yoghurt. I even get a bit of old pipe smoke.
F: Medium/long. Incredibly malty, slightly fresh and fruity with hints of rose. Continues its smooth quality throughout. 
Comments: Beautifully aged, balanced from start to finish, confident in its flavours, simple yet stunning. Sit back, relax and enjoy. 91.
Huge thanks to Franck. This was lovely

John.M.Robertson Special Old Scotch Whisky : Day 18 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar 

Pretty sure this is the oldest whisky I have ever tasted. Very little information about it, but from research done, it looks like it could be from the turn of the century. Andy Purslow gave this to me as blind taster and no matter what it tastes like, I just think the history behind it will make it even more exciting.
John.M.Robertson Special Old Scotch Whisky (ABV Unknown)

    N: Fresh and delicate. You have to dig your nose right in. Freshly cut grass, malty, dry wood, menthol mouthwash, follow by even more wood. Salt & vinegar crisps with a slight bitterness before walking into a sweet shop. Beguiling nose that frequently changes in the glass. I would guess low ABV. 
P: Very light, again with lots of grass before being overtaken by a dark gritty note; a mix of earth, spices and possibly a hint of peat. This has a pretty soft character, but some distinct flavours. American sour sweets, dark ale and brown sugar. An off note that felt like week old red wine. 
F: Short. Malty, dry and surprisingly spicy. Menthol/herbal notes towards the end with even a slight sherries sweetness. 
Comments: Not sure what to think of this. Feels rather regal to be honest. Some nice flavours in there, but most of the enjoyment came from the thought that it was a whisky from the turn of the century. Low-mid 80s.

Big thanks to Andy Purslow for giving me the opportunity to try this

English Whisky Company Founders Reserve : Day 17 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

I had only tried a few select whiskies from this Norfolk distillery, so to be able to try some of their Founders Private Cellar edition seems like quite a leap forward. Phil Story threw this my way towards the end of 2014 and told me it was a cracker. Let’s see if he was right:

English Whisky Company Founders Private Cellar 5yo [Triple distilled] (60.8%) 

english-whisky-founders-private-cellar-peated-sauternes-whisky N: Nice fragrant nose. Although ABV is quite high, its incredibly easy to nose. Fruity with thick apple sauce and blueberries. Sticky fudge from the seaside with some slight sawdust notes. Water mellows it bring forth the oak and fruity flavours. Some raisins and victoria sponge too. Mesmerising. 5yo what?!

P: Full and powerful on first delivery with some beautiful balance. Delicate, but full of big flavours including vanilla (first fill bourbon), wood shavings, stewed fruits and rose petals too. Vanilla ice cream covered in toffee sauce with some pineapple and mango on the side. Takes water like a champ, giving a few spices and a tad more sweetness.

F: Long. Full of orchard fruits and sweet fudge. A whisp of bitterness on the tongue with some strong oak lingering.

Comments: This is a velvety and elegant whisky. Great complexity, balance and incredibly moorish. At times it reminded me of some cracking Hazelburns I’ve tasted in the past, which is interesting as those are triple distilled as well. Even better with water I would say. Lets get me some more English Whisky. Easily into the 90s.

Thanks again to PS!

Highland Park 25yo (2004) : Day 16 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

We’re going to stay with the 25 year olds and move from Islay up to The Highlands. Highland Park was never a distillery that grabbed me. When I first got into whisky I tasted their 12 year old at a whisky shop whilst on holiday in Scotland and I found it brash, spirity and unappealing. Three years later, I bought a bottle of this 12 year old help my education, and it was one of the worst bottles I ever purchased. I am hoping that there was something wrong with that bottle, it was sulphured, off and simply disappointing. I didn’t enjoy it one bit and never actually finished it.

I mentioned the fact that I was not a Highland Park fan to some of my friends from the whisky fabric, and yet again it was the man from France, Franck Debernardi that persuaded me to try a greater range of their spirit, sending this little surprise to encourage me. Since then I have tried a plethora of OBs and single casks, and my perceptions of this distillery have definitely changed.

Highland Park 25yo (50.7%)

hlpob.25yov1 N: Stunning nose with so much going on right from the word go and a real thickness of complexity. Forrest fruits coupled with a floral character, whilst no being overly fresh. Woody, old waxed wooden furniture with some fresh polish. Vanilla and hazelnut chocolate with some menthol and mint towards the end. Water brings the gentle sherry into play with a splash of sea breeze towards the end.

P: A spirity arrival. Sherried fruits, christmas and coffee cake with some burnt toast. Fizzy on the tongue like refreshers, with the alcohol quite active for 50%. A real creamy texture with dollops on chocolate orange and vanilla ice cream. Manuka honey, lemon sherbets and bold apples towards the end.

F: Very long. Slightly sweet , zesty, dry and woody. I got some salt and pepper towards the end also.

Comments: This was a thinker with some huge flavours. Very easily the best Highland Park I’ve had in the pleasure of trying, offering so much complexity and balance throughout, showing its age beautifully. Solid 90.

Thank you Franck, you have turned me into a HP lover.

Caol Ila 25yo : Day 15 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Why don’t we stick with the Islay whiskies and move from the south of the island to the north. I’ve always thought that Caol Ila is an underrated distillery, producing some fantastically tasty single malt whisky. Their 12yo is one of the best in its category and balances peat, oil and brine beautifully. So I was somewhat excited when Mr Johnny Stumbler sent me some of their 25yo. Let’s give this a go on my Dads birthday.

Caol Ila 25yo (43%)
caol-ila-25 N: A somewhat gentle start to this nose, with a character like a soft Bowmore. You get the smoke pretty quickly, but it’s then taken over by the linseed oil. Lots of toffee, vanilla, liquorice and some peat reek. After some time it completely changes, with lots of grassy and floral qualities along with some citrus. A real sense of the coastal qualities this distillery displays with wet rope, fresh seafood and sea salt.

P: Pretty thin on the mouth. I was expecting a bigger arrival. Very different from the younger bottlings. Peppery, slightly rich, toffee and lots of caramel. Not too much peat on this palate as it seems hidden behind the briny and salty front.

F: Medium. Oaky, warm leather and citrus again. Less floral than the nose suggested. Very drying.

Comments: This is weird. It’s rather light and somewhat delicate for a Caol Ila and seems much younger than it is. Pretty elegant though, with a sadly disappointing finish. Quite like a white wine finished whisky… maybe I’ve been spoilt by some of the recent samples. The younger bottles are definitely more interesting. Maybe this had just been opened for quite a while. Mid 80’s for this.

Thanks AGAIN to Mr S!

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2010 : Day 14 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

A big round of applause goes to Nick Bird, who not only shares my love of all things whisky, but is a bit of Islay nut too and must have known how much I enjoy a Lagavulin or two. This dram is from the 2010 ‘Islay Feis Ile’, so a nice special edition from this marvellous distillery (yes it’s Diageo, but I can confirm after visiting it earlier in 2014 that it still makes incredible whisky). I immensely enjoyed 2014’s Feis Ile bottling, having bought two myself, so I have high hopes for this.

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2010, 16yo 1994 (52.7%)
Untitled2 N: Similar nose to the standard 16yo but slightly meatier with some more earth and brininess. Beautifully sweet with a nice amount of balanced peat. I also enjoyed the dried fruit flavours with some apricots and pears. Salty seaweed with some peppered squid and creamy chocolate edges too. Quite a dirty Laga this one.

P: Ashy, coffee, pepper and sea salt. The peat is integrated nicely, with quite a feisty gristle to it. Some nice smooth dark chocolate notes with some hazelnut latte too. Ice cream, iodine and slight lemon zest.

F: Long, doughy and slightly dry too. Dark chocolate hanging around with some wet mud and strong woody notes.

Comments: This is a darker, more complex and gristly version of the 16yo you can buy in the shops. I enjoyed the peat level here and though everything hung together nicely. A solid 90.

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Big thanks to Nick. I’ll repay you with some of this years Lagavulin Feis…. you lucky thing.

SMWS 3.79 : Day 13 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Another one from Phil Story’s marvellous collection. Can I stop for a minute and just say that  this is the 79th cask to come from distillery number 3 (Bowmore cough cough) for the SMWS. We are now on 3.234, so the 234th cask…. and this is just the 79th. Nice work Phil! I’m a big fan of society Bowmore’s, so let’s check this one out.

SMWS 3.79 14yo (1989) [name unknown] (53.3%)
DSC_0066 N: Very different from some of the modern Bowmore’s. Fragrant and oily with quite a bit of peat reek. Doesn’t have the restrained noses that most OB Bowmore’s seem to have, in fact this opens right up into some deep floral tones with honey, heather and quite a bright fruitiness. After some time, I got pepper, chilli and some brine. It stuck to the typical 80’s Bowmore profile, with parma violets and a bit of FWP. Peat subdues over time in the glass, smelling quite like a highland whisky towards the end.

P: Certainly tastes more like a Bowmore than it noses. Pepptery, anise, slightly hot on the tongue with some chilli. I found it quite meaty and briny with some gristly peat appearing just after arrival. Quite sandy too; it’s like drinking seawater.

F: Very long. Peppery, tingly and lingers very nicely. Peat provides a bed for some bitterness and salty seafood along with the parma violets.

Comments: Pretty straight forward mid-teen Bowmore. Not the most balanced SMWS dram I’ve had and seems to lack character, whilst remaining robust and full of flavour. Being distilled in 1989 gives some good strong aged qualities and it’s lovely to try a bottle an SMWS bottling  from  2003.

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Thanks again to the mischievous Phil Story.

The Ultimate Longmorn : Day 12 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

It’s always great to see two couples walk any journey together; and that includes their whisky journey. For many, that might be a pipe dream, or near impossible. The later for me as my wife will do anything to get away from any whisky….which I do not have a problem with. This is somewhat different when it comes to Thomas and Ansgar Speller, the whisky-loving couple from the Netherlands. I was lucky enough to get a small gift from Ansgar early on in the year with a beautiful hand drawn painting and a selection of special whiskies. This Longmorn being one of them. How generous. So let’s crack it open.

The Ultimate Longmorn (57.2%)
21501-584-1 N: You don’t have to be that close to the glass to tell that this whisky spent time in a sherry butt, I can tell you that. For a while, the sherry is incredibly dominant, but I found that it started loosening up after 10/15 minutes. Slightly harsh vibe going on here with sharp fruit and strong metallic notes. Then it appears to mellow into a beautiful mix of polished wood, buttery toast and chocolate. The thickness made me think of certain bordeaux wine cask matured whiskies.

P: Not as thick on the palate as I expected. Powerful, obvious sherry,slight bitter liquorice note but remains relatively thin throughout. Quite a bright oakiness with water bringing out hints of paint and orange zest. Not incredibly complex.

F: Medium. Sherried fruits and woodiness. Fruity character remains throughout. Slightly acidic and a tad bitter for my liking, whilst having quite an unbalanced quality.

Comments: Interesting, not that complex, solid use of sherry, if not too much, but fun none the less. Have to admit to being slightly let down.

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A huge thanks goes out to Ansgar and Thomas. They are pretty good at keeping their reviews going, so please check them out at WhiskySpeller.