Over(eem) And Out

When it comes to sport, the Australians know what they’re doing. They have a brilliant mix of work ethic, skill, drive and sheer determination that puts the fear into any other team facing them. However, it’s not just the sportsmen we should be in awe of: Their whisky makers are rapidly becoming a rather talented and successful lot.
“Now they’re just showing off”, I hear you cry. “Not only do they have the weather, beaches, wildlife and sports teams… But they now have good whisky too?!”
Yep. Sorry.

I have to admit that even I, Mr Sceptical was…. Well sceptical about it at first. But when I met Neil and Joel (the two likely lads from Caskstrength) for the first time back at Whisky Live; Australian whisky was the first drop they poured me at their masterclass. Overeem whisky to be precise, and I haven’t looked back since.
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  You can imagine how happy I was to hear from them 3 months later inviting me to a tasting of the whole Overeem range that they were hosting in London – quickly becoming two of my favourite people. Yes I’m that easy. A great evening was had tasting this delicious liquid and I was truly converted to the full range.
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   The final chapter to this story however, came just 4 weeks ago when Neil asked me to whip together some tasting notes for an Overeem competition over at Master of Malt. The snazziest, most eccentric (and hopefully fitting) notes for the 43% sherry bottling would win a wonderful prize – the chance to help pick a new bourbon matured expression. Having tried a previous bourbon matured Overeem at the tasting (only bottle in the Northern Hemisphere by the way), this was pretty exciting stuff. I didn’t win first prize, but did come runner up with the good man that is Ben Cops, winning us each a bottle of the sherried expression! You can read our runner up posts along with the victors here.

Overeem New make (68% – I think)
Nose: Sweet, pure, powerful, berries and some sourness.
Palate: Pretty heavy on the tongue, but light in character. Slight sourness still there. Fizzy and sherbet-y like old skool fizzy sweets.

IMG_6377Overeem Port Cask (43%)
(Using Australian “port”)
Nose: Even more vibrant, juicy and full. Slightly dusty too. Spices hiding but start to crash around.
Palate: Good port notes, some berries, woodiness, sweet and slightly gloppy. Cherries and blackcurrant.
Finish: Dryer with a nice build up of spice and sweetness.
Comments: This had a nice delivery, with well balanced sweetness. I was expecting slightly more fruits though.

IMG_6378Overeem Sherry Cask (60%)
(I tried this one at WL, let’s so how I do on second tasting)
Nose: Wow, how can this be 60%?! It’s delicate and so easy to nose. Woody and sweet with some soft tropical fruits. Incredibly moorish.
Palate: Dusty and sweet, with sherry at the forefront. Chocolate covered raspberries. Robust woody spices, fizzy like refreshers (mmm) and a hint of ash.
Finish: Nutmeg, cinnamon, slightly nutty and woody. Less sweet, but with a lingering dryness. Spices lead the way.
Comments: For me, this was the star of the show. It wasn’t trying to show off and the smoothness balanced with the complexity of flavours really kept me on edge. Would never believe this was 60%.

IMG_6379Overeem Port Cask (60%)
Nose: Again, how is this 60%?! Fantastic nose with a beautiful blend of dark fruits, light sweetness and dusty/musky tones. Slight yeasty note too with some dark chocolate. I could nose this for hours.
Palate: Glides down the tongue with a silky texture, feeling more like 48%. Heavier sweetness than on nose, slightly drying with wood spice and berries.
Finish: Long and not too dry. Smooth, velvety and simply glam.
Comments: This had you coming back for more and I spent quite a while on it. It’s mixture of drinkability and complexity made for interesting note taking!

IMG_6374Overeem Bourbon Cask (43%)
(Ex heaven hill casks. We tried the only bottle in northern hemisphere)
Nose: Delicate and very rounded. Lots of fruits: apple peel and tropical fruits that got bigger and bigger. Grassy notes too.
Palate: Quite light compared to the sherried/port expressions. Slightly spicy, but hidden under a bed of fruit and hay. Some ripe apples and pears.
Finish: Short, but leaves the mouth fresh and happy.
Comments: Complex again, with a number of flavours hiding behind corners. Not my favourite of the bunch, but drinkable and tasty (like the rest of the range to be honest). The 60% is now due to be released.

And finally, my completely over the top and slightly tongue in cheek mammoth notes for the competition:
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Overeem Sherry Cask (43%)
As I sit in my favourite armchair on a warm September evening, with John Coltrane providing a certain serenity to the room, I’m enticed by this deep amber nectar of the gods. Much like a Mahler symphony, I don’t know what to expect; utter beauty or simple confusion. I’m welcomed to the glass like a long lost friend, with the first sniff embracing my nostrils like a warm hug. At first, this beast from down under seems rather vibrant in the glass. However, it’s deceptively smooth and rounded, with whiffs of fresh wood and sweet tropical fruits smothered in dark chocolate, reminiscent of old sweets my Nan would hide in her purse. A sudden rush of fruit; especially sticky cherries, banana and plums before the delicate spices start weaving their way through my nostrils, with cinnamon and orange zest clamouring to also get a nod. This is all followed by a wave of nostalgia – chocolate covered raisins. All the while, the light dusting of sweet sherry sneaks in round the back to drive this nose forward. With a dash of water, a sweet note of vanilla interplays with a gentle grassy-ness.
  I find myself desperate to delve into the deep layers of flavour found in this beautiful liquid. An abundance of Sunday stewed fruit crumble with vanilla custard attacks my taste buds before a sudden onslaught of liquorice, raisins and cereal notes appear. A real sweetness you get from demerara sugar or fresh icing sugar on a warm sponge cake is present too. Robust woody spices continue to build with each sip, and frolic on the tongue with a particular dustiness leaving a slight chilli note. Chocolate covered raspberries this time, whilst the sherry now takes a leading role. My favourite note? The fizzy refreshers and slight hint of ash.
  John Coltrane is playing his final number of his ‘Live in Paris’ album. His sweet melodies in “Impressions” leaves me feeling somewhat melancholic, whilst the whisky lingers leaving warm spices, orange infused chocolate, vanilla, and Werthers Originals. Somewhat nutty, with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg from the spice rack and a residual dryness also. There is no hiding it, there has been some quality interaction between wood and spirit here. This is not only strongly robust, but is a vibrant, exciting and alluring dram that glides round your mouth delightfully like velvet. I think it was Santana and Rob Thomas that once sung about this whisky: “Oh you’re so smooth…” When I think about it, this wonderful whisky is much like Mahler’s famous 5th symphony. It is utterly beautiful, starting with a tender movement which elegantly continues to build into a triumphant masterpiece. Complex and fulfilling. It is said that Mahler wrote it as a love song to his wife, with a poem attached: “How much I love you, I cannot tell you that with words. I can only lament to you my longing and love”. My sentiment exactly for this Tasmanian Devil.

Thanks once again goes to Neil and Joel from Caskstrength.net – look out for their new book, they know what they’re talking about!

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.