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#38617 - 05/05/11 12:09 AM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: Jolly Toper]
Jolly Toper Offline
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Registered: 18/01/08
Posts: 553
Loc: East Calder, West Lothian, Sco...
Jings but its been a fair old week. After a tasting for some language students last Tuesday night I was meant to take a break and get ready for the Spirit of Speyside festival but some enthusiastic Danes were in town so it was off down the the Society and Vintners Rooms after a refreshment and some nourishment at Jenny Ha's. Michty me I felt the benefits. Any hoo the following night it was the Tomintoul bash.

This was a first for me- a whisky company supporting a tasting that someone outwith their control hosts. I'm hoping its not the last time we do such an event as the generosity of our 'sponsor' enabled ticket price to be very accessible.

So there were 34 of us squashed and squeezed into a buzzing Tolbooth. A nice mix of regulars, first timers both local and travellers as well as a couple of faces I'd not seen for a while. I've left my corrected version of Tomintoul profile at work so I'll post the addendum soon.

We started with a very new release 21yo 40%. The company have a great reputation for quality and affordability- this bottling sells for below £45 in Cadenheads. It's been a while since an official single malt at this age as been seen so modestly priced. Just think of the pricing of 21yo blends. When we first saw the details of the release we were hoping for a 46% strength but the decision was taken to go for 40%. Perhaps the desire to make the price point as competitive as possible was the motivation. 46% whisky contains 15% more whisky than 40% so the profit would be hit hard if the pricing remained the same when the higher strength was chosen. Alternatively sales might be adversely affected by a price hike. I'd not like to call the shots on deciding which way to go as without a crystal ball predicting the best route must be tricky. However I think its safe to say whisky buffs would be happier at the higher strength and the ommission of chill-filtering. That said the company bottles whisky for all whisky drinkers not just the minority who concentrate on detail. The 21yo fills the gap between the splendid 16yo and the award winning 33yo (which was replaced by the equally attractively priced but discontinued 27yo). When the stock arrived our anticipation was dulled to an extent due to the bottling strength and certainly initially our appreciation of the nose and palate met our lowered hopes. There seemed no wow factor and we were left thinking 'if only'. However on returning in the following days the reappraisal left us happier when we found the nose had more depth than we rememberred and a soft sweetness with a fine mix of floral, pear drop, soft summer fruits and a delicate richness. On the palate the texture is quite thick while the flavours are not particularly distinct due to a pleasing integration and balance. The finish could be longer and water seems to help this but at the expense of initial intensity. When asking the assembled to guess the age there were many estimates way low- although this is quite normal of the older drams. Pleasing noises were made when all was revealed and the price to age comparison could be made. 12222222334444444666677 a far from failing 42% but a big bunch of low scores cannot be ignored nor commended. 'A great every day whisky', 'good starter', 'Queen Mother (4)', 'young, harsh', 'bargain at price'.

Next we moved up a gear by going down the years- 14yo 46%. This one we had to wonder about for a couple of months before we cracked and Neil bought a bottle, it didn't last long I'm assured and with a much livlier nose and palate over the 21yo the whole experience is altogther more interesting. With quite a bit of nose prickle undiluted I can see why some were again under guessing age. I'm still a fan of the younger drams with an edge so the heat and bite were not uncomfortable but almost exciting. Jim Murray was most keen on this one with comments on how malty the dram was. Certainly the clarity and brightness of the cereal is easy to spot. Sweetness comes out with water on the palate and those pear drops appear politely on the nose. The finish is much longer than the 21yo while the pace of the whole is faster than the opener. Scoring however reflected a less impressed opinion- 1112222233333444444456= 33%- the lowest score of the night, struggling to reach into the high scores perhaps the 16yo would have been put to better use but we were surprised at the reaction especially by the concensus. 'Princess Anne (3)', 'too harsh chemicals', 'drinkable after 5 drams', 'like a dessert wine', 'improves with water'.

Next we tried the 12yo limited edition oloroso sherry finish 40% (I think we did anyway- I've mislaid the running order). The first time I tried this was after a visit to the distillery, for whatever reasson I wasn't expecting anything particular. I was wrong, I think this might have been the point where my affair with Islay was loosing its spark and my first true love, Speyside and its sherry flourishes, was calling me home. The finishing was used long enough to let Tomintoul and its malty pear-drops sing harmoniously in accompanyment with the richer voices of the mediteranian. The nose teases as glimpses of aromas come and go from the mix which as a whole is soft and inviting. On the palate the texture once again is bang on. A marvellous mouth feel both soft and oily. If only the finish lingered longer, we get quite a glow that fades rather than cuts off but even more would be better. Tastes are hard to unpick but the overall effect is to make a dangerously drinkable dram, on the night I refilled my glass. I can't point to why I like it as again there is no particular distinction but rather the complete effect is a success. Water thins most of the qualities but leads to chocolate mid finish. 04444444444555555666 a fine 49% (remember a middle of the road score is 45%- shoul be half way between disaster and perfection). 'The Queen (5)', 'inviting but poor finish', 'burnt sugar'.

Next was the treat: 33yo 43%. I can't remember the awards but there were two big ones - best Speyside in WWA at least I think. Of course awards are a mixed bag but this can be a useful indication of merit if not a guarantee of satisfaction. I am inherently sceptical of 'best' and the lke but when the systems in place at some of the awards are explained it would appear whatever wins has got to that point purely thanks to quality. Okay so I know how old it is but I'd like to think the nose, soft and comfortable as a quilt when you really need your bed, is clearly from that elite of drams who excel after years in wood. When this was made I was still in primary school. It always humbles me when I stop to think of the time that has passed and the events whisky this old has lived through simply sitting in a cask waiting to be bottled and enjoyed. Being a man of modest means and illiterate in many disciplines I find the ability to enjoy a whisky like this, to recognise the privilege it is to savour what to others is an unfathomable obsession is quite a relief. In other words 'yum'. Not being unfamiliar with whisky I know what I like and am constantly telling customers 'don't be fooled by age' - just like people maturity is no direct function of time. However if I was to list my favourite drams I expect there would be a heavy bias towards the older ones. A friend likewise blessed with experience said older whiskies did not do it for him. Can anybody out there say the same? Surely we must try many more younger drams thanks to their greater reach due to cost and abundance but is there something only present in well aged malts and blends that makes the difference in these fewer examples? If so can we point to a rough period when the corner is turned? 15yo, 18yo, 21yo, 25yo. Of course different malts do well at different ages but what is the magic element(s)? This one has it. Beautiful wood smoke emerges that wasn't first noticed in my hurry and otherwise everything fits like a velvet tongue glove. 034445666666677777788 the winner on 63%. 'Fergie (0)', 'wow'.

Next (I promise to keep the waffle down) another feisty number 12yo 46% port wood finish unchillfiltered, natural colour. I've been trying this a fair bit and nust say it is a bit of a 'moment dram'. Right now is a good time but on other occassions the classy, dark Christmms fruits, impressive body and nicely developing and lingering finish have come across quite brash and clumsy. These drams are frustrating and I imagine the individual is the problem not the whisky although it would be interesting to find out if there are certain bottlings that a number of people share this experience with. We choose clothes, food and music for certain moods and occassions and whisky is the same. Here the bold port character works well but being a fan of sherry and, progressively, red wine maturation/finishes this was likely to be for me anyway. Voting shows this is not universal- 01111122224444566788 - a lowly 41% but with quite a polarity of scores even if concentrated at the lower end. Water takes away the nip but it wasn't too unwelcome, again good texture replaces speed and brightness with a flightier style. 'Prince Andrew (0)', 'pleasant'.

Finally we discover just how diverse this distillery is. They bottle at 10yo, 12yo, 14yo, 16yo, 21yo, 33yo, a couple of wood finishes and two peat influenced expressions as well as the occassional special release. The distillery isn't small but it is only under the present owners that we have been able to try such a varied selection of character. 'Old ballantruan', named after one of the water sources is bottled at 50% and is not chill-filtered. There is no age statement like its sibling 'Peaty Tang' which is botled at 40%. This is another hit or miss outing for me. Now the nose is making sense but more often I find it agressive and unsophisticated. It reminds me of some Springbanks and coincidently I believe Springbank has used the same peat. On the palate a sweetness is evident and unexpected, new Bourbon casks? Although fine if big at bottling strength water brings out the manure on the nose without drastically changing the palate beyone shifting the sweetness around a bit. I must admit to being very impressed right now and wonder will this influence later tastes. Curious. 011111222244445667888 again an unconfident 41% despite some, limited, high praise. 'Princess Diana (6)', 'and I can afford it- hooray', 'PEAT', 'too much farmyard'.

My thanks go to Douglas and Robert for their support and the boys who helped set up the tasting on the night- it was a wee bit hectic, cheers. Next tasting same place same time 12th May the line up is yet to be finalised but probably: Springbank Society Local Barley 11yo recharred sherry butt 57.9%, possibly Lidl 30yo 40% single malt, Bains South African single grain or High West 21yo rye, Springbank 18yo 46% 2011 release or Dream Drams North of Scotland 37yo single grain, Royal Mile Whiskies Talisker 23yo refill sherry cask or SMWS Port Charlotte or Creative Whisky Company's Laphroaig 20yo...details to be confirmed. Until next time...

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#38621 - 05/05/11 11:49 PM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: Jolly Toper]
autism Offline
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Registered: 13/05/02
Posts: 4085
Loc: sewickley, pa, usa
How is the liver holding up?

Forget the liver, how did everyone get home? Last time I had a big tasting, I had a private taxi service take anybody home who needed it. Thank goodness, one guy did need a ride, Badly!


Edited by autism (05/05/11 11:51 PM)

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#38622 - 06/05/11 12:14 AM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: autism]
MrTH Offline
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Registered: 16/02/09
Posts: 792
Loc: Springfield Massachusetts USA
A major downside of the American automobile-dependent lifestyle. Doesn't it make so much more sense to live in villages and towns where all necessary services (e.g. pubs) are within walking distance?
_________________________
www.mrtattieheid.com ~ Travel Journals & Photographs

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#38623 - 06/05/11 08:02 AM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: MrTH]
Jolly Toper Offline
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Registered: 18/01/08
Posts: 553
Loc: East Calder, West Lothian, Sco...
Better still live in a pub.

Once again I was called into my liver's office for to be read the riot act. I sneeked out last night for some drams from the Scottish Field's Merchant Challenge, I expect my liver will be filing for divorce.

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#38624 - 06/05/11 12:38 PM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: Jolly Toper]
MrTH Offline
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Registered: 16/02/09
Posts: 792
Loc: Springfield Massachusetts USA
There must be fifty ways to leave your liver.
_________________________
www.mrtattieheid.com ~ Travel Journals & Photographs

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#38631 - 06/05/11 11:22 PM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: MrTH]
Jolly Toper Offline
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Registered: 18/01/08
Posts: 553
Loc: East Calder, West Lothian, Sco...
Here is the backgroung to the Tomintoul distillery. Also if you haven't noticed there is a Jolly Toper on tour write up in the 'events' section of this forum when I went up to Findhorn to do a couple of charity tastings.

TOMINTOUL DISTILLERY

Tomintoul distillery’s story start’s in a time of post war optimism for the Scotch whisky industry. After the lifting of first government then self imposed restrictions on sales the healthy increase in demand for the drink led to upturn in production. These measures included an all hands on deck approach to ensuring full capacity of stills was realised, when round the clock distilling wasn’t sufficient to meet projected demand expansion was often the solution then finally new distilleries started to appear. Tomintoul was the first time a Speyside distillery was built in the 20th century with Scottish money and the third new Highland distillery since the war. An amalgamation between two whisky brokers, W. & S. Strong & Co. and Hay & Mcleod, under the banner Tomintoul Distillery Ltd., began a year long search for a water source of reliably sufficient quality and quantity. By November 1964 the search was over and building started with the first production coming in July 1965. The setting of the distillery was not chosen for the sake of convenience being remote in the hills of Glenlivet near the river Avon a few miles from the village it shares it‘s name with. The architecture is functional but despite being approved by The Royal Fine Art Commission and designed by the National Fuel Efficiency Service it is hard to imagine permission being granted these days for any building of this magnitude in the area regardless of it’s socio-economic value being as it is in the Cairngorm national park. Pylons and wind farms might be another matter. Despite there only being three distilleries situated in the glen of the Livet whilst Tomintoul is within the Glenlivet parish 17 stills lay claim to the designation- presumably hoping by association a bit of the magic of the area might rub off. Few distilleries share such a lofty position, 880 feet (268 meters) above sea level, and the area is well known for snow and low temperatures with 2010 being particularly challenging.

Regarding ownership there has been a strong pattern of changing hands: the first sale, to Scottish and Universal Investment Trust or ‘S.U.I.T.S.’ (owned by the House of Fraser family), coming in 1973. Later that year Whyte and MacKay was also purchased by the organisation. Four years later there is a doubling of capacity thanks to the number of stills increasing from two to four. This followed a doubling in the size of the mash tun in 1972/73- it is of the semi-lauter variety. 1978 sees S.U.I.T.S. being taken over by investment conglomerate Lonhro, a company with interests as diverse as mining, textiles, hotels printing and newspapers. A decade later (February 1989) Lonhro sells on it’s whisky wing, known as Whyte and MacKay (W&M) since 1975, to Brent Walker. The following year American Brands Inc. buys W&M then a change of name in 1996 has the distillers known as JBB - Jim Beam Brands- (Greater Europe) Plc.. Current ownership under merchants, bottlers and blenders Angus Dundee dates from the first of August 2000. The company is headed by Terry Hillman an ex-executive of Burn Stewart who re-started his whisky interest via brokering. The Company added the Brechin distillery Glencadam to it’s portfolio in 2003. In the same year a blending centre was installed on site in at Tomintoul with vats ranging in size from 10,000 to 100,000 litres.

The distillery is unusual in that its wide and tall steam kettle heated wash and spirit stills are very nearly the same size as one another, the wash is ~22KL with a 15K charge and the spirit 19.6KL with a 11.2KL fill. Also perhaps as there are no formal visitor facilities there has never been a need for the cosmetic of lacquering the copper. Reflux bowls are employed while the still’s lyne arms ascend. These two features combined with use of shell and tube condensers usually indicate the desire to create a lighter spirit. The large mash tun is stainless steel as are the 6 wash backs. Due to its remote location in a sometimes weather effected area barley storage facilities need to be more substantial than the norm. Maturing is in a combination of four six-high racked and some palletised warehouses with a considerable storage capacity for 116,000 casks on site. Maximum production is 3.3 MLPA coming from 15 mashes a week, taking all its brands into consideration the company is responsible for around 5% of Scottish whisky exports although only 2-3% of Tomintoul‘s production is sold as a single malt. Bottlings of the single malt first appeared in 1975 on the distillery’s 10th anniversary however the range available has only just started to blossom. Recent additions include an heavily peated variant named Old Ballantruan (after one of the springs) introduced in 2000 and produced for two weeks in the distilling calendar. In charge of the twenty staff is current distilleries director Robert Fleming, coming from a family line of whisky makers he has been overseeing the site since 1990.

‘Tomintoul’ means little hill of the barn.

http://www.tomintouldistillery.com

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#38655 - 09/05/11 11:16 PM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: Jolly Toper]
Jolly Toper Offline
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Registered: 18/01/08
Posts: 553
Loc: East Calder, West Lothian, Sco...
Eh, me again. This time it is the Cadenheads at Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival tasting. Like last year it was held in the St James hall (right?) just up from the hall where the whisky fair is. This is lucky as I had to dash from the Cadenheads/Springbank stall up to the tasting to set up 5 drams each and the places for 44 attendees in less than an hour whilst getting my mum to book me in to my B & B despite having the wrong address and sort out a poor individual who I unwittingly sold a half full bottle of Springbank 12yo. Luckily Santa's little helpers were in full effect and we were tore in about the first dram on time. Phew and thanks.

These festivals are the chance for whisky companies to show punters what they're all about. It costs money, time and effort for those attending so we need to been seen in the best light. Selecting 5 drams to impress 44 people isn't always easy. Okay everyting we bottle we should be proud of and we have 6 months to find something (there are 2 Dufftown 'shows' a year). But I seldom feel things couldn't have gone better.

For the first dram I thought bringing our current 16yo Bourbon hogshead Mortlach was a good idea. Mortlach is proper whisky and this is its home turf. I have in my head an unofficial rivalry between bottlers for the best Morty. Last year our 21yo sherry cask 46% Duthies was a beauty but still rocked some boats. This bourbon cask shows the other side of the coin and I was prepared for some comments that might not be particularly flattering but it beat the only other Mortlach we had. On the nose there is a gentle apple crumble, far from the gutsy Mortlach often encountered. Woody notes come out with a touch astringency and slight sharpness, nevertheless if the nose was a driveway we'd expect the house to be modest but stylish, welcoming and brightly open. On the doorstep we might be unsure of the architect but the builder has done as was asked of him. The key to the door is a drop of water. The interior is tastefully decorated and while this is not a terrace of copy-cat brickwork this particular structure isn't incongrous in Mortlach Avenue. Perhaps the neighbours have a better vue? 122222222222344445555566: a lowly 37% surely had most house hunters back down the estate agents looking for alternative accomodation.

My experience with the Dufftown contingent has taught me scoring is typically lower than any other regular crowd so I'm not too bothered that my opening gambit fell short, dissappointed but not entirey surprised. The fact that only one person wrote down comments may indicate the crowd were of a certain frame of mind towards the presentation: 'little bit too strong' -thanks for your effort whoever you are.

No.2 was only decided 15 minutes before the tasting. Bouncing a few contenders off people in the fair I settled on a 12yo Glentauchers Bourbon hogshead 56.7%. Being bottlers of Bourbon, grain, New Zealand, Tasmanian, Canadian, 'blended' malts, blends and Irish whisk(e)y I would have liked to perhaps broaden the horizons of the Scotch malt diehards but after the opening dram I thought we had had enough adventure for one Saturday- I also remember some unfriendly mutterings last time I brought a slice of American pie to Dufftown- its not that long since Islay was a suspicious stranger round these parts.

The nose is more intriguing than the Mortlach: still a bit of youthful edge (not unlike the opener) but more composure and cohesion. The palate is altogther livelier and has more direction- drying with the cereally new make style reminiscent of a 4yo we tried at the Canongate tasting a while ago. This is an interesting distillery but seldom encountered. I thought some people might welcome the opportunity to get to know the make a bit better. This issue of what to include in such a tasting prompted me to ask what do people want to try. Should this be a sample session to help people to decide what to buy (this has obvious commercial value) or should it be about giving people some top end stuff even if it meant they couldn't buy any bottles as the bottling might be sold out do to their splendidity- not so good for sales but the company might be showered in glory. I suppose a mix might do the trick. 111222223333444455566667 40%= a small step in the right direction but still nowhere near the bullseye.

So I'd done the local hero then the obscure now to roll out the treat: a 30yo Glen Elgin from a Bourbon hogshead at 49.1% retailing at over £140. Justifying the expense of the whole Dufftown exercise would be significantly easier without the sacrifice of one of our most expensive range but I'd hoped it would be a bit of a lure for ticket sales with such a big catch at stake. Right now I can't find the exquisite nose I have found so often but the palate is better than before. Previously the nose has delivered exactly what I hoped old stuff will give but the palate usually doesn't quite achieve the promise, albeit a lovely drop it is always better that the palate tops the nose than the other way around. This time as the nose seems muted for some reason the taste gets the limelight. Sweet, long, soft, deep, elegant, regal and wise with age. Our survey said- 111234455555666666667777 a bit over average at 54% (I'd give it about 65%): 'flat but it was smooth', were they playing mind games? Have I lost it? I'm certainly interested in what next year's line will be and how it will be received.

Next was a proven crowd pleaser, if they didn't go for it I knew none of what went before was something I should worry about as those present nust have been on some kind of logic holiday. Hazelburn 8yo 55.9% Sauterne expression 6y ex-Bourbon 2y fresh sauterne 55.9%. Having got used to the producers and this expression the colossus of a nose is no longer daunting but what I'd expect being friends with somebody really famous is like: initially hard to approach but when it turns out they're a diamond geezer they appreciate the friendship and become so much more appealing as much because of their complexity as despite it. I admit my own trepidation on first the encounter but like so often before like a good joke it got better and better each time I tried it. Sure there is rubber and even sulphur but breathe in slowly to your lung's capacity the deep dark depths of the dram and wonder as it builds and opens: tendrils of aromas tickle and pass as others emerge, flirt and dissolve. Does triple distilled spirit penetrate the wood further and discover depths that double distilled spirit can't reach? Refreshing parts other whiskies reach? In the court case of reverse ageism in whisky this would be a star witness. 8yo with so much personalty- the case for the prosecution would be struggling. Just how much do you want from your dram? All this without water. Sweet n sour, oak, the coast, a longer finish than Freebird. With water the chocolates come out but the body suffers- the finish is lighter but still long. This was easily the most requested bottling on the stand at the fair and the feedback was encouragingly positive almost without exception, pretty much like the Canongate experience. 111334555556666677777778 the winner despite a modest 58%- I aim for 70% and this was my best shot, hey ho.

Finally it has to be a peaty dram and at Cadenheads the cupboard is almost bare so I'd squirelled away a 16yo Laphroaig 55.2% from a Bourbon hogshead. Once again a proven track record helped the selection. 012224444555556666666667 still an underperforming 50%, boo hoo. The sweet peapods of marijuana and oysters conjour up images of The Doors anf Apocolypse Now in salmon bothies. I don't think I need to brush my teeth tonight.

The next tasting is stiil Thursday 12th May- the line up is looking like David Stirk's 20 Laphroaig, Rendezvous Rye 21yo 46%, Naked Grouse- under £35 winner in the upcoming Scottish Field Merchant's Challenge, possibly a 30yo Maxwell's single malt 40% and maybe a G&M 1982 - 2009 Dallas Dhu 40%.

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#38687 - 14/05/11 11:29 PM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: Jolly Toper]
Jolly Toper Offline
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Registered: 18/01/08
Posts: 553
Loc: East Calder, West Lothian, Sco...
Last Thursday's POURS tasting was a half full event with again a mix of regulars and first timers both visitors and locals.

As is often the case striking the balance between budget, quality and interesting drams had me changing the line up several times.

The opening gambit: Gordon & MacPhail 1982 Dallas Dhu bottled in 2009 at 40% proved too good a chance to pass over as the supplier (Master of Malt) made the price very attractive. As said before we should try as many of these closed distilleries as possible before the stock dries up and prices get out of control. As also said before it is such a shame the bottler decides to cut the whisky to the legal minimum leaving us the least choice as to the flavours we can access. Natural strength would have given us most choice and I think it's fair to say the dram would have been better for it. Having recently tried a 50cl cask strength official Strathisla (thanks Macdeffe) I commend the decision to bottle at full strength but in smaller bottles in order to make price more wallet friendly. The Dallas Dhu is pale with the nose being soft and gentle- just the way I like my old drams. I think this is only the second or third time we've tried Dallas Dhu at these tastings and hopefully not the last. For a started the sweet mellow character is fine but after the nose it was a bit like free wheeling your bike down a brae but finding there is no momentum at the bottom to take you very far. The delicate nature, specially after a pub tea and a pint or two, struggles a bit to be heard over the steak pie and IPA but in all his is a pleasant example that should be savoured as a dying breed rather than quaffed as an alternative to Glenmorangie/glenlivet. I fancy I can even taste the water the bottler added, shame. For my money this is not a weak bottling but I wasn't surprised it captured the least attention on the night. The distillery was closed in the 1980s and is thankfully preserved as a fine example of a Victorian distillery as it is now in the Hands of Historic Scotland and can be toured as a museum style experience, recommended if ever near Forres in Moray: 1222333344445556 a modest but acceptable 39% of full marks. 'Estonia, cool & flowery', 'slightly drab finish', 'small munro- 3002ft', 'Cumbernauld', 'light and smooth', 'good but not distinctive', 'okay, liked smell better than taste or aftertaste', 'tit, a name to laugh at', 'pier toffee, stunning nose, light', 'rump steak'.

Next a dram some people might never think of trying- Famous Grouse but all components from first fill sherry casks 'Naked Grouse'. When I spotted this at the Famous Grouse/Glenturret web shop I was pretty curious. At the moment the product is for travel retail but I believe it will be on general release soon. With such a great franchise as the Grouse range the diversification is inevitable and has been well exploited. Port wood, cask strength, peated (I plan a peaty blend night at some point including this example) a string of malt versions and of course the Snow Grouse. I was tickled to see this incarnation won the Scottish Field's Merchant Challenge in the under £35 category. The judges clearly appreciated the quality and character as well as perhaps the innovation. To me Grouse is a fine standard blend, the best? The components are all solid- Macallan, HP, Glenrothes, North British- how can they go wrong? Here it is like a budget A'Bunadh. The grain aspect must be low compared to the normal ratio for Grouse and the cask effect is just right. Beyond being a good dram I included this as part of the scheme to bring more blends to these tastings. Very easy drinking: 2233334444555667 a commendable 46%- vindication. 'Croatia- warm, spicy', 'not to be underestimated, simple and effective', 'higher Munro', 'Perth', 'soft, sweet, drinkable', 'not a strong smell but strong initial taste, sugary aftertaste', 'Puffin- I'd rather not pay to visit them but I'll rent binoculars', 'burnt sugar, 'stewing meat'.

Next the almost ubiqutous Springbank but as long as they bottle such good stuff their credit is good here. 18yo 2011 edition 46%. We tried this in the shop and now know not to compare it to the legendary 21yo but were more than happy with the complexity and quality- an improvement on last year's offering, perhaps on a par with the initial batch if a bit lower key. Being a blind tasting it was interesting to note nobody picked this out to be a Springer. The age isn't particularly obvious (melons and other tropical fruits) although the relaxed nature of the nose could be accounted for by the passing of patient time. A sweetness deftly rolls into a smokey middle and the finish goes on like a note on the piano with your foot on the pedal. The age is more evident on the palate while the tell-tale Campbeltown fuller body and brine hardly shows- I'd doubt I'd have spotted this as Kintyre's finest. 455566666677888 an enthusiastic 65%. 'Finland- weird, mad', 'one of the highest Munros', 'Aberdeen', 'quite good', 'delightful surprise', 'more to it', 'smokey flavour and aftertaste', 'stork (it defintely delivered a bundle of joy', 'well composed', 'ribeye'.

Next was the final of the threesome from High West to date- Rendezvous Rye 21yo 46%. The offerings from this Utah outfit have gone down a storm and this seems to wear the crown. Jumping out of the glass there is an awful lot more laid back notes than you'd get in say Sazerac. The wood is pretty big but the flavours really are well mixed with a text-book body and texture. Just enough acetone and oak like a good cognac. Can something be dry AND succulent? The finish glows and you can chew it for ages. At over £100 this isn't a low price dram but given its nature this is a relative bargain. With time a certain Cadbury's Caramel emerges- yum. Whats next from these mavericks? 022566677788889 just pips the Springbank with an impressive 66% - 'Iceland - closest to America', 'an interesting munro', 'Gorbals', 'too much marzipan', 'good but unexpected', 'enjoyable, interesting, complex', 'Albatross- wow, but hard to peg', 'wow', 'T-bone'.

Finally a bottle I didn't really choose. When up at the Spirit of Speyside in the Dufftown Fair David Stirk swapped this for a Hazelburn 8yo port cask- Creative Whisky Company Laphroaig 20yo 'you'll not be disappointed' I wasn't. As about as clean a Laphroaig as I've ever tasted- exemplary- even the non-peatheads went for it. Scarily easy to drink, real melt in the mouth stuff. Highly recommended. I'm not sure what Dave is charging for this but I'm sure its worth it. I aim to get more than 70% of votes for a dram but to have everyone in the room stick their thumbs up during the straw poll of opinion is very rare- this could only be the third or second time this has happened. 5556777788888889 79% hall of fame stuff. 'Germany- they won the Eurovision last year', 'best of all munros', 'Forres, easily the best peaty one I have tried for a long time and I don't normally care for peaty', 'smooth as silk', 'everything you want', 'good stuff', very nice sweet smell, nice smokey/peaty flavour', 'Griffin - mythological- unbelievable', 'ribeye'.

The next tasting is Thursday 26th - non-Scottish peaty drams- Amrut cask strength (they donated a bottle but it turned out to be the unpeated cask strength in the peated tube! I hope I can locate the real thing!!), English St. Georges 46% 3yo, McCarthy's from Oregon- struggling to get one so open to suggestions for an alternative!!!, Cooley -Cadenheads are just about to bottle but it seems their's is of the unpeated variety so maybe the Turf Mor and finally if SMWS Olaf can do his magic a Yoichi 25yo 'Lost in Translation', wish us luck. £tbc.

As an appendix Master of Malt sent a smart package of their sample offer. I've not been able to try them properly so will have a go blind at one of them now- very pale, beads go quickish so maybe close to 40%, initially sharp on the nose- prickle sugest high strength- weirdly meaty, even Kebab, I know one of the samples was a Highland Park, could this be it- Cadenheads have done a couple of HPs not disimilar, sweetness emerges at length, earthy and damp cut grass on the nose, as well as coffee and chocolate- this is quite a bit of fun, could be any age but I think an older re-used Bourbon cask- 14-17yo? Now a suggestion of peat smoke preceeds the sweetness. hot, water picks up oak and barley, : Highland Park 13yo 57%. A real head scratcher but full of little details, not one to relax with- too complex, one to procrastinate over high 40%/low 50% for a score.

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#38751 - 24/05/11 10:52 PM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: Jolly Toper]
Jolly Toper Offline
Full Member


Registered: 18/01/08
Posts: 553
Loc: East Calder, West Lothian, Sco...
Crivvens, thanks to two independant requests for a tasting from two returning overseas Topers we had an improptu tasting last Wednesday. There were about 16 of us and the night followed the Peaty/Old/Unusual/Rare/Sherry format with a standard dram to kick things off with so the newbies could recognise what most of the world understands as 'Scotch'.

So first was Whyte & Mackay's 'Prize' 40% NAS. I'm not too unhappy with the standard W&M but I recognise it has it's descentors. This seems to be a 'special' version. It was in a lot of blends I paid little for at auction but I think the usual price is somewhere in the £20 although I can't remember seeing it often if at sll. Perhaps the malt content is a little higher than normal and/or the average age is lifted but there is an appealing sweet honey to it and a noted absence of burn over warmth. Finish is understandably short but the overall impression is of an everyday dram for an accompanyment to a week night in front of the telly or when the company wouldn't appreciate a decent malt. 122333336 a sluggish 26%. 'Swimming in the Firth of Forth', 'simple - one note'. Can people say their favourite 'standard' blend? I might pick Grouse although BNJ is a bit classier for not much difference in price.

Next I had picked up a M.W.B.H. (Dream Drams) 21yo Tomintoul 54.6% 294 bottles from the bottlers while in Dufftown last month. These tastings are no stranger to the MWBH offerings thanks mainly to the attractive pricing and level of quality. This bottling was an unbelievable £29.99. But as always the price to age ratio might be great but the bottom line is most often 'is the quality worth the price?' At these tasting people are asked to suggest what they would pay for the dram both before and after its identity is revealed and I must say most of the time people under guess the bottling's market price. This is interesting as I am used to selling whisky to people who often don't get to taste the dram and have not tried it before at a price which while not necessarily unfair may be relatively high compared to alternatives. I expect someone walking into a whisky shop intent on leaving with a bottle and having a spend figure in mind is a different customer to people meerly being asked what they'd pay for a dram they just sampled. The Tomintoul has a fair amount of heat on the palate and prickle on the nose despite the time in casks. Strength isn't whopping but far from standard bottling concentration. The sweetness is the main trick but a drying almost salty finish is quite refreshingly different. I chose this dram to illustrate a malt with no heavy peat or cask influence- I found the age difficult to spot so wasn't attempting to showcase the difference prolonged maturation can make. Water takes so much edge off we are left with a somewhat blunted knife, although malt is more noticable. I'm not saying this is dissappointing but I wouldn't be able to be over enthusiastic about the bottling when promoting it. Certainly Tomintoul is rare from independants and this is a great price for a cask strength, single cask single malt. I should have re-shown the scores for the official 21yo tried recently as a comparison. 11233444 an acceptable but uninspiring 35%. 'Drying off with a soft towel', 'rocket fuel vapour', 'great nose but (undecipherable)'.

Next was a 27yo Balvenie bottled by Cadenheads some time ago from a Bourbon hogshead, this has been used before and was chosen to exhibit a more mature style. For me the nose is again what I'm looking for- soft, gentle, 'smooth', light but deep, mellow and relaxing. Experience shows- particulalry with those less familiar with this aged style, this character isn't always attractive. I believe there can be detected a certain sourness or musty almost stale character. It still has one scratching one's head when a dram so enjoyed by some can be so lost on others. I get it with the big flavoured drams but the lighter ones are harder to work out. Another one to linger over the nose, the palate is again sweet but the confectionary is more like a home baked 'Melting Moment': one of my Mum's specialities- super light shortbread circles with icing between, drool. Water is not needed and the finish fades nicely. 245566677 an able 59% 'sensuous whiskies, seductive, pre-sex affairs- yes please - more', 'more complex but not mellow enough for me'.

To keep the sugar fest going we returned to MWBH for their latest North Of Scotland (from the - at best- middle of Scotland Alloa area and certainly not Speyside as stated on the label) single grain from the long closed distillery of the same name. 37yo 128 bottles at 38.3%, which means technically this is not whisky, nor is it labelled as such. Who cares? I salute this determination to bottle quality outside the beareucratic boundaries be they defining age/strength/distillation regime/maturation policy. 467778888 an absolute belter at 78%: tope ten stuff if not top 5 and for less than half the price of an 18yo Macallan. The slight but fully formed sweet and soft character melts into your mouth with only a slight indication that alcohol is involved:- a pleasureasaurus. 'a whisky that equals an incredible orgasm', (o-er, does anybody censor this stuff?), 'smooth, mellow, sweet'.

After that time to turn up the heat- Aberlour A'Bunadh No.34 59.5%. Like having a McGowan's highland Toffee on fire rammed up your hooter, but in a good way. As always I find A'Bunadh a late evening dram- in the aftenoon this stuff comes over simple, strong, hot and clumsy. Roll around to 10pm and the taste buds have gone 4 rounds with a mix of a street fighter, a frisky flyweight, a wise old bantam weight and a light footed feather weight but they are rising to the fight. Here the heavy weight is slugging away but the palate is their equal although if the boxing gloves weren't of regulation padding it would be a different story. (I know nothing about boxing). The trademark big dark fruits and rich sweet caramels are there with any fireworks and struck matches well out of sight- a classic 'Bunadh' takes water well with the core character intact after a generous dilution. (0.5)44566(7.5)8 a fine 57%.

Finally a SMWS Port Charlotte- 127.5 refill ex-Bourbon barrel 66.8% 243 bottles 8yo: 022455568 a smidge over averagre 46% 'a crisp dry whip on the naked bum', 'a liitle too much tar'. Let me explain. Not having had much time to sort out the line up I fumbled around the 'on hold' stock for tastings. Sampling and re-sampling to first choose contenders, then to narrow it down, to finalise then sort out the order. By the time all that was done it was between a Whiskybroker's (Young Armstrong) old Caol Ila and the above. My palate was KO'd, the beast won. I imagine the Caol Ila was the correct choice but I thought after so much the PC could step in as the full stop. However I think the result was a one punch knock out. Oops. Fans of the style- young super peaty, should be pretty pleased but the casual flirter of Islay might be scared off by such a brazen hussy. The strength while wincingly impressive actually doesn't block out a lot of the finer aspects of the spirit and cask. A sweet bourbon note lingers on the finish and even over-rides the kiln at points. Water brings out creosote on the nose and ginger on the palate while the texture is more flattering. The finish still belongs to the American oak though. Further dilution is fine too, memory of how this dram tasted and felt on the night is hardly total recall but I'm sure it's performing better now than before. Quality.

Next tasting is this Thursday - non-Scottish peat. SMWS Yoichi 25yo, Cooley Connemarra Turf Mor, English 3yo, Amrut cask strength (if the posties don't let us down) and hopefully a Millstone from Holland as the McCarthy's from Oregon was too tall an order, boo.

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#38752 - 25/05/11 03:40 PM Re: Edinburgh/Canongate Regular Tastings [Re: Jolly Toper]
Jolly Toper Offline
Full Member


Registered: 18/01/08
Posts: 553
Loc: East Calder, West Lothian, Sco...
Just to clarify tomorrow's tasting:-

May 26th non-Scottish peaty drams £21/20*

India : Amrut 62.8% (posties allowing)

Holland : Millstone single malt 2001 5yo 40% (posties permitting)

Ireland : Connemara Turf Mor single malt 58.2%

England : St. Georges Chapter 9 05.07 - 05.10 3yo ASB 46%

Japan : Yoichi SMWS 25yo 59.4% 116.14 Lost in Translation' 84 bottles

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