Wednesday, 27 February 2013

An evening with Berry Bros & Rudd

I was thrilled to be invited to an evening tasting at Berry Bros & Rudd last Monday evening, where Doug McIvor, Berry Bros & Rudd's very own Master of Cask Selection, took us through the widely acclaimed Blue Hanger blended malt.

Berry Bros. & Rudd is Britain's oldest wine and spirit merchant, having traded from the same shop for over 310 years, being established in 1698 by the Widow Bourne at 3 St James's Street, London. Members of the Berry and Rudd families continue to own and manage the family-run wine merchant to this day

Berry Bros. & Rudd have a long association with supplying fine spirits through their `Berry's Own Selection' for well over a century, making Berry's one of the earliest Independent bottlers. By 1909, they were offering 1897 Macallan and 1885 Talisker by the gallon or dozen; to name a few.

In 1923 the company created Cutty Sark Scots' Whisky, and pioneered the vintage concept for The Glenrothes single malt Scotch Whisky. More recently a range of fine vintage Single Malts.

This event was held in the famous 312-year-old vaulted 'Pickering Cellar' located beneath the shop and adjacent town houses. The event was set to start for 6:00pm and I arrived in plenty of time to have a walk around the area beforehand including a browse through their impressive whisky selection in the shop.

It was good to see a few familiar faces from whisky enthusiasts, writers and bloggers that I'd met over the last year during the whisky shows, and great to meet some of the people I had been following since the beginning of my whisky journey.

We were greeted with an aperitif, a 1988 Invergordon Single Grain Whisky (Berry's Own Selection of course!) served on the rocks and billed as Doug's Monday night dram. I've never added ice to my whisky before, and to be honest don't think I'll be doing it again, it did seem to kill the flavours I should have been experiencing from this twenty four year old single grain.

With everyone settled we were introduced to Doug McIvor who told us how one of the his first tasks when he joined the company was to evaluate the state of the reserves of Scotch whisky Berry's have been storing. He tasted around four hundred casks scoring them between 1-5 and how over two thirds were rejected due to poor cask management. The vintage single malt whisky looked good on paper to the accountants, but after Doug was through grading them all they had to write off the perceived value.

Doug then went onto explain how Blue Hanger came about. Originally the name of a blend introduced in 1934, named after a loyal customer from the 1790's; William 'Blue' Hanger.

In 2003 Doug was experimenting by blending a handful of aged Speyside malt samples when he came across a combination that seemed to bring the best out of each of the single malts. It was decided to revive the Blue Hangar name in order to release the new limited edition blended (vatted) malt which consisted of a blend of these aged Glen Grant and Glenlivet casks.

Last year the 6th Release was launched which went on to win 'Best Scotch Blended Malt in the World' at the World Whisky Awards 2012. This has almost sold out (you really had better be quick!) and so Doug was now working on a new release for later this year.

Sadly there were no bottles of the first release of the Blue Hanger blended malt available to start our tasting, not even in the Berry Bros & Rudd archives and so we commenced our evenings education with a dram of the 2nd Release, which was followed by the 4th, 6th and a sneak preview of the 'work in progress' 7th release due to be launched later this year.

Whisky Discovery #315

Blue Hanger 2nd Release 25 Year Old (45.6% abv, Bottled August 2004)
Blended Malt Whisky
No Longer Available
The youngest whisky in this vatted malt was twenty five years old at the time of bottling came from casks from just two distilleries just as the first release. The blend consisted of four hogsheads of 1974 Glenlivet, one sherry butt of 1974 Glenlivet and two hogsheads of 1974 Glen Grant.

1757 bottles were filled, naturally coloured and non-chill filtered

So What Did I Think?

Naturally I was blown away! Here I was sitting drinking 'liquid history', not only in the presence of some of the people I was reading when I first started learning about whisky, but also in the presence of its creator!

Upon first nosing this I was getting fresh licorice root (I love the stuff!) but after a short while it settled to give malty citrus notes, lemons and oranges. The vanilla from the bourbon casks taking a long time to come through. 

There was a slight grassy or straw note too. I kept coming back to each of the drams and this was certainly the lighter of the four releases we were experiencing.

Whisky Discovery #316

Blue Hanger 4th Release NAS (45.6% abv, Bottled September 2008)
Blended Malt Whisky
No Longer Available

This was 'the one' I had been hoping to taste ever since I saw it in Ian Buxton's 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. It was also mentioned by Ingvar Ronde as one of his recommendations when I asked him a few questions regarding his whisky journey and how his Malt Whisky Yearbook came about.

Again Doug gave us the 'recipe' (as unlikely that I'd be able to recreate it!). With vintage stocks running short Doug had to select casks to bring about a 'family' flavour profile, whilst retaining the balance, complexity, elegance and texture.

So the 4th release was a marriage of two hogheads of 1992 Mortlach, one sherry butt of 1991 Mortlach, one sherry butt of 1991 Glen Elgin, one hogshead of 1976 Glenlivet and two more sherry butts from Glenlivet, one from 1975 and one from 1976. 

This was the largest ever release of the modern Blue Hanger series, yielding 3,256 bottles

So What Did I Think?

There is a much great sherry influence in this whisky than the second release, and a sweet smoky note, not peat, more of a 'char' like smell. I had a 'struck match' note but it wasn't unpleasant.

It was much sweeter on the palate than the 2nd release, softer, with burnt toffee notes, some dried fruit and orange and spicy wood. I preferred this profile to the second release.

Whisky Discovery #317

Blue Hanger 6th Release NAS (45.6% abv, Bottled 2012)
Blended Malt Whisky
£71.50 70cl
This is the current release, 2223 bottles were filled from  the following cask make-up: one sherry butt of 1998 Glenrothes, one sherry butt of 1990 Bunnahabhain, and two hogsheads from Bowmore, one from 1987 the other from 1990

So What Did I Think?

To me, these were getting better each time! Again quite a sherried influenced dram, with some licorice root on the nose, rich toffee, and a sweet light Islay peat smoke, like a driftwood fire smouldering on a beach. 

There was that 'struck match' note again, and when I returned to this later got a lovely smoked mackerel note. Glorious!

It had a sweet smoky entry with a lovely balance of sweet fruit, smoky BBQ and the salty sea air. 

Whisky Discovery #318

Blue Hanger 7th Release 'Work in Progress NAS
Blended Malt Whisky

With the 6th release rapidly running out, Doug had been tasked to create a seventh release, and he had brought a bottle of the current work in progress for us to share our thoughts. 

Doug told us how he brings various cask samples together in a small scale at first, using a syringe, blending the different cask samples to give the profile he is looking for. 

Once he has something he think might work, he has this made up into a bottle using the same proportions.

The 'recipe' so far consisted of a 1998 sherry butt from Glenrothes, a 1991 hogshead from Bruichladdich, a 1997 hogshead from Glen Keith and and 1997 hogshead from Clynelish. Because this is 'work in progress' it was tasted at cask strength, when it is ready to be released it will be bottled at the traditional Blue Hanger 45.6% abv

So What Did I Think?

Looking good so far, though I was missing the Islay element I had been enjoying in the 6th release. It had quite a sweet nose with a 'struck match' note, some wispy smoke and a honey and lemon note too. There was a light sweetness when tasting and quite creamy on the palate.

The next three drams were something that Doug thought would compliment the Blue Hangers we had just tasted, and because Doug was starting to investigate Rum added the 11 Year Old Panama Rum to the tail of this tasting session. Notes were fairly sketchy after the Blue Hangers as the formal tasting session had degenerated into simply enjoying the whisky!

Whisky Discovery #319

Glen Moray 1991 (57.3% abv Bottled in 2012)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
£71.50 70cl

I love a Glen Moray and have a similar SMWS bottling. No detailed notes, too busy enjoying the whisky amonst very pleasnt company.

Crisp and clean, chalky with white pepper. Gentle sweetness on entry before peppery spice. With water much sweeter and pears start coming through on the palate.

Whisky Discovery #320

Glen Grant 1974 (47.8% abv Bottled in 2012)
Single Malt Whisky
£140.00 70cl

I only wrote jotted down a couple of words for this one. Too busy talking and enjoying this whisky, my first ever Glen Grant. Tropical fruit notes on the nose, Lychee and Mango.
A splendid 1974 Glen Grant
A delightful1991 Glen Moray

The full line up as follows with links to Berry Bros & Rudd pages as applicable:
This was all washed down with a pint of Guinness in the pub around the back of Berry's after the tasting with most of the attendees. Many thanks for my invitation, it really was appreciated.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Whisky Discovery #313

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Invergordon Batch 1 (41.6% abv)
Single Grain Whisky
£59.95 50cl
Invergordan Batch 1

This is the second whisky I've tasted from the recently released range of single malts from Master of Malt's new label 'That Boutique-y Whisky Label' featuring cultish comic book-style labels.

This bottle boasts an illustration of a Coffey still - one of the features of the distillery - though it takes the pronunciation of the name perhaps a little too literally!

This is Batch 1, with a release of 252 numbered bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Massively deep and concentrated nose with creamy caramel and those hints of rancio one gets in a very good, old brandy. Black pepper and toffee apples. Old leather.
Palate: Unctuous, almost syrupy palate entry with stem ginger and cassia bark. Hints of nutmeg, clove oil and over-ripe black grapes. Black treacle too...
Finish: Long and toffee-led finish. All kinds of spice notes too, particularly more of those black pepper notes.

So What Did We Think?

I've not tasted a great deal of single grain whisky on this journey to date, but have noticed a few releases receiving some high praise. The SMWS have also released a few single grain whiskies, and I have tasted a 18 Year Old Invergordon from them a little while back. Whilst this is not a single cask whisky it certainly shares a number of similarities with the SMWS release I tasted.

Single grain whiskies are quite a rarity in comparison to single malts. Grain whisky is distilled in continuous stills to meet the growing need for blended Scotch whiskies which account for more than 90% of all Scotch whisky. The spirit distilled usually results in a higher percentage of alcohol by volume (abv), but less flavourful spirit than a single malt. Indeed grain whisky is seldom bottled by itself in Scotland. However, occasionally well-aged grain whiskies are released as "single grain whisky" or "blended grain whisky" in Scotland.

Although this Invergordon from Master of Malt has no age statement, you can be certain that this contains some fairly aged grain whisky that has matured in quality casks.

This has a wonderful creamy vanilla fudge nose, sweet with honey but there is an 'aged' note to it as well. My notes read an old leather chair with polished wood arm rests, because that's what it reminded me of at the time. There is certainly some spicy black pepper to it too, but left in the glass this subsides back to being sweet and creamy with just a hint of mustiness.

Sweet and spicy on the palate, treacle, molasses sweet, a 'dark' sweetness, even a little rum like? Long spicy finish with more of that black pepper. This is very agreeable and certainly think I need to be adding a single grain to my drinking shelf very soon.

Want one? Best be quick as there were just 252 bottles filled. check out That Boutique-y Whisky Label Invergordon Batch 1

Whisky Discovery #312

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Springbank Batch 1 (54.6% abv)
Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky
£61.95 50cl (sadly sold out)

'That Boutique-y Whisky Company' from Master of Malt bottles Scotch Single Malt Whiskies from a variety of renowned distilleries in limited batches. These whiskies are adorned with cultish comic-book style labels which feature prominent figures from the whisky industry upon them, as well as other little details for you to find!

These are Single Malts in the truest sense of the term; they are a blend of casks from one distillery. Thanks to their limited nature and popularity it is expected that these to become quite sought after and collectable. 

They are bottled without age statements because each batch is dependent on the parcels of stock received so it is entirely possible that there could be an age difference of thirty years between batches

This first bottling from the Springbank Distillery offers up all the classic oily, coastal flavour you'd expect, and even comes with a superb comic book-style label featuring Caskstrength's Neil and Joel operating Springbank's old Porteus Mill

Batch 1 is a release of 274 numbered bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Oily, smoky nose with a surge of beautiful heather root and soft peat embers. Plenty of honey sweetness too.
Palate: Creaking, spicy oak to the fore with a development of salted butter and sweet plumes of peat smoke and stewed fruit.
Finish: Long, buttery finish with dark caramel and hints of burning heather.

So What Did We Think?

I'm starting to really appreciate what is being crafted at the Springbank Distillery and looking forward to planning a visit there soon. This is no exception and is another delicious dram from this Campbeltown distillery. Again my notes are almost a mirror copy of the Master of Malt notes, although to be fair I've never pulled up heather to have a nose at their roots (but it's on the list!) 

There is a gentle maritime oily smoky quality to the nose under the sweet heather honey notes. The palate has plenty of spicy wood, soft stewed plums and sweet fragrant smoke, finishing with a rich buttery toffee and wisps of that fragrant smoke lingering around for a good time.

Want one? Too Late! Which goes to show you need to act quickly when limited editions are being relelased! You can keep up to date with what is available from this range by visiting the Master Of Malt webpages for That Boutique-y Whisky Company here.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Whisky Discovery #311

Tormore 28 Year Old Master of Malt (60.20% abv D: 24/02/1984)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
£99.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)
Tormore Whisky
Sorry, I took all of the photos at the same time!
The Speyside distillery of Tormore is a fairly new discovery to me, and only found out about it after daughter Kat bought herself a bottle of their 12 Year Old and brought it round to HQ for me to taste, then a little while later tasted a Wemyss Malts single cask bottling from 1988

These chaps at Master of Malt have managed to get their hands on a twenty eight year old single cask from the often-overlooked Speysider to include in their Single Cask Series. It was distilled on the 24th February 1984, aged in a bourbon barrel and bottled on the 21st November 2012. A release of just 182 bottles, at a staggering cask strength of 60.2% so  lord knows what strength it was when this barrel was filled.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Initially thyme and menthol with a sweet coating of icing sugar play on the nose, but with time in the glass, notes of birch, green apple and panna cotta emerge.
Palate: To begin with warm dry fruits and moderate wood spice which becomes more creamy and raspberry-milkshake-like with water.
Finish: The finish is long and creamy with notes of red berries, notably cranberry and redcurrant, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Overall: This Tormore is packed with flavours which are excellently balanced against one another and lead into a rewardingly long finish. A great expression of this under appreciated Speyside distillery.

So What Did We Think?

To be honest, the tasting note from Master of Malt more or less says everything I wanted to say about this. It's not overly complicated and quite delicate. The crisp green apple note on the nose is lovely and the for the birch notes they have listed I jotted down like a springtime walk in the woods, fresh new green leaf growth.. There are some lovely soft vanilla fudge notes in the empty glass at the end of the dram too. 

It is astounding how this twenty eight year old has managed to retain the high alcohol content, the angels have had very little share from this barrel, especially to be able to fill 182 bottles. Well picked gentlemen!

Want one? Best be quick as there was just 182 bottles filled. check out Master of Malt 28 Year Old Tormore

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Bowmore Tweet Tasting

It was a great surprise to receive a Twitter message from Morrison Bowmore Master Blender Rachel Barrie, also known as 'Lady B' or @LadyBlender to give her full twitter handle. Rachel is a fairly new Twitter user but she has very quickly become established as one of the #whiskyfabric and very willing to discuss whisky with anyone, although there is a Morrison Bowmore bias (Bowmore, Glen Garioch and Auchentoshan) but then many of the new releases are by her own fair hand.
Four beautifully packaged mini flagons, complete with cork stoppers, of Bowmore whisky arrived just in the nick of time for the Wednesday evening Tweet Tasting. 

A Valentine's Eve date with four 'mystery' drams from the legendary Bowmore Distillery, Islay's oldest, and a group of whisky enthusiasts all there by invitation.

Each bottle was labelled with the #LoveBowmore hashtag and numbered, one to four. Bottles one and two had the % abv stated whereas bottles three and four were marked 'cask', and all four had been selected by Rachel.

I came across Bowmore whiskies fairly late in my journey, not registering my first discovery until number 167, starting with the wonderful 18 Year Old. I'm not sure why it took me so long, but have enjoyed everything I have tasted since and have been fortunate to try some really special expressions too.

With some brief introductions we were all ready to start at seven o'clock, pouring out our first expression into our glasses.

Whisky Discovery #308

Bowmore Small Batch Reserve NAS (40% abv)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
Circa £33.00 70cl

Small Batch Reserve is a fairly new release from Bowmore, and I have seen its gracing the shelves of our local supermarkets since the run up to Christmas last year.

We didn't know what this was when we started, so all of our tweets were just as we saw it. I did save half of my sample so I could sit back later and enjoy at my leisure and write a new set of notes in order to check against my initial thoughts. The expression was guessed correctly, but not by me, as this was a new 'Discovery' to me.

Once we had established what expression the was Rachel explained that this was a marriage of 1st/2nd fill bourbon casks, where the first-fill casks give vanilla, cinnamon spice, bourbon oak and the second-fill casks giving fresh fruits, brine and creamy malt. She also went on to say that she had selected casks from a number of years to give complexity; younger casks for malt, older casks for the mint notes we were picking up and middle aged casks giving the  fruit and salty notes. All had been matured in the No. 1 Vaults in top quality oak casks which adds sweetness, complexity & fresh spiced ocean notes.

So What Did I Think?

My Tweets read as follows:
Nose: Orange peel, Straw Bales, a bit of earthy smoke, flashes of toffee notes, now evolving fresh minty notes with some salt too, toffee notes starting to feel more chocolaty
Palate: Very gentle, light sweetness, some orange notes under a wispy fragrant smoke, slight salty tang
Finish: A long finish with an earthy smokiness, brine and black pepper drying my mouth

Which I summarised by tweeting: Small Batch Reserve A complex nose gentle palate and long finish Orange Mint & Toffee, Earthy Brine and a wispy fragrant smoke

When I revisited the second half of this sample and gave it some time to develop there was some vanilla fudge and sea salt, the orange notes I picked up earlier turn more lemon/lime like and a sweet waxy honey starts to shine through. These citrus notes on the palate appear more orange like though.

This was a very pleasant opening dram to our four dram tweet tasting, a new Bowmore expression. What did the others think? Here's a few of the tweets that caught my eye:
@RobAllanson: Very sweet cereal on the nose. Fresh cut barley fields, spent match, toffee apples, warm rye bread and a seaside picnic
@cowfish: Nose: Porridge with brown sugar and candied orange peel, a hint of the sea and some light earthiness.
@EdinburghWhisky: Candyfloss, salted caramel, rhubarb boiled sweets & vanilla. Lovely!
@TheWhiskyBoys: Nose: oily, orange zest, muscle shells, soapy, sea salt, beach shingles
@ifotou: Nose quite subtle but has a spicy, peppery note, malty and cerealy, a touch of malt loaf was expecting more peat
@petedrinks: A smooth and almost creamy in the mouth, nice start to the evening! 

Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest (43% abv)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
Circa £50.00 70cl

At first I thought this could be the 18 Year Old on the colour, but at first nose was put right and hinted at 15 Year Old Darkest right at the beginning of this tasting. I've tasted the 15 Year Old Darkest before, once at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show last October, and then again at a tasting with Phil Nickson, so not a new discovery, but a welcome return to a great dram.

My Tweets read as follows:
Nose: Rich and Fruity, dried fruits Figs Dates & creamy dark toffee notes wisps of peat smoke, tarred hemp rope, licorice
Palate: The palate is just as rich as the nose, still fruity with perhaps some mandarin orange, more woody and pine notes.

I didn't go on to add much more after this, just sat back and enjoyed the rest of this expression and fairly certain I will be adding a bottle of this to my shelf sooner or later.

What did the others think? Here's a few of the tweets that caught my eye:
@EdinburghWhisky: Nose: dates & figs in syrup, dark treacle, sultana cake too. A smouldering beach BBQ. Still quite restrained though.
@jasonbstanding: Definitely licks of savoury smoke about the bouquet.The more it sits the more the fruit backgrounds and smoke comes forth
@cowfish: Nose: leathery sherry notes, burnt sugar, medicinal edges but fruity and creamy behind light coal smoke.
@RobAllanson: Nose: a little shy, some sherry rancid, cherries, candied citrus peel. Then an open humidor, drying tobacco leaves
@MaltReview: A great marriage of sweetness & peat. Bitter chocolate, sultanas, raisins, chewy, spices. Citrus and brine again.

Whisky Discovery #309

Bowmore Tempest IV NAS (55.1% abv)
Islay Single Malt Whisky

For our third expression of the evening I'm still not quite sure if we were tasting the latest release of Tempest, a 10 Year Old cask strength expression or the recently released Dorus Mor Small Batch Release No. 1 which was released at the end of January for the US market.

Both expressions are made up of first-fill bourbon casks, and have been hand selected for distillation dates and warehouse position to create a 'spiced by the ocean' taste. All of these first-fill bourbon casks were hand picked and married. Some were vatted as Dorus Mor, some for Tempest IV. Rachel said that there would be subtle differences.

The Bowmore Tempest is listed in Ian Buxton's 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, so is an important dram in my journey (I've been busy checking these off since buying his book in November 2011!)

My Tweets read as follows:
Nose: Bright and Lime zesty, there was also an underlying earthy musty note to this too
Palate: Sweet entry then POW! Zesty Citrus and hot peppers before mellowing sweet and creamy vanilla and lemon curd
Finish: Another lengthy finish balanced with sweet icing sugar, brine and tobacco and a peat smoke drifting though it all. This is my favourite so far, is it a 10 Year Old Tempest?

What did the others think? Here's a few of the tweets that caught my eye:

@MaltReview: Sweet shop. Tropical. Sharp apples. Coastal again. Classy. It settles to reveal grapefruit, the citrus flavours almost hiding the peat, but it comes to the fore. Then summer puddings.
@Girl_Whisky: I'm almost crying after the first sip .. amazing! Sparkling all over!
@jasonbstanding: Has maritime and honey notes, and gives me a sense of the tropical fruit that Tempest B1 had.
@RobAllanson: Waxy mango, dried apricots, spun sugar, a lemon zest hit. Plenty of depth. The fatty part of air dried ham. Creamy
@cowfish: Taste: Intense. Soured cream, vanilla and zest up front bursting into sweet coal and wood smoke, with a touch of tar.
@petedrinks: Fresh and oh-so-drinkable despite the strength; sweet, fiery, tingly and fresh - a step away from what I normally think of with Bowmore

Whisky Discovery #310

Bowmore 'Mystery Dram' (circa 57% abv)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
We still don't know what we have tasted here. We were told that our finale dram was only ever touched by Rachel's hands. A virgin to our taste-buds.  Rachel went on to tell us that this has been taken from the deepest darkest corners of the No. 1 Vaults where it has been hiding for years, and teased out just for our date tonight. Something very special to tease us all!

We've got no cask details, no age of the spirit, all we were told was it was sitting at around 57% abv when Rachel drew it from the cask.

The colour suggests a Sherry Butt or Port Pipe, and after spending a bit more time with it I think that this may be maturing in a Pedro Ximénez Sherry butt as there seems to be some familiar notes in the nose and finish of this. I wasn't the only one who has said PX but I know a few others though Port. Rachel is keeping very tight lipped about this one, we've all asked several times but our tweets and direct messages have been carefully ignored!

So What Did I Think?

I was pretty careful with this expression, only releasing a small amount of whisky into my nosing glass at a time. I also saved half of it to sit back with later, as not only was I struggling to keep up with the Twitter banter going on, but I realised that this was something special and needed to be given some time.

I tweeted at the time "What a rich and luxurious nose this one has, moist fruit cake, with toasted almonds on the top - glorious!" But spending some time with this one after the event got so much more from this interesting whisky.

Perfumed, yet Earthy. Sweet rich fruit cake-mix flavours, figs, dates, raisins, cocoa powder and some coffee grounds, a sweet fragrant smoke that floats through the nose and a earthy peat deep under the rich sherry notes of an aged Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez, and some dark toffee notes too.

On the palate it's sweet yet spicy, dark and almost menacing with burnt toffee, rich sherry soaked fruit cake, toasted almonds, espresso coffee notes and plums. The finish is long, very long with cloves and liquorice and leaves a slight metallic note in the mouth at the very end.

What did the others think? Here's a few of the tweets that caught my eye:

@MaltReview: Oh sweet lord yes. This is lovely. Crème brûlée. Toffee. Gentle maltiness and peat seeping in, but we're onto dessert now.
@steveprentice: Last up for the night, and I'm already guessing it as my favourite, someone set fire to a sherry soaked log.
@EdinburghWhisky: Nose: seared scallops, BBQ'd seafood (shrimp?), HP sauce, manuka honey, Jamaica cake & smoky bacon crisps just for starters!
@WhiskyLaing: Like Christmas in a glass... Stewed fruits, coal fire and Christmas pudding! Divine Deliciousness!!
@cowfish: A bit of a swerver - deep nose into intense taste, softening to darker flavours and finish, with a fresh fruity death.
@Girl_Whisky: Just when I think she's said it all. She saved the best for last. She rolls her eyes with a smile
@jasonbstanding: Makes me think of a dark-eyed intriguing woman, who piques your interest, plays hard to get, and is all class.
@ifotou: Plum Jam, huge huge notes of plum jam, with gentle sweet cigar ash, with more fruit, touches of orange and cloves.

Finally a massive thanks to Rachel who ran this single-handedly and made an excellent Tweet Tasting host. If you're not following her on Twitter, I suggest you hop over right now, and follow @TheLadyBlender.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Whisky Discovery #249

Glenmorangie 12 Year Old 'Lasanta' (46% abv)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £40.00 70cl

We first tasted this expression at the Wine and Spirits Show last November, but fellow Whisky blogger and weaver of the #WhiskyFabric on Twitter Tom Thomson sent me a sample of this to enjoy at my leisure, which is why this blog post has followed much later than it should have done. If you are a Twitter user I suggest you follow Tom at @ifotou and you should certainly check out his website at

Lasanta was the replacement for the old Glenmorangie Sherry Finish, and means 'Warmth and Passion' in Gaelic. This whisky has spent ten years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being extra-matured for a further two years in Oloroso Sherry casks.

So What Did We Think?

There is a definite 'struck match' note on this whisky, it's by no means unpleasant as I do quite like this sometimes. Under this it's fragrant and floral with sweet pears, honey and lemon with menthol. With time in the glass the nose develops, first with vanilla notes of caramel, then some fruit with plump raisins which evolves into rum and raisin ice cream, and the citrus notes turn towards chocolate orange creams

Initial sweetness of the sherried fruits, sultanas, oranges and a rich buttery toffee, the 'struck match' note was clearly evident on the plate for me too

The finish is long sweet and with a bitter nuttiness to it too.

I checked what Jim Murray had to say about this Whisky in his 2012 bible and he certainly wasn't a fan of this expression. I'm not sure I agree with his verdict, it's a pleasant enough dram. I'm not sure I would rush out to get myself a bottle, but I will look out for it to try it again. My favourite of the Glenmorangie range has been the standard 10 year old expression and have 'killed' two bottles of this on the journey to date, and I was also quite impressed with the Port Pipe finished Quinta Ruben which I first tasted in my local Cambridge Wine Merchants in Ampthill. Tom has recently sent me a sample of this and will be looking forward to re-visiting this soon.

I didn't have a great photo for this blog post (mine was very dark having been taken at a whisky show) so put a call out to a few fellow whisky bloggers. Three immediately rushed to my aid, Mark Dermal (aka The Toshan Man) Miguel Angel Blanch Lardin (aka A Wardrobe of Whisky) and Keith Wood (aka Whisky Emporium) Thank you gentlemen. 

Each of these sites is well worth following, and you can see what Miguel thought of this Glenmorangie here: The Lasanta

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Whisky Discovery #307

Auchentoshan 27 Year Old Master of Malt (58% abv D:11/12/84)
Lowland Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
£99.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)

This twenty seven year old Auchentoshan comes from Master of Malts Single Cask Series, and was distilled on the 11th December 1984. It was aged for 27 years in a bourbon barrel and bottled on the 20th November 2012. 

The aroma of this venerable Lowland single malt whisky is particularly intense, and leads to a complex flavour profile with a stupendously long finish

There are just 209 bottles available.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Parma violets, greengages and black currant jelly form an aroma dominated by heady top-notes. Beneath this there are light floral notes and a little ground white pepper.
Palate: This is a light bodied whisky with clean notes of parma violets, lavender and carnations forming up on the palate. The texture is mouth-coating with a slight syrupy quality.
Finish: The finish is elegant and floral with notes of rose water and rose flavoured meringues. On the tail there is a little dried banana which clings on for a long time after the last phenomenal sip.
Overall: All the complexity and depth befitting its age but with a distinctly unique character. A glass of this punchy single malt will go a long way, leave it to sit for an hour or so to appreciate its delicate side.

So What Did We Think?

I found that this needed some time in the glass to develop it's nose. It's dry and dusty at first reminding me of the chalky smell of the old blackboard wiper at school. After a little time it does get very floral, heavily perfumed for a while before settling down to some creamy vanilla with a citrus edge notes, and some sweetshop Parma Violets (I had to go and buy some just to be sure). It really does benefit from airing, but then it has been sleeping for twenty seven years, so wakes up very slowly indeed.

Again the palate is very floral, perhaps a little too much for my liking. It doesn't appear to be gentle in it's approach to giving you it's perfume and brought back memories of 'nice perfume, but must you marinate in it?' one of the put-down sayings we had listed at work that we used to check off as we insulted someone.

Once you get over the perfume attack again it settles down, there was a blueberry taste to it, as in a blueberry muffin, which seems to be very similar to the Parma Violet sweets. This Auchentoshan definitely benefits a few drops of water.

The finish does seem to go on forever, it's a little bit chalky and that blueberry sweetness. I'm sure I woke up the following morning still tasting those Parma Violets/blueberry notes.

Want one? Best be quick as there was just 209 bottles filled. check out Master of Malt 27 Year Old Auchentoshan

Monday, 18 February 2013

Whisky Discovery #306

Bunnahabhain 23 Year Old Master of Malt (46% abv D:20/10/89)
Islay Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
£74.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)
A 1989 vintage single cask Bunnahabhain from those chaps at Master of Malt
This twenty three year old Bunnahabhain is from Master of Malt's Single Cask series and was distilled on the 20th October 1989. Single cask Bunnahabhain whiskies apparently have a habit of being quite different from one another. This particular cask is like a whisky caricature of the Scottish moors, perfect for experiencing the Highlands and Islands from the comfort of your armchair. 

The cask itself was a refill hogshead which was drawn on the 28th November 2012, yielding just 253 numbered bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Seaweed and a stormy coastline join salted caramel and damp moorland heather on the nose.
Palate: Faintly peated, with a soft creamy mouth-feel and notes of grapes and leather.
Finish: Long and heathery with notes of spinach, pepper and some peat smoke on the distant horizon.
Overall: Bunnahabhain doing what it does best, this dram is like tasting a windswept moor. Phenomenal.

So What Did We Think?

I initially wrote in my notebook 'a maritime nose' with seaweed on the beach, and then started getting the faint whisper of peat smoke. There were soft fruity notes underlying which reminded me of the recent tastings of two of the core range that I was introduced to at the Wine and Spirits Show last November (cracking little London show).

There was a definite peated note on the palate, yes only faintly but very much there. The soft fruity notes from the nose is there on the palate, sweet green grapes came to mind, and there is a herbal taste like lavender.

It finishes with some peppery spice and the whispering peat smoke returns, lingering for a long time. I really enjoyed this single cask Bunnahabhain, and love the light smoke over the sweet soft fruit. The empty glass does indeed smell of peated malt.

I was 'pulled up' on this last Sunday when tweeting about this one being peated. I was told that Bunnahabhain did not start producing peated whiskies until the late 90's. I checked with my copy of Malt Whisky Yearbook which seems to confirm this where it states: "For a long time Bunnahabhain has been one of the few Islay whiskies that have been unpeated, but since the late 1990's a peated version has also been produced"

I have a Signatory Vintage bottling of a 'heavily peated' Bunnahabhain on my shelf from 1997 which falls in line with this statement, but then I recall the recent Berry Bros & Rudd Tweet Tasting where another 1989 single cask Bunnahabhain was tasted, this too had 'peated' notes within the flurry of tweets received that evening. It would seem that there could well be some 'peated' whisky being produced before the official distillery records. If this wasn't a peated malt, perhaps these casks had held peated whisky previously, imparting a peaty notes to the spirit?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Whisky Discovery #305

Bally Delicious 23 Year Old Master of Malt (54% abv D:10/03/1989)
Speyside Single Cask Malt Whisky
£59.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)
A 23 Year Old, mostly from The Balvenie distillery
Bally Delicious? This is a twenty three year old single cask blended malt whisky from Master of Malt's Single Cask series. It was distilled on the 10th March 1989 and comes almost entirely from one very famous Speyside distillery, though it was "spooned" with a small portion of whisky from a nearby distillery and thus cannot be called single malt.

The Balvenie distillery is owned by William Grant & Sons Ltd and is one of the few remaining independent distilleries in Scotland today. However, William Grant & Sons also own the Glenfiddich Distillery and the lessor known Kininvie distillery, all three are neighbours and 'spooning' prevents single casks being sold as single malts for independent releases. You'll have to search very hard to find independent single cask releases from any of these distilleries

There are just 288 bottles of the stuff, drawn from refill hogshead on the 26th November 2012.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Plums, drifting wood smoke and apple and pear crumble, becoming more floral with time in the glass, or with water.
Palate: A soft silky mouth-feel with notes of chocolate mousse and a development of caramelised pears.
Finish: An oaky finish with a little salt and notes of black coffee.

So What Did We Think?

The nose immediately invites you in with sweet and creamy aromas, baked apples and pears with Demerara sugar melting on the top, there's some fresh oak and spice and a light malty biscuit note. A lovely floral bouquet develops after a little time in the glass. Fabulous stuff!

The baked pears come through on the palate too, wonderfully smooth and soft mouthfeel which develops a light peppery spice which complements the pears nicely.

It finishes with some spicy wood giving a little chili pepper heat which fades quickly leaving a light salty note. This one does exactly what it says on the tin, while remaining tactful and without the use of 'common' language, it is indeed bloody delicious!

Want one? Best be quick as there was just 288 bottles filled. check out Master of Malt 23 Year Old Bally Delicious