Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Abbey Whisky Tweet Tasting

Whisky Reviews
I have been fortunate in tasting the first two releases for 'The Rare Casks' from Abbey Whisky previously and both were crackers. I wrote at the time that I must do something about getting hold of a bottle of each of them. But you know how it is, each month more special bottlings are released and unfortunately my whisky budget is not endless and neither is my capacity to consume it all. So I forgot about trying to get hold of a bottle until the opportunity to revisit them arose with an on-line tasting hosted by the 'King of Tweet Tastings' Steve Rush aka @TheWhiskyWire
Whisky Reviews
Four samples were sent out by Abbey Whisky, the first two releases for me to re-visit and a first tasting for the newly released third bottling in the Rare Casks series from Ben Nevis distillery, one that has not appeared on my Liquid Log to date. Also in the package was an Abbey Whisky exclusive - no details, so we'd be tasting it blind.

So under the #abbeywhisky hash tag we boldly marched on with this the first Tweet Tasting with Abbey Whisky.

Caperdonich 17 Year Old Abbey Whisky (57.8% abv, IB, D.1995)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
£59.50 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Reviews
The first release in 'The Rare Casks' series by Abbey Whisky is this magnificent Caperdonich 17 year old single malt Scotch whisky. This limited edition release was distilled in 1995 and left to rest for 17 years before being bottled in 2012 with only 96 bottles filled. I first tasted this back in November last year and loved it. You can see what I thought about this first time around here: Whisky Discovery #259

Caperdonich is one of the 'lost distilleries' being mothballed in 2002 and never to be reopened. In 2010 it was sold and subsequently demolished. So while there will be maturing stocks for a little while yet, this stock cannot last for ever and so an opportunity to taste this again was bonus. 

Interestingly, the old Caperdonich stills are still in use. When the Belgium Owl Distillery were looking to increase their production, they picked up the old Caperdonich stills from the new site owners, Forsyths of Rothes, the Scottish distillation equipment experts. 

So What Did I Think?
I found this to be full of tropical fruits first time, and I was pleased to say they're still there for me; Papaya and lychee, and a sweet floral fragrance too with a faint note of Parma Violets and a dash of lime With some time to breathe waves of vanilla scents started coming through along with some fresh coconut too.

The palate has a big punchy chilli heat initially, but this settles to become creamy and mouth coating. I'd forgotten just how punchy this was! With notes of fresh ginger and grapefruit,  and very drying at the end, grapefruit pith like and the fresh ginger stays right through to the finish. A drop of water totally tames this dram turning it sweet and creamy with fresh floral notes.

So what did the others think?
@BeersIveKnown: Pale blonde in the glass with spicy woody notes, caramel and some alcohol in behind.
@surfpunkian: Love this Caperdonich on the nose, great start with sweet vanilla and a hint of spice, my mouth is watering
@BarryMBradford: Nose: Lemon citrus, floral primrose, sweet woody oak and Peach Schnapps?
@MCRWhiskyClub: Nose - Warm lemon tart, candied peel, vanilla cream and cinnamon for me to start
@JohnnieStumbler: On the nose I'm getting fresh apples and a hint of rose petal. Bit of ripe pear.
@rodbodtoo: Spirity (57.8%!), & fruity/biscuity. Chocolate Garibaldis don't exist, but this is what they smell like.
@TheWhiskyWire: Waves of vanilla infused poached pears, pineapple upside down cake, wood spice & spices wafting from a Thai restaurant.
@thirstyscotsman: Mouthwatering! Juicy pears, black pepper, oily mouthfeel with aged wood tannins. So smooth after heat for a cask strength
@Ashamantms: Here comes honey and citrus, but man everything takes a back plate to that chilli

Whisky Discovery #350

Bunnahabhain 23 Year Old Abbey Whisky (44% abv, IB, D.1989)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
£72.95 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Review
The second release in ‘The Rare Casks’ series by Abbey Whisky is this 1989 vintage Bunnahabhain. Aged in a refill bourbon barrel for 23 years before being bottled at natural cask strength of 44% vol. As with the first release only 96 bottles have been filled and made available for this limited edition release.  I first tasted this when it was released in February of this year and again loved it. You can see what I thought about this first time around here: Whisky Discovery #350

I might have mentioned this before several times but I'm really becoming a fan of Bunnahabhain. Their core range is great and it won't be long before an 18 Year Old graces my shelf, but there are also some fabulous single cask Bunnas around and this happens to be one of the highlights.

So What Did I Think?
The nose on this 23 year old Bunna is soft and fragrant and oh so dreamy. More tropical fruits but so much softer, pineapple and mango flavours initially turning floral with a touch of putty too, linseed. After a while with the glass covered an earthy peaty note develops, but lift the lid and 'wake' it and it's back to gentle fragrant notes.

There's lots going on with the palate too with a faint peaty char at the back too. I tweeted at the time "I could quite happily have this for breakfast!" for which I apologise - very irresponsible of me. This is such a gentle almost caressing dram, a tender sweetness, gentle citrus blossom flavours finishing with a soft peppery spice highlighted by a pinch of salt, and all through the dram there's a delicious faint peat reek.

It is unlikely that this Bunnahabhain was peated as the distillery didn't start using peat in kilning their malt until the late 1990's and so it's more likely that the cask that this whisky was matured in had held a peated spirit previously.

So what did the others think?
@steveprentice: Nose: Instantly relaxing, sweet, subtle old smoke, it's just a cracker. Very early experiments with peated malt.
@galg: The nose is very restrained with nice sea spray, malt and brine, with some lemon and candy floss
@JohnnieStumbler: On the nose there's some buttery toffee to start, with a little hint of smoke and underlying peat.
@Whiskyblogg: Nose is lovely, melted butter, vanilla and malty sweetness
@ifotou: Light gentle toffeed smoke with hints of floral gums, dried dark fruits and lashings of vanilla cream
@MyWhiskyGuide: Palate - smoky but not overpowering, sweet and creamy again and then a little salty on the finish
@Ardbaggie: Palate soft light hint of peat citrus vanilla woody
@rodbodtoo: Palate is a surprise. Honey & chillies, then salty, then beery malt, then fusty/damp wood
@HHWhiskyClub: Tasting: sweet, toffee muffins, almonds, apples, lemon with a little pear, then the gentle smoke and saltiness
@mattveira: Finish: Light, vanilla, sexy, smoky sugar, barley and some saltiness. Lovely jubly!

Whisky Discovery #632

Ben Nevis 16 Year Old Abbey Whisky (55% abv, IB, D.1997)
Highland Single Malt Whisky
£64.95 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Reviews
This was the first revealing of the third release in the Rare Casks Series. This Ben Nevis, from the Highlands of Scotland was distilled in 1997 and aged for 16 years in a single sherry hogshead, the whisky has been bottled at natural cask strength and only 96 bottles have been filled and made available in this release. Following the first two releases this whisky has been bottled in its natural form, at full cask strength, 55% vol, without chill filtering or colour additives.

So What Did I Think?
I was fairly certain that Ben Nevis was a new distillery to my journey and had to check my Liquid Log to confirm it. This is a heavily sherried dram and my initial noseing resulted in that 'struck match' note. It certainly needed to breathe a little before giving up it's dark fruits; tinned prunes, large sticky dates, burnt fruit cake, and sherry soaked cork, a fabulous savoury nose.

It didn't disappoint on the palate either. Although that struck match note is there, quite typical of a sherry cask matured malt, this is so very rich, dark and spicy with plenty of punch too being 55% abv. Like a mulled wine concentrate sweet dark fruit, blackcurrent, blackberries heavily spiced with cloves and a touch of aniseed finishing with smoked chilli and pepper. This has a very long finish and quite drying at the end, oaky dry of an aged Oloroso

So what did the others think?
@Girl_Whisky: Nose: Vanilla, parsley, basil, red apples, wet wood, sandy rocks, peaty, sawdust
@Whiskyblogg: Nose: cedar wood, walnuts and some subtle pipe tobacco. Maybe dark, almost bitter chocolate.
@JohnnieStumbler: Wow. Lively nose. A little spirity with some dark chocolate
@steveprentice: On the nose is strong, in your face, heavy sherry and oak, a little rubbery from the strong xmas pud fruits.
@thirstyscotsman: Lots of polished wood and a little gunpowder smoke. Cloves, pepper and maybe cardamom
@LaCaveDeCobalt: Nose is so like the sherried Bunnas I was referring in a previous Tweet… Big fan !
@TheWhiskyWire: Fruit cake bursting with sherry soaked fruits, served on a slab of dried oak.
@SCOTTDOGG11: Palate, SMOOTH caramel, followed by faint cigar smoke, feels very light on the tongue.
@BarryMBradford: Palate Dark brown sugar, treacle, figs, cinnamon/nutmeg spice builds to pepper
@rodbodtoo: Palate is rich, soft, heavily sherried. Like a mouthful of plum pudding with brandy sauce
@CuanBrown: Sophisticated, not as punchy or bold as expected. Velvet coating of sherry, hint of apple wood then butter and toffee apples
@chrismiles303: Espresso coffee on the finish with a bit of sticky toffee pudding. lovely - and I'm not a big sherried fan.

Whisky Discovery #633

GlenDronach 1993 Abbey Whisky Exclusive (59.1% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
£89.95 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Reviews
An exclusive bottling for Abbey Whisky from the GlenDronach Distillery. Distilled in 1993 this whisky has taken on a beautiful, dark crimson colour thanks to its twenty year slumber in an Oloroso sherry butt, single cask #33 to be precise. Bottled in 2013 with an outturn of 592 bottles and at 59.1% abv it packs quite a punch!!

GlenDronach Cask #33 Tasting Notes
The nose is luscious, lovely stewed prunes and sweet plum syrup hold fantastic depths of gentle clove, cinnamon and rich orange marmalade. The palate, a full-bodied traditional sherried character that gives tremendous waves of sun dried raisins, dates and spiced plums. Richly roasted coffee beans with touches of almond and walnut add a depth and complexity to the long, robust finish. The perfect winter warmer…

So What Did I Think?
We tasted this blind and so did not have a clue as to what this could be. My initial thoughts upon first nosing that this could be an old grain whisky as it was reminding me of some very old single grain form Girvan at around 60% abv. I was of course miles out but here are my notes for a giggle:

Very dark in colour, even darker than the Ben Nevis with a heavily sherried nose. Dark aged rum like notes, molasses, sticky Christmas dates, old fashioned furniture polish, heavy and waxy. As I said this reminded me of a 40 plus year old single grain, but reading back through the tweets I wasn't the only one.

It's big and bold on the palate too. Lots of old wood notes, along with the richest Dundee cake, dark fruits and old sherry flavours, but still with an aged rum like quality with burnt cane sugar notes. It's spicy too with a chilli heat to the licorice and cloves.

I was certainly very surprised on the reveal as I was still convinced that I was sipping a single grain, it had so many of the qualities of a recent experience of a 1964 Girvan. It definitely had the signs of a 20 year old plus single grain to me at first, and once in my head it stayed there.

I've not tried much from GlenDronach to know it's characteristics just three expressions are listed on the liquid log, and all three were tasted at the end of a whisky show, so no real recollection of notes possible!

So what did the others think?

@Whiskyblogg: Heavy on the nose: sherry, coffee beans, walnuts, leather and almost old, sherried grain

@Ashamantms: Big sherry nose! heaps of dark fruit and spices, I'm immediately in love! Love the color, I am going to need a bottle of this
@JohnnieStumbler: Polished mahogany and dark fruits. Bitter oranges. Milk chocolate. Immaculate.
@surfpunkian: BOOM! Deep, old south. sticky molasses, bacon, tobacco and smooth warming rum....
@Ashamantms: Dark chocolate, cinnamon nutmeg, cherries, sultanas, leathery, nutty, smells very old, a Glenfarclas?!
@MCRWhiskyClub: I might be thinking this is an older grain whisky.. a very old grain whisky? very spicy nose now, alongside cola bottles
@HHWhiskyClub: Going grain on this one and old, 37 year old maybe? Loving the toffee cereal notes, with a tropical undercurrent
@CuanBrown: Sherried fruit and raisins for xmas cake, nose is softening alot, this must be old. Fruit punch with a sneaky shot of sherry
@mattveira: Palate: Man, that's pretty good. Spicy & warm, bold, big sherry and fruit here. Hints of wood, and burnt sugar
@rodbodtoo: Palate is hot 55% or +. Sweet, treacly, sherried, creamy, super smooth (fudge!)

And finally....

Whist the Bunnahabhain was, by far, the star amongst the four drams of the evening, I was left with a dilemma at the end of this Tweet Tasting. Having tried the first two 'Rare Cask' series earlier and deciding that I really wanted one of these I thought I'd better act quickly. With 96 bottles released the stock would be running out soon.

However the two new discoveries were also excellent and I wanted them too! With only a finite budget I immediately purchased the Caperdonich and the Bunnahabhain, my reasoning being that there would be less of this around having been released earlier. Hopefully in the New Year I will be back to pick up at least one of each of the two new releases, and if there is any more of the Bunnahabhain left, perhaps another one of these too. So just two new Whisky Discoveries to report, and two to add to my wish list!

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, to Mike and the team at @abbeywhisky and of course the tweet tasters who were:

@TheWhiskyWire @abbeywhisky @HHWhiskyClub @WhiskyDiscovery @ScottDogg11 @MCRWhiskyClub @MyWhiskyGuide @gothick @surfpunkian @rodbodtoo @smokiechops @steveprentice @Gregwil76 @thirstyscotsman @chrismiles303 @ifotou @CuanBrown @beersiveknown @TheWhiskyKiwi @galg @ardbaggie @EdinburghWhisky @BarryMBradford @johnniestumbler @mattveira @SimonElliott86 @Ashamantms @WhiskyWardrobe @girl_whisky @whiskyblogg @LaCaveDeCobalt

For more information see: www.thewhiskywire.com and www.abbeywhisky.com

Slàinte! Dave

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