2 long fucking months.
My final whisky event of 2016, a fantastic year-closer, Diageo’s Special Releases with the always jovial Colin Dunn had been on 8th December at theStudio in Birmingham.
The festive period had been good to me with a number of bottles passing through my hands, a trip up to Comry, Scotland and even a brief visit to Blair Athol Distillery.
But I was still champing at the bit to get going with 2017 in earnest.
Now it was a gloomy February night and it was threatening to piss it down.
I arrived into Quinton early and walked to Rob B’s before we shot over to collect Tom from the station.
Rob is a paid up member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) and had promised us a good night’s tasting.
I was in at the first mention but the intrigue of the coded dark green bottles and whimsical titles had gotten me in a right state.
We rocked up at about 7:30pm and were handed little A5 booklets detailing the night’s line-up and some tasting notes for each.
Nothing below 56%.
Craigellachie 11 Year Old – 56.80%
NOSE – 18
Very spirity nose, with apples and some sweetness. Possibly fragrant icing sugar notes.
PALATE – 21
A round sweet mouth feel with honey and some cereal arriving on the palate. Very light soft wood, balsa or even very lightly of seasoned pine.
FINISH – 14
A short sharp finish. Heat fading out quickly with honey notes fleetingly remaining.
PERSONAL – 4
An acceptable dram, but not showing it’s character too well let down by the “palate-only” composition. Not enough viscosity or flavour to do justice to the high ABV.
TOTAL SCORE – 57
66.73 ‘Hansel and Gretel Duality’
Ardmore 11 Year Old – 58.00%
NOSE – 23
Hearth ash, with vanilla and heathery notes on the nose. Peat and creosote. A pleasant contrast between huge Islay peat and a sweetness reminiscent of lowlands fare.
PALATE – 24
Germolene instantly, yet, sweet with cured meat. Chorizo and paprika popping up out of nowhere.
FINISH – 22
Medium finish with lots of peat coming back around to cover up the sweeter spiciness.
PERSONAL – 8
Brilliant, intriguing drop with a lot going on but a clear idea about what it’s doing. Could both session this and have it as a single.
In my opinion punching well above it’s weight.
TOTAL SCORE – 77
36.112 ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’
Benrinnes 16 Year Old – 56.30%
NOSE – 16
Another big, spirity nose with belying saccharine sweetness and some warmer demerara notes presenting.
PALATE – 26
Butterscotch sweets at the start with a thick creamy mouth feel. Settling down to a creamy taste and light white wine coming in at end of palate.
FINISH – 23
Long sweet finish with more cream and some faint sherbet showing.
PERSONAL – 8
A lovely light whisky, with a lot of sweet-shop flavours going on. Expected more fruitiness given the Port Barrique finish, surprised by the lack of berries or dark fruits of any kind.
Hard not to enjoy. Perfect for an early Summer’s evening.
TOTAL SCORE – 73
4.213 ‘A Regency Pomander’
Highland Park 15 Year Old – 56.60%
NOSE – 13
Extremely spirity nose with a small amount of leather. Not particularly pleasant.
PALATE – 16
Honey on palate with some chamois leather again.
Crystallised sugar, crème brûlée. Custard. Cloves.
All pleasant individually, yet, seeming slightly out of balance with each other.
FINISH – 13
A short, bleak finish with little to mention. Disappeared quickly leaving very little trace of heat or flavour.
PERSONAL – 3
A huge let down verging on unpleasant.
Rather strange considering the heritage and the distillery’s reputation.
Could have been saved had one of the palate notes come into its own on the finish but no such luck here.
TOTAL SCORE – 45
28.32 ‘Solar Eclipse’
Tullibardine 8 Year Old – 60.30%
NOSE – 27
A huge voluptuous nose with doused in sherry, plums and prune juice.
PALATE – 27
On the palate oak comes through briefly dripping with sherry.
Chocolate raisins, dark chocolate and kirsch cherries.
Thick and mouth coating.
FINISH – 23
A long fiery finish with toffee and dark chocolate running rampant on your taste buds.
PERSONAL – 10
The oloroso cask finish is done to perfection; sherry for days with a near perfect balance of dark chocolate bitterness and sherry sweetness.
I’ll be keeping my eye out at auction for a bottle of this, although if there’s any sense left in the world every bottle of this nectar of the gods will be long dead by now.
TOTAL SCORE – 87
10.96 ‘A Beachcombers Bounty’
Bunnahabhain 9 Year Old – 61.50%
NOSE – 27
A lovely salty nose with a good amount of peat and interestingly prawn cocktail crisps coming through with more time.
Completely different to anything else but with that underlying distinctive Bunna scent.
PALATE – 23
Huge waves of fire crash over your tongue, going on ad infinitum.
Peat becomes dominant with some sweeter creamy notes coming to the fore.
FINISH – 24
A long fiery finish with creamy sweetness overriding the peat from before. Returning saltiness and some ash but no sign of the savoury seafood notes from earlier.
PERSONAL – 8
Like emerging from an icy sea to warm yourself by a huge bonfire before returning to the briny deep.
A fantastic dram, huge and punchy, with softness at its heart but all the fire to discourage unseasoned cask strength addicts.
TOTAL SCORE – 82
At half time we broke for some food and Tom decided to pull out a NAS bottle of Glenfarclas from the “Legend of Speyside” series.
One of a trilogy, with the fantastically descriptive names “Team”, “Passion” and “Springs”, released only for the German market.
This was “Springs”.
Glenfarclas “The Legend of Speyside – Springs” – 46.00%
NOSE – 28
A huge, fruity nose with a heavy sherry hit.
Obviously Glenfarclas but with the fruit turned up to 10.
PALATE – 25
Slightly weak on ABV but huge flavour with ladles of sherry.
Raisins and plums are dominant with a slight hint of walnuts creeping in.
Could be a fuller mouth feel.
FINISH – 17
A short fruity finish with no spirit at all. Walnuts announcing themselves a little more obviously now.
Like a slightly toned down PX sherry; full, fruity and smooth with no burn in sight.
PERSONAL – 8
A fantastic expression from the folk who can (nearly) do no wrong. Preferably would have had a slightly higher ABV to give a little more kick and better mouth feel but the tasting notes are wonderful, clear and in abundance.
Easily better than the 12 year old expression and would make for an interesting side-by-side with the 15.
TOTAL SCORE – 78
Whether it was the late hour or the noticeably increasing pour levels which had led to the copious volume we’d soldiered on through Rob now decided to let us loose on his collection to pick a final dram to end the night.
From a great selection I picked a single cask Bruichladdich 10 Year Old from the Dream Drams bottlers.
Why not finish off the night with a nearly 64% scotch and have the tongue obliteration completely over and done with, eh?
Dream Drams – Bruichladdich 10 Year Old – 63.80%
NOSE – 25
An interesting creamy nose, with definite hints of vanilla and trace notes of lavender arising.
PALATE – 24
Vanilla is still present with pink wafers arriving almost immediately before huge amounts of fire surge forward to make rolling it around your tongue almost unbearable.
FINISH – 21
The ever-present vanilla soldiers on for the finish which is quick and fiery to begin before settling back into a smooth cool down.
PERSONAL – 5
A rollercoaster of heat and an absolute vanilla bomb.
Very enjoyable and certainly an experience.
Christ know how the notes for this dram made as much sense as they did in the light of day.
TOTAL SCORE – 78
- Overall winner for me, by a good margin was the impeccable sherry bomb that was the Tullibardine; I have had my eyes opened am now eager to try some more of their wares.
- Second place goes to the fiery, beach bonfire dram, Bunnahabhain; not all too surprising knowing my penchant for all things Bunna.
- Coming in third was the surprise appearance of the night, the Glenfarclas; fruity and rich from first to last.
- An honourable mention however has to go to the Ardmore which on another night would have most likely fared better in the rankings, but struggled to assert itself against such stiff competition.
A very, very successful night all in all.
Great friends, good laughs and some unbelievable whiskies with a mouth-watering bevvy of cask strengths.
Rob, you did yourself proud and raised the bar again for whoever hosts next.
I was a SMWS virgin and the night left me sore but wanting more, just like the good whisky whore that I am.