That bouncer seems to be a funny fella!

2017 Whisky adventures part 2: Campbeltown malts festival Springbank open day

Springbank Open Day

After an, err, somewhat late start to the day (see the previous post to find out the reason why) for some people in our cottage, it was time for us to head into town for the first time that day, to celebrate the act of… queuing for festival bottles! Hooray! Err… yeah, something like that. Why do all whisky festivals seem to revolve around queuing for bottles of whisky? And what a big queue it was for a “wee toon”. As it turned out, we did not arrive a minute too early, and enduring a bit of a drizzle in between was worth it. Everybody in our group got the bottles we wanted, after being admitted into the tent of devil’s juice by the head bouncer Mark! Glad we had Jo at hand to tease him into letting us in! Just as we grabbed our bottles and left the courtyard, the announcement of the first sold-out whisky (a triple-distilled Kilkerran) was made. Quite a few people missed out that day – and it’s a bloody shame to see festival bottles bought by fierce killers ruthless flippers being flogged at auction by the time I’m writing this post in late June. Sign of the times, malt mates!

Queues! Everybody loves queues!

Queues! Everybody loves queues!

That bouncer seems to be a funny fella!

That bouncer seems to be a funny fella!

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Bladnoch Samsara NAS limited release

Tasting: Bladnoch Samsara NAS limited release

Bladnoch Samsara NAS limited releaseDram data:
Distillery: Bladnoch
Bottler: Official bottling
Distilled: – (2009 or before)
Bottled: 25.04.2017
Age: NAS
Limitation: –
Casks: Californian red wine and bourbon casks
Alcohol: 46,7%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

During the last 2 decades, the future of the lowlands Bladnoch distillery in Wigtown looked very grim – twice. Once before it was purchased by Irishman Raymond Armstrong and family (who initially wanted to turn it into housing) and for the second time when it went into receivership a few years back. It looked like it was gone for good – but then Australian yoghurt entrepreneur David Prior purchased the place – and is now essentially gutting the interiors, building a new distillery in the old buildings, to be restarted soon. To bide them over until they can sell their own spirit, they are tapping into the old stocks maturing at the distillery, made by either of the previous owners. This NAS “Samsara” expression is made up of stock distilled during the Armstrong era, making it at least 8 or 9 years old, as the distillery hasn’t produced anything since 2009. I quite liked expressions created during the Armstrong ownership, so I’m curious to find out what the new owners have created from the old stock!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 red gold
The nose is Bladnoch-y with a twist. It starts off fresh, with citrus, bananas, red and green apples showing off the spirit style. But there’s more, the influence of the red wine casks is very apparent. Bitter grape peel, slightly acidic dry wine, wine gums, an old banana, green grass, sweat and spices – cinnamon and cloves. Hmmm. Hmmmm…. Wine maturation of whisky can go many ways, and while the wine casks don’t overpower the distillery character, I’ve always found Bladnoch to work best in plain ex-bourbon casks or sometimes the odd sherry butt (the ones with quite a bit of sherry oomph). This feels like a whisky of two hearts, with the different flavour profiles almost fighting each other. Not bad, and there might be a few people who see themselves drawn to that style, but it doesn’t really do it for me. Continue reading

Spot the odd one!

2017 Whisky adventures part 1: Campbeltown malts festival

This year’s whisky adventure turned out to be more of a whisky roadtrip. In the end it would lead me (as the designated drinker) and my malt mate Jo (designated driver) on a 1808 mile round trip from the south of England to the Orkneys and back.

To Scotland!

Having flown into Heathrow the day before, and staying the night at my friend’s house in Gloucestershire, our first day had a very early start. Getting up and having breakfast at 4:30 a.m. was the right thing to do, since it turned out the Mazda MX5 took quite a bit of packing finesse to accommodate all the stuff two adult people need for two weeks on the road! Finally leaving at 6 a.m. sharp and taking a few stops in between for lunch, tea, more tea and beer at Loch Fyne, we finally arrived in the middle of nowhere in Campbeltown at a few minutes past 6 p.m. Great driving, Jo!
Jo and I were, however, not alone for that part of our trip, we had booked a cottage on a working farm for 6 people (go ask me about the drama regarding accommodation booking when you meet me in person!). Since Jo and I were the last ones to arrive (having driven the longest distance of all!), our house mates and good friends Justine, Viva, Flo and Stefan were already waiting for us. The group, also called the #referendrams, were finally assembled and ready to rumble dram! Pizza, beer, drams and laughter were on the agenda for the rest of the day/evening. The next day, the Campbeltown malts festival would officially begin and we were as excited as little kids when the circus comes to town!

Fill the cart! We've got hungry people to feed!

Fill the cart! We’ve got hungry people to feed!

 

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Banff 1976 40 yo - Cadenhead's 175th anniversary

Tasting: Banff 1976 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Banff 1976 40 yo - Cadenhead's 175th anniversaryDram data:
Distillery: Banff
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1976
Bottled: 2017
Age: 40
Limitation: 192 bottles
Casks: ex-bourbon hogshead
Alcohol: 51,2%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

This 40 yo Banff, distilled in 1976, was part of the 175th anniversary bottling by the independend bottler Cadenhead’s, and we got the chance to try it during the matching tasting with Mark Watt during the Campbeltown whisky festival 2017. I liked what I tasted (I had it at a tie with the Rosebank), so I brought most of the sample home for a proper tasting session. Let’s do this!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 coppery gold
The nose is anything but weak – still going strong after 40 years in a hoggie! What did they do differently in the 70s? Many drams from that era (even ones bottled at a relatively young age) have such a rich, fruity, waxy palate that has rarely been produced since. We’ve got orange peel, waxed red apples, tinned peaches and tangerines, brown banana, banana bread, strawberries in milk chocolate. In short: a complex, rich summer fruit salad served on sweet bread. (Please, hipsters, don’t make that a thing!). Oak, you ask? Well… just a smidgen of oak influence and a light generic herbal note holding everything together in the background, but this is mostly distillate and age talking here. With extended time in the glass, the herbal notes intensify a bit.

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Whisky friends

The best thing about whisky!

Whisky friends

Whisky buddies on tour!

I have just returned from yet another epic Scotland road trip, which led me to Campbeltown, the Orkneys and Fife. I’ve been travelling to Scotland for the fifth year in a row and this year’s trip was yet another unforgettable experience, which once again reminded me of the main reason why I like whisky as much as I do.

Yes, whisky, to me, is the best aged spirit category in the world and I love smelling, sipping and enjoying the amber nectar above any other kind of drink. It’s diverse, it’s multi-faceted with unrivalled depth. But what really makes it for me, is a special breed of people: Whisky folk. Whisky folk are the best kind of people to surround yourself with and this year’s road trip has, once again, reassured me of that!

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Sandy Macdonald Special Scotch Whisky Blend 1950s - Glendullan

Tasting: Sandy Macdonald Special Scotch Whisky Blend 1950s – Glendullan

Sandy Macdonald Special Scotch Whisky Blend 1950s - GlendullanDram data:
Distillery: Blend with Glendullan
Bottler: Sandy Macdonald
Distilled: –
Bottled: ca. 1950s
Age: –
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 40% (70 UK proof)
unknown filtering/colouring
Whiskybase link

Preparing for my 2017 Scotland whisky trip, I think this old oddball whisky will be just what the doctor ordered. It’s a ca. 1950s bottling, with a spring cap. There’s not much info on the (original, not the pictured sample) bottle, but after some research it seems to be a blended whisky, which highlights Glendullan as the “pure malt distillery”. Is it the only malt whisky in the mix? I have no idea, but it might just be – other bottlings from the same era feature several distillery names on the label. Let’s nose and taste it and see if it’s as interesting and intriguing as it looks!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 red gold
The nose is quite peculiar. A slightly alcoholic tingle up front with a hint of menthol. Light and fresh – very well-preserved! There are notes of lemon zest, orange oil, lychee, melissa, white peaches on a light backbone of honey, toffee and a hint of machine shop with oil and a sooty chimney. After many minutes in the glass, a cognac-like note emerges in the background.  Continue reading

I quit

Picture credit: Eaters Collective via unsplash.com

Yep, I quit. I got fed up with it all. I can’t continue the way it was and I don’t want to after things were set in motion a few months ago which culminated the past two weeks.

Okay, that cryptic introduction needs explanation. First things first: I’m not quitting blogging about whisky. Whether or not that’s a relief is completely up to you. But I am quitting (or, rather I quit) what I call the “whisky mania”. Some might even call it “whisky BS”.

But let’s start from the beginning!

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Glenlivet 1974 33 years GM

Tasting: Glenlivet 33 yo 1974-2008 by Gordon & MacPhail

Glenlivet 1974 33 years GMDram data:
Distillery: Glenlivet
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Distilled: 1974
Bottled: 18.02.2008
Age: 33
Limitation: 726 bottles
Casks: 3 sherry hogsheads
Alcohol: 43%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

I know posts have been far and few between lately – I’m very busy at the moment juggling different tasks, so please bear with me. Since it’s been a while, let’s make this tasting count. Glenlivet from 12 years before I was born? Don’t mind if I do!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 red amber
The nose immediately brings a smile on my face. Proper, aged whisky. I’m repeating myself here, there are many truly excellent young whiskies, but there is absolutely no substitute for time. You cannot produce this style of whisky in 5, 10, 15, 20 years, no matter what the marketing guys want you to believe. Older whisky doesn’t mean better, but when it’s right, it’s right! Oh, sorry, I digressed a little. On the nose then… we’ve got a fragrant mix of spices up front. We’re talking mulled wine spices. Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, that sort of thing, but not fresh and sharp, but on their second infusion. The spices are paired with quite a bit of oak wood concentrate, just bordering on too much (I hope this won’t show up too harsh on the palate) and loads of dark, dried fruit notes in the background (rum-infused plums, predominately). Also in the background are notes of Demerara sugar, chocolate cake, slightly burnt toffee, toasted walnuts and sweet vanilla pipe tobacco. All in all a very nice combination of intense, thick aromas.  Continue reading

Benriach 20 yo

Tasting: Benriach 20 yo

Benriach 20 yoDram data:
Distillery: Benriach
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: ca. 2016
Age: 20
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 43%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

It’s been quite a while since I last had a Benriach, a distillery I’ve often had a bit of trouble with (with exceptions, such as the rather nice daily dram the 12 yo is). So let’s try this 20 year-old sipling!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 amber
The nose is very promising upon first contact, soft and mellow, yet rich, with an “aged” base and heavily sherried! Old banana, banana chips, vanilla sauce, sweet grapes, some pickled ginger, fresh figs, rum-soaked plums and juicy sultanas. The fruity component rests on a bed of slight cask smoke, a whiff of dunnage warehouse and spices – cloves and cinnamon come to mind. Rich, juicy, fruity and dark, without too much wood, just about right for a 20 yo dram.
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Highland Park Ice Edition 17 yo

Tasting: Highland Park Ice Edition 17 yo

Highland Park Ice Edition 17 yoDram data:
Distillery: Highland Park
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2016
Age: 17 years
Limitation: 30.000(!)
Casks: 1st fill ex-Bourbon
Alcohol: 53,9%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

When I wrote a rant about the overhyped, way overpriced, marketing-driven Highland Park Ice last year, I never thought I’d actually get to taste the whisky. I was sure Edrington would never send me a sample after what I wrote and I’d also never shell out that kind of money for what I regard as being 10% whisky and 90% hype. However, when an opportunity presented itself recently to get a “dregs bottle” of it, I had no choice but to take it home with me to find out, whether my statement “Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a lovely dram”, made in my rant, was in fact correct. Let’s do it!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 gold
The nose is full of ex-bourbon honesty. Quite fresh, I’m sure there’s loads of refill oak in the mix, which accentuates the character of the distillate. Lemon zest, lemon juice, heather, very slight, fragrant peat smoke (heather bonfire?) up front. Once you cut through these initial, light aromas, you get to a slightly beefier core: A hint of flambeed vanilla pudding, smoked peaches and tangerines and a background layer of oak spices. After a few minutes in the glass, these heavier components take over, increasing the complexity.
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