Re: Jolly Toper Tasting Thursday 25th Nov. Edinburgh
Here is the write up for last week's tasting, next week's line up is detailed at the end.
Last Thursday's tasting was not a sell out- they tend to go in cycles, we had a run of sell outs now its eased off. Judging by the feedback this was a typically jolly affair and its a shame more people didn't attend as there was some pretty cool whisky tried.
First up was a late entry, the line up went through a couple of changes as I initially lacked a wow factor so this one was drafted in mainly due to it's useful price point to balance the show stealer. Nikka All Malt 40%. Having heard of this before but not having any idea to its quality I was interested to see John Hansel at Malt Advocate rate it highly. Getting one's hands on Japanese whisky is getting easier but the price is often a barrier. Here our supplier is able to get it for us a an irresistable price. Having an account with Ben Nevis we accessed bits and pieces when Japanese whisky sales were in their infancy: 'Straight From The Barrel' and the white/red/black labels were all note worthy. It was only when I read the label did the full story become apparent. This is a blend but a malt. Not down to the SWA's confusing ruling about mixed malts becoming 'blended malts' nor their perhaps stifling law on malted barley through continuous stills being classed grain. This is a blend due to the fact that both pot and column stills spirit is married but no grain other than 100% malted barley is used. So for two tastings in a row the SWA rule book has been tested. Loch Lomond distillery were gazumped with their attempt at making malt via continuous stlls but the Japanese are offering a variant. Perhaps the use of the word blend saves them despite the brand being named 'All Malt'. For anybody that has tried Japanese Coffey Malt (a contender for my whisky of the year 2 years ago, if I recognised one dram ruling all which I don't think is a suitable way of praise) it will not surprise them to hear this dram was a very rare unanimous thumbs up. Incidentally we roughly gauge appreciate at the tastings by showing thumbs up, down or shaky hand for the undecided. 4444444455566 a fine 50% and how consistent is the scoring- most unusual too. 'George Melly, smooth', 'tutti fruity',' pleasant, thin built, excellent nose', 'chips- salt n sauce'. For me lots of rich fruit, a medium body and a touch os smoke- very quaffable. $0% keeps the scores low though.
Next was another punt from a recommendation- Old Pulteney 17yo 46%. Loch Fyne Whiskies' whisky of the year 2010. This was lined up last month but proved too similar for me to the Cadenheads 20yo already in that tasting. Here sweet and citrus tangs mix with pear drops on the nose and the strength and age don't stop a pretty strong alcohol bite, not a problem. Banana fritters on the palate. Lively, fresh and fun. Quite different to the more assertive and great standard 12yo. Pulteney certainly is consistent with coming up with the goods both through independents and official bottlings. I'd very much like to see the distillery for myself- their still must rate as one of the oddest in the industry, all ball boil and a truncated swan neck that never was. This is doing the rounds at a discounted price at the moment but Inverhouse are generous most of the time already. 111245556677 a surprising if not shocking 46%, not a terrible score but quite a comparison to LFW's opinion. 'Chip roll, salt n sauce', '(1) only because its a bit harsh, I like rounder, sweeter, richer flavours', 'Britt Eckland- fruity coconuts', 'marine sweet creaminess'.
Now the crowd puller, I wish, Lombard Springbank 1965 46% bottling date uncertain but 30yo+. When you consider the relatively low price of this bottling compared to other examples of similar vintage SBs this is a bit of a bargain on paper. The crunch comes with the character quality for drinking value. The nose is all about age. Just the way I like my old whisky. Verging on over cooked but caught in time. Something confirmed by the second taste phase- almost stale but pulling up short of over wooded. Typical Springbank complexity with marked cloves and sweet herby notes. A long finish with flavours shifting around wonderfully. The palate texture is exquisitely soft, as good as it gets I think, real melt in your mouth stuff. 223556666677 a solid 63%, the low scores must reflect displeasure with a character from the old school not slick enough for some. Frankly I struggle to pick faults and understand the problem but thats why these write ups reflect many's opinions rather than one. 'Best of the night', 'well balanced, sweet', 'George Melly's Grandad with pipe, slippers and smoking jacket', 'sweet, smooth','steak pie supper, salt n sauce'.
Next was another of my over confidences: Cadenheads Clynelish 17yo Bourbon cask cask strength. Clynelish is the kind of distillery I like to turn people on to and its the type of malt I take people seriously when they ask about it. It suggests they know what they're talking about due to experience out of the well trod path. Its profile is low but quality high. Like many Diageo malts it is underused, though progress is positive. This example is not in the upper echelon, which can be inspiring, but is still- for me- classy and characterful. The distinct refill cask edge showing spirit over wood is probably the reason for the unexpected low scores. I tend towards the sharp bite of such casks and easily accept the rejection experienced from some quarters of this strong personality. But once again a great seller in the shop, after customer sampling, hasn't transfetred to the tasting. A few years ago we had a tremendous run of sherry cask Clynelish where the honey comb was triumphant, just as we had really lemony bladnochs that were perfect. At the moment both the distilleries seem to be slipping in our casks selection, but from awesome to fine is better than to crap. I still rate this bottling despite some of the feedback. 023456666777 a respectable 55%. 'Sausage supper, salt n sauce', 'proper burn', 'Clint Eastwood, no messing, consistent quality', '(0) only because I'm not a fan of the sharp more bitter flavours'.
Thanks to Paul (Leither) we had a guest dram, Just like last Thanks Giving the bonus was appropriately an American 'icon' Wild Turkey 8yo 101 proof (50.5%). Paul brought us Rare Breed last time and an American attendee took Old Overholt last year. Here the supercharged tangerines and spicy wood are like a hot rod. You can't ignore it, the show off style is compelling, the full flavour doesn't give up and lasts a long time. Subtle it's not but there is a determined finish that is rewarding and classically typical. I'll admit my expereince of US whisky is lacking but I know what I like and like Scottish grain or peaty drams the moment makes or breaks the dram. The 5th dram was a good spot, we were in need of assertion. 23333333457 a wobbly 39%. 'Pickled eg', 'its a gobbler'.
Well there's not much than can ride rough shod over the last dram but check this out: Berry Brothers And Rudd Ledaig 4yo Sherry Cask cask strength. The jungle drums were beating over this one. Gordon Homer 'bigged it up' and that counts in my book. For an afternoon dram or an ice breaker this is the equivalent of suggesting we all try oysters at a vegetarian picnic. Ledaig/Tobermory like Glen Scotia or even Ben Nevis really excites me: I don't know whats coming next. This latest instalment is predictably unpredictable. The mix of youth, cask and peat is a more dynamic threesome than Charlie's Angels: they were pretty and fun but this is not Saturday night prime time viewing. It takes more water than a thirsty cactus. I'm big on sherry, I appreciate a young malt so this is not an unexpected hit but when you throw some major peat blocks in the mix I'm so impressed this works this well. Can you imagine Neil Young, AC/DC and Beck collaborating? 45666777888 73%: we broke the 70% brilliance benchmark, job done. 'Fish supper, salt n vinegar, mushy peas, bread n butter', 'sillage and strawberry peaty and sherry explosion on the palate', 'stinky pete', 'rock 'n' roll','fantastic whisky'.
Next tasting is December 9th peated non-Islay drams No.2 Cadenheads Longrow 12yo rum cask, Benriach Authenticus, Caperdonich 10yo, Talisker from the distilery and G&M Ardmore.