One of the reasons we love tasting blind is we can explore a whisky without being influenced by previous experience with the distillery or marketing paraphernalia. For our February 2018 session, this came in handy… as the theme of the evening ending up being the whisky packaging!
What all did we try?
Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Shackleton “The Journey” 47.3%
Tobermory 15 years 46.3%
Highland Park’s Valhalla Series “Thor” 16 year 52.1%
Did I mention the marketing? Just wait to see the booklets, photos, special boxes and more!
The whisky that ruled our Whisky Ladies “Contributors Choice” evening was The Glenrothes … A speyside distillery known for its rich, complex vintages. For some of our whisky ladies this was an introduction, for others a welcome opportunity to revisit a favoured dram.
Finish – Here is where the spice peeps out even more
My initial thought was this is a summer dram – sun soaked fruits – with a name that perfectly personifies its name “spicily sweet”! It was so enjoyable that I thought folks back in Mumbai might enjoy it too. And sure enough, “Sunset” closed an evening exploring independent blends…
During my last trip to Canada, I caught up with one of our Mumbai Whisky Ladies who moved to Canada. Naturally our evening turned to a sip or two. Of late, her preferences have leaned towards lighter Speyside drams.
One was from a familiar distillery – Auchentoshan – though an expression not yet reviewed – American Oak…
The other was new to me – McClelland’s Speyside, started originally as a blender, now part of the Morrison Bowmore distillers.
The thinking behind the McClelland’s range is to explore the ‘character’ of key whisky distilling regions – launched in 1986 with an Islay, Highland and Lowland expressions and joined in 1999 by this Speyside expression.
They describe a Speyside whisky character as being:
Speyside malts are sweet and fruity;
sometimes delicate, sometimes rich and robust.
And while I did not take detailed notes, my recollections were of:
Nose – Honey, light fruit and florals, fresh, sweet
Palate – Light spice, slightly nutty, floral with a oaky slightly bitter quality too
Finish – Short
Overall quite pleasant and an easy drinking dram.
Here is what the folks over at McClelland’s have to say:
Colour – Honeyed with golden highlights.
Body – Light to medium, elegant and balanced.
Nose – A fresh invigorating Speyside malt of mint, menthol and freshly cut pine. Traces of fine dark chocolate and a lingering sweet malt aroma.
Palate – An initial fibrous sweet nougat essence is complemented by the savoury flavours of brazil and hazelnut. A subtle floral freshness adds a faint perfumed bouquet to the palate.
Last in our “Peat Unusual” evening was the beauty that inspired the evening in the 1st place! To recap, the goal was to sample peaty whiskies – other than Islay – that did not neatly follow conventional expectations of a Peaty dram.
Alas my notes from that evening were waylaid… however I had an opportunity to share a few remaining drops in another occasion… so what follows are those impressions.
BenRiach 25 year Authenticus Peated 46%
Nose – An initial whiff of surfer that then disappeared. Sherry sweet, peat, medicinal, green apple like a Granny Smith, cranberry juice (the tart kind not cough syrupy sweet type), juicy tart, dried hay
Palate – Lots going on, grassy and herbal, taste like tobacco, coriander seeds, light rancio, unmistakable peat yet equally rich and robust with other dimmensions too
Finish – Whiff of smoke, fabulously long and lovely
Overall we found it to be a brilliant dram. Complex, nuanced, mature and having a sophistication few whiskies achieve.
To put it mildly, this whisky was in a completely different league than the others.
And what do the folks over at BenRiach have to say?
Appearance: Bright, warm amber gold.
Nose: Elegant aromas of ripe pineapple, fresh mountain herbs and a profusion of sweet peat. A huge pungent blast of peat smoke emerges, partnering the peated element perfectly. Full bodied and audacious.
Palate: A fantastic fusion of rich peat and smouldering embers bound together by fresh herbs – oregano, aniseed and chicory in particular. A rush of sweet, wild honey provides a lovely contrast to this lively, intense expression.
Conclusions: Terrific weight and development which leaves a powerful long lasting impression on the palate.
I know this whisky was picked up at The Whisky Exchange in 2016 where it can be purchased for approx 225. I was impatiently waiting for the appropriate occasion to try… what a wonderful evening of seated whiskies.
It is finally slipping into “winter” (by Indian standards), with the pollution smog haze rarely lifting, and somehow the weather and climatic conditions seem to be influencing whisky preferences… to peat. And no ordinary peat… an exploration of a few whiskies one would not normally have on the top peat picks list from regions not immediately associated with peat. Because why should our familiar friends over in Islay corner the market when other options exist?
As this was a BMC session, we had no pretence of hiding the bottles… instead merrily dove in to our discoveries eyes wide-open!
Our host shared that it began with the BenRiach 25 year peated… and morphed from there… each selected to be peat with a twist. For example, you don’t typically find BenRiach whiskies peated… Then it continued with Loch Lomond – again not normally peated. So why Ledaig you may ask? By their “nature” Ledaig is Tobermoray’s peaty whiskies. Yes indeed. However the “Very Cloudy” Vintage 2008 is known to have a lighter dusting of peat rather than full force peat. And Alisa Bay? Not only is it newer to market as a single malt, it breaks with typical Lowland convention to combine peat with sweet…
Read on over the coming days to see what we found…
During our December sampling session, one of our fellow tasters brought along an Abelour A’bunadh. It is remarkable to realize they are on to batches in the 50s… and soon to hit 60! I still have fond memories of their sherry bombs of the 20s…
It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a few swallows, discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.
Longmorn Distillery is found between Glen of Rothes and Elgin. Its name is derived from the Gaelic, Lhanmorgund, which means “place of the holy man”. This is a reference to the church which once stood there. Prior to the distillery being built in 1897, there had also been a grain mill on the site. R.J.S. McDowell considered Longmorn to be one of the top four malt whiskies.
And what did our Whisky Ladies think?
Longmorn (2002/2015) 43%
Nose – Baon! Yippee!! Then overripe fruits, creamy custard, nutmeg and such yummy eggnog, a bit of spice, ginger bread, shifted to sweet spices, peanut brittle… all this before the 1st sip!! Then… wool jacket with smoke, more fruits
Palate – Curious quality, black liquorice, peppercorn, so sweet, soft tobacco which took a long time to develop… smooth
Finish – Musky smoke, comforting wrapping around like a warm blanket with a black liquorice chaser
One remarked how it was like an “elegant man” and a yet also a bit of an old dandy.
I’ll admit I had a moment before we opened the bottle of dread… what if it was a disaster? The last Longmorn we had was less than stellar… and the Longhorn of old was a character – and a most enjoyable one at that.
And the verdict? A complete hit. Sweet but with substance. Just the right element of a hint of smoke, sweetness from the sherry 1st fill hogsheads.
On the bottle, the notes confirmed it is from 1st fill ex-sherry hogsheads and described as:
Delicate Sherry notes with stewed apples, pear and traces of tobacco. The palate has white pepper initially with banana and orange flavours complemented by a creamy milk chocolate chip.
Here’s what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say on their website:
Aroma – Delicate Sherry influences with vanilla, stewed apple, and cinnamon spice. Hints of dried tobacco and cream soda are complemented by milk chocolate aromas.
Taste – Sweet and creamy initially with mild chilli spice developing. Liquorice, orange zest, and toffee flavours followed by a milk chocolate edge.
Aroma – Delicate Sherry initially with fresh green apple, sweet hay, and banana aromas with hints of toasted pecan nuts.
Taste – Peppery with green apple, grapefruit, and charred oak flavours are complemented by a mouth coating milk chocolate and Brazil nut edge.