Just back from a wee break on the Isle of Bute so I’ll resume A Dram A Day tomorrow!
A Dram A Day
After yesterday’s nonsense I need to get back to something a little more sensible, something a little more…well…normal. Glenmorangie Original, or Glenmorangie 10yo as we used to call it before it got the LVMH style treatment, is probably about as normal as it gets. Until earlier this year it was the best-selling malt in Scotland (more on the new King of Scotland in a future post) and can be found in supermarkets, petrol stations, gift shops and your dad’s booze cabinet. If you haven’t received this as a gift, usually for Christmas, at some point in your life then you are probably in the minority (I have done no research on this at all and am basing this ‘fact’ on my own life experience only – so I might be wrong).
This comes in at 40%. Let’s give it a go before I stick some toasted oak in it, at a later date, like the Ardbeg from yesterday’s post.
Nose: Heather honey at first followed by malty, biscuity, almond notes. Some fragrant soap and brine with gentle citrus and vanilla. An earthiness appears after some time. This caresses your nostrils rather than charge straight up them.
Palate: Gentle barley and citrus builds to a creamy, spicy richness. Very well balanced.
Finish: Nutty, peppery, lots of citrus, vanilla and some coffee. Almost a little bit of smoke at the end.
Comments: A classic dram which is deceptively complex but gentle and easy drinking too with good balance. No wonder it was the top selling malt in Scotland for a decade.
Sponsored link: Buy Glenmorangie online at The Whisky Exchange
Another sample this time, but it’s not exactly whisky. This is whisky before it touches the inside of a barrel and three years and a day before it can legally be called whisky. New make, new spirit, whatever you want to call it is the product that comes straight from the stills before any ageing takes place. This particular one is from the Ardbeg distillery on Islay and was bottled in a little 4cl vial as part of a range sold by La Maison du Whisky in Paris. It’s 67.5% so I might add a drop of water just for curiosity’s sake.
Colour: Funnily enough, clear
Nose: Unmistakably Islay, and unmistakably Ardbeg, even in this form. Briny, sweet, kippery peat with underlying spirity notes and cut grass.
Okay, before I go any further I’ve had a thought and I’m going to try a little experiment. Since I have barely a mouthful of this spirit I’m going to try and change it into matured Ardbeg in a couple of hours. I’ll pop a little piece of toasted oak into the vial and leave it to do its magic. Here goes nothing.
(Two hours later…)
Well that looks interesting. The proof is in the pudding, though, as they say. Time for pudding…
Nose 2: Very woody and chemically. Furniture polish and nail varnish remover take top billing with a support act of turpentine. The peat has been tempered quite a bit, in fact I’m finding it hard to pick it out at all apart from a teeny hint of smoke underneath which may have come from the wood. Eventually some dried fruits come through, almost like a very old sherry cask whisky.
Palate: Ouch…that’ll put hairs on your chest. Or strip them off… Heavy spice and pepper with some dark, dark, black as hell oranges from Satan’s banquet table. Bitterness and drying of the mouth. Tannin Central.
Finish: See above. Vegetal bitterness to end. Heavy on the tannins.
Comments: Do not try this at home, kids. Next time I will try a larger sample and shorter timescale!
Sponsored link: Buy Ardbeg online at The Whisky Exchange
Right, what’ll we try today? How about an Aberfeldy 21yo? Sounds good to me.
This Highland malt is a little excessively wrapped up in a box with metal hinges, a metal tag for opening it and a lot of inlaid ribbon in which to sit the bottle itself. I suppose you have to do this as many people buy this sort of malt for gifting but I’ll need to find something to keep in the box afterwards as I hate wastage.
This comes in at 40% ABV, is coloured (Mit Farbstoff on the back) and presumably chill-filtered. Nevermind. Let’s see what it tastes like.
Nose: Malty and floral. Smooth and refined. Honey and almonds on stewed pears. Lavender soap.
Palate: Smooth and light with building spice, fruits and white pepper.
Finish: Long and warming with an initial burst of pepper softening off to dried fruits, coffee and chocolate with a light smoke hint throughout and a delicate woody dryness lingers.
Comments: Very well-balanced and refined. If this was a person it would be a Victorian gentleman. The whisky has just enough of everything in the right amounts to make you want another one. It’s not showing off, just quietly exuding class. The only downside is that would probably even better without any tinkering.
Sponsored link: Buy Aberfeldy 21yo online at The Whisky Exchange
Having recently travelled to the Isle of Jura to visit the distillery and found myself still a little bit underwhelmed by the single malts produced there I am going to give not one but three of their new malts a go today to see if I can find something that will tantalise my tastebuds. The distillery has recently released a series of three cask bottlings, with vintages not age statements, called the Boutique Barrels Collection. The bottles in the range are Bourbon XU 1999, which is peated, Bourbon JO 1995, a 1st-fill bourbon cask, and Sherry JI 1993, which is an Olorosso sherry cask. They are all cask strength, at 55%, 56.5% and 54% respectively.
I’ll leave the peaty one until the end so I’ll start with the JO 1995.
Colour: Light amber.
Nose: Quite fruity with bags of a warm, vanilla mustiness. Wafts of banana and kiwi fruit and wood.
Palate: Dark fruits, spicy and then pepper. Pretty viscous and rich.
Finish: Very fiery and bitter at first go but mellows into rich mocha.
Comments: A decent dram which takes a little bit of time to warm to but eventually opens up into a tasty tipple.
Now the JI 1993.
Colour: Amber – dark amber.
Nose: Sherry-soaked sultanas and Christmas cake. A touch of cinnamon and treacle follows. A classic sherry-malt nose.
Palate: Good mouthfeel with sparkling spices and raisins.
Finish: Medium and drying. Lots of dark chocolate, orange and spices.
Comments: Olorosso malts and myself get on pretty well together and this is no exception. One for after your Christmas dinner.
And last but not least the XU 1999.
Colour: Gold – dark gold.
Nose: This is apparently ‘heavily-peated’ but it’s a fairly delicate on the nose. A lovely sweet peat that smells of a barn in the summer, sun warming straw.
Palate: Soft delivery building to citrus, honey and spices with a green note underneath.
Finish: Long and warming, with touches of cocoa and something a bit more green/sour, wrapped in honey.
Comments: The peat seems to have mostly forgotten to show up here, apart from a brief appearance on the nose. Still a good dram, though, which reminds me a little bit of some peated Bunnahabhain but we’re definitely not talking Islay here.
Well, these are certainly better that the standard bottlings of Jura that I have tried and if this is anything to go by then the distillery seems to be moving in the right direction. I think my favourite of the three has to be the sherry cask JI 1993: it ticks all the boxes and would certainly be a cracking winter-warmer.
I’m crossing the sea to Ireland today with a wee sample of Tyrconnell 15yo Single Cask Malt Whiskey (note the spelling of whiskey with the ‘e’ and ignore the misspelling of Tyrconnell on the label above). This is distilled at the Cooley Distillery in County Louth and bottled at 46%. It has won awards and all that malarkey. Many thanks again to Ralfy for the sample. Here we go…
Colour: You can’t tell from the brown bottle above but it’s gold. Trust me.
Nose: Fresh and delicate floral and citrus notes with grassy hints. Gentle nut aromas wrapped in vanilla and sprinkled with cinammon, topped with sultanas (if that doesn’t get your mouth watering I don’t know what would). After a while there’s coffee and chocolate. Superb stuff.
Palate: Gentle delivery with spices gradually building and a tidal wave of citrus.
Finish: Loads of citrus, vanilla, milky coffee and lingering sultanas. Delightful.
Comments: This is a lovely dram and I can see what the fuss is all about. It’s a damn good whiskey with grace, balance, complexity and flavour. It’s so moreish. I want another one already!
Sponsored link: Buy Tyrconnell 15yo online at The Whisky Exchange
Edit: I had to add another little line here as I went away from the computer after posting this and when I came back five minutes later I was still tasting coffee and chocolate. Sublime! I’m going to have another.
The only distillery on the Isle of Mull is called Tobermory, after the town where it is situated. This is the standard Tobermory 10yo expression which you can pick up relatively cheaply these days. I paid less than £20 for this bottle. It’s at 40%.
Colour: Gold – dark gold.
Nose: A smooth and light, fragrant and fruity peatiness. Loads of toffee and red berries. There’s a salty, sea air tang too. Underneath lurks a slighty sour, vegetal note.
Palate: Very light and watery, takes a while to get going. Citrus and a green bitterness.
Finish: Medium length. Quite green, bitter and spirity.
Comments: Tobermory is a malt that is regularly overlooked and on this bottling you can see why. It’s not a great dram, but it’s not that bad either. The interesting nose is then let down a bit by everything after. If this is chill-filtered then perhaps leaving more in would help and upping the strength. It’s certainly not a patch on the 15yo which is superb and should really be the standard bottling from this distillery. For something under £20 it’s not bad but I’m probably going to be using it for some blending experiments…
Sponsored link: Buy Tobermory 10yo online at The Whisky Exchange
Repeat after me: “Thou shalt not judge a whisky by its colour!”
Oh, what a muppet. That’s me indeed. I won’t make excuses other than I couldn’t smell much as I was outside in a breeze and I assumed that the fairly light colouring meant that a bourbon cask had been used. WRONG!
What am I talking about? Well, a short while ago I was interviewed by our old friend Ralfy and being the genial host that he is we shared a wee dram in his back garden whilst the interview was in progress. I opened my big gob to suggest that it was a lovely bourbon cask malt before studying the bottle, which as you can see above, clearly states SHERRY WOOD. Argh! On camera. Coming to YouTube very soon. Yeah, I’m the tube.
Anyway, onwards. Mortlach 14yo. 1992-2006, 600 bottles. 46%. Argh!
Colour: (Well, it’s a bit darker now than it looked when I was outside on a sunny evening!) Light amber, with lots of little floaty things.
Nose: Raisins (SHERRY WOOD!!!), marzipan and wood spices. Dark fruits and a subtle hint of furniture polish. Something a tiny bit green like gooseberries.
Palate: Soft and sweet, with a slightly smoky, vegetal bitterness too.
Finish: Long, warming, sweet juices and bitter chocolate. A hint of pepper at the end.
Comments: A lovely Mortlach. Definitely not from a bourbon cask.
Not really a sponsored link: The Muppets online.
For those who don’t know, there’s a whisky club of sorts in Edinburgh which you can become a member of called the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) and then gain access to their list of single cask ‘mystery’ bottlings. They are all given a number, such as this 37.27 bottling, where the first part of the number relates to the distillery and the second part is the number of the cask. I put mystery in inverted commas before because everyone knows which distillery each code relates to so it’s all a bit silly. This one is a Cragganmore, is bottled at 59.6% and is a 19yo. There is a picture of Venus on the label with the title ‘A Lover’s Lassie’ and a load of other twaddle I won’t bore you with. This is one of the 26 Malts bottlings. Now, on to the whisky!
Colour: Dark gold.
Nose: Vanilla, malty, ozone and a farmyard-like off-note underneath.
Palate: Sweet and sour. Fairly oily and then HOT!
Finish: Long, bittersweet and tangy. Spicy, peppery and quite hot. The bitterness becomes slightly sweeter each time and eventually moves into dark chocolate territory.
Comments: This seems fairly youthful for a 19yo. It should be a lot smoother and chilled out but instead it’s a twisted little firestarter. I think I like it. Not sure why, though.
Many thanks to Andrew Bell at McTear’s Auctioneers for the bottle!
Smokey Joe is an ‘Islay Malt Scotch Whisky’ from the folks at Angus Dundee (Tomintoul, Glencadam). It is bottled at 46% and is not chill-filtered. Many thanks to Ralfy for the loan of the bottle!
Colour: Dark gold – light amber.
Nose: Mouth-watering, butcher’s shop, barbecue saucey, seaweedy peat. Yum! Iodine, TCP and sea air. Everything good about peat is in this bottle.
Palate: Viscous, sweet and spicy. Oranges and cinnamon.
Finish: Long, sweet and spicy with a subtle smokiness. More of that BBQ sauce.
Comments: A delicious dram. Good, sweet peat. Warming, full-flavoured and nicely balanced.
This is a lovely malt with hints of Caol Ila, Ardbeg and Lagavulin. Not sure which of those is actually in it but this is a great dram at a great price.