Last night’s Whisky Squad Xmas Special 2016 was:
- A blind tasting at the Salt ‘Whisky’ Bar, a fabulous venue with casks all around.
- with 17 attendees/squadees with 17 bottles [suitably dressed] and 1x 10ml pourer. 10mlx17.
- there was also food, a raffle and prizes.
What more can one want, nothing – let’s begin!
Incredibly i managed to continue taking notes for all 17 pours, plus one extra although i neglected to take pictures after a while and info for another. Hey ho.
Aberlour 10yo Ob 40% WB80.39
- N: Bananas first before it reveals it’s new wooden coat with a light pepperiness. Overall it’s creamy, meaty and fruity with a light touch of sherry and some age. I’m guessing this is a Speysider around 10-12 years old.
- T: Thinner than expected, very thin in fact yet it’s neither oily nor fragile. There’s a woody-ish, light honeyed travel. Another guess – Glentauchers?
- F: Runny honey, vanillas and a fair amount of wood maturation from some active oak.
- C: A solid oaked dram from start to finish, but what is it? Aberlour 10yo revealed, no one had a clue. I’ve never been a fan of the standard 10yo but prefer this latest batch/style – less sherried and cloying/congested than i’ve remembered it in the past, yet more modern, cleaner and spritely and with less oily=fruity depth – such is the way now the old stock is all but gone from most distilleries.
Scores 82 points
Penderyn Aur Cymru Peated 46% WB75 WF77 WM74
- N: Light, floral-fruit eau de vie.
- T: Same as the nose, very clean, light and floral. Lovely spirit, but is it whisky?
- F: Much longer than expected so probably has had the minimum three years quota in some fairly soft casks to [only just] make it whisky.
- C: Good, really good but so so shy on the wood side, and no sign of peat at all. No doubting they make good spirit with character unlike Scottish, Japanese, Irish, Scandinavian or any other but i’m looking forward to trying some older, vintage Penderyn in the future. The distillery has been around since 2000 so there are a few examples around, but very few. Incredibly my wish for an older vintage Penderyn was granted straight away, not that i clocked it.
Scores 79 points
Penderyn 2008 7yo SMWS 128.6 (270 bts) 59.9% WB87
- N: A grain, surely? It’s creamy with a little sulphur – desirable mind with some dry wood. I’m sticking my neck out here, surely to regret it, but that’s what blind tastings are all about right? I’m guessing this is a Scottish wheat grain whisky in it’s mid 30’s.
- T: Strong arrival [high abv], robust with deep sherried and meaty notes, solidly consolidated/fused with the oak. I’m sticking with my grain hunch for now.
- F: Chocolate and ginger into the finish with some more sherry>sulphur. It keeps on going, showing the finishing form of a single malt at high strength, so probably my grain hunch is way off.
- C: Ha, way off indeed. Fabulous Penderyn at only seven years old! I’d buy that.
Scores 88 points
Old Pulteney ‘Duncansby Head Lighthouse’ NAS 46% [1ltr] WB80 WF74
- N: Bread, baker’s yeast, ham, lamb, stuffing balls, deep putty, cereals.
- T: More cereals and honeyed Locketts – a Deanston vibe no less.
- F: ,… keeps on going on yeasty bread, stale white bread and white wine with a little chocolate.
- C: Stale white bread and white wine – a failed communion perhaps? This is a funny mix of bourbon and sherry from Old Pulteney, cast out to the travel retail sector. It wasn’t long ago when travel retail sold quality gear, Balblair 1997 vintage for example in 2007/8/9. It was concerning however that decent juice was going to the wrong crowd, but no fears here.
Scores 75 points
Balvenie 12yo Doublewood Ob. 40% WB81 WF78-WF80 WM77-85
- N: Balanced, rounded, distillate led whisky with notes of bready, malty bananas – so bourbon and sherry then.
- T: Rounded, waxy, vanillin oak.
- F: Innocuous, sweetish finish, malty and dry with a slight bitter/green for balance.
- C: This is the most whisky-ish whisky of the night so far, a little plain yet fully competent. i’m guessing this is something standard and widely available such as the Glenlivet 12 – and I wasn’t far out with my guess this time. Well well, like the Aberlour 10, another surprise for many of us. I was at the Balvenie distillery only a few months ago and the Balvenie Doublewood there was as wonderfully light, fluffy and complex as it had been ten years prior, definitely up there as one if not Balvenie’s best output from their standard range. This is not the greatest batch, but as always it’s an easy pleaser, one that hits most people’s mark in some form or another – that’s what the doublewood does. Only 40% abv mind!
Scores 82 points
As a ‘squad’, we begun to work collectively on observations. Clearly 50ml is the magic malt amount that allows whisky enthusiasts to form a telepathic link. Notes for the Strathclyde up next were certainly a collective effort.
Strathclyde 2005/2016 10yo DL ‘Old Particular’ #11062 50.9% WB86
I knew Nick was bringing this, and knowing this so well i was on it straight away.
- N: Toffee, [volcanic] cinder, smoked germaline [Martin], banoffee-toffee.
- T: There’s smoke here today, smoked paprika no less and onion, sweet onion – so sweet, smoked onion relish with smoked sugar [Elise] and a teaspoon of Balcones Brimstone.
- F: Long one, quite remarkable for a grain and a young grain at that.
- C: I think this is a fab whisky, everytime.
Scores 88 points
English Whisky Company ‘Norfolk Farmers’ Single grain  Ob. Batch 01/2016 [1998 bts] 45% WB0
This comes from 8 different beer mashes, but i’m devoid of further info. The bottle was blank also – cunning Christmas camouflage i must say!
- N: Clynelish/Rampur funk, funky-creamy fruits and rye biscuits. It’s a little thin so far yet with some decent maturation within.
- T: Salty-malty, vanilla cream tablet [with the emphasis on cream], and chocolate malt [included in the mash].
- F: Peppery sprinkles into the finish with coffee>chocolate liqueur ‘large-ing it up’ at the end.
- C: Textural, complex, odd, different, curious, engaging, fabulous. Not a clue as to what it is, not even the country. I didn’t clock it was a grain even, so unlike any grain i’ve come across before.
Scores 84 points
Redbreast ‘Mano a lamh’ All sherried 2015 [2000 bts] 46% WB88.57
- N: Curry and Thai spice, cardamon, cloves, stewed/cooked pineapple bark rum [Plantations!], and satsuma steeped in vinegar. Grain? Bourbon? It’s definitely not Scottish. Turns out its all sherry.
- T: A funny funky start wth a sharp yet squidgy unravel and slightly muddled development – with all-sorts swilling around.
- F: Chewy vanilla sweets, vanilla sponge and tablet.
- C: The [Red-breasted] Robin on the neck of the bottle should have been a clue. I found this hard to score but instinctively scribbled down 87 points.
Scores 87 points
It’s half time and there’s probably some home nations Rugby analogy to be made here as the Welsh, English and Irish are storming it.
Potter Distilling Company 26yo  ‘Canadian Indian corn’ Cadenhead Single cask [204 bts] 58.3% WB0 WF66
- N: Following on from the Redbreast, this is much lighter, grainy and even worty – so the distillate is talking and yet theres depth/certain age here.
- T: Salty with no sharpness yet it has a good punch, an elegant yet simple punch. Then comes some peppery heat, yet heat in a good way – akin to an accomplished aroma-hot curry. Then add water and amazingly it’s corn grain all the way.
- F: Waxy corn.
- C: Adding water reveals all. Like Pass-the-parcel, fun to unwrap.
Scores 78 points
Clynelish 1997/2012 [15yo] Berry & Rudd ‘Boisdale’ cask #6467 [320 bts] 46% WB79
This is the bottle i brought along. From previous experience WB, this was either going to be good or bad.
- N: Natural style, eau de vie barley distillate with light, peppery funk and average>low oak support.
- T: Varnished, vegetal sweet funk, a little cloying before becoming sweet and sugary.
- F: Builds in body with notes of apricot, almonds, spice and garibaldi biscuits.
- C: Just about balanced but definitely leaning more towards the sugars. In the end, neither good nor bad, more a fair session whisky is all. Bit too sweet in the end, bah.
Scores 84 points
Royal Lochnagar  10yo Managers Dram cask bottle #625 57.2% WB87.92
Given out to it’s workers with an agreement that the bottles be consumed and not sold, yet you cant sack those that have retired now can you.
- N: Another whisky-ish whisky with body and squidgy layers.
- T: Distillate led with an initial punch before becoming rather thin. Moves decidedly towards chocolate liqueur
- F: ,…… neat finish.
- C: Light but classy whisky.
Scores 87 points
Aultmore 2002 13yo SMWS 73.76  60.3% WB0
- N: Full bodied, ‘come over here if you think you’re hard enough’, Mannochmore-esque whisky – one right up my street. i’m guessing it’s a SMWS bottling, so single cask and cask strength naturally. Pear fruits with water. Full on nose, no messing.
- T: Softer with water, lovely stuff. Heavy/concentrated/full-bodied and balanced with it. In fact i’d say its as balanced a body as a whisky could be.
- F: Sour cream popadoms into banana tart and,… ‘spiced apple tea’ someone calls out – I believe that’s the SMWS bottle name.
- C: Decent stuff indeed.
Scores 86 points
Caol Ila 1992/2016 24yo SMWS 53.235 ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ [198 bts] 51.3% WB86.50
- N: Herbal barley peat=smoke, Ardmore surely?
- T: Yeah, that hits the sweet-herbal spot straight away. Mainly develops on herbal peat with dried mint, the smoke way back in the mix.
- F: Smoked oil, Frazzles, smoky bacon latterly finishing with chunks of chocolate before turning to vanilla.
- C: Having a peat-led over smoke-led [Islay] malt is always a delight, that’s why i’ve always liked Caol ila.
Scores 86 points
Time for the raffle. It’s fair to say i was fairly inebriated from this point on. Notes are sketchy whilst i aim for the crux whilst forgetting to take photos or detailed information down regarding the bottles. Furthermore, raffle wins are opened, it’s christmas carnage!
Nick wins a prize:
Glendalough Poitin Spirit 40% WB71 WF83
N: The sherry cask finish brings a light funk. Otherwise there’s not a great deal going on here but a note of potato. That’s a note i picked up from Echlinville ‘Ban Poitin’ that use 40% potatoes in their mash.
- T: Weird, bathwater sherry and tadpoles!
- F: Weird, is this whisky?
- C: Not really happening. What is it? Glen-rough? Irish? Revealed! According to Serge there are likely to be potatoes in this spirit.
Scores 76 points
Prizes were duly awarded for best dressed Christmas whisky. I took second place with my Clynelish smuggled into a santa baby grow – see if you can spot it:
Bowmore NAS Ob. Feis Ila 2014 Ob. [1000 bts] 56.1% WB86
- N: Barley, farms.
- T: Very full, strong and punchy whilst continuing on the farm & straw theme.
- F: Not incredibly complex yet full on and clean.
- C: Rawr! One to blow the cobwebs away! I do like this style.
Scores 86 points
Ardbeg Uigeadail NAS Ob. 54.2% WB89.54 WF92[’13] WM90 ralfy89
- N: A desirable mix of winey, peaty>smokey vegetal constituents.
- T: Spring onions and sherry smoke amongst other things you understand – this is whisky number, how many?
- F: More smokey with a return of the onion<sherry.
- C: Maybe i’d have guessed it earlier in the evening, after all i have a bottle of this open at home. One of my whisky favourites, NAS or otherwise.
Scores 88 points
….., whilst first prize went to a ‘Whisk-mas Tree’, fully equipped with it’s own fairy lights!
Caol Ila 11yo G&M [bottled for a whisky club] % – totally failed to get the correct info.
- N: I’m back guessing again. Let’s go for Fettercairn! Mainly my guess is hanging onto the [slightly braised] sherry notes with a little farm note – although it’s neither overly peaty or smoky.
- T: Easy and light,….. but then again,….
- F: ….. it rallies and comes back full bodied with medicinal Elastoplast and a plethora of other crazy complexities. Certainly not a Fettercairn, this could easily be Laphroaig.
- C: Hard to read. i feel this one needs time, at least i need more time – probably it’s nearing home time.
Scores 81 points
Laphroaig PX cask NAS Ob. travel retail 48% [1ltr] WB85.82 WF82 WM88
- N: Vegetal esters, so it could be another Caol Ila it’s but more likely a Laphroaig this time – if i keep guessing Laphroaig, i’ll get one right!
- T: Laphroaig surely with a vegetal-sweet pudding side and some mild green bitterness to even things out.
- F: A considered amount of sherry and smoke right at the end with some big, foosty-oaky-chocolate notes at the death.
- C: It’s revealed and i know it. It’s not quite as stellar as some batches a few years ago when World of Whiskies awarded it their ‘Whisky of the Year 2013’ – but still, it’s very fine indeed and delicious no less. Good dessert dram to wrap things up. Great night!
Scores 86 points
Right, home time! Where’s the exit?
Thankyou so much to Billy and Elise and to everyone of us who contributed their bottles and inadvertently raised £250 for Shelter.
Merry Christmas all
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