MnC: ‘A Shot in the Dark’

Malt ’n’ Copper tasting: ‘A shot in the dark’ – Presented by Pedro on 2nd March 2017

This tasting consisted of three pairs of sherry-focused Scotch involving three 12yo’s and three 18yo’s from three different regions from three different distilleries – BLIND!

 

First pair:

1a] Glendronach 18yo ‘Allardice’ [2017] Ob. 46% WB87.14[910] WF86 [WF]87

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  • N: A potent youthful mix with a sweet-vegetal funk [Clynelish, Mortlach?], treacle sponge, powdered matcha, a touch of brown sauce, butter biscuits and dried confectionary candy bits. There’s a lot more here when time allows.
  • T: Softer than expected, very controlled and therefore the maturer of the bunch – with a squidgy, sweet tawny-port body seasoned with a little salt. Very delicious.
  • F: Rolls on, tasty sweet-to-sour with a dash of double cream and a pinch of eucalyptus~aniseed heat. Nice dry finish, a little fruity but plenty sweet at the end and in the main.
  • C: Overall sweet and moorish. Rather different in character to the last Allardice i tried last year [88 points], but more similar in profile to a batch I tried 4-5 years back where the sherry influence was equally quiet. Good stuff for sure but still a far cry from those brilliant [15yo] Revival’s.

Scores 85 points

1b] Glendronach 12yo ‘Original’  [2017] Ob. 43% WB83.69[762] WF81 WM82[10]

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  • N: Definitely the younger of the pair focusing on vanilla sponge, walnut cake, sugar syrup and passion fruits. This could pass for a youngish grain, given the simple sugars [Port Dundas #9452 for example].
  • T: Young-to-youthful with an indistinct tastiness, or a tasty indistinctness if you prefer – simple stuff yet really well made. Revisited: same again, this time a little more fruity, but then again it’s somewhat this-and-that in general.
  • F: Taste that highly-engineered, fast-yielding, blow-dried, wood-driven finish – namely vanilla oak with a soft chew.
  • C: Yeah, it’s good, very tasty but uneventful. Glendronach’s policy to switch from bourbon to sherry in the late ’90’s maybe showing here, yet i only tried the ‘Original’ once and that was a few years back – scoring it in the low 80’s. I believe Glendronach have switched back to sherry casks exclusively of late. Whether there’s any bourbon cask influence here or not, there’s plenty of modern ‘tech’ which makes it flawless, though it only:

Scores 80 points.

 

Second pair:

2a] Bunnahabhain 12yo [2017] Ob. 46.3% WB83.92[654] WF84 ralfy91

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  • N: There’s an undeniable pong emanating from this and everyones scrunching their faces up at it. I’m sure it will dissipate soon enough, as the bottle just got popped [interestingly, auto-correct changed the word ‘bottle’ to ‘battle’]. In the meantime, disregarding the pond-water sulphur whiffs, theres also some gunpowder and really salty tomato & salt ’n’ vinegar crisps as the main key descriptors thus far. Unfortunately that sulphur pong never does leave and yet it doesn’t quite detract from developments of a chocolaty & fruity nature, with a sweet-vegetal turn.
  • T: This has a lovely dry mouthfeel that’s akin to chewing on squidgy dried apricots. It’s very woody for a 12yo [assuming this is the case], with some inevitable ‘boing’ and sweet aniseed.
  • F: Long finish on waxy-acetone, vanilla and dry-oak. The continuing ‘boing’ translates now as a sweet funk with oaked raisins, candy/aniseed sweets and a sherry-bourbon woody-biscuit finish.
  • C: This is really nice stuff if a little funky with that sulphur ‘boing’ jumping around like Zebedee on a weekend booze cruise. Still, its very good whisky and characteristic – but of which distillery? Revealed! – one of my all-time favourite malts, and yet its been 4 years since i last tried a current version when on a bewildering visit to the distillery. Since then i’ve been enjoying the more slick/stewed, heavier oily/sherried and smokier 12yo’s from the 1990’s – going cheap at auction, though batch consistency is iffy. This 12yo however is rather different in profile to any expression of Bunna 12 i’ve had [and i’ve had a few], and it’s right up there with the better batches. If there’s one thing Bunnahabhain is excellent at it’s inconsistency, but when its good its good,….

Scores 86 points

2b] Bunnahabhain 18yo XVIII [2017] Ob. 46.3% WB87.57[271] WF90 WM88[2] ralfy90

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  • N: Definitely the older 18yo, there’s some mineral dustiness, chocolate flint, Humbrol enamel metallic [grey] paint, candy oak and plump sultanas set in lovely plump cup cakes. A sulphur edge [like with the 12yo], is always close but in the older expression, it’s translated as a mineral note with a side of damp dish cloth. Meanwhile the oak is on full view displaying a sweet-foosty dunnage – yum, like an old dry Balblair, less the fruits. There’s always a new thing popping up with every sniff.
  • T: Dusty, dry sherry with a fleeting [shame], fruity note. The palate experience is a temporary one [shame again], but a good dry one.
  • F: Really gritty paper-mache dry-oak/oils with a long waxy, distillate led, malty-chocolate finish – a long reveal compared to the short palate.
  • C: Fabulous, and what a difference in quality & profile this is to the last, poor, all-sherry 18yo i had just over two years ago. Distell have been really good for Bunnahabhain after Burn Stewart [CL Finance] went bust in 2009 – much like the good they [Distell] are currently doing for Deanston single malt [link]. Both this 18yo and the previous 12yo share that lovely mouthfeel and coastal character but a stronger fruit note [longer fermentation & more copper contact], on the palate would really bring them both closer with some of those super [70’s] Bunna’s of old.

Scores 88 points

 

Third pair:

3a] Aberlour 12yo [2017] Ob. 40% WB79.70[107] WF84

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  • N: Ok, were into different sherry territory now compared with the last two pairs – PX, Fino? Its very oaky like [in hindsight] the 18yo [to come]. Those old dry raisins indicate its more Glenfarclas than Talisker as i first suspected – and it’s nowhere near peaty for Skye.
  • T: A really good ‘old’ 12yo. Takes a while to go up the gears but then gathers pace and momentum.
  • F: Big waxy vanilla chocolate floods into the finish.
  • C: I’ve never actually tried the 12yo but i find it very good.

Scores 86 points

3b] Aberlour 18yo [2017] Ob. Sherry casks 43% WB85.34[386] WF86 [WM]83[10]

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  • N: Chanterelle mushroom-cask fungal with a dense oaky saltiness and more dry raisins [a la 12yo] – a Talisker [given the savoury profile], going on Glenfarclas.
  • T: Old & dry, like the current and excellent Caol Ila 25yo WB, though fruitier. Really displays an older style of malt.
  • F: Woody cocoa powder amongst other things.
  • C: Like the 12yo, I’ve never actually tried the 18yo either and it’s just as good as the Bunna 18yo.

Scores 88 points

 

And that’s time!

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