The bottle polishing randomness continues into 2018. A pair with no connection whatsoever, unless,…..
From time to time I crack open one of a number of 3cl samples I decanted from a full bottle back in 2015. Here’s two of those times. I had the first of these samples straight after a Macphail’s 1938 45yo WB [score: 89], for a random 1930’s mini series tasting – though comparisons were incidental. Talking of incidentals, the price I paid for this bottle worked out as approximately 1p per day of it’s lengthy life spent mainly in glass not cask.
- N: Lacking the density and complexity of the Macphail’s, this Bellows shows a far more basic nature. There is however a similar resonance between the two, though how I could quantify that is anyone’s guess. Whilst initially lacking specifics, it’s decidedly ambitious and never lacking in interest or intrigue. This malt’s body is somewhat metallic and Bovril like – think yeasty, meaty stock. So, to recap: grainy metallic Bovril with a touch of white wine vinegar – who can resist?
- T: Light and oily – thin sewing machine oil coupled with a light salad dressing oil, thickening gently as the grain becomes more chewy. It’s such a sublime & subtle barley led, honeyed development, the oak giving only light support. There is harmony however in it’s blended balance, no doubt brought about through subsequent years of bottle ageing/marrying.
- F: Having said that, the spirit is now more pronounced though there’s no denying that the oak does have a least some influence – this isn’t a NAS 3yo. What results is a creamy, honeyed and relatively vibrant uncomplicated blend which would be merely gluggable if it weren’t for all those decades in interwar glass. The finish however is the weakest part of its profile, a little dry and talc-y.
- C: I can’t help reacting emotionally to this whisky. Maybe it’s because it’s the first really old bottle I ever bought. It’s so simple and yet so abstruse – a new word for me. It means obscure, esoteric, little known, puzzling, perplexing, enigmatic, cryptic, mysterious. At times of [my] clarity it’s nothing more than a standard/fair ye olde blend, albeit with a high malt content. There’s certainly more here than that, but would these abstruse subtleties show up in a blind tasting? Of the samples I gave out, the little feedback I’ve had back would suggest so.
- N: Flinty, match sulphur on the nose, turning a little peaty as it opens out. Soon it’s a richer honeyed malt with notes of tomato juice, armagnac certainly, a little fennel and some metallic qualities. Ebbing & flowing, it becomes decidedly more grainy with some heathers. Love it.
- T: Even more metallic on arrival than was initially detected on the nose, but it rallies. Grainy, flinty and light bitter=sour sweet with a grainy, [metallic] lemon pith development. Forever displaying a high malt ratio, it becomes creamier & more chocolate-y into the finish. A Speysider, probably. Glen Moray? What are the chances? More likely perhaps is Glenlivet given the historical trade links Portal, Dingwall & Norris had already established with Glenlivet by the 1890’s link, but then PD&N bottled everything from port to rum for international markets.
- F: Sustains for a short while before falling away, the savoury, cream>sweetness lingering.
- C: Love it, love it. Every dram an education.
Scores 86 points
Disaster! After a long 18 month wait, a bottle from ‘that’ cask is delivered! After splitting the bottle three-ways, I unwittingly decanted 20cl into a bottle with a faulty cap. I tragically lost around 11cl to my rucksack as I cycled home with it that night. With glass half full thinking [literally], I desperately tried to extract the spilt juice from the rucksack. A total fail of course. I did however have the remaining 9cl. Here are my findings.
- N&T: Sure it’s a blatantly sherry driven cask-centric number but I can’t help admiring the dunnage=fungal with a mycelium-like depth from the oak, the char element also playing it’s part in concocting this fabulous fusion of HD flavours. The char also brings a burnt caramel/molasses quality. After that it’s time to focus on the sherry fruit factor. For some, the wood will be a little too much, but if you think you’d love dry-charred fruity/fungal sherried tea, you’re in for a treat. Saying all that however, there are times when I was reading this whisky as coming from a bourbon cask, having spent a few weeks with a very old bourbon grain whisky that perversely, displayed more action I associate with sherry than this. What I’m saying is, this seems to suggest bourbon cask[s] more than it ought. Could this then be a sherry finished bourbon-matured Glen Moray? I’ll never understand why the last used cask type takes all the credit.
- F: The large tobacco/woody/dry rooibos tannins at the end are frankly ridiculous to the sublime. Who needs to smoke after this, with its significantly long sweet-tobacco finish and bourbon-fungal-dunnage magic at the death, everytime.
- C: Nicely matured Moray, finished for the right amount of time in the right cask. The last words however go to Jo who said succinctly, “when I imagined what whisky should taste like, this is it. This is what all other whiskies are trying to be”.
- N: Nods of approval and instant dad noises straight up. The fungal depth is as ever, immediately apparent and central to this malt’s whole appeal. The sherry element is so intertwined into the fabric of the ‘thing’. It’s like the whisky ran at the sherry cask at full speed, the two smashing together like two neutrinos acting out ‘the’ Baywatch beach scene. Serge never did give out that maltoporn number now did he? Let’s move on to some descriptors that take us beyond the cogs & sprockets, even though this malt really is centred around ‘that’ cask. The fruits, the fresher wood spice and the earthy vegetal sugars swirl around up & down, in & out,…. I’m going on already,… I’m going in already,….
- T: Starts with rich & thick complex-sugary and a firm woody & fruity punch. Dries as it thickens a touch, shifting swiftly & nimbly through the gears. More bourbon associated notes (over sherry), with a waxy vanilla dunnage profile. Never tires of water which brings out the herbal=fruity tinctures and a sweet [roasted] fennel/allium character. Chew on for the tutti-fruity, vanilla=fruit candy. Carries on swiftly into the finish.
- F: Deep fruity, dry ashy fungal, the fungal depth as I mentioned before – the heart of things. Then, sweet>fungal<ashy>>vegetal with a dry ashy conclusion. Intense waxy-dry finish on rooibos>deep tobacco & fungal-char, concluding with a heap of savoury-sweet ashy remnants at the death. Tricky to find a malt to follow it, given its enormity, breadth, OTT nature, and self-believe. Who am I kidding, a Karuizawa would do it.
- C: I can’t beat the succinctness of Jo’s quote but I sure adhere to her sentiment. Despite its bold & somewhat garish manner, there lies within a graceful, serendipitous complexity that is wholly unique to ‘that’ cask, ‘that’ spirit, ‘that’ vintage. One to savour and to guzzle in equal measure, and I’m the person for the job – not my rucksack!
Scores 90 points
Next up, and about time – a Balblair trio.