Regular readers may be aware that I started my whisky journey as a virtual teetotal-er [bio], passing by the privileges of an unlimited bar tab as a pianist aboard cruise ships. How things change.
After watching the vPub broadcast [see video below], on ‘What is cask strength & single cask whisky‘ yesterday, I begun pondering my own whisky journey in light of Aqvavitae describing his.
Tonight I met up with my good friend and #1 whisky buddy, The Foz. The night’s proceedings perfectly summed up where my varied personal & social journey has lead me so far.
First job of the night: Sample swap!
It was time to delve into a number of samples we had collectively assembled from the Campbeltown Festival & Islay’s Feis Ile 2018. Other samples included a raft of barely unrecognisable & non-labelled bottles, Bowmore’s new make, Bruichladdich’s gin and a 21yo Springbank I’ve just recently reviewed [blog]. Also there was a Port Dundas that we shall try later.
Glen Marnoch 1988/2018 29yo Aldi Distiller’s Reserve 40% WB93.15
The Foz however, had already pre-poured me a dram. I have no idea what it is, guessing a 10-12yo Glen Grant-style single malt. In actual fact it’s Aldi’s undisclosed [Dalwhinnie] 29yo.
- C: Whilst the nose is terrific, I’m simply not a fan – it being perfectly Dalwhinnie-ish [in hindsight]. For those that are fans, £50 for a 1988 vintage is a treat indeed. It tails off significantly after the arrival, but the calibre overall is far more impressive than some of Aldi’s offerings last year, being well aged yet intact.
Scores 85 points
We open an unmarked sample we guess is an Open Day peated Glen Scotia but that doesn’t grab us at that moment.
Second job of the night: Bottle share decanting!
- Christmas time is when you’ll find heavily discounted bargains. Caol Ila 18yo Ob. 43% was £62!
- The Pusser’s Gunpowder proof snuck in on the back of an enjoyable experience at RumFest 2018 [blog]. Again, the price was right.
- The best deal perhaps was a Balblair 1991/2018 Ob. 3rd release for a little over £100. Stonking!
Third job of the night: Tasting!
Once all the decanting was done, we had a little go on the 1991 Balblair [notes to follow in due course]. By comparison, we had a 1990 Ob., a tired 16yo Ob., and an SMWS 9yo to create an impromptu flight. Later came Elixir’s ‘Art of Whisky Mashing’ too. What shone through tonight however was the 1990.
Balblair 1990/2017 Ob. 2nd release 46% WB88.04 WF89
- N: This is a far beefier dram compared to the more subtle lemon-floral 1991/2018 3rd release [Blog / WB], and the very different 16yo ‘old style’ label [WB]. That’ll be down to the significantly heavier sherry presence, the distillery-specific floral < tropical fruits still very evident however. It was interesting to compare this with SMWS’s 70.21 [Blog / WB], and Elixir’s 19yo [blog], a distillery character from the underlying spirit emerging between all three.
- T: More dark & desirably bitter > sweet sherry action, one pleasingly amalgamated and somewhat old skool in character for sure. After a full arrival and a patient pause, things start to get interesting on the turn [with water], towards a varied & colourful finish.
- F: The spirit remains firm whilst the finish offers all-sorts, from a fresh/spicy waxiness to a slightly butyric note, desirable sulphury tones, a dry woodiness, earthy dunnage,… a collection in fact of possible outcomes like those ‘choose your own ending’ adventure books.
- C: Maybe the 1991 has more finesse, though it’s only just been opened so too early to say. Perhaps by comparison then, this is a more rugged Balblair, though one that maintains all that’s great about this fabulous Highland distillery, and so a whisky you can enjoy on many levels.
Scores 88 points
After much chat, more samples and cups of tea, it was time to call it a night – but I couldn’t leave without trying the Port Dundas, a single cask sample from my birth year.
Port Dundas 1973/2005 32yo DT Sherry cask #128316 [408 bts] 59.3% WB88.46 WF88 WM86
The Foz doesn’t recall where this sample came from, somewhere from our Campbeltown trip very possibly.
- N: Instant joy from an ‘aah’ nose, one very rich for a mere 32 year old – still fairly youthful for grain. The profile oozes opulent vanilla icecream with tutti fruity, caramel & treacle as well as fusty fruits and a Christmas-y vibe that speaks of a sherry cask. The Foz gets lots of liquorice. I get the natural sticks more than the confectionary.
- T: Arrives just as you’d like, yet feisty though perfectly balanced with no mention of over-oakiness, or it ever being an issue. If anything, it’s more a resinous oakiness in character that appears to be perfectly ‘used’ by Diageo’s once favoured grain spirit. We’ve more dusty fruitiness & rich vanilla icecream slowly turning to cocoa & chocolate flavour.
- F: Short at first with balsa notes, yet further sips reveal just what a sherry cask this was. By comparison, the Cameronbridge doesn’t cut it as it did nearly two year’s ago [blog].
- C: I can’t remember a grain ever topping a session at the very end. Incredibly, The Foz concurs. From memory, it’s one of the best grains I’ve had in a long while. As for cask #128317 [WF], yikes!
Scores 89 points
Tomorrow, I’ll be back to the Campbeltown Festival.
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