Southport Whisky Club: Grand Dram #2

This is Southport Whisky Club’s ‘members-only’ 2nd Grand Dram. The headline grab spoke of ‘£1000 worth of whisky for £45. Deal! We begin our flight of six with an old grain from a closed distillery.

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Caledonian 1976/2016 40yo DL XOP Xtra Old Particular Refill hogshead #11341 [290 bts] 54.1% WB89.33[6]

  • N: Typical and pleasingly familiar proper-old grain whisky, nicely woody, bready, creamy, ripe fruity, emulsion-y and vanilla-y. It manages to retain freshness whilst displaying a suitable dustiness. As well as soft toffee and just a touch of glue, later, Nigel [our co-host] offers up wine gums for the palate that I find here the nose, a consistently lovely nose even two hours later.
  • T: Forgivingly strong and suitably sweet to dusty sour, woody creamy-gluey and peppery [with just a suggestion of sherry cask maturation], the order of the day. Some light sharp woody-citrus on the front to middle of the tongue moves through to those before-mentioned fruity wine gums,…
  • F: ,…..with woody lactose notes heading towards soft slightly salted toffee caramel,…. Reasonable finish, tasty conclusion.
  • C: The balance here is more than fair from this charming old grain, the likes of which were available in abundance for just two figures, not so long ago. Hard to justify at £310 – now the going rate – yet these rrp prices don’t hold up at auction, nor for the experience.

Scores 87 points

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Bad Na H-Achlaise Ob. Batch 2 Tuscan Oak [15/28] 46% [WB] website

malt-review.com tells us ‘Badachro takes its name from the small hamlet where it is situated. The nearest sense of civilisation is Gairloch. Living in Scotland, and having visited the North West region many times, I can vouch for the sense of isolation, peace and harmony. A beautiful place to create your own whisky and capture the essence of the environment. So, Badachro distillery started life as many do, with a focus on gin and now do a variety of gins. This also means given our current situation, a resource to create hand sanitiser and dreaming of whisky. Hence this series and let’s check it out‘.

Badachro then, a North-West Highlands distillery, are making gin and releasing whisky, though not yet making the barley spirit themselves. This Batch 2 of Bad Na H-Achlaise is a marriage of two casks, one peated and one non-peated. Age-wise, it contains 5 & 6yo malt with gestimates towards wine-finished whiskies from Tomatin. It’s very phenolic on the nose so I pass on it until later. Coming back to it at the end, this is what I found:

  • N: Frazzles, well-grilled > smoked kippers and smoked corn, the order of the day. 
  • T: A very easy drinking and well married [2-cask] whisky. Refreshingly soft after more high-octane drams I’ve taken of late.
  • F: Bitting allium citrus chemical-y > peat-driven gentle-fresh finish,… with a fair mouthfeel. Finishes fairly sour and nicely dry, in relation to tonight’s selection.
  • C: It won’t change the world but this is a very decent whisky. Good luck to Badachro as bottlers,…. in bond?

Scores 83 points

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Benromach 2003/2016 Ob. Distillery Exclusive 1st fill bourbon cask #523 [240 bts] 57.9% WB88.50[13]

Straight 1st-fill ex-bourbon spirit, no doubt from the early days of the new distillery regime. Indeed [checking Malt Yearbook for info], this was distilled a year earlier than the first bottle released by the new owners.

  • N: This is my first Benromach since the re-branding this year [2020]. We start with nosing the insides of the distillery brewing process – wash, no doubt,… aged wash/beer. Indeed, many beer styles, a suggestion of cider, just a hint of smoke, a slightly creamy and medicinal touch, plenty of fruitiness, fragrant perfumed coconut, some pepper seasoning,… turning meaty [turkey] from the nicely maturing and considered sherry influence. This is a fabulous nose from a whisky at a good age. Fi writes ‘cocktail [Martini] onion‘ – spot on, and on the palate too. Coming back to it a while later, I pick out confectionary cherry and strawberry split with that ppm touch. The ultimate ice-cream for whisky fans perhaps? Hell of a nose, this.
  • T: I receive a full mouthful with lots of busy chewy activity that reminds me of Talisker’s still-excellent 57° North [WLP87]. Then there’s the malty meaty qualities, oily stuff and everything in-between. Imagining tasting this blind, it’s too eventful for Bruichladdich, too balanced for Glen Scotia,… too full-bodied for the younger up & coming millennial distilleries. Would this pass as a Kilchoman? Cracking palate, just enough of a coating, oiliness, resinousness, and tannins. For me, Benromach really sticks out from the Speyside pack.
  • F: A little like pleasantly bitter liquorice medicinal cough sweets complemented by just enough of Benromach’s low phenol count. The power of the spirit surges towards a long unwavering finish. Coming back to it later, and after the Springbank, it’s become rather more straight-ahead/simplified.
  • C: One to get stuck into as the nights draw in & in and colder & colder. Brilliant campfire job also. Not exactly for beginners.

Scores a solid 87 all day long. Excellent!

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Tobermory 2007/2020 12yo Ob. Port Pipe Finish [3101 bts] 58.6% WB87.17[15]

Victor mentions Spey Tenne, another port pipe-influenced dram and one I’ll be trying tomorrow [report to follow]. Nigel rightly reminds us that Tobermory rarely appears in tastings, so thank you.

  • N: Funky lactose, creamy cake sponge > watercress, very slight desirable sulphur overall…… oh this is an easy reader,… all the raisins,… sweet, PX-like yet not and Lakes distillery-esque also with the bonanza of cask types Dhavall Gandhi favours [WLP]. I pick up on marsala and madeira wine suggestions also. The softness of this malt after such abv-fulled drams is so refreshing. Remember we are often reminded that around 46% is the abv sweet spot, and here we are. Raisins remain a large part of a recurring theme.
  • T: Very much a dessert dram compared to the previous malts. Indeed, it’s a sweet one, especially after the decidedly more bitter – desirably so – Benromach. Malty salty, creamy,,…
  • F: ,… toffee-saline-dry raisins. Going back to this a while later, it appears a touch juvenile. Feels like the kind of modern whisky I’ve tried a plenty in the current STR years.
  • C: Well made whisky if a little obvious/deliberate/engineered, yet tasty, very accessible and glugable. I wonder how many different cask types the master blender considered before deciding on finishing 3101 bottles in port?

Scores a 85 points

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Springbank 2011/2019 8yo Un-Ob. ‘Un-caged’ cask sample 58.8% [WB]88.50[2]

From the cage [representative photo only], this Springbank saw full oloroso maturation.

  • N: Fi’s notes on the night read ‘Freshly printed magazines, rum cake, dunnage, orchards, LEGO and nail varnish‘ – brilliant! Not sure whether that applied to the nose or palate, but they appear interchangeable. Add water and it comes alive. With plenty of ppm-oily raisins a touch of boot polish and some saline/fish-mongers vibes, this occasional street fighter isn’t overly complex.
  • T: If relatively restrained/polite on the nose, it’s dirtier to taste. “Dusty chocolate”, says Wayne, spot on there. Add water and it’s a very agreeable consolidated journey, though that sooty dry oiliness remains.
  • F: Gritty dirtiness and a greasy mouthfeel to boot. It lingers and lingers.
  • C: For many, a stand-out. I also find it very good if rather abv & cask-forward, though as it opens and settles [with water], the spirit is certainly intact – as it almost always is with Springbank. Add water for an elevated experience, just don’t expect sophistication.

Scores 88 points

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Bunnahabhain 1997/2020 22yo Ob. Moine PX Finish [1661 bts] 50% WB90.71[19]

  • N: Ooh, a ‘sweet’ one, but not Tobermory port pipe-sweet. This is rich, oily-rich, slightly meaty, cotton wool?. Seems pointless offering descriptors here, this one has grabbed me instantly and I love it from the off. 
  • T: That’s different, almost a neutral flavour experience which could well suggest some extreme taste-centre activity that my brain is calibrating to neutral – like the lemons vs peaches thing. In fact, peach-sweetened oysters and lemons might just do it as descriptors. Then there’s the dryish-sootiness. I get oily meaty salivating light-oyster sauce-d rice > watercress,… what?? Swirls,…. the mouthfeel is something else.
  • F: Surprisingly short savoury-dry, at times, but with a continuing salivating saline oiliness – go figure!? Lingers charmingly.
  • C: Not sure my notes have done this malt any justice, but I find it one unique dram. Though I’m no big PX-finished fan, this is arguably one of the best PX-finished examples I’ve come across, peated or otherwise. Price-wise, shame it’s off the charts. Though not necessarily ‘perfect’, it’s a contemporary classic for sure. For that reason, it’s the best of the bunch tonight.

Scores 89 points

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The votes are in:

  • 6, 5, 1, 3, 4, 2
  • 5, 6, 1, 4, 2, 3
  • 1, 3, 5, 6, 4, 2
  • 1, 5, 2, 4, 3, 6
  • 3, 5, 1, 4, 2, 6
  • 5, 6, 1, 4, 3, 2
  • 1, 5, 3, 6, 4, 2
  • 6, 5, 4, 3…2
  • 5, 1, 6, 4, 2, 4
  • 5, 1, 6, 3, 2, 4
  • 4, 6, 5, 1, 2, 3

With thanks to the Southport Whisky Club and everyone involved.

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END

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