SWC: Member’s Grand Dram #4

For Southport Whisky Club’s 4th Member’s Grand Dram tasting, we’ve six whiskies that are together worth £1000 – for the bottles, not the samples. Our host, Damian Miraz, has chosen this selection. On the nose-pour alone, they all smell delicious. Let’s get stuck in.

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Balvenie 19yo [2020] Ob. The Edge of Burnhead Wood 48.7% WB84.38[26] SWC

A whisky that is part of a ‘stories’ series and currently priced around £260.

  • N: Slightly bready, a touch husky and wonderfully oily, this shouts of barley. Solid whisky, this.
  • T: More oily-malty barley action and a sour touch, this is very straight ahead with decent weight and firm strength – Benrinnes/Glenlossie vibes, perhaps? Add a drop of water for little more malty creaminess and fruitiness, as well as passing raisin-y > [Clynelish-y] waxy coppery notes throughout.
  • F: Waxy creamy light dry-citrus,… some fusty leanings. Robust with age, we’ve a long lingering finish that will seemingly cut through the Deanston, two drams ahead of this one.
  • C: Great start to the session. Nothing extraordinary, but a solid whisky performing very well after 19 years.

Scores 88 points

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Aberlour 17yo [2016] Ob. [1000 bts] 55.3% WB88.27[53]

First-fill sherry and bourbon cask maturation.

  • N: Plenty of sulphur here [for me], but one I think I’ll be ok with. The bourbon side offers a crucial counter. Descriptors then of Manuka honey, crushed toasted nuts, toffee,… that kind of thing – all savoury-sweet – a touch of molasses, plenty of darker rootsy tones,… plenty to discover and appreciate.
  • T: More sulphur, but again, it’s within [my] acceptable levels. With a slight bone-dryness, soft tannins at this stage and a firm savoury edge, this is decidedly sherry-forward, and once again, thank goodness for that bourbon backbone to help balance the keel. More honey, nutty honey, and as Wayne says – it’s all at the front of the mouth. Falls straight into the finish.
  • F: Little development aside from dark savoury-bitter-sweet grape-tannin lingerings and a’shufflings thereafter.
  • C: Certainly very sherried and sulphury [depending on your tolerance], but still, it’s a very decent malt with a desirable murky dry dark side.

Scores 86 points

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Deanston 1995/2019 23yo Ob. Distillery Exclusive [1473 bts] 50.2% WB87.93[42] SWC

  • N: Lightly fruity and distillate-forward, despite 23 years of ageing, this has a bewitching/beguiling quality to it. Slightly chalky, sharp, salty, a detergent hint,… but overall, fruity and malty – spirt-led/refill maturation all the way. Bizarrely, this conjures [Spectrum & Commodore] computer game [on tape] packaging from the 1980s!
  • T: An unusual and pleasing whisky style in these contemporary/managed/cask-forward/contrived contemporary times, reminiscent of some pale SV bottlings from the 1990s – yet in a good way. An incredibly soft cask has allowed the spirit all the limelight. Spritely grapefruit-y citrus fruity [Lowlander] arrival with a light jammy [oloroso, but I’d have guessed port] note,… a little water softens the arrival,…
  • F: ,… into a relaxed yet fresh=spirit-propelling salty maltiness, no doubt supported by the earlier Balvenie. Almost malty sharp-citrusy succulent soft-fresh conclusion.
  • C: Not faultless, but boy, give that cask its golden handshake. What a way to go out. At £149, could this be a more affordable way to experience something closely resembling Rosebank? Respect to Deanston for releasing this at the bottling strength of 50.2%, no doubt natural cask strength.

Scores 88 points

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There’s some chat in-between drams. One SWC member who is in attendance tonight, tells us he was in the film, Braveheart.

Arran 1996/2019 22yo M&M Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask #383 [335 bts] 55.4% WB89.80[7]

Yet another Carn Mor for me this week, after a full lineup with SWAG [WLP]. Is this from Arran’s first year of distilling? No! It turns out there plenty of 1995 vintages out there, and even one from 1994 [WB].

  • N: With this sherried Arran, we are back to a sweeter, raisin-y profile – desirably sweet, never saccharin –  yet with a touch of boot polish and,… briny fruity phenols? Nah, I reckon that’s coming from the sherry > cask.
  • T: Certainly oloroso-y heading cardboard-dry [which is generally not a negative in my book] then to Smarties casings, early on. Nicely raisiny in the middle, just a touch, it’s all so well consolidated [as I’d noted with Arran’s official first recently-released 21yo: WLP88], with beautiful barley juice running through the heart and more touches of boot polish. 
  • F: Lifts off as a finish, but hums and hums all on barley, the sherry cradling underneath and becoming all-dry – so more like a fino/Amontillado by the death.
  • C: A celebration of barley spirit aged in oak. Arran collectors will be rubbing their hands in years to come if they are not already.

Scores 89 points

Caol Ila 25yo [2020] Ob. 43% WB88.54[1313] WF90 WLP188 WLP290

These official 25yo’s used to be bottled at cask strength under Daigeo’s ‘Special Releases’ series. Since 2010, as a core range release, they have been presented at 43%.

  • N: It’s a whisky I know well enough, mostly because – until fairly recently – it was remarkably affordable. As a result, I guessed this was the an official Caol ila 25yo, even before I knew it was in the line-up. Its dreamy fruity juicy fragrant creamy-fresh barley nose with more than a phenol suggestion, has everything you could ask for from a well aged yet still spritely nose, one I likened to a blend of Springbank mixed with the earlier Balvenie.
  • T: Oh so lovely, delicious, dreamy. I’m enjoying the abv-soft ones more and more these days. Tonight I picked out soft sweet smoky cocoa > raisiny [sweetcorn?] barley with a little seaweed and half a fresh oyster. Oozes dry, very relaxed.
  • F: Soft humming [almost a purr] cocoa > faint smoked salted raisins,… salty bonfires,… this is effortlessly easy whisky to sit back with, those bourbon casks wonderfully submissive. Refill refill refill!!!
  • C: Doesn’t require too much thinking in its own right, a 1/4 bottle can be gone in no time. ‘Easy going’ has always been this one’s charm ever since I’ve known it. Funny that some see its softness as a negative, but then these days, we are so frequently plied with cask strength offerings. One of my favourites. Great dram.

Scores 89 points

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Last one then.

Glenturret 2010/2018 7yo SMWS 16.35 ‘Dante’s Mondeo’ [317 bts] 60.5% WB85.92[15] Dramble86

  • N: Part of the SMWS’s ‘flavour’ range, this has a very thick big nose, especially after the Caol Ila but even in comparison to what has gone before. That’ll be the 60.5% abv then! I’m pleased we are having this last, or at the very least, after the gentile Caol ila. This one’s profile speaks of a fruity, lactose-y, salty, peaty farmy hay/sea saltiness [or “fish tank”, as Matt says], wax-jackets, fatty machine oils…. oh take your pick. Likened, perhaps, to bourbon-y Scotch without being bourbon-forward.
  • T: On the palate, I’ll start us off with singed soggy digestives,.. brussel sprouts?, salted peat, a hint of tinned fish, all sorts from any number of farm out-buildings,…. from this full on juice, anything you want really. Again, very [peated] Scotch bourbon and rather some hangover juice for sure.
  • F: After all the intensity, it boils down to the peated spirit and cask remnants, so good balance and natural presentation in other words.
  • C: Very good, contemporary, driven whisky. Needs water and time to temper the ADHD.

Scores 86 points

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All very good whiskies here that succeed the quality-controlled whisky cul-de-sac. With thanks to the Southport Whisky Club.

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END

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