What’s In Your Cupboard – the beating heart of the Sussex Whisky Appreciation Group. A typically non-broadcastable affair, our founder has kindly recorded this session especially for me. Since picking up ‘that’ flu, everything smelt and tasted like Campingaz. After 3-4 weeks recovery, I am ready to explore SWAG’s latest [daunting] 12-dram WIYC pack. I’m a little rusty, but thankfully, whisky doesn’t smell like Campingaz anymore.
Not only is WIYC an opportunity to try a variety of drams I may have missed or not chosen myself, it’s also a snapshot of the whisky landscape that’s happening beyond my own insular radar. With “Only 12 drams to go” [BC], I crack on via the replay. As always, all the drams are initially tasted blind.
- N: Being a tad Ailsa Bay-like, this smells like young malty Scotch to me. A grain perhaps?
- T: It’s familiar this – Famous Grouse-familiar – with sour green grainy touches,.. and is that some lightly sherried action? Probably not.
- F: A bit sour and chalky, again suggesting a blend, though a fairly decent one at that. The strength appears good so I presume we are well above the basic minimum of 40%.
- C: Some great guesses from SWAG include: Timorous Beastie, BBR’s Speyside Blend etc,.. This is, in fact, a blend from all five whisky regions: HP, Glenrothes, Glengoyne, Port Dundas, and Cameronbridge. ‘Alder Mias’ means ‘golden fruits’, apparently.
Scores 81 points
Girvan 2006/2020 14yo Cadenhead’s Single Cask Madeira Finish [222 bts] 54.6% WB86.21
- N: Nutty oily [provoking a random reminder of Hazelburn’s Rundlets & Kilderkins], savoury-sweet,.. some richness. Could this be another nicely-aged Scotch grain or a softly aged/refill American whiskey – Small Batch Jack Daniels? WB picks up a [red] wine note. Revealed – it’s seen a madeira-cask finish!
- T: I’m veering towards youthful [but over 10 years] grain now. We’ve a thickish buttery mouthfeel, a savoury < sweet toffee-d nutty delivery, uninterrupted travel, and a good sustaining strength.
- F: Shortish tail but one that fades true.
- C: I’m guessing [youthful] grain over [wheated] bourbon, but there’s still plenty of puzzlement about this amongst the Swaggers. Either way, it’s decent simple tasty whisky.
Scores 83 points
- N: A robust,… [I’m guessing] single malt? We seem to have plenty of fusty [even a spirit sulphuriness] grape action here, though that perception changes with time. Are we talking about straight wine casks or the fortified variety, or maybe there’s PX or perhaps a mix of all sorts? Perhaps it’s simply a fruity dram?
- T: We’ve plenty of contemporary fresh wood action here, and again, maybe varied casks in play? I taste previous cask contents in equal measure to the actual wood itself, less so the spirit which is strong in its own right. Overall, fairly tasty,.. managed?,… an abv of 50+? 10yo Glenallachie CS?
- F: The sweetness is well balanced as is the cask management. There’s something suggesting butyric/winey or cask-y – spirit-sulphur again – but it certainly holds up till the end. I’ll stick with my Glenallachie guess though the reveal tells me I’ve gone down a rabbit hole.
- C: I’d read the title as ‘A Paradise OR Spice’ which actually sums up my experience: it started fruity and exotic and ended full-on cask-forward with spicy strength – straight-ahead hardcore [Mannochmore?]. Revealed: Dailuaine from a refill bourbon cask, wtf? It always seems more obvious when you know.
Scores 84 points
Springbank The Tasting Room  Ob. 2.5 x Distilled PBS 58.5% WB88
- N: This vatting of 10-15yo Springbank offers plenty of descriptors that include phenolic sweet brine [another drop of sauternes?],… sweaty slightly rubbery satsumas,… There’s something special yet innocuous/everyday about this,… in a good way.
- T: Plenty more easily readable descriptors here. Definitely smoky and strong [high 50s?], with a naturally presented [independent bottler] vibe. Tastes right at the back of the throat. I don’t reckon it’s Islay.
- F: [Aged-]spirit-faithful through & through, and again, we are looking at a significant abv strength. Becomes more mechanics yard-oily over slightly sour burned dry lemons towards the end.
- C: Springbank revealed: I find surprisingly composed for a Springbank/Cadenhead ‘living cask’ bottle. I find this is a very clean/almost polished Springbank, the wood merely the conduit to the distillate [rightly so].
Scores 86 points
Blair Athol 1997/2016 19yo HL OMC Sherry butt #15486 [231 bts] 50% WB0
- N: Managed yet natural, this is easily the most [plum jam] fruity dram so far tonight. Are we talking some wine/sherry influence or is this ‘just’ bourbon cask-led again – or both? I pick up on some subtle nutty phenols here too.
- T: Pisco!? Husky barley-forward, slightly gacky-sweet [syrupy] juice, soft phenols,..slightly plain/not overly complex but very nice, very natural, wine-sweet with some sour-perfumed floral notes, and with relaxed clean/polished yet home-made vibes once again,…. Could this be more Campbeltown? No idea really.
- F: Lifts off unexpectedly but this carries no disappointments overall. The palate was good, and all that’s been, lingers clean, if still slightly make-shift in character.
- C: I’ve still no clue to what this is, though I’ve no doubt it’s another solid whisky from an independent bottler? Revealed: a Hunter Laing Blair Athol – more ‘naturally presented’ than others I’ve tried, which can typically lean towards sweet malty toffee.
Scores 84 points
What’s next? “The middle dram of a 12-dram flight!”, BC declares – at 61.2%!! We brace ourselves.
- N: No doubt the Dailuaine has primed me,…? Straight off the bat, I’m guessing SMWS Speyside [refill] bourbon with rhum agricole leanings, coppery/metallic menthol pastries,… “toothpaste on your croissant” [BC] “Baked beans on your Weetabix” [RM],.. a buckwheat-huskiness,…. a changeling malt from KH who describes this as “savoury the one minute, sweet the next”,.. his “go-to Tuesday night dram” [laughs].
- T: I find this more Blair Athol-esque than the previous Blair Athol yet with a soft green note – “,.. maybe an olive, a snake?” – a Roger quote from American Dad. Nicely spirit-led, savoury-barley grassy [even slightly soapy] with yet more r[h]um leanings over a sugary sweet arrival and development.
- F: Formidable driving oozing barley spirit with a controlled heat and very light desirable vanilla. A reviver!
- C: “A transformational dram”, one that takes time to open up in the glass [much like my SMWS 108.10 Allt-A-Bhainne, coming up in a bit]. I guess young 9yo whisky from SMWS [yay], but I’ve no idea of the distillery. Phil is the first person I’ve known to guess a Miltonduff, ever!
Scores 85 points
That’s all I’m going to manage for today. I shall be back tomorrow with the other half dozen! [Part 2 HERE]