Tonight is Decadent Drinks’ first virtual tasting and a chance to try some whiskies from this new “experiment” that is Decadent Drinks [DD] & WhiskySponge – whiskies typically sold out via ballot within hours if not minutes.
Amongst others, on my screen I spot Phil Thompson, his brother Simon, John Beech & Co., and Joe Douglas who goes through the house rules. Someone even compliments me on my ever-growing whisky notes on Whiskybase. Please, do send a message!
Hosted by Angus MacRaild, we start with a “sub-series bottling”, as Angus calls it – small-batch whiskies bottled at ‘session strength’,… very fresh, natural,…. versatile expressions. I’m expecting [and hoping for] a distillate-led flight with some ‘proper’ refill ageing.
This is DDs ‘summer release’ Candlekitty, made up from three first-fill bourbon barrels – “not married but collided”, as Angus describes it. Candlekitty is used for Whiskysponge bottling[s] too.
- N: Everyday/session dram nose, one showing excellent weight and texture. Less waxy than the name might suggest [I know, it’s just a distillery reference], this one [for me] is all about the doughy/cake mix fusty~yeasty beer with a soft squidgy fruity and lemon citrus side,.. really buttery > hay.
- T: Straight-ahead, delicious. Tasting as it smells, this is very ‘on point’ with a straw-lemon astringency/vibrancy and nice waxy/gluey chew,.. pancake-y also. There are plenty of parcels of this stuff and style around, explains Angus – the SMWS having plenty of [2011/12] vintages, for example. Angus likes this one,.. “in keeping with old 12yo”, he says [WB].
- F: Rob gets Blu-tac, a note hinting at the waxy/industrial side of Clynelish. Copydex taps at the same vein. Clean/industrial, remaining straight-ahead at the death.
- C: A decadent sighter. I see this working/fitting into any lineup.
Scores 86 points
- Make it fun
- Don’t take things too seriously
- [Keep it] Quality
‘Distilled at the second least amusing distillery in Rothes’. To help narrow it down, “it’s not Speyburn”. From two refill hogsheads, this one is two decades older than the Candlekitty though both share the same abv. Why 48.5% you may ask? As we are told, in the old skool ‘proof’ days, whisky at 85 proof was regarded as just the right level/degree for promoting texture, warmth, freshness, and balance.
This is a very classic example of a 30yo Speyside style, explains Angus – light, floral,… freshness,… Let’s get involved!
- N: You simply can’t go wrong with a nose like this. With a relaxed vibrancy/freshness and Goldilocks ‘just right’ light vanilla-custard-laced sweetness, the nose is moderately rich, syrupy, hops-floral/beer-driven [again],…. and something of yoghurt and emulsion/Polyfilla [in a good way].
- T: With a confident yet nonchalant/equanimous sour citrus arrival, there’s certainly nothing amusing here. Being more floral bitter herbal and citrus sour in profile, the sweeter qualities on the nose are more diminished on the palate. It’s far more amusing after the Springbank, however [coming up].
- F: Fairly short moist chalky/gacky textural finish. Again, having this after the Springbank [appears to] promote a dry honey & green melon-sour sweetness.
- C: The nose has it all the way. Not a beginner’s malt.
Scores 87 points
Though founded in the first half of the 19th century, Edradour as a single malt didn’t officially appear until 1986. Aside from a random and ‘horrendous’ 1968 21yo single cask expression from SV WB63, this is my second oldest Edradour by far.
Cask type: [ex-1963 Glenburgie WB] refill hogshead. Andrew Symington, a fan of the Sponge, loved this cask. Originally at a cask-strength of 54.8%, Angus tells us this is only the second Edradour release from a refill cask[s] since 2002 – the first being from an ex-Caol Ila hogshead.
- N: Firm/confident leathery raisin-y yeasty moist hay-like/[horse stables] pongy/funky [egg-white sulphury/> phenolic?,… rather Ben Nevis-y indeed – from the spirit? – and/or the ex-sherry cask?,… and then again, Glenburgie is a sulphurous spirit too [WLP]! Furthermore, we’ve a yeasty minerality towards French butter-ed yeasty [again] fruit bread, brioche, and baguettes, some green tomato & lime chutney ?,… Having said all that, overall, it’s a beer/spirit-lead nose – tonight’s theme firmly established – with a fabulous raw/naked quality,…. and a herbal mineral [Ben Nevis-y again] fattiness. That faint sherried influence is just enough to form an opening down into a huge rabbit hole. One could pull their hair out trying to wrap their head around this one, academic fun guaranteed!
- T: Initially, with that aforementioned sulphury [phenolic?] side, it continues along spirit-driven lines with that long-amalgamated sherried hint in toe. Minerallic, stone fruits,… beer barley into chocolate, wax,… let it run,…. let it hum,…
- F: ,… light beer,… green tea,… a metallic [Roman Baths] water minerality, slightly milky?, [sugar cane] grassiness,…. There’s no woodiness here whatsoever, all part of tonight’s theme [and DD’s preference and philosophy].
- C: When the wood isn’t in the way, you get to understand what the spirit can offer without all the slapped-on makeup. Offering academic pleasures galore, this is one for the treasure hunter.
Scores 88 points
Decadent Drinks, as the name implies, is not just about whisky. They [DD} are open to bottle anything – vintage port, madeira, sherry etc,… For example, a wine bottling is coming soon [see pic], a Gewürztraminer aged in a cask previously used for maturing a Port Charlotte. Eyes on the prize!
Glen Keith sits directly behind the Strathisla distillery, both of which are [currently] owned by Pernod Ricard. This workhorse distillery was commissioned in the 1950s by Seagram’s then-owner Sam Bronfman [SW], to cope with the growing demand for its blends such as Chivas Regal, 100 Pipers, and Passport. Mothballed in 1999 and seemingly closed for good, it reopened again in 2013. Further reading: MM, and SW: ‘Today its general character is light and fruity’.
This is only my 12th Glen Keith [including one peaty-ish Craigduff] and my fourth 1993 vintage, the last being a 23yo from Cadenhead [WLP85].
- N: Following the distillate-led theme, this refill-supported fruity/perfumed oily potpourri-candy-styled malt is right up my street. Lighter and more floral than the Glenrothes, at first, it becomes far more fruit/jam laced over time with moves towards tutti-frutti over toffee and vanilla ice cream, and with a slight fustiness. All very good.
- T: Fruits after fruits, boiled sweets, concentrated ripe slightly glycerine fruits, tinned fruits,… dried honeys [Wemyss Untold Riches styley WLP], and with a fresh/youthful citrus pinch,… we’ve a gamut.
- F: Old yet keen, we’ve no signs of this going ‘over’. Indeed, there’s no woodiness whatsoever. More fruits, tinned clementines,… you name it,… retains body whilst diminishing, dry sour > sweet vanilla, dryish. Delicious.
- C: ‘Classic’/’proper’ refill-aged Speysider. Thankfully, there are a number of examples of this joyous mature style of whisky from the likes of Dailuaine, Glenburgie,… Glen Elgin, Benrinnes for example – all workhorse distilleries that can produce cracking single malt if allowed. Thankyou independent bottlers. A joke on the label reads ‘Flip this Bottle’. Is this a challenge, I wanted to ask. Either way, someone did and the bottle sold for £901 in August 2021. Meanwhile, a 1993 26yo SV bottling went for just £90 in the same auction! Very confusing times.
Scores 88 points
Cask strength? Yes! Apparently, the 25yo age statement stated on the label was an ‘error’. It’s actually a 26yo [WB info], though I didn’t manage to ask the Sponge to confirm. Regardless, this is likely to be the highlight of the night.
- N: Ooh, this is [of course] rather special. With a vegetal yet meaty [Mitchell-signature] pong, this is Old & Rare personified. Today, virtually nothing even barely affordable coming from the established guard comes close. I pick up on a slightly violet-y soaked potpourri quality, a floral aspect that hints at tOMoHs 1955 Bowmore [WLP96], alongside some fruity old man fustiness, a walnut/macadamia] nuttiness, and a squidgy tobacco leafy old skool sherry character that makes me want for more [Gonzalez Byass WLP] sherry, again. The glass needs covering/reviving all the time, so there’s clearly some frailty. Indeed, it’s hard to believe this hasn’t been bottle-aged too, so much so, I might need to rethink my perspective on OBE!
- T: Rarely seen succulent dry husky clean sherry arrival with a little more of that homemade ‘Springbank signature’ funk. The high yet desirable sweetness is coupled with some [lighter style] miso and a [furniture wood] bitter spice as ballasts. Despite some fragility/softness overall, this one sits comfortably on the palate, small sip after small sip.
- F: Still humming, now on more tobacco leaf, and more dry/oily succulent [slightly rubbery] sherry sweetness, the barley distillate still intact at the finish.
- C: Who wouldn’t want a cask like this? Cracking find. I daren’t ask the price despite it being sold out in a flash anyway.
Scores 91 points
DD: ‘For this first release we sloshed together a first fill sherry butt of Edradour 2010 and a refill hogshead of Ballechin 2003 and then bottled the resulting goo at 52%’.
- N: Though initially reminding me of a freaky [unfortunate] lightly peated ‘boingy’ 12yo Bladnoch from a sherry butt [WLP], often, these heavy filthy peated/sherried malts can be less mitigating than they first appear. Soon enough, a large shopping list is curated in minutes from every which way direction. Gloves off, anything’s up for grabs.
- T: Now not just a flavour list, but also an abundant distillery-esque list begins to form in earnest. Remaining firm, I find it a little hard to master with regards to water management, though a little water seems to help, especially on the turn into the finish.
- F: After an energizing journey, neat, there’s a shortish meaty peaty, ashy finish. With water, it stretches out over dark chocolate, nice caramel-y oak~vanillins, smoky black leaf teas,… dried meats,… [stop me!],.. and something of Caol Ila’s 25yo at the death.
- C: On par with many excellent Port Charlotte’s [and currently available at a large online retailer based in/near Sevenoaks for £113].
Scores 88 points
Cask strength? Yes, and made up from another ‘collision’ of two bourbon barrels.
Stated as a single malt, the label holds many varied clues as to this one’s origin as many commentators have purported to. Most prominent is Laphroaig’s Bessie Smith who is upstage from Dr. Marcel Van Gils – dutch dentist and author of ‘The Legend of Laphroaig’, a book which he is holding. Dr Gils is stood in front of what looks like one of Ardbeg’s iconic warehouses that overlooks the sea. Dated 1825, the year Port Ellen was founded [Laphroaig & Ardbeg est: 1815, Lagavulin 1816,…], the distillery was closed by 1983 so is this a red herring? Dr Gils believes ‘that Laphroaig was actually founded in 1825 and that ‘the official established year of 1815 was incorrect’ [M-R]. And there’s more and more. Malt-Review delves deep and concludes ‘,… the Sponge has most likely bottled some Laphroaig“. But Angus says it could even be ex-Allied Ardbeg stock or Laphroaig vatted and re-aged in ex-Ardbeg casks. It matters not, but it’s certainly a bit of whisky fun.
- N: This has refill-matured bourbon cask-ageing – the cask with a moderate toasting – written all over it. After that fabulously firm Edradour, though the abv is comparable, this is a far more relaxed yet fresh [the DD remit fulfilled once again] soft peated malt-focused salty [dry oyster sauce] carbohydrate-sweet & tincture/herbal digestive suggestive expression. Additionally, there’s a new reference for my radar courtesy of the Sponge. It’s Clacquesin [further reading]. Ardbeg? Nah. Laphroaig? Yeah – though when in doubt, Caol Ila is never a bad alternative shout. Excellent nose, impossible to dislike.
- T: The joys of refill casks over time, huh? What’s not to like? With a salty malty chew from the off, and abound with chemist-confectionary notes, this is perfectly delectable to drink neat and remains fresh yet sweater-cosy at the same time.
- F: A savoury/fruity-sweet amalgamated malty peaty finish that I can’t help but warm to.
- C: A just-so aged distillate triumph, this. Would I have guessed 28yo? Nowhere near, but when you know, it all clicks into place.
Scores [a bang-on/no hesitation] 90 points. This one defines the [my] 90 mark!
Add to the Sponge’s philosophy, ‘trust’ in their [DD’s] selections/choices as demonstrated by tonight’s excellent offerings. Whilst the Springbank was the whisky highlight of the night, I’ve a new-found respect for Edradour.
What’s coming up in the future? Aside from the aforementioned ‘Wine Sponge’, there’s a Hampden rum [see pic] that Angus is very excited about it.
With thanks to all involved.