It’s been four years since The Old Man of Huy’s EPIC 40th birthday bash in 2018 [WLP]. Naturally, a ’42’ anniversary tasting was due to have occurred two years later in 2020. Two additional years would pass before we could all finally congregate in person to celebrate life and whisky, with whisky!
Given the C-situation – unprecedented human separation administered globally – the excitement of being here in person amongst these lovely whisky folk, four years on, is palpable. We all eagerly gather in the back room whilst The Old Man fastidiously finishes his setting up. You can read his thoughts and observations in their entirety, here.
As is customary, this weekend’s celebratory drams are presented blind, save for accompanying clues that were emailed to us months previously. The theme, as shall become abundantly clear, is 42.
Our opening dram carries this teaser:
Clue-wise, unless you know these bottles, I’m guessing you wouldn’t have the foggiest. Furthermore, this is an undisclosed Speysider, so guesses over which distillery are also haphazard.
Say what, 386 bottles and 386 separate bottle designs?!
- N: Fruits over a floury/mash, ginger into pine, a touch of spice,… Becomes [relatively] sweeter on opening up.
- T: Narrow spice – wood-dry. Texturally breadier with water,… consolidated citrus rind.
- F: Oak-dry citrus, flour.
- C: Forget distillery or even region, and enjoy it for what it is – a great opener to this expectant and joyous extravaganza.
Scores 89 points
The next clue is up. Although I’ve not been inside, it looks like Loch Lomond Distillery to me.
- N: This is certainly odd enough to be from Loch Lomond and is – my first (and only?) win! Crisp overall with a bitter putty/muddy/clay ‘pong’, varnished waxy banana, apple, raisin-y fruits with a herbaceous sulphurous [in a good way] side,… and is that wallpaper paste?! Hard to describe in all honesty, but fantastic fun to experience.
- T: Another acute arrival over plastics, toffee, varnish, putt-ied fudge, glycerine, foam banana, the nougat? From a Milky Way, coconut pulp,.. again a sulphurous touch.
- F: ‘Industrial confectionary cream’ is all I wrote for descriptors, but the after-shocks are as complex and colourful as what’s gone before. Robust delivery till the last.
- C: This Cadenhead ‘Cask Ends’ bottling is a fabulous changeling of a malt. Whether you like it is one thing, but to appreciate it is another.
Scores 92 points
What could follow that Inchmurrin, and has it created somewhat of a death seat for our next mysterious delight? Clue-wise [see pic below], tOMoH informs us that Benriach as a distillery was direct-fired until the 1990s. The train stopped passing by in 1980 when Benriach were using their own malt.
- N: After a brief attempt at yet another copious shopping list – things like ‘nectarines, pencil shavings,.. ash’ etc – with this maltoporn of a nose, you could suggest just about anything and someone would pick it out.
- T: [Bourbon=sherry with a bourbon finish?], we’ve a sweet-sour [citrusy] profile over a narrow bandwidth. Plateaux-ing somewhat, understandably, there’s an age-related softness.
- F: Clean overall yet with a powdered milk soft dunnage-y oakiness, which again, indicates we’ve some serious age here. Hold in mouth [with some water] for more of a honeyed fruity delicacy.
- C: A very ‘classic’ old skool cask & glass-aged beauty no less.
Scores 90 points
We are flying high (did we expect any different?) and it’s only early on day one.
For our next dram, the clue is a picture of Joseph Hobbs. ‘Some said he shot down a Zeppelin during the First World War. Others insisted that he built Canada’s tallest skyscraper, and that he was a bootlegger during Prohibition in the US. There was even a rumour that he smuggled guns into Spain during the Civil War…‘ SW
An independent bottling by Hunter Hamilton, a bottler you’d see bottles from aplenty just a few years ago.
- N: There’s an immediate collective emotional response from us all in the form of an “ohhuhh” sound. Being rich in aroma [and in colour], whisky number #4 offers biscuity shoe polish, praline, vanilla cream tart, hazelnuts,… Very obviously a grain [in my book], but the atypical acetone notes have moved to waxy depths over the  years.
- T: Weiss beer-sweetness, distant glue-yness, “blood orange” [Jacob], box hedge [leaves of],…. but there’s no need to overthink this comfort blanket of a dram.
- F: Desirable [oak] tannins, putty,… a dram to accompany a banoffee pie. Pah, hold the pie, this IS the dessert!
- C: Give me a pint of the stuff! One of the best grains I’ve had for a long while.
Scores 90 points
Our next clue is a picture of Peter Griffin, or Peter’s Head,… so a distillery in Peterhead!
With just 150 bottles you’d be excused for missing this one, bottled at 46% from G&M no less – in 2012!!
- N: Savoury, sweet brine-y, complex,…. umami vibes around pineapples, miso paste, breads, mince pies, gravy, wafts of a cheese shop and an Italian deli, water chestnuts,…
- T: Savoury > slick, the arrival is as expected from the nose, though it doesn’t quite deliver as thoroughly on the palate, relatively speaking.
- F: A[n Old Pulteney-esque] saltiness, [instant pub] gravy, soy sauce, slightly rancid vegetable oil,… [also Ben Nevis & Springbank-y at times]
- C: A detour from the first fruity four drams, a most intriguing malt in its own right and one that would be fascinating to get to know in more depth.
Scores 88 points
Up next, a disturbing picture teaser which can’t be unseen. If you recognised this morphing of Hugh Grant and Glenn Close, then surely the ‘which distillery’ clue would be cracked!
Most likely Glen Grant’s earliest listed vintage, distilled three years after George Urquhart joined G&M. It’s a huge delight to be finally trying this whisky. I’d have kept and opened my own bottle if it wasn’t for (what looked like) a suspiciously glued-on cap.
- N: Like hens teeth, these malt experiences. Old skool spirit-converged vinegars, unfathionable stewed fruit layers [stewed rhubarb-y cognac], industrial = household perfumes/household products, pink peppercorns, OBE-ed Christmas-y hues, fusty ginger, sooty milk, coal,… you get the picture.
- T: Inside the cask, we’ve more on fruit wine > vinegar, milky fruity malt, and coal/soot on every sip.
- F: Light ashy coal, decidedly malty, licourice,…. Performs so well despite its age and administered abv.
- C: Academic joys and beyond, I love these spirit-converging golden oldies. For that nose alone and the malty finish, it scores considerably highly.
Scores 92 points
In 1930, the distillery on Mull fell silent for over four decades. SW: ‘A belated member of a group of old distilleries which were recommissioned in the post-war whisky boom, it was brought back in 1972 by a somewhat unusual joint venture between a Liverpool shipping company, Sherry producer Pedro Domecq and “Panamanian interests”‘.
- N: Tarmac, paint, leather, plastic rain coats, a hint of sulphur, tiger balm, [sake] koji, Frazzles-esque,…. notes, notes, notes – futile really as every revisit opens another chapter.
- T: Cracking sherry (cask) influence, sweet fruity ash, super salivating delivery.
- F: Sulpherous [in a good way, a very good way], coppery, and not unlike Ledaig’s current standard fare in profile by the tail. In short, old & contemporary. Brilliant!
- C: Why is The Old Man wearing a Ledaig t-shirt, is the first question I asked myself when I saw him. I should have realised it was a deliberate act. Either that or a red herring.
Scores 91 points
The pretence doesn’t last. Before long a 43yo Bowmore is revealed, tOMoH informing us he couldn’t afford the 42yo (currently at TWE for a mere £37500).
- N: Grab a large shopping trolley, we’ve a positively oozing nose. From a bourbon hoggie, it’s fruits fruits [yellow] fruits – yet not tropical (more towards mirabelles) – and with mash-y rum vibes > sea spray > Ouzo shaving foam,…
- T: Deep sweet-sour ripe [now somewhat tropical] fruits – a puréed mix of apricots, melon, mango, lychee, for example – a touch floury and salty with dry wood shavings,.. custard. Overall, weighty yet delicate with a long unravel.
- F: Table salt woodiness, spearmint, five-spice after yet more fruitiness,..
- C: Without the decidedly tropical joys of those infamous 1960s bottling, this is a beautiful whisky somewhat over-shadowed by today’s stellar lineup today.
Scores 89 points
Turns out the full reveal was on the flip side of the tasting sheet all along.
I’m encouraged to try a ‘Ku-pe-don’ as a flavour reference for the future, a gelatinous sweet which translates as ‘the nose’.
- C: Traditionally made from raspberries, this modern offering I liken to a cherry-forward Turkish Delight in style, very sugary and intense with a drop or two of dentist’s mouthwash.
More? There’s always more. Of the array of after-party offerings, I chose only one. After all, there’s a whole other day to come tomorrow.
Bushmills 2002 15yo SMWS 51.9 ‘Sinful Indulgence’ [240 bts] 54.2% WB86.28
- N: Full-bodied, fresh, gluey fruits.
- T: The palate, faithful to the nose.
- F: A deliciously fresh 15yo.
- C: A refreshing take on those long-gone Irish oldies.
Scores 87 points
That’s stumps on day one. How will The Old Man follow up on this incredible experience? Find out HERE!