Saturday, April 29, 2017

These Are The Resurrected

This month's line up!
For April's tasting, Stina put together a line-up of whiskies from distilleries which had closed for a time, but which are now firmly back in production. Resurrected distilleries if you will. Well, it is Easter (ish).

Glen Keith 17yo
We tried them in pairs, with two bottles apiece from three distilleries. And the first place we visited was Glen Keith which hails from, perhaps unsurprisingly, the town of Keith in Aberdeenshire.

Probably best known as a regular in-joke on Sky's Soccer Saturday - where host Jeff Stelling enjoys kidding on that the town's Highland League side consists of just one bloke called Keith (Nurse! My sides!) - the town's eponymous distillery was mothballed for 14 years and only resumed service in 2013, under the ownership of Pernod Ricard (via Chivas).

Glen Keith 10yo
The first dram was a 17yo bottling, by way of Gordon and MacPhail's Connoisseur's Choice range. Distilled in 1996, so before the mothballing, it's 46% and will set you back £76. And very pleasant it is too, certainly on the nose where there's a lot of fruit going on: apple and banana in particular. An "easy drinker" for some that's "very light" on the palate, it did have a slightly harsh finish. If anything, it's possibly not quite worth that price tag.

We moved quickly on to the 10yo, a re-release of an expression the distillery used to bottle before the closure. There's certainly a family resemblance to the 17yo, with pear drops on the nose this time, although a more spicy, peppery taste on the palate. At 43% and £100 though, again the value for money isn't quite there.

Tamdhu Batch Strength 002
Our second distillery of the evening was another Speyside, Tamdhu, which is not too far along the A95 from Glen Keith. It was out of action between 2009 and 2012 when it was relaunched under the ownership of Ian Macleod, the maker of Glengoyne.

We got stuck in to the Batch Strength 002, a sherry monster clocking in at 58.5%. This is a sweet one, with notes of golden syrup and glacĂ© cherries bringing to mind your nan's baking cupboard. For some, water took that away a bit and made it spicier. Other comments included "oily" and "lubricating". Certainly drinkable, it's also decent value at £57.

Tamdhu 18yo
The second Tamdhu on the menu was an 18yo, bottled in 2016 by Hunter Laing at 52.2%. If anything, and maybe unsurprisingly, this felt a little thin after the blast of the Batch Strength. Lemon and vanilla were picked out, along with that dryness you associate with shortbread (presumably also from your nan's baking cupboard). Some drinkers really liked this one. It's £86.

After a break we were back and refreshed, ready for the final distillery of the evening, GlenDronach. Technically a Highland, it's not actually all that far geographically from the other two distilleries, located near Huntly again in Aberdeenshire. It was among the brands acquired by Jack Daniel's owner Brown-Forman last year, as part of its £285m purchase of BenRiach.

Glendronach 8yo
And what sort of whisky did they get for all that cash? Well, our verdict was, some pretty good stuff. We began with the 46% 8yo, also known as The Hielan'. We were getting sweet green apples on the nose, and plenty of vanilla too. This got a satisfied reception from the first taste, with a lot of lip smacking around the room. That only intensified when Stina told everyone the price - just £36.

There was much animated chat at this point about whether it was actually better than some of the others we'd had earlier in the evening, but there was no doubt this offered excellent value at such a price tag.

Glendronach 21yo
This brought us to the 21yo GlenDronach, known as Parliament. This is nothing to do with politics, though - it's named after the rooks that live in the trees near the distillery, although whether local MP Alex Salmond enjoys a dram of this or not isn't clear (he's certainly well aware of the distillery, urging it and others to use more local ingredients in this 2015 statement).

This is a heavily sherried whisky, thick and juicy like walnut cake. With both Oloroso and PX used in creating it, some wondered whether actually they ended up slightly cancelling each other out, with the nose generally preferred to the palate. The finish definitely had a taste of ginger biscuits about it. At 48% but £115, there were mixed views about whether this quite lived up to that billing.

However, when it came to the dram of the night voting: it was the GlenDronach 21yo Parliament that came out on top. Although loyalties were split among quite a few of the drams we tasted, so it wasn't a clear cut victory. A hung Parliament, if you will.

Thank you to Stina for selecting the evening's whiskies and putting together such an interesting line up, and to all club and waiting list members who attended: thanks also as ever to everyone at the Briton's Protection for hosting us once again.

Dram of the night voting!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A March Down Memory Lane

This month's line up.
We were asked to suggest drams for this month's Manchester Whisky Club tasting. Or, to be more accurate, we were asked to try to look back into the darkest, fuzziest corners of our teenage minds, to recall the first whiskies we ever tasted. Matthew's plan was to select some different (and, inevitably, higher-quality) drams from some well-known brands we might have long since stopped drinking. To make things a little trickier, we were tasting them blind.

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select.
And we started off in America. Perhaps thankfully, not with Southern Comfort (still presumably trying to make 'SoCo' happen), but with a drop of Jack Daniel's. And where better to try it than the Briton's Protection, a pub with always has a wide selection of JD behind the bar and has even brought over its own 'Manchester cask' barrels of the stuff.

We weren't trying that, nor even the bog standard Sour Mash you sneaked out of your parents' booze cupboard when you were 15, but instead the Single Barrel Select, and an expression bottled for the French market. This was reminiscent of Speyside apple, and was, unsurprisingly for a bourbon, "a bit woody". We agreed we wouldn't normally have a JD but, yes, this was pretty nice. It's 47% and costs £63, possibly a bit over the odds all things considered.

BBR bottled Glen Moray 8yo.
The other four whiskies of the evening all came from Scotland, with two of them bottled by our friends at Berry, Bros and Rudd. The first was dram number two, an 8yo Glen Moray (Scottish pedants' corner: it's pronounced 'Murray'). Now, Glen Moray used to be the cheapest single malt you could get in most supermarkets, but it was probably always a bit better than that implied. And this particular bottling certainly went down well.

On the nose, this was all pear drops and green apples, and the taste was perhaps a little stronger than you might expect, although it still had a certain softness about it. For one club member this was "subtle, but it holds its own" while others described it as "quintessentially Speyside". This single cask expression comes in at 46% and is available at £45, good value indeed.

Glenmorangie Signet.
Onto dram number three, and this got mixed reviews on the nose. A bit rubbery, a touch of bubblegum, and soon we had it narrowed down to either Macallan or Glenmorangie. Those who went with the latter turned out to be right, but when Matthew revealed we were drinking a no age statement whisky with some 30yo stuff in it, there was quite a bit of surprise. Nobody really had it pegged for anything of that supposed quality.

The whisky in question was Glenmorangie Signet, 46% again, but setting you back £125. We didn't think this was worth it at all. As someone said: "the problem with this whisky is you can get three very good bottles for the same money," so it's doubtful this will be appearing in any of our kitchen cupboards soon.

Balvenie Doublewood 17yo.
The old yellow label of Balvenie was a familiar sight in supermarket booze aisles, and was presumably also familiar in the early drinking days of at least some club members, as we visited this distillery for dram four.  But we took things up a few notches for what turned out to be their 17yo.

This didn't have too much on the nose, but was very pleasant indeed on the palate. Dried fruit, toffee, banana and Christmas pudding all got a shout, so maybe it would taste a touch better in the depths of winter. But even so, this was highly drinkable and quite warming. At 43% and £93, this was certainly nice, but again, a bit expensive for what was in the bottle.

Another BBR, this one an 18yo Laphroaig.
And so to the end of the evening, and this one got quite a reaction as members took their first sniffs of it, with plenty of 'oohs' and 'aahs'. "You all sound like a bunch of drug addicts," said someone, which was probably fair enough, as everyone recognised the familiar scent of Islay in their nostrils.

This really was very pleasant indeed. There were quite a few suggestions of Lagavulin, but then, nobody could really believe that anyone's first whisky was a Lagavulin. And here I've got to declare an interest. My first whisky was a Laphroaig 10yo (a family thing, as there always seemed to be a bottle in the house, a tradition I somehow seem to have maintained) and this was a Laphroaig too, although something a bit more special. An 18yo from Berry, Bros and Rudd, and clocking in at 55.6%. It was £175, but good luck finding a bottle. It was, almost unanimously, dram of the night.

And that was it for another month. Thanks again to Matthew for selecting some great drams for us to try, and to the Briton's for again being excellent hosts. We've got the club AGM in April and then another tasting as usual at the end of the month. If there's anything we can be sure of, it's that ordering a 'SoCo and lime' still won't be a thing by then.