Friday, June 30, 2017

Bottle Your Own Whisky

The line-up.
June's tasting gave us another first for the club: a night of cask strength whiskies all hand-filled at distilleries, and collected by Martin and Anna during a recent 1,000 mile journey around Scotland.

Another good turnout.
And what a series of drams they treated us to. We tasted them all blind, and right from the off the first one announced itself pretty definitively. "I can feel my nose unblocking itself" said someone, as we generally agreed there was something broadly familiar about it. There was vanilla but also a notable spicy, peppery quality to it. Very nice all round.

The room thought this was a Speyside, and sure enough, it was. In fact, it was an Aberlour, a 13yo from a first fill bourbon cask and coming in at a weighty 58.1%.

The Aberlour.
If your only experience of Aberlour is a bottle of the supermarket staple 12yo, then this was a bit of a revelation. Not because the 12yo is a bad whisky but, well, this was certainly a step or two up from that. It's £70.

There were more shouts for Speyside on dram number two, which had a sherried, honey and syrupy quality to it, almost like an exceptionally boozy flapjack. Hot, strong and salty all got mentions, although at the same time, others thought it was quite mellow, which perhaps suggests that we were all over the place much earlier in the evening than is normally the case!

It was a 15yo Glenfiddich, and there was some surprise that it was 'only' 54.8% as it felt even stronger, especially on the nose. Sherry, bourbon and new wood were all involved in ageing this one.

The Glenfiddich.
It was the most expensive whisky of the night at £95, but even then I think there'd have been a few takers had it been available to buy online.

Onto whisky number three and the treat of a very sweet nose. In fact, it was "like an entire sweet shop" for one member, while other suggestions ranged from cream soda ("is it aged in cream soda casks?") to toffee and banana fritters.

Everyone was pretty convinced it was an oldish whisky, and how wrong we all were. Martin revealed that it was, in fact, just three years and ten months old, so only just about in nursery as whiskies go. It was a Tomatin, a Highland distillery, and was bottled at 61.4%. The colour for a whisky of that age was a particular surprise, but that's apparently what you get when it's in virgin oak.

The Tomatin.
If you happen to be passing by Tomatin, and it's certainly worth a substantial detour to make sure you are, it costs £75.

After a half-time break and fortified by Anna's brilliant homemade sausage rolls, we carried on with the fourth dram of the night. And straight from the first taste, this one was "like being caressed". Someone suggested it would be ideal as a winter warmer on Bonfire Night, presumably with a slice of parkin.

And it turned out to be another name familiar from the spirits aisle in your local Asda: Glen Moray. A 13yo finished in Chardonnay casks, it was 59% and, perhaps most impressive of all, just £50. "Suddenly I like it even more" was one response to the price tag. Unfortunately, it's sold out.

The Glen Moray.
The next had another distinctively sweet nose, but this one was all rich and fruity. Someone suggested apple strudel straight away, and after that it was more or less impossible to smell anything else. Maybe a bit of butterscotch or toffee or something along those lines.

There was a strong feeling in the room that this was a port wood, but it wasn't, instead being a first fill American oak sherry cask. It was also 13yo once again, prompting some to wonder if this wasn't in fact the perfect age for this kind of bottle-your-own dram.

The Glenturret.
It turned out to be a Glenturret, a distillery better known as the home of Famous Grouse. The latest in a new series of expressions named for well-known Scots (we had the 'Andy Murray' cask at the club last year), this was called the Gerard Butler.

Apparently the actor is actually teetotal, but I suppose that at least means there's more of his delicious whisky for the rest of us to enjoy on his behalf. It's 56.8% and cost £75.

The sixth and last whisky of the evening was "medicinal" and "chewy" with a distinctive floral bouquet. Other suggestions included blackcurrant and Jaffa cakes, although that could have been someone trying to order some unusual bar snacks. Someone else suggested they wanted to sit and smell it for half an hour, but there was no way anyone else was going to join in with that.

The Auchentoshan.
It was an Auchentoshan, and another highlight on an evening full of them. From a Pedro Ximenez cask and bottled at 59.8%, this was another drink well worth the asking price, which on this occasion was £80.

Reflecting the consistent high quality of the whiskies on show, the dram of the night voting was quite evenly split. The Glenturret was the only one not to attract any votes, rather unfortunate because on another night it could easily have been the pick of the bunch.

Both the Aberlour and the Auchentoshan got five votes apiece, but our choice turned out to be the Tomatin, backed by eight members. So congratulations to them! All we have to do now is, er, drive to Tomatin to get a bottle each for the cupboard.

Special thanks this month to Martin and Anna for sharing the fruits of what sounds like a great trip across Scotland, as well as to all the members old and new for taking part, and to the team at the Briton's Protection for putting us up once again.

We'll be scrapping over these at the Christmas party.

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