Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Delicate Drams

The evening's line up.
Club member Becky led us through June's tasting, a selection of six 'delicate drams' with some flavours a little more subtle than many of the whiskies we typically drink. She also introduced a slight change in format, with everyone trying the whiskies blind at first, before having another go once the labels were revealed. I'll keep the tasting notes from both 'halves' together here though to help keep things simple.

Kingsbarns Dream to Dram
The opening whisky had a very distinctive, sweet nose about it. Toffee apples, vanilla, pear drops and creme brulee were all suggested by the thirsty members around the room. There was a bit of a difference when we actually tasted it though, with more of a dry, short finish, certainly not quite what we expected, but still very pleasant with a malty and cereal-type taste, almost like banana bread in fact.

The bottle turned out to be from one of the newest names in Scottish whisky, Kingsbarns. Associated with golf (it's next to St Andrews and has a famous course in its own right), the idea for the distillery came from a caddy who had a dream, and so this first publicly available expression is a 3yo called Dream to Dram. We liked this very much. It's 46% and £45 on Master of Malt, or at least it was until I slyly bought the last one at the end of the tasting. Sorry!

Glen Grant 12yo
Dram number two also had a very sweet nose, like a sweet shop in fact. Various suggestions from the room included a Tunnock's teacake (or maybe a whole packet), icing sugar and marshmallows, although it also reminded me of one of my favourite childhood drinks, red kola. The taste was sweet again, but again it was a slight surprise after the nose and didn't quite marry up in the expected way, being a bit more dry. Certainly very delicate as well as dry, it had a longer finish. "Like being in a sauna" someone suggested, although I'm fairly sure drinking whisky in a sauna is probably a terrible idea.

It was a 12yo Glen Grant, coming in at 43% and £42, so again quite affordable. This was nice although it didn't quite hit the heights of the opener.

Balblair 15yo
There was more apple of the nose of the third whisky, although it wasn't quite as distinctive as the two we'd already tried. The smell did emerge after a while, though. There was more apple on the palate, but again a sweet sort of apple taste, like apple pie or strudel. There was certainly something caramelised and Christmassy about it.

We were in the Highlands for this one, and to be more specific Balblair. A 15yo at 46% it was a little more expensive with a price tag of £73, and we weren't quite sure whether this was definitely worth it, although it was a very pleasant drop once again.

Elixir Imperial
The fruity theme continued with the fourth dram, although rather than apples, this had more of a sweaty, stewed fruit feel. Someone shouted out "plums" at one point, although I'm not sure whether this was actually a comment on the whisky or not. Turkish delight was another suggestion once we actually tasted it, and for a really detailed note liqourice all sorts, but specifically the blue and pink ones (these are called spogs, it turns out). Overall this was a bit more savoury than the others, with spices such as nutmeg coming more to the fore. While fitting the bill for a delicate dram, it wasn't the most delicate one we tried during the evening.

Becky had shown true devotion to the cause of presenting the whiskies by calling each distillery to ask them more about the bottles, but that wasn't an option here - it was from the Imperial distillery which closed in 1998 and was demolished six years ago to make way for the new Dalmunach distillery. The whisky we were drinking was a 21yo bottled by Elixir, a name known for its Port Askaig and Elements of Islay ranges. It's 50.5% and £130 although there aren't many bottles around, and indeed the remaining stocks of Imperial are apparently rather depleted too, so you might have a job finding one of these.

Spey 18yo
The fifth whisky was back onto the apple theme, this time with a nose reminiscent of apple pie. There was definitely a hint of pastry in there though, and some suggested Bakewell tart as an alternative (other regional baked products are available). Official tasting notes included Eton mess ("that's just broken up meringue") or vanilla fudge although we thought doughnuts was slightly closer to the mark. There was more on the palate than the nose here, and mixed nuts was a suggestion that drew a lot of nods around the room. A bit of caramel too, reminiscent of the stroopwafels you probably brought back from Schipol Airport the last time you were passing through.

Going back for a second taste of it, the sherry really did come through more strongly. There was little doubting it as a Speyside, and in fact it came from the Speyside distillery near Kingussie (a town synonymous with top shinty action like this), branded as an 18yo Spey. It's 46% and £74, not bad at all but not our favourite.

Mackmyra Vintertradgard
And so to our final whisky of the tasting. This had a very different sort of fruity nose, with cherries, and in particular sour cherries and berries, coming through very clearly. Almost like Black Forest gateau in fact. Once we tasted it, you could even say it was a slightly confusing sort of whisky (in a good way), because the bourbony vanilla of American oak was present along with a general mixture of sweetness and spiciness. All very nice indeed.

This was our only trip outside Scotland all evening, and it was back to Sweden and club favourites Mackmyra, for another from their Mackmyra Moments range, a bottle of Vintertradgard (it means 'winter garden') generously provided by Alex Johnston who hosted a tasting for us earlier in the year.  This was a big hit! It's 48.4% and costs £160, although again may well be hard to find.

We did two lots of dram of the night voting, one after we'd tried them all blind, then another after the second tasting. In the first round it was dram number three, which we didn't know then was a Balblair, which got seven votes, to six for the Imperial and four for Mackmyra. But things changed around a bit at full-time, with the Kingsbarns racing ahead with nine votes, leaving Balblair, Imperial and Mackmyra in second, third and fourth. Well done to Kingsbarns, and as someone said, not bad at all for a calibration dram!

Well done also to Becky for putting on such a great debut tasting. Also thanks to club members for ensuring another well-attended event, and to the Britons for hosting us once again.

After the reveal.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.