Thursday, December 31, 2020

The 2020 Christmas Party


Another Zoom tasting!

One of our annual traditions at Manchester Whisky Club is the Christmas party. In the past this has usually involved a big get-together at the Britons Protection, often involving the leftover whiskies from the year's tastings. This year, as with most things, we had to do it remotely on Zoom. But thanks to some wonderful organising from host Adam and the rest of the committee, we had a great night of entertainment and a range of whiskies to try.

Hazelburn 13yo

Everyone had a few small surprise samples to try along with the main line-up for the tasting, with the little bits leftover from bottles we tried earlier in the year, so we'd all had the chance to drink something in advance of the opening dram.

We got going with a 13-year-old from Hazelburn, a brand used by the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown. This was an unpeated expression, matured in Oloroso sherry casks. And that sherry certainly came across when we tried it, with a real Christmas cake sort of feel about it. There was also a definite toffee thing going on as well, so all very appropriate for the time of the year.

Someone suggested a bit of water helped smooth things out a bit. Certainly sweet and bold. It was £54 when available (it no longer is, the run of 9,000 bottles has long gone) and it's 47.4%.

James Eadie Benrinnes
The next whisky was a Benrinnes from independent bottler James Eadie. Again 13 years old, this was finished in a bual Madeira hogshead, but it had a much more limited run of 311 bottles, again all now sold.

And no wonder, because it was really very nice indeed. Fairly subtle on the nose but then big and buttery in the mouth, it had a spicy thing going on, maybe cardamom, and also pear drops. It was good value too at £49, and it was 56.1%.

WB Blair Athol
One of the club's favourite independent bottlers is Whiskybroker, run by Martin Armstrong, and we had one of their bottlings for the third dram of the night. It was a Blair Athol released last summer, which quite a few of the club members took the opportunity of buying at the time. Sharing the wealth with those who missed out first time around, Adam presented us with the red wine-finished 10-year-old.

You could really tell the red wine a mile off with this one. It helped give the whisky a very distinctive flavour which lingered very pleasingly, too. As is always the case with Whiskybroker, an excellent value bottle at £50, and it was 56.5%. This went down very well indeed.

SMWS 37.96
Next up we had a dram from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This was number 37.96, named 'Cinnamon Semolina Pudding' that was a 13-year-old from Cragganmore on Speyside. This had most of its ageing in an ex-bourbon hogshead before finishing in first fill Pedro Ximenez sherry.

And once again it was strong and sweet and smooth, tasting all of its 58.7%. But it also definitely had something interesting with the texture, which is presumably where the SMWS tasters got that 'semolina' reference from. It was part of the October 2017 outturn by the SMWS, and at the time was £56 for members.

Caol Ila 9yo
To finish, as we often do, it was off to Islay for a taste of something peaty. It was a 9-year-old Caol Ila, produced by The Whisky Exchange in 2019 for The Whisky Show, to honour their 20th anniversary. It was fully matured in refill sherry.

It certainly gave us a big blast of peat. The sherry gave it a lingering finish and it was definitely a complex whisky. We thought that, if anything, it might have done from a little extra time in the wood to really bring out more of the flavours.

Amidst all this, Adam kept us all going with a range of quizzes, and thank you to him and everyone who took part, for another successful lockdown tasting.

The dram of the night, mustn't forget that, actually apparently I did because I can't find the results anywhere, so they may well be lost in the mists of time. But for what it's worth my vote would be for the Whiskybroker Blair Athol!

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