Thursday, February 25, 2021

Short Haul Drams

February's line up

February's Manchester Whisky Club tasting via Zoom had us try a range of 'short haul' drams from European distilleries, all selected by club chairman Adam.

Armorik Dervenn
And we didn't have to travel too far for dram number one. Just down to Brittany in fact, for something from the French Armorik distillery. We've had a couple of big sherried bottlings from there at past tastings which went down well, but this Armorik Dervenn was a little different to that. Dervenn is the Breton word for oak, and this was matured in local Breton oak barrels as well as bourbon casks.

We liked this one straight from the off. Coffee on the palate, and very peppery, it reminded some drinkers of a Campbeltown. "Tell me where I can buy it" said someone straight away, and they're in luck, as it's widely available for about £55. It's 46%. A no age statement whisky, we reckon it's about four years old. Not a bad start to the evening all told, and another success for Armorik.

Teeling Brabazon
We looked west for the second whisky of the night, to Ireland and Teeling. This was the Teeling Brabazon, a 14-year-old whisky which spent most of its maturation in bourbon casks before a final three years in ex-PX sherry. We got some butterscotch on the nose, and it was slightly grassy on the palate. There was a bit more on the palate in fact, although it was oily and the finish was a bit short. Not bad but we wouldn't rush out to buy it. Some drinkers thought it was nice, others felt it was a bit dank like wet cardboard.

It's 49.5% but will set you back £84. "I'm looking at the price and now I'm saying no thanks" said someone, probably just about summing it all up.

Millstone Special

Dram number three was very dark indeed. It had an industrial sort of a smell, almost like a carpet factory, and again was a bit oily. Almost like pickled herrings in fact. The taste was a surprise too. Kind of sweet and raisiny as if it was very sherried, but what it was we had absolutely no idea.

It turned out to be Dutch, and was one of the oldest whiskies available under the Millstone name from the Zuidam distillery, the 23-year-old Special Release 18. Adam had a look back at the club records and discovered it was in fact the most expensive non-Scotch we've ever had, at £250! It really split opinions. Some liked it and were getting lots of dark chocolate and coffee, others weren't so keen. Certainly unusual, but perhaps not worth that kind of money.

High Coast Timmer
Sweden is a club favourite because of Mackmyra, the distillery with the distinction of having been tasted the most by the club over the years. However, on this occasion we went elsewhere in the country for the fourth whisky of the night, to High Coast (formerly known as Box). This had an interesting nose with a bit of antiseptic, while the taste was more sherbet. "Trying a bit too hard" as someone suggested, with maybe too much going on. You could smell the peat on this, and taste it too, but it was more floral and mossy than a bit peaty punch.

The expression is a no age statement called High Coast Timmer, and comes in at 48% and £49, matured in bourbon barrels and refill quarter casks. A lot of phenols here, in fact not a million miles away from Laphroaig technically but didn't taste like it, and was apparently actually modelled on the subtler Kilchoman. Again there were mixed feelings in the end. Some liked it, others thought it was a bit forgettable. The barley was upfront, it was a bit sweet, a bit salty. We thought we'd liked to try a bit more from here once it's older (this is probably a 6yo).

Kornog Roc'h Hir

Onto our last whisky, and we were back in Breton country again, this time for a Kornog from the Glann Ar Mor distillery. It smelt like ammonia. In fact, we weren't sure about the nose all round, but loved the taste. It was kind of dusty, like pencil shavings. A little bit nutty with almonds, and some of the vanilla-ness you get with bourbon albeit with more fruit maybe. Peaty and very drinkable, very sessionable in fact. We liked this one, really liked it.

It had a lighter peat level than the High Coast, putting it more on a level with Caol Ila or Lagavulin. The expression itself is a no age statement called Roc'h Hir, coming in at 46% and £66. A good way to end the tasting.

As for the dram of the night voting, it was a narrow win for the Millstone! So narrow in fact, it came down to Adam's casting vote. Thanks to Adam and all club members for another successful tasting!

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