Saturday, February 27, 2021

Rye Hard 2: Rye Harder

The full line-up
January's lockdown tasting had club member Tim bring us the long-awaited sequel to his Rye Hard tasting of ryes with, what else, but Rye Hard 2: Rye Harder.

And we went straight in with dram number one. This was a bit woody, almost like a furniture sort of smell contributing to a lovely nose. But the views got a bit more mixed once we actually tasted it. There was sweetness, a bit of spice too, but if anything we were a little disappointed with the palate, which went dry and then bitter quite suddenly. It got sharper with water but, as Tim revealed, there wasn't actually enough rye it in it to be a rye, so it was in fact a bourbon.


Woodford Reserve

There was also a bit of dark chocolate around, which was explained by the fact it did have chocolate malted rye in it. It was the Chocolate Malted Rye Bourbon expression from Woodford Reserve. It's 45.2% and costs £80. Certainly distinctive and we were glad to have tried it, but not something anyone rushed out to buy at that price.

Next was a bit of a surprise as we had an English rye, prompting the inevitable chorus of "I had no idea English rye was even a thing". Well, it is, and this one has been produced by Suffolk brewery Adnams. This had boozy mixed fruit on the nose, almost like a Speyside. Someone even said it reminded them of Drambuie. It was certainly a bit orangey on the palate too, citrussy, spicy but almost smooth. "Would be great in an Old Fashioned" someone suggested.

Adnams Rye Malt

The aftertaste was very citrussy too, and it had a long, slightly dry finish. There was a bit of a consensus around the word 'unusual' which is no bad thing. The bottle simply called Rye Malt, is 47% and is not bad value at all at £45.

The third dram of the night didn't have quite as much on the nose as the previous two, although some members thought that changed a little bit with a splash of water. It was unmistakably a rye but was perhaps a bit undistinguished compared with the ones we'd already tried. It smelt sweet but the palate was very short and didn't taste of all that much, beyond a bit of spiciness that didn't really stick around. A pleasant enough, easy drinker though.

Templeton Rye

This was the Templeton Rye Small Batch, from Indiana. It was 40% and cost £39 for a 75cl bottle, although this particular expression is no longer available.

Dram number four got an immediate response: "Do you not think it smells of straw?" There was definitely a bit of the giraffe house going on, although at the same, I thought a bit of steamed pudding as well. Deeper and richer than some of the others we'd had during the tasting, it was rich, lovely and sweet on the palate, with a bit of spiciness coming through as well. Apple pie was another tasting note that plenty of people agreed with.

New Riff Straight Rye

We were drinking New Riff Straight Rye, from Kentucky, made with 95% rye and clocking in at 50% ABV. It's £60 and was a clear favourite so far for most of the drinkers.

The last of our five drams also had the highest rye content, at 100%. Apples were again in evidence, along with pear drops (Editor's note: after this discussion of pear drops I went to the trouble of buying a bag for the first time in years - it turns out they taste nothing like whisky. What a con). There was caramel on the finish too although it wasn't as sweet as some of the others. Oily and toffee notes got a few shouts as well. It punched up on the flavours, and it might have been a bit sharp for some club members.

Reservoir Rye

It was the Reservoir Rye Virginia Rye Whiskey, at 50% and £99. A bit pricey, despite being obviously a quality drink.

Which brought us to the dram of the night voting. Only the third one didn't attract any support, but it was the New Riff which took the honours with 14 votes, to 10 for the Reservoir Rye and seven for the Adnams.

Thanks to all club members and those on the waiting list who joined us via Zoom for another successful lockdown tasting, and in particular to Tim for selecting the whiskies and guiding us through it. We'll have to do a part three one day!


Another Zoom tasting!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

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!




Sunday, January 10, 2021

November 2020 Tasting

The full line-up

For our latest Zoom tasting in November, Martin had laid on a selection of six drams from some unusual distilleries.
White Peak

And we started off very close to home indeed. The White Peak Distillery is now the closest distillery to Manchester in the process of making whisky, based in the former Derwent Wire Works in Derbyshire and founded back in 2016. The area is best known for brewing, and the distillery apparently makes use of some interesting yeasts from its near-neighbours.

Martin is one of the members of the distillery's Temperance Club, which gives early supporters the opportunity to try some of its outturn, and he shared a bottle of 24-month-old White Peak Temperance Club bottling 2 with us. Still too young to be whisky, but really very nice indeed already, with a pleasant and subtle taste reminiscent of some of our favourite Irish whiskeys. Hints of marzipan and cream soda. We liked this a lot, and it's certainly whetted our appetite to see what else will be coming out of White Peak in the future. It was 48% but isn't generally on sale.

Wolfburn No. 375
Next we travelled much further away from Manchester, to the independently-owned Wolfburn, the most northerly distillery in mainland Scotland. This was the third release in its Small Batch series, a no-age statement called No. 375, matured in a combination of first fill bourbon barrels and second fill Oloroso sherry hogsheads.

As soon as we got into the Zoom breakout rooms to try this one, some of the drinkers weren't as immediately keen on this as they'd hoped, especially as many who'd tried Wolfburn's stuff before had really enjoyed it. Comments included notes of brown sugar and biscuits, but that overall it just seemed lacking. The price didn't exactly help on this, it's all of £79. For that kind of money, there are better bottles to buy. It's 46%.

1770 Whisky
Staying in Scotland for whisky number three, and it was time to try another new name on the whisky scene, the Glasgow Distillery. I say a new name, it's actually a revival of a very old one, but the distillery opened in 2014 with the claim that it is the first new single malt distillery in Glasgow itself for a century.

We had a bottle of the 2019 release, called 1770 Whisky. A no age statement bottling (but on the other hand, you don't exactly need to be a maths genius to work out roughly how old it is), this was very pleasant on the nose indeed and was very sweet, almost reminiscent of Coke. Certainly sharp but without any sense of burning, a sip of water helped bring the flavours out for some drinkers, with butterscotch coming through. Interesting and a bit different, this is 46% and cost £49 for a 50cl bottle.

Strathearn Batch 001
Another new-ish distillery gave us dram number four, on this occasion the small Strathearn distillery near Perth. Established in 2013, it has already been sold to independent bottler Douglas Laing, allowing the founder a successful 'exit' for all the time and effort spend building up the business. An experimental distillery, Strathearn produces whisky, gin and rum.

We had the Batch 001 single malt, almost certainly three years old (although the label was a little unclear on this), aged in European oak and ex-sherry casks. A "weird nose" and "interesting" were some of the suggestions here, and there was definitely a heavy wood influence. Lots of positive comments all around in fact, and in particular many noted the incredible colour in such a young whisky. This was 46.6% and cost £85 when it was available.

Milk and Honey
A bit of a surprise next as we visited Israel. A nation not exactly known as a whisky hotbed, but the Milk and Honey distillery in Tel Aviv, Israel's first, is trying to change that. With the warm climate, and maturation by the Dead Sea of all places, this already drew comparisons to Indian distilleries Amrut and Paul John before we'd even had a taste.

The bottle we had was called Young Single Malt Aged Spirit, so presumably below three years again, and was matured in a combination of ex-red wine, bourbon and Islay casks. The smoke from the Islay definitely came through very clearly, and we got an interesting mix of sweetness, spiciness and that smoke, with tasting notes suggested including nougat or even incense. Quite a few drinkers really liked this one, although there was a view that adding water did nothing for it. It's 46% and is £41 for a 50cl bottle.

Langatun Old Bear
And we finished off with a visit to another country we've not visited before, Switzerland. There's not much history of whisky making, but things are changing, with the Langatun Distillery in the vanguard. We had a bottle of its Old Bear Smoky, a five-year-old aged in Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine casks, full maturation we believe.

This was certainly unusual once again, with some interesting, weird and spicy bittersweet notes. We couldn't tell if this was from the spirit or the grain. It opened up a bit and mellowed with a little water, bringing forward the flavour and warmth. It's £68.75 and 58.5%.

And so that brought us to the dram of the night voting, and each of the whiskies got at least two votes, a sign of another fine selection. The winner though, and unusually as it was first in the line-up, was the White Peak, which just pipped the Strathearn.

Thanks to Martin and all club members for joining us for another successful evening!

Another Zoom tasting






Sunday, January 3, 2021

A Virtual Trip To Islay


Another Zoom tasting!

For our tasting in October we went far away from our locked down homes in and around Manchester, and took a virtual trip to one of the homes of whisky, Islay.

Jade's Cask
Adam had five drams lined up for us, along with a sprinkling of the unique history of the whisky island and its classic peated produce.

The first whisky was actually acquired a little closer to home, though. The Wee Dram in Bakewell is one of the best independent booze shops around. The owners produced their own 15-year-old bottling of Bruichladdich back in 2017 in honour of their daughter, Jade, and this was it, simply called 'Jade's Cask'.

We were trying all of them blind and playing a bit of 'guess the distillery' and for this bottling, the smoothness and lack of very strong peat left some speculating it might be a Bunnahabhain, before Adam revealed the correct answer.

Caol Ila
Very sweet on the nose and the palate, with notes of marshmallow and a bit of a kick at the end, we thought this was very nice indeed. It was 50% and cost £53 directly from the shop, although it's no longer available.

The next dram was much more spicy, with pear drops on the nose, although that rather gave way to a bit of Christmassy sweetness on the palate, with raisins and a touch of mince pie. Some with longer memories even suggested Parma Violets.

There certainly wasn't much smoke around, and that was confirmed when the bottle was announced as an unpeated Caol Ila, in the form of a 2017 Diageo special release. It was 18 years old and clocked in at a hefty 59.8%, although it didn't really taste quite that strong.

Bunnahabhain

This particular bottle was in the old 'Highland style', made for blends, which pre-dated the more familiar single malt releases we now get from Caol Ila, making it doubly unusual. If you can find a bottle out there today it'll set you back about £100.

For whisky number three we really were going to Bunnahabhain. We got a characteristic phenolic nose, and then in the mouth a powerful tingle and dry biscuity feeling, with sweetness not far behind. A bit like a caramel flapjack, as someone suggested.

This was a Signatory single cask bottling, an 11-year-old aged in first fill sherry casks and remarkably strong, at 67.3%. A real bargain at £82 when the club bought it, but now sadly sold out.

Ardbeg Wee Beastie

We moved on, for whisky four, to a bottle from the ever-popular Ardbeg. However, this particular bottle didn't exactly have the characteristics of a typical Ardbeg. We weren't sure whether this was because it was lighter than normal, or whether that monster of a Bunnahabhain had knocked our tastebuds out of whack a bit. But we didn't get too much from this at first.

Perhaps it was a little of both. This turned out to be a new addition to the Ardbeg range, the Wee Beastie, a 5-year-old at 47.4%, making it only a little stronger than the standard 10-year-old bottling.

Some felt this a bit watery rather than showcasing the classic heavy Ardbeg taste, but those in the group who had tried this before said it was generally a lot better when it didn't have such a big act to follow, and we did appreciate the fact Ardbeg are bold enough to put an age statement on this. One to have another go at. It's 47.4% and £37.

The Dark Side of Islay

To finish, we somewhat unusually had a blend to get our teeth into. The name Octovulin, itself a long-shut Islay distillery, was used by independent bottler Malts of Scotland for the 2017 instalment in its Dark Side of Islay series. A 19-year-old, this was a blend of three types of cask from three different distilleries.

A lovely, interesting dram with plenty going on, smooth on the nose and palate and a long, warm finish. There were 1,421 bottles produced, although they are long gone!

The dram of the night voting went the way of that last bottle, the Dark Side of Islay, just ahead of the big old Bunnahabhain. Although each of the whiskies got at least a couple of votes, which goes to show what a strong line-up we had.

Thanks to Adam for hosting the tasting, and to all club members old and new for joining in once again over Zoom.




Sunday, November 15, 2020

English Whisky Special

Another Zoom tasting!

For our September tasting, once again held via Zoom, we had a selection of whiskies from across England to try. It wasn't so long that England didn't produce any whisky at all, but now there are an increasing number of distilleries not only producing the stuff, but putting some impressive bottlings out onto the market, and we had five to try.

Filey Bay
We kicked off the evening with a dram from what is, by geography at least, the closest working whisky distillery to Manchester. It's Filey Bay in North Yorkshire, and we had a bottle of its First Release, which came out towards the end of 2019, once the spirit had passed the three year mark.

It certainly tasted young, with not a lot of wood in it yet, although it was nice and biscuity. The real sages in the group felt this tasted like great quality whisky, although it was obviously still very young and therefore perhaps a bit rough around the edges. It was short-lived on the palate, although quite smooth considering its youth, while others did think it burned a bit. The whisky is all grain to glass on the same site, and we certainly think it's one to watch as it moves up in age in the coming years. This was 46% and £63 when you could get it, although it now goes for upwards of £100 on auction sites.

Cotswolds
Next it was a move much further south, to the Cotswolds in fact, and another inaugural release, from the Cotswolds Distillery. As with Filey Bay, this distillery was established with the help of whisky guru, the late Jim Swan. We felt this had more about it straight away, with a very good nose like a sweet pastry or strudel.

There was a little bit of dryness too, and we felt this was better than some of its English rivals of a similar sort of age, although those who added water felt this killed the whisky a bit. Aged in a mixture of red wine and bourbon casks, this was again 46% and was just £50 when it came out - a bargain! But if you want to buy a bottle now it'll set you back a cool £300. So perhaps best wait for something newer from them.

The English
For our third drink of the evening we visited the oldest of this new breed of English distilleries, the English Whisky Company in Norfolk, which at one time was the first English distillery to bring a whisky to the market in a century. A sign of the age of the distillery is that they are now producing an 11-year-old, which is what we had before us.

We got toasty nuts on the nose, with a little bit of ashtray. Adding water diminished that a bit, and made the drink sweeter. At 56.8% this had a real cask strength feeling to it, which did polarise the club members a bit, with some of our Zoom breakout rooms giving this the thumbs up and others less keen. The finish was a bit short. A single cask whisky, one of 311 bottles matured in a red wine cask, it was £75 when you could get it although it's now sold out.

The Lakes

After a short half-time break, we were on to the fourth whisky and a return to the north of England and The Lakes distillery. Possibly best known for its The One blend, featuring a mixture of whiskies from the four nations of the UK, we had a bottle of its higher end Whiskymaker Reserve No 3.

Spicy, with citrus on the nose, and burnt orange, dark fruits and even cherry. In short, lots going on, with a different sort of taste and some unusual flavours. Very enjoyable, although the nose was perhaps more of a highlight than how it tasted on the palate, yet still a very well balanced drink overall. At 54% and £65, this had a bit of "all the sherries" in it, from Oloroso, PX, cream sherry and then red wine, as if that wasn't enough.

Bimber
To finish off we had something even more special, and it was from one of the hottest names in whisky this year, super trendy London distillery Bimber. This was a bottle of a recent release, an unpeated whisky finished in a peated Islay quarter cask, which sold out of its 1,750 bottles in under an hour.

This whisky was, to quote one member "on another level" to even the very good ones we'd had earlier in the tasting. A lot to it, perhaps with more on the palate than the nose, but it really came at you in layers. Waxy and greasy with a mixture of subtle tastes, that helped it to taste much older than it really is. At auction these bottles will already cost you more than £100. It's 54.1%.

And so it came to our dram of the night voting, and it was the Bimber which came out on top with 10 votes, while the slightly more polarising English Whisky Company bottling picked up 7, while the others also attracted at least one vote each. Bimber certainly one to watch - but then so are all these developing English distilleries.

Thanks to the committee and club members who all took part in another successful tasting. We're counting down the days until we can return to in person tastings at the Britons Protection, but in the meantime, these lockdown specials are continuing to prove hugely successful!

The full line-up



Saturday, October 24, 2020

August Tasting: Raiding The Club's Reserves

 

August's line up of samples

Our August remote tasting, the first under Greater Manchester's renewed Covid restrictions, found us sampling a range of drams taken from the club's stocks. No particular theme, but an opportunity to try some excellent whiskies which the club had kept aside for a rainy day like this.

Story of the Spaniard
We did this one blind, revealing the bottles after tasting each whisky. And the first whisky of the night was fresh, with a sort of grassy or organic-type vibe about it. Not as sweet as some whiskies, with a spiciness and a sort of white wine-type crispness on the nose. Some said this wasn't particularly special on the nose but tasted better, and someone thought it was a bit heavy in the end.

It turned out to be a blend, a no age statement one at that, from Compass Box and called The Story of the Spaniard. Inspired by working on a whisky with The Spaniard bar in New York, this is built around whisky drawn from sherry and Spanish red wine casks (so that was wine we could pick up, just the wrong colour). A very pleasant start to the night though. It's 43% and is still available for £52.

Madeira Cask Project
Next we had a much sweeter nose to contend with for dram number two. There maybe wasn't too much else on the nose, though, with a subtle, even menthol type smell. There was much more to go at on the palate, with a particular rush of sweetness at the very end. Adding a bit of water brought out that menthol that much more, along with the likes of liqourice or even nail polish remover (not sure what this actually tastes like, but it takes all sorts).

Some in the club suspected a lightly peated Islay, but it was in fact a Speyside. Not just a Speyside, but a Glen Moray, a distillery recently branching out from its reputation as a purveyor of highly affordable, entry-level whiskies that you can pick up in the supermarket. This was a 13-year-old which had spent all its life in madeira casks, hence the name Madeira Cask Project. It's 46.3% and £62 if you can find a bottle. Closing comments on this included "yummy" and "really good".

Kilkerran 12yo
Onto number three and the nose was unusual, with early suggestions from members including "wet carpet" and "cleaning products" with even a bit of cardboard in there somewhere. Yet despite that possibly unpromising initial blast of mustiness on the nose, once we tasted this, there was widespread enjoyment. Slightly peated, and very pleasant indeed.

The whisky hailed from Campbeltown, once a hub of the whisky industry and now certainly well onto the comeback trail, although the number of distilleries there is a fraction of those that existed in the early 20th century. This particular bottle is from the Glengyle distillery but does not appear under that name, because the rights to 'Glengyle' are held far away at Loch Lomond these days. So instead, it's bottled as Kilkerran, and this was the 12 year-old expression, one of the first of the core range released by the distillery since its 2004 reopening. At 46% and just £39, this represented great value too.

Celebrity Yurt
Indulgence
After a short break we resumed with whisky number four, and this was sweet on the nose before a big hit on the palate. Much bigger than most were expecting after the nose, to be honest. It was very peppery and tasted very strong, and that pepperiness was a complete surprise. Other comments included "sweet" and "syrupy, like golden syrup".

This was a Highland Park, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society under the name 'Celebrity Yurt Indulgence'. It was surprisingly peaty for a Highland Park. A 16 year-old from a refill Oloroso sherry butt, it tasted all of its 60.6%. We paid £85 for it from the SMWS, although it's long since out of stock.

Finlaggan Red Wine
Cask 
As is often the case with the closing dram of any tasting, it was time for the 'peat incoming' siren to go off, once we poured the last miniature into our glasses. It certainly gave off a fantastic smell for all the peat monsters in the club, of whom there are quite a few. This had a saltiness, sea water, even notes of salted fish and burnt tyres. Really very lovely indeed, some also fancied this with a bit of water too.

It was a Finlaggan, a brand created by the Vintage whisky company. So the actual origin distillery is a bit of a mystery, although we do know for sure it was on Islay somewhere. The particular bottle we were drinking was the red wine cask, which clocked in at 46%. At just over £42, another bottle offering good value.

All of which brought us to the dram of the night voting. And not for the first time, each whisky had some supporters, indicating plenty of strength in depth from this particular line up. But the winner in the end was the SMWS Celebrity Yurt Indulgence with nine votes, just ahead of the Story of the Spaniard and the Kilkerran which picked up six each.

Thanks again to all club members and guests for taking part via Zoom, and to Anna and Martin for overseeing this well-timed raid on the club's whisky stocks.





Sunday, August 23, 2020

Elixir Distillers and the Single Malts of Scotland

It was another Zoom tasting
It was another Zoom tasting.

Our series of remote lockdown tastings continued in July with a selection of whiskies from Elixir Distillers. It's a London-based independent distiller known for being part of the Whisky Exchange empire, and for bottling the Elements of Islay and Port Askaig brands, both of which we've enjoyed at past events.

Julie Hamilton from Elixir took us through a set of five miniatures mostly drawn from Elixir's other main range, called Single Malts of Scotland.

Clynelish 8yo

We tasted them all blind, and the first whisky of the evening had a familiar taste about it. It was very pleasant on the nose, spicy with a hit of flavour although it did fade a bit after that. There was a bit of citrus or pineapple about it, although it tasted a bit different to what the nose would have suggested, with a certain oiliness. A nice easy drinker to start off the evening though.

Some of the club members rightly pegged it as something youngish, and it turned out to be an 8yo from Clynelish. It's 48% and costs £60.

Glen Elgin 12yo

Next was something that came over as very subtle, with pear drops and toasted cereal on the nose. Tasting this revealed a smoother drink with a longer finish than the previous dram, also a bit chewy with some drinkers picking up almonds, and bit of a spice and even bitterness at the back of the throat. Another tasting note was marmalade or orange peel, and those who added a bit of water felt that it softened things up considerably.

Again this felt a touch young, but it was in fact a 12-year-old from Glen Elgin on Speyside. It's 48% and £61.95.

Benrinnes 13yo

The third dram of the evening immediately smelt of peat, although not entirely meaning we doubted whether this was an Islay. Other notes on the nose included menthol or something medicinal, like Vicks rub. Someone else suggested Lotus caramelised biscuits, and we all agreed this was a bit of a mixed bag. It did start like an Islay on the palate but then changed, with a bit of a surprising, dry finish.

Certainly unusual, and our favourite so far, it turned out to be a 13-year-old from Benrinnes. Again it's 48% and £61.95.

Linkwood 12yo

After a short break, Julie invited us to open drink number four. There wasn't too much on the nose, but it had a lovely, sweet feeling on the palate. The sweetness put us in mind of golden syrup, maybe candy floss, and it certainly was very sweet. A bit of water actually unlocked the nose a bit more, although if anything it also served to lessen the palate.

This was another 12-year-old, although on this occasion from Linkwood. We certainly thought it was interesting the Single Malts of Scotland showcased a series of whiskies of similar ages and strengths, but which were all quite different. The Linkwood is again 48% and comes in at £66.95.

Port Askaig 12yo

For the final drink of the evening we moved away from the SMoS range and to Port Askaig, a brand named after a key settlement on Islay, and used to showcase Elixir's range of independent Islay bottlings. And this was unmistakably an Islay from the first nose. Very nice, beautiful and salty, we thought, and almost everyone enjoyed this very much, although one or two drinkers felt it was a touch too peaty for them.

This turned out to be what should have been the spring edition of Port Askaig, although the release was delayed by Covid. Perhaps surprisingly, this was actually less strong than the other drams of the night at just 45.8%, and it's £65.95.

In the dram of the night voting, it was the Port Askaig that took the honours, just ahead of the Linkwood and the Benrinnes. Thank you to Julie for taking us through another great selection of whiskies from Elixir, and to all club members who took part for supporting the event in such numbers.