Friday, May 31, 2019

Glen Scotia with Ibon

Words pics and tasting notes curtesy of Adam, Dave and Chris

Our May tasting was hosted by Ibon Mendiguren from The Loch Lomond Group, who brought with him 6 stunning drams from Glen Scotia:

In the Victorian age, Campbeltown was known as the whisky capital of the world. Glen Scotia is now one of only 3 remaining distilleries in the Campbeltown region and it continues to produce two whisky styles, peated and non-peated. Over the years the quality of the whisky has improved with longer fermentation and vatting of the malted barley as well as a slower and more careful distillation. Whilst there were always excellent indy bottlings of Glen Scotia availible, the official releases tended to be a little lack lustre, and as to the packaging... well that was Cow-Shit!
The new owners of Glen Scotia have not only vastly improved how their bottles look (not a cow in sight), but also what goes into them.
I was a convert the first time I tried Victoriana a few years back and after trying dram #5 a few months back, it’s still one of my stand-out drams of the year!

Thanks to Glen Scotia’s, squat pot stills and horizontal lyne arms, a lot of the fermentation related flavours make it through to the cask. As the distillery also employs really long fermentation times the means the spirit has an oily, waxy, character with plenty of fruity esters. With their own cooperage at their sister distillery; Loch Lomond, Glen Scotia has full control of what sort of wood the spirit goes into. This includes wide range of FF bourbon barrels as well as sherry and wine casks.

As Anna and Martin were busy on Islay (bird watching I presume), I was flying solo on the night, so thanks to Dave and Chris for their efforts on twitter which bear a striking resemblance to the post below. Their combined tasting notes make for some interesting reading.

Whisky numero un! - Double Cask 46% (NAS). £32-37.
From the "whiskiest place in the world”, spicy nose with a fruity spiced taste, Moy bien! First fill bourbon, then into PX for a total of 3-7 years. So, we get sweet & vanilla, then raisins & sultanas.

Dram the second! Victoriana, NAS 54.8% and ~£75.
This 3 cask combo.. is a mix of FF bourbon, heavily charred American oak and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Mellow sweet nose, super rounded gassy but smooth taste. Very nice :)
"Fucking love this dram" says our host. Blended to recreate the sweeter, stronger style of whisky favoured by Victorian drinkers, Victoriana contains a mix of 12-18y.o. components. The mix around 70% American oak to 30% PX with a 90:10 split between unpeated and peated (~50ppm in malt) spirit. Spicy and jammy to start, with a very layered and slightly smoky finish.

Sample a la trois! - Campbelltown festival edition #4, 7y.o. 59.5%, SOLD-OUT
The first of four jewels… all single cask expressions, the one was bottled for last week’s Campbeltown festival edition. Chris got: Deep mahogany nose with special oily fruity taste with spice. "Whoa! Nice!" Very floral and nicely rounded few sips in. Don't want it to end!!  Whereas Dave thought: Fruity. Very oily. Very peaty but not Islay peat! Heavenly, it's gorgeous. More of this kind of thing please.

Prov den fjärde!! -  Warehouseman’s Edition 12 y.o. 56.2% SOLD OUT
This is medium peated dram has a vibrant fruity taste with a deep, deep taste {deep exhale} Great Flavour. Tough to describe. It's a rare emotional dram. Heavy. Oily. Yearning. Spicy. Warm. Cuddly. Intriguing. Soft. Marmalade. Salt. Gorgeously waxy. I'd move in with it.

Whiskyglas fünf!  - Bottle Your Own, Cask #117, 8y.o. 58.3% ~£75 (distillery only)
Another Limited Edition, first-fill bourbon matured with 18-24 months in oloroso. Whisky in its purest state, the smell is seaside mixed with a GPs practice… not a bad thing. I can't describe the taste… Oily, salt watered/coastal, deep, Amazing! Clynelish on steroids!

Szklanka whisky sześć – Cask #453, 19 y.o. 57.9%, £190.
Our final dram comes from the first distillation from the reopened distillery, unpeated spirit into first fill American hogshead, but then re-casked into second fill casks which previously held peated whisky. Knockout nose! Like being hit in the face by the most pleasant German train! The taste has been very well crafted, can taste the oily, gassy and warm flow as it goes down.

Dram of the night was a very close contest, with all six drams receiving votes. However with more peat than the others, No 3 was first past the post thanks to our resident peat heads, with #6 elected second. Many thanks to Ibon and Glen Scotia for absolutely astounding drinks tonight.

Next Month at Manchester Whisky Club, Becky will be treating the club to some delicious “Delicate Drams.”

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Weird and Wonderful

The mystery line-up.
Martin shared the fruits of his recent labours with us at April's Manchester Whisky Club tasting, with a specially curated selection of weird and wonderful whiskies that have come his way over the past months and even years.

Floki Sheep Dung
It was a blind tasting so the only clues we had were the rough size of the bottles in their black bags, although Martin did at least do a reveal after each drink so we didn't have long to wait to find out just how wrong we were about what we thought we were tasting.

We started off with something that had a very distinctive smell, which got us all thinking it was much more weird than wonderful. On the nose it was somewhere between a carpet shop and a fish market, so maybe the Grimsby branch of Carpetright. To be honest, we all hated the smell. It tasted a little better, almost a bit like a health tonic or herbal liqueur rather than a whisky though.

Another comment from the group was that it definitely wasn't Scottish and, right enough, it turned out to be from a little further north. Iceland's Floki distillery, which only uses local ingredients. But the most unusual factor is the actual local ingredient they use to give it a bit of smoke: sheep dung, of which there is plenty to go around on the island. This particular bottle was a young malt spirit rather than a whisky as it wasn't old enough at that time. It's 47% and cost £65.

Mackmyra Tokaj finish
The nose on the second whisky was much more up our street. It was Christmassy and fruity and, as someone said, "I've got lots of apples going up my nose". When we tasted it there was a definite sweetness about it, too, and we generally thought it might be a little younger than the 10 years it turned out to be. Overall, almost unanimously popular.

It was in fact another bottle from Mackmyra, the Swedish distillery who treated us to a full evening's tasting last month. The unusual element here was courtesy of barrels which had been seasoned with tokaj, the Hungarian sweet wine. This particular bottling is 48.6% and was produced a few years ago under the Moment Vintage range, but good luck finding one on the market now.

Lost Spirits Abomination
The nose on whisky number three gave it away a bit as hailing from Islay, at least somewhere along the line. The familiar smell of TCP and Germolene, suggested one of the island's peatier distilleries was involved. The distinctive dark colour also got us talking, especially when we learned there was nothing artificial going on. Strong tasting and very smoky, it really strips away at the back of the mouth, putting some club members in mind of the peatiest Octomores around.

Although the spirit here may have come from Islay, the whisky was created in the US by craft distillery Lost Spirits. Their thing is to dabble in the weird science of whisky, and this particular bottling, Abomination Chapter 2: Sayers of the Law (sounds like a decent movie tbqh), was a result of a forced process of 'hyper ageing' lasting just a few weeks or even days, with young 13-month old spirit acquired from Islay at the heart of it. At 54% and just £50, this really was great value too.

Bell's Red Devil
The last whisky before half-time was something different again, and it had an unusual reddish type colour. In fact, it looked a bit like flat Coke or sherry. The taste put us in mind of those Eastern European herbal liqueurs again, although having grown up in the north of Scotland it also reminded me of red kola, which a cursory survey of club members confirmed was not a drink which enjoyed a wide-ranging popularity.

What we were drinking was a blend from Bell's. Not the most auspicious drink you would have thought, but this particular bottling, Red Devil, was infused with chilis. An attempt by Bell's to appeal to a younger market in the early 1990s, it didn't last long on the shelves, but has since become highly collectible among Manchester United fans. Certainly very drinkable, with more of the taste of chili rather than the heat, it's 40%, but again, you'll have to hunt the whisky auction sites if you want to get hold of one.

After a short opportunity to refresh our pint glasses at the bar of the Briton's Protection, we were back for dram five and another unusual colour. This was not just dark, but virtually black like tea or Coke again. It was a little bit corked too, but that true back-of-the-booze-cupboard feeling. It wasn't as big on the nose as we thought, and to be honest, didn't do all that much for us in the tasting either, all caramel and liqourice.

The blackness was deliberate, in that we were drinking Cu Dhub, an attempt to recreate the 'black whisky' of yesteryear, which was popular at various points in history but often regarded as not being terribly good. This latest attempt involved caramelising the spirit in Denmark, and after it was discontinued its popularity in Denmark meant that most of the remaining bottles have ended up there. Not one to seek out other than for curiosity's sake.

We went from black to green next, dram number six having a distinctive greenish tinge to it. Sweet, lovely and spicy, this really packed a distinctive punch. "Almost like a breakfast Islay" as someone put it.

As it turned out, we weren't drinking whisky at all, at least not by the standards of the Scotch Whisky Association. We were enjoying some Celp Seaweed Experience, created by literally adding some actual seaweed to bottles of a young Laphroaig. It's created by the Dutch firm, the Ultimately Whisky Company, and we very much enjoyed this. It's 55% but again it's an auction listings job if you want to get a bottle for yourself.

We went from the seaside to the schoolroom next. Or at least the school workshops where you did woodwork, the nose being quite reminiscent of, well, freshly cut wood, or maybe a pine forest. When we got to taste it, there was an immediate creaminess, almost like ice cream in fact, or a can of cream soda.

Old club favourites Amrut, the Indian distillery, was the source of this particular bottle, called Naarangi. It has been matured in a particularly distinctive way, with the casks initially filled with sherry, wine and orange peels, before being swapped out for the Amrut malt to finish. It's definitely citrussy, and doesn't taste as strong as the 50% on the label. At £95 it's possibly a bit steep, though.

Prichard's Double Chocolate
It was a good job we were on slightly reduced measures this month, to save all our Friday mornings, as we rolled on to an almost-unprecedented eights and final dram of the night. This got us thinking of both chocolate and sweaty socks at the same time, or possibly even wet cardboard (perhaps this is what happens when you try to do an Easter egg hunt in the back garden in the rain). As is traditional the notes I've made at this point are relatively brief, but they do record that the membership had "mixed views" on this.

It was the Double Chocolate Bourbon from Prichard's of Tennessee. It's so named because it combines the distillery's signature Double Barrel Bourbon, itself created by manually re-barreling during the maturation process, with actual chocolate. It's mellow rather than sweet, and is 45%. Not bad but not our favourite of the night.

And for once our dram of the night voting ended in a tie. The Mackmyra and the Lost Spirits Abomination were joint first, with both the Celp and the Amrut getting support too. After a tie-breaker with everyone forced to choose between the top two on pain of death, the Mackmyra came out on top.

Thanks must go to Martin for collating these extremely interesting whiskies for us all to share, to the club members for another successful tasting, and everyone at the Briton's for hosting us once again.

These are the first six.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Taste of Sweden with Mackmyra

The first four whiskies.
For our March tasting we had the great pleasure of being joined by Alex Johnson, who represents Sweden's Mackmyra distillery in the UK, to take us through a selection of excellent Scandinavian whiskies.

All the bottles (first half on top).
There were no fewer than eight for us to try, including Mackmyra's core expressions plus some more specialist drams. We'd had the odd bottle of Mackmyra at the club over the years but there was plenty of new stuff here for us all to have a go at.

And we started off with one of Mackmyra's newest drams, Mack. Alex explained that it was aimed at a cheaper price point than its other products, in part to satisfy a gap in the domestic Swedish market, where the sale of booze is famously controlled by a state-owned chain of off licences.

Mack by Mackmyra.
Available here at £34.50, the 40% Mack is a very easy-to-drink single malt. Almost too easy, some club members thought! It has orchard-type notes, with fresh pear and apple alongside a bit of a rummy quality too. We liked this a lot, especially for the money. One to open for a summer's afternoon barbecue.

We moved next onto another component of Mackmyra's core range, a blend called Brukswhisky. Alex told us that the youngest whisky in the blend is about the 7-year-old mark, with others nearer 10, with a mixture of those aged in first fill bourbon barrels but also sherried and Swedish oak casks.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky.
There was apple in this again, and more nuttiness too. Again quite a soft, light and easy to drink whisky, this was a bit creamy with hints of almond and even maybe liquorice too. It's £42 and comes in at 41.4%.

Svensk Ek was whisky number three, and it's among the Mackmyra drams we've had and enjoyed previously. You might have clocked its distinctive burnt orange packaging before. It's particularly notable for being matured in barrels made from oak trees originally intended to provide wood for shipbuilding. The Swedish Navy's loss is our gain, clearly.

Svensk Ek.
On the inside it's a more complex, wintry kind of drink than the first two. "More chewy" as someone described it. There's definitely an oaky taste, along with cinnamon and even crispy toast. It opens up a bit with a drop of water too. It's 46% and you can get a bottle for £52.

The last of the whiskies before half-time was Svensk Rok, which translates as 'Swedish Smoke'. And in keeping with Mackmyra's tradition of using local ingredients, we're talking Swedish peat here.

Svensk Rok.
I thought this was very definitely smoky bacon Frazzles on the nose, although others in the club had rather more refined comments to make. There's certainly a bit of barbecue-type flavour going on, and in general it's quite a bright, smoky whisky. Very distinctive and very nice, too. It's £48 and, although it only comes in a 50cl bottle, it's still good value for something of this quality.

The second half.
Half-time meant not only an opportunity for a bit of extra refreshment from the bar at the Britons Protection, but also gave Alex time to sort out a new line-up of drinks for part two. This time we were switching to four whiskies away from Mackmyra's core range and into some more unusual territory.

And whisky number five was certainly something out of the ordinary. Mackmyra Appelblom, that is apple blossom, certainly gives us a taste of spring. The secret sauce here is that it is finished in Calvados casks, Calvados being an apple brandy from Normandy.

Mackmyra Appleblom Calvados cask.
This really was very nice indeed. As we'd already spotted, Mackmyra whiskies generally have a certain fruitiness about them anyway, so with the addition of the Calderos finish, this gave us a full on apple pie or apple strudel kind of taste. "Toffee custard" was another suggestion. From Mackmyra's seasonal range, it's 46% and you can get a bottle for about £60, and the whisky on the inside ranges from about 8 to 10-year-old.

Mackmyra also has a range under the banner 'Moment' and this was where whisky number six came from, the Fjallmark. This is finished in barrels which have been used to hold cloudberry wine, cloudberries being those orange berries that grow wild quite commonly in Sweden, and even at certain locations here (Kinder Scout, apparently!).

Moment Fjallmark.
Even in a crowded field, this whisky really stood out. Complex and highly tasty, with flavours such as treacle and golden syrup coming to the fore. All summed up with a simple "wow" from one club member. This is bottled at cask strength, which is unusually just 42%, and it's £95. It's safe to say that you don't get too many cloudberry finished whiskies, so that alone makes splashing out for something a bit more premium well worth it.

We weren't finished yet, and whisky seven took us into the world of private casks. The particular dram Alex had for us to try was a 6yo peated whisky from an Oloroso sherry cask.

The private cask - a peated Oloroso.
I'm certain it was very nice but, as you might expect from a whisky tasting of this length, by this point my notes had become rather more limited. For this whisky, all I wrote was that it was "complex" which admitted doesn't tell us very much in the cold light of day. It's 43.7% and Mackmyra makes a batch of 48 bottles available for £3k, which is roughly £62 apiece.

The night concluded with our eighth (!) whisky, and it was the Svensk Rok Amerikansk Ek, a limited edition version of the Svensk Rok aged in new American oak casks.
Svensk Rok Amerikansk.

This has a rich, dark colour. Again there's a barbecue feel about it ("like McDonald's barbecue sauce" as someone suggested - is this a good thing? I'm going with yes), along with a smoky, spiciness. It's £58 and is 46%.

That left us with just one order of business to complete, the dram of the night voting. It was even tougher than normal, and no fewer than six of the eight scored at least a couple of votes, but the winner turned out to be the cloudberry-infused Fjallmark with no fewer than 11.

Thank you to Alex for a great evening, and also for fixing up a tie-up with our friends at Aston's which will see club members get a little money off their next bottle of Mackmyra. Also thanks to everyone who came to yet another well-attended tasting, and to everyone at the Britons for hosting us.

Monday, March 4, 2019

In Vino Veritas... Or Is There?

What, no whisky?
At the end of an unseasonal week of warm February weather, we had an unusual line-up of drinks on arriving for the latest Manchester Whisky Club tasting. In fact, there wasn't any whisky in our glasses at all, at least not until half-time.

The wines went down well.
Long-time club member Nick, who works for Reserve Wines, had laid on a two-part tasting for us. To begin with, five wines. And then, whiskies finished in casks that previously held those wines, or at least very similar ones (if we'd found bottles of the actual wines to drink the club membership would probably be paying it off all year).

We tried all the wines blind allowing Nick to do a bit of a dual reveal once we were knocking into the whiskies. But we tasted the whiskies in a different order from the wines (that is, whisky number one didn't match the opening wine, and so on). So for the purposes of this blog I'll write about each pair of drinks in whisky order.

The Linkwood.
The first whisky was noticeably dark in colour and had a bit of dark chocolate or chocolate orange about it. It turned out to be 16yo Linkwood from the Gordon and Macphail Private Collection that spent 23 months in Cote Rotie wine casks. We bought back in 2016 for about £60 (good luck finding it for anything like that, or even finding it all, today).

Nick's chosen closely matching wine was in fact the third one we tried earlier in the evening. It was a bit plummy, very dry on the palate, with an intense acidity about it, almost like Vimto. It was £13 and is a Syrah from Chile's Tabali vineyard.

The English.
The second whisky had a big taste about it, and it was no surprise really when Nick revealed we were drinking an 11yo from the English Whisky Company, aged in totality in Portuguese Cabernet Sauvignon casks. We liked this, although overall the room seemed to slightly favour number one. This is the oldest release from the EWC so far, and is available under their The English branding, at 46% and £55.

The wine was an Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon that we'd tried fourth. It was a bit more challenging than the earlier wines we'd had, with a certain spiciness and a lot more oak. A heavy and full-bodied drink, it's from the Felino company in the wine-making province of Mendoza.

The Benromach.
Next we were in Speyside for a Benromach, finished in Sassicaia (my notes, getting increasingly hazy by this point, have this written as 'sassy-something' which I suppose is a fair enough effort). It's an 8yo aged for the last two years in the wine casks, available for a decent £45.

The wine was a bit of a curveball as it was not exactly the same, Sassicaia being a bit on the pricey side to say the very least. Instead, we had a Beyra Vinhos de Altitude wine from Portugal, featuring two or three different grapes. This was the freshest of the three reds we had and, Nick assured us, was a decent impersonation of Sassicaia at a much more affordable price.

The Glen Moray.
The fourth whisky we drank smelt very strong indeed. Given that this is often the point of a tasting when we hit the cask strength stuff this wasn't exactly unexpected, but even by those standards this had a really powerful nose. It tasted strong too. The good news about the whisky is that it's just £50, the bad is that you have to go to the Glen Moray distillery to actually get some. It's one of their bottle-your-own efforts, a 12yo with full maturation in Chardonnay.

The matching wine was number one, a Chardonnay from the Felino vineyard in Argentina's famous wine region of Mendoza province. It had a certain citrussy sweetness - think pineapples and limes - with some more acidic notes and a bit of oak.

By the tenth drink of the night, which was what we had reached by this stage, the only tasting note I managed to note down was: "Are we still going? This is almost certainly incredible". Photographic evidence indicates it was a Kilchoman with a Sauternes cask finish, and it had plenty of peat about it, naturally enough.

The Sauternes we'd had earlier in the evening, wine number five, absolutely split opinion. A dessert wine, some loved it and some didn't. It certainly had plenty of honey about it, a sort of buttery sweetness. It was a 2010 Chateau Jany.

After certainly the most international tasting we've ever run, all of the whiskies got at least some votes in the dram of the night contest. But it was the fill-your-own cask strength monster from Glen Moray, number four, which came out on top. And the winning wine was the Sauternes! But then I suppose that's what happens when you operate a first past the post voting policy.

All our thanks go to Nick for laying on a fabulous tasting, to all club members for putting in another excellent turnout and to everyone at the Britons for hosting us once again.

The full line-up.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Whiskyology: The Science of Whisky Tasting

The evening's six main whiskies (bonus drinks not pictured)
After another highly enjoyable Christmas party for the members, during which we brought back all of the unfinished bottles from 2018 and had a decent go at putting that right, we had to wait until the last day of January for the club's first tasting of 2019.

11yo Dalmore - with water
And it was chairman Adam who presented an evening dedicated to two of his main interests - chemistry and top quality booze - as introduced us to a tasting he called Whiskyology: The Science of Whisky Tasting. With the weather outside below freezing,  this was something we were all looking forward to evening more than usual.                                                                                                                Adam explained that he wanted us to reflect a little on how the appearance of whiskies can influence how we perceive their taste: whether that's to do with the marketing, price tag, or even just how it looks in the glass. And with that, he kicked us off with a pair of whiskies tasted blind.

The Dalmore again, but with caramel
The first looked light and tasted "a bit creamy" according to some early tasting notes. While the second appeared to be a totally different proposition. A much darker colour, as if it had been sherried or, as someone suggested, "it's certainly been in something" and was a lot sweeter than the earlier dram.

Adam revealed that they were both the same whisky, more or less. An 11yo Dalmore from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, called Chocolate Melting in the Greenhouse, Adam gave us the first with water already added, diluting the strength down to 43%.

Our third Dalmore in a row
The second had a drop of caramel for colour and was also 43%. Despite their shared origin they certainly seemed to taste very different, underlining Adam's point about the visual effect making such a difference.

As a bonus whisky we then had a drop of another similar dram, so similar in fact it was bottled from the same distillery on the very same day. Also from the SMWS, it was Gardener Takes a Break. This was much stronger tasting, again sweet and spicy, and certainly packing all of its 60%.

Next came something completely different. Or rather two things, as we had a pair of drinks from one of the few distilleries in the world known to produce both beer and whisky from the same brew.

It's Belgian whisky!
This producer in question is in Belgium, probably nobody's idea of a whisky heartland, but we're all about exploring new things at Manchester Whisky Club. The drinks came from the Het Anker brewery in Mechelen, under the Gouden Carolus brand.

On tasting them both, you wouldn't have them pegged as being from the same source. The whisky had a bit of a punch on the nose but was at 46% was quite mellow when compared with the beer, which was 8.5% but didn't really taste it. Instead, it was dark, juicy and highly drinkable.

The beer.
If we were going to have one of these again it would probably be the beer to be honest.

After a half-time break it was time to return to Scotland and some highly peated whiskies. The next drink was one of the Big Peat blends produced by Douglas Laing, marrying together various whiskies from Islay. This particular bottling was the 2017 Christmas edition, an 'all-Islay' edition featuring at least a bit from each distillery on the island, including the long-shut-but-soon-to-restart-production Port Ellen.

About half of the whisky was Ardbeg, and more or less everyone loved it: "spicy" and "gorgeous". With Islay going through an expansion, and other new distilleries joining Port Ellen, there'll be plenty more peated whisky where this came from in the future.

The Big Peat.
If there's one distillery most associated with the peaty taste of Islay, it's Laphroaig. The classic 10yo, traditionally considered a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it dram, is usually likened to TCP. But for Adam it brings back linseed oil, putting him in mind of his grandad who used to enjoy a drop: the taste of a particularly whisky can vary for each of us, depending on times and places we associate with it.

The Laphroaig we were enjoying here was the 2017 Cardeas quarter cask, one of an annual series of releases the distillery does under that name. We very much liked this too, although so did plenty of other people as you'll be lucky to find a bottle anywhere online for less than £180.

The evening ended with something out of the ordinary: a little bit of homebrewing, or at least home spiking. This involved taking Aldi's standard Islay single malt, apparently a perfectly reasonable 7yo Caol Ila, with phenols.

The Aldi whisky with added phenols.
This is a chemistry thing that has something to do with making something taste peaty, although by this stage of the evening my notes were becoming even less extensive than usual. In fact, beside this drink I've only written: "wheeeee!" so I'm afraid what it actually tasted like may well be lost to history.

There was just time for some dram of the night voting, and the winner was the bonus dram from SMWS, Gardener Takes a Break.

Huge thanks to Adam for such an expertly-led evening full of information and fun, which I've only just scratched the surface of here. There's much more on Adam and Kate's blog. Thanks also to everyone who attended plus the Briton's Protection for hosting us once again.

The line-up of whiskies, mostly drained.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Best of The Whisky Exchange Show

The November line-up.
Committee members Martin, Anna and Adam came back from a visit to The Whisky Exchange's whisky show in London clutching two bottles each. And so it was that the club membership gathered upstairs at the Briton's Protection on the last Thursday in November to knock through them all in the usual style.

G&M Macduff 18yo
None of the six whiskies on show were standard distillery bottlings with a range of independents represented. And we kicked off with one of the oldest and best-known names in the field, Gordon & Macphail.

This was an 18yo from the Macduff distillery. On the Moray Firth coast, the distillery's official bottlings appear under the name Glen Deveron, named for the local river, so expressions under the Macduff name are the preserve of indies only.

On this occasion we were drinking a 58% whisky that was big and strong straight away. We got pear drops and vanilla, and one of the tasting notes which struck a particular chord was grapefruit. Some drinkers thought this started off well but perhaps didn't quite live up it, with the alcohol coming through a bit much. It was £100 but is now sold out.

27yo Bunnahabhain
We're not necessarily big fans of spending large sums of money on packaging, but even we had to admit the box for our next bottle was very nice indeed. What was inside was a 27yo Bunnahabhain, part of the rather premium Single Malts of Scotland range from Speciality Drinks, which is in turn another part of The Whisky Exchange business.

This went down a storm. Very smooth, with a definite hint of butter - like melting butter on a crumpet as someone put it. There was definitely some citrus around too. A bottle will set you back £230 though! So although a lovely drop, perhaps not quite worth the price tag. It's a very drinkable 48.4%.

Another distillery which relatively rarely appears under its own name is Glen Elgin, and that's where he went for the third dram of the evening.

22yo Glen Elgin
Glen Elgin is most commonly used in the White Horse blend, still one of the biggest sellers worldwide. But we had a 22yo single malt bottling from Signatory to try.

We were told the distillery is noted for producing particularly fruity drinks, in part because of a long fermentation process. And this was certainly fruity, with a waxiness about it too.

Certainly a good drink but trying to follow those opening two drams, which had both been particularly punchy, was always going to be hard. So it maybe wasn't surprising this divided the room a little more. It's 49.5% and comes in at £107.

After a half-time break and a chance to refill our pint glasses downstairs at the Briton's, it was back for the next three whiskies, and we went west to Ben Nevis.

21yo Ben Nevis
This was a 21yo sherry cask whisky, clocking in at 47.5%, bottled by The Whisky Exchange under a range it's calling The Future of Whisky - this particular dram apparently representing 'Past Future' because it was what people used to think the future of whisky would be like.

By the time we'd got our heads around the logic of that, this particular dram was already in our past. We felt that while the bottle looked as snazzy as the concept, the contents possibly didn't quite live up to that promise.

But then again, after a couple of memorable, flavourful whiskies to start the evening, anything coming along later was maybe inevitably on a bit of a hiding to nothing. At £130, we weren't reaching for our phones to order any bottles, although they seem to have sold out anyway.

14yo Hunter Laing Glenrothes
The sherry theme continued with whisky number five, but this was more of a full-on sherry monster. From the Glenrothes distillery, it was a 14yo bottling by Hunter Laing and its First Editions range.

This proved very popular with the membership, although with many having a known taste for big sherried whiskies this wasn't much of a surprise!

A couple of the tasting notes from the drinkers in the room were maple syrup and chocolate which probably says it all. It's 49.8% and at £73 or thereabouts doesn't represent the worst value in the world, especially if your Christmas list is looking a little bare.

12yo Ledaig
The last dram was a 12yo Ledaig from the Tobermory distillery in Mull, again bottled as part of The Whisky Exchange's The Future of Whisky range, this time representing 'Present Future'.

Another sherry cask one here, but much more of a peat king. By this stage of the evening my notes had become predictably short, and all I managed to get down was "we loved it". It's 58.4% and was £80 but has already all gone, sadly.

The voting for dram of the night came down to a straight fight between the Bunnahabhain and the Ledaig, with the Bunna taking it by 12 votes to 11, with three other whiskies getting two votes each.

Thank you to everyone old and new who attended another extremely busy tasting, as well as to the Britons for hosting us and in particular to Anna, Martin and Adam for coming back from the show which such an interesting and excellent range of drinks for us to try. Up next: it's the Christmas party!

Here they all are.