|This month's line up|
|North Star Chaos|
|There they all are|
|This month's line up|
|North Star Chaos|
|There they all are|
|The line up (minus the Buckfast)|
It was a Glenallachie 10-year-old, from a distillery and a town right in the heart of Speyside. But the twist here was the finish, in that it spent the last 18 months or so before bottling in casks made of Chinquapin oak. A wood sourced from the northern Ozarks in Missouri, this was the first time most of us had tried it. A great way to start the evening. The bottle is £60 and is 48%.
Back to the whisky itself, and it was a Defilement, a series available from Master of Malt in which various whisky 'rules' are broken. In this case, it was the use of a chestnut cask, rather than the oak which is typically used for maturation. It's an 8-year-old and it's still available for £49.
|Starward Ginger Beer|
And when we saw the bottle we realised it was: ginger. From Australian distillery Starward, this was their Ginger Beer Cask whisky. It spent three years in a mixture of Apera (Australian fortified wine) and red wine casks, and then six months in ginger beer casks. Fresh and fiery, this was a great drink. It's 48% and costs £86 for a 50cl bottle. A bit on the pricey side for most of us, but another example of the success of a whisky club like ours: a chance to try something great we'd never normally splash out on.
|The Buckfast whisky!|
And as it turned out, this really was something even more unusual than even a ginger cask. We got caramel and a real sweetness like cream soda, or Dutch stroopwaffles. Highly drinkable and very nice. But what was giving us that lovely flavour?
It was a finish in none other than Buckfast tonic wine. Beloved of drinkers in and around Glasgow, but created by monks in Devon, it's a caffeinated fortified wine. Here, it was used to add a bit of seasoning to some ex-bourbon casks. The whisky was a collaboration between Master of Malt and a thing called the Rhythm and Booze Project, which is run by a couple of guys who mix whisky, music and live events. It was £45 and came in at 46%. For good measure, we had a bit of Buckfast itself as well, for a treat.
|30yo April Fool 2021|
We were drinking the 2021 April Fool bottling from The Whisky Exchange, called 'Extremely Young, I Wish I Was Older'. The twist here being that it was in fact a 30-year-old. From an unknown Speyside distillery (although internet sleuths have proposed it might be Glenburgie), there were 869 of these and they all sold out within an hour even at the £150 price tag. It was 51.7%. We really enjoyed this one all round, so we were grateful to Rich for grabbing a bottle while he could.
|5yo April Fool 2022|
It was this year's follow up, the 2022 April Fool offering from TWE. This time around it had the name 'Extremely Old, I Wish I Was Younger' and it was just five years old. Matured in a range of first fill bourbon casks and peated ex-Oloroso hogsheads, the 1,575 bottles were gone in 45 minutes. It was £75 and had an ABV of 53.2%. We assume this may once again be a Glenburgie.
Which brought us to the dram of the night voting. A tough one as ever, it was the two TWE April Fools whiskies we liked the best. The last dram took top honours with eight votes, over six for dram five, but all except dram two got at least one vote.
Thank you to all club members and those from the waiting list who attended, and special thanks to Rich for putting on such a great selection!
|The full line-up|
Next to Campbeltown, once the home of Scottish whisky and well on the road to a recovery thanks to the powerhouses of Springbank, Glen Scotia and Glengyle. We had a good try of these at a tasting last year, and were keen for another. This particular dram was very pale, and didn't have all that much on the nose. A bit of marzipan maybe, there was certainly an almondy vibe. The whisky was quite different on the palate though. Much more distinctive than the nose would have led you to believe. A bit of smoke in there somewhere, with coconut and banana too. Maybe even a bit of fennel.
|Hector Macbeth 1997|
Speyside may be the best-known whisky country in Scotland. It's certainly got the most distilleries in it, clustered around the banks of the fast flowing River Spey on its journey north from the heart of Scotland to the Moray Firth. The Speyside we had was a bit bitter on the nose, maybe cacao or green apples too. Quite a contrast to the floral notes we'd had earlier in the evening. The taste wasn't all that strong and it didn't need any water. A rich sweetness, "one note" as someone suggested, albeit one note that it does really well. Not the most Speyside of Speysides some thought, but others thought it was a 'classic Speyside' which just goes to show it's basically impossible to get anyone to agree on anything.
|Meet the Beast|
To the Highlands, a large whisky region including just about 'the rest' of Scotland that isn't covered by one of the other named areas, whether or not there are any actual hills nearby. Toffee and butterscotch on the nose of this one, almost like Werther's originals.
Another Bourbon cask, and another from Douglas Laing, this was an expression under their Timorous Beastie brand, called Meet The Beast. A no age statement blended malt, it was 54.9% and just £50. Great value, we felt.
That left just an island and an Islay to try, and with the peatiness of Islay inevitably kept for the end, it was off to a different island first. Still smoky though, peaty but very drinkable. It had a pleasant softness. As someone commented, "people who don't like peat would tolerate it." Better without the water we felt, with a hint of sweetness overall.
|Big Peat Black Edition|
And so to Islay. To no great surprise, this had the typical medicinal character straight from the off. We also got salty, cough syrup, but perhaps not a wide range of sensations on the palate. "Not bad but not amazing" said someone, and others felt it was a touch one dimensional, by comparison to a few of the earlier drams.
This was a Big Peat, another of Douglas Laing's range of brands. Specifically, we had the Black Edition in our hands, a blend of Islay malts and a 27-year-old that was certainly different from the Big Peat we'd had previously. At 48.3% but a costly £185, we probably wouldn't necessarily be queuing up to buy it again.
That left only the dram of the night voting, and it was an easy win for... dram number 4! Meet the Beats took more than half the vote, with the Mossburn in second.
Thank you to Adam for preparing another great tasting for us, and to all club members for attending remotely and continuing to support us!
The first dram was very pale. You could certainly taste the alcohol here. It was tart and had a bready quality about it, almost like crumble. Harsh said some, a bit grassy thought others. For those who partook in a bit of water, they felt that didn't do all that much for it.
|The Highland Park|
Next there was a definite farmyard vibe to whisky number two. Straw-like offered someone, "like a barn" in fact. A nice, long finish, too. Peppery flavours, slightly smoky and lots of wood, yet at the same time quite sweet too. All round a very nice and complex drink.
There was more smoke to come from the third dram of the night. A nice light smokiness, and a creamy quality, along with a bit of a smell of bacon (this led to the almost inevitable tasting note of Frazzles, as if anyone has actually eaten Frazzles recently enough to know what they actually taste like). An easy drinker, and it felt pleasantly familiar.
Four started off very well. Very nice, woody, and perhaps just a tiny bit thin at first but overall very impressive once given a chance to savour it.
This was an Arran! The first new distillery in yonks when it came along in the 90s, now firmly established in the pantheon of Scottish whiskies. This was a no age statement Bodega sherry cask, 55.8% and at £54 very reasonably priced for a good quality cask strength drop. It's a minimum 7-year-old, and it was finished in first fill oloroso casks.
It turned out we'd visited one of the newest distilleries around, Raasay. This no age statement could only be just over 3-year-old, given the youth of the distillery itself. It's the R-02, and cost £50, clocking in at 46.4%. A blend of peated and unpeated, not that strong but despite that some felt a few drops of water really improved it. Well balanced, and lightly peated.
This was a Torabhaig! The new, and second, distillery on Skye. The expression was an Alt Gleann Legacy Series, 46% and £49, the first 'normal' release from this distillery. Some of the drinkers in the other breakout rooms liked it more than my group did, and likened it to a Caol Ila. A light, thin, barbecue-friendly dram.
That brought us to the dram of the night voting: and it was a resounding win for number four, the Arran!
Thanks to Adam for leading us through another great selection, and to all club members for coming along virtually! Back to the Britons soon, hopefully.
|Our latest club bottling|
We've also been getting our hands on the latest club bottling, a 14-year-old Girvan. This is the fifth bottling the club has produced, and plans are afoot for an extra special sixth at the end of 2022, to mark a decade since the club started.
Thanks again to everyone who has taken part this year, from committee members and club members, to those on the waiting list and guests, to the whole team at the Britons.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
|The line up of Islay bottlings|
|Caol Ila 2019|