Tweet Tasting: The Dram Team

dramteam

Another Tweet Tasting is upon us, and this time it’s the inaugural tasting pack from The Dram Team.

Each tasting pack produced will contain six drams sent by post and you can buy them one-off or subscribe to one per month. The first pack is a tasting tour of the six whisky regions of Scotland.

Up first, the contender for The Highlands…

 


Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.08.43Inchmurrin 18 Year Old

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Age: 18
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon 1st fill, refill, and re-charred
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Toffee, heather honey and cereal with green bananas and Ester-rich pear drops. Rum-soaked raisins and a malty beeriness. There’s a lot of funky notes incongruous with the style: pickled onions, soy sauce, Manzanilla, sulphur, and fermenting fruit.

Palate: Sour cider apples and green peppercorns. Beery malt and hops. Sourdough bread and grappa. Very young and new-make-ish for an 18 year old.

Finish: Short and chalky.

Frankly, for eighty pounds a bottle I know plenty of other 18 year old expressions I’d prefer to buy. This is a flawed whisky, full of new-make character and off notes. I’m a fan of unusual flavours (in fact I prefer whiskies that surprise me) but this isn’t the kind of surprise I enjoy…

Next up, the Lowlander…

Auchentoshan Three Wood

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.17.30Distillery: Auchentoshan
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%
Cask: Bourbon, Oloroso and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Oloroso sherry notes, nutty and sweet. Hot cross buns. Cough mixture and cola cubes.

Palate: Looks viscous in the glass but it’s lighter on the tongue. Gentle barley sugar sweets, old fashioned cough mixture, and a rising pepper spice. Dusty sherry.

Finish: Oaky vanilla and rum raisin ice cream.

This isn’t bad, though it is somewhat over engineered. I prefer Auchentoshan as it comes out of the cask, without watering down, chill filtering, or caramel. This just tastes like whisky-flavoured whisky.

From Campbeltown now…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.17Glen Scotia Double Cask

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Age: NAS
ABV: 46%
Cask: 1st Fill Bourbon and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Soft cotton, like sheets out of the dryer. Freshly sliced banana. Dark sugar and cracked black pepper.

Palate: Thick and resinous. Bourbon barrel spice with vanilla, cinder toffee, and caramel sauce. Sweet and tasty.

Finish: Lipsmacking with gingerbread.

Amazing nose! Really impressed all round, for an affordable NAS this is eminently quaffable.

I’m definitely getting a bottle of this on pay day!

And weighing in from Islay, we have…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.33

Bowmore Darkest

Distillery: Bowmore
Age: 15
ABV: 43%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Leathery and coastal, like a wax jacket on a clifftop walk. Dark chocolate with prunes and dates. A little marzipan with tangy marmalade.

Palate: Sumptuous sherry with juicy raisins and figs giving way to that signature Bowmore floral peat.

Finish: Dry oak and flower petals.

A classic! One of the better sherried peaty whiskies on the market. If you like this, I also recommend a bottle of its cask strength cousin, Laimrig.

Up next, the Speyside candidate…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.57Glenfarclas 105

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Age: NAS
ABV: 60%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Fierce! That ABV packs a punch. A drop of water reveals ripe apple flesh, and soft toffee. Really dark bitter cocoa and burnt treacle with a touch of rubber plimsol.

Palate: Café mocha with dark berries and orange peel. Creamy and spicy, like nutmeg in rice pudding.

Finish: Warm oaky chocolate.

Great value for the ABV. This is in the same league as A’Bunadh, a sherry bomb fresh from the barrel. Both need water in my opnion, so they’re almost like a whisky cordial. The ‘farclas is a more subtle and complex beast though, some great dark low notes in it.

Finally, we go to the Islands for the sixth dram of the night…

Highland Park 21 Year Old

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.12.14Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 21
ABV: 47.5%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Calm and gentle, soft and delicate. Chamois leather with a hint of clifftop sea breeze petrichor. Fresh blossoms. There’s an ice cream van in the distance.

Palate: Divinely balanced. Smoky grilled pineapple with black pepper. Vanilla cream and condensed milk with a handful of baking spices and waxy fruit skin.

Finish: Peat smoke reveals itself with gentle wafts that stay with you long after your last sip.

Oh, wow. I love old Highland Park and this does not disappoint. Classy, balanced, delicious. Absolute heaven.

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Glen Elgin 1995 (Cadenhead)

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 21.01.26Distillery: Glen Elgin
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 1995
ABV: 55.6%
Cask: Bourbon
Bottler: WM Cadenhead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Glen Elgin isn’t a name you hear often in single malt land. It tends to all go into blended whisky. As a relative unknown, you can get these single (or in this case double) cask bottlings at great prices and the liquid is very nice indeed.

Nose: Buttery and herbal, with wood and fruit: oranges, raspberries, blackberries, and limes. Minty toothpaste, wood varnish, deodorant spray and acrylic paint.

Palate: Creamy Easter egg chocolate. Malty toffee. Mint ice cream, menthol, cherries, gooseberries and cinnamon.

Finish: Long and tangy with citrus leaves and bourbon spice.

This is a glorious bourbon cask treat.

I bought a bottle to split with Andy and it really hasn’t disappointed. There’s still some available on Cadenheads at the time of writing so bag a bottle if delicious bourbon cask Scotch is your thing.

Still on Cadenheads for £63.10 per bottle.

Springbank 12 Port Pipe

107701-bigDistillery: Springbank
Bottled: 2015
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 58.3%
Cask: Port Pipe (full maturation)
More Info: WhiskyBase

You don’t see many single cask full maturation port pipe whiskies! This is a limited release of 696 bottles from earlier this year and I couldn’t resist grabbing a sample.

Nose: Very atypical. Joss sticks, deodorant, dry grass, cloves, peach skin, orange essential oil, and vodka with cranberry juice.

Palate: Oily, salty toffee. Quite sharp to start (water helps). As it calms down, it gets fruitier with prunes and dried cranberries. There’s a flicker of blueberry muffin, then smoke, tar and oil mixed with bitter dark chocolate and cloves.

Finish: Long and dry, with cinnamon, salt and pepper.

This is a challenging one, but worth persevering with (and hey, what do you expect from a single cask!).

Full term port pipe maturation has imparted some interesting fruit and spice notes. The Springbank coastal elements still come through with the oily sweet smoke you expect and yet it’s still quite savoury and dry.

It took me a while to “get” this dram but it’s definitely got its charms. A bargain at around £60 RRP but scarcity on the secondary market’s doubled the price 😦

Andy’s Pick ‘n’ Mix

Thanks to Andy for these samples. I drained these ages ago but I’ve finally typed up my tasting notes…!

Producer: Hamish Robertson & Co
ABV: 43%
Age: 5 years old
More Info: Master of Malt

These are always fun – a blended whisky from the 1960s. You can find bottles like this on a lot of auction sites and they tend to sell for a lot less than you might imagine, taking a backseat to all the high flying single malts.

Nose: Malty caramel, candle wax,  menthol, and pears. A gentle floral edge develops after a while.

Palate: Syrupy! Very rich and rounded malty flavour with more menthol and a little pepper mint.

Finish: Quite short with black pepper.

This, as with many blends, is all about the core malt flavour. It’s soft and sweet, like nectar with no hard edges or dominating notes. Very drinkable and smooth, much moreso than modern low-end blends where the malt content has dropped dramatically since the 1960s.

 

Royal Culross 8 year old Blended Malt 1972

Distillery: Glen Scotia
ABV: 43%
Distilled: 1972
Age: 8 years old
More Info: WhiskyBase

Don’t know a great deal about what’s in this, besides it being put together by the Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown in the seventies…

Nose: Orchard smells of ripe apples and pears, with desserty notes of custard. There’s a dessert-wine character to the aroma too – sweet juicy grapes.

Palate: Very appley. Tart and crisp cider, with cinnamon spice and ripe barley grain. Reminiscent of Irish whiskey, with a gristy, unmalted barley note.

Finish: Toasted nuts and warm oak with a lingering apple edge and a touch of pepper spice.

I wonder if there’s any Macallan in this… Very nice malt, and quite three dimensional for a blend.

 

Longmorn 20 Year Old Single Cask

Distillery: Longmorn
Bottler: Whisky Broker
Bottled: 2012, Distilled: 1992
ABV: 55%
Age: 20 years old
Cask: Sherry Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Good old Whiskybroker. You can get some very nice whiskies (by the cask, as well as by the bottle) at very reasonable prices indeed. This one’s a sherried Longmorn.

Nose: Orange candy, pine resin, pencils, barley mash, freshly ground hazelnuts and a pinch of ginger.

Palate: Crystalised white grape sugar, malty bread, and toasted oak with rising nutmeg and anise spices. Becomes drying and fruitier with water – a plummy note comes through.

Finish: Tingly and peppery.

Great nose on this, and the palate gets better with water. At 55% ABV it’s a little too fierce but maybe watered down to 45%-50% and it’s perfect.

 

Springbank 19 year old (Master of Malt)

Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Master of Malt
Bottled: 2012, Distilled: 1993
ABV: 55.2%
Age: 19 years old
More Info: WhiskyBase

I love an indy bottling of Springbank! MoM’s single cask bottlings usually sell out quickly and have a good reputation for quality cask choice.

Nose: Sticking plasters, cough syrup, and leather with smoked caramel and pebble beach.

Palate: Oily, sweet, and salty with rich malt and cinder toffee. Cinnamon in custard, with a slow-rising, lip-tingling chilli oil burn.

Finish: Oak and smoke, with hazelnuts.

Balls to salted caramel latté – if you want an oily, malty, coastal zing then this is the whisky for you. My word, do they know how to do whisky at Springbank. Another cask well chosen, chaps!

 

Caol Ila G&M 2001 Cask Strength

Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 2001
Bottler: Gordon & Macphail
ABV: 59.2%
Age: 12 years old
Cask: Refill sherry butts
More Info: WhiskyBase

Gordon & Macphail have a ridiculously large catalog of whiskies. One of Scotland’s oldest independent bottlers, they’re still owned and managed by the Urquhart Family. Well worth a look at their offerings, and the prices are usually very reasonable.

Nose: Beach bonfire, salty clifftops, sawdust, motor oil, buttery kippers.

Palate: Coal dust, cough drops, with custard creams and sweet milky fudge.

Finish: Salty black liquorice.

Yummy – great coastal peat notes here. No citrus, which is unusual for Caol Ila. Tasting blind I think I’d have pegged this as an Ardbeg – that coal dust flavour’s really full-on, like you’ve actually licked a coal scuttle.

 

All done! Thanks again, Andy – some cracking drams there.

Springbank 12 Cask Strength 2015

Distillery: Springbank
Bottled: 2014
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 53.2%
Cask: 70% Sherry 30% Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

I have to say, I’m struggling to find a Springbank expression (official or independent) that I don’t like. Always loads of solid coastal smoke notes without being overly maritime or medicinal plus a few unusual hints of other things for good measure.

I’m an Islay man, when it comes to whisky, but those Campbeltown distillers are doing an excellent job turning my head…

Nose: Leathery and damp with coastal salt and rocks aplenty. Dry moss, nettles, salty lime skin (possibly with tequila?). A soothing waft of warm butter with dry wood smoke.

Palate: Oily, malty, and salty with sweet dark honey and spicy smoke rising. Mulled spices and chilli peppers. Big Red cinnamon chewing gum.

Finish: Spiced Maple syrup and black pepper.

Another winner for my money, and excellent value to boot. All the oily coastal smoke but with plenty of other notes giving it depth and interest.

This year’s Springbank 12 Cask Strength is available on Abbey Whisky for £45.50 – bargain!

Springbank Sherrywood 17

Distillery: Springbank
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 1997
Age: 17 years old
Bottles: 9,120
ABV: 52.3%
Cask: First-fill and refill sherry butts
More Info: WhiskyBase

Over to Campbeltown this week for the newly released and much-sought-after sherrywood 17 from Springbank.

Typically, I expect an oily coastal mix of salted-caramel and gentle smoky peat from Springbank but it’s not often you see an expression from them that’s matured full-term in sherry casks so I’d imagine that’s going to knock the typical flavour profile far beyond recognition and into a whole new adventure…

Nose: Acrylic paint, dry paper, salty pork crackling, tangerines in syrup, coal-tar soap, nettles and damp moss.

Palate: Mouth-coating with juicy peaches, gooseberries, raspberries, white grapes and elderflower cordial with a rising soft and tangy smoke through the middle. Develops further into crystallised orange peel with grapefruit.

Finish: Sea salt and burnt caramel with gentle wafts of toasted oak and soft smoke.

Water: Reduces the fruit and increases the smoke.

Mmmm, now this is a lovely, (and atypical) sherried whisky. The nose is very savoury and meaty with a coastal edge, and the palate has some excellent fruit notes rising on a core of gentle smoke and oak-spices.

The fruit notes, rather than developing towards the dark grape flavour profile (plums, raisins, cherries, christmas cake, chocolate, etc), lean towards the light grape flavour profile instead. It’s still an oily mouth-coater, but it’s more about the lighter and fresher flavours than the dark and rich ones.

This is a very appealing and intriguing dram after trying so many other delicious (but ultimately predictable) sherried whiskies.

Well done to Springbank for keeping things interesting!

You can order a 6cl sample of the Springbank Sherrywood 17 from WhiskySite.nl for €12.49 – take advantage of the favourable exchange rate if you’re in the UK!