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.

Bowmore Tempest (Batch 5)

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 20.46.47Distillery: Bowmore
Bottled: 2014
Age: 10 years old
ABV: 55.9%
Cask: 1st Fill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

I’m a massive Islay fan but Bowmore’s always sat apart from the other distilleries on the island for me.

Sure, it’s the oldest and so probably has the biggest claim to being the epitome of whisky from the region but something about it for me puts it in a different category.

The older Bowmores I’ve tried have tended to be stunning but so spectacularly expensive that they’re beyond the reach of us mere mortals. The younger, well, didn’t stand out much at all.

This bottling piqued my curiosity since it ticks a lot of boxes: It’s lightly peated, cask strength, small batch, cheap, NCF, colouring free, and matured for ten years in first fill Bourbon. Can’t knock any of that!

So how is it in the glass?

Nose: Massively citrus. Orange sherbet, tangerines, and lemons. A good whiff of coastal salt, bonfire ash, and chalky rocks. After a while, a little coconut ice and lime skin.

Palate: Rich, sweet, and malty with metallic tinned pineapple. More citrus, juicy and sweet: satsumas and bitter grapefruit. Tingly peat builds with numbing red pepper and an Opal-Fruits-esque synthetic fruit flavour.

Finish: Bowmore signature parma violets with a touch of earthy oaky peat and bitter lemon.

Mmmmmm. We have a winner.

That tropical citrus core character works well with the 1st fill Bourbon characteristics and the Bowmore smoke. This is absolutely worth buying a whole bottle of and I’m now keen to see how the other batches compare.

Thank you, Bowmore, for releasing a whisky that’s interesting, characterful and (most importantly) affordable.

At £45 per bottle on Master of Malt, this is cracking value and a perfect Summer dram for a warm evening as the sun sets.

Bowmore 16 (Old Particular)

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 1998
Age: 16 years old
Cask #: DL10448
Bottler: Douglas Laing
ABV: 48.4%
Cask: Refill Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the second in a set of three Old Particular whiskies from one of the great indy distillers, Douglas Laing. Each bottling of the series is from a single cask so number of bottles available are quite limited.

16 years old is a good age for Bowmore. Oh heck, any age is a good age for Bowmore! But I’ve generally had good experiences with teenagers from the distillery so I have high expectations here…

Nose: Shoe leather, clean and crisp. Crystalline pear sugar. Ripe juicy plums, tangerine syrup and sliced guava. An edge of chalky, salty minerality.

Palate: Fruity smoke and spice with Signature Bowmore parma violets. Pineapples and pears. Salty chilli chocolate. Seville Marmalade.

Finish: Chalky and perfumed with a tingly smoke tang.

Cracking fruity notes in this one with that gentle salty peat smoke and sweet-shop edge so typical to Islay’s oldest working distillery. At £91 I’d say this a solid cask strength expression. I don’t know if it’s old enough to be branded “Old Particular”, but it’s definitely got maturity and character.

Next time, I’ll be trying the Bunnahabhain 17…

You can get samples (and bottles) of the Old Particular range from www.MasterOfMalt.com.

Bowmore Laimrig

Distillery: Bowmore
Age: 15 years old
ABV: 54.1%
Cask: Matured in American Oak, finished in Spanish sherry butt
More Info: WhiskyBase

The Laimrig is the cask-strength version of Bowmore’s popular 15 year old core expression.

Nose: Opens with coastal air – salt and wet rocks. A little leathery with smoky milk chocolate and sherbet mingled with violets.

Palate: Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate! Rising smoky, salty tang with lots of spicy dried fruit. Dates, sultanas, raisins – very juicy.

Finish: Salty brazils, warm oak and a whisper of peat.

I was unsure at first with Bowmore. The entry-level expressions didn’t really get my tastebuds dancing.

This stuff, though, is dangerously quaffable. A refined salty peat, with a juicy, sweet sherry and chocolate character. Complex enough to be interesting, but at a respectable price for the age and ABV.

Bowmore Feis Ile 2014, 1989

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottled: 2014
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 53.3%
Cask: Bourbon cask and French wine barrique

Nose: Pithy orange, candy, white chocolate ganache, roses, and a faint whiff of the sea.

Palate: Tart and tangy fruits. Blood oranges, raspberry, a touch of bitter marmalade with sweet fragrant smoke running throughout.

Finish: Parma violets and love hearts – a fruity sherbet explosion.

My gosh, wow. I can see why people queue-up for days outside the distillery to get their mitts on this stuff. It’s absolutely bloody lovely.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for £29.63. Not bad, given the bottle sets you back £465. Sadly, it’s all gone now…

Dramming Through The Snow

Hope everyone’s having a great Christmas!

I’ve had the busiest December I can ever remember. Our house purchase finally completed so we’ve been frantically moving in and unpacking. Our baby is due any day now so we’ve been buying all the clothes and bits and bobs that little humans need.

Into the mix we’ve had all the usual Christmas business of cooking, wrapping, unwrapping and visiting.

Luckily, I’ve still found some time to relax and enjoy a dram or two here and there over the holidays.

Up first, a popular little number from Down Under:

Sullivan’s Cove French Oak

Distillery: Sullivan’s Cove
Bottled: 2013
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 47.5%
Cask: French Oak (Port Cask)

Nose: Vanilla bean, red currants, red apples.

Palate: Muscavado sugar and meadow flowers with more soft fruit. A definite flavour of red wine gums, with a wonderful waxy mouthfeel.

Finish: Honey and spicy oak, cardamon, a touch of clove.

So, this one had a lot of attention after winning a slew of awards in 2013 and 2014 (see Master of Malt for a list). Australian whisky isn’t something you see every day, so it’s a pleasure to try a sample

I do like the very waxy, wine-gum-esque mouthfeel and the notes of soft red fruits – it’s not a combination I’ve come across before as far as flavour profiles go.

I’ve seen the French Oak on sale at staggering prices and it’s nigh-on-impossible to get hold of a bottle unless you’re buying at auction. It’s very nice, but I think the huge amount of media attention it’s received has inflated the expectations (and price) beyond a level the whisky can represent. It’s good stuff, but I think the scarcity and novelty of it is driving the price far more than the liquid itself.

A bar in Manchester is selling 2.5cl measures for £16 a pop. I bought my 5cl sample from The Whisky Tasting Club for a mere £9. Bargain!

Lagavulin 12 (2014)

Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2014
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 54.4%
Cask: Bourbon Cask

Nose: Wet rocks, fresh peat, sea air – a hint of seaweed and brine. Varnish and lacquer.

Palate: Viscous and oily, zesty and savoury smoke. Woody tobacco flavours.

Finish: Smooth and oaky with a touch of black pepper.

I do love a Lagavulin 12. The 16 is sublime but I like the unsherried character of the younger brother – that lack of sweet edge reveals some very tasty savoury elements. And a cask-strength Islay is always a winner in my book.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for just £7.72.

Bowmore Feis Ile 2014, 1989

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottled: 2014
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 53.3%
Cask: Bourbon cask and French wine barrique

Nose: Pithy orange, candy, white chocolate ganache, roses, and a faint whiff of the sea.

Palate: Tart and tangy fruits. Blood oranges, raspberry, a touch of bitter marmalade with sweet fragrant smoke running throughout.

Finish: Parma violets and love hearts – a fruity sherbet explosion.

My gosh, wow. I can see why people queue-up for days outside the distillery to get their mitts on this stuff. It’s absolutely bloody lovely.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for £29.63. Not bad, given the bottle sets you back £465. Sadly, it’s all gone now…

Port Ellen 1978 (2nd Release)

Distillery: Port Ellen
Bottled: 2002, Distilled: 1978
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 59.35%
Cask: Bourbon cask

Nose: Leather and old books, sherbet, damp wood. Rain smell. Pebble beach.

Palate: Sweet lemon candy, brine, soft ashy smoke. Oily mouthfeel, like runny honey. A little fragrant floral note too, something like the rosewater flavour of Turkish delight.

Finish: Savoury, nutty aftertaste. Cloves, black pepper, tobacco leaf. A little more sherbet tingle.

Like smoking a mild, sweet cigar by a fire in an old antique shop after eating a lemon meringue pie. Glorious.

Remarkably smooth and mellow for a 59% cask strength Islay. 24 years in barrel have created a really round, soft flavour so the peat shout is now all but a whisper. This has softened the character to one with more ashy, sooty notes than fresh smoke. Sort of like the dry, dusty embers of a beach fire…

As expected with Port Ellen, there’s a distinctively lemon-sherbet nose amidst a pleasant woody dampness, hints of dusty leather armchair. Also plenty of clear coastal notes of sea salt and pebble beach.

Thanks very much to the Blankenstijn family at WhiskySample.nl for the taster. Sadly, there are no more samples of this bottling left now, though there are still some unofficial bottlings available.


My goodness, what wonderful whisky…

Much love to one and all and best wishes for the new year – here’s to all the drams to come in 2015.

Sláinte!