Mystery-Tasting 3

Lets tackle the third Flight in this entertaining Series. I do hope you are enjoying it as much as I am!

For September we have the following Drams: From Speyside we will try a Glenlossie, a Jura from the Islands and last but not least an Ardmore from the Highlands. Here we go, lets start with a distillery I have not yet come across. How exciting!

imageGlenlossie, Hart Brothers, 46% vol., 1998-2012
S:4 G:3 P:1 / Color: white wine / Score:85

A rather fresh and summery start. Loads of lemons and their flowers. Vanilla, vanilla and a little more vanilla. Very pleasent, yet delicate composition. I also get fresh malt in a tin box, if that makes any sense? How about chalk and whiffs of almond oil. In the far background I find some chicken broth as well. The taste is light and smooth with a hint of oak wood. It’s medium sweet and drying. Nice to see the distillery character dominating. Not overly complex but very well done. Really like the texture better with every sip, some kind of chewy lemon candies for grown-ups. Keeps improving. Now I get peaches and cream! By adding water we break the concept. There is some spirity notes and the fruitiness goes away. Lets hope the taste has gained some…Sweeter but lighter. Becomes quite sour and bitter, water is not recommended. Stick with the above, much better. The finish is long and drying with a nice cask flavor lingering. What’s to say: There will be a place in my Hart for these Brothers…Good work!

imageJura “Duirachs’ Own”, Original Bottling, 40% vol.
S:3 G:2 P:1 / Color: light amber  / Score: 76

A meaty start on smoked ham. Some peaches and Demerara sugar. Feels thick and a little unsettled. A floral note comes forward once in a while. The longer I nose this the thinner it gets, odd! The mouth feel is good with some tingly wood. Malty sweetness and quite a lot of tannins from the oak. How to put this: Simple and un-challenging. Not that I want to add water the way this is going, but here we go: Same, same but lighter. Any lighter and this would be air…(lame, I know). Tastes really thin now. Mind you, the bitterness is less intense but so is everything else. NO SWIMMING on the Isle of Jura I’m afraid. Medium finish leaving you behind with bitterness on the inside of your cheeks. We have had better and worse before…moving on!

imageArdmore, Gordon&McPhail, 43% vol., 1995-2012
S:4 G:2 P:1 / Color: amber / Score:81

This one is a little shy. Quite closed to begin with, then some lemons and apples. Malted barley with honey, old metal coins and a side of chalk. Usually Ardmore has at least a hint of smoke but this baby is “naked”. On the palate it’s sweet and sour. The texture is nice and chewy and the wood is good. Rather singular but definitely good quality. Many “non-Whisky-drinkers” could manage this one. Even with the addition of water it still doesn’t want to open up! Gets a little more floral with lemons or maybe even lemongrass this time. Tastes sweeter and less sour. Handles water well, not an improvement but a perspective. Finishes medium long with some good dunnage aftertaste. Look at that: Ardmore with a happy end…😂

Mystery-Tasting 2

This is the second part of our series, where we explore three Malts from different Regions.

This months picks are: From the Highlands a Fettercairn (formerly “Old”) then a Kilkerran from Campeltown (the first standard 12 year old should come out this month) and last but not least a Ledaig (from Tobermory distillery) representing the Islands. Sounds like a good variety! Let’s get dramming…

imageFettercairn Fior, Original Bottling, 42% vol., 2016
S:4 G:3 P:1 / Color: light amber / Score:76
The nose starts quite floral with some Vanilla and a little Lemon. Dried Apricots and some classic Sherry notes. Then I get a salty breeze on a rocky beach, on the east coast of Scotland. 😉 The arrival is rather oaky and sweet-ish, a lot more simple then the nose would suggest. I also find some malt cookies (if that exists) in there. With water it gets a tad fruitier, some Oranges and a few Pears on the nose. Taste wise it gets a little sour and less sweet in the process. The feel of the oak has almost disappeared. The finish is medium long and a little drying. Could be better composed, if the owners would really care. Oh well…

IMG_1060 Kilkerran “WIP 7”, Original Bottling, 46% vol.
S:5 G:3 P:2 / Color: gold / Score:85
Big Sherry nose with a hint of old wood cask. This is starting good. Love this straight-forwardness. A handful of raisins and dried figs. Orange marmalade and some Grandmas toffee. Behind all that is a whisp of smoke woven in, beautiful. The arrival is sweet and some good oak is there as well. I like this mouthfeel, kind of like melting a piece of milk chocolate in your mouth (a Swiss one). Good solid composition, not complex but well done. When I add water I get some dried Grass, a smoking fire in the distance and some candied fruit. Remember the smell of sitting in an old leather chair? …Yes, thats it. It’s in there! The water has unbalaced the taste, still nice but less intergrated. Sweet and a little oak is present. The finish is medium, staying sweet with a nice aftertaste of dunnage warehouse, just lovely!
Can’t wait to try the first standard bottle.

IMG_1057Ledaig, Gordon&McPhail, 46% vol., 1998-2014
S:4 G:4 P:3 / Color: white whine / Score:84
Interesting farmy nose, not as intense as the Kilchoman we had in this spot earlier. Cow stable, straw and hay. A little cold smoke (just faint), some ham, pears and unripe pineapples. I also find a whiff of salty Seabreeze by the ocean (could this be on the Island of Mull?). Taste: WOW!!! Ever had a farm in your mouth? Incredible. Me like… 🙂 Quite unique profile. Very smooth but a little thin. Some wet wood, cold smoke and bonfire ashes. Any fruits you ask? Well…Gooseberries! Water tones down the nose a lot, some citrus notes come out though. On the palate we get more smoke. A coal pile and more cold ashes. Not many animals left but interestingly the texture gets chewy! Definitely worth exploring this with water. Ends medium long and a little dry, nice lingering aftertaste of musty warehouse. Well done Gordon. Well done McPhail. A Whisky that will give you a new experience every time…

Mystery-Tasting 1

In this series I will be reviewing three Whiskys from different regions at a time. A little unorthodox, agreed, but very educational and fun. This is the first of six parts of an exiting journey with fellow Malt-Heads.

So here come the Malts!

First up we have from the Lowlands, the only Vatted Malt in the bunch, Douglas Laings “The Epicurian”. Glen Scotia 15 year old will represent Campeltown this time and from Islay we have the “Sanaig” from my beloved Kilchoman Distillery.

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“The Epicurean”, Douglas Laing,  46.2% vol., 2016
S:3  G:4  P:1  / Color: white whine / Score:73 
Fresh nose with some zesty lime, some zwetschgen (ohne lutz), also williams-schnapps and hints of bergamot. Pear drops and a little maltiness. Lemon cake with “Glasur”(yes this is important) and also a floral note, resembling citrus flowers. On the palate its rather thin and a little fizzy (that would be the oak). Quite simple really and semi-sec. The pears are back followed by the lemon cake, this time no “Glasur” 🙂 After adding a few drops of water It looses the freshness. The pears are getting really ripe, there is also some wet hay, some malt and a floral touch. Tastewise there is really no point in adding Water (it’s only 46% anyway). The alcohol shows more now, there are obviously some young Whiskys in there (NAS). Not a good swimmer… A tiny hint of dunnage warehouse (I love that!). The finish is short with some oak.

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Glen Scotia 15 year old, 46% vol., 2016
S:6  G:5  P:2  / Color: light amber / Score:81 
Mucho more presente! Vanilla, honey, apricots, peaches, Parma ham (the good stuff), some boullion and maggikraut (a Herb). Also a salty breeze from the sea. On the palate: This has got some volume, spicy, a little sweet and some oak coats the inside of the cheeks. Fruit compote with cloves. Not quite as complex as the nose suggests. With water some fruits get lost but there is some caramel appearing. A floral note and some green bananas have been found. The taste has changed too, it’s lighter, looses volume and spiciness. More oak which makes it quite astringent. I would not advise adding water here. The finish is medium and on the dry side. A recommendable Whisky.

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Kilchoman “Sanaig” NAS, 43% vol., 2016
S:5  G:4  P:7  / Color: light amber / Score:88               Welcome to the farm!!! Huge nose with many things you would find in the country side. Horses, tack, leather saddles, wet gravel and very intense cold bonfire. Also smoked bacon, warm fruit compote and rock candy in there. After the first sip I get smoked figs (should try that) and some raisins. Taste: Eating an ashtray (yum;), a tad oily, sweet and a little oak. Malt porridge, brine and menthol cigarettes (in Whisky that’s ok). After adding water the whole is a lot more toned down. Just a hint of smoke and the horses have run away. All that’s left is the saddles in a far corner. A little bacon is left over as well. The ashtray is just half full this time and the oiliness  and the oak are gone. Nevertheless, the best swimmer so far. Finishes long and warming with an aftertaste of old cask and, you guessed it, smoke. Love this!!!

Doubling Wood

William Grant owns three distilleries in Dufftown: The famous Glenfiddich, the lesser known Kininvie and the Balvenie. Let’s try some of the latter…

doublewoodBalvenie 12 Doublewood, 40% vol., 2015
S: 3 G: 3 P: 1 / Color: light amber / Score: 73
Delicate nose with vanilla, toffee, dried apricots and dates. There is malty notes as well and a floral overtone. On the pallate it’s really quite thin, again some vanilla and toffee. No more fruits but there is a fizzyness from the oak. With water the Whisky noses similar but there is a grassy layer appearing now. A little like cut grass in the process of drying. Feels more astringent and there is even less deph now. Long and somewhat drying finish. I would not advise adding water, but I would recommend bottling at a higher ABV though!

doublewood17Balvenie 17 Doublewood, 43% vol., 2013
S: 4 G: 3 P: 1 / Color: dark amber / Score 75
More substantial nose, this time fresh apricots and their flowers. Vanilla and toffee have come to the party as well. There is a slight vegetal note, could be some Artichoke. The flavour is a lot more settled and balanced. A tad sweeter and the oak has mellowed significantly. On the palatte the apricots are slightly green, thus a little sour. Adding water brings it closer to the 12 year old. Water makes it younger! Why doesn’t that work with me? Not many changes in flavour. A lighter mouthfeel for sure and a long, drying finish. It makes me wonder if Balvenies generally don’t swim well?

No real winner today but lets see if I can find a Song that adds a new layer to the experience.

Ben 10 (not what you think;)

Now that we talked about the Un-Independant bottlers, let’s taste some recent Benromach.

Ben10.1Benromach 10, 43% vol., 2015
S:7 G: 3 P:3 / Color: gold / Score: 85

On the nose I get a little vanilla, loads of fudge and a whiff of peat smoke. There is also a meaty side that brings to mind Parma ham, I recall finding that in Clynelish as well. A flowery note lies underneath all that. The arrival is sweet, full bodied with an oily texture, almost chewy. A wonderful strain of smoke weaves through the other flavours. So well composed, the oak is there but just rounding everything off. With water it gets fruitier, forest fruits and raisins, honey and some lemon zest. The meaty note has developed into a vegetal one, lets call it cellery stock. The smoke is ever so slight now. The nose has certainly not improved with water, lets see what the pallet says? Still very viscous and quite sweet, some more oak as well. It has turned really flat now. I would not add water to this Whisky, mind you 43% is allready as low as I like to go for drinking strengh. Medium finish that leaves you with a taste of dunnage warehouse and camp fire.

Well done Gordon&Macphail (owners of Benromach since 1993) quite the statement for a 10 year old. I really like this style a lot. Can’t wait for whats coming…

Ben10.2Benromach 10 CS, 57% vol., 2015
S:7 G:4 P:2 / Color: gold / Score: 78

This version noses quite dense and concentrated in comparison (thanks Captain Obvious @57%). Starts with some honeyed barley, maple sirup and stewed fruit. The parma ham is present but not as strong, vegetable stock and umami. A light floral note as well. Again some sweet arrival and full body but the alcohol is a little strong to detect anything else. Let’s add some water. A lot lighter now with vanilla, fudge, mirabelles accompanied by their flowers. Honey on barley toast (seriously!!!), sunflower oil, asparagus stock this time and just a tiny bit of smoke left. The ham went back to Italy it seems… Almost gooey texture now (ahaa thats what they call waxy!!!), sweet, some more oak from the cask. Medium long finish with my beloved taste of dunnage warehouse (is it just me that loves this?) but hardly any smoke this time. Less complex than the regular 10 year old. I prefer that one in most aspects.

The Beauty in the Beast

This should be interesting. We have two independent bottlings at over 66% vol., one is 6 and the other 8 years old. I am not sure what is more frightening, the fact that they are so young or that they are both extremely high in strengh? Or maybe both…;)

There is quite some interresting stuff happening here: The newmake seems to be filled in the cask at unusually high volume, this in turn can suggest the following:

1. The cuts are made extra early to achieve a clean, round destillate.
2.  It is planned to age the Whisky for a long time, thus needing more margin for the Angels-Share.
3. They are planning to dilute the Whisky before bottling and will therefore have greater outturn.

I would like to commend Adelphi and A.D.Rattray for the boldness to state the age of these bottles. As we will see later, there is no reason to hide behind an NAS. If the Whisky is ready, for peat sake, bottle it at F***ing 3 years. I would just like to know!
Well lets have a wee tasting…shall we?

Glenrothes, 6 years, 2013, Sherry Butt, 66.7% vol., Adelphi Selection
S: 7 G: 4 P: 1 / Color: mahogany / Score: 92

On the nose I get big Sherry, lots of dried fruit, raisins, prunes and some cherries (ever had dried cherries? delicious). Sherry-Monster in da House! Quite sweet with a nice touch of marzipan also some roasted nuts, perhaps even caramelized almonds. Some hay followed the appropriate farmy notes. Lovely! Taste: WoW, stunning arrival, huge volume (66.7%?), cherries and a nice round touch of oak. Very mellow considering the strengh, drinking this one neat is no problem at all! With water I get more Sherry on the nose but the punch in the arrival is gone. Noses quite flat now. On the palatte it turns more oaky and the youth becomes more obvious. There is also a sourness appearing in the arrival. Please do not water this baby, if you are scared of the strengh, let someone else try this amazing dram!

Glenrothes, 8 years, 2015, Sherry Butt, 66.1% vol., Cask Nr. 10238, A.D. Rattray,     S: 4 G: 2 P: 1 / Color: Pale Gold / Score: 50 (max.)

Oh no, this is far from similar. Spirity with a off-putting note of acetone (?) Where could that come from? …I can’t put my finger on it. Ha, possibly some foreshots! This one is extremely hard to nose at full strengh…boah… I can’ find anything pleasent in this nose. Unfortunately. The taste is sweet but with a sharp arrival, a tiny bit of sherry (5th fill?) and some barley coming through. There is an oaky dryness as well. Very light body. All to simple. Medium finish just do to the strengh. This cask was a waste of destillate 🙁 Lets hope it swimms at least. With water I get some lemon, some hay but the rest is so far off, I don’ even want to nose this any longer. On the palatte it is a little less sharp with a tad more Sherry and some oak. Its a lot more settled now but far from anything I would recommend. I can only hope it will improve with oxydization (low hopes;) Sorry A.D.Rattray. Try again…

Wow! That was quite the experience. Adelphi wins this one hands down. Maybe it’s my own age (or lack therove) that makes me like this style of malt. And now, as we do it here at The Whisky Agents: Music please! What powerful song will we match this baby up with?

Big-BEN NEVIS

In Zurich we have an annual event called “Whisky-Schiff”. This is an entertaining happening where six boats dock im Zurich and many Whisky brands have their range available for tasting. Obviously The Whisky Agents had to be part of this. Where else can you try such a variety of rare bottlings at a reasonable price. Mind you, the place was totally overrun by all kinds of folk, but we couldn’t care less. After sipping some rather average drams we came across a bottle of 22 year old Ben Nevis by the Italian bottler Silverseal (I had heard good things about them). My fellow Whisky Agent Tobi and I decided to give it a try since we quite liked the promise of the standard 10 year old. To not give away everything just yet let’s just say it was a different story all together. There was three Frenchmen next to us who bought the last two bottles as we where getting mentally prepared to do the same. Bummer…Well, Whisky Agents don’t just give up and we found the desired “juice” a couple of days later, much to our satisfaction.

So the first ever tasting on this blog will cover three different bottlings of Ben Nevis.

Ben10Ben Nevis 10 year old, OB, 46% vol., 2015
S: 4 G: 3 P: 1 / Color: gold / Score: 82
On the nose I get a little Sherry first, something floral(maybe camomille) followed by a martime breeze with a hint of seaweed. There is also a slight citrus note that reminds me of Bitter Lemon. Some apricots appear after 10 minutes and the nose seems to be more balanced. With water; more citrus possibly bergamotte, fresher and fruitier. Taste: Sherry again, a little oak, well composed but far from complex, a little light which would improve with higher ABV I’m sure. There is a hint of musty warehouse, which I enjoy a lot, medium finnish getting dryer.

Ben23Ben Nevis 23 year old, Signatory Vintage, 46% vol., 1991
S: 3 G: 2 P:1 / Color: gold / Score: 73
First nose: A raspberry patch by the sea ?!? Some grapefruit and tinned pears, sounds like a fruit basket to me. It’s quite light, must be some 3rd or 4th fill here. Too bad really. Can’t get much more out of this. The taste is a tad more talkative than the nose, some sweetness with a hint of oak. Really flat and not much to catch my interest. With some water we now have a fruit candy with a whiff of something sour, maybe lime. Tastes similar, less oak less expression. I prefer the 10.

Ben22Ben Nevis 22 year old, Silver Seal, 60.4% vol., 1990
S:7 G: 4 P:2 / Color: amber / Score: 90
A big rubber nose for starters, a little sulphur (all good), fresh honeydew melons and a ripe banana, a touch of leather and some barley emerging. Also a whiff of salty ocean things like seaweed, crabs and driftwood 😉 I find a bite of chocolate too. There is a slight off note in there somewhere (cleaning solvent possibly). Complex allright! On the pallate: Grand Sherry opening followed by a good attack of the oak, some briney seawater and again some melons. Quite a long finish. Musty Warehouse deluxe! Just love that in the aftertaste. Whith water we still get a lot of rubber (tires) on the nose, the off note has dissapeared but so have the fruits. The mouthfeel is more oily now, less oak, less brine and the melon is overripe now. Same stellar aftertaste on musty cellar. A great Whisky in my book and well worth something special! Watch out for the next post…

 

Score!

2015-04-14 16.00.36At this point I would like to thank Serge @ whiskyfun.com for his dedication to Whisky and the relentless compiling of tasting notes and information. His website is both extremely informative and entertaining. I have adapted the tasting procedure and scoring system from his website, since it is highly effective and simplifies comparing notes. Big-up to Serge Valentin!

Here some information about the tasting procedure:

1. It makes sense to compare Whiskies from the same Distillery or at least similar characteristics (you know Apples to Apples) in order to have points of reference.

2. We DO add small amounts of water whenever possible, since it does change and often significantly improves the flavor experience.

3. We judge with scores from 0-100, and use the SGP-System with a score from 0-9 for each letter. S: sweet/fruity, G: grainy/grassy, P: phenolic/smoky, it’s quite basic but it shows a general flavor profile. So a Whisky could be rated like so: SGP=651 (quite sweet, some grassy notes and a hint of smoke)

4. Everyone has their own preferences in taste. So I will not attempt to create universally true tasting notes. They will be based on my personal experience at that particular moment in time. After all this should be fun! Right Serge?

So without further ado, i present the very first tasting at thewhiskyagents.com