Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Two SMWS Samples - Glenkinchie & Caol Ila

Here's a couple of samples I found when I was sorting through the back of the drinks cupboard the other day. One is a 19 year old from Glenkinchie and the other a 15 year old from Caol Ila, both independent (ish*) bottlings from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

22.27 'Turkish Delights' 52%

Gold in colour, berries and stewed fruit on the nose; cherry crumble and a touch of banana. As it opened up the bourbon (refil hogshead) cask took over and I got more toffee and vanilla. It was soft on the palate even at cask strength, I certainly don't think it needed water. Good whisky although I would have expected more complexity at 19 years, I suppose with it being a lowland big brash flavours aren't to be expected. I am happy to report that I couldn't pick much Turkish Delight up on the nose or the palate - can't say I'm a fan!

53.112 'Sluggable - gluggable' 54.8%

Pale gold. There's ashy smoke on the nose, it's dry and woody but not much more. On the palate the peat influences take a bit of a back seat; there's a touch of honey but mostly savoury, almost meaty  notes. Water brought out more 'Caol Ila like' lemon, along with a minerally, chalky flavour. Not really my cup of tea but an interesting dram nevertheless.

Back in March it was a superb 14 year old sherry-cask unpeated Caol Ila (released in 2011) that I was drinking to celebrate my second daughter being born. It seemed appropriate for an Isla.

* I'm not sure if being part of the same company as Glenmorangie and Ardbeg still means SMWS bottlings are 'independent' but they're certainly something other than official distillery releases.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Glenglassaugh 'Evolution'

This was another distillery first for me. Glenglassaugh is a distillery that I had high hopes for once I knew that they'd been taken over by the guys from Benriach. I think Benriach are one of the quiet greats of Speyside, and they're not even my favourite distillery in the company portfolio, my love of sherry casks means this can't be ignored.

It's a pale yellow colour. On the nose its a fascinating mix of fresh fruit (melon), and waxy, sweet, mild vanilla. On the palate it's got lots of sherberty fresh fruit, but this time it's more banana and green apple. This particular sample was at cask (57.2%) strength, subsequent releases have been  at 50%, and I could see why. It was only once I'd added water that the lemony finish became apparent, and I felt at this very young age it was a bit too spirity at full cask strength - a drop of water turned it into a very pleasant, light, summery whisky. If this is setting the standard for the 'new' distillery then I am looking forward to more!

Thanks go to Michael for the sample. I like the way that there is now a lassie* to sit alongside the 'Laddie' on the world's whisky shelves - just a little symmetry that allows me to make more sense of the world.

* Apparently it's pronounced glen-glassy.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Spring Drinking

Well we've had a couple of false starts but slowly, surely, Summer is getting closer and closer, and if you're anything like me an evening's drinking habits change tack a little. Whilst I'm still drifting into cold evening fare (the other week I was drinking a bottle of Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil 'Old Engineer's Reserve') I generally find myself moving toward the hoppy end of the beer spectrum and away from dark warming brews. Stouts from the cellar give way to IPA from the fridge, currently heavily supplemented by a big beer order from BrewDog - if you're looking for big, hoppy, flavours I don't think you can go too far wrong.

Is there a whisky equivalent? When I head for the cabinet in search of a dram as the summer comes on I go less for the peaty end of things - there's something about the bonfire notes of a dram like Argbeg Uigedail or the Bunnahabhain 11 I wrote about the other week that seem to exude warmth. Similarly big, rich sherry-cask aged whiskies can be a bit heavy come the summer (unless you're talking Glenfarclas 105 with an ice cube - heresy maybe, but summer heaven). That's not to say I don't think whisky can be a summer drink, I'd go for it any time of year. Much as I enjoy a gin & tonic I prefer one as an aperitif rather than something to while away a contemplative hour or so of a late evening.

It's decision time then. What to add to the cabinet for a late spring whisky? Speyside is a natural destination for something sweet, lighter and more summer-friendly, but there are other light, delicate drams out there. I've particularly enjoyed Bunnahabhain 12 recently, it seems to be a much more complex dram than I remember (might be my palate, might be the fact that since 2010 they eschew chill filtration). Balblair's 1997 offering is also in the running for my first bottle for the summer; another sweet, easy-drinker that I've been impressed with recently (Inverhouse are obviously gearing their production to my palate*). Others in the running are Glen Garioch Virgin Oak and Bruichladdich Classic Scottish Barley.

If anyone has any recommendations feel free to pass them on, in the mean time I'll carry on musing and attacking that stash of IPA I think.

* OK, probably not!