Review: Oban Distiller’s Edition

First of all, the nose has golden syrup and something like plaster on a concrete garage floor. It’s slightly spicy with hints of powdered cinnamon and fresh burning sappy wood.

With water there’s toffee sweetness, butterscotch, and sweet oranges on a dry chalky country road. After a little time it changes to an open pot of gloss paint with dry coffee around the edges.

The palate has a good early richness giving way to spirity saltiness with hints of almonds around the edges and dull sour pears. With water it became much dryer like passion fruit skin with liquorice sweetness.

The finish is dry leaving you wanting more with tobacco smoke lingering on the tongue and a hint of liquorice at the back of the throat as you breathe out.

This is a seriously good whisky. Amazing complexity, length and great balance. Definitely worth getting your hands on.

The experment (cont.): kinda scared to touch it…

After 46.5ish hours in a bowl of raisins, I have strained and decanted the brandy into a medcine bottle, which, as a makeshift decanter is kind of suitable – the contents looks like a loose sample you’d give to the doctor.

Already I have my reservations. A quick lumpy taste straight away tells me that the brandy to raisin ratio was all wrong… far too many raisins.

Still okay though.

It’s got a nice rich walnut nose, a wee bit like polished wood of an old writing desk.  The palate is nice dried fruit and expensive orange marmalade with thick chunks of peel. It’s sweet and still has a good alcoholic warmth.

With  feta cheese it really works! The sweetness cuts through the chalky taste of the cheese bringing out a rich creaminess. The cheese balances sweetnes and the heat in the drink. All in all, very tasty.

Experiment no.3. Result: Pass

Adventures in experimentation…

I’m in the process of undertaking a wee booze experiment (this is the 3rd of its kind). Six months ago (the 1st experiment) I took the scientific measurement (a handful) of raisins, into which an equally controlled quantity (several glugs) of 20 year old armagnac. Mix in a bowl, cover, place in a dark corner of the fridge, abandon for non-specific period of time.

After a couple of days I returned to the mixture. The brandy had become dark, quite viscous, slightly cloudy, and had the odd tiny lump of raisin floating here and there in the noticeably.

It tasted great. Armagnac is quite a delicate tasting drink which has a natural slightly dried fruit and nutty dryness to its character. After two days it had extracted a lot of the sugar out of the raisins. It was warming, sweet, and may relegate the Rusty Nail from its place as my Christmas day tipple. Result: Pass.

Experiment no.2 took place shortly after Experiment no.1  had been consumed. Same measurements, except this time I used The Balvenie  Doublewood (12 yrs) – an excellent example of a Speyside whisky. Unfortunately the result of this experiment did not match the first. The drink was, sickly and generally tasted very unpleasant. Whisky is a far more delicate spirit than brandy and reacts more drastically to tinkering. Result: Fail.

Experiment no.3. As before, this time Cognac. Watch this space…

Review: Douglas Laing Port Ellen 25 Yrs

In the beginning the nose is of sulphurous burnt wood with sweetness coming through the middle. After a short rest in the glass it’s still sweet with peat, pear drops and metallic minerals skirting around the edges.

Once the water is added the sweetness is still there with orchard fruit floating in icy water (the fruitiness is cold and diluted), a melted brown sugar edge, charcoal and toasted fruit loaf.

I found the palate to be a little unexciting with spicy sweetness and peat. Water made it seem dryer and mellowed the peat.

The finish is relatively long with a touch of fruit at the end, lingering peat and good smoky warmth hanging onto the tongue. Note that it needs to be drunk pretty quickly; it was left for a while and when I returned it had become unpleasantly flat and slightly bitter.

Once in a while something comes along…

blaand“Fallachan – superior Scotch Blaand”

I’ll admit, when I set eyes in this I really hadn’t a clue as to what the hell I was looking at. Thankfully the back label had a nice long description of this abominable drink.

This is what it said:

“Blaand, a fermented whey drink made in remote parts of Scotland for centuries, was first introduced by the vikings. Shetland fishermen took casks of blaand to sea. Production was a domestic affair onindividual farms. Even during the 19th century. Temperence movement fermentation continued as blaand was considered medicinal. As cheese and butter making declines in the 1940’s and 1950’s, production of blaand was abandoned: it became Scotland’s forgotten drink.”

“Fallachan is a scots word meaning ‘hidden treasure’ – appropriate fora drink which deserves rediscovery. It is made using traditional methods, matured in oak casks and bottled on the farm.”

It goes on to recommend the drink with cheese, pudding or as an aperitif.

Well, what can I say about blaand?

Firstly, I really liked the nose – It had that distinctive, slightly sweet, dairy farm dung smell you get from a good red Burgundy (blaand is a white wine) – a smell I love in wine. It had a richness of warm milk, smooth solvently aroma of femented grass, and a touch of fresh strawberries. There’s also a tiny hint of broccoli and brown sauce – I am known for unusual tasting notes, so this is a good thing.

The palate? Oh dear, the palate…

It’s bitter – not in the good fresh lime way. Remember when your mum told you not to make faces because when the wind changes it’ll stick? If the wind changes now, Gurning World Champion 2010 is a sure thing. After that, burnt sawdust (also a good thing, but not in this instance) and toasty popcorn (again, a good thing – if you’re drinking whisky).

Unfortunately, things did not get better. There was a big old whack of sour milk closely followed by, what I can only describe as, a mouthful of salty burning diarrhoea and milky vomit.

The label said “Superior Scotch Blaand” – the inferior stuff must be brutal!

This drink is good for three things:

1) People you hate. I don’t mean objectionable drunks on the train, or the really annoying guy at work telling eveybody how great his weekend was because he “scored”. This is for people to whom you want to cause serious, lasting, harm.

2)Killing brain cells. After just a few sips…um…

3)Killing brain cells…

Naturally I didn’t finish it, it’s a school night.

One good dram deserves another

glasgowwhiskyclubGlasgow’s Whisky Club bears the motto “A dram, not a drama” – which is the very relaxed attutude strictly followed by the jolly faithful. Once a month we meet to enjoy whisky and to talk about, well, anything – and whisky. A quick bio of the members would include (friendly and lovable without a drink in them!) writers, undertakers, newspaper journalists, ballet dancers – and anyone who loves the water of life.

This month’s meeting was a round-the-barrel night and no exception to any other – friendly faces, broad smiles (broader as the night wears on), the occasional warm hug (usually end of the night), and more whisky than you can shake a malt shovel at!

For a very nominal feel members are obliged to enjoy a range of the club’s stock. Among many other things on show was Bunnahabhain 16yo Manzanilla Finish, but before I go on, a wee bit about the distillery:

Bunnahabhain (meaning “mouth of the river”) was established in 1881 near Port Askaig on the North shore of Islay. Malt whiskies from this Hebridean Isle are distinguished by their peaty flavour – while bearing this character, Bunnahabhain is very understated in its peat influence compared to some of the heavy hitters from the south of the island (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin).

Back to the whisky…

Bottled at cask strength (53.2%) Bunnahabhain 16yo Manzanilla Finish is remarkably smooth for its strength – an influence of the manzanilla sherry cask. Straight away you can see the effect the sherry wood has had on the colour of the whisky which is a deeper, rich, burnt gold compared to usual lighter gold. Rolling it around the glass there is a definite viscous, silky quality to the appearance. The intense nose is rich with a hint of sweetness, fresh sea air, and dried oranges skirting around the edge. The palate explodes with flavour – burnt chocolate, toasted almonds, fruit cake, delicate salty dryness, and just a hint of Christmas spices and a hot fire. It finished with a handful of buttered popcorn, hot smoky bacon in the distance carried on a warm wind, a hint of stewed cherries and slight bitterness on the way down. The texture and sweetness of the dram is delightful with its bracing bitter finish make it very drinkable. Unfortunately it lacks excitement, and the weight of the manzanilla was just too much for the level of peating – the peat was so hard to detect, if I had tried it blind I might not have guessed it was an Islay. Still, it’s a lovely whisky and I would have no problem with a top-up!

After the Bunnahabhain I had one of the best value blends I’ve had in a long time – Adelphi Private Stock, from independent bottler Adelphi, who specialise in bottling rare single cask whiskies. Smooth, a touch of sweetness, chocolate, fresh raspberries, a tiny hint of fresh basil with a nice spicy burn. This is a simple whisky which doesn’t require much contemplation, but for around £16 a bottle it may be some time before I come across such good value in a blend.

There were a good few other whiskies on the barrel  but better sense steered me away – it was a school night after all!