Wednesday, June 29, 2011

May 2011 Tasting

Again with the delayed postings; this time because the May notes were lost (again), I knew they were in my apartment somewhere but apparently had more important things to do than look under the bed and come up with them. A record two months late, but better than never I suppose.

Our May tasting took place chez Dara, on the 20th (I think), and he is thanked for hosting a great club. It was great to finally have Claude down for a tasting, and were pretty pleased to help him get a bottle of Springbank off his hands we'd enjoyed tremendously at one of his charity tastings a couple months before. Big cheers to Max for procuring the other 2 bottles; to Jesse and Stevens on tasting #10; and a wee one for Rich on #5.

Attending: Me, Max, Derek, Mark, Dara, Ian M, Kevin, Jesse, Stevens, Rich, Kamran, Ian B, Kamran, Nicolas.

Springbank 12 Claret Finish (Highland - Campbelltown)
Many of us had sampled this a couple months before, and found it to be a great offering from the last of the Campbelltown distillers. We'd done a 16-year-old Oloroso finish back in October and quite enjoyed it. This expression spends 7 years in refill bourbon, 3 years in fresh-fill Claret, and finally 2 years in re-charred casks. I was pretty happy to give the guys a taste of what was probably the best of Claude's 10-whisky charity extravaganza.

Nose: Serious wine & vanilla. Sure smells like a cask strength - lots of sweet alcohol notes.
Palate: Grapey and sweet up-front over big vanilla and malt. Sweet, beautiful, complex and balanced.
Finish: Very dry, with a touch of smoke. Incredible balance with the wood. Great whisky.
Overall: Some of the best wood I've encountered in whisky. A whole pile of exciting flavours having a bloody great party where everyone gets along and there's no belligerent drunk causing everyone else problems. A solid 9/10, maybe a bit better.

Arran Malt Machrie Moor (Highland - Island)
One of Scotland’s younger distilleries, Isle of Arran is recently established and prides itself on an uncompromising “no peat, no caramel, no chill-filtering” operation. This is their first bottling of a lightly (14 ppm) peated malt they’ve been producing since 2004, and is also limited to a 9000-bottle release.

Nose: Peaty with a touch of malt. Really smooth.
Palate: Smooth arrival but a little watery up front. Lacks body. Strange little ketone peak just before the finish.
Finish: Woody and a little sharp. Decent peat, but nothing too overwhelming.
Overall: A pretty underwhelming scotch, altogther. I've had their 10-year-old on a number of occasions, and quite enjoyed it. This is nothing like it; and Arran should probably leave the peat alone for now. Barely rates 8/10.

Caol Ila 25 (Islay)
One of the club's perennial favourites, we've done 3 expressions of this already: the 12-year-old,
the Distiller's Edition, and a 14-year-old cognac finish. All have been rated very highly by club members, and at least two of those are on my top-10 of all-time. Fair to say there was a good amount of anticipation for this bottle.

Nose: Rich, dark fruit, some peat and earth as well. Some sharp alcohol notes as well.
Palate: Heavy arrival is beautiful. Slick and oily, loads of big wood flavour, less of the signature oily, tarry peat flavours than I expected (and look forward to).
Finish: Very woody, a little bit of peat rising and trying to make itself heard. Cask strength alcohol content intrudes here, but water kills a lot of that beautiful oily arrival.
Overall: A good whisky, but a disappointment nonetheless. As so often happens with some of our older and more expensive whiskies, I feel the wood has overwhelmed the spirit a little and younger expressions deliver better balance of wood with the whisky itslef. Maybe I wanted too much... 8.5/10.