Saturday, October 22, 2011

4 blinds for California

Recently I went on a holiday in south-western USA, mainly California, Utah and Las Vegas.

Apart from visiting family and friends of my parents, some fantastic National Parks in Utah (recommended), I also managed to get some time with whisky friends. I have always liked to serve blind samples to people. At this trip I had made 4 samples. Only hint was that they were from different distilleries, and all had peat and was from sherry casks. One wasn't from sherry casks thou, but it taste like that. More about that later

The crash-test-dummies were fellow PLOWED members and a couple of their friends.

Blind tasters were Mikey, Ganga, FX, Xray, Marty, Hyperfuji, Andy, Tim (Ardbegproject) and Jake  

One of the nights, while the others were going through the 4 blinds, FX poured me a blind. I really liked it. Unadultered sherry, extremely peated and with some age. I guessed it to be Laphroaig 20+yo, but it showed out to be the legendary Brorageddon, one of the earliest PLOWED bottlings. Nice treat. I knew I had this before, but couldn't recall it tasting like this. But then again, I probably wasn't in an analytical corner the first time around. Which I actually seldom is. Most of the time (95% or so) I drink whisky just to enjoy it without being overly analytical, rating it seriously or writing feeble tasting notes.

Now to the four secret drams. They were served in table discussion fashion, and I tried to note as many things down as possible. A total of three sessions in various locations in California.

First one up was Amrut 100, 57.1%. 

Peated Amrut, 100 british proof, 100cl, 100 bottles. Gives the name. Matured in ex-bourbon then transfered into 100liters virgin oak barrels. Thanks to Ashok and MACY for the sample, it has now travelled the world :-). This is the one whisky that has not been on a sherry cask, but could they tell ?

Comments : 
Very Peaty, Fruity, Sherried. High ABV (Mikey)
Peated Speyside, Refill Sherry, Irish ?, Peaches, Burnt Peat, Pinenotes, Stonefruits (Ganga)
Jura Prophecy, Japanese, Old Jura, Chocolate, Peat, but not heavy, Chocolate (Marty)
Sulphur, Iodine, Bitter Red Apple Peels, Sticky finish, not a lot of sherry (Hyperfuji)
Golden Delicious Apple, Chili Pepper, Lemon (Andy)
Oranges, Peppermint, Amrut? (Tim)
Anis, Toffee (Jake)

Whisky no. 2 was Caol Ila 1996 Gordon and macphail Cask Strength, 59.0%, cask 16070-16072, bottled 2007


Butterscotch, vanilla, young cask strength, Bowmore (Mikey)
Syrup, Candycorn (Jake)
Butterscotch, Bitter Licorise (Ganga)
Coconut (Marty)
Butterscotch, Saw dust, citrus, fino sherry (Hyperfuji)
Nutmeg, Iodine, Charred Wood (Andy)

29.83 Kissing a Balrog's Bum(Laphroaig) 20yo 52.3% bottled by SMWS, Refill Butt

Before I purchased this was reported to me as being terrible sulphured. Personally I can't find any, and I am very sensitive to sulphur, well, I look at it as an off-note. Maybe more when it express itselfs as rotten eggs sulphur, opposed to rubber-latex on a mild level. I was looking forward to see to what extent the others would pick up sulphur here. The name gives a hint, but these guys didn't know the name

Black Tea, Nice, Sweet, Cherried (Hyperfuji)
Rubber Cement, Bitter Greens (Andy)
Impressed, Slight rubbery the way I like it (Marty)
Saltwater, Cocoa powder (Jake)
Raisins (Tim)
Soapiness, Hot, Young (Xray)
Apple, Sweet peat, Laphroaig like, freshly cut grass, medicinal peaty (Mikey)

The 4. whisky was PE1 by TWE, 58.7%

Kind of perfumy, 80's Bowmore (Mikey)
Grains Hay, Red Licorise (Tim)
Sulfur (Jake)
Creamy, Caramelly (Xray)
I really like this, Sweet, candied, cherry, graphite (Hyperfuji)

I recommend LA whisky society a great source of whisky reviews from a group of whisky entusiast that I regard high

So what were the favourites ?

Mikey and Xray : Amrut 100
Hyperfuji, Andy and Tim : Pe1
Jake, FX and Marty : Kissing a Balrog's Bum
Ganga : Caol Ila 1996

Next Blogpost : I will take on Amrut 100 and Pe1

Thanks to everybody to be being willing to participate and going public. I know of whisky "experts" who never would do things like this :-)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Highland Park vertical

Highland Park was one of my early favourites when starting out on my malt journey. Time to see how a large part of the standard range comes out here in 2011.

Highland Park 12 yo, 40%
Nose: citrus and toffee caramel - golden toffee. Crisp biscuits and some fruit. All good.
Taste: Sparkles in the mouth. A little peat coated in honey sweetness nicely balanced with flowers. In the finish a little smoke appears. A great 12 year old whisky!
This baby is mainly from european oak and it seems to me that the profile has changed over the years. Still a cracker though.
Rating: 87

Highland Park 15 yo, 40%
Nose: Fruits like kiwi and melon. Fresh, light and kind. Citrus fruits and bonfire smoke.
Taste: Malty freshness, citrus and meadow flowers. The finish is dry. Not my HP favourite.
Rating: 84

Highland Park 18 yo, 43%
Nose: Flowers and honey, great mouthfeel. Sweet and full of joy. Salted almonds. A sherry harmoy that lights up this humble taster.
Taste: Beautiful honey, heather, flowers that caress. Like the perfect dream you don't wanna wake up from. Fruity notes flicker by and ends in a dry finish.
This whisky is combined of 40-50 casks. It has always been a favourite of mine and will continue to be so.
Rating: 90

Highland Park 21 yo, 47.5%
This 21 yo is from american oak that has held sherry. According to a HP representative it should contain whisky more than 40 years of age and in style is aiming to be close to the old Bicentenary.
Nose: delicious. Crispy nuts and golden cornfields united. 'Burnt' candy, fresh made coffee. Really fantastic.
Taste: simply beautiful. A juicy complexity with vanilla and wood from the cask in just the right amounts. A synergetic whisky.
Rating: 91

Highland Park 25 yo, 48.1%
Nose: the 50% 1st fill sherry european oak comes forward. The sensation is of deep sherry, boiled fruits accompanied by tangerines, nuts and pine.
Taste: what a whisky! The balance is out of this world. Sherry, fruits, nuts, raisins and pine wood. This 25 yo is better than I remember. Has it improved over the years or is it just me?
Rating: 92

Highland Park 30 yo, 48.1%
Nose: Nutty chocolate, brittle, diesel-sherry. Almost beyond words.
Taste: Harmonic and complex for sure but it's actually hard to pin down specific notes after the stunning 25 yo. There is a sweetness but it's also a bit thin, again compared to it's smaller sibling. Perhaps it's the fact that more refill casks have been used here.. It's like a mountain climber well on his way dreaming of the summit but when he gets close the weather changes and he has to return down. A fine dram that deserves to be enjoyed on its own.
Rating: 90

Concluding comments: Highland Park has more than stood the test over time and is still a favourite of mine. The quality is high and the style really suits my palate. For me, the 12 yo seems to be the one which has changed the most over the years. The 25 yo especially is a fantastic whisky and I look forward to trying the Viking range in the not so distant future.