The Whisky Tasting Club

August Tasting: Whisky World Beaters

Our latest tasting saw us back in the basement (or as they call it, “the Underbelly”) of the Rumsey Wells pub. The Rumsey Wells is a fine example of how pubs need to adapt to the modern market. For decades the St Andrews Tavern (as it used to be called) was an old mans’ real ale pub. Nothing wrong with that, except they had no punters. I suspect the owners, Adnams, kept it afloat as a loss leader simply to maintain their presence in Norwich. They tried it as a Thai restaurant/pub combo but it was still dead. Then in 2008 new tenants took over and with fairly superficial changes transformed it into a funky place and it soon became packed full of young uns. And they still sell real ale, so even us old gits are happy.

Anyway, the tasting. There were only 12 of us at the event (a lot of regulars are on holiday) and 4 people were newbies. Pat is on holiday but, never one to miss out on a tasting, took samples with him and commented live via facebook. That’s not sad, honest. Mind you, I can talk, I spent the evening on my laptop chatting to Pat on facebook.  Of course I should have been listening to Dom’s words of wisdom, sorry Dom.

Scores below are from Tony, Pat and Michelle. They do not reflect Dominic’s opinion.

We started off with two Glen Grants:

1. Glen Grant 170th Anniversary 46%

Limited edition bottled to celebrate their 170th anniversary. Dominic has written tasting notes for this here and described his trip to Glen Grant here.

Pat says “Nose is quite grassy and herbal, not dissimilar to a Lowlander, but with a faint tang of aniseed and citrus. Little bit sherbety, reminds me quite a bit of the Mackmyra special number 4, on the nose at least. Taste: Wow! An immediate hit of salt, then some lovely green fruits. Was this the one that Jim Murray detected sulphur? If so, his taste buds are a **** sight more senstive than mine… VERY drinkable. My first Glen Grant and I like it a lot.”

Tony’s thoughts “Taste is sweet and chewy, starts a little thin then has a fairly hefty kick. Long but the finish is slight, although warming. The key feature for me is the surprising step change in taste that kicks in after the understated beginning”

Michelle “nose is grassy, sweet fudge, toffee, citrus. Taste: soft, mellow rounded and long. Mild astringency on the palate.”

Susie got some plum tastes (I don’t have Susie’s full notes, hopefully she will post them herself). 

Some of us came round to thinking there might be a touch of sulphur right at the end in the form of a slight metallic taste on the tip of the tongue after the finish. However, for me at least this was only observed once the idea had been planted, so it could just be the power of suggestion.

Score: Tony: 8.5, Pat 8.5, Michelle 8.

Buying: Not yet on sale, will be August 2010 for €100

2. Glen Grant 25 (Gordon&Mcphail bottling) 40%

Pat: “The nose has tropical fruits, melon and mint.  Seems to develop in the glass. Really nice nose although a kind of doughiness to it too. Oooohh, tastes more like an old North Highlander – lovely combination of demerara sugar and toasted oak. Puts me in mind of older Balvenies and Broras, even the Mortlach we had for the whisky world cup final. Love it!!! I think I could get to like Glen Grant”

Michelle “Nose: licorice, fruity, raisins. Taste: strong wood giving bitter tones on the tongue. Sulphur”. I must admit when I first tasted this I just got loads of what Dom calls ‘grunginess’ that I usually associate with sulphur, although its not really the same.

Score:Tony: 8, Pat 8.7, Michelle 7.

Buying:I think this is the one, £55.81 from The Drinks Shop

3. Jamesons 18 year old

Susie “Smells like something you’d use to oil wood – massive linseed hit.  Last time we had this I got nothing but blackcurrant leaf. This time I managed a second sip and got blackcurrant leaf and blackcurrant fruit pastille. Would possibly be lovely if I didn’t hate blackcurrant..”  Hard luck Susie, I was happy because I got to drink hers :) Michelle on the other hand loves blackcurrants and this is the most positive I can remember her being about an Irish whisky “Nose: woody, spicy, ginger+blackcurrant bushes. Taste: yum! Very long with a good spicy kick.”

Pat:  Nose: again tropical fruits, apples, linseed oil (you’re right, Susie). A very light and typically Irish nose . A real blackcurranty heart to the taste on this one. I wonder if,  like the Parmaviolet taste in some old Bowmores, this might be a production fault because it is a common theme in old Jamesons”.

Personally I quite liked its spicy finish but the sweet taste was a bit one dimensional for me.

Score: Tony 8, Pat 7, Michelle 9

£69.95 from The Whisky Exchange

4. Fettercairn Fior

Dominic has written notes on this here

Pat: “Like a marmalade made with less bitter oranges. I quite like this”

Susie: “It’s got some interesting orange and nut stuff going on in the middle, but rather rough & ready.”

Michelle says “Cheesy, musty, doughy, yeasty, don’t like it!” Is this starting to sound like an episode of Frasier? Tony says: “Nose: Sulphur. Taste. A bit thin, with a bit of an aftertaste. Really not that keen” I think I must have been obsessing over sulphur, you start looking for it and you find it everywhere. At this point my laptop battery ran out, so no more notes from me!

Score:Tony 6 Pat 7.5 Michelle 6.5

Buying: You can get this from the whisky shop, dufftown for £34.50.

5. BenRiach 15 Year Old (Tawny Port Finish) 46%


Susie: “Tawny port really comes through on this. Bit sharp round the edges, but I like it – it’s like very alcoholic chocolate coated cherries.”

Due to a last minute change of whiskies Pat didn’t have this one with him, but we know he would have liked it as he always likes port finishes. Michelle and I were not that impressed with this, but unfortunately we left our notes in the pub!

Score:Tony 7.5, Michelle 7

Buying: £36.99 from Whisky Online

6. Eagle Rare single barrel, 10 years old, 46%.

Pat: “Nose: Liniment, cough candy, lemon puff biscuits, quite a restrained and smooth nose. Taste: coconut, alcoholic glace cherries (and I didn’t steal this from Susie’s last tasting notes, promise!), bitter chocolate and rye, sweet cigarettes, faint hint of Parmaviolets on the finish.  Not too spicy but with enough depth to really make it a treat for those with refined and educated tastebuds (and I don’t include myself in that, before you ask…)”.

Susie: it is a good one – there’s no doubt that it’s bourbon, but there’s plenty going on behind the generic character. Dark, complex, a little more earthy than many. Good one to finish on.

Score: Tony 9, Pat 8, Michelle 9.5

Buying: Bargain £29.49 from The Whisky Exchange

All in all an excellent tasting, thanks Dom. The Jamesons was probably the most popular with the group as a whole, closely followed by the Eagle Rare and the Glen Grant 170. Next tasting is on highland whiskies at the end of August.

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