The Whisky Tasting Club

Connemara

Reviews by Pat

To cut a long story short (and because I can’t think of a better way to start this off) I decided to try out some of Cooley’s Connemara range.

Cooley do a nifty little three pack, in packaging shaped like a Norman church, or more specifically Winchester cathedral, although that’s where the religious analogy ends (I’ll try and avoid mentioning angels, a heavenly taste, peat fires of hell, fondled by priests, etc.).

For £19 or thereabouts, you get 5cl of the unaged, cask strength and 12 year old expressions, plus a glass. I have long been an admirer of the cask strength but, not having tried it for a while, had you asked me to describe it to you, I wouldn’t have been able to, hence my selfless act of spending the WTC’s money for research purposes.

Connemara No Age Statement (40%)


A lovely nose, although not what you might expect for a peated whisky. The peat is definitely in the background allowing some lovely light fruits their place at the fore. In addition to the expected apple, there were hints of melon, toffee apples, grape and peaches. Taste-wise, there is more of the fruit and the peat makes a slightly less apologetic appearance.

Conclusion: Lovely, but more Highland than Island. I know that Ireland is an island, but that’s pushing it a bit. An excellent introduction to peat for those that want to dip their toes in and not jump in fully-clothes and head first. And it’s only
£30-odd. Bargain!

 

 

Connemara 12 year old (40%)

Pretty much the same as the No Age Statement (NAS) on the nose. The smoke is still quite shy and there are lots of apples and melons on the nose. On the palate there are hints of lychee and an overall heavier feel than the NAS. There IS more smoke but not a LOT more.

Conclusion – this is like the NAS expression after a couple of months in the gym. Considering it is about £40 more expensive (ed: it actually costs about £60.), I think I will stick with the NAS for now. Think of this as Ardbeg’s fruitier and light younger brother, before he started smoking in a serious way.

 

 

 

 

Connemara Cask Strength (57.9%)

Blimey! This is much more like it. Whilst not exactly reaching Supernova levels of peat, this is significantly more peaty than either of the 40% expressions, plus a lovely dose of Jamaican ginger cake on the nose and a slight savouriness. Palate-wise, the peat is more peppery than medicinal with a bitter dark chilli chocolate edge and more pepper to finish.

Conclusion – a real step up in class. The first two are lovely, don’t get me wrong, but this ups the phenols to something approaching the Islays with a lovely peppery and gingery element. However, it’s priced around £50. which makes it a better bet than the 12 year old.

My bet – go for the cask strength. But, if you can afford, get their small batch Turf Mor expression. It’s £60 , but stunning.

Tony adds: rumour has it that Beam Global, new owners of the Cooley distillery that makes Connemara, is massively cutting back on the range of expressions in order to concentrate on making Kilbeggan a competitor to Jamesons. This means small batch whiskies like the Turf Mor and Cask Strength are likely to be discontinued. Shame!

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Crush your enemies…

A couple of weeks ago Jura held a competition on their blog to win a sample of a new release. You had to answer the question of what is good in life. Someone at Jura is obviously a fan of Conan the Barbarian, because my answer of “crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of the women” qualified me for a mystery dram! Hurrah!

We went to Jura on our festival visit. Its an amazing place, it makes Islay feel like a bustling metropolis. Very beautiful, although it has tipped down both times we have visited.

So it has taken me a while to get round to tasting it, primarily because I wanted Pat and/or Dom to try it too. Could not pin down Dom long enough, but last week Pat and I got together to do some end of term tastings. We also tried Superstition (which is going in a soon to be released Islands pack) for contrast.

Jura mystery dram –

Pat’s notes:

Nose – orange cream on the nose, gingersnaps, vegetal, burnt sugar, white chocolate, Caramac.

Palate – very different from the nose!  Light, fresh, smooth, creamy, honey, mint.

Finish – light spices and light tingly wood spices.

Tony says: There is no beating about the bush, I don’t like the nose on this. I am overly sensitive to sulphur, or at least a type of smell I call sulphur, and this has it in spades. Brimstone! It put me off big time. However, the taste is very surprising and unusual. There is a light, minty flavour on the roof of the mouth and edge of the tongue. Tastes almost like an Armagnac.  After the initial light touch it develops a tickly spice on the middle of the tongue that persists pleasantly. Minty length too. No peat discernable to me. This is clearly a complex and interesting whisky which I think I would like a lot more if the nose was not so grim…


Jura superstition – Pat’s notes

Nose – white chocolate, lychee, v distant peat, green fruits, figs, Marmite

Palate – minty, creamy, slowly building peat, liquorice, spice

Finish – vanilla, mint, fireplaces, slightly bitter notes at the end.

Tony says: This is a nice whisky, but the first thing I noticed was how less complex it is than the secret dram. It is also very different and much more what I associate with Jura. So thanks Jura for the sample, I’d love to try the secret one out again,  maybe the nose was an aberation of the sample I had.

 

 

 

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Bowmore Tempest Batch 3

Bowmore Tempest Batch 3

Dominic’s notes:

Duhh-de. Duhh- de…. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to The Bowmore…

This is Bon Jovi playing Queens of The Stone Age, an X Factor contestant playing stoner rock…all scuzzy, oily, dirty rock and roll malt with its heart in the gutter. The cask strength is the whisky equivalent up to turning your amp up to11.  It’s loud, proud and a savoury monster mash. One PR girl reckoned I didn’t like it. Hell, girl, this is Hunter S Thompson, Millwall, Neil Warnock, Liam Gallagher and Rab E Nesbitt rolled in to one. No, I don’t like it.. I love it!

But I’m not sure how normal I am…

Tony adds:

So we have batch 1 tempest in our Islay pack and we also tasted it at the 2010 festival when it was their feis ile bottling. We were all big fans of the Batch 1, classic Bowmore flavours with more punch and peat. The Batch 2 was a lighter, sweeter affair. With this batch 3 they have gone right the other way, its a more full on peaty number. It is more old style peat (think Bowmore/Uigeadail hybrid) with a rough hit but tremendous length. The nose opens up a lot with water, and overall I prefer it slightly diluted. Initially I thought I preferred batch 1, but the more I have the less sure I am. At £40 a bottle I would say its worth a go, its going on my next order.

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Chocolate and Whisky

Chocolate and whisky is a classic combo. Being a bit poncy, we favour quality hand made chocolate truffles and excellent Scotch. So Christmas is coming, you have the whisky, what chocolate should you choose for that evening by the fire moment? WTC are big fans of Norfolk chocolate makers Booja Booja.


They make some amazing truffles, we are particularly keen on the Raspberry Ecuadorian.  Now at this point we thought we should do a chocolate and whisky tasting. Rather than get lots of chocolate and see which goes best with a popular whisky, we got loads of Booja Booja truffles and set out to decide which whisky went best with each flavour. We are after all a whisky tasting club.

1. Raspberry Ecuadorian Truffles

This is a dark, zingy chocolate we found went really well with the Dalwhinnie 15 year old. It is sometimes described as one of the gentlest whiskies around. The light fruity floral character of the whisky perfectly combines with the coconut and raspberry of the truffle. We also thought the Aberlour 12 year old was a great match. The raspberry flavour of the truffle and the sherry notes of the whisky team up to sunning effect, making a fruity trifle in your mouth.

2. Dark Ecuadorian Truffles:

This chocolate is more traditional, and hence can handle a more full on whisky. We liked it with Compass Box Spice Tree. The flavours of the whisky and the Ecuadorian truffle interleave to create a long, smooth and cocoa dusted experience with an almost rum and raisin kick at the end. We also went for Lagavulin distillers edition. Perhaps the ultimate whisky with chocolate, the sherry finish worked well with the Dark Ecuadorian.

So what a nice way of spending an evening. What next? What else goes well with whisky? Beer? Sushi? Hangovers? watch this space.

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Testing the no free lunch theorem

Since there has been so much discussion about blogger blagging, we thought we would  test the  No Free Lunch Theorem by accepting Auchentoshan’s invitation to a dinner at a lovely french restaurant in south ken.  

 

 

Two return tickets to London: £60  

Couple of pints each in a London pub: £20  

Jacket inexplicably lost in the restaurant: £50  

Two singles to Colchester after we missed the last train home: £50  

Cab from Colchester to Norwich £80  

Auchentoshan dinner: Priceless!  

Oh dear, bit of a fiasco at the end. It all started simply enough with train to london is a  journey I make about 25 times a year. Dom turned up at the station with a grin and looking like a bookie as he clutched a bag full of whisky and cash. A few excellent drams on the way down (more on these later) was followed by a tube across London to South Kensington to the land of tourists and rich folk.  

The event was held at Racine restaurant, which claims “Racine Restaurant is a return to a cook’s roots, it is the elusive neighbourhood restaurant you search for in Metropolitan French cities and so rarely find today” Well I dont know about you, but I was delighted my search was over, and when we opened the heavy curtain to gain access, the waiters certainly gave us a look reminiscent of French restaurants. Not sure how many Swedish chefs there are in France though…  

Having been shuffled off into the back room, we were met DK, the kind lady who invited us to the event, and joined a group of about 20. An interesting mix of folk, combining trade and bloggers. Cask strength boys were there and I was happy to meet WTC member   Billy Abbot who actually now works for the Whisky Exchange. Billy is (or was) a programmer who studied computer science, so we spoke geek for a while. Billy definitely has the same definition of smart casual as me …   

The event started with a cocktail. A splendid way to start any event. The cocktail, created by Marcis from 69 Colebrooke Row was a Auchentoshan Three Wood liquorice whisky sour. 50 ml Auchentoshan, 25 ml lemon, 15 ml sugar syrup, 15 ml liquorice syrup (this was his own creation I think), bitters. Dry shake, then add ice and shake, serve with a straw.  

I love a whisky sour and this was good, but you really need to be a fan of liquorice to like this. Since I regularly scoff whole packets of allsorts, this was a hit with me. Bar work has moved on since I were a lad, apparently they all have food science degrees these days. Auchentoshan are running a competition for cocktail barmen, chance to swap places with someone in the states for two weeks. Sounds a bit like work experience; the American barman may be disappointed with the tips. “you will be met by a panel of judges who will put you through a series of challenging mixology tasks”. Blimey, the mind boggles. To be fair, Marcis was himself not a huge fan of the term “mixologist”. I may scoff, but this growth in fancy cocktails, particularly whisky based ones,  is a fantastic development. It seems London has some amazing bars these days (we went to one called Purl recently with Laphroaig and I hear there are many others). I only wish it would spread to us poor provincials. Still, there are at least nascient signs of improvement in cocktail provision even in Norwich. The Plough  do an excellent Gin and Tonic, and the newly refitted Ten Bells are experimenting with creative uses of their superb whisky list (a whisky bar in Norwich! Hurrah). I fear it will be a while before we get a Rhubarb Gimlet though. 

Anyway, I digress. This blog is about Auchentoshan. We then tasted the three wood. Three wood is dom’s favorite of their range. Its rich, fruity and sweet with lots of oak and sherry. It retails at around £35 and has twice nearly made it into one of our tastings: we considered it for both regions and wood. Didnt quite make the cut for either, but I’m sure we will find a tasting for it soon. The whiskies were described by Auchentoshan senior blender Jeremy Stephens (I wonder if blending is a subdivision of mixology? Surely it is a higher art form. We need a formal taxonomy of drinks makers!). Jeremy imparted plenty of interesting information, but since I didnt take notes and was drinking, it has all sadly left me. Hopefully someone more responsible will blog about it. 

 

Our second whisky was the main event: a new limited edition 1999 Bordeaux Cask Matured Auchentoshan. Yes, thats cask matured, not finished: this has spend 11 years in a Chateaux Lagrange cask (in the St. Julien region of Bordeaux).  

Now, neither Dom or I are big fans of wine finishes generally, but I’ve never had a whisky thats lived its whole life in a wine cask. Google tells me that Bowmore have also done a 16 year old wine cask matured expression (Is this a Suntory thing? Someone in the company a big fan of wine?),  but even that apparently spent 6 years in bourbon cask and I cant find reference to anything else. 

So its a very unusual and interesting expression. It is cask strength (58%) and  of course rich in colour. It has a delicate nose, that opens up and for me was really nutty. Dom thought it a confusing nose, going in or out, something he finds commonly in wine expressions.  One thing I generally dont like about wine finishes is they tend to be poorly integrated, but this whisky does not suffer this problem; it is much smoother and coherent than the majority of wine finishes I’ve tried. Not stunningly long or complex, but to be honest I liked it more than I thought I would. Overall I would say that its better than many a wine finish, and if you are a fan of the flavours wine brigs to whisky this will be right up your street. Its going to retail at £46.99, which  seems very reasonable to me for such a limited and unusual release. Official notes:  

To the Eye: Autumn sunset  

To the Nose: Citric sharp balanced by lingering creamy sweetness 
To the Tongue: Vanilla with layered fruit and wood spices 
To the End: A long, dry and lingering finish with some almond nuttiness at the end.” 
  
The food and wine were excellent and the staff actually very nice, despite clearly being trained to act as French as possible. Dinner was a starter of smoked eel (lovely) with a main of roast lamb with a crab based sauce (interesting, but didnt quite work imo, crab too strong a flavour for the lamb). 
  
After the dinner we had a sample of their 2011 Valinch, a cask strength no age statement Auchentoshan. Now I’m sorry to say that we had enjoyed the hospitality so much by this point that neither of us can remember much about this one, oh dear. I remember it being quite woody, and fairly pleasant. So we to cut a long blog short, we rushed off, missed our train and had an expensive and time consuming detour to Colchester on a train full of take that fans. They kindly gave us a goodie bag with samples of the 11 year old and the valinch, and a full bottle of … wine. We were not super happy on the Colchester train and had no cork screw, so our beautifully packaged samples were scoffed whilst we wedged ourselves tube style in the slow train. So soz, no more detailed tasting notes!
 
Tony
 
 
 
 
 

 

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English Whisky Co. Chapter 11

 So our local distillery St. George’s are releasing a new Chapter soon. Chapter 11 is heavily peated (55ppm) and comes in two guises: cask strength (59.7%) and regular (46%).

Dominic will review this for Malt Advocate, so look out there for his in depth comments. What he has said so far (via twitter) is

“46% version is immense, a perky peaty peppery powerhouse and definitely premier league.”

“Now for cask strength. woah! Hammer of the Gods, Jonah Lomu, Pantera, Ron Chopper Harris, Michael Holding bowling at Beef Botham … Chapt 11 CS is not for wimps. This is far and a way the best St Georges bottling. There are Laphroaig like aspects here. Liquorice, hickory, citrus and soot. This is right up there, every peat fans needs to try it. I’m buying a bottle”

Well I think we can conclude that he likes it then. Pat and I (Tony) also got a sample (thanks chaps!). Pat has written notes, see below. Since I’m crap at tasting notes, I’ll just give you my impression. Now I qualify this by saying I am no expert, have a palate influenced by an over indulgence in vindaloos and tend to invent my own way of describing whisky which is usually just wrong.

So to give you the context, I’m a big peat fan. Probably 80% of the whisky I drink is peated, and I drink a fair amount. The same goes for my stash, my cupboard of keepers is probably 90% Islay. I’ve been to Scotland three times; I’ve been to Islay three times. I loved the Supernova and the latest Octomore we tasted at the festival (not out yet) was fantastic. My favorite regular expressions are Ardbeg Renaissance, Lagavulin 12 year old and Laphroaig cask strength. I thought the Chapter 9 was very good, not up there with the big three but better than a lot of peated whiskies. I prefer Chapter 9 to Bladnoch peated, Connemara peated and Curiositas for example, and would probably put it about level with Amrut fusion and Bruichladdich Peat in my own list (and yes, I do have a list, you cant blog about whisky without being a bit anal). So I was obviously looking forward to Chapter 11.

In both its guises, Chapter 11 is better than Chapter 9. It comes in with a big peat hit. It is not at all sweet (is the absence of a flavour a  valid descriptor? I’ll ask Dom).  Most people dont associate peat with sweetness, but whiskies like Bruichladdich  peat are almost girlie and pretty much all of John Campbell’s Laphroaig expressions, whilst clearly not girlie, are pretty sweet. Generally, I prefer the non sweet ones. So great start, big peat and the (not at all sweet) wood looking to come in to round it out. Lovely. I was actually thinking Port Charlotte 5 year old for a bit. But then I got a bit of young barley flavour interrupting the peat/wood conflagration. This is still a young spirit, and the elements of Chapter 6 I was less keen on are still there (I liked Chapter 6, but it is very young). Not quite up there yet with Port Charlotte 5 and 6, but by the time it is actually 5 or 6 years old I would expect it be.  

So overall, a player for sure, big respect from this peat freak, but not yet a contender with the Islay big boys. I will definitely get a bottle or two ( if I can before they all sell out, we will post release info when we get it) and will no doubt drink them fairly quickly. Thumbs up from me, 90/100.

Pat’s tasting notes:
46%

Cream and Jamaican ginger cake on the nose with aniseed and white pepper.  On the palate, it’s a gentle giant, creamy and clean barley at first, then the peat and pepper slowly build and fill every corner of the mouth without becoming overpowering.  The finish is soft and lightly peppered.

59.7%

Quite savoury, with a searing dose of pepper and peat on the nose.  On the palate, it’s creamy, followed by a short burst of dry oak and then a further explosion of pepper and peat.  Beautiful integration of light fruits, vanilla and dry peat. The finish is liquorice and pepper 

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Auchentoshan 1975 bourbon matured

Auchentoshan 1975 bourbon matured: 46.9% ABV

 

Auchentoshan have just released a 35 year old 1975 vintage, retailing at about £350.  Numbers are limited to 500 bottles.  This comes as part of a line of Auchentoshan vintages, including last year’s 1977 sherry matured and the 1978 bourbon matured. 

Dom will review this on his blog once he clears his backlog. Pat thinks the following:

For a lowland whisky, this is ancient.  Will it hold up to the ravages of age?  Well…..

Nose: Very light and dry. Quite spicy.  Banana bread, developing into a floral liquoriceness.
Taste: Very, very light to start with, then sweet with the oak just holding off.  Capuccino and Amaretto at the end.

Overall: This was very good.  The oak doesn’t seem to have made many negative inroads into the distillery character but, as with many lowlanders, you need to work to find some very subtle flavours here, but they’re definitely here. 90/100.

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Bowmore 1982 Vintage

Bowmore 1982 Vintage:    47.3% ABV

Bowmore has released the second in their vintage series.  This 29 year-old expression has aged in Bowmore’s famous number 1 vault, from which the sea is separated only by the distillery walls.  It is limited to 501 bottles and is available from June 2011.

Dom will review this on his blog once he gets through his backlog. Below are Pat’s thoughts.

Nose: Distant Parma violets, slightly tarry, dry perfumy sweetness.
Taste: More Parma violets then a kind of light sootiness wrapped in an oaky sheen.  Peppermint leaves.

Overall: Like the 28 year old 1981 vintage Bowmore released last year, this has the trademark Parma violet sweetness that older Bowmores have in spades, plus a light tarriness.  The oak is beautifully integrated without impinging on the lighter flavours and it finishes up with a light pepperminty note. Basically, it’s Bowmore, so it’s going to be good.  If you like the dry perfumyness that older Bowmores have, then go for it, although obviously this ain’t going to be cheap, selling for around £300 per bottle. Highly collectable of course, the recent limited edition 1983 vintage feis ile release retailed at £350 and sold on ebay a few days later for £615

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The WTC does Whisky Live London

Having won VIP tickets through the lovely people at Compass Box, Tony and I ventured down to Whisky Live London on Saturday.  For Tony, this provided something of a dilemma: does he go to the Emirates or does he spend an afternoon drinking whisky and making new contacts in the industry. Naturally, he did both, given that Whisky Live was handily placed in Moorgate, a few tube stops away from Arsenal and a very cold 10 minutes walk from Liverpool St.

The venue this year was the Honourable Artillery Company, a fabulous if rather bizarre Barrack-like arrangement on the outskirts of the Square Mile, complete with its own 6-acre sports field.  The HAC is the oldest regiment in the army and has been on this site since 1641. When we arrived at 11.30 (official start time 12 midday) it was clear that the officious security guard was going to execute this particular operation with the usual military precision and he wasn’t going to let a bunch of tubby alcoholics anywhere near his beloved building until exactly midday.

The Honourable Artillery Company

Once inside we were rather surprised at just how small the venue was – at least in terms of the area given over to Whisky Live – and the absence of some of the big boys (no Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, Laphroaig or Macallan).  First up, we decided to show our faces at the Compass Box stand to thank them for the tickets.  The reason we received them was because I had won their Facebook competition to name their new whisky, so I was understandably keen to find out more about it.  Except there was to be no new whisky.  Knackers!  So, if any of those present heard a loud deflating sound about 12.15, you’ll know what it was.  To compensate for this little dent to my ego, we were given a small dram of the excellent Compass Box blend the ‘Double Single’.

Something else that struck us was the rather poor organisation and communication between the organisers and staff. In the ‘packs’ given to us there was a VIP golden ticket.  Fantastic!  Does it entitle us to a trip to Willy Wonka’s new distillery?  Do we get to watch the fat German kid sucked up a pipe and then turned into fudge?  No-one seemed to know.  Eventually, we found out that our VIP passes allowed us access to a special lounge and this mysterious golden ticket entitled us to special tastings throughout the day.  In fact no sooner had we left the Compass Box stand than we were whisked off to the first of these tastings with Diageo’s Colin Dunn.  On the table were bottles of Talisker and Cragganmore, but not the regular stuff.  Oh no.  In fact the first of these was the Talisker 57 degrees North which we had had before and liked (although we had tasted it blind and declared it probably an Islay). What we didn’t know was it comprises whiskies between 8 and 14 years old.  We had also rather liked the idea of a Talisker-based cocktail dreamed up in Borough Market on Jimi Hendrix’s birthday.  Made up of 55% Talisker, 45% Vermouth and finished off with some fresh sage, it was called ‘excuse me while I kiss the Skye’. Classic!  The second whisky, though, was a real treat, the new Cragganmore 21 year old limited edition, with lots of fruit and dry oak.  What a stunner.  Apparently, this is as old as Cragganmores get before succumbing to the ravages of oak.

Tony just getting started

We headed off to our free lunch and a small, if tasty, bowl of stew, then back downstairs to try more whiskies and press the flesh with industry and punters alike, handing out our flyers wherever possible.  Next to Compass Box was the Rip Van Winkle stand, always a favourite of ours at Dom’s tastings. Tony tried and liked the van Winkle rye 13 year old with a view to doing a dedicated rye pack.  I tried their 15 year old and 20 year old bourbons, both of which were oaky and intense, the 20 year old particularly so.   You have to be serious about drinking van Winkle bourbon a) because of its sheer intensity and b) because it ain’t cheap. You’re looking at over £100 for the 20 year old.

After the intensity of Pappy V.W., it was time to go for something a little lighter, so I tried the new Finnish whisky Teerenpeli 8 year old, which showed considerable promise – light fruit and oak and none of the schnappsiness that you get with some Euro-whiskies.  It’s not as good as Mackmyra in my opinion but still a potential candidate for our Whiskies of the World pack at some point in the future and definitely worth a try.

Then it was over the Whisky Magazine stand to try some of their own bottling of an Imperial 10 year old.  This pushed all the right buttons for me, a little bit of peat and lots of oak.  Come to think of it, I bought a bottle (£42), and it may well be part of a future WTC pack of ‘gone but not forgottens’.  Imperial is currently mothballed and is unlikely ever to be revived as a working distillery.  How, when whisky cannot produce enough to satisfy the market for the stuff, can a distillery like Imperial that produced huge quantities of the stuff, not be re-opened?  Meanwhile, Bagnall was talking to man on the Connosr stand who, it turns out, is a fellow gooner.  Connosr have been great to us and we hope to build an increasingly strong relationship with them.  Having established that there is someone with as little taste in football as him, he sauntered happily off to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society stand where he demolished a rather tasty Mortlach and Caol Ila.

A simply splendid beard

With the imminent release of our Irish pack, it seemed a good time to meet up with Cooley who also had a stand.  Three of their whiskies (Greenore 8, Connemara Turf Mor and Tyrconnell unaged) are included in the pack.  They seemed very chuffed to have their whiskies included, although it is difficult to think of a quality Irish pack where Cooley wouldn’t be represented in some way.  Unsurprisingly, the Turf Mor had been emptied by yesterday’s punters but we did try a Tyrconnell Madeira finish (excellent).

From Ireland to Campbeltown and on to the Springbank/Longrow/Hazelburn/Kilkerran stand.  One of our potential new tasting packs is one made up entirely of Campbeltown whiskies, i.e. the above four plus Glen Scotia. We tried the new Kilkerran which we liked and which had a creamy but typically Campbeltown saltiness to it. We didn’t, however, like the new Hazelburn Sauternes finish.  Bagnall is very sensitive to sulphur and he instantly flagged up a bit hit of the stuff and adding water just made it worse.  Frankly – and this is a purely personal point of view – I just don’t think Sauterne works as a finish, with the exception of Glenmorangie’s lovely Nectar d’or.  A pity because I really wanted to like Hazelburn.  Maybe it was the wrong way to introduce myself to it.  Heigh-Ho! Live and learn.

We No Like.

Next door was the BenRiach and Glendronach stand with what looked to be two new BenRiach offerings, the 15 year old new peated port finish (Solstice) and the new triple distilled 12 year old (Horizons).  I didn’t get to try either, which is a shame, but a Polish journo was highly impressed with the Solstice.  BenRiach’s finishes are top notch quality and their peated finishes are, for me, the benchmark for the industry.  As for the Horizons, this is new ground for BenRiach.  The whisky shop (who had their own stand) have already got these two expressions in stock.

With kick off fast approaching, Tony was looking for a final dram to numb his senses before what turned out to be a disappointing 0-0 draw against Sunderland, so we headed for Glenlivet and tried their 21 year old and 18 year olds, both of which utterly belied their age.  It’s not as if we hadn’t tried them before but we’re both big fans of Glenlivet and it’s always good to occasionally revisit whiskies you think you know. Verdict?  More please.  Then, as Tony was really thinking about going, we spotted the Nikka stand.  Well, we couldn’t not, could we?  We tried the Yoichi 15, which was stunning.  We both remarked that it didn’t taste like a Japanese whisky in that it lacked the slight fungal quality which marks out the Japanese as distinct from the rest.  Didn’t spoil our enjoyment one bit, mind.  So Tony finally left, hoping to God the trains were all running.

I headed back up to the VIP room is time to catch Glen Moray’s Ian Allan discussing the 1995 Glen Moray portwood finish, which I described via text to Dom as “voluptuous and soft. Like Monica Bellucci in a sensuous mood”.  His reply was to enquire whether I had drunk too much (probably). Or maybe it’s just that he hasn’t seen her in an evening dress.

Glen Moray is now owned by La Martiniquaise who are evidently dab hands at getting their hands on top quality port and Madeira barrels.  They’re experimenting with all sorts of wood finishes and are even looking into doing peated whisky.  Having been the slightly poorer relation of Ardbeg and Glenmorangie for so long, they are determined to no longer be the weakling having sand kicked in their face.  On this evidence, they’ve been to the gym and taken taekwondo lessons.  Whilst talking to Ian, I got chatting to Jim Martin from the Malted Muse who had written a piece about the WTC.

Back downstairs again and Whyte & Mackay’s Richard Patterson was well into his presentation, flicking whisky at the audience and no doubt imparting pearls of wisdom from his many years in the industry.  Frankly, I couldn’t hear much of what was going on but the crowd were obviously enthralled.  One thing about having had a few whiskies is that you suddenly feel no fear about introducing yourself to those people you recognise from various books.  Ingvar Ronde, editor of the excellent Malt Whisky Yearbook, was loitering around the Compass Box stand and so I introduced myself to him, given that we had a mutual acquaintance in Dominic.  Lovely bloke.  Better still, he had heard of the WTC, which cheered me up no end. We must try and get into the 2012 yearbook if at all possible.

We lost 30 minutes. Send for the guards!!!

And that was about it.  Strange how 5 hours can whizz by in a flash.  One rather sour note to end on, the official finish time was 5pm but no more drinks were being served after 4.30 which irritated quite a few people, not least me who had purchased more vouchers.  I should have reported it to the security guard.  He would have been in his element.

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The Purl Triplewood Cocktail

Dom and I went to a Laphroaig tasting at Purl, Marlebone, London. Dom has written about the tasting on his own blog. I wanted to describe a cocktail invented by their mixologist (and proprietor) Tristan for the occasion. He called it the Triplewood cocktail, but I think it should be called the Purl Triplewood.

30ml Laphroaig Triplewood
20ml dry sherry
15ml Merlet creme de melon
(apparently the only melon liqueur worth having).

Mix together in a small glass half rimmed with vanilla salt and put in a smoked bell jar.

So I found this complex and very tasty. I’m used to detecting the sherry in whisky, but this was reversed, sherry hits first then the triplewood comes through. Melon enhances the sweetness nicely without overwhelming and ruining the drink (not a fan of sweet cocktails). Personally I prefered it without the salt. Very nice cocktail, thanks Tristan.

Tony

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