Sunday 14th March; The choice of Managers or "Can a committee
really get it right?"
one time Diageo have between 7.25 and 7.5 million casks of
whisky spread across their distilleries and bonded warehouses so
just imagine being given the task of selecting just one cask
from each of their 27 distilleries. A labour of love? A
necessary evil? Oh well, I suppose someone has to do the job!
Whatever your viewpoint, how does one go about this forbidding
case of Diageo and their latest single cask series called
"Managers Choice" they selected a group, or committee of
distillery managers and experts who were tasked with exactly
this problem. I am told that not every manager, or committee
member travelled to every distillery, but sub-sets of them did
and tested various casks until the final selection was made and
the "Managers Choice" range was decided.
range is being released piecemeal, that is to say six of the 27
single cask bottlings (Cardhu, Glen Elgin, Linkwood, Mortlach,
Teaninich & Oban) were released during September 2009 and to be
honest they were greeted with some scepticism, mainly due to the
prices being asked which were typically in the €200 to €340
least of which, in the scepticism stakes, was the Oban; A 9y
bottling and the most expensive of that release at over €300.
Compare this to typical IB bottlings of similarly aged whiskies,
or even older, which are very often single cask releases and hit
the marketplace at under €100 and you'll begin to see why all
the fuss was made by some.
this year, in January, the second release of 7 bottlings
was issued, so imagine my curiosity when this issue was offered
in a Diageo Masterclass at the recent Munich Whisky (& Bar)
eventually securing my ticket I was further surprised to hear
that we wouldn't be tasting all 7 issues as time wouldn't permit
this, but four of the seven were given to us in sample bottles
to take away and try at our leisure.
Before we go any further let's assess the bottlings on merit
and forget the price(s):
three offered within the tasting were Dalwhinnie, Balir Athol &
Talisker and were all very good drams, the Talisker especially
so and was the star of that event.
have finally got a 'round tuit' as we say in Yorkshire and have
tried the remaining four from this release; Glen Spey,
Strathmill, Dufftown & Cragganmore.
Glen Spey; A really quite
pleasant dram which is very warming and smooth with some wood
and citrus. It improves more with a few drops of water.
Strathmill; Lots of
spiciness which grows even more on the palate with the addition
of water, which this whisky really needs. It's a good solied
fruit cocktail with vanilla sauce, but not a favourite from my
recently tasted samples.
The Dufftown has a floral,
aromatic leafiness which is much more pleasant than it sounds.
Probably the bets of these three so far for me.
the Cragganmore has the
richest flavours of these four, with a rich spiciness offering
countryside fresh air, through toffee, butterscotch and nuts.
For me this is the best of these four whiskies.
overall impressions of this release of 7 bottlings is that the
quality is pretty good, much more superior to the reports I
heard from the first release, but as I didn't try those, maybe
it's unfair to compare too much.
Talisker is far and away the star of this release, reminding me
exactly how a Talisker should taste! But, after ignoring the
prices for this long, I now have to say that I don't believe any
of these bottlings actually offer value for money. Yes, they are
limited editions, single casks and good whiskies, but good
enough to be pitched at €220 to €350? Sorry, not really when
compared with other offerings on the market, which means we have
to ask the question "just why are these pitched at this price"
and obviously wonder if Diageo are really just trying to cash in
Sunday 14th March; A return to sanity
before has my life been irrevocably affected by a whisky. I have
tasted many great ones and a few bad ones but I have always been
able to 'get over them' one way or another. But that Loch
Dh-Ugly was something else and I still stare with horror at the
sample bottle on my desk, but life must go on and in an attempt
to erase the horrors of it from my memory I have tried various 'sane'
drams this last week.
came a little Island hopping as I enjoyed
a trio of Bowmores and a
brace of Jura
Enigma and Mariner were really quite enjoyable with rich and
distinctive flavours, but the Surf was a quite unusual Bowmore
with lots of herbal and fruity flavours which, for some reason,
just didn't quite work for me.
hop across The Sound took me to neighbouring Jura and the 10y &
16y expressions. I often liken Jura whiskies to Autumnal country
lanes in rural England, but this 10y was just a little too leafy
and had some extra farmyard notes which were not my cup of tea.
The 16y was a totally different proposition with tremendous
floral notes providing a cross between an English rose garden
and an Alpine Meadow. Much better!
trio from The Glenlivet were next across my desk of samples
long enjoyed offerings from The Glenlivet and always found them
to be full-flavoured with Summer fruits, berries, a little light
wood and even the odd hint of toffee. These three didn't
disappoint; from the creamy, malty fruit cocktail of the 12y,
the rich mixture of Summer fruits and lightly toasted oak of the
18y to the flavour explosion of the Nadurra which turned almost
atomic with a few drops of water. Most enjoyable!
whilst on the subject of sanity watch out for a new blog entry
in the coming days which will discuss and further pontificate
the news that Mortlach have now released the world's oldest
whisky at 70 years.
would you fancy being born a pensioner? (Coming soon!)
Sunday 7th March; The good, the bad and the Dhu-gly
I have finally succeeded in my quest for something a little
different, namely an unadulterated assault on my palate. So far
I have enjoyed the new makes that I've tried, but this latest
batch really challenged that concept to the limit. If that
wasn't enough, included in this sampling was quite simply, the
worst whisky I have ever had the displeasure to try. But more of
sampling began in a quite normal and pleasant way with the
Compass Box Spice Tree and yes,
it does exactly what it says on the label; Spicy with some hints
of wood. This was a thoroughly enjoyable dram but little did I
realise what would soon follow. If only I had stopped right
along were two new makes from two of Scotland's most esoteric
Loch Ewe. The Daftmill sample
was from 2005 and at 73.2% ABV. Yes, it was spirity, almost
exclusive so and this didn't change much with the addition of
water, it just turned into weaker spirit. Compared to some
excellent new makes I have tried which have superb floral
bouquets this was a little one-dimensional in the spirity
department. In fact, at the 73.2% it was akin to my idea of
rocket fuel and I'm sure could be used as such, so fly me to the
second of the new makes was Loch Ewe which had a little more
character, but in the wrong direction. The nose was again spirit,
but slightly rancid and overlaid with hints of raspberry. In
fact this was pretty much like a very bad German Himbeer (Raspberry)
schnapps which, when water was added grew some rather mouldy,
leafy notes just to add to the depth of unpleasantness,
reminiscent of my compost tip in Autumn after a long, hot
to complete the experience I sampled the now infamous
Loch Dhu. I must admit that its
reputation had preceded it, so I was torn between a friend who
claims he 'really likes it' and the rest of the world who tend
towards the other end of the scale.
nose; treacle toffee and tarmac, soon joined by slightly sweet
ashtray. Oh how I long to taste this one now, (not!) so let's
get on with it; the palate took me by surprise as it was quite
watery and for the first second and a half almost tasteless. How
I wish it would have stayed that way, but alas it was not to be.
My palate was then treated to an explosion of burnt coffee beans
wrapped in (already smoked) tobacco leaves whilst trying very
hard to taste like mocca with a side order of sour molasses.
After the slow start the finish was annoyingly long.
Saturday 6th March; So what's in the pipeline for this month?
"Sample mania part 2"
you an idea of what's currently sitting on my desk to be sampled
this month and added to my notes; Bowmore 12y, Surf & Mariner.
Glenlivet 12y, 18y & Nadurra CS. Glengoyne 14y. Auchentoshan 10y
& 12y. Balvenie 12y Double Wood. Glenfiddich Special
Reserve. Lagavulin 1993 DE. Macallan Estate Oak. Tormore 12y.
Strathisla 12y. Isle of Jura 10y & 16y and then it'll be the
spoil of the hunt as Famous, Black and Snow Grouse are currently
awaiting a H2H2H. Not forgetting the last four drams in the
second Managers Choice release!
Saturday 6th March; Some recent Head-2-Heads
Year started a little slowly for me, but once into late January
and February I had amassed a reasonable number of new (to me)
samples and began to catch up on
my tasting notes.,
especially following my annual pilgrimmage to the Munich Whisky
Fair, also known as
Finest Spirits 2010. Many of
the drams tested are featured in my
'Recent Reviews' on the January-February
Dram-atics page, but I would like to start March by
bringing together a few of those head-2-heads. The full tasting
notes can be found on my tasting notes pages under the relevant
distilleries, but as it's quite rare for me to run these
head-2-head tastings, I thought it worth mentioning the recent
Maker's Mark -
A Masterclass on the palate:
reported in the last Dram-atics Maker's Mark only bottle one
expression and lay great store in its effect on the palate, but
this H2H featured an amazing four different expressions from
white dog to an 'overaged' 9y.
only they would bottle that 9y!
Ardbeg - A
Ten, A Corryvreckan, A Rollercoaster and a Beastie:
have been right at the forefront of whisky news already this
year with the ten-year Anniversary of their committee and the 'Rollercoaster'
anniversary bottling. Along with these other notable Ardbegs I
managed to grab a sample for testing.
What did I think? That Corry is marvellous!
Talisker - An
older Ten, A 'friendly' twelve, A fully-grown Eighteen and 57°N:
festival also gave me the possibility to revisit one of my
favourite distilleries; Talisker. They have bottled some jolly
good drams here, but that Western-Isles Map old Ten?
Talisker as it used to be and should always be!
The Fourteen, An Oloroso Seco Distiller's Edition and a 'friendly'
trio of Clynelish just renewed my love of this distillery.
Some very good drams!
The Eighteen and a full strength Ten from Batch 001, Feb. 2009:
I say other than pure, unadulterated, full-flavoured Laphroaig?
now: A Brace of Brora!:
brace of Brora was a rare treat for me, but they needed time,
lots of it. I had been warned that certainly the 25y required a
lot of breathing time in the glass, so I obliged with a tasting
report over a good hour. Did the whisky oblige too?
You bet it did!