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Summer - Autumn 2012

or "The Olympkins"



We have just witnessed a Summer of great sporting achievement with The 30th Olympiad and today, as I write this on Sunday 9th September, the 2012 Paralympics will come to a close.

So, Summer also draws to an end and traditionally this is the time of year when my thoughts turn to whisky and pumpkins. No, not together but quite individually as I hopefully become inundated with entries for our Malt Maniacs Awards (MMA 2012) and the task of opening these wonders and pouring them into maybe as many as two and a half thousand sample bottles over the course of a single weekend.

But why pumpkins? Well, this is also a time when my wife and I look towards a holiday in an area of Germany just beyond the Black Forest and on the borders of France & Switzerland known as Markgräflerland. An area of prolific agriculture and vineyards with farms offering this year's harvest on roadside stalls and where pumpkins feature heavily, very heavily, as village fests have competitions to find the biggest and heaviest examples.

So, as things go a little quiet around here on Dram-atics spare a thought for me having to inhale all those whisky fumes during our MMA 2012 filling weekend and then, hopefully, getting some time with my wife in one of Germany's nicest corners.





Wednesday August 8th 2012

Five Single Grains

or "Getting old and grainy"


My experience of single grain whiskies lies well behind that of single malts, but I have tasted some from almost every Scottish grain distillery and in general I have enjoyed my experiences so far.  At Limburg 2012 there weere a few on offer so how could I possibly resist enhancing my experiences even more?

I now introduce five single grains ranging in age from 18 to 48 years old


SMWS G5.3 Invergordon 18y rich amber in colour and with a nose screaming fruity furniture polish or even freshly polished brass. The youngest of today's selection really announces its presence. The fruitiness quickly comes to the fore with orange (zest) infused butterscotch and the slightest suggestion of rum. The palate just confirms everything I found on the nose as it positively explodes with flavour and that orangey butterscotch is truly wonderful. With 4 drops of water the whole experience just gets even better. The finish is very long with a concentration of creamy butterscotch. Fantastic, just fantastic, even "Great" which means a 90 score from me.

North British 1991, 20y, Signatory CS Collection this has a colour of light amber and characteristics on the nose which I haven't experienced in single grain whiskies before, namely lots of leatheriness. This leatheriness is really quite distinct and accompanied by suggestions of wood and raisins. After a couple of minutes some light floral notes begin to develop in the background. Hyacinth? The palate offers a very creamy mouth-feel with an initial burst of toffee and hints of sandalwood. 4 Drops of water enrichen the toffee as it now suggests treacle rather than cream toffee. The finish is long and very gentle, then richer with the water. This is another fine single grain, although a few points behind the Invergordon. This gets a very creditable 86 points from me and is definitely recommendable. I did like that leatheriness.

Cambus 1991, 20y, Signatory CS Collection here's another offering from Signatory's Cask Strength Collection and it's the lightest in colour of all today's whiskies. In fact it's extremely pale and almost water-like, but that really doesn't take anything away from the nose as it also offers a lightly leathery woodiness with some rose petal floral hints developing over a few minutes. Although the floral notes are there, their intensity never quite takes over and they certainly don't dominate, but that's not too bad. The palate also offers a creamy leatheriness, very pleasant, most enjoyable, but quite single-faceted. 4 Drops of water increase the floral notes and make the whisky far more aromatic on the nose, whilst a suggestion of toffee develops on the palate. The finish is long with a very lightly toasted leatheriness. Overall this whisky is most enjoyable but quite subdued and gentle. A good summer evening aperitif methinks. 84 Points from me.

Alloa 1964, 43y This Alloa was distilled in 1964 and left to mature for 43 years before being bottled for Germany's Alambic Classique. The colour is a wonderful glowing amber and the nose is equally rich and fruity with perfumed wood, in fact it's almost very old sun-dried driftwood. The palate is rich with apricot and butterscotch and is deliciously chewy whilst retaining a very creamy mouth-feel. The finish is long, rich and very tender. Overall I'm very impressed, especially with the tenderness. Not quite a great, but not far away with 89 points from me.

North British 1962-2010 Another North British concludes my journey into single grain whiskies for today and what an oldie it is. Have I saved the best for last? The colour is dark rich amber and the nose is filled with flora in a slightly perfumed soap kind of way. Don't get me wrong, this isn't bad, in fact it's quite wonderful with a freshness suggesting that perfumed soap. It also offers hints of musty wood and cherries. The palate again suggests wood and cherries but it also includes hints of home-made fudge or creamy toffee. The finish just goes on and on and on ...... in a quite luxurious way. What can I say other than "wow", a true great that I could just drown myself in. 91 Points and yes, it seems I saved the best until last.

I have recently been asked if I thought single grain whiskies exhibit a distillery character in the same way that single malts generally do. My personal feeling here is that they all have quite similar profiles with fruity butterscotch, often apricot, toffee and also a woodiness with older examples, but specific distillery characteristics are not evident to me. As for today's selection I was really quite astonished by the quality of the Invergordon at 18y which is why I awarded it a magnificent 90 points, one more than the excellent 43y Alloa, but the outstanding bottling is undoubtedly the oldest one at 48 years old (OK, maybe 47y) with some quite magnificent aromas and flavours. I will also say that in general I love this kind of flavour profile and will certainly be exploring many more single grains as I get the opportunity. My unending gratitude goes out to the magnificent Limburg whisky fair for the chance to buy and sample such drams.

Slàinte Mhath







Recent major features (A full list of all Dram-atics articles may be found in my ToC)  
July 2012 Motor Maniac meets Malt Maniac, Nosing New Make  
May-Jun 2012 Limburg - Whet Dreams, Dalmore Constellation, Independence? MM 15y Scotland, Blend of Maniacs  
Mar-Apr 2012 Investment grade madness, Glenglassaugh, 5th IWD, 1000th Review, April Fool, Going dotty, age verification  
Feb. 2012 It's a rum old do, Growing old gracefully, Four Imperial sisters  
Jan. 2012 Onwards & Upwards, Canadian Whisky Awards  
Dec. 2011 MMA 2011 Winners, HP 70's Orcadians, Debussy plays Pitaud, Class of 64-65, Elementary my dear Sukhinder  
Sept-Nov 2011 Malt Maniacs Awards 2011 - A weekend in the life of a Postmaster General  
June-Aug 2011 Bits Bytes & Drams, Glen Garioch 1994, Angela D'Orazio - Mackmyra, Trinity of Two Earls, Drams at Dawn
May 2011 Don't bug me with ads, A dram fine evening
April 2011 Cry me a River, Golden Oldies, The Shackleton Legacy, Two Weddings and a Whisky
March 2011 Masters of Photography, Memory and the Middle Cut, Sampling again, Dave Stirk 5, Choosing choice Choices
Feb. 2011 Festival time again, Spam Galore!, Drams & Trams

Jan. 2011

Lookback at 2010, New Job? Three Thirties, ToC, Overdosing on sherry casks




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