Friday, 10 July 2015

Garnheath - 1974 (Carn Mor) - 41 years old

Distillery: Garnheath
Age: 41
Distilled: 1974
Bottled: 2015
Strength: 50.8%.

Now this is something special to me, and something I have been trying to get a bottle of for a few years now. This is a single grain whisky from the Garnheath distillery, which rather than being a distinct distillery was actually a set of coffey stills set within the Moffat distillery complex (Inverhouse) in Airdrie. The "distillery" was set up in 1964 alongside the Glen Flagler stills on the site of an old paper mill, and closed and finally demolished in 1986 when I was just five years old. My mum worked in the distillery as did many other locals as she grew up just a few miles from the site and subsequently I spent some years living literally at the top of the hill at the distillery. Even today I can still recall vividly the smells of the place.

Garnheath was a powerhouse grain production developed in order to compliment their malt whisky most of both which went into cheap blends destined for America and beyond (Green Plaid etc) by the Publicker Industries company based in Philadelphia. Sadly all the distilling equipment was demolished at a time of serious decline within the industry which killed of main a fine distillery.

Nose: I would be lying if I didn't say that the first blast I get right out the bottle is typical grain. Initial volatile compounds are pretty harsh on the nose, namely acetone. This however does reward letting it sit in the air for a while and relax a little. Light and buttery, and more butter fat as you would get in a Jersey milk or cream. Lightly roasted spices of coriander, cinnamon and a touch of ground root ginger. Old fashioned American Cream Soda like I used to get at my Granda's house gives a wee blast of vanilla that really shows up the slow ex-bourbon cask maturation. There are some slight seared smoky meat elements going on. It is fairly impossible but I am detecting just a very slight phenolic edge so either I am drinking way too much heavily peated whisky these days or I am just losing my marbles a bit. Over time in the glass a real sweetness has emerged and softness with no sign at all of those nose prickling compounds from the start.

Palate: In the mouth it is gentle with oodles of vanilla and camphor. Very light and easy going. A real sweet shop dram but also with a hint of ralgex / tiger balm. Do you remember fireball jawbreaker sweets? (hot cinnamon flavour) well it reminds me of those.

Finish: That ralgex and hot cinnamon coming through again with some lemon sherbet and some more ginger.

Like many grains this is not a massively complex dram, but for what it lacks in complexity it makes up in sheer easy going drinking. The romantic past of this distillery also boost up the bias here for me as well though.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

SMWS 14.3 - 17 year old Talisker 1979

Distillery: Talisker
Bottling: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 17
Distilled: 1979
Bottled: 1996
Strength: 64.3%.
Cask Code: 14.3

This was a bottle that took my eye at auction as independent bottlings of Talisker are as rare as hen's teeth. I shared this with some blogging friends and we split the bottle 7 ways. I have no idea what cask this is as it was bottled in the early days of the society where such information wasn't given out, or probably needed. This is when the society was maybe more just about the taste of the whisky than it is now.

Nose: Very mineral like and very like nosing a fizzy glass of mineral / soda water. It also reminds me of American Cream Soda, which is similar but flavoured with vanilla. There is Apple peel, dry and pretty dusty which has some trademarks of a fino sherry cask, but I have been unable to find out any information on the cask type or the number of bottles to give me some clues. There are also indications of well used wood, maybe even third fill and potentially this could have been malt destined for blending? Powdery dusting sugar and some old books making this musky. Some very light tobacco smoke and a tiny bit of peat comes and goes. It is possible if there was more peat in this it has weakened over time in the bottle here. I get a little cork which may or may not be down to time in the bottle and bamboo shoots. A little butter scotch that I would normally associate with grain whisky, and again well used wood that has already given off most of its more obvious flavours. Earth.

Palate: This definitely does not feel like 64.3% - Has the alcohol strength reduced through evaporation here? This would certainly tie in with the cork elements. Slightly sour, some barley, and a touch of light fruit.

Finish: Mint, hemp, and slightly floral.

This was a pretty challenging dram and unique to boot. I will need to go back to this again and further dig into it.

Monday, 4 May 2015

3.243 "Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy" (17 year old Bowmore)

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottling: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 17
Strength: 57.1%.
Cask Code: 3.243 "Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy"
Cask Type: Refill sherry butt.

I'm not much of a PR blogger, and I struggle to find time to update this blog with the dozens of tasting notes building up in my little book so I very rarely ever get sent free whisky and I never solicit it either so it was a nice surprise to receive a little package in the mail from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, whom to be honest are probably my main source of whisky and I rarely have the need to go elsewhere. This is a sample of a special Bowmore bottling they have done for Feis Ile; that is the Islay music and whisky festival.

On Friday the 22nd of May which I know I know is technically the day before the festival starts but let's not split hairs), the SMWS are throwing a special extravaganza at Islay House. The most annoying part for me is that the general distillery offerings are pretty vanilla, and that is not saying bad, but just underwhelming for someone who knows a bit about it already, and this event would be right up my street but I won't be there for it. I rant and rave about the society and their whisky to anyone who can be bothered listening but if you can, get along to this event and check it out.

Nose: I rather like society Bowmores, and in particular the refill butt bottlings and they are becoming more of a staple purchase for me than the ever available and reliable Caol Ila! The strange thing is that I actually very rarely buy standard Bowmores out the shop so I wouldn't even class myself as a massive Bowmore fan, but yet in the context of great independent bottlings - I am. At the start this prickles my nose and is pretty closed up in the alcohol and I getting general sweetness and savouriness but nothing really discernible so I'm adding a little water to break this one open a little. I am getting teak oil / linseed oil which invokes images of polished floors and furniture in an old drawing room. Walnut whips, and roasted chestnut also lend similar notes of wood and oil. Cigarette smoke in an old man's pub (before the Scottish smoking ban of course). Fishermen's friend sweets and lavender oil which both increases the oil element but also that characteristic floral note which is in these Bowmores to varying degrees. The sherry brings some dark and overripe blackberries which brightens and livens up things which are dominated by the darker tobacco, oily, woody, leathery thing going on. Some malty biscuitness coming through as well which comes and goes in waves.

Palate: Autumn berries in a sticky jam. I get some mint chocolate, and liquorice dipped in sherbet. There is a slightly soapy, detergent element there but that's probably linked to the lavender, and you'll either love or hate it and it's certainly not as much as some other bottings anyway, but I'm the former; I quite like it.

Finish: Tobacco is back here alongside a steak that has been seared on a BBQ and slightly sooty and charcoaly. Not masses of peat coming through, but it's pretty briny. Getting a little touch of fried seaweed as well which is pleasant. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

120.8 "A surge of sweet peat" (13 year old Hakushu)

Distillery: Hakushu
Bottling: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 13
Distilled: 2000
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 63.1%.
Cask Code: 120.8 "A surge of sweet peat"
Cask Type: Second fill hogshead

Nose: Is this an Islay? It could easily be take for one. This is very fresh with some lemon and lime, maybe some air freshener? Some pine backs this up. Old school carbolic soap and some olives or garlic in brine. There is some dental mouthwash but the antiseptic non minty kind. A little scallop with oil and salt. A fruitier side comes by way of dried pineapple and apple jack sweets. I get visions of garden centres with moss, grass and wood bark.

Palate: Sweet in the mouth and I get salted limes and fizzy apple. There is a spicy bit of chilli pepper, some hazelnut and new pencils.

Finish: Long, briny and earthy and is quite drying which helps accentuate the nuttiness. A sweetness develops which is like icing sugar.

124.4 "Full of Secret Pleasures" (Miyagikyo 17 year old) Japanese whisky

Distillery: Miyagikyo
Bottling: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 17
Distilled: 1996
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 60.0%.
Cask Code: 124.4 "Full of Secret Pleasures"
Cask Type: First fill Pedro Ximinez sherry butt.

Nose: This is a heavier sherried malt compared to the 11.14 Yamazaki with heavy pure cocoa, truffles and truffle oil. Heavy on the liquorice with typical figs, dates, wallnuts aqnd some chocolate covered brazil nuts. Cinnamon and clove oils beef up the viscousity. Some rubberness comes through in birthday balloons. This is thick and sweet, and has a certain flatness which I don't find particularly offensive but tends to be common with some of these sherry heavy ones. All aromas together it reminds me of Buckfast Tonic Wine a drink I am fond of when I am not savouring single malt whisky.

Palate: Chocolate and ginger cake. Some candied fennel sweets that you get in Indian Restaurants and some chocolate limes.

Finish: Black cardamom brings in this barbeque smokiness, with some more of the clove. Smoked paprika. Menthol cigarette and cigar smoke blending together on a smoking terrace. There is a touch of bitter espresso in there as well.

119.14 "Raspberry Imperial Stout" (11 year old Yamazaki) Japanese whisky.

Distillery: Yamazaki
Bottling: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 11
Distilled: 2003
Bottled: 2013
Strength: 53.9%.
Cask Code: 119.14 "Raspberry Imperial Stout"
Cask Type: First fill sherry butt.

Nose: Trying to not succumb to the society tasting notes, but I agree and it is big on the raspberries and this comes as thick and juicy jam on the breakfast table is also some nutella spread and some honey. There is some glazed ham full of cumin and pepper with a slice of pineapple. Whiffs of the old Scottish sweetshop classic the Chelsea whopper which is a cocoa based fudge. There is a terpene note but unlike pine which is common for me in a lot of these sherried Japanese malts it is more like Tea tree oil, and continued with some menthol vapour rub. There is also an oily note that is like standing in a car garage forecourt.

Palate: In the mouth it is thick and cloying as expected. This is like Jammy Joeys which are as the name suggests a Jammy bite sized cake with raspberry and coconut and it continues with raspberry ruffle bars. The tea tree oil and menthol is turning more eucalyptus like. There is some soreen malt loaf as well.

Finish: While this was quite cloying and I find some heavily sherried malts just too heavy and flat there is a brightness which carries through the palate and lifts it right up. Reminds me of fizzy red cola. There is some cherry and a little lavender as well.

130.1 "Dynamic and Attractive" (Chichibu 4 year old) Japanese whisky

Distillery: Chichibu
Bottling: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 4
Distilled: 2009
Bottled: 2013
Strength: 61.9%.
Cask Code: 130.1 "Dynamic and Attractive"
Cask Type: First fill ex-bourbon barrel.

Nose: Strawberry shortbread, lemon fancies, fruit salad chews. Fruit pastilles'. It gets juicier as it develops with peach, lemon and papaya. Pecan nuts.

Palate: Dryer than the nose indicates. coconut milk, raspberry milkshake, coriander seeds giving it a little woodiness. Crystallised ginger.

Finish: Crunchy nut cornflakes, peanut cookies, honey and a little almond.