Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bowmore White Sands - 43%

A TRIP across the white sands of The Big Strand on Islay leads me straight to another Bowmore - this time a travel retail exclusive. How did I get my grubby hands on a bottle of this peaty whisky? Well, I entered a competition back in April on Twitter and won. I've never really won anything before, so it was a very pleasant surprise when the email came through. I've been happily sharing the bottle with friends and before those white sands bury this tasty 17-year-old, I thought I had better take a few notes.
    First things first: this whisky is an awful colour, looking more like Irn-Bru than a fine single malt. Some whisky producers add colouring to make it more appealing for the mass market (although I don't see the point) but in this case, too much has turned it a rusty orange colour - it really does look unappealing. I have no doubt this has been chill-filtered, too, but there you go.
    Talking of Irn-Bru,I can definitely smell it once a glass is poured - a scent I find in most Bowmores. Not fizzy, freshly poured stuff, but flat Irn-Bru. There's also a whole tablespoon of sweet caramel, while lemon and orange rind lie just under the gentle peat. I also pick up chocolate here - specifically chunks of mint Aero.
    Take a sip and the peat becomes much more pronounced, but that Bowmore sweetness is still very much to the fore. Orange characteristics are all over this malt along with light marzipan and a little lemon and black pepper
    The finish is smoky with wood and orange notes. Banana also plays across the back of the tongue and it's a decent length.
  I enjoyed this offering from Bowmore, even if it doesn't have the most complex of characters and as it's travel retail only, not everyone is going to have the pleasure of trying it. It's also far too expensive, weighing in at £79.99 and, in my opinion, there are far better whiskies out there for half the price.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Back with four SMWS bottles!

Hello malt mates - I'm back.

It's been a while since my last post but real life has been getting in the way - as it tends to do from time-to-time. A lot has happened since my last post in mid-June and that's why I've not been around. I've recently changed jobs, finally breaking free from the toils of newspaper life to pursue a career in music journalism. This is my fourth week in the job, and I'm delighted to report it is everything I hoped it would be. It's also a far cry from the misery of newspaper life, which I had been trying to escape from for some three years.
    Anyway, onwards and upwards and what better way to kickstart the blog, than with four Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings. So, pour a dram, sit back and relax. Ready? Good, then we'll continue...

SMWS 46.24: Dumplings In A Honey Sauce
20-year-old Glenlossie, bottled at 53.7%
260 bottles - refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

On the nose, there's huge chunky orange notes, which eventually ease off to reveal apricots, baked lemon, grapefruit, gooseberries, lime juice, mashed bananas, white grapes, raspberries and sharp green apples. It really is a huge fruit cocktail and a bit like sticking your nose into a bowl of freshly made fruit salad. The delights don't end there either, with Brazil nuts fused with almonds, toasted coconut and hard-boiled barley sugars coming through.
    The whisky has a lovely mouth coating quality, which is infused with honey, sweet citrus, marzipan, apple, grapefruit, mint, custard, jam and a little pepper grinded in for good measure.
    The finish was slightly sour, with more marzipan and grapefruit, while a little cinnamon spice tied it all up. Sharp gooseberry then came through and a lovely red fruit jam not hung around for ages.

SMWS 48.44: Rose Petal Cupcakes
12-year-old Benrinnes, bottled at 52.5%
88 bottles - first-fill ex-bourbon cask

Taking a gentle sniff of this pungent beauty brought a whole paper bag crammed full of sticky sherbet lemons, while soft liquorice wafted from the glass. On top of that, there was a generous dollop of strawberry jam, vanilla cheesecake and Key lime pie, which made my stomach gurgle in delight. Tart fruits were also present, with passion fruit, kiwi and grapefruit wafting forth, along with toasted pine nuts, barley and mint rock.
    Several sips brought fruity sherbet sweetness, strawberry jam, Tunes cough sweets and red liquorice to the party, and the whisky had a lovely creaminess which brought to mind thick fruits of the forest yoghurt.
    The finish wasn't quite as spectacular as the nose and taste, but it was still lovely, with a delicious sweet, fruity vanilla coming through along with pepper and a tin of icing sugar-covered hard boiled sweets.

SMWS 73.65: Tarts In A Tea House
24-year-old Aultmore, bottled at 55.9%
377 bottles - refill butt, ex-sherry

Orange is the defining character of this whisky. Never before have I tasted a whisky so full of orange flavours. The addition of water seemed to intensify these flavours and it took me a while to get familiar with its orangy character. Below the orange notes, there was still plenty going on, including tangerines (OK, still orangy, but still) stewed plums, lemon, juicy sultanas, apricot jam and caramelised banana. But just when you think this might be a little too sweet, along comes a few crazy scents which put me in mind of a damp woollen jumper, a well-polished antique sideboard, toasted granary bread and there merest whiff of smoke. Not peat, just smoke.
    The palate didn't quite live up to the nose, but with all that going on, it's hardly surprising. Still, there was thick chunky marmalade, a tablespoon of lemon curd, red berries, spearmint and a generous dusting of icing sugar.
    The finish was better, bringing with it tastes of winter, including Christmas cake, white icing, marzipan, candied peel and black cherries. The orange note here was represented by dark chocolate orange, while a little touch of black coffee rounded things off.


SMWS 9.86: Sangria On The Terrace
16-year-old Glen Grant, bottled at 55.5%
291 bottles - refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

Take a whiff, and the unmistakable scent of fruit salad chews fills the nostrils. Give it a bit of time to settle and Macintosh apples and sweet vanilla begin to shine through. But leave it even longer, and miraculous things start to happen - even more so with a drop or two of water. Scents of pencil shavings, Juicy Fruit chewing gum, pipe tobacco, plasticine, Murray Mints and red and black jelly babies assault the senses. There also some sweet and nutty Italian torrone in here, too.
    The palate is packed with apples, vanilla icing, lime juice and blackberries, along with a slight nuttiness, while the finish packs in dry wood, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper, dark caramel and the wondrous taste of blackcurrant fruit pastilles.