Saturday, 27 December 2014

Tomatin 18 - 46%

Following my adventures with the 12, Cu Bocan and their four Cuatro releases, I decided that rather than mess around with a collection of samples, I would buy a full bottle of Tomatin. 
    And, seeing as their 18-year-old is a great price for a whisky of that age, I had no hesitation in parting with my cash. I found this challenging - something I didn't expect. Why? Read on, malt heads.
    On the nose there were bright citrus notes accompanied by what can only be described as old oak slathered in salted caramel. Fresh spearmint comes through after a while in the glass, followed by honey, vanilla and a dribble of honey. The whisky also has a floral character which intensified with a drop or two of water. But that heavy wood note really does dominate and it's this that I struggled to get my head around.
    Taking a sip, that heavy oak note continued. But rather than being sweet on the tongue, I found it to be quite savoury in character, although citrus notes push through with a little water. It was as if orange, lemon and grapefruit had been dipped in floral honey. It also carried a zinging spicy note, with lots of cinnamon, grated nutmeg and black peppercorns.
    The finish was extremely woody and warming, with more vanilla hints joined by lemon mousse, more cinnamon and green peppercorns. There was also a distinctive sour note which played right the way through but it actually worked quite well with the winter spices.
    I'm still really on the fence with the Tomatin 18. The wood character was just too much for me and I wonder if that's the 18's defining characteristic - or whether my bottle was part of a not-so-sparkling cask. I plan on trying a dram in the pub to see how it compares, though. With that said, I found it an interesting experience and it did have its moments with those lovely citrus and floral notes.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Caol Ila: Young & Feisty: The McGibbon's Provenance - 46%

Distilled 2009, bottled winter 2014
A bottling from two refill hogsheads
DMG REF: 10178 & 10179

I've become something of a fan of Caol Ila over the last 12 months since receiving a bottle of the Cask Strength as a present last Christmas. And although my tasting notes on the distillery's produce are scarce, much more is to come, including a couple of SMWS beauties.
    This particular Caol Ila caught my eye at this year's Edinburgh Stramash. I was intrigued by its 'Young and Feisty' tag and having consumed my fair share of young - and quite fabulous - Kilchomans recently, I asked the folks at the Douglas Laing stand for a drop. I loved it immediately and upon my return to Glasgow, I purchased a bottle as soon as I had the cash. Young it might be, but it's full-flavoured, is unchill filtered and has no added colouring.
As always with a full bottle, I don't review it until I'm at least half-way down the bottle to see how it fares as time passes. In we go!
    On the nose I'm immediately stuck by how creamy this whisky is. It's also packed with black liquorice, treacle, damp leaves and earthy peat. There are some zinging citrus notes dancing around, too which cuts through the earthy notes and actually sweetens it slightly. Vanilla arrives after 10 minutes along with smashed gooseberries, a square of white chocolate, fresh mint leaves, white pepper and banana. There's even a hint of grassy manure lurking around - and reminded me of walking past the elephant enclosure at the zoo when I was a lad. But hang on! Rather than being unpleasant, it actually tied in with the other scents and is quite lovely. What is happening to me?
    On the palate, complex citrus notes coat the tongue before a blanket of sweet peat shoves them aside and makes itself comfortable. There's also damp embers, ash, more white chocolate, bonfire smoke, bananas and cough sweets. It also has that lovely Caol Ila light freshness going on.
    The finish was medium to short and carried a slight off the still note. However, there was also tar, wet hay, smoke, slight vanilla, a sliver of wood, instant coffee granules, menthol cough sweets and a shake of smoked paprika.
    An interesting and strangely refreshing dram. Definitely glad I bought a bottle.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Amrut Fusion - 50% Batch no.24, bottled June 2013

I tried a dram of this Indian whisky at the Newcastle Whisky festival back in March and loved it. On slightly wobbly legs, I approached the festival shop at the end of the day and bought a bottle. I even remembered to leave the pub with it later that night - a fact I'm rather proud of considering the state I was in.
    Word of advice: don't go to the pub after a whisky festival. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but it's not. Trust me.
    Now, I took my time with this one as it's a beefy dram, packed full of flavour and certainly not an every day sipper - at least, not for my palate.
    The 'fusion' in the name comes from the fact that the malted barley used to create the whisky is from both India and Scotland. Nice!
    On the nose, huge, heavy fruity notes dominate, with juicy peaches and nectarine aromas making the mouth water right off the bat. Let it settle - add a few drops of water - and the Amrut Fusion starts to evolve and show its true character. Underneath those rich golden fruit notes, there's also chewy chocolate fudge, peppermint, fruity flapjacks, dry roasted peanuts, golden syrup, dried banana chips, hard-boiled travel sweets and barley sugars. This is a pungent malt you could sit and sniff happily for hours.
    Swirl it around your tongue and those big, beefy flavours match the nose perfectly. There's a huge oak influence here but it’s peppered with cinnamon, stewed fruit, thick jam, black tea, treacle, dates and strawberry bonbons. It also has some herbal notes dancing around, with hints of cardamom and coriander clearly having a good time. It also has a good viscosity to it and it coats the mouth beautifully.
    The finish is robust - imagine licking a plank of dried oak a few times and you'll get the same drying effect here (without the splinters). There's also prickly spices, deep caramel, rich coffee cake and it also carries a slight bitter note.
    As I said previously, this isn't an every day dram - the  dry oaky note tends to dull the senses after a few glasses but it’s a whisky that would go splendidly with Christmas pudding. After dinner, don't go for a glass of port, pour this instead. For a non-age statement whisky, this is a belter. The spirit matures faster in the cask in the stifling Indian climate so don't worry about it being young - just dive in!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus 12 - 46%

Last Christmas I was given a bottle of this Speyside beauty by my parents. Only now, almost a year later, am I getting round to reviewing it.
    The bottle is long gone but recently I realised I hadn't updated the blog with my tasting notes. I had kept a 5cl sample and compared this last week with my original tasting scribbles. I found a few new things in the glass and this dark rum-finished dram was a corker. Unfortunately, with only 1240 bottles produced, I doubt it'll still be around. Oh, it's also non-chill filtered and has no added colouring - just the way I like it!
    On the nose there was an abundance of rum and raisin milk chocolate along with sweet peat, figs, sticky medjool dates, prunes, malty Cheerios breakfast cereal, hard boiled barley sugars, plump blackcurrants, Tunes cough sweets and Vimto chew bars.
    On the palate, the delivery was initially sweet with a twist of pepper before a flood of mouthwatering dark fruit notes arrived, carried along on a puff of dark peaty smoke.
    The finish continued with the rich, dark fruit theme while smoke, vanilla and white pepper joined in the fun. Right at the end, there was the unmistakable flavour of thick cough medicine. Lovely.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Tomatin Cuatro series

A few months ago, there was a Twitter tasting involving Tomatin's new range of sherry finished whiskies. I didn't take part, however, my Twitter friend Simon Smith kindly offered me some leftover samples from the event. I sent him a couple of drams to say thanks and got stuck in.
    All four expression are 12 years old and spent the first nine in American oak barrels. They were then transferred to four different sherry butts (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez) for a further three years before being bottled.
    What's really interesting about these is seeing how the various sherries affected the spirit and although the bottles will be long gone by now, all four offered something worthwhile and different. If you see any of the four on your travels, go for it! Also, all four are bottled at 46% and are non-chill filtered.

Cuatro Fino
The nose was sweet with vanilla, Maltesers chocolates, butter icing, walnuts and alight strawberry jam. After a while in the glass, a lovely apple turnover scent emerged. There was also a hint of salt and a white flower note. A really beautiful smell.
    On the palate there was a delicious jam note along with figs, toffee, mocha coffee and wood-infused golden syrup. There was also a slight acetone note kicking around, too,
    The finish was spicy with a touch of pepper, vanilla and cranberry, while creamy white chocolate notes came through along with a touch of grapefruit and a well-fired pecan pie.

Cuatro Manzanilla
Straight off the bat, I smelled hard toffee, toasted granary bread and dark fruit notes such as blackcurrant, damson and mushed up strawberries. There was a pasty note there which reminded me of a sugar-topped donut and I also picked up undiluted Ribena, fresh mint, cumin seeds and a hint of slow gin.
    In the mouth it was sweet and incredibly mouthwatering thanks to the abundance of juicy blackcurrants, apples and plums. There was also a hint of spicy cinnamon. The finish continued the sweet tastes along with toffee, dark chocolate, prunes and lots of dry wood tastes.

Cuatro Oloroso
On the nose I immediately got orange, juicy pears, apples, blackberries, blackcurrants and strawberries. There was also treacle toffee, vanilla fudge, some granary toast notes again, pine needles, juicy fruit chewing gum, gooseberries, brown sugar and golden syrup.
    The dark fruit notes returned on the palate along with caramel, fruit and nut chocolate bars, a touch of coffee and a slight bitter note ran all the way through.
    The finish had a lovely deep sherry character along with bitter dark chocolate, treacle, damson jam, mint, a hint of creme brulee and sticky toffee pudding.

Cuatro Pedro Ximinez
Hard boiled sherbet lemons hit me straight away on the nose, followed by cola cubes, Edinburgh rock, apple juice, white sugar and a hint of marzipan. The granary toast note from the last two was nowhere to be found and the whole dram was incredibly sweet.
    On the palate, there was hard boiled fruit-flavoured sweets, treacle, woody cinnamon sticks and lots of honey-slathered dry oak. The finish was spicier than the other three, along with baked apples, prunes, red grape skins, raisins and a hint of milk chocolate.

Four cracking whiskies and my favourites in order were: Manzanilla, Oloroso, Fino and Pedro Ximinez. Hopefully this will become a regular release from Tomatin as all four were quite special.