The 12 drams of xmas: Day 10

Continuing the series of reports on the 12 drams of xmas twitter tasting event:

Quick reminder: 11 online whisky enthusiasts poured half a bottle of whisky into 10 sample bottles and sent them to the other 10 taking part. The bottles were marked only with the number of the day we were due to start. On the given day, we all blind tasted the chosen dram and tried to guess what it was.

Though I did well on some of the drams and embarrassingly badly on some others, I’m posting my tasting notes, my unedited guesses and revealing the answers.

Dram #10 was from Femke Tijtsma Sijtsma  (@Girl_Whisky on twitter) and author of The Whisky Girl Blog. Here are my notes:

Nose: Malty wash (that you might get to try on a good distillery tour), white wine and pears.

Palate: There is a touch of white grape and it’s quite savoury.

Finish: Malty and very (too) short though slightly drying. In my notes I’ve written “Meh!”.

My guess: A pretty dull dram for me. I guessed a blended whisky at 40% ABV, but it wasn’t a blend I recognised. I went for VAT 69.

The answer: Bowmore 12 year old 40%ABV

This really surprised me. I’m a Bowmore fan, though I prefer to go for the indie bottlings or the cask strength expressions. It didn’t even strike me as an Islay. I think the answer surprised many of the bloggers, so I’m not alone.

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Burns night mystery tasting

I recently signed up for a mystery twitter tasting on burns night called “whisky with a bite” and organised by @Girl_Whisky (from twitter). The idea was we all paid a small fee and, in return, received 3 drams of mystery whisky. On Burns night, we’d all get together, taste the drams, review them and learn something. Anyone who’s had to give a sample to the doctors in the UK might understand that these particular sample bottles concerned me. Don’t worry though, the whisky was all good 🙂

mtwta3

Dram 1: Michael Jackson Special Blended Whisky

Nose: Lots of vanilla with quite an Irish character initially. Tangerines, brazil nuts and coconut shavings. Honey and camomile tea come through. Lots of marmalade. After a taste, fresh pine comes through, coconut mushrooms and a salty note that reminds me of Springbank.

Palate: Sweet vanilla and plenty of wood.

Finish: Slight oak spice then vanilla with faint chocolate covered turkish delight.

Verdict: This is really very nice! The nose particularly is very enjoyable. The legend is that this blend was concocted using all the whisky found in the legendary drinks writer’s office. I wonder how much springbank he had. One thing’s for sure, that man had some seriously good taste in whisky!

Dram 2: Cardhu Special Cask Reserve 40% ABV

Nose: Initially some peat and mildly coastal. The peat quickly disappears though giving way to wet hay, fudge and butter. Then things get really buttery with salted popcorn and furniture polish.

Palate: Buttery vanilla and fudge with a touch of spice before huge melted butter.

Finish: Starts off quite oaky but the finish morphs into buttery vanilla fudge.

Verdict: Probably the dram of the night for me. Really enjoyed the buttery notes, but this was well rounded. I could see myself buying a bottle of this.

Dram 3: Nikka Bearded Black.

Nose: Cereal bars, golden syrup, varnish, workshops, paint, touch of dark chocolate.

Palate: Sweet vanilla custard creams with a touch of aspartame.

Finish: Creamy with aspartame, vanilla and white pepper.

Verdict: I did enjoy this and could enjoy a session with it, but it didn’t hit the buttons like I thought the king of blenders at Nikka would have. I wouldn’t buy a bottle, but if you offered me a dram.

Overall Verdict. In all this was a really enjoyable tasting. It was a real treat trying the Michael Jackson blend and I think I’ve added to my single malt knowledge with the Cardhu. A little disappointed by the Nikka, but they win so many awards, there must be some crackers to try in their range. The event was fun and well organised. We all had a lot of laughs and some innuendo on the night, and the only downside was clearing away the glittery confetti that came in our sample packs! I’d join another Whisky Girl tasting, but maybe not the cocktails one 😉

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 23

One more window to open!

Day 23 is Aberlour 18. I have tried this once before, as the last dram of a 7 dram tasting at the distillery and, to be honest, it had been blown away by 3 cask strength expressions and I struggled with it. So, here is another opportunity and here are the dramstats:

aberlour18

  • ABV 43%
  • Age 18
  • Price £54

Nose: Red apples, sherbet, vanilla and milk chocolate raisins.

Palate: Sweet with lots of dessert apple and vanilla sugar. Delicious!

Finish: Lots of creamy toffee sauce and sweet apples. There is a hint of chocolate raisins right at the end that is really excellent.

Verdict: Probably the most rounded and tasty Aberlour I’ve had the pleasure to sample. I think if this were around £45 I’d buy a bottle, but it’s a little on the pricey side. Still, what’s £9 between friends?

The 24th Dram from the Advent Calendar was Master of Malt, 50 year old speyside whisky. I will save this for the right mood and post a review later in the year.

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Islay 12 year old single malt whisky

This post is a full whisky review, but it is also part of our 12 drams of xmas series (see this post for more info).

I had been wondering what to choose as the whisky I would send to 10 other whisky bloggers. I decided that I wanted to get something that was right under everyone’s noses, good value that would surprise them. I started looking at Jim Murray reviews of commonly available blends and of drams you could buy in the supermarkets, when I noticed that Sainsbury’s TTD Islay got 94 in the bible and was raved about.

That fit the bill exactly. However, I wanted to be sure it was good enough before just sending it (It would have been embarrassing to send crap whisky), and if it was bad, at least I could review it on here).

I tasted it, it ticked all the right boxes, and it was duly sent to the 12 drams tasters. Here are the dramstats:

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  • Price £20
  • ABV 40%
  • Age 12 years
  • Distillery: ?? (Somewhere on Islay)

Nose: Sweet smoke and vanilla with light fruity notes. Almost winey with malted milk biscuits.

Palate: Smokey arrival that turns sweet with vanilla and pear drops.

Finish: Custard cream, peat and aspartame (sweetener).

Verdict: Well this managed to fool everyone, though most guessed Islay and some went for a 12 year old. That, along with the fact that it really is very good, makes this a serious bargain at the price. It is not a peat monster, nor does the peat dominate, but it is there to deliver flavour, which it happens to do very well.

One question is, what’s actually in it? Well, some long searching on the internet led to rumours on whisky forums that this was actually 12 year old Lagavulin. I don’t think it is. Personally I think it’s 12 year old Caol Ila. The sweetness fits the distillery profile a little better, and Caol Ila has a very high production and has a great many indie bottling appearances. Lagavulin on the other hand has much lower production and is prized by whisky drinkers and therefore Diageo (the company that owns them). They often bring out a 12 year old Lagavulin as part of the annual special releases and it is expensive. It is not clear to me why they would also give a lot of very good 12 year old Laga stock to supermarket brands, with the high price it normally sells for and with Caol Ila down the road. Whatever it is, it’s a serious bargain. They sometimes sell it with money off!! I will be buying this again.

The 12 drams of xmas: Day 8

Continuing the series of reports on the 12 drams of xmas twitter tasting event:

Quick reminder: 11 online whisky enthusiasts poured half a bottle of whisky into 10 sample bottles and sent them to the other 10 taking part. The bottles were marked only with the number of the day we were due to start. On the given day, we all blind tasted the chosen dram and tried to guess what it was.

Though I did well on some of the drams and embarrassingly badly on some others, I’m posting my tasting notes, my unedited guesses and revealing the answers.

Dram #6 was from Tom Thomson (@ifotou on twitter) and author of Toms Whisky Reviews. Here are my notes:

Nose: Quite floral with pot pourri, vanilla and clove. Apple flavoured astro belts and a hob nob note.

Palate: Apple astro belts come through along with the biscuit notes and some sherbet.

Finish: Juicy barley, no peat, apple chips, apple sourz and a malty fade.

My guess: A really great dram and it had a lowland quality but I couldn’t place the strong apple notes. Certainly nowhere other than Auchentoshan, but, for the strength, that would make this the Auchentoshan Valinch and, having been given a sample of that at the distillery in November, it didn’t taste like that. I was also tempted by Deanston because of the apple notes, but I’d had that with the Advent Calendar. In the end I went for Glen Garioch 12 as I thought I remembered similar notes from that when I tried it in 2011.

The answer: Auchentoshan Valinch 2012 lowland whisky, 57.2% (Auchentoshan Festival Bottling)

Doh! Pretty sure this gave me 0 points even though I feel like I was kind of close. My guess is that the festival bottling was different to the edition I tried in November. It’s highly likely as these things do differ from batch to batch.

It really was a nice dram though, and at least I got the country right this time!

The 12 drams of xmas: Day 7

Continuing the series of reports on the 12 drams of xmas twitter tasting event:

Quick reminder: 11 online whisky enthusiasts poured half a bottle of whisky into 10 sample bottles and sent them to the other 10 taking part. The bottles were marked only with the number of the day we were due to start. On the given day, we all blind tasted the chosen dram and tried to guess what it was.

Though I did well on some of the drams and embarrassingly badly on some others, I’m posting my tasting notes, my unedited guesses and revealing the answers.

Dram #7 was from Jonathan Webb (@DVDbloke on twitter). Here are my notes:

Nose: Vanilla and lots of spice. Melted neapolitan ice cream, rye?, chocolate raisins and choco coffee beans. It’s got a real bourbon feel to it this.

Palate: Vanilla, bourbony burst and a touch of rye. Chocolate raisins.

Finish: Drying oak and then nesquik milkshake, foam shrimps and foam bananas.

My guess: Wow another day, another tricky one. On the one hand I’m thinking, totally bourbon, and on the other I’m thinking it’s just a well blended cask strength scotch. I’m leaning towards American, but I’ve written a huge “Is this even American?” note in my book. I’m going American, and since my bourbon experience is very limited I’m going with Buffalo Trace.

The answer: BenRiach 16 Year Old Speyside Whisky at 55.2% (Cask Strength and Carry On bottling)

Well, for the second day in a row I missed by an entire continent. *Sigh*. Still, this was a brilliant dram, so all was not lost. I’ll be trying to get the next cask strength and carry on bottling, whatever it is.

The 12 drams of xmas: Day 6

Continuing the series of reports on the 12 drams of xmas twitter tasting event:

Quick reminder: 11 online whisky enthusiasts poured half a bottle of whisky into 10 sample bottles and sent them to the other 10 taking part. The bottles were marked only with the number of the day we were due to start. On the given day, we all blind tasted the chosen dram and tried to guess what it was.

Though I did well on some of the drams and embarrassingly badly on some others, I’m posting my tasting notes, my unedited guesses and revealing the answers.

Dram #6 was from Andrew Purslow (@ardbaggie on twitter). Here are my notes:

Nose: Grassy, lemon peel, porridge with golden syrup, cereal bars, malty with a touch of rye and coffee.

Palate: Unusual, malty and porridge with rye bread and a doughy note.

Finish: A little minty and malty with a touch of lemon oil.

My guess: This was really really tricky. I was torn between a highland whisky and something from North America. In the end I took the rye note and ran with it. Ran quite a long way…. I remember Canadian club having a minty finish, so went for a Canadian Rye. Since I know almost nothing about Canadian I chose Caribu Crossing at 46%ABV (and was convinced if I got any points at all it would be for region or ABV).

The answer: Glen Keith 10 Year Old Speyside Whisky, 43% (Pre 1983 release – only available at auction now)

Words cannot describe the embarrassment! Spectacularly wrong, but a learning experience. Also a really great old dram!