Johnnie Walker Double Black

November and December are excellent months for super bargains on whisky in the supermarkets. I picked up a few bargains this time around and here is one of them. Johnnie Walker Double Black. This is a Diageo blended whisky that, at least from the name, appears to be pitched as a richer and smokier version of the famous black label.

Here are the dramstats

sheepdipjane

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £24 (supermarket deal) ~£33 normally

Nose: Closed. This is very difficult to coax out of it’s shell. There is smoke and a sweetness that is almost cigar-like. Drop of water opens up furniture polish, old leather and a salty tang. The nose is complex but is still quite faint (and I’ve sampled this multiple times). Best not to have had a malt before nosing this one.

Palate: Extremely mild but sweet leading into smoke then ash. The smoke is cigar like, warm and lovely. There is a burst of barley sweetness as the palate develops with the smoke.

Finish: Cigar ash and a bitter caramel.

Verdict: Even though there is smoke, this is a dram for early in a dramming session as it’s delicate and would be dominated by a single malt. It is subtle and complex and certainly interesting. One I would buy again at the price I paid, but perhaps not one I’d seek out at over £30.

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Wemyss Twitter Tasting

Tonight I was picked to take part in one of The Whiskywire’s series of twitter tastings. A format where a group of chosen people gather on twitter and taste a series of whiskies. This time we were tasting a range of Wemyss products under the hashtag #WEMYSSTT.

Wemyss, or “weems”, as it’s pronounced, is named after the Wemyss family who’s estate was home to the first distillery built by John Haig (founder of Haig’s). They produce their own blended malts and blends, and also have a range of excellent single cask bottlings. Tonight, we were tasting their ultra popular 12 year old blended malt, ‘The Hive’; the 15 year old blend, Lord Elcho; A 24 year old single cask Tormore called “White chocolate torte”; and a 14 year old single cask Laphroaig called “Beach Bonfires”.

Here my set up for the twasting.

 

I’ll give tasting notes on each dram first, then add my thoughts on the range as a whole. The price indicated is the cheapest found via quick google search and my verdict takes that price into account. Here are the dramstats:

First up the popular and multi-award winning “The Hive 12 year old” Blended malt scotch whisky (Vatted malt to me).

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £35

Nose: Almost cliche to go with a first note of “honey” given the name and the little picture of a bee on the bottle, but this is the most honeyed dram I’ve ever nosed! There is also a touch of smoke, crunchie bars, toffee, pear drops, cream and a white wine note, possible sauvignon blanc.

Palate: Sickly sweet, clotted cream and honey. Smoke comes through with the lighter notes from the nose left behind.  The smoke is sweet like Ardmore and the mouthfeel is very oily as if Craigellachie is in there.

Finish: Slightly drying oak, followed by sweet honey and a kiss of smoke. Short.

Verdict: An excellent introductory dram for beginners. In fact it’s so sweet and rich it’s almost a liqueur! For the more experienced palate it’s a great session dram or a dessert whisky. One to start with before breaking out the peat monsters. I would certainly buy it at this price and would probably get through it quite quickly! Good one!

Next up we have Lord Elcho 15, Blended Scotch

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £50

Nose: Quite closed at first, glass needs warming to coax out the aromas. Once you do, wow! Raspberry ripple ice cream, campino, vanilla, raspberry sauce, marzipan, Pledge furniture polish. Some really nice grain in this

Palate: Sweet delivery, creamy vanilla, raspberry sauce, Szechuan pepper, black cherry, chocolate.

Finish: Sweet lingering honey and vanilla with cherry, oaky dryness, mocha, and a twist of pepper.

Verdict: Excellent blend. Lovely grain and an enjoyable polish note. Sweet, spicyish and a great finish. A blend to recommend. I shall be picking up a bottle of this, but perhaps I’ll wait to see if the price stays so high. I only found this available at one retailer and I suspect, when it becomes more widely available, the price may drop. We’ll see!

Onto “White chocolate torte” a single cask Tormore distilled in 1988.

  • ABV 46%
  • Age 24
  • Price £83.95

Nose:  Yogurt topped flapjack, vanilla, white chocolate, spirit (angels share) and oak like being in a bonded warehouse.

Palate: Bam! White chocolate mini eggs. They’ve named this very well. Ice cream, (a white chocolate magnum). Water brings out coconut cream and guava. Someone said “white chocolate bounty” and I think they were bang on!

Finish: Pepper, oak then creamy white chocolate coconut with a bitter aftertaste of artificial sweetener.

Verdict: The nose on this one is worth the £80. I’ve saved some for later and I’m really looking forward to it!

Lastly to the Laphroaig “Beach Bonfires” distilled in 1998.

  • Age 14 years
  • ABV 46%
  • Price £74.50

Nose: I’m sensitive to the medicinal TCP note and it’s the first thing that appears for me. The malt is very coastal. Salty, lobster traps, crabs, sweet BBQ sauce (mild) fennel, seaweed covered rocks.

Palate: Very sweet. The expected coastal peat takes an age to arrive. Firstly it’s sugared almonds and icing sugar, then the peat arrives like the American armed forces at the end of a James bond film.

Finish: Burst of salty peat and a rush of icing sugar into a bitter aftertaste.

Verdict: It’s not a bad whisky but the “Islayness” doesn’t shine enough and too often is dominated by icing sugar and sweetness. Not one for my palate.

Overall verdict on the tasting: We tasted some excellent whiskies today. The Tormore certainly stood out, for the nose alone. However, I think the blends are the ones that tempt me to part with my money. The Lord Elcho was excellent and will hit my shelf at some point (though I’ll wait to see how much Master of malt, single malts direct or the whisky exchange sell it for). I loved The Hive, but worry that if I bought a bottle it wouldn’t last a week!

In short Wemyss make some cracking blends and bottle some excellent casks. If I’ve gained anything from the experience it’s that I want to sample the other blends in their range. In particular “The spice king” and “Peat chimney”. Now, where can I source a sample from…?