Six bottles in a row is called a line-up. A visual ranking that deep down in me entices the inevitable urge to number whiskies from 1 up to 6. I want to rank them on smell, taste, appearance, exquisity, price, alcohol. A plethora of characteristics that obviously block my ability to come to full enjoyment. What an utter waste of time !
I am apt to canalize this sheer impossible mission whenever I sit down behind my six glasses at Whiskyslijterij De Koning (WDK). There’s the constant urge to rank my drams at a tasting session: which one stands out and which is following. There must be a psychology behind this necessity to list. To make matters worse I noticed the host changing bottles 3 and 4 the other night just after I had registered the line-up. Immediately I felt this slight panic overwhelming me. Why ? I really don’t know. One way of paring down this urge is suffering I guess. Let it go, Fred. Why not enjoy ?
Top shelf whisky
This Arran 2018 50% abv Limited Edition was kept in Marsala wine casks for some time. The wines from the western Sicilian area are famous for their exquisite taste and afterglow, a characteristic discovered for the first time by Macallan in its 1992/2002 46% abv. The Marsala taste ranges from light to bold, from apricot to tobacco, says my favourite wine guru Madeline Puckette. (follow her on Wine Folly, she’s great). The Isle of Arran Distillery Ltd. is fond of experimenting with a lot of finishes, this 2018 Marsala finish being quite a successful one of them. It’s layered and being the first dram in my line up it is certainly one of my top shelf whiskies.
Glenmorangie Spios NAS 46% abv. Written in bold typing it reads SPIOS, meaning ‘spicy’ in the Celtic language. Not surprising the boys and girls from Glenmorangie came up with rye casks from the US to create this wonder boy. The northern part of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri is one of Glenmorangie’s wood supply and seems to be endless. Dr Bill Lumsden, master of everything at Glenmorangie is interviewed in The Telegraph: “We found that these oaks grow more slowly and develop a wider, more porous grain, with lower tannins and a little more vanilla character”. Jack Daniels and Heaven Hill lend a hand to prepare the casks for Glenmorangie’s rye whiskeys. This Private Edition No. 9 is an affordable whisky of in between 90 and 100 euros. Maybe a Christmas dram that might end up on my table. Oh boy, these spicy hints are my favourites ever since my taste buds had an eye on rye whiskeys in general.
Highland Park 1999 18 yo 53.6% abv Cask Strength G&M Connoisseurs Choice . Reading my tasting notes I have no recollection of this one at all. No notes, no nothing. Shame on me. Is it because this Highland Park was not able to climb over all the others in quality ? All right, let’s round up the following Kintyre beauties from Campbeltown.
Porn on a page
Springbank 2018 21 yo 46% abv. This whisky tastes like a symphony. If I have to believe the experts – and there are a few I do believe – this 21 year old Springbank is not just ‘assembled’ or simply ‘distilled, casked and bottled’ but composed. Have I ever tasted a mediocre Springbank ? No, I don’t think so. As these 21 year olds are out of reach of my purse I only come across them at special tastings like tonight at WDK. Sniffing up such heavenly odours sometimes make me literally elevate from my seat. Tonight I really made the effort, ‘I tasted so hard the glass ached’ (free after Beth Hart). What is it that these 21 year old Springbanks do to me ? Do these glorious bastards really invade my better part of the brain as suggested by the Malt Madness contributor ? Not only are they more than perfect but yes, funnily enough they do take away my listing urge. Anyway, this Springbank rum cask is beyond ranking, too good to be listed. What a relief. By the way, enjoy how whisky analyst and tasting bud wizard Angus MacRaild knows how to give words to his nose and palate. It’s like porn on a page, … amazing. Since quite some time he has been presenting Angus’s Corner as guest taster on Serge Valentine’s Whiskyfun. For me Angus is the revelation of 2018.
No more listing
Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn, all delicious fruits from the Mitchell tree. I am looking at the Hazelburn bottle before me (13 yo Oloroso cask matured 47% abv). No a spectacularly designed label on the bottle. Nothing fancy though. Maybe that’s what I like about Longrow and Hazelburn, the modest labeled bottles from the block. While my nose is stuck in the glass I can hear my host Rob tell all about it: “unpeated and triple distilled, then matured in a mix of first-fill and refill Oloroso sherry casks” I smell raisins, and sticky toffee and can’t wait to set my teeth in this tulip glass. I stopped listing by now altogether.
No more suffering in 2019
A Longrow 14 yo, matured in Oloroso sherry casks 57.8 % abv is my next dram. A heavily peated cask strength matured in refill Oloroso sherry casks. What a treat. What more does a man need when it comes to whisky ? Made at the Springbank distillery, Longrow differs from its more famous sibling in that it’s made with peated barley. Salty and coastal as well as notes of raisins, some chocolate orange and prunes. I feel a totally different urge coming up: browsing a Campbeltown real estate property website. No more suffering. Let’s move to Kintyre in the New Year.