A boozy dinner at friends (on the other side of the country)

Another short picture report.

I didn’t take pictures of the main dish, which was a 2 kilo leg of lamb with risotto. It was awesome. Very, very awesome.

Un aperitif

Un aperitif

AWESOME

AWESOME

Pumpkin Pie for dessert

Pumpkin Pie for dessert

Vin doux naturel

Vin doux naturel

First dram. A very good basic.

First dram. A very good basic.

Never had this one before. Quite typical Yamazaki flavors

Never had this one before. Quite typical Yamazaki flavors

Finished this one. Damn.

Finished this one. Damn.

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Convalmore 1981, 22yo, 58.6% – Jack Wiebers

Convalmore is an interesting distillery. Mostly because it closed in 1985. The eighties saw many distilleries closing, like Port Ellen, Brora and many others. Unlike those two, Convalmore hasn’t been many people’s focus since the whisky supposedly wasn’t all that good. The same can be said about Port Ellen, back in those days, though.

However, even though I haven’t tasted all that many Convalmores, the ones I’ve had have all been rather kick-ass. There was one at Maltstock in a tasting by Michael Lord. The first Blind Tasting Competition closed with one as well.

Even if you check prices now, they’ve gone up obviously. It’s not in the range of many of the other closed distilleries, so that might be rather interesting when watching auctions. Anyway, I think I traded this sample with whisky buddy Martin. Or I bought it, but at least it’s coming from him.

Convalmore 22yo. Image from Whiskybase

Convalmore 22yo. Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose is old and typical of many whiskies I’ve tried from this period. It’s quite like old Clynelish and Inchgower, and other Highlands or Speyside distilleries. Which means I find it hard to describe. At least there’s oak and lots of wax. Beeswax and candles. A light hint of smoke and licorice, mint and a hint of solvent. Freshly cut oak and wood oils.

Sip:
The palate is very old fashioned as well, with lots and lots of oak, acrylic paint and solvent. Also the beeswax and candles again. Pine resin and pine needles. Honey, mint, menthol (not unlike the cigarettes). Chalk and licorice.

Swallow:
The finish is suddenly much, much more fruity with pineapple, fresh and crisp apple, pear, melon. A light smoke again and the paint and solvent flavor is back too. Syrupy.

When I opened this sample and poured it, I walked upstairs to let the misses have a sniff. Unfortunately for her she had just brushed her teeth and couldn’t revel in the greatness of this dram. It’s an absolutely gorgeous one and shows a very old fashioned character that I really, really love. The oak is huge but not overpowering and there are lots of other flavors and scents to keep you busy.

I really enjoy the pine and wax flavors. Unfortunately you don’t find them very often. At least not in drams that I generally find affordable. In this case, I might have to remember it and look for it in auctions. I love this stuff and I want a bottle of it.

Convalmore 1981, 22yo, 58.6%, Jack Wiebers. No clue to current prices. I think Whiskybase is out of date in this case (they state some € 135).

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BenRiach 2005-2014, 9yo, Peated, Virgin Oak finish, 58.7%

My father in law has a developed a taste for Virgin Oak matured (or finished) whiskies. Over the years he’s gathered a few here and there with the idea of hosting a tasting for us at some point. That hasn’t happened yet, but I wanted to have a contribution to that event available too.

When BenRiach released this one last year I was interested right away, since I also tried one that was a couple of years older at the distillery. That one has been bottled for Denmark in 2013 and I don’t think there’s a web shop that has it available. It isn’t even in Whiskybase.

Anyway, this youngster had been waiting to be opened for a while and I decided to do just that this week. I don’t really know why I thought it a good time to open a bottle again, but it turned out to be a fine experience. One done with a bit of TLC.

Sniff:
There’s a lot of peat. It hasn’t had time to be tamed in oak yet since it’s not even ten years old. The virgin oak shines through with big hints of vanilla, but also has some floral scents. Plants, freshly sawed oak, and a hint of milk. Some heather too. The smoke has a much more mainland character than Islay whiskies.

Sip:
The palate is very dry but not too sharp, even without water. Smoke and warm oak. Vanilla, cookie dough, heather and plants. Peat, earthiness. The oak is quite different than I’m used to.

It reminds me of the tree trunks around our school yard. The brushes were thick and wet, which caused a layer of green, thin moss to grow on the north side of the trees which smelled a bit like this whisky. I don’t generally get those flashbacks based on scent, but this is one of them. I had to look it up on Google image search, but the trees were poplars.

Swallow:
The finish is somewhat greener and long. Plants and wet moss and tree trunks again. Wet oak, a lighter smoke, freshly chopped down trees.

With all the moss and swamp-like flavors and earth going on it is a bit of a dirty whisky. Maybe it’s because of the moss-on-poplar scent, but I really like this one. I know it’s not a ridiculously great whisky, but it sure is tasty and displays some interesting flavors that I’ve not come across all that often before. In that way it’s a very interesting addition to my collection and at the price it cost me (some € 65 I think) I’m happy I made the purchase.

It obviously also helps that I rather like BenRiach. I’m not much for wood finishing in all kinds of wine casks, but the virgin oak direction I find highly interesting. The fact that this one is peated too also helps. Not that I’m still very much in love with peated whiskies, but in this case it gives me a new experience.

BenRiach 2005-2014, 9yo, cask 3781, Virgin American Oak finish, 58.7%. Available at Master of Malt for € 70.80

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A weekend in the Ardennes with the in-laws

The radio silence on every bit of media except some ‘Facebook liking’ was caused by a weekend in Belgium, nearby Durbuy. I’m not entirely sure if you can call a Friday to Wednesday period a weekend though.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law (the latter being largely responsible for getting me into whisky) organize a family weekend every year and a half or so. It started with some anniversary about five years ago and since then we’ve gone back to the same spot a couple more times.

There’s a lot of good stuff about the weekend, but as with many festivals, I’m going to stick to some photo updates from my phone.

Emptying a staple on the first night.

Emptying a staple on the first night.

Farmers in Belgium charge per kilo for 'rape'

Farmers in Belgium charge per kilo for ‘rape’

Snow!

Snow!

Quite some beers during dinner

Quite some beers during dinner

Unpredictable pool situations

Unpredictable pool situations

With an even more inexplicable result

With an even more inexplicable result

Pulled Pork.

Pulled Pork.

No comment. This was from one day (8 people involved)

No comment. This was from one day (8 people involved)

Good pickings. Quite the luxurious cabinet

Good pickings. Quite the luxurious cabinet

Another game of pool with Westvleteren, and baby monitors.

Another game of pool with Westvleteren, and baby monitors.

And some heel slaying #1

And some heel slaying #1

And some heel slaying #2

And some heel slaying #2

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Auchentoshan Silver Oak, 21 year old, 51.5%, Travel Retail ‘only’

Yeah. Auchentoshan. The darling distillery of Toshan Man Mark Dermul. He’s also the guy I bought this sample of. I’ve had some good ones, but there are also some lesser ones and when this one came out a couple of years ago I thought it was a good idea to try and understand why Mark is such a huge fan.

He has admitted it’s not the best whisky in the world but he still clings to his fascination for it and, obviously, there are some awesome ones out there. He even manages to do an annual birthday tasting of just Auchentoshans for an entire evening. That seems like a tough one to keep interesting to me.

Anyway, this Silver Oak release from 2012 was done for Travel Retail and consists of American bourbon casks and some Oloroso sherry casks.

The triple distillation should give us a rather clean and fruity dram, if my memory serves.

Sniff:
It’s crisp right away with lemon and grassy scents. There’s some daisy, flowers (more general) and straw. Quite meadow like. A hint of oak and some minerals too.

Sip:
The palate shows some more oak and has a hint of white pepper that comes with the alcohol. I get hints of iron and apple, with flowers. It’s rather dry and sharp and doesn’t show a lot of age or wood influence. As in, there’s the flavor of wood, but it doesn’t taste ‘old’. Grass and straw, with some curry spices (turmeric and such).

Swallow:
The finish has more minerals even. More iron, apple treacle with the tin. Oak, slate. Weird.

I am not a fan. Far from it even. I don’t mind any of the flavors and none of those in particular would turn me off of a whisky, but in this case they just don’t work for me. I think the mineral and iron like flavors are not backed up by anything substantial and it just steers the dram in the wrong direction.

Also, the increased alcohol didn’t do anything for the dram apart from making it somewhat less drinkable. So, not being a fan is an understatement. I really don’t like this one. A bummer, since I generally appreciate a delicate Lowlands whisky, but I think in this case they wanted to make this one pretend to be something it’s not.

Note: The 21 year old bit I only found out after writing this review. Somehow I didn’t pick up on that. I think it doesn’t show in the whisky at all.

It’s not cheap either, clocking in just over € 100. Quite a lot actually, but it’s not a young whisky, even though you don’t really taste the age. There are some semi-new Auchentoshans out there, though. I did really love the NAS Auchentoshan’s Solera thingy. It being 21 years old does explain it a bit though.

If you want a cask strength Auchentoshan, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. Bummer.

Auchentoshan Silver Oak, 51.5%, Travel Retail ‘only’. Available at € 110 at Whiskybase.

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Mars Komagatake, The Revival 2011, 58%

With a name and age like this you would be inclined to think this is some joke from Glenglassaugh. Or maybe GlenDronach, but then it would have to be older. Five times older to be precise.

This sample was a surprise from Shai who participated in some bottle share I didn’t know about. I was part of a Google group for a while but I couldn’t say ‘no’ enough and ended up spending lots of money on not-really-wanted samples.

This three year old would most likely have been one to skip though. I am wont to pass on the most interesting samples for some reason. A bit like buying bottles that sometimes are sub par to what I could have gotten for the same amount of money.

But anyway, I have this one sitting here. I should have tried it a while ago, like some others I have in store. I hope to go through them in the coming months, as said before. So far, it’s going quite well and I’ve actually emptied more samples than I’ve added to the stash. I consider that a good thing.

The Shinsu Mars distillery in Japan (duh) has been closed for a while between 1992 and 2011. Quite strange since the place was only founded in 1985. This whisky is the first release since the reopening and has a low level of peat (8ppm).

Shinshu Mars Revival 2011. Image from Whiskybase

Shinshu Mars Revival 2011. Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The peat is discernible but quite light, as is the spirit itself. There is not much cask influence but the balance between oak, spirit and peat is nicely done. There’s a grassy note with some light vanilla notes and a scent of heather too. The peat is a bit like burning straw. The alcohol is not pungent at all.

Sip:
The palate has more alcohol than the nose, but still is quite light, even though it’s bottled at 58%. The peat is still grassy and straw like, with hints of heather and apple. There’s a certain minerality as well. Slate, iron, that kind of stuff.

Swallow:
The finish shows the youth of the whisky most, with more spirity notes. Not overly sweet, but there’s some unrefined alcohol, and a certain feel of cloying sugars. The alcohol is still light and it’s a slightly dry whisky, but again, not overly so. The bourbon influence is light with vanilla, lemon, puff pastry and some baked apple.

A strange one, this. Actually it’s quite awesome for something this young. There’s quite a lot going on and absolutely nothing to complain about. Obviously it lacks a bit of depth and complexity, but all flavors that are present are well integrated.

In Japan when it was released it used to cost some € 80 and it currently is available in Europe for € 130 (La Maison Du Whisky has it). This being a Japanese whisky I am actually surprised the price isn’t higher than this.

To summarize this. I love this dram. It’s not overly complex but dangerously drinkable and has some really nice flavors that belie its age. Getting a sample is highly recommended!

Mars Komagatake, The Revival 2011, 58%. Available at LMDW for € 130

Thanks to Shai for the sample! Loving it!

Posted in - Japanese Whisky, Mars Komagatake, Shinshu Mars | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Springbank Vintage 1996, Single Cask 263, 54.9%

Generally, when you think of a Fino cask matured whisky you’re not imagining a really deep brown dram. In this case, that would make you wrong.

Generally, when you think of a single cask from a distillery, bottled by themselves you’re not imagining an affordable dram. In this case, that would make you wrong.

Well, it used to at least. That last statement was true in 2009 when I bought this bottle. It’s bottled for the Hanseatische Weinhandelsgesellschaft in Bremen, Germany. It was put in the cask in 1996 and bottled in 2009 to make this 12 or 13 years old.

I got this when I got back from our first holiday in America, in the first couple of days after coming home. The Whiskykoning shop in Den Bosch still had two. I bought both of them based on a hunch that this one just might be nice. I wasn’t wrong.

Unfortunately, I just removed this one from my available samples list since I’m about to empty it. I’m glad I still have it since I’m need of a dram after two long days of just meetings!

Springbank 1996. Image from Whiskybase

Springbank 1996. Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
European oak and some yeasty fino hints far behind that. Dried fruits, but the lighter kind. Peaches and apricots. Some autumn leaves and a slight earthiness. Chocolate, mole and leather notes. Quite an interesting nose, to say the least.

Sip:
The palate is dry with some juicy dried fruits behind it. The alcohol is pretty fierce and burns in a rather peppery way. Much like chili pepper. There is a certain syrupy texture behind it, but it also slightly coarse. Leather, oak, autumnal and earthy.

Swallow:
The finish is warming and has more of the fino notes I found earlier. It’s still very earthy, autumnal and has an almost mushroom like flavor. Raw mushrooms. Also dried fruits and a certain meatiness. The finish turns slightly more sour with the yeasty flavors getting some more room.

This is an awesome whisky. Awesome as in, I think it’s a stellar dram and one of the best Springbanks I’ve had. And not to brag, but I’ve had some kick-ass Springbanks a couple of years ago. It’s been more quiet recently.

There is a bottle of this for sale on Whiskybase, and I suggest spending some money on it. Even at the current price of a hundred bucks, it’s quite worth it. As in, very, very much worth it.

Springbank Vintage 1996, Single Cask 263, 54.9%. Bottled for the Hanseatische Weinhandelsgesellschaft in Bremen, Germany. It used to go for € 67.50 back then but has gone up to slightly over € 110

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