Bad-Ass Whisky Night #4

My backlog of things to blog about is massive. I still have notes lying around from tastings I went to three years ago, and I still mean to use them for a write-up at some point. However, this tasting was only three months ago, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

As with all previous Bad-Ass Whisky Nights our little group of tasters went to De Whiskykoning at the end of winter for a night. We gave him a good bit of money and the assignment to arrange a tasting of cool whiskies. He’s in charge of the theme, of the bottles, of everything.

This year, for the first time, he ran a theme by me since he thought it was a good idea to do the whole Game of Thrones line of all <enter number of bottlings here> bottlings. However, I had bottle-shared some of them, and the reviews were rather scalding, so it didn’t really feel like it would live up to the level of bad-assness we’ve come to expect. That idea got scrapped.

Then it got spoiled just a little bit when we figured out one of the hints. CSMW turned out to be Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky. However, basing things on previous editions I expected there to be one Campbeltown whisky, but it turned out to be seven of them.

I wrote only short notes on this otherwise blind tasting. We knew only the provenance of the whiskies, nothing else.

20190322_2211371: Springbank 21, 2019 edition, 46%

Sweet sherry, stewed pears with quite a lot of oak. Some red berries, strawberries and a hint of port. It turned out to be the new 21 year old and, while initially a good whisky, it didn’t hold it’s own when the other whiskies started coming along.

Also, I found it a bit too sweet and too port-cask like, in a less than sublime way. Not bad, but not great either.

 

20190322_2213182: Springbank 25, 46%

This had more peat with a lot of sherry. Dried mango, peach, dates. Not too much oak.

If this was going to be the level of whiskies for the rest of the night, we’d be set. An awesome dram, with a lot of complexity and depth. Of course, it’s really hard to put a price to whiskies like these, but the hundreds of euros that this is going for is stretching it. A lot of it is for the number on the label.

 

20190322_2214253: Hazelburn Oloroso Cask, 14yo, 2018, 49.3%

Funnily enough, most of us at the table who had tried the 13 year old from 2017 thought whisky number one was the newer version of the Hazelburn 14. Were we wrong…

I got olive oil, oak and furniture polish. A hint of mint too. The increased ABV was noticeable. It’s a very dry whisky with notes of clove, apricot and a whiff of sulfur. Vanilla too.

I was positively surprised by this. Mostly because I had also tried it in last year’s Blind Tasting Competition and thought it was shit. This time around, I liked it much better.

20190322_2217404: Springbank 12, Cask Strength, 2019, 54.8%

This one was an instant hit. We were with ten guys at the tasting, and I think six of us bought a bottle of this, yours truly included.

This whisky is much like whisky from two decades before this was actually distilled. A lot of depth and old fashioned notes that are currently considered weird and funky. Which is exactly why I liked it so much. Very farmy with dry horse shit and peat. Lots of oak, wood spices, salt and minerals. Basalt, with dry hints of thyme. Even a floral hint towards the end.

What a cracker. The farmy notes are not unlike Brora’s farmy notes (in my memory at least, it’s been ages since I tried Brora) and those scents and flavors are rare, nowadays.

20190322_2220135: Springbank Local Barley, 1965-2001, 36yo, 52.4%

Apparently, we were only thinking we were having an awesome tasting up to this point. I have had the luck to be able to try this whisky some years ago as well, and I instantly recognized the style. I was sitting next to WhiskyNerds Bram and after the first sniff we looked at each other, smiling, and knowing, but still a little bit in denial.

This whisky is one of those drams that change your outlook on whisky. When people write a review stating that a whisky is good but not life-changing, this is the opposite. An absolutely epic dram, and surely the best dram I’ve tried this year, maybe even over the last five years.

The hints of glue, engine oil and diesel smoke are only the start of what’s there to be discovered. Lots of fruity sherry with oak, slate and flint. Very old fashioned, and it blew everything else out of the water.

All ten of us just sat there admiring this whisky in complete silence. Which never happens.

The only one with a rating, and I think I’d have to rate this 97/100

20190322_2221486: Longrow Red, 11yo, 2019, Pinot Noir Casks, 53.1%

Unfortunately, after that, it can only be less good. Luckily these whiskies still knew how to leave an impression, since it went in quite a different direction.

This whisky gave away it’s fruitiness right away, but it’s not so obviously a wine cask that it turned us off.

Old boates in a dry dock. Smoke, rope, oak. We assumed wrongly that the fruitiness was from a sherry cask. Spiced, smoky, ashy even. Quite sharp and dry, and strangely, with a hint of banana candy and hay.

20190322_2224297: Longrow 18, 2019, 46%

We were more or less unanimous that this must be the Longrow 18 and we guessed it right. It’s a very distinct whisky that was received with a lot of praise around the table. Even though it is ‘only’ at 46%.

The whisky is smooth with quite some smoke and peat. Minerals like iron and slate and basalt, with quite some salinity. Dry, with straw and ash. A lot more modern than what came before, strangely.

 

As you might guess, this was quite the tasting. It wasn’t ‘cheap’, but compared to what we tried it was a bargain. Especially if you appraise the Local Barley properly. Massive, unending gratitude towards Rob at De Whiskykoning is appropriate!

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About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm. highly interested in booze, with a focus on whisk(e)y. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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