As every spring, Rob Stevens / De Whiskykoning hosts a seasonal tasting. Even though tastings couldn’t happen in person, there have been these sets of samples available for us to enjoy at home.
Winter Whisky is peated, Summer is Speyside, Autumn are Highlands and Campbeltown whiskies, and Spring used to be Lowlands whiskies. I say ‘used to be’ since there’s not much coming from that region anymore, and grain whiskies had to be added to make this tasting a possibility.
Of course, one could go to auctions and pick-up rare bottles of Inverleven, Rosebank and St. Magdalene, but that would push the price quite a ways beyond the € 25 for six drams… Luckily, some new distilleries have started production in the last couple of years in the region, so things are looking up!
Let’s dive in with these six Lowlands and Grain whiskies!
1770 Glasgow, Virgin Oak, Triple Distilled, 46%
Very clean with some barley sugar. A bit more vanilla than I expected of such a young whisky. Some white pepper to brings a bit of bite and dryness.
Quite sharp with lots of white pepper. A whiff of oak, some sawdust, icing sugar. A rather powdery texture, somehow. Very clean, which is not surprising for a triple distilled whisky. Some straw too. It becomes lighter and therefore a bit more hot after a while.
The finish is drier, more peppery with less oak and more grist. Barley, icing sugar. Not too much vanilla here, luckily.
Nicely on it’s way, but it’s not there yet. It needs more time to mature. Now it’s a bit too harsh, and because of the triple distillation, it’s very clean, and therefore it lacks a bit of character.
Bladnoch 11, Bourbon casks, 2021 release, 46.7%
The first thing that comes to mind is that is smells a bit eggy? Meringue, with a bit of a whipped cream note. A slight burnt toast edge, with banana. Banoffee pie?
Again, creamy, with pastry cream, meringue, but also some sawdust and chili pepper. A whiff of vanilla, some straw, grass. Quite some dry heat.
The finish shows cassis notes, blue berries, black berries. Semolina pudding.
Ridiculously inconsistent, but oh so typical Bladnoch. It makes for interesting drinking, but as always, you never know what you’re going to get!
Kingsbarns Family Reserve, Bourbon and STR Wine Casks, 59.2%
You notice there’s a lot of alcohol, but it’s slightly concealed, in a way. You get the sweetness that comes with it. Also, there’s pineapple and straw. Slightly yogurt-like. Lots of yellow fruit. Unripe pear, pineapple, lemon and orange.
The alcohol manifests itself as a lot of dryness with a rapidly building heat. And by heat I mean tongue-searing chili heat. Virtually no oak, but heaps of yellow fruit. Pears, apples, pineapples, oranges. Some vanilla, but not a lot.
The finish is a bit short, but again with lots of fruit. Even a tad minty. Banana, vanilla, pear and apple.
I didn’t really notice the STR (Shaved, Toasted, Recharred) casks, so the shaving of the insides must have happened thoroughly. What I did notice was the massively fruity whisky. I really like what they’re doing here and I can only dream (for now) of what this will be like at 12 years old or older!
Dumbarton 27, 1992-2019, Amarone Wine Cask Finish, 49.4% – The Grainman
Lots of fruit, thick and heavy. Mashed berries and banana, pulpy fruit cocktail. Glue sticks, some oak, thick vanilla custard.
More oak than on the nose, but still with the thick vanilla custard notes. Some black pepper comes through after a few seconds. Pureed fruit on top of the custard. Banana, blackberries, cherries even. It gets drier with some glue-y notes after a few seconds. A second sip brings some nuttiness, peanuts, Brazil nuts.
The finish shows more of the wine casks tannins, with some charcoal. The fruitiness is slightly less and there’s coldbrew coffee. Brazil nuts, peanuts, oily and dry.
This is actually quite nice, a lot more complex than I expected, surprisingly. I was a bit worried about the amarone finish, especially with a light grain whisky. But, not to worry, the booze stands up to the cask nicely!
North British 28, 1991-2020, Refill Sherry Butt 262075, 46.2% – Signatory Vintage
Nutty with a hint of turpentine. Some baking spices, grain and oak. Wax coats, some dried plums. Slightly perfumy, in a way.
The palate is a bit thin, compared to the previous grain whisky. There’s still some banana, but more chocolate covered cherry. Cheap milk chocolate, some popcorn.
The finish brings back the hint of turpentine and feinty wax coats and some leather. Dry, and warming. Popcorn, a bitter hint of cherry stones too.
Weird, but absolutely not bad. The thinness is mostly surprising and, strangely, not a drawback at all. A few years ago I would have worried about a sherry cask with a grain whisky, as I did with the Amarone cask, but I’ve been proven unnecessarily concearned about that a few times now.
This is quite a tasty dram!
Auchentoshan 19, 2000-2020, Hogshead 800160, 56.1% – Signatory Vintage
This one is very light, very ethereal. There’s some floral notes and a hint of straw. Dried flowers, some hay, grass. Cinnamon, after a while.
The palate is dry and brings hints of white pepper. Some straw dryness with hints of dried wild flowers. After a few seconds the alcohol starts pounding through with a lot of chili heat and a whiff of oak. A minuscule note of lemon juice.
The finish is a bit more mature and slightly less aggressive. Some oak and heavier, older notes of wood and old fruit. Still some peppery heat, and straw.
In a way this is very much a Lowlands style dram, but while it theoretically ticks all the boxes, it just doesn’t do it for me. It simply doesn’t work. It’s too hot, too ethereal, to bland.
Well, that was fun! After the tasting I immediately ordered a bottle of the Kingsbarns for a tasting of my own. People in that tasting didn’t like it as much as I did, but it was still rather well received.
The Auchentoshan obviously was a bit of a let-down, although I don’t really have high expectations for that distillery anyway (sorry Mark…)
JPH and I did have a fun evening of nerd-talk and tasting notes with this set, though!
The tasting set is still available here, for € 30. And you get an introduction on Youtube with every dram (in Dutch)
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