Google Drams for Jonny's birthday

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

November 4, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Drams for Jonny's birthday
So, this weekend we are up in Drumnadrochit to belatedly celebrate my good friend Jonny’s birthday. Jonny ‘works’ for Berry Brothers so we’ll try a couple of very old Berry’s bottlings to commemorate the occasion. And maybe a bonus or two. But first: an extremely serious and very unfunny aperitif...


Speyburn 21 yo 1978/1999 (58.8%, OB, cask #2867) Speyburn 21 yo 1978/1999 (58.8%, OB, cask #2867) A very serious bottling by a very serious distillery. This is no laughing matter people. Colour: Bronze. Beautifully nervous, resinous, earthy sherry. Rich, nutty and redolent with notes of aged balsamico, rancio, dunnage and damp sackcloth. Remarkably clean and luscious sherry. Notes of cherry liqueur, Darjeeling tea, black pepper and mushroom powder. Quite marvellous! With water: More earthiness! Coal hearths, many dried herbal notes, aged yellow Chartreuse, a touch of aged Sauternes. Really beautiful. Mouth: Dense dark fruits. Notes of dates, prunes, sultana puree, salted dark chocolate, chocolate limes, molasses, caramelised brown sugar and strawberry jam. Perfect, pin sharp earthiness, a lick of tropical fruit and some star anise and Chinese five spice. With water: A dollop of prune juice, olive oil, camphor, green fruits and some very lean, slightly saline cured meat. Finish: Long, earthy, resinous, green and dark fruits, more rancio and sparkling spiciness. Comments: Probably the best Speyburn I’ve ever had. No joke! SGP: 641 - 91 points. Jonny: 90 points.  


Ok, maybe more aperitifs...  


Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (52.1%, The Whisky Agency for Water Of Life Japan, cask #8)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (52.1%, The Whisky Agency for Water Of Life Japan, cask #8) A bottling selected by the great Hideo Yamaoka and hailing from a certain independent, family owned distillery that may or may not reside on the Ballindalloch estate... Colour: A maze of fruit! Green, tropical, garden variety and even stone fruits. Fresh fruits, fruit syrups and various fruit compotes. Gooseberry tart, shortcrust pastry, fresh honey, aged calvados, gorse flowers, meadowsweet, rapeseed oil and a few toasted cereals. A beautiful and harmonious nose. Jonny suggests notes of lychee and desiccated cocoanut - I don’t disagree! With water: Softer, more herbal, old Benedictine, tool boxes, a softer waxiness and notes of crushed gorse.



Mouth: The fruit holds! But there’s also many fresh breads, cereals, waxes, hessian, green tea, menthol, crushed mint, eucalyptus oils. The mouth equals the nose perfectly which is not something you can say for all these ‘aged Speysiders’. Tea tree oil, mint creams, green fruit syrups, tinned pineapple, banana chips. With water: Eucalyptus oil, a nibble of marzipan, orange liqueur, bay leaf, caraway and a little heathery note. Finish: Long, with a lingering fruitiness both green and tropical fading to a crisp dryness - notes of good Manzanilla - and some light heathery notes again. Comments: There are quite a few of these Glenfarc...err ‘Speyside Regions’ around, but this is one of the best in my opinion. SGP: 641 - 91 points. Jonny: 91.  


Liqueur Scotch Whisky of great age (No ABV stated, Berry Bros & Co, driven cork, bottled circa 1920) Unknown Berry’s Bottle (Berry Brothers & Co., bottled 1930s) A very old Berry’s bottle. Sadly the label has been destroyed but the capsule tells us it is by Berry Brothers & Co, not Rudd, and it has an old style stopper cork. Combined with the glass coding this tells us that the bottle is definitely pre-1941 and should have been bottled sometime in the 1930s. Colour: Pale gold. Nose: Typically dusty, mineralic, estery and with a simmering, farmyard complexity and a beautifully elegant, organic and herbal peatiness. A light metallic edge as is common with these old bottlings. Some bailed hay, jars of very old dried herbs, old paint, ink, parchment, vellum, crushed seashell, chalk duster. A glimmer of white stone fruits. Bramble, malt bins, the inside of an old malt mill (not the distillery). More gravely and mineral notes emerge with time. Very gentle aromas of hessian and dunnage as well. Mushroom and earthy notes emerge with time.  


Mouth: The alcohol is well preserved but the texture is most impressive. It’s fat, emphatic and oily with a beautifully lean waxiness. Beeswax, green mango skin, white pepper, flints, coal hearth and BBQ smoke. Some smoky bacon notes and more of these beautiful herbal complexities with camphor, cod liver oil, peat resin and even a touch of aged medicine. Finish: Nervous and long with big farmy notes, some earthy, drying phenols, coal dust and a lingering waxy and compost notes. Comments: The consensus is that it is probably an old St James Blend. The malt content is evidently quite high and globally it is beautiful with real elegance and precision of flavour. It’s obviously held its strength well and the feeling generally is one of emotion and beauty. As is so often the case with these remarkable glimpses into the past. SGP: 265 - 90 points. Jonny: 91 points.  


Liqueur Scotch Whisky of great age (No ABV stated, Berry Bros & Co, driven cork, bottled circa 1920) Liqueur Scotch Whisky of great age (No ABV stated, Berry Bros & Co, driven cork, bottled circa 1920) An ancient Berry’s bottling from the 1920s or possibly quite a bit earlier. Colour: Gold. Nose: Peat, salt, ash, wet leaves, sheep wool, minerals, beach pebbles, orange peel, coal hearths, clove rock, lemon zest. What a nose! Alive with freshness and power even after around 100 years in bottle. Menthol, motor oil, boiler smoke, struck flints, lime zest and a pin sharp gooseberry and white stone fruit note. Touches of lapsang souchong tea, dusty medicine cabinets, aniseed balls, biltong, cracked leather sofas. These aged characteristics just keep coming.  


Unknown Berry’s Bottle (Berry Brothers & Co., bottled 1930s) Mouth: Fat, glistening oily notes with toasted cereals, boot polish, green fruits, coal dust, hessian and wet earth. Some white balsamico, tar liqueur, aged herbal liqueurs, salted liquorice, aged white port, mushroom pate, pipe tobacco and salted fish. Becomes increasingly coastal with time, with leaner, citrus fruit notes emerging. Really quite remarkable. Probably an extremely high malt content blend or just a pure malt that needs a week or two of breathing to become properly settled. Finish: Long and filled with wax, paraffin, various oils, sea salt, preserved lemon and wood ash. Some delicate metallic notes in the fade as to be expected. Comments: Yet another remarkably fresh and quite beguilingly beautiful old bottling. Malt or blend? This one was freshly opened so probably a little too soon to tell but the pleasure and the emotion is sky high! SGP: 354 - 91 points. Jonny 91 points.    


And a couple of bonuses...  


Springbank 1965/1994 (53.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.28) Springbank 1965/1994 (53.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.28) Colour: Teak. Nose: The most astonishing array of dark, concentrated fruits, precious hardwoods, fruit compotes, rancio, aged Cognac, herbal toothpaste - Euthymol, that kind of thing - molasses, aged Jamaican rum and old boiler sheds. A myriad nose, the kind of complexity that can only come from a perfect sherry cask, impeccable distillate and time. Aged Boal madeira, dunnage warehouses, pipe tobacco, camphor, soot, fresh tar. A bewilderingly beautiful and - dare I say it - distinctly Springbank kind of character. More subtle herb notes, wet soil, menthol, charcuterie, charred wood. Poetic! With water: Old leather, furniture polish, an old engine and - eventually - a deftly poised mineral note. Also assorted citrus rind, lemon oil and various colours of freshly ground pepper.  


Mouth:  The most perfect combination of ancient balsamico, walnut wine, aged Pinot Noir, old Chartreuse, coal hearths, motor oil, peanut brittle (of all things!), olive oil, herb liqueur and hardwood resins. Some maraschino, the world’s best Manhattan, cocktail bitters and a fug of paraffin wax. With water: Soot, soil, wet leaves, moss, crushed pecans, brazil nuts and dense, dark, resinous fruits: prune juice, date compote and morello cherries. Finish: A long distance marathon along a knife-edge of earth, candied fruits, rancio, old library books and   dried tropical fruits. Comments: Upsetting amazing and historic juice. Anyone serious about whisky should endeavour to taste this. SGP: 545 - 94 points. Jonny: 95 points.  


B. McMillan ‘Finest Old Scotch Whisky’ (Dundee, Bottled circa 1900) B. McMillan ‘Finest Old Scotch Whisky’ (Dundee, Bottled circa 1900) An extremely old, possibly 19th century bottle, that Jonny has kindly opened to mark the occasion of him becoming a man. Rejoice we shall! Colour: Gold. Nose: A highly polished nose. Redolent with pine resin, shoe polish, old furniture, leather books, dried mint, eucalyptus oils and a lick of sarsaparilla. The nose is punchy and increasingly coastal. Notes of salted fish, old rope and fishing harbours. Some gravel, fish nets, sea air, minerals and a slug of white wine vinegar. There is peat but it is earthy, nervous, herbal and intricate in its complexity. Some dazzlingly sharp notes which touch on fresh lemon juice and even Mezcal. Mouth: Hugely fat! Dense, oily, earthy, peaty and rich with notes of tar resin, herbal liqueur, dried seaweed, coal tar soap, mercurochrome, old copper coins, various oils, crushed and toasted seeds and freshly shot game. Further notes of hessian, smoked butter, strap leather and even a few touches of green fruit. Some clay and a little plasticine are matched by some meaty qualities. Quite brilliant. Finish: Earthy and full of soft phenols, ink, clay and smoked tea. Comments: Another rather emotional and delicious old bottle. Again the strength and poise remain pretty impressive. But, of course, the emotional factor remains pretty much un-scoreable. SGP: 264 - 90 points. Jonny: 90 points.  


Thanks to Jonny, Hideo, Jan and... me actually ;)  







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