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

May 28, 2019


Mixed bags

Another mixed bag de la muerte of the world

Wasn’t that stoopid headline rather self-explanatory? Let’s see what we have today…

Affinity (46%, Compass Box, blend of Scotch Whisky & Calvados, 6,028 bottles, 2019)

Affinity (46%, Compass Box, blend of Scotch Whisky & Calvados, 6,028 bottles, 2019) Two stars and a half
It’s the kind of mixture we all do at home, especially when we have leftovers, but this time you can have it readymade, or premixed. In France we call this kind of cocktail ‘a cercueil’, which means ‘a coffin’. That too may be rather self-explanatory. Colour: gold. Nose: clearly, the calvados is leading the pack. It is, actually, some kind of softened Calvados, with some cider, apple crumble, poiré (pear cider), then rather touches of honey, orange juice and vanilla. It’s fine, it’s easy, it’s pleasant. Mouth: a tad less cider-dominated, but there is a kind of bitterish fizziness at first, then mineral/chalky notes, with touches of wax that would clearly hint at Clynelish. I think they stroke some kind of balance here, but there are also raisins that make it a tad sweet, reminding me of some ice wine finish that I tried the other day. I would have used refill bourbon, but that’s just me. Finish: medium, still rather more on Calvados than on malt, although a lemony/chalky wax would keep singing in the aftertaste. Comments: why not? It’s very well made, which was to be expected, you just have to enjoy Calvados. Good, can we have mezcal + Caol Ila next time? Hampden + Laphroaig? Or there, gentian + Springbank? Girvan + Southern Comfort? (Delete as appropriate).
SGP:641 - 78 points.

Let’s hop from Scotland/Normandy to Germany (rings a bell, doesn’t it – we love you Freundinnen und Freunde).

Glen Els 5 yo ‘Malaga’ (51.3%, OB, Germany, batch #1678, 108 bottles, +/-2018)

Glen Els 5 yo ‘Malaga’ (51.3%, OB, Germany, batch #1678, 108 bottles, +/-2018) Four stars
It is ‘The Glen Els’, actually, but it is German single malt, either aged or just finished (not too sure) in a quarter cask that had been seasoned (I suppose) with Spanish Malaga wine. How ‘world’ is that? Colour: rich amber. Nose: this reminds me of some crazy bloodtubs that Bruichladdich were doing. High extraction/flavouring and true punch in your face, but sometimes you had miracles. Believe me or not, there is some kind of miracle happening here. Sure the Malaga feels (PX? Moscatel?) and so do some curry-like spices plus a lot of aniseed, but it would just click. I’m surprised I enjoy it a lot (am I not on the edge of schizophrenia?) With water: wonderful chocolate and wood smoke. Pine wood, barbecue, cassis… Mouth (neat): well, this is excellent. I remember Zuidam/Millstone were having something similar. Creamy mouth feel and a lot of chocolate, sloe gin, raisins, bitter oranges, PX  indeed, spicy oak (clove)… With water: it goes the distance! Spicy marmalade, raisins, a little syrup… Finish: long, perhaps a tad too sweet now, but not to unbearable extents. Comments: surprise surprise! To think that I was about to dislike it (you’re right, I may need a shrink)…
SGP:763 - 87 points.

Kavalan 2012/2018 ‘Vinho Barrique’ (53.2%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Taiwan, cask # W120614028, 180 bottles)

Kavalan 2012/2018 ‘Vinho Barrique’ (53.2%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Taiwan, cask # W120614028, 180 bottles) Five stars
BTW, congrats Taiwan on the legalisation of same-sex marriage! Full maturation in wine here, but aren’t some good folks’ finishings longer than this full maturation? A for the wine that’s been in use, no ideas but as they use both the word vinho (Portuguese) and barrique (so no pipes or other typical Port casks), this might be Douro or something. Unless it’s just some coopers’ fantasy. Colour: full amber. Nose: richer and rounder than the German, but less smoky. This is more proper sherry than red wine, which we shall just applaud. Jaffa cakes aplenty, marmalade, mirabelle jam, tarte tatin, prunes, pipe tobacco, garden peat, compost… Well, this is pretty perfect. With water: more perfect yet. Cakes, energy bars, maple syrup, sultanas… Mouth (neat): excellent and rather between malt whisky and an old rye. It is unusual indeed, sweet and spicy, with loads of creamy orange liqueur, ginger, turmeric, and really a lot of vanilla, rather than cassis or other ex-red wine flavours. Was this barrique ‘virgin and charred’ when filled or seasoned with the wine? With water: it takes water well but it’s displaying even more spicy rye. Touches of lavender, nutmeg… Finish: long and all on similar flavours. And it would leave your mouth perfectly fresh. Comments: it’s always crucifying to give a high score to a very young whisky, but there.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

We’re having big ones, so not sure we’ll have many… Big ones are more tiring! Oh, another Vinho…

Kavalan 2012/2017 ‘Vinho Barrique’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, Solist, cask # W12122530A)

Kavalan 2012/2017 ‘Vinho Barrique’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, Solist, cask # W12122530A) Five stars
Really, vinho? Or did they source their casks from… Macao? Colour: dark gold, so even less red wine, if any. Nose: some kind of refill? Or some white vinho? Alvarinho? Bical? Viosinho? Encruzado? Arinto?... It’s just totally lovely, all we’d need now is some Pastéis de Belém. A perfect match. Perfect mirabelle and quince jams, apricot compote, custard, juicy golden sultanas… With water: American oak rather than wine, vanilla, touches of blood oranges, more mirabelles, and a certain Balvenie-ness. Apologies to William Grant. Mouth (neat): it’s pretty perfect indeed. Mirabelle jam and touches of gunflints and white pepper. Works perfectly. With water: same. Some engaging lightness, not often to be encountered in wineskies. Finish: medium, on yellow jams and syrups. Custard, apricots, plums, acacia honey (a disaster in Europe this year, almost no acacia honey!) Comments: I doubt, very highly, that any red wine was ever involved here. Excellent whisky, in any case.
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Okay, let’s do something unlikely, try to find another young whisky of the world that was fully matured in wine barriques and bottled at the very same strength. Gauntlet taken up, some rummage done... Et voilà!

Smögen 8 yo 2011/2019 (57.8%, OB, Sweden, first fill Sauternes barriques, casks # 4 8-10/2011, 1628 bottles)

Smögen 8 yo 2011/2019 (57.8%, OB, Sweden, first fill Sauternes barriques, casks # 4 8-10/2011, 1628 bottles) Five stars
Only good things to say about Smögen – as long as they do no surströmming finish, having said that. Colour: deep gold. Nose: you feel the barrique much more, and the sweet white much more as well. Maybe because these were proper ex-château wine barriques and not some whisky coopers’ bespoke creations. And French oak vs. American. Anyway, mirabelles and apricots for sure, vanilla as well, ditto acacia honey, yellow flowers, rose petals… But also some camphor and some eucalyptus, which weren’t in the excellent Taiwanese whiskies (really, kudos on same-sex marriage, Taiwan!) With water: touches of manure and stewed white asparagus, game, mashed potatoes, and plantains. Less fruits. Mouth (neat): very creamy, and pretty sémillony. In case you don’t know, Sémillon is Sauternes’ main grape variety. No sulphur whatsoever, which is a miracle since they have to use a lot of sulphur with sweet wine casks, which are extremely fragile and prone to rot once emptied. With water: well, apparently this is a day for miracles. The mirabelles, apricots and acacia honey are back. Finish: long, totally clean, with some papayas that I hadn’t noticed before. Comments: it’s not easy to use proper Sauternes barriques, but it’s one of the wine casks that can do wonders. Glann ar Mor’s Jean Donnay had pioneered their use, beyond, for example, Glenmo’s much simpler finishings. Having said that, sweet Sauternes don’t sell too well these days (1) the makers they’re all going for dry whites. Hope these wonderful ‘sweet’ barriques will still be available in the future. (1) That and global warming.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Well, this little session de la muerte was not de la muerte at all, after all! Excuse me? Going on? That’s tricky, we just had a flight of 90-ers and the next one will be in an uncomfortable position… But there. Oh and we haven’t had a Chichibu yet, while we’re now trying to sneak one of those in every time we’re doing one of these crazy world sessions… Oh there, you only live once…

Hellyers Road 16 yo 2002/2018 ‘Original’ (64.5%, OB, Tasmania/Australia, cask #2241.06, 191 bottles)

Hellyers Road 16 yo 2002/2018 ‘Original’ (64.5%, OB, Tasmania/Australia, cask #2241.06, 191 bottles) Four stars
Well, they can handle a little BS too, with their ‘some of the world’s purest drinking water’. But there, we’ve had some brilliant Hellyers Road in the past, and a little hyperbole can’t do no harm from time to time. On the contrary! Colour: gold. Nose: it is, as expected, completely different. More restrained, probably more elegant and subtle, with first some assorted oils and vegetables. Sunflower, sesame, pine nut oil, then celeriac and asparagus stewed in some slightly sweetened water, then some white tea and broken branches, white carrots, fresh almonds… Indeed it’s all rather subtle, despite the insane, quasi-homicidal strength. With water: lovely, it gets breadier, a tad acetic, yeasty, and stunningly ‘from the woods’. Humus, mushrooms… Mouth (neat): love this, it’s just that it burns you. I cannot swallow one single drop. But I can feel it’s brilliant, rather almondy and pine-y, a little balsamic… Oh well, with water: phew, we tamed it. Gingerbread, spicy oak, pumpernickel, pumpkin seed, porridge, ginseng, nutmeg, cinnamon, corn bread, green bananas, poppy seeds… Finish: same for a long time, with just touches of new planks and a little wood smoke. Comments: simply loved this one too. The oak feels a wee bit, but after all, it’s sixteen year old whisky! By the way, flying to Tasmania one day is one of my secret dreams.
SGP:451 - 87 points.

Great world session indeed. And so, we said we’d try yet another Chichibu before we call this a proper tasting session…

Chichibu 6 yo 2010/2017 (59.2%, OB, Japan, fino hogshead, cask #2627, 293 bottles)

Chichibu 6 yo 2010/2017 (59.2%, OB, Japan, fino hogshead, cask #2627, 293 bottles) Three stars and a half
A fino hogshead is either a hogshead that was recoopered from ex-fino butt staves, or a regular hogshead that was seasoned with fino sherry, hopefully in the sherry triangle. I suppose it’s the latter that they’ve been using here. Remember, fino’s kept and matures under flor, and is bone dry. Colour: full gold. Nose: these are not quite nosing whiskies, at least not when they haven’t been reduced yet. A little vanilla, tapioca, sawdust, celeriac, fresh baguette, liquorice wood… With water: gets really earthier, and drier. Notes of white balsamic vinegar, wine cellar, old barrels, cut grass, raw cocoa… It’s a profile that I love, but it’s subtle and perhaps a little too discreet. You cannot talk while nosing this, it needs all of your attention. Mouth (neat): it’s rather soft. I’m finding tangerines, sesame paste, peanut butter, vanilla, brioche, and probably touches of mustard and fresh walnuts from the fino. Well, certainly. With water: much different! Horseradish (very fino), dry lemons, mustard, bags of fresh walnuts, and then this bitter development that’s maybe a little too much. Heavy spicy oak, wasabi, bitter almonds… The oak seized control at this point. Finish: same. Sharp oak spices, roots, mustard, walnuts. In short, concentrated fino. Comments: a very good variation, but I think fino is very tricky. I’m all for pure bourbon in the case of Chichibu, I would never counter their brilliant distillate using unlikely wine casks, even high-class Montrachet or Haut-Brion Blanc. But indeed, not my business, at all.
SGP:362 - 84 points.

That was a nice trip, from London to Normandy to Germany to Taiwan to Sweden to Tasmania to Japan. Adios!

(Merci Lucero and other excellent friends)







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