Google Asia Tasting Diary Part 1a

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

December 9, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus’s Asia Tasting Diary: Part 1a
So, I’m in Asia for the first time. Visiting Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. (Sorry Hong Kong - next time for sure!). I’ve been visiting some great whisky friends who have been extremely generous with the whiskies they’ve opened and poured. So the following is a kind of unashamedly, maltoporn fuelled tasting diary of some of the highlights of my wee tour. Please accept my apologies in advance...


First, some drams at KC’s place in Taichung...  


Dalmore 20 yo (43%, OB, Duncan MacBeth, late 1960s) Dalmore 20 yo (43%, OB, Duncan MacBeth, late 1960s) A bottling which carries a pretty serious reputation. We tasted a terrific one from Jeroen on the Pre-War Whisky Tour back in 2014 (which Serge scored 92 at the time), this one was bottled a little later for the Italian market, not sure if it’s the same one that Serge scored 93 back in 2006. Let’s see what gives... Colour: Deep gold. Nose: The bees are calling! They want their hive back. A melee of various honeys, citrus liqueurs, green fruits, quince paste, plum compote and fig jam. This could almost be an aged Sauternes. Goes on with some wonderfully resinous and thick notes of camphor, a touch of phenolics and then crushed mint leaf and eucalyptus oil. Some tea tree oil and Darjeeling tea. Raisins stewed in cognac, banana bread, more menthol and some wonderfully soft spices and waxiness. A few mineral touches in the background. Mouth: The most marvellous and harmonious collection of honeys, pollen, wildflowers, aged mead, sunflower oil, wood spice, quince, plum sauce, five spice, cloves, mulling spices, orange peel. Beautiful and humbling complexity. More dark fruits such as dates, figs, pine resin, more old desert wines, some green tea and then a little limoncello. Finish: Long, waxy, textural and full of old yellow chartreuse, wormwood, ointment, green fruits and a few white stone fruits as well. Some lychee and rosewater; an aged dry Gewurztraminer. Comments: Unsurprisingly brilliant stuff. Thank goodness the current Dalmores are of this same style and quality. HA! (Sorry). SGP: 552 - 93 points.    


Glen Scotia 8 yo (46%, OB, bottled +/- 1960) Glen Scotia 8 yo (46%, OB, bottled +/- 1960) A fascinating bottle that I hadn’t seen until recently. This should have been bottled around the very early 1960s at the latest so probably represents one of the very few genuine, surviving examples of old-style Campbeltown malt whisky. I’m excited... Colour: Gold. Nose: A deep, earthy and vegetal peat. Some brilliant and sharp medicine and phenolics with crushed sea salt and notes of earth, hessian, sack cloth and some seashore aromas of kelp and old rope. Some fug of diesel fumes from an old puffer and a malt bin full of peated malt. Mouth: Oily in texture, huge, fat, emphatic and full of peaty and farmy bluster. Coins, motor oil, sheep wool, some ink and paint and then more of this really earthy, herbal, old style peat which is a flavour which seems only to exist in these really old whiskies (I’ve found it in very old Laphroaigs, Highland Parks, Glenfarclas and many very old blends for example). It’s dry but hugely expressive, these notes of aged medicine, dried seaweed and a little touch of honey and some orange peel are all ubiquitous. Quite marvellous and utterly thrilling to taste such an old Campbeltown single malt. Finish: Long and full of very elegant and deft mineral, medicinal and slightly smoky touches. A little bonfire smoke and a few crushed leaves, then finally some wonderfully nervous and jittery notes of cough medicine and throat lozenges. Comments: Real liquid history and yet another reminder of just how emphatic the changes to the character of Scotch whisky have been over the past fifty years. Emotional but also deeply instructive and terrific whisky. SGP: 367 - 94 points.  


And now, at the insistence of several friends here, a deadly serious interlude...  


Speyburn 13 yo 1971 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, mini) Speyburn 13 yo 1971 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, mini) In case you hadn’t heard, Speyburn really isn’t funny guys. Colour: Gold. Nose: Surprisingly good. Some rather nice drying leafy and spicy notes with fruit jams and cereals in the background. Some OBE which is by now a kind of mainstay character even for the full size bottles of these old Connoisseur’s Choice bottlings. Goes on with a little gravel, metal polish, leather and cold tea. Mouth: Still pretty good really. Plenty of these rather nice notes of light wax, breakfast cereal, olive oil, white pepper, minerals, even a little rancio and some tea tree oil. Surprisingly waxy really. Finish: Decent length. More of these metal and shoe polish notes. Some gorse and cactus notes and a little flicker of green fruit. A bit drying perhaps. Comments: Well, that was boringly acceptable. But seriously, a nice surprise. I wonder what these whiskies would be like today had G&M been bottling them at 46%. SGP: 441 - 83 points.  


Back to non-serious whisky...  


Littlemill NAS (43%, OB, short cap, Aldo Zini import Genova, early 1970s) Littlemill NAS (43%, OB, short cap, Aldo Zini import Genova, early 1970s) Colour: Pale straw. Nose: But this is tequila blanco. Seriously! This is a pure and blade like young tequila with notes of cactus flesh, agave, preserved lemons and then these wee touches of brine, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, an old coal scuttle, lemongrass, kaffir lime and eventually bay leaf, toasted coriander seed and something akin to caraway liqueur. The most beautifully pure, precise and vivid distillate you can imagine. Not a single trace of wood anywhere to be found. This is probably something like 5 year old whisky from dead wood. Something that works so perfectly when the distillate is this characterful and great. Mouth: Phew! The quality is consistent. Marvellously spicy, mineral, lemony and lively. Shares something of the old 5yo Clynelish bottlings with these oily notes like motor oil and linseed oil. White flowers, flints, stone fruits, pear flesh, pineapple cubes, some natural barley sweetness. Just brilliant. Finish: Long and full of lemons, pineapple, more agave, mineral oil, camphor and a touch of wax. Comments: I know several old bottlings of Littlemill from the 1970s such as the various 5 and 7 year old variants, I never rated any of them as being all that great. However, this is a total surprise. The kind of whisky that utterly shatters these ideas of what ‘Lowland’ whisky is or was. This is a big, complex, pure and brilliantly characterful old style, distillate driven dram. I adore it. SGP: 441 - 92 points.  


Springbank 10 yo (57%, OB, +/- 1980, Sutti import) Springbank 10 yo (57%, OB, Sutti import, +/- 1980) Colour: Straw. Nose: Glistening green and white fruits, wild flowers, barley sugar, hessian, seashore, wax and dried seaweed. An almost crystalline and perfect example of old school Springbank. These wonderfully precise and chiselled notes of wet rocks, minerals, sheep fanks, cow sheds and lemongrass. A tour de force for purity and distillate driven malt whisky. With water: it doesn’t seem to change too much, we’re still in this rather explosive spectrum of waxes, minerals, very light peat smoke, citrons, farmyard and coal hearths. Mouth: Lemons, ashes, BBQ liquid smoke, lychee, a whole seashore of minerals, wet beach pebbles, sand, a stray kipper, olive oil, cut grass, wax and paraffin. Lets cut to the water... with water: again water seems to not make a massive difference. Here it kind of widens and softens everything slightly so there is a kind of melting effect between the various flavours and characteristics. A majestic mix of mineral, citrus, wax and background peat flavours. Totally magnificent whisky! Finish: Long, drying, full of barley sugar, lemon peel, a little ointment, some herbal toothpaste, bandages and soot. White flowers and assorted fruits. Comments: Total, thrilling brilliance. Would have been worth living in Campbeltown back in the 1970s for. Once again, this is the sort of whisky that new start up distillers should endeavour to taste and understand. SGP: 553 - 94 points.  


Kawasaki 1976/2009 (65.6%, Ichiro’s Choice, refill sherry butts, 432 bottles) Kawasaki 1976/2009 (65.6%, Ichiro’s Choice, refill sherry butts, 432 bottles) Kawasaki was a Japanese single grain whisky which was made by the Mercian company from 1935 until 2006 when Mercian became acquired by Kirin holdings and both its distilleries - Kawasaki and Karuizawa - were closed. This is my first Kawasaki and, although I’m no grain enthusiast, I must say I am intrigued... Colour: Amber: Nose: Rich and full of freshly baked breads, toasted seeds, brioche, warm croissant, muesli and a few dark fruits which I suspect derive from the sherry - these notes of dates, fig rolls and dried cranberries. With a little time these really earthy notes begin to emerge, wonderfully old school sherried notes of toasted almonds, aged balsamic, rancio and fruit compotes. Some saltiness, a little gravel, maraschino cherries. So far this is shaping up to be one of the most complex grain whiskies I ever tasted. With water: marzipan strikes first then becomes increasingly waxy with notes of hessian and dunnage. More assorted oils, breads and some spiced fruits. Mouth: Despite the strength this is huge, oily and fruity. You can tell it is a grain whisky but the character is polished, with some surprising notes of wax, shoe polish, brasso, sunflower oil, brown bread and green peppercorns. More of these soft cereal notes of muesli, yellow flowers, buttered toast and a little strawberry liqueur. With water: tamarind chutney, soft brown sugar, some aged rhum and then a few throat lozenges. Beguilingly complex for a grain. Finish: Long and powerful. Big notes of petrol, rosewater, some molasses, a little more rancio, treacle, black pepper and cola cubes. Comments: Quite thrilling to try and surprisingly great. I don’t believe size is overtly related to quality in whisky making, but I wonder if the fact that Kawasaki was a particularly tiny grain distillery may have had something to do with the richness of this character. Although, I should point out, this is so far my only Kawasaki and this complexity may well be due to some excellent refill sherry casks. Either way, I’m impressed. SGP: 551 - 90 points.  


Right tomorrow, Singapore! That's right, on a Sunday...  


(Eternal thanks to KC for these drams.)  







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