Sunday, 14 September 2014

Master of Malt 50 Year Old Speyside (3rd. Edition)

After eight months and trying numerous new whiskies I have reached the highlight and end of the Advent Sessions. Today I will try the oldest whisky I have ever had the pleasure of trying. This 50 year old whisky is a Master of malt "mystery" distillery release. I have no idea who made this whisky, although I have heard someone suggest that it was Mortlach. It doesn't really matter as I will likely never know the truth and it is exciting all the same. This whisky is much older than I am and so it deserves a lot of respect. I haven't taken to calling it sir, but I will take my time to get to know it.

I also struggled with finding suitable music to pair. I didn't want the music to detract from the whisky, and I at one point was contemplating not having music at all. I wound up deciding on classical music as I felt it would be appropriate. The piece I went with was Beethovens' 9th symphony. I'm not sure which orchestra is playing here. I chose this piece because of the memories it brings to mind. I recall a gentleman speaking about the Glenfiddich 50 year and likening the taste of it to being kissed by an angel. This leads me to think of those moments when you are so taken with a scene you swear you can hear angels singing, for instance walking into a room with a large collection of fine malts. The fourth movement of the 9th symphony always makes me think of angels singing. I recall a time were my wife and I were in a hotel in Chiang Mai watching a movie called "Copying Beethoven". During the movie there is a scene where the 9th is played. When the Choir began singing we both had tears in our eyes. The piece never fails to move me.

Now lets taste this potentially heavenly dram.

Nose: Wood, Creamy vanilla, plum cobbler, some pepper and citrus, and all around is a floral perfume reminiscent of an old church lady. Delightful. Fills the nose with thoughts of a church bake sale. Am I getting close to the angels singing? After letting it sit a while the whisky develops a buttery note adding to the bake sale theme.

Palate: The first thing I am struck by is the mouth feel. WOW. It is silky, velvety and creamy. Sugary sweet wood and vanilla are the first notes I can identify, The wood notes develop a burnt edge after time. This in turn yields notes of raisins and other dried fruits.

Finish: The liquid goes down the throat like water. It is very smooth and leaves behind notes of wood and a slight metallic bit that lasts a long time. Sugary notes are also present and let themselves be known intermittently.

A beautiful whisky for sure. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to try it. I can't really say that I heard angels sing. I am not certain that the age has made a profound difference but I am so happy to have been able to try a whisky that has until this day been something of folklore to me.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Clynelish 1997 Oloroso Sherry Distillers Edition

Today I will be tasting the second last whisky from my advent calendar. That means that the next tasting will be the 50 year old... Very exciting.

Back to today... the guest of honour is the Clynelish 1997 Oloroso Sherry Distillers Edition. This whisky was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012, which makes it a 15 year old (or possibly 14 depending on the months). I have only had the pleasure of trying a Clynelish once before and I was very happy with it.

For music I am listening to Pink Floyds' Atom Heart Mother. This is Pink Floyds' fifth studio album. The cover features a simple (albeit beautiful) photo of a cow in pasture. There is no writing on the cover. Sound wise it sounds like a movie soundtrack. It also makes great driving music. Now to see how it pairs with whisky.

Nose: Orchard fruit that is lightly spiced. I also got notes of raisins, charred wood and a hint of an almost candy like aroma. Delicious.

Palate: A mouth watering blast of delicious fruit that is tapered by baking spices and honey. It is like the flavour profile of a home baked strawberry rhubarb pie with cherries and boysenberries. There is also a leathery quality hidden within layers of vanilla and wood.

Finish: The finish is very smooth and long. It is also quite dry. It leaves me with notes of burnt raisins and perhaps some milk chocolate.

I am really happy with this whisky. I found it to be very complex. It also reminded me of fresh baked pie and that has to be worth a bunch of extra points. The music is enjoyable. It seemed to take a back seat to the whisky, content to just linger in the background supportive but not really involved. I think this album is best suited for times were I am able to just focus on it.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Bowmore 15 Year Old "Darkest"

Bowmore is one of the more famous of Scotlands’ famous Islay distilleries. According to their website they are the first of the Islay distilleries having been distilling there since 1779, which I suppose kinda makes them the “Godfathers” of Islay whisky. This 15 year old expression was aged in Oloroso sherry casks. This is where it got its colour that I was so excited about. As I’ve said before I have a fondness for the darker liquids and so obviously the name alone was enough to make me swoon. Even though I have seen much darker it is because of the word  "Darkest” in the name of this whisky that I have decided on some dark music.

Black Sabbath is an all-star band which in their hay-day featured four of the most influential musicians in heavy metal history. These include: Ozzy Osbourne who has also been called the "Godfather of Heavy Metal as well as the “Prince of Darkness”, the incredible guitar playing of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler who is in my opinion the most creative, fulfilling heavy metal bass player of all time, as well as one of my heroes and main influences while growing up and Bill Ward who is probably one of the most under-rated drummers in Rock and Roll history. Their self-titled first album is at once one of the darkest and most interesting I have ever heard. Its sounds inspired generations of rockers and continues to do so to this day. The first track by the same name as the album and band is a dark tale of horror that when I first heard it at the age of 13 sent shivers up my spine and for a long time I was scared to hear it alone. The entire album is dark story telling at its best that seems to segue between almost every track with incredible jamming that is quite unusual for the metal genre. This is dark heavy music for a dark heavy whisky.

Nose: Wine and toffee strike first, a second pass reveals the expected notes of smoke. This smoke has a leathery quality to it that reminds me of smoked moose hide. There is a lot going on here yet it is very smooth on the nose and not overcrowded.

Palate:  the smoothness continues on the palate. There is a creaminess to the mouth feel reminiscent of chocolate melting in the mouth. No surprise the smoke is also distinctive with a dried fruit note like raisins or prunes.

Finish: The smoke lingers on for a long time. There are also notes of burnt sugar and pine or cedar wood.

I must admit that I have tried this whisky before. Looking back on my notes for that try I am happy to say that my experience was quite similar. As for the pairing I am impressed. I was afraid that heavier music would make it harder to focus on the scents and flavours before me, no matter how potent the whisky. In this situation the whisky and the music work well together.  

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Arran 10 Year Old Single Malt

If I had been asked a year ago about The Arran distillery and its whiskies I would have replied that I knew little about them. Over the last year I have been hearing more and more about this distillery. From the long list of unique expressions they offer it would seem that working at this distillery would be a load of fun as they are willing to experiment with a variety of different cask finishes. I am still relatively unfamiliar with this distillery but am becoming better acquainted with them. Arran seems to be every where.

Tonight I will be tasting their basic single malt. It is a 10 year old expression, and it seems to have received from fairly positive reviews. As a musical accompaniment I will be going with the almighty rock gods Led Zeppelin and their release The Song Remains The Same.

The Song Remains the same is a Led Zeppelin movie that follows the band on their tour. The soundtrack features some really long jammed out versions of their most loved music. For any fan of Zeppelin it is a must have in your collection.

Nose: Sweet creamy and fruity. Banana, honeyed vanilla and melon comes to mind. Really nice.

Palate: Green apple and lemon come to mind right away and they are at odds with one another. There is also a bitter edge which further unbalances the dram.

Finish: That bitter taste hangs on for a long time while lemon pipes in every little bit. I guess it could be called bitter lemon?

There are some nice notes to this whisky in there somewhere but that bitter note ruins it. Its too bad because on the nose it was quite pleasant. It is also too bad because I was hoping this whisky would be a great accompaniment to this album. I am going pull this album out again for sure. It deserves a good dram.  

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Loch Lomond Single Malt

It is sometimes difficult to choose what music to pair with a particular whisky, or vice-versa. For me it has been based a lot on personal preference, in other words the music that is in my collection. Sometimes a random coincidence that I am able to find that ties the two together such as a historical event will also help. The difficulty comes when I am unfamiliar with the whisky before me. This issue has come up several times over the course of the "Advent Calender Sessions" and may come up again ( I have four samples left). Todays' tasting is one of those days where I know nothing of the whisky or its distillery; however, I am in the mood for a particular album. So rather than try to find some random way to match music with  this whisky I'm going to embark on a new approach, I'm going to listen to what I want while I drink the whisky before me.

What I do know (according to Wikipedia) of the Loch Lomond distillery is that it is in the Highland region and that the whisky is portrayed in Tintin comic books. I also read (in the Herald Scotland) that it was sold in early march for millions. Based on this information I think it is safe to say the mystery remains.

For musical accompaniment I am listening to "Them Crooked Vultures". This is what is often referred to as a "Super Group". This is because the members of the band are from other huge bands. The band consists of: John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl ( Nirvana & The Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age). These legends of rock came together in 2009. I have had their self titled album for several years but have never really found the time to listen to it in it's entirety. I am half way through the album now and I can say that it is fantastic. The music seems to be a blend of alternative rock and blues with some psychedelic tones. The influence of all the members can be heard and appreciated.

So with all of that said it is time to see how this unknown (by me) dram holds up to this music.

Nose: light, smooth a bit creamy with buttery notes and a something like wet wood in a forest.

Palate: Butter and spices come to mind. On the tail end there is something minty.

Finish: long and woody. The wood in this case is more like carpentry wood rather than the damp forest floor wood that I found on the nose. I also find a bit of fresh grass and some black pepper to be present.

Over all a not bad dram. It is nothing fantastic and I wouldn't go out of my way to find a bottle, but nor would I go out of my way to avoid it. I would actually say that there is something unique and interesting about this whisky. If you have the chance give it a try. At its' reported price, you have nothing to lose. As for the musical pairing I think it works The mouth feel really seems to blend well with the music, particularly during track 10.      

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Speyburn Bradan Orach

Tonights' pairing features a whisky I have never heard of and a band I haven't heard (at least not live) in a long time. They do however have the simplest of connection. They are named after sea life. - I was going to say seafood but then realised that not everyone likes to eat fish.

The whisky is from the Speyburn distillery. It is the Bradan Orach expression. Bradan Orach is the Gaelic word for the Golden Salmon. The golden salmon is apparently a delicious species of salmon. I find it hard to believe that it would be better than Chinook, if it is then I am missing out.  This is a No Age Statement (NAS) single malt whisky aged in bourbon casks. I did a little research on this and found out that Speyburn is apparently the most photographed distillery in Scotland. It is apparently a very picturesque distillery in a beautiful location. I also read many reviews that ran the gamut from awesome to use it to clean your sinks. I did note a consistently large number of reviewers that said that this whisky is good value.

The music tonight (if you haven't guessed yet) is Phish. A friend of mine recently sent me a set list from the current tour. It was an impressive set list and I was reminded that I have not listened to any of Phishs' new stuff yet. I was not able to find a recording of that show so I decided to play yesterdays (14.07.25) show from the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not only is it the latest I could have hoped to hear it also started off with a Mike's Song> Back on the Train> Weekapaug Groove. Believe me, if you know what I am talking about then you are impressed.

Now that we are well into the Weekapaug jam lets begin the tasting.

Nose: The typical bread and sweet citrus notes of a younger whisky speak first. This youthfulness is almost contradicted by a dustiness. I am also able to smell notes of grape and a bit of bourbon.

Taste: Wood and vanilla are loudest on the palate. I also detected hints of cocoa and coffee. On the fade their is a taste that reminds me of a gin and tonic with a twist of lime. This last part is subtle and is probably an indication of the youth of this whisky.

Finish. The finish is very smooth. All that seems to be left is a dry woody edge and this sticks around for a long time.

Overall I must say I'm not sure what some of the nay sayers are talking about. Is this a great whisky? absolutely not. but for the reported price it isn't bad either. If you're dropping 30 dollars on a bottle of single malt and expecting to taste a master piece like an HP 18 or something then you need to give your head a shake. This whisky is great value for that price range and if more complexity is desired than the purse strings will need to be loosened a bit more.

As for the pairing this show is quite enjoyable. In my opinion it hit a rough patch at Wing Suit but has been solid other wise. It has worked well with the dram as well because the complexity of the music and the ease of drinking of the whisky don't overshadow each other. One thing I am starting to understand is more complex whiskies seem to benefit from slower softer music such as some jazz, blues and classical; whereas louder or more complex music seems to work better with the simpler whisky.

Progress being made on this experiment? I think so.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Deanston 19 Year Old Single Cask - Master of Malt

Todays dram features an exclusive Master of Malt (MoM) offering from the Deanston distillery. According to MoM there were only 260 bottles from the cask. In my mind that makes this a fairly rare and very exciting whisky.

As an accompaniment I have opted to listen to the haunting sounds of Johnny Cashs' American IV. This is Mr Cashs' 87th and final album, and it is a masterpiece. I say this even though the bulk of the songs are covers. The emotion in his deep voice runs shivers down my spine, particularly during the opening two songs: "When The Man Comes Around" and Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt".

As I am eager to introduce this dram to my senses I am going to get right to it.

Nose: There is a freshness to this whisky. The notes that come to mind are grapes and milk chocolate which then hints at brandied cherries and fades to a minty tone. very pleasant.

Palate: This one surprised me with the heat. It was so sweet and tender on the nose that I forgot the 53.4% alcohol. I will try again... now I get cayenne, creamy milk chocolate and some salt. There is also a brief note of a berry sweetness.

Finish: I get crème caramel with leather and a baked dessert that reminds me of bread pudding.

This dram was a pleasure. It is strong and complex. These characteristics work well with the strength of Johnny Cash. The complexity of the whisky compliments the depth of emotion and narrative that Cash expresses so well