Translate Caskstrength!

Friday, 6 February 2009

A 'Classic' case of recollection...

"Wrap that scarf around tightly young fellow, you'll catch your death going down there", said a kindly old lady, as I was about to board my transport for the day... in this instance, a fully inflated, luxury fur-trimmed-double-air-mattress.

Hello?!... Crazyfool!! I hear you say.

My destination? the bottom of a very steep hill in Crystal Palace Park.

For once, not the ramblings of a drunken fool because, unless you've been on a beach in the Caribbean, drinking fine rum, you'll now realise that London, and the whole of our fair isle has been gripped with the heaviest snow fall for the last 18 years.

The city totally ground to a halt this week, as hundreds of like minded adults grabbed anything resembling a sledge and took to the parks with childlike zeal, all smiles, wide eyes and glowing cheeks. I was one of them - and for a brief two hours, I bombed down the slopes giggling like a twelve year old possessed (albeit with facial hair and a tweed hat).

This got me thinking. Do you ever reminisce about the first time you tasted THAT single malt? You know, the one that set your pulse racing and pointed you in the direction of malted delirium?
Well after such a day of recalling how much fun life used to be, Caskstrength thought it was high time to revisit several of our first ever 'malt encounters', in this case, from the Diageo 'Classic Malts' series. Will it be a similar feeling to that hair raising, 'whoosh' down a snowy mount? Or conversely, like watching a re-run of the A-Team: dis-jointed and best left in the past...let's find out...

Cragganmore – 12 YO – 40% Vol – 70cl

Nose: Pasteurised apple juice, hints of fudge and mint. Crisp Chardonnay, heather burning on a wood stove. Really lovely. Subtle, simple and delicious.

Palate: More apple juice, leading into sweet buttery muffins, covered in heather honey and brown sugar. The palate bears a striking connection with the nose, as more subtle wine notes come through as the spirit unwinds in your mouth. For a sub-£30 single malt, this is a total surprise. Brilliantly well rounded and expressive for its age.

Finish: Gentle, fruity and delicious, with hints of slightly smoky fudge turning up when you are least expecting it.

Overall: Cragganmore was the 3rd whisky I ever purchased in my pursuit of malt excellence, over 12 years ago. I’m pleased to say that there is a certain amount of resonance returning to this bottling. For the price, it sits very comfortably as a fine drinking whisky and will always be considered a Caskstrength house staple!!

Oban - 14 YO - 43% Vol - 70cl

Wow, I think i’ve just wandered into my favourite 2nd hand bookshop. Dusty, musty and intriguing. Hints of soft summer fruit crumble and hazelnut reveal themselves, leading into a very faint minted lamb note. Sounds all over the place, but some how retains its poise, without becoming a dog's dinner.

Palate: Peppery, followed by a really sweet nuttiness. Lots of sherry and dried fruit start to emerge, but somehow, this doesn’t feel as well put together as the Cragganmore.

Finish: Quite dry, with more sherry and a hint of...dare I say it.... disappointment.

Overall: The nose really gives you a slightly inflated impression of this dram- there’s nothing inherently bad about it, but other than the varied fragrances present, it is hard to lock down anything particularly memorable from the palate or the finish. Not a patch on the Cragganmore and unfortunately, not as good as I remember thinking it was years ago. More 'Faceman' than Snowman...

Lagavulin 16 year old 43% 70cl

We make no secret that we’re huge Laga’ fans at Caskstrength. Reviewing the recent 12 yo and Feis Ile bottlings was a totally pleasurable experience. As with the Cragganmore, our first forays into malt heaven were well-paved by the Oban, Talisker 10 yo (previously reviewed here) and 16 yo Laga' and it feels like the right time to stick a review up at last!

Nose: Gritty and intensely heady, this runs the whole gamut of aromas; freshly turned earth, carbolic soap, cereals, rich dark brown sugar and a surprising hint of Play-Doh. But make no mistake, there is no ‘Doh!’ about where this whisky takes you- it’s like returning to a welcoming warm bed and your pet cat on a bitterly cold day outside. Timelessly classic.

Palate: Fresh wholemeal bread, burnt brown sugar, green herbs and dark chocolate covered Turkish delight. Whilst this whisky can differ from batch to batch, it still retains some effortless pointers, no matter what.

Finish: Slightly salty but still lingering notes of fudge, peat, roast meat and herbs. Medium in length.

Overall: Another triumph for the nose and tastebuds. At around 37 quid, it really is worth grabbing a bottle for that long night, escaping from the cold. Believe me, it was the first whisky I thought of when returning from Crystal Palace with a burst airbed, feet like iceblocks and a smile as wide as my chilly lips would allow!!!