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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A 'Vreckan good time...

As many of you Ardbeg fans will already know, the fantastic committee bottling of last year- Corryvreckan was recently added into the core range of expressions, sadly replacing one of our all time favourites- Airigh Nam Beist. But instead of crying into our Glencairns, we thought now would be a good opportunity to look to the future and celebrate the fact that Corryvreckan is a dram worthy enough to stand next to the other great contemporary Ardbegs.

At the weekend, we held a particularly special tasting- not just several great whiskies, but some highly unusual flavour profiles and aromas were thrown in to confuse, baffle and delight!
There seems to have been a tendency of late for some distilleries to 'embellish' tasting notes with relatively unknown flavour and aroma profiles, which most palates would simply never identify. We've always found this hilarious, so our little experiment was bound to produce some interesting results...oh boy...

Everyone knows that whisky and chocolate go together extremely well. As we pour our first dram, our good friend Darrell produces a non descript black box. Hello... this could be interesting...

Ardbeg Corryvreckan - 57.1% - 70cl

Nose: Butterscotch, orange zest and cereal. It's there in black and white. Lovely, honest and enjoyable. Of course, there is peat... but it's restrained, refined- clearly it's the backbone to the aroma, but it doesn't dominate. With water, the peat really relaxes and some wonderful sweet caramel. Surprising differences to the original committee bottling. There's perhaps a hint of the creosote/coal tar note from the original bottling, but it is no where near as prevalent.

Palate: Swathes of sweet peat and cereal take over the mouth instantly, leading into a fruity jam note- damsons anyone? Again, it is perhaps lighter than the committee bottling and doesn't seem to retain as much of the wine-like characteristics which the previous bottling had. That's not to say that it isn't great- the mouthfeel is wonderful, with a thick, sweet and rich viscosity giving the Corryvreckan a real air of luxury. 3 cheers for cask strength whiskies!!

Finish: Slightly oaky, perhaps seeing the influence of the wine casks but it's fruity sweetness lingers long after the palate has dried. Sensational.

At this point things went a little weird. We tried a combination of wonderful flavours with the whisky and the results are below:

Chocolates: From our selection of flavoured chocolates, a Jasmine, Bergamot, Tonka Bean (!) and Green Tea were chosen. The Jasmine and Bergamot, added a real floral note to the palate and were not dented by the whisky in the slightest- similarly, the whisky was certainly enhanced by the rich dark chocolate with the aromatic notes contained within. The Tonka Bean, had little effect, save for adding a certain 'aromatic bitters' like note to the whisky (Peated whisky sour?) and the Green Tea flavour was swallowed up greedily by the swirl of the Corry in full effect....

Darrell then reaches into his magic bag again and, with a grin from ear to ear, whispers- "now for the good stuff!" Oh er....

The phrase '5-a-day' will never have the same meaning after this tasting.

Presented on the dining room table were the strangest, alien looking fruits I have ever seen.

Mangosteen: Like a miniature brain inside a thick red husk.

Pitahaya or Dragon Fruit: Gelatinous and seedy, resembling a semi-set frog spawn.

And king of all weirdness..... drum roll please... the Durian.

Dear lord. This surely isn't a fruit?? You could batter someone to death with it!!
Thick, gloopy custard-like flesh, with a hard stone in the centre. Surrounded by a terrifying looking green spiny skin. It actually looked delicious when served, until your nose got within 20 yards of the bowl. What? Hugely strong aromas of onion, garlic and cheese covered Mexican chilli. IN A FRUIT!!!

Surely no whisky could match these brutes!!

Well, the Corryvreckan was admirable in its attempts, working superbly with the sweet flesh of the Mangosteen- the peat mixing nicely with the melon like flavour of the flesh. Well worth seeking out.

The Pitahaya added some floral notes to the proceedings, not all of them welcome but nonetheless, it was well flavoured and would be a better mix for a lighter whisky, say Rosebank or Glen Grant.

The spiny beast was up next. Wow. The texture is smooth and creamy, rather like the whisky, but the aroma blows your head off! In fact the peat certainly added to the overall flavour profile, but it was like biting into a whole Stilton, slathered in strong onion marmalade. Perhaps a sweet port or Oloroso sherry would mix well....?

We managed a few mouthfuls each, before conceding defeat. It was then impossible to taste anything else for the rest of the evening. The following morning, I found myself 'rediscovering' echoes of Durian for several hours, as did Mrs Caskstrength. Sorry about that. ;-(
Try this to expand your palate, but be warned- they're not for the faint hearted....

So there you have it.... Next time you see some distillery tasting notes, referencing bizarre aromas and flavours, try to think about whether they actually make sense. Anyone referencing a Durian is clearly a proper nutter....!!