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Saturday 3 October 2009

By Order of The Management... part one

A few posts ago, we ran a little story on the new Diageo Manager's Choice series, which received a fairly mixed response. Some reacted with delight at the new series, hoping they would at least follow on the legacy of the original Manager's Choice bottlings.

Many others however reacted with surprise and anger at the pretty stiff pricing these bottling's would be available for - the initial flight is priced between £200 and £300.

Well, a box arrived earlier this week with samples from the first 6 releases:

Cardhu, Glen Elgin, Linkwood, Mortlach, Oban and Teaninich.

We imagined the distillery managers presenting their finest casks up at Diageo headquarters, waiting patiently for a reaction.

Then rather perversely, our imagination switched to the classic scene in The Untouchables, when various mob managers sat around the dinner table, all listening to De Niro's intimidating Capone speech about teamwork, enthusiasm and....Baseball. Every boss is keen to impress and no one wants to f**k up. Clearly one did - and paid for it via a dramatic head splattering demise.

Capone sure liked his Baseball, but didn't like his managers making mistakes. Would a similar situation apply here with these drams?? Here's what three of Manager's Choice bottling's had to say...part 2 on its way soon...

Linkwood - Manager's Choice bottling -Distilled 1996 - Bottled 2009 - 58.2% - Matured in European Oak -

Nose: Almond paste, hazelnuts, an earthy forest floor quality, peardrops and a hint of dried fruit. Surprisingly it doesn't have as much dried fruit as I expected, let alone sherry, with a slightly more aromatic cognac aroma. With water, apple, lemon zest rose water and sweet marzipan all come through. Light and dare I say it... slightly summery.

Palate: Sweet and chocolaty, it has a liqueur like mouth feel with lots of chopped hazelnuts thrown in for good measure. Herbaceous notes also come through- rosemary and a whisker of thyme.

Finish: The nuts get even nuttier and a little note of oaky spice pops in right on the death.

Overall: As I mentioned earlier, the effect of the wood clearly hasn't taken presidence here. This is a lightweight and fairly floral dram. The mouthfeel is excellent, but I would have to question whether there are more reasonably priced quality Linkwood bottlings out there.

Glen Elgin - Manager's Choice - Distilled 1998- Bottled 2008 - 61.1% - Rejuvenated European Oak -

Nose: Initially a fair whack of spirit, followed by some freshly turned earth. Brittle sugary caramel (the homemade pan variety) is the next aroma, but not much else on first nosing. Leave this one alone in the glass for a while and it starts to open up. Also, with the addition of water strawberry sherbet and fruity bubblegum come through and take us back to our favourite sweet shop, which is an unexpected bonus.

Palate: Again a very sweet dram, but more like sugared Weetabix on first entry. Chopped nuts and a whisker of dried fruit leads to something a little soapy on the mouthfeel. It's pretty closed. I left this for a good 30 minutes to open up, which gave some pronounced vanilla notes, but also a little dryness.

Finish: Drier than the Linkwood, but something fresh and grassy on the death.

Overall: A very mixed bag indeed. The nose promises more than the palate can deliver and I felt distinctly underwhelmed with this bottling. Capone would be circling... bat in hand...

Onto the final dram of this part and we've got high hopes for the Oban- a whisky which has seldom disappointed in the past.

Oban - Manager's Choice - Distilled 2000 - bottled 2009 - 58.7% - Sherry European Oak -

Nose: Ooh. Now there's something in here which smells very exciting. Very light smoke (almost like a gas camping stove), chopped mint, peaches and something a little exotic (however not in any way like one of our recent posts!) It has that sharp/sweet aroma that, say a handful of penny 'Fruit Salad' sweets has- a welcome blast from the past! Over time, a little cask mustiness creeps in, but is well balanced by some floral marzipan. With water, some lemon infused white chocolate cuts through, mixed with a hoppy aroma in a subtle way. Very good indeed. (Incidentally, it looks great in the glass with some lovely long legs. Kim Basinger springs to mind.)

Palate: On its own, the Oban has a sensational spicy and velvety touch on the tongue which is very moreish indeed. You immediately want another sip. Menthol notes cut through the sweetness and there is definitely the influence of some sherry (although, in keeping with all these bottling's, no where near as much as expected.) Further on and sliced apple, more marzipan and a deft hint of white pepper all stand their ground to give an excellent all-round balance. With water- and a very inviting perfumed note comes through in waves- rather like repeatedly kissing the perfumed neck of a 1920's gangster's moll. Capone would certainly approve. (unless you happened to be kissing HIS moll)

Finish: Lightweight, with no evidence of the sherry or dried fruit, just fresh apples and grassy notes. Perhaps a touch soapy on the death, but certainly a minor point.

Overall: Unquestionably the best of the three, the Oban delivers a varied palate with some excellent touches and is a hugely drinkable whisky. It is the most expensive and ironically the youngest, so the cost debate will no doubt rage on...

Well, Jonny 'pretty legs' Oban from the Westside (of Scotland) has saved the day here for his less impressive pals. It was a definite step beyond the other two, which weren't bad, just lacking in real presence or authority. Surely something of a pre-requisite when it comes to management? Why don't we ask Mr Capone....