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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Finish Reading All About... Joel Has Turned 30! **PART TWO**

In my first post I wrote about an 18 month journey to put together some whiskies from the year of my birth, 1979 in order to celebrate my 30th Birthday. In that post, I wrote about the first threewhiskies of the evening: A Port Ellen Single Cask Signatory bottling, the Port Ellen 3rd Release and a miniature of Imperial. So far, so yummy!

As my search for whisky from 1979 grew, I found my bank balance shrinking; the recession, rising energy bills, fuel duty increasing... the list seemed endless! In line with the shrinking bank balance, the bottles must shrink too, I thought. Feeling not unlike Alice In Wonderland, I was about to enter the interesting world of the miniature... My first purchase was the Imperial- a distillery which I had never experience before and I wasn't disappointed. Next up was another newby on me: Inverleven.

Inverleven - 1979 - 40% vol - 5cl - Gordon & Macphail

Nose: A lovely and sweet nose, I would have pinpointed this as a lowland from that alone. Not as rich in flowers and perfume as a Rosebank, but certainly some white flowers and a hint of toffee.

Palate: A touch of burnt sugar, some bacon.

Finish: Medium with mild spice.

Overall: A pleasant enough dram, but not one to knock the socks off.

The final wee bottle for the evening was a Glen Mhor, yet another distillery that won't ever produce again. This "little drinking" is a good way forward. Cheaper than big bottles and you get to try some whisky you may never have again!

Glen Mhor - 1979 - Distilled 25/5/1979 Bottled July 1995 - Cask No. 2377 + 2378 - 66.7% - 5cl

Nose: Over Mature Compost! Mint Tea, Apple Juice and old sackcloth

Palate: Vanilla Sherbet, much more of the fresh green apples

Finish: Lots of spices, with water cinnamon buns.

Overall: This needs a big dollop of water to open the senses up and get all the flavours out. Only a 16 year old but the is a real maturity about this dram. Robust and flavourful; just make sure you add water!

With the miniatures all gone, it was time to refocus on the big bottles of 1979 stock. By this time my budget was long gone. A few miniatures, a 1979 Port Ellen Single Cask and the Port Ellen 3rd Release later, the tank was indeed empty. It is at this stage that one has to rely on the extreme generosity of friends! There is an old saying:
"A man can be judged by the company he keeps".

On this showing, I am indeed one of the richest men alive. And the next part of this post is a tribute to those people. Thank you!

The first bottle to be unwrapped was a 1979 Caol Ila from Berry Bros, a gift from fellow caskstrengther, Neil (in the interests of clarity, we tried this at BB&R a couple of months ago and I expressed a delight in the bottling, so no prizes to Neil for picking up my very unsubtle hints!!- Cheers mate!):

Caol Ila - 1979 / 2009 - Cask No. 4412 - 53.1% vol - 70cl

Nose: This is a beast! Coal smoke, peat and general targeted aggression drag up pear drops, honeysuckle and mint. Whoooah! This is a nose!

Palate: Yes, that's a Caol Ila- everything you'd expect from the coal driven palate, but there is also some delicate creams in there. Leave it in for as long as you dare and the smoke rises. And rise. And rise. You can hold it for an eternity, but it's like holding a wasp in your mouth... it just gets more and more aggressive as it looks for a way out. This is not only very tasty, but very lively. A fun dram.

Finish: Not as long as you would expect from something as richly flavoured as this, nor from something with this level of strength. There seems just a whiff of relief from the liquid that you've released it. Again, the coal is dominant flavour, but when dies down there is a load of different florals with clear, runny-honey coming in late.

Overall: This is a sensational dram. I had a dinner party last week with one of the attendees from my birthday drinks there. He claimed he'd only come over to try this whisky again. There seems to be a real race developing for "dram of the night" with two front runners being this Caol Ila and the Port Ellen 3rd Release...

So far, so good. I'm very pleased with the additional drammage from 1979. It was truly turning out to be a great year for whisky. But where next? Kudos must go to Darren from the SMWS who pulled out a wonderfully interesting bottle from 1979, dragged kicking and screaming from his own archives. Another demolished distillery... a Glen Albyn.

SMWS 69.11 - July 1979 / July 2006 - 27 Years Old - 58.1% Vol - 70cl

Nose: Very nutty with a hint of sherry. I'm guessing from the nose and the colour that this a 2nd or 3rd refill sherry cask. I would never have pinpointed this whisky from the nose alone (why should I have done?!) but there is real body to it, backed with a freshness or lightness of grass.

Palate: Quite bitter at first, then some tobacco notes, pepper and a hint of salt.

Finish: Long and strong. With water this dram come alive much more- cooking apple notes leap out along with fresh brown bread.

Overall: Unusual and a real welcome break from the peatiness of the evening. This is a strong dram in every way; full of flavours of forest floors, cooking apples and brown bread. A MALT drinkers malt.

It was at this stage that the bottlings hit a wall. That was it for drams from 1979. But the little fact that I was born in '79 didn't put people off. It was time to dig in to some new bottlings... all THIRTY YEAR OLDS. Whoop!

The first came courtesy of my good friend Rich. We've grown up together and he was also born in 1979 but Rich was very kind in bringing along a bottle from yet another new distillery on me... Tamdhu.

Tamdhu - 30 Years Old - The Macphail's Collection - 43% vol - 70cl

Nose: One of those wonderful noses you get with a well aged sherry cask of dark chocolate with cherries in. Beautifully rounded.

Palate: Not as intense on the palate as the nose would suggest. Hold to the promise of dark chocolate but this time with a greater nutty feel of chopped hazelnuts.

Finish: Oooh, spices which I wasn't expecting. A lot hotter than I thought it would be and really quite long.

Overall: A cracker. Never had Tamdhu before but this makes me want to explore it further.

The next 30 year old up was a very special one for me. It had been re-label by the wonderful chaps at Master Of Malt as "Joel Harrison's 30th Birthday Malt - 30 Years Old". How very, very kind of them. The empty bottle I shall keep forever!

Master Of Malt - Secret Bottling Series - Joel Harrison's 30th Birthday Malt - 30 Years Old - Speyside - 40% Vol - 70cl

(note: this is a very heavily sherried Speyside from an un-named distillery...)

Nose: Burnt sugar, creme brulee, walnuts, old polished wood.

Palate: Phawr! That's sherried and aged! Pure apricots in syrup with toffee apple.

Finsh: Medium, lightly spiced and medium dry. Like well brewed tea without milk. Just leaves you wanting more.

Overall: That, ladies and gentlemen, is how to do heavily sherried 30 year old whisky. Everything you want on the nose from a good sherry cask, a plate that isn't too heavy but is nice and fruity and just enough dryness in the finish to leave you wanting more.

"Where do you go from here?" I hear you cry! Well, there are just two more drams from the night, so let's move on to Ma & Pa Harrison's contribution to my celebrations (Thanks Mum and Dad. xx) and guess what?!? It's only more bloody Port Ellen!!

Port Ellen 8th Release - 1978 / 2008 - 29 Years Old - 6618 bottles - 55.3% Vol - 70cl

Nose: The most delicate of all the islay whisky on the night. Hints of lemon, sea salt and smoke.

Palate: The smoke is subtle on this one and the first thing to pop up is those lemons and the salt, the smoke follows in later. Touch of liquorice too.

Finish: After the smoke dies down, pear drops and lime come up and then the fire of the chillies takes over. Long.

Overall: This is a good dram, but not the best islay of the night. In fact, probably in 4th place after the 3rd release, the single cask and the Caol Ila. But let's be honest... to finish behind those three is still bloody good going!

Finally, we come back to the mainland from Islay for one last dram as we travel down to Campbletown courtesy of a man whose picture should be found next to the word generous in the dictionary, Sukhinder Singh.
Longrow - MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson - 1993 - 13 Year Old - Cask No. 635 - 46% Vol - 70cl

Nose: Wowzer! The most delicate hint of peat, banana and vanilla.

Palate: The smoke and banana intermingle with parma violets and touch of liquorice.

Finish: All of the above carried over a medium length and a hint of sherbet.

Overall: This is a fantastic dram. So delicate yet with some real push from the smoke behind it.

It's been a wonderful evening of drams. Thank you to all who came along. I am a very blessed person.