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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Some more choices to make...

December is always a hugely busy time in the drinks business and this year is clearly no exception. I've just bought a little helper to keep me in tip top condition and I recommend you do the same... Milk Thistle Tincture. Apparently very good to positively armour plate your liver. It tastes vile on its own, but slipped into a virgin cocktail, one can almost feel it protecting your pipes before the Christmas onslaught begins.

Our Caskstrength Christmas was very much kicked off last night, when we were given an exclusive preview of the next flight of Managers Choice bottlings. The next 6 distilleries to be released will hit the shops on January 8th 2010. Not shy to the criticism over the last Managers Choice releases, Diageo have upped their game and have at least wheeled out one big gun this time around (Talisker) which we were probably most eager to taste.

As we've already tittered some abbreviated notes, we'll split this post into 2 parts and give you a little more to chew on... bottle shots to come....

Lets start off with something a little light weight:

Glen Spey- Managers Choice Bottling - Date Filled: January 1996 (13 yo)- 52% - New American Oak -276 bottles

Very light, floral and almost too delicate- chopped almonds into sweet marzipan, with dessicated coconut, fruity parma violets, a little hint of honey and pencil shavings/ freshly sawn wood. It's there one minute and then it's gone!!

Palate: Very fruity, hints of Gewurztraminer, but backed up with some lovely rich buttery notes. With water, the fruit dissipates and you're left with very little else.

Finish: Slightly drying and short, but delicate with a few green herbs poking through.

Overall: Admittedly, I ruined this whisky with the smallest drop of water, but its aroma and palate were very good while they lasted.

Next up: A Speyside that often delights in the few moments one gets to try it- will this bottling live up to the challenge?

Inchgower-Managers Choice Bottling - Date Filled: October 1993 (15 yo) 61.9% - Bodega sherry cask - 564 bottles

Blood oranges, some cracking dry Oloroso sherry, dry, salty vermouth notes with a little hint of chamois leather. With the addition of water, some more fruity notes of Mandarin come through. Impressive and well rounded.

Palate: Chopped hazelnuts, a hint of apple, fresh mint & eucalyptus. Very menthol indeed. Unlike the Glen Spey, this definitely benefits from the addition of water- the fruits come to the front and the spicy heart is unlocked, with some salty licorice. It isn't as revealing as you'd like, but the water definitely gives you some more umph.

Finish: Very drying, but the licorice notes linger for a fair old time.

Overall: Not bad as sherried whiskies go, but in all honesty, there are probably more enjoyable ones around.

Onto the final dram in this part: Now we're getting interesting. This is either going to be a smasher or totally underwhelming, compared to the recent premium releases, the 25 & 30 yo. Yes... it's the Talisker.

Talisker - Managers Choice Bottling - Date Filled: December 1994 (15 yo) 58.6% - Bodega sherry cask - 582 bottles

Masses of wood smoke. Hang on... we're standing outside to the rear of St Barnabas Church and right next to a huge wood burning fire. Better move inside I think...

Right, that's better. Where were we? Oh yes- Wood smoke, not as much as there was outside, but a lovely sweet fresh wood smoke emanates from the glass. Alongside, a light phenolic note comes through and some linseed oil. It's definitely Talisker, but dare I say- restrained.

Palate: Wow. I didn't expect this. Lots of luscious, ripe fruit. Fresh strawberries, sweet raspberry jam, then lemon sherbet and a note of original flavoured menthol Locket throat sweets. A classic saltiness comes through on the backbeat, which anchor this dram firmly on Skye. Lovely and totally unexpected.

Finish: Lingering medicinal notes and salt last on the palate for a considerable time, a highly warming dram.

Overall: Superb. As a Talisker it shines- not a million miles from the 18yo, but with something else. As a Managers Choice bottling, you expect something special. It doesn't disappoint. Certainly the best bottling we've tried thus far.

Part 2 will follow shortly, where we'll tackle the Dalwhinnie, Royal Lochnagar and Blair Athol.