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Friday, 29 October 2010

Glen London Part One: White (Dram) Riot

You may have guessed, but weheartwhisky.

This week is Christmas and Easter rolled in to one for the London based whisky blogger.

In the space of 24 short hours, we get to taste the Diageo Special Release AND get in to the Press and Trade Period of the Whisky Show 2010.


How does one prepare for such fare? With a week of abstinence, of course.

Neil has been away with Mrs Neil, making sure that he doesn't become The Singleton Of Penge while I’ve been left to cleanse my liver, making sure each and every sample that arrives at HQ is filed away for the “quiet period”... goodness know when that is.

An absence of booze for a week, and therefore the absence of postings, highlights the madness to come.

So tonight we start with the Diageo Special Releases and this year we see some familiar faces: Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Port Ellen and Brora. But, like watching Manchester United introducing young talent around a spine of great players, these mainstays are joined by some unique and interesting individuals: Glen Spey, Auchroisk and Cragganmore.

In total nine single malts grace the “special” release for this year and a wide variety of prices, ages and finishes are available.

The list runs thus:

Auchroisk 30

Brora 30

Caol Ila 12 unpeated

Cragganmore 21

Glenkinchie 20

Glen Spey 21

Glenkinchie 20

Lagavulin 12

Port Ellen 31

Talisker 30

It would be difficult to run through each and give detailed tasting notes, so I’m going to highlight what, in our opinion , are the best.

As usual you can't just scroll to the end and read the two digit figure score, because we don’t believe in any of that bollocks. What does a score mean, anyway? Nothing to you to, because you’ve not had the same experiences as we’ve had in drinking whisky. So, read the notes and if you think you like the “broad-brush” tasting notes we give, then go and try / buy the whisky.

If you don’t, then stay the hell away from it. We’re not here to tell you what’s good and bad; we’re here to advise you and inform you if you wish to make a purchase. At the end of the day, when you pull a cork out of a bottle, we want you to love and to cherish the whisky inside. Not to have a bad reaction to it, to then have to fob it off on your Brother, your Uncle or your Dad. On that note, here are our picks of the DSR 2010:

Lagavulin - 12 Years Old - 56.5%

£59 a bottle. Yes please! This is a whisky that gives and gives and gives and gives.

Nose: A complex vanilla butter toffee mixed with heavy peat smoke and rich, runny honey. Classic Lagavulin Creme Brulee and creamy vanilla ice cream burst through giving a sharp, clean and fresh, salty nose.

Palate: Sweet and smokey with notes of citrus and pine and charred wood, toffee apple and lime.

Finish: Long and smoky with medicinal backdrop.

Overall: Just delicious. The Lagavulin 12 has yet to let me down.

Auchroisk - 20 Years Old- ABV 58.1%

Who? Auchroisk is not a name famillar to many. But this Single Malt delivers and delivers well.

Nose: Very rich and extremely nutty with vanilla toffee and rich sherry notes.

Palate: That nutty-ness keeps coming, with hazelnuts and walnuts but there is also some dust and dryness. Toffee and caramel and rum and raisin fudge with dry biscuit and pastry come to the fore.

Finish: Earthy notes with dark chocolate and hints of tropical fruit. Like and old Bowmore without the smoke.

Overall: At this price point (sub £120), get it while you can!

Glen Spey - 21 Years Old - 50.4%

Nose: Wow! Rich, very rich! This whisky has one of the most complex noses I’ve had in a long time. I could sit with this for hours. After the stewed fruit comes leather and polished wood. Antique wood and polish makes its way to the front, but with an energy, a zest. Energy, but complexity. All good.

Palate: Simple palate notes for this: Pear, almond and apricot tart with vanilla ice cream.

Finish: Long and complex with the pear lingering and lime adding zest to the overall character.

Overall: A real surprise. Well worth the money.

And a special mention for a cracking Cragganmore. More on that tomorrow. We're Craggenmore fans anayway, but this years Special Release really is worth trying.

All in, this is a good haul of releases, despite a rather dull Talisker 30 and Caol Ila that misses the point (it is like Nirvana Unplugged: does a good job, but you’d rather have the rawk guitars and riffs, over the emo vocals and overacting).

And the Port Ellen? It’s fantastic. A fantastic effort for a whisky destined for blending 28 years ago. Honestly, how no one ever saw the Single Malt potential in this distillery is beyond me. But there you go. The wonderful world of whisky!

Epic Day One of our London Whisky Adventure is over. More to tell tomorrow, but for now: bed.