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Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Brace Of Wemyss Whisky For The Wintery Weekend

Wow!  Suddenly the weather has decided to draw in, making this weekend the tipping point between coats and hats in the Caskstrength offices. Gone are the lightweight rain macs, replaced with something a little more substantial, woolly and most importantly -  warm.   I also chose the worst weekend to go for a fairly radical shorter haircut too- and boy... can I feel it today, as the frosty South London air nips at my ears.

 Still, no point in grumbling, as there are plenty of ways to keep warm, post Sunday pub roast and pre- walk through the park, as the sun begins to set.   As I left the house this afternoon, I slipped couple of samples into my overcoat with the view that I'd have a dram whilst walking through Dulwich Park. Of late, I've found that drinking outdoors (obviously not cider or the classic outdoor special- Special Brew) sharpens the tasting notes and brings out a number of new and interesting twists to a whisky, which I am keen to explore.

And the samples I chose did not disappoint.  Fresh from the new Wemyss range comes three vintage single casks: a 1982, 1986 and 1996, (which we'll review at a later date) So as the sun started to set on a surprisingly sunny, but extremely crisp Sunday, I whipped out a Glencairn and headed into a little wooded area for an impromptu tasting.

Wemyss - Single Cask Release - 'Sugared Almonds' - Aultmore -  Distilled 1982 - 272 bottles - 46%

Nose: Amidst the falling Sycamore and Maple tree leaves comes a very pleasant, slightly tart green apple note, coupled with vanilla custard, a little turned earth and flaky pastry.  My one regret is that I didn't crack this out in the pub earlier, as it would have paired superbly with the oversized apple and rhubarb crumble I polished off without any hesitation.  Dig deeper and some floral notes emerge, coupled with some drying oak staves and a hint of furniture polish.  It's just on the right side of lively, before starting to show signs of tiredness, which is rather ironically how my daughter, Lois seems to be right now, before bath time. Better get this tasting note finished asap, me thinks.

Palate: Sweet, with a touch of marzipan, but backed with a surprisingly sooty smoke before cascading headlong into stewed pears, orange zest and tart rhubarb, alongside a return of the vanilla rich custard from the nose.  A hint of sherbet rounds out the vibrant flavours before a touch of oak begins to set in.

Finish:  A lingering green apple peel note stays on the palate (a note, which I'm finding increasingly in older bourbon hogshead-matured whiskies, these days) followed by a deft touch of smoke and menthol right at the end.

Overall:  Perhaps not the most appropriate winter warmer, this Aultmore has more summery touches going for it, with a surprising vibrancy for its age.  I suspect it is a fairly well used hogshead, but don't let that put you off -  this is a well balanced whisky and a superb palate cleanser, after a heavy Sunday lunch.

Next up:  the season might be over, but a little taste of 'autumn berries' is in order.

Wemyss -  Single Cask Release -'Autumn Berries' - Blair Athol - Distilled 1986 - 268 bottles - 46%

Nose: A slightly malty note off the bat, leading into stewed raspberries, some spiced wood (cedar, and a touch of cinnamon) lemon zest, blanched almonds and a fresh blackcurrant aroma.

Palate:  Where did that perfume /parma violet note come from?  Hard, but powdery candy (if you're a British child of a certain age, think Swizzels-Matlow sweets- particularly Lovehearts and you're very close). This is followed by fresh vanilla and a little touch of sweetened cream, but once these subside you're straight back into the old fashioned sweets.  It's a note we saw in greater proportions in a superb Master Of Malt Bowmore several years back, but much more restrained.

Finish:  A slight soapy note, with lemon zest and a lingering tart orchard fruit note (greengages and unripe plums)

Overall:  Not as expressive as the 1982 Aultmore, but the surprising parma violet/ Lovehearts note will take anyone back to their childhood after one sip.  This, for some reason feels particularly poignant today, as I stroll around a park with my lil' nipper, like my parents used to do with me, after letting me spend my 10p pocket money on a handful of sweets and a sticky lolly.
Back then, everything felt just right - and this afternoon, it's as near as damn it, just right too.  Wherever you are, hope your weekend was the same.