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Friday, 18 January 2013

A Mötley Crew Indeed... Southbank Centre Whisky Club

Smashing into 2013 like a greased up, white hot juggernaught of whisky, hitting a Ford Transit Van full of salted Lurpak butter, Caskstrength's January has thus far been undoubtedly our busiest yet. Book launches, new tastings, creative projects, writing and a host of fun have all entered the swiftly emerging horizon and so far, we've been feeling slightly light headed as a result.  In other interesting news, our 5th annual BiG award (Best in Glass) has recently sparked off a flurry of international interest, especially in the New York Times with Balcones single malt release proving that craft distillation is very much alive, well and turning out some highly individual and engaging spirits.

Anyway, back to what we know best: writing and talking about whisky.  

Last night was our first Southbank Centre Whisky Club date for 2013 and the line up was undoubtedly the best yet: premium whiskies of the highest order. The club, which was started this time last year for members of the Southbank Centre and Royal Festival Hall is now open to non-members and it was wonderful to see a few familiar faces last night and regular readers of Caskstrength grinning as the drams were being poured.  But then again, who wouldn't want to open their 2013 malt account with this little motley crew and a view of Big Ben after dark?

From the left:  Balvenie Portwood 21yo, MacKinlay's recreation, Highland Park 21yo,
Nikka Pure Malt 17yo and SMWS Glen Moray 38yo
In fact, we were so taken with the whiskies, that we decided to do a little write up on each one-  (as we reviewed the MacKinlay's recently click here for a full report)

Balvenie Portwood 21yo -  40%

Nose: A wonderful richness, with floral wax, fresh cherries, wine soaked oak and spiced oranges. 

Palate: Bold and creamy, but with a secondary wave of fresh cherries, lemon zest, a hint of liquorice and oaky, ruby port. 

Finish: The oak is balanced perfectly with a lingering note of fresh fruit.

Overall: On a show of hands, this very much looked the dram to beat... until our next one popped its head up, but a truly outstanding example of how to bottle a near perfect whisky.

Highland Park 21yo - 40%

Nose: Manuka honey, a touch of dried ginger, liquorice, juicy apples dusted in cinnamon and brown sugar. The peat is soft, floral and slightly waxy.  Wonderful and refined.

Palate: Soft sweet malt, stewed red berries, patisserie cream, some green apple freshness and a sprinkling of rich brown sugar.  Tantalising and extremely moreish.

Finish: Honeyed malt notes are left on the palate, with a touch of slightly more medicinal peat.

Overall: HP 21yo at this strength is just superb.  The 18yo ranks as one of the all-time greats and this is another step up in the staircase of malt perfection.  

Nikka Pure Malt 17yo - 43%

Nose: Bold and bright, with strong PVA notes, a mineral/chalky note, swiftly followed up with some very unique peatiness (smoked straw), rich malt extract and old lobster pots/ brine.  Very distinct indeed.

Palate: Very clean, with come sweet candied cherries, icing sugar, malted milk biscuits a touch of pears steeped in white wine and vanilla, plus a slightly smoky backbeat.  

Finish:  The creamy notes take the longest time to diminish, alongside the peat smoke and fresh fruit.

Overall: Balanced on the palate, giving the hallmarks of lingering oak alongside some youthful exuberance.  Nikka are really beginning to fill in the gaps left by the likes of Suntory's Hakushu and Yamazaki, as well as the hugely sherried Karuizawa with their approach to intricately peated whiskies. this is yet another 'must-buy', if you're looking for something different from a Japanese whisky.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society: 35.63 (Glen Moray) 1974 Single Cask - 45.3%

Nose: A very dry note to begin with, which takes a little time to open up. But when it does, the fun begins: graphite/pencil shavings, a hint of freshly modelled clay, lemongrass, golden syrup, creamy fudge, vanilla essence and stewed plums.

Palate: The initial dryness gives way to some gingery notes, sweet potato, lemongrass something slightly medicinal (child's cough syrup) and a hint of woody anise.

Finish: Slightly dry, with a crisp oakiness leading the way and a touch of cooking apple.

Overall:  Yes, this is showing signs of its age, but there's still plenty in the tank to get excited about.  A great way to round off our tasting with and judging by the fair share of hands -  a firm favourite for some of our Whisky Club members.

If you'd like to come along to our next Southbank Centre Members Whisky Club, (on March 6th, covering Irish whiskey) visit the Southbank Centre website, where you can become a member (and get plenty of benefits, including significant discounts on events at the Royal Festival Hall, as well as access to the members lounge.  You can also email us info(at)caskstrength(dot)net for details and tickets, as our 2013 events schedule (including gin, cocktails, and many more) are now open to everyone.