Jolly Toper Tasting P/O/U/R/S 11/09/2014

Jolly Toper Tasting

P/O/U/R/S

11/09/2014

Or

Jolly Toper pours whisky

At the start of the new season of Jolly Toper tastings I was lucky enough to be able to attend as our own Edinburgh University Water Of Life Society (WOLS) tasting hadn’t started up yet, as the WOLS tastings also run on Thursday evenings.

The Jolly Toper (aka Mark Davidson) is a renowned whisky host and can usually be found in Cadenheads Whisky shop on the Royal Mile. Spend long enough in there and he appears like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben. Thankfully, no changes of clothes later, I usually find myself leaving clutching a rather heavy bag… full of whisky thanks to Marks advice.

Cadenheads

The Jolly Toper tastings are loosely based around the Peated/Old/Unusual/Rare/Sherried format wherein Mark attempts to address each of those categories at some point via whisky expressions. Invariably Mark’s style and humour are injected into the proceedings which turn out to be not only hugely informative but also great fun and full of great whisky.

Check out upcoming tastings and more on his new website:

http://www.jollytoper.com/

POURS tasting

P/O/U/R/S Thursday 11th September 7.30pm Kilderkin, Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh £TBC £3 discount for first timers and members

Highland Park 22yo 1992 – 2014 Sherry butt 426 bottles 59.7% Cadenheads old sherried HP sauce, what’s not to like?

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Highland Park 22 Years Old 1992 – Small Batch ~ 59.7% (Wm Cadenhead)

Balblair 23yo 1990 – 2013 Bourbon barrels 318 bottles 51.7% Cadenheads the next in a series from these impressive barrels

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Balblair 23 Years Old 1990 Small Batch Sherrywood ~ 51.7% (Wm Cadenhead’s)

Littlemill 23yo 01.91 – 06.14 Cask No. 112 225 bottles 52.9% Pearls of Scotland – another cracking Littlemill – how long will they continue to be affordable and good?

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Littlemill 23 Years Old 1991 Cask#112 ~ 52.9% (Pearls of Scotland)

Longrow Red11yo port casks 9000 bottles 51.8% – the last in a short series of the peaty Campbeltown finished in Aussie wine casks, I’ve yet to taste this but I hear good things….

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Longrow Red 11 Years Old Port Casks ~ 51.8% (Springbank)

Mystery dram – Malt? Blend? Grain? Not Scottish? The apprehension is almost keeping me awake!

Alberta Premium 25YO

Alberta Premium 25 Years Old 100% Rye Whisky ~ 40% (Alberta Distillers)

If you are at a loose end on a Thursday in Edinburgh (and not a WOLS member) and inquisitive about whisky, then a trip to one of the Jolly Toper tastings is an absolute must. These are whisky tastings literally not to be missed and well worth every penny.

Longrow Red 11 Years Old Port Casks ~ 51.8% (Springbank)

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Longrow Red 11 Years Old Port Casks ~ 51.8% (Springbank)

51.8% ABV, £58 for 70cl

Score: 86/100

longrow-red-11-years-old-fresh-port-casks

What they say:

Another edition of Longrow’s popular Red range, this time featuring 11 year old whisky matured in fresh port casks, giving it a rosy hue and vibrant fruit notes alongside the classic aromas of well-peated Campbeltown single malt.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Jammy notes of summer fruit, sweet and vivid. Light notes of earthy peat and tobacco leaf.

Palate: Peat develops from the get-go, with hints of oak supporting it. Raisins, currants and sweet port.

Finish: A long finish of berry notes and subtle peat.

Overall: Good balance of peat and fruit.

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What I say:

Dram # 5 from the Jolly Toper P/O/U/R/S tasting held on 11th September 2014. This one according to Mark has spent 9 years in ‘fresh’ port casks. What it did for the other 2 years is anybodys guess but it was bottled at 11 years old.

Colour:

Coppery red

Nose:

Jammy fruits, strawberry, blackcurrant, raspberry, apple, cereal barley malt, new cigar boxes and a hint of earthy peat

Taste:

Strawberry jam on hot buttered toast, malty wheat bread toast at that, slightly earthy peaty flavours and some oaky wood

Finish:

Long, faintly rubbery malt and peat

Overall:

Excels on the palate, perhaps a little water would have opened up more on the nose and finish – but I’ll never know as this was too good straight out of the bottle. A perfect way to end a perfect evening’s whisky tasting. I expect this one to sell very quickly. The peated Longrow spirit and port cask maturation work well, I feel the port wins out giving a rich fruity whisky with peaty overtones, sublime.

Highland Park 22 Years Old 1992 – Small Batch ~ 59.7% (Wm Cadenhead)

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Highland Park 22 Years Old 1992 – Small Batch ~ 59.7% (Wm Cadenhead)

59.7% ABV, £85 for 70cl

Score: 87/100

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What they say:

Highland Park 22yo 1992 – 2014 Sherry butt 426 bottles 59.7% Cadenheads old sherried HP sauce, what’s not to like?

What I say:

Dram # 4 from the Jolly Toper P/O/U/R/S tasting held on 11th September 2014

Colour:

Full gold

Nose:

Caramel, toffee, cereal barley malt, smoky peat

Taste:

Caramel and caramelised muscovado sugar, savoury woodland honey, maple syrup, oaky wood, fruity, gentle heathery/earthy peat

Finish:

Long sweet and savoury

Overall:

An interesting expression from Highland Park Distillery, a lightly active refill sherry butt and a decent age have mellowed the often fierce and fiery nature of HP and produced something savoury, sweet and a little spicy (or HP Sauce as Mark put it). I have an inkling this would go perfectly well with bacon! Definitely a breakfast dram, and a very enjoyable one at that.

Water of Life Society Tasting 14/4 – Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover 09/10/2014

Water of Life Society Tasting 14/4

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

09/10/2014

 Our fourth tasting of 2014 (14/4) is all about preconceptions and misconceptions – to prevent them we are blind-pouring all drams and allowing you to taste and evaluate them with no information from the bottle.

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2 for a poond, 2 for a poond our bespoke Whisky bottle covers confirm no expenses were spared when organising these meetings! Also socks make great bottle covers!

Blind taste testing whisky is the ultimate tasting experience relying on only what your senses and experience tell you.

1. The Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky – Distillers Reserve ~ 43% (Beam/Suntory)

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve

Straight in with a curveball from our president and NO.1 Japanese whisky fan – Richard

Some thought this was perhaps a fruity highlander or speysider  – which in some ways it almost is as Yamazaki was setup by Taketsuru to emulate the great single malt scotch whisky production in Scotland.

2. Ardmore Traditional Cask ~ 46% (Beam/Suntory)

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Me again with the last chance saloon. This Ardmore Traditional Cask was discontinued the previous week and replaced by the new Ardmore Legacy. Gone is the 46% ABV non-chill filtered standard expression from the Highland Ardmore Distillery.

3.  As We Get It – Highland Whisky – 67.9% (Ian McLeod & Co. Ltd.)

As We Get It

Intentionally blurry shot of the undisclosed Highland ‘As We Get It’, I hope people took our advice to add water to this one. Lots and lots of water. At 67.9% this is one of the strongest whiskies I have come across. Watered down it does reveal some of its very enjoyable heavily-sherried nature.

4. Duthies Islay region blended malt whisky ~ 46% (Wm Cadenhead)

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Back to peat, but this time without the twist. We received some very interesting guesses as to which Islay distillery this came from, I can confirm that most of your guesses were probably correct (to some degree). This is actually a blended malt not a single – which nobody detected (not even us!)

5. BenRiach 17 Years Old Solstice 2nd Edition ~ 50% (BenRiach & GlenDronach Distilleries)

WOLS 14/4 lineup

Finally la piece de resistance, the BenRiach 17 Solstice – possibly one of the best standard expression whiskies under £60 a bottle!

So hopefully those who participated learned something and got to enjoy some good and some great whiskies too. Normal service will be resumed from next week.

Specific tasting notes can be found by clicking on the links for each whisky.

The Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky – Distillers Reserve ~ 43% (Beam/Suntory)

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve

The Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky – Distillers Reserve ~ 43% (Beam/Suntory)

43% ABV, £40 for 70cl

Score: 82/100

YamazakiDR

What they say:

Check out the beautiful Yamazaki website

A Soft, Gorgeous Aroma and Sweet, Smooth Flavour

The new Yamazaki is born of the meeting of a variety of Yamazaki malts, including the traditional Yamazaki malts stored in Japanese oak (Mizunara) casks and revolutionary malts stored in wine casks.

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What I say:

Our first whisky of the evening at WOLS 14/4 tasting ‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ – during which drams were poured blind for the delectation of our society members.

Colour:

Ginger/gold

Nose:

Perfumed, sweet and floral, cherry wine or blossom, strawberries and cream, a faint sub-aroma of acetone, mizunara oak

Taste:

Fruity apple, cherry, raspberry, strawberries and cream, blueberry, custard apple with cinnamon hints, cherrywood

Finish:

Long, gentle spices, cinnamon and orange zest, bubblegum, vanilla and mizunara oak

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve

Overall:

This is very similar to the Yamazaki 12 Years old that I had the pleasure of sampling recently only it has a subtle hint of being slightly younger and much fresher in its fruity elements. A delicious dram, this reminded me of cherry lips and strawberries and cream candies with a subtle unusual cherrywood and mizunara oak. This is as fragrant as a breeze through the cherry blossom and just as enjoyable. A very well constructed ‘No age-statement’ whisky from Yamazaki that is the perfect introduction to their range.

BenRiach 17 Years Old Solstice 2nd Edition ~ 50% (BenRiach & GlenDronach Distilleries)

BenRiach17Solstice

BenRiach 17 Years Old Solstice 2nd Edition ~ 50% (BenRiach & GlenDronach Distilleries)

50% ABV, £58 for 70cl

Score: 91/100

BenRiach17Solstice

What they say:

Unusually for a Speyside distillery, we distil whisky from both styles of malted barley, non peated and peated, enabling us to capture the defining taste and aroma of peat reek in a few of our special bottlings.

Just like the original Solstice release, this BenRiach has been distilled from heavily peated malted barley, then matured in ex-bourbon casks before finally being finished in Tawny Port casks. This new malt is a superb marriage of peat and fruit, a worthy successor to our 15-year old edition.

The bottling strength for the Solstice 17 year old ‘Second Edition’ is 50%.

Nose: Fabulous aroma of stewed summer berries including strawberries, blackcurrants and red currants. The berry component is richly locked together by a muscular peaty blast. Latter traces of fortified wine and grape like qualities become apparent.

Colour: Impressive colour spectrum, showing distinct rose characteristics, with a bright copper crest.

Taste: Initial, dry roasted nutty notes flow over the palate. This advances to become a heavy peaty affair. Subtle notes of dried raisins, and candied fruit. Clean and very enticing with the dominant peat flavours lingering on the palate. Smooth and very long.

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What I say:

The pinnacle of our WOLS tasting 14/4 ‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ was the BenRiach Solstice 2nd Edition (released at 17 years old as opposed to the original edition at 15). This is a peaty expression from BenRiach that has been finished in Tawny Port casks so expect complexity…

Colour:

Copper rose gold

Nose:

Sweet wholewheat toasted bread with red berry (raspberry?) jam, cranberry sauce, cocoa-dusted and heather-tinged peat smoke, like smoked chocolate coffee beans (if such a thing exists? – I really hope it does)

Taste:

Walnuts and hints of pecan, prickly cayenne pepper on oaty chocolate biscuits, some fruit in here but almost like mince-pie filling, cinnamon, sultanas, cubed apple, molasses, pinch of nutmeg, hazelnut, raisin, dark chocolate, treacle toffee, slightly earthen peat.

Finish:

Long nutty walnut/oak wood with a little wood polish and peaty smoke.

Overall:

Doesn’t disappoint, this is hugely complex and interesting. The nose reveals fruity elements of the port finish that are indistinguishable in the palate from other elements. This tastes like it has been carefully hand-selected and mixed to a recipe and the result is like the perfect Christmas mince pie. Perhaps taking flavours you wouldn’t expect to work together and then blowing you away with how splendidly they combine. The more I drink the more it reveals. Thank You BenRiach!

Ardmore Traditional Cask ~ 46% (Beam/Suntory)

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Ardmore Traditional Cask ~ 46% (Beam/Suntory)

46% ABV, £30 for 70cl

Score: 76/100

Ardmore TC

What they say:

The 2007 release of this ‘Traditional Cask’ was the first official single malt from the Ardmore distillery, this is a young whisky, but it was aged in quarter casks, which proffers a speedy maturation thus discounting its youth.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Full of caramel. Toasted oak is evident and rich and just the faintest peat has muscled its way through.

Palate: Lots of barley and cereal notes, oodles of rich bourbon, smoke and peat still present. Charming interplay through the caramel sweetness and the vanilla spiced oak.

Finish: Has a sharp edge, more caramel and sugary barley notes and a lanolin smoothness and more tapering smoke.

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What I say:

The Ardmore Traditional Cask has recently been superceded by the Ardmore Legacy expression, retailing at approximately the same price the new expression is 6% lighter in ABV, and no longer carries the statement Non chillfiltered. Neither of which seem particularly positive points to note. So before it disappears completely here is what we thought of the defunct Ardmore Traditional Cask.

Colour:

Full golden amber

Nose:

Sweet icing sugar and slightly perfumed floral notes of heather, a little citrusy fruit and some cereal malt, gentle fragrant wood and peat smoke

Taste:

Sharp, cleansing and almost a little ascerbic palate, this settles to reveal a light richness of malty cereal, sweet honey and golden syrup, and prickly cinnamon with heathery peaty notes. A little buttery and oily, there is a modicum of vanilla and bourbon influence. Not too old and not too young in the palate.

Finish:

Long, sweet with souring oak wood and a light peaty influence

Overall:

Not bad for an introductory dram, this has some body and a little complexity to it. I was hoping for a fuller palate from the nose but this appears to be a little thin, sharper and more prickly than I was expecting. There is a slightly chewy nature from this and the more you work with it the more the peaty nature comes out. A drop of water separates the sweet and peaty elements which for me sadly didn’t improve this whisky.

Duthies Islay region blended malt whisky ~ 46% (Wm Cadenhead)

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 Duthies Islay region blended malt whisky ~ 46% (Wm Cadenhead)

46% ABV, £28.50 for cl

Score: 84/100

What they say:

Duthies range of whiskies are from Wm Cadenhead’s, within this range are 4 blended malts highlighting specific regions of Scotland

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What I say:

Duthies Islay Blend is an all malt blend of unspecified Islay malts (possibly likely to vary from batch to batch dependent upon availability?)

Colour:

Refractive yellow gold

Nose:

A little new paint, some cereal barley, gentle peat smoke, a tad medicinal and some tangy sea salt are in there with a sprinkling of pine-nuts and a light honey, some lemon cream and lime citrus notes, lactic maltiness.

Taste:

Creamy and buttery in texture with a good balanced honey sweetness, some menthol, eucalyptus and white pepper spice develops. Liqourice and ashy earthen peat develop with a salted caramel, seaweed, creamy vanilla and lemon custard

Finish:

Long, ashen peat smoke and mouth-coating, almost waxy, sweet citric and vanilla with oak wood

Overall:

Reasonably complex and very full-bodied, there are distinct elements in here that I would possibly ascribe to Bowmore (citrus), Caol Ila (Ashen peat), Laphroaig (Briny, medicinal and nutty), Bunnahabhain (earthy/nutty) and possibly even Ardbeg & Lagavulin (malty/lactic). Initially I was perhaps underwhelmed by this, however the more I drink the more multi-faceted and expertly constructed it appears. It is fair to say I now have a healthy appreciation of this blended malt which does exactly what it says on the bottle. This is a perfect dram that encapsulates just about every aspect of Islay malts in some part.

Jura 21 Years Old 1992 Cask#10304 – Old Particular ~ 51.2% (Douglas Laing & Co Ltd.)

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Jura 21 Years Old 1992 Cask#10304 – Old Particular ~ 51.2% (Douglas Laing & Co Ltd.)

51.2% ABV, £95 for 70cl available from Master of Malt

Score: 89/100

jura-21-year-old-1992-cask-10304-old-particular-douglas-laing-whisky

What they say:

Single malt from the Isle of Jura, bottled by Douglas Laing for the Old Particular range. This independently bottled beauty was distilled in October 1992 and bottled in March 2014. This has given the whisky ample time to develop superbly sweet notes of marmalade, white chocolate and even cookie dough! The single refill hogshead produced 271 bottles of single malt Scotch whisky.

What I say:

A 21 year old Jura from Douglas Laing’s Old Particular range, bottled at cask strength. Sounds delicious – let’s see if it was…

Colour:

Straw Gold

Nose:

White chocolate buttons/milkybar, coconut oil, Horlicks malt drink, cookie dough, hay, buttermilk

Taste:

Fruity and zestier than the nose suggests, apple, peach and tangerine or marmalade, slightly yeasty bread dough then sponge cake mix, old oaky wood

Finish:

Long oak wood and some vanilla sweetness

Would I buy it:

A big ask as this is close to my self-limited maximum (I find it very hard to justify spending more than £70 and definitely no more than £100 on an individual bottle of whisky – after all I’m only going to drink it!). This comes close though as my score attests, I really enjoyed this unusual but interesting and complex dram. I’m always convinced that Jura produces good whisky it just feels a shame that it only truly shines in reasonably rare bottlings such as this one. A fantastic selection (as usual) from DL & Co.

Laphroaig 18 Years Old ~48% (Beam/Suntory)

Laphroaig18yo

Laphroaig 18 Years Old ~48% (Beam/Suntory)

48% ABV, £86.71 for 70cl

Score: 88/100

Laphroaig18yo

What they say:

Replacing the much-loved 15 year old, our new 18 year old is a well balanced, full bodied whisky offering a long, sweet and intense finish. A multitude of flavours on the nose, smoked ham, spice, fruitcake, wood, ginger and a touch of butter. Complex palate with layers of smoke, nut and wood.

This 18 Year Old expression of Laphroaig is made in limited quantities each year and savoured by a fortunate few. A soft, sweet and spicy Islay peat smoke greets you when you first open the bottle. The immediate taste is an oak sweetness, from 18 years in the barrel. A faint hint of the sea can be detected, testimony to its time maturing on the remote island of Islay.

It is bottled at 48% ABV and is non-chill filtered for a depth of taste and texture.

TASTING NOTES

COLOUR : Bright Gold

NOSE: At bottling strength, a soft toffee sweet but faintly spicy flavour counterbalances the trace of delicate phenols and fruit. An all encompassing smoothness brings these together. A touch of water allows the seaweed and salt to come through but not enough to overpower the vanilla and honey sweetness with just a trace of new mown hay and peat at the finish.

BODY: An intense depth that is exceptionally balanced and warming.

PALATE: An instant warming tang of smoke fades into smooth floral scents, which blends seamlessly into an oaky nuttiness and leaves a lasting sweetness on the taste. With a touch of water, the peaty warmth fills the mouth but does not overshadow the sweet chocolate smoothness. This is balanced by the rich toffee taste and slowly fades into a delicate hint of heather and peat smoke.

FINISH: Full bodied, long with a luxurious oily smoothness.

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What I say:

Sampled during our recent visit to Laphroaig Distillery (April 2014), this is one of their standard expressions made in limited batches each year.

Colour:

Light yellow, full refractive gold

Nose:

Sweet honey & peanut satay, peat, slightly hoppy, fruity apples, pears (pear drops), apricot, sandalwood

Taste:

Sweet sandalwood, hazelnut &  gingerbread, vanilla rice pudding with a little apple and pear puree, seaweed and clean and clinical iodine

Finish:

Long sweet honeyed vanilla and burnt sandalwood incense sticks

Overall:

A beautiful whisky from Laphroaig that really tames that fiery powerful peaty character into something sublime. A really delicious dram that reveals sweet woody bourbon character married perfectly with gentle peat and clean iodine (none of that dirty creosote of the 10 year old in here thank you madam!). I could drink this all day – what better way to relax than sitting in the Laphroaig snug drinking some of their finest.

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