The theme of the 3rd Water of Life Society (WoLS) tasting event, held on the 10th October 2013, was introducing various elements of grain whisky, Coffey or continuous distillation or generally anything else that isn’t typically Scotch single malt whisky. For this event we had decamped to the Teviot dining hall, which was much more formal as it not only had tables but tablecloths too! Again this event was pretty packed but the more sociable setting meant that we got to meet and greet many more society members, as well as discuss whisky with them [yay – whisky!].
The evening started with the Baillie Nicol Jarvie blended scotch whisky at 40% ABV. Blended whisky typically consists of a reasonable amount of Single malt scotch, bestowing the flavour and character; and grain whisky to bulk out the volume and alcohol content making the blend much cheaper to produce. BNJ is a particularly old and well established blend and is though to consist of Islay, Highland [possibly Glenmorangie from where it is produced?] and Speyside malts blended with Ayrshire grain whisky [Girvan distillery]. This blend boasts the highest malt content of a blend [around 60% malts]. This dram was straw gold in colour, had a nose of sweet pears, was buttery in flavour and texture with a relatively short and clean finish.
Next there was an all malt blend on offer in the shape of either Nikka All Malt or Monkey Shoulder, both at 40% ABV. As I have recently tasted and reviewed Monkey Shoulder there wasn’t really an option, plus my fellow taste-testers had rapidly established a respect for Japanese whisky following sampling of the Yoichi 10 Years Old at the last event. Nikka All Malt is a strange mixture of Single malt from Yoichi plus single malt and coffey distilled malted barley from Miyagikyou distillery. The resulting dram is golden with a distinct orange zest aroma, oily and smooth in the mouth with a little hint of oak wood and then a vaporous and short finish.
Next we moved onto the single grain whisky from Cameron Bridge distillery called Cameron Brig. Still at only 40% this whisky had little else going for it in character. A lovely [probably caramel] gold colour, this dram smelled like ethanol and methylated spirits [methanol], this had a buttery chemical taste and was reasonably vaporous in the mouth with a short harsh finish. Of all the whiskies we tried this tasted the most like it had been formulated in a laboratory and was purely a bunch of chemicals in a bottle…
Onto the bourbon, made primarily from corn and matured solely in virgin American oak casks. Strongly associated with Kentucky county and the south, this can be made anywhere in the U.S. W. L. Weller from the Buffalo Trace distillery is named after William Larue Weller who seemingly created the first wheated bourbon by substituting wheat in the mashbill for the spicy rye grain. At 45% ABV this is a little more alcoholic, darker, smoother and subtly more comlex of the two bourbons on offer. Sadly I opted for the Bulleit bourbon which has a very high percentage rye in the mix. This gold dram had a distinctly medicinal, sweet and orangey nose with fizzy barley sugar on the tongue and a reasonably spicy and harsh finish. This even had the ability to warm the ears of one of our group! As we all had the opportunity to try both of these, I think the W. L. Weller came out as the unanimous favourite.
Finally and as a farewell to Sean in his last official role within the WoLS committee we went completely against the grain and enjoyed a 21 Year Old, Single Cask Highland Park from the Signatory Vintage stable. Distilled in 1991 and matured for 21 years presumably in a sherry cask [sorry – I should have checked but was too busy enjoying!] this is un-chill filtered and bottled at 46% ABV. Brown-gold in colour this has a lightly smoky nose with hints of brown sugar. In the mouth this is a thick, oily, buttery dram with flavours of caramel and treacle toffee a little peat smoke and a lot of white pepper spice builds and becomes drying, with the finish being more sweet than smoke. Overall a pretty perfect way to end the evening and thank Sean for all his work and keeping us thoroughly informed and entertained throughout.
As usual a big thanks to Sean, Christy, Josef, Richard and Sanna [Sam] for keeping our spirits up!