Jolly Toper Tasting 10/04/2014 dubbed ‘The French Connection’

Bonjour, Salut! Zis weeks tasting iz une bi-lingual presentation for ze French people and non-French people. Armed as usual with our stylo’s and papier’s we commence’d in best Allo Allo fashion with Mark trying his absolute best to say everything in French before translating it directly back into unintelligible Scots afterwards. Cue much hilarity, bemused French- (and Scots/English-) men, most of whom spoke or understood perfect English, and some damn fine drams as usual. Bon, allez allez vite vite bebe!

The French Connection Line-up

So, listen very carefully I shall say this only once. A usual this was une dégustation à l’aveugle avec manger de la gateaux de oats et court-pain in between:

1. Tomatin 35 Years Old  1978 – Small Batch (Wm Cadenhead)

Tomatin 35 Years Old Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour: Gold amber

Nose: Sweet, slightly estery, pear drops, oak wood

Taste: Sweet, vanilla, treacle toffee-ish, oaky wood, bitter, like a charred cask matured whisky

Finish: Long and warming more oaky wood

Score: 85/100

Not too complex this tasted like an un-peated Islay malt or charred (alligator) cask speysider, there was distinctly a hint of something missing here, lots of oak and depth of flavour – but something missing.

Tomatin 35 official taste notes

Turns out this is the Tomatin 35 Years Old Cadenhead Small Batch, bottled at cask strength of 44.1% ABV, costing £160/bottle, Distilled in 1978, matured in bourbon hogsheads and bottled in 2013 for a 594 bottle outturn

2. Allt-á-Bhainne 21 Years Old 1992 – Small Batch (Wm Cadenhead)

Allt-á-Bhainne 21 Years Old Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour: Refractive gold

Nose: Cake mix, fruit cake dough, sweet, cherry lips sweets (cherries), cereal malt and oranges

Taste: Warming and fruity, maraschino cherries, chocolate malt, slight cinnamon/ginger spiciness, Kirsch (cherry liqueur)

Finish: Long and slightly drying, more cherries, malt chcocolate, old oak wood with that slightly herbal quality

Score: 86/100

Very enjoyable, went down well with the whole audience, that Kirsch and dark chocolate with sweet cereals was just perfect!

Another Cadenhead Small Batch release, this was an offering from the Allt-á-Bhainne distillery normally used for blending so rarely found as a single malt. Bottled at 54.4% ABV, this commands around £55 a bottle

3. Springbank 12 Years Old Cask Strength Batch #6 (Official Bottling)

Springbank 12 Years Old CS Batch 6

Colour: Dark gold, rosy amber

Nose: Heathery, floral, herbal, ester and acetone – wondering if it was port or wine finished

Taste: Cinnamon bubblegum, sweet heather honey, cloves, juicy fruits, struck matches, fireworks/sulphuric

Finish: Medium length, warming more slightly sulphuric notes.

Score 85/100

Slightly surprising, this is one of Mark’s usual recommendations although he hadn’t quite had a group who picked up so much on the sulphuric notes before/ Cue: What’s French for Sulphur? “Sulfur” said the burly Frenchman to much hilarity!

The Springbank 12 Years Old Cask Strength (currently on Batch #7) but this was batch #6, matured in a mixture of bourbon and sherry casks (hence my inclination to some ‘cask-finished’ taste about this). This was bottled at 50.3% ABV and retails at £43.50 for 70cl bottle.

4. Ardmore 16 Years Old 1997 – Small Batch (Wm Cadenhead)

Ardmore 16 Years Old Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour: Very pale gold

Nose: Vaporous and spirit this had a lot of alcohol burn, with hints of cereal and peat?

Taste: Cereal, sweet-ish like savoury woodland honey, slightly bitter and sour but crisp and delicate throughout, definite flavour of heathery peat (like highland or speyside)

Finish: Relatively short, quite refreshing and palate-cleansing

Score: 85/100

The Ardmore 16 Years Old Cadenhead Small Batch was bottled at 55.2% ABV and costs around £55 for a 70cl bottle.

5. Glendronach Cask Strength Batch #3 (Official Bottling)

Glendronach Cask Strength Batch #3

Colour: Russet ruby

Nose: Rubber, nutty, leather, chocolate, glazing putty (latex and linseed oil)

Taste: Prunes, characteristic suede/leather, slight rubbery, ginger and cinnamon spices, chocolate and fruit cake (Christmas cake)

Finish: Long chocolate/cocoa and leather tannins

Score: 84/100 – comme ci comme ca

A strong sherry monster, matured in Oloroso casks, with no age statement (NAS). It could only be Glendronach! This is their 3rd incarnation of the Cask Strength release. Went down well but are they guilty of over-egging the pudding (or over-sherry maturing the whisky)?

JT The French Connection

The Final line-up. On review the French people voted unanimously (almost) for the Tomatin and the Non-French people for the Allt-á-Bhainne which was just about the most perfect whisky you could imagine. In truth the votes were split across all of the nights drams and for good reason! An exceptional collection, sadly the only loser on the night was the French language!

Au revoir et bonsoir x

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