June 2019 - Return to Scotland
Exciting times lay ahead for the Ponderers! Eddie and Phil attended the Feis Ile Festival (Islay’s annual whisky festival), and amongst numerous personal acquisitions (thoroughly tested no doubt…!) Eddie also picked up a number of treats for the club, to sample over the coming year.
Alongside this, it was announced that there would be three Saturday tastings limited to 28 people, as the club were lucky enough to procure 8 different whiskies from the Kilchoman range. - So across two Saturdays there will be 4 different drams, plus plans for a Bunnahabhain tasting, as several different bottlings of this rather interesting distillery’s offerings were purchased.
That’s the formalities over! Now onto this month’s trio.
1. The Glenlivet - 12 Year Old
RRP: £38.00 (Tesco)
Firstly we have a bit of a stalwart, it has been discontinued in the past due to Glenlivet’s dwindling supplies of aged barrels, but then reintroduced mid-2018, albeit one would imagine tweaked slightly from it’s former guise.
Tasting Notes (Masters of Malt):
Nose: Sweet creamy vanilla, honey, pineapple, vanilla, pressed apples and a little cinnamon.
Palate: Apple cores, fresh and fruity trifle and creamy citrus. Finish: Long and delicious, almonds and apple.
Finish: Long and delicious, almonds and apple.
As a club it is whiskies like this that made us realise that we have come a long way since the humble and arguably uneducated beginnings. There is certainly nothing wrong with this whisky, it is perfectly pleasant to drink, however there were murmurs of ‘boring’ and ‘everyday whisky’ to be heard (followed quickly by a sarcastic shout of ‘we are turning into snobs!') On the other hand there were some first-time attendees who openly stated they weren’t keen on whisky and were just inquisitive about the night as they have friends who are regulars, who really enjoyed this dram. So simplicity doesn’t necessarily equal bad - it is exactly easy-drinking whiskies like this that are the perfect introduction.
Regarding notes for the club, we were in fairly wide agreement that the vanilla and fruity notes were present on the nose and palate – in particular apple, which is the smell and taste that does seem synonymous with the Glenlivet distillery; certainly also present in their Founder’s Reserve and Nadura offerings.
The finish wasn’t necessarily the longest either, but again perfectly pleasant, just not too much to get excited about either.
2. Isle of Jura - The Bay
RRP: £62.00 (Jura Distillery)
On Eddie and Phil’s travels they decided to take the short ferry across to the Isle of Jura, they were able to get a few different bottles there too, one of which we cracked into for the club.
This whisky is a travel exclusive, part of Jura’s Travellers Collection – which are all Jura whiskies that are finished in varying ages of Pedro Ximénez sherry cask (The Road being finished in a 15 year sherry cask) – This one is not rare as such, but difficult to obtain if you specifically wanted this bottling outside of airports! Interestingly this particular one replaces the non age statement ‘The Road’ in the line-up, and brings with it an age statement of 12 years, the reason for this is likely to satisfy market preference to age statement whiskies.
Tasting Notes (compiled from various sources including Tom’s Whisky Reviews)
Nose: sweet raisins, rum and raisin ice cream, Jamaica ginger cake, toffee apple golden syrup, hints of wood and spice
Palate: Lots of sherry and fruit (figs and apples), more Jamaica ginger cake and golden syrup, with a sweetness and a hint of smoke
Finish: Sweet, soft and gingery long finish
This dram certainly ticked a lot more of the club members’ boxes; with warm fruity notes as a group we detected honey, pear, syrup, raisins and rum. After suggestions from the notes above were read out there was a consensus that the Jamaica ginger cake was definitely present.
On the palate it was observed to be a much more refined flavor than the Glenlivet, creamy, with more dried raisin, hints of citrus, and agreement that the ginger cake continued into the taste as well as the smell.
The finish was long and slightly spiced, leaving a fantastic flavour and sensation.
‘I had a Jura on the way here – this one is miles above it!’
3. Bowmore 15-year-old
- The Feis Ile Collection 2019
1 of 3000 bottles
RRP: £85.00 (Feis Ile Festival) - however it is already selling for in excess of double this price, in some places triple.
The final dram of the night had all the makings of being an absolute treat. Another Islay gem that Eddie and Phil purchased, this was one of 3 Bowmore offerings from the festival. (This one being the lowest priced of the trio).
Eddie and Phil queued for 18 (yes EIGHTEEN…) hours outside the distillery to obtain this bottle! We broke a usual tradition for this bottle and the club tasted it openly rather than blind, as it was felt that it was important to convey not only the efforts that went into getting it, but also to make sure it was really appreciated for what it was in terms of anticipated quality.
So what we have is a 15-year-old whisky aged in ex-Bourbon casks, lots of salty, coastal notes up front, developing into a beautiful marriage of some classic Bowmore fruity notes.
Tasting Notes (directly from the bottle):
Nose: Oak Spice, Roasted Pistachio, Bergamot and Banana with Subtle Medicinal Notes
Palate: Layers of Salty Vanilla, Candied Orange, Butter Shortbread and Subtle Liquorice
Finish: Long lasting, Oily and Beautifully Mouth Coating
Now. We have had some very tasty drams in the past, but certainly of all the whiskies I personally have tried with the club – it was immediately apparent that this was going to be right up there. It delivered on all fronts, with a fantastically complex nose, layer upon layer of new aromas with each revisit to the glass. Usually we are guilty of skimping on the nosing to get straight onto the palate, but it was great to see so many of our number really getting into the smell of the pour.
‘I’ve not tasted it yet, I’m still smelling it!’
Overall it went down an absolute storm, the majority of the club really enjoying this particular example. There were a few for whom this sort of flavour camp is not so palatable, but by and large we were quite blown away by it. ‘Dangerous – you wouldn’t know if you hadn’t been told.’ – in response to learning that it was cask strength (something that we have yet to widely explore as a club to date, but will be more and more common in future tastings) and you really wouldn’t it tastes so refined and balanced, that the alcohol burn is very much masked by stunning flavours.
So thanks to Eddie and Phil for their efforts, 100% worth it!
With some exciting bottles now in the club's possession, the future is looking very positive for the club. Next month we decided that we would keep up the annual tradition of bourbon, with a US theme - dressing up strongly encouraged!