Quick Tastings

Yet again it’s been too long since I did one of these, so here’s some stuff that I’ve randomly had a sip of in recent times that hasn’t quite merited a full burst of obsessive writing for whatever reason. Usually laziness.

BrewDog Lost DogBrewDog/Lost Abbey Lost Dog – a collaboration between BrewDog and Lost Abbey, a ‘monastically inspired’ brewery just north of San Diego in California. It’s a rum cask aged Imperial porter, produced during a visit by the Californians about a year ago. It’s a big dark beer, but held up to the light has a deep red colour. On the nose it had sticky red berries, massively sweet caramel and a little bit of burnt toffee – a nice but unsurprising nose that could have come off many sweet dark beers. To taste it was rich, laced with port fruit, and had a light fizz that cut through the sweetness. It finished with thick malt syrup sweetness, a burst of smoke (like a fire in a chocolate malt bin) and a very long lingering fruitiness – cherries, raisins, fake rhubarb. I tried this on tap previously at BrewDog Camden and it’s just how I remember it – a big sweet dark beer with some interesting fruit on the finish. The bottled version also comes in a pretty box.

Auchenthoshan Valinch – I’ve had this on my tasting stack for ages because the lid was stuck. I finally took a pair of pliers to it the other day and cracked it open. It’s Auchentoshan’s no-age-statement Classic bottled at cask strength, something that their fans have been asking about for a while and which they finally released last year. On the nose it’s young and spirity, with crunchy peach, lemon travel sweets, sweet pastry, vanilla sugar, green peppercorns and floral candles. To taste it has wax polish, sour green fruit (apples, crunchy pear, limes), young floral spirity notes and woody spice. A drop of water calms things down and brings out some vanilla cream. It finishes with lime skin and sour wood, adding in apple skin tannins and apple chews as it fades away. It is very young tasting and when I first tried it I wasn’t a fan. However, my tastes have recently started hitting out towards the light and floral end of the spectrum, and this is now much more towards where my palate is at the moment.

anCnoc 1998 – a newbie from the folks at Inver House (new enough that we don’t have it at work yet). I rather like the regular 12 and 16 year olds from anCnoc but haven’t been a massive fan of their vintage releases in the past. On the nose this was big and lemony, with fizzy yeastiness, Tangfastics, fizzy chewitts, green grapes, apple chews, fennel tops, tall grass and waxed fruit, and it got sweeter as it sat in the glass. To taste it was soft and creamy with green apple, light cinnamon spice and some green rhubarb. The rhubarb lingered in the finish, along with some pepper and sour green wood. It’s a very drinkable dram with some good fruit and spice. It’s not a game changer and doesn’t fit in with the regular anCnoc releases but is perfectly decent whisky.

Bowmore Tempest Batch #3 – this is the sample that reminded me I hadn’t done a quick tasting post in a while – I’ve had it for ages (Sorry DK). It was rather loved at work, with m’colleague Tim choosing it as his Christmas whisky, but I’d not got round to doing more than have a swig in the office. On the nose it has old bonfires, unripe fruit, brine, tarred ropes, damp dark wood and floral hints. To taste it had upfront wood smoke and charred wood, with sweet muddy peat, pears, some young spirity flavours, and sweet and sour fruit. It finished quite sweet, with syrup, spicy wood and some lingering hammy wood. I wouldn’t pick it as a favourite, although it does do a very good job of balancing smoke and sweet fruitiness.

The Spirit of Broadside – a weird one this, Adnams’s Broadside (tasty beer) distilled at their new(ish) distillery and then matured for a year in new oak. So, one year old, hopped, sort-of whisky. I went along to the launch and had some thrust into my hand. On the nose I got powdered rubber tire inner tubes, balloons, ginger, hops, marmite, raisins and lots of childhood memory smells – the scent of brewday on the other side of town to my school when I was growing up. To taste it was oily with caramel sweetness, pine, juniper, oranges, fresh cut ginger root, stewed apple, garam masala and cardamon. It finished sweet, with ginger, real maraschino cherries and lingering hops. Definitely not a whisky and interesting, although I have no idea where it fits in the world of spirits.

Copper House Limoncello – After I’d tried the Spirit of Broadside I had a glass of this handed to me. On the nose it was pure fresh cut lemon – enough so that I asked John McCarthy, the Adnams distiller, whether he’d used any more of the lemons than the traditional zest. He hadn’t, having bought horrendously expensive zest, but the nose still managed to get whole lemon juiciness into it somehow. To taste it was syrupy and oily, with buttery lemon and some zesty bitterness. Well balanced and not too sweet.

La Fée Parisienne – a sample given to me by the excellent Ryan Alexander at Barcamp London after myAbsinthe session. According to the internets this is almost a traditionally made absinthe – distilled rather than compounded using oils. However, it does have one definite additive – colouring. It’s a shocking fluorescent green and it louches to a quite impressive green as well. Before adding water it’s very spirity, with the alcoholic base coming out almost as strong as the anise, which is very strong, and almost swamping the few bitter herbals that are noticeable. After dilution (1:3 absinthe:water) the nose is still anis heavy, with a bit of seediness (like the seed at the middle of an aniseed ball) and a little bit of green herb bitterness. It tastes very sweet and syrupy, like melted aniseed balls, with a little hit of wormwood bitterness, and finishes with some mulchy grass and even more sweet aniseed balls. An unsubtle absinthe with lots of sweetness (I switched to Jade Edouard after this and it was incredible how bitter it seemed in comparison, when normally I find it naturally sweet) and a scary colour. It’s not bad though and is reasonably priced.

Glendronach 8yo 1970sGlendronach 8 year old, bottled 1970s, Italian Import – A rather special dram this, acquired by m’colleague Tim, opened and shared around the office. It’s Glendronach from before the days that they became known as the sherry kings. Well, the time before the most recent time they became known as sherry kings, anyway. On the nose it doesn’t want to give up much, but has a chunk of sour tropical fruit – passion fruit, unripe rhubarb and mango – as well as a little bit of syrupy sweetness. To taste it’s nowhere near as sweet as the nose suggested, with polished wood, apricot, anis spiciness, cinnamon and acres of beautiful, old, elegant woodiness. It finished warming and spicy, with apples and a mineral edge, as well as more well aged wood. This is a proper old school whisky, the sort that I’d not even realised existed before I started working at TWE. The nose has all the marvellous tropical fruit that has got me looking for old bottlings of young whisky in auctions and the palate is dry with the Good Wood that I capitalise when I write about it. It seems that another few beers have been added to the ‘drinks to buy Tim’ list.

Thanks to DK at Margaret and Lukas at Alembic for the samples of Auchentoshan and Bowmore, and anCnoc respectively; and to Alice from Westgate for inviting me along to the Spirit of Broadside launch.

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