(Updated) As Scotland’s lockdown restrictions continue easing off bit by bit, I took part in another two online whisky tastings: the first with a theme of “be open-minded about them”… (aren’t I always?); and a second just before the end of the month.
My standard disclaimer: I know nothing about whisky. I jot down how each one makes me feel (in my own way), and it’s entirely possible if I tasted a particular whisky again I’d come to a completely different conclusion (depending on my frame of mind.) Regard these notes more as an exercise in creativity than a comment on each dram!
Notes: 3 June 2021
- Colour – the warm glow of a sunset.
Nose – Pentel marker pen.
Palate – spicy, liquorice, the way I’d imagine a fake school tuck shop at some adult venue where grown-ups dress like schoolgirls or something. I don’t know, it’s going to be a long evening, isn’t it?
Finish – Grain or rye or something? Mixed with the feeling you get from someone squeaking styrofoam next to your ears.
(Ballagary, old Irish whisky blend from Coverdale & Co of London; “22 under proof”; no age statement, but assumed to be bottled in the 1940s or 50s; bought at auction for around £50)
- Colour – the amber traffic light that forces you to decide if you’re going to brake or sail through.
Nose – fruit, budding flowers, the dawn of a new age.
Palate – candy, sweetness, the gentle innocence of discovering things during childhood.
Finish – bland, safe, cosiness, like the reassurance of playing with your favourite toys in your bedroom.
(Label 5, no age statement, 40%, £17)
- Colour – the dust you should really have washed off your car by now.
Nose – the faint whiff of danger and mystery.
Palate – the POW! BIFF!! WHAM!!! of a fight scene in the 1960s Batman show. Watered down, it’s like children’s cough medicine.
Finish – This is like liquid Gremlins: don’t feed it after midnight and keep it away from water. It keeps getting warmer – send help? Bad-but-good, like watching an old Ed Wood film.
(Inch Dairnie, 4yo -unofficial release distilled 2016, bottled 2021- 60.5%, £95. Named ‘Voyager 2 Grand Tour’ after the space probe mission, which appeals to my inner nerd, this is my vote for most interesting whisky of the evening.)
- Colour – tobacco-stained grey hair your elderly relatives had when you were a kid.
Nose – buttery, creamy, like a perfect cupcake.
Palate – razorblades on the tongue. Like having a toilet brush rammed down your throat. Water makes it like bubblegum.
Finish – Like the Nazi with the melting face in Raiders of the Lost Ark. TV viewers may recall in the first season of Outlander it starts off all cute, with a fantasy-historical-time-travel romance, and ends with the male lead getting his hand nailed to a wooden table, tortured and raped and leaving the audience wondering what the fuck just happened?! Same thing happens with this whisky.
(Bimber Distillery, London single malt, 3yo from 2017, 57.9%, £85 and gets my GOD, NO award for the evening.)
- Colour – dark, like a fantasy antagonist – but one who could yet turn and join the heroes.
Nose – intense coffee and chocolate orange.
Palate – seaweed and beaches and barbecues on the sand with friends; butterscotch and sulphur. Fiery, spunky, youthful.
Finish – warming, spicy, like a summer holiday with friends in your teens. With water: like rolling around on the sand with your teenage crush in a wetsuit. Elixir of youthfulness.
(Old Pulteney, 16yo -2004 to 2020- sherry cask 59.2%, £130; well, if you want the elixir of youth it’ll cost ya.)
- Colour – weak and pale in a way that makes you scream “FINISH HIM!” in an old beat-em-up arcade game.
Nose – the antiseptic smell of a GP surgery.
Palate – liquid Parmesan cheese.
Finish – liquid smoke with a faint sting.
(Loch Lomond single grain, 100% peated barley, no age statement, 46%, under £30)
Whisky 7) (jesus, I’m half-cut now)
- Colour – that beige colour all computers had from 1980-2000.
Nose – smokey bacon.
Palate – salty, fishy, burnt.
Finish – Ew. Not to my taste. Like Joan of Arc’s underpants after the flames died down at the stake.
(Kilchoman, mezcal finish, 7yo -2013 to 2021- 55% £90)
Notes: 24 June 2021
- Colour – a quick cup of tea.
Nose – faint and subtle, like trying to remember why you went into this particular room right now – it vanishes from your mind as soon as you get it.
Palate – smooth, nutty, undemanding – like a mellow squirrel.
Finish – gentle heat afterwards, like the pleasing warmth of bathwater when you know you can stay in just a little bit longer.
(Benromach 10yo 43%, about £35)
- Colour – identical to 1a.
Nose – similar to 1a.
Palate – like a duller version of 1a, as if comparing Jeremy Hunt and then Matt Hancock [NB: this was written before the following day’s sex scandal and subsequent resignation involving the latter.]
Finish – like the warm bathwater from 1a, except you know that it’s now time to pull the plug.
(Benromach 15yo 43%, about £65… skip this and stick with 1a if you’ve got a choice!)
- Colour – as neutral and full of gold as Switzerland.
Nose – faint, fruity, citrus; the smell creeps up on you like a snake about to strike.
Palate – POW! You know how Mars in Holst’s Planets Suite starts of slow and then hits you with a salvo of noise? After the nose, that’s what this does. Adding water brings out more complex flavours (banana? nut?) – like going from high energy X-ray energy to gentler, cosier infrared.
Finish – energised like a massive space battle where you want both sides to win. This is the hyperfuel Han Solo once tried to steal.
(Springbank 12yo 55.4%, about £57)
- Colour – as pallid as Gollum’s complexion.
Nose – coffee and perfume.
Palate – spicy pepper, tickles the throat.
Finish – controlled energy; slightly salty – like a tidal energy generator or an offshore wind farm that would annoy the hell out of Donal Trump. It’s like tasting the future..
(Torabhaig, Skye, 3yo from 2017, 46%, £50 and hard to get…)
***favourite when I tasted it***
- Colour – mysterious and pale, like a ghost with a premonition for you.
Nose – sweet, intense.
Palate – holy fuck wow! Peaty enough, but not too much; rich with sweet, salty, sour and fruity flavours. Like a hypersaturated colour photo. I want more. This is Ewan McGregor screaming in bed with zombie babies crawling on the ceiling kind of addictive.
Finish – lingers like your happiest memories. It’s the opposite of eating brussels sprouts when you’re four years old. Variety in a bottle and more representative that the bridge crew of the starship Enterprise.
(Kilkerran ‘heavily peated’ – no age stated – 58.6%, and a bargain at £43)