Do you remember the first time you watched Casablanca or Citizen Kane? The sultry femme fatale, the sympathetic yet downtrodden hero... all those strong characters with their sophisticated dialogue. Well, this tasting was a bit like that… leaving one with a sense of having just experienced something rather special, a lineup of whiskies that all knew their part and delivered a performance of a lifetime.
It was a tasting with a perfect story arch. The scene was set beautifully by a gentle yet amazing Strathmill before a sense of conflict was introduced by the surprisingly peaty Teaninich posing as the Bowmore. Then we were subjected to the villainous antics of the deviously spiritous Aultmore, and the intrigue of the mystery whisky - a whodunnit subplot if you like, courtesy of a pair of sister casks among seven whiskies that all seemed so different. And lastly, the grande finale, the denouement courtesy of a Bowmore so clean and crisp it left us in no doubt.
Our all star cast did come at a price, and with an average cost of over $400 a bottle, would they live up to expectation and would each one get a chance to shine with its moment in the limelight? With the playing field levelled thanks to their similarity of age, the answer was yes, and the diversity of flavour and aroma was remarkable. Somehow these whiskies were delicate, strong, subtle, heavy handed, peaty, fruity, savoury and sweet all at once.
Opening and getting people to taste these remarkable rare whiskies is a real privilege, and yet so rare are some of these whiskies, that tasting them is somewhat like burning the last known reel of a cinematic masterpiece, consigning their majesty to history and the memories of the few that were lucky enough to attend. Of course, the beauty of whisky is that there's plenty of scripts in development, and hopefully we’ll be screening something spectacular again in the future...
Here’s how the whiskies tasted…
Strathmill Adelphi 1976 31yo #1126 44.8% (refill bourbon hogshead) - 8.42 5th
A nose that is truly like walking through a forest of pine, oak and apple trees on a crisp winter's morning - fresh cut wood and sawdust from a gang of sweaty lumberjacks lies strewn around amongst the vanilla scented flowers. The apple theme continues on the palate with freshly baked apple pie and custard notes. Aniseed and licorice on the finish evolve into a slightly bitter oakiness.
Teaninich Adelphi Limited 1983 32yo #6744 50.8% (bourbon hogshead) - 8.46 - 6th
We’re still in that verdant forest, but peach and feijoa trees have appeared and there’s definitely been an accident amongst our lumberjacks, and bandage and iodine has been liberally applied to a fresh wound. In the mouth, wonderful things happen - fresh menthol and green apples combine with sweeter confected elements and peat, leaving a feeling of having licked a toffee apple recently rescued from the ashen remnants of a fire. Hmmm, there’s that bitter touch once again - is this just an age thing?
Miltonduff Adelphi 1983 33yo #7450 52.6% (refill sherry hogshead) - 8.70 4th
Ahhhh finally some Sherry, but there are hidden dimensions of savoury tobacco, leather and meat to go with the expected xmas cakes, caramels and demerara. We’ve moved from spring to Autumn too with more depth and earth.The palate is complex with umami hints on top of sherried sweetness which become more apparent as water is added. Gorgeous.
Aultmore Adelphi 1992/25yo #3239 51.6% - 8.23 7th
What in the blazes is happening here? One of our lumberjacks (I’m guessing one that didn’t lop a finger off) has returned home to find his wife applying nail varnish, she's done all ten fingers and now she's onto her toes. She has a glass of southern comfort on the go and the sweet hints of stonefruit and methanol combine with her lavender perfume. On the palate it's all Jaffas and orange to begin with progressing to a finish that turns decidedly savoury with the appearance of nuts, cloves and fennel.
Mystery - Glen Grant Adelphi 1988 29yo #9172 52.6% - 8.93 3rd
Our lumberjack (let's call him Phil) slumps into an armchair (which has been sprayed with fabric protector) and his wife disappears into the kitchen and returns with lunch - a platter of beetroot, boiled eggs, sauerkraut and a side of mango chutney accompanied by a gin and tonic which is bizarrely garnished with a maraschino cherry. Phil is a touch sceptical, but when they all combine in his mouth it tastes absolutely amazing - so much so that he decides to give it 10 out of 10 (he always scores his wife’s meals, she doesn't know it, it’s his own little secret).
Glen Grant Adelphi 1988 29yo #9165 56.3% (1st fill sherry) - 1st 9.4
Phil’s wife (let’s call her Adel - yes, Adel and Phil that has a nice ring to it) has a twin sister called Glenda who is staying at theirs. The two were born only a matter of minutes apart but Phil has always been amazed at how different they look and how different their personalities are. Phil blushes as Glenda waltzes into the room, having always had a soft spot for her generous, warm heart and curvaceous body (Adel doesn’t know this, it’s another of his little secrets).
Bowmore Adelphi Limited 1990 26yo #2799 48.9% (refill bourbon) - 2nd 9.09
Phew, no aromas of lumberjacks here thankfully, just gentle old peat in all its lemon meringue pie splendour, and which move into more of your typical maple smoked bacon flavours on the palate. Balanced, restrained and quite simply, to die for...
We'll there we go, they don't make tastings like that anymore!