With ages of 2 to 22 years old from an array of casks spanning first fill and refill Oloroso to PX and bourbon, alcohol levels between 43% and 64% and no fewer than four regions present, this was a mystery tasting that would surely scream individuality despite a theme of Sherry.
Daniel had crafted two “yes or no” questions per whisky which were suitably obtuse but provided the perfect impetus to focus both mind and palate. In the spirit of mystery, what follows is an account of how the whiskies presented, with the grand reveal at the end...
After a clean, flavoursome palate primer courtesy of The Reid Single Malt Vodka from Cardrona Distillery - we cracked into the job at hand. First whisky up was a sweet, woody number, akin to an encounter with a chest of drawers, hewn from mahogany, oak and pine, varnished and then left in a dusty attic for many a year. A great starter, with plenty of character and suitably confusing, with people picking elements of Bourbon, Oloroso and PX. Had it been finished in Oloroso sherry? It was hard to say.
Next was a complex, sumptuous whisky with a surefire lick of earthy peat, and its medicinal cough sweets and licorice were exactly what the doctor had ordered. Complex, but certainly feisty, this whisky challenged in many ways, its sambuca and salted caramel hints leaving people pondering how it had been fashioned, and in deed, whether it was even a single malt Scotch whisky at all? There were hints of Longrow Red for me - yet finished in Oloroso (Longrow Orange anyone?).
Number three was like a chance encounter in a fish and chip shop with a dusty old gentleman - refined and elegantly attired and certainly charming if unexciting. Its coconut nose had people guessing bourbon and yet its sweet finish was surely sherry derived? Was it over 20 years old? It certainly had that dusty quality, and it seemed the sherry had receded into the finish leaving pronounced oak on the palate and therefore implying some age.
Then the ante seemed to up with a sweet dram of caramel, cocoa and dried apricots that was delivered on a tidal wave of alcohol. This was clean and precise and obviously sherry aged - but was it first fill? The medley of bright yet dried fruits and salted caramel certainly seemed to imply so. The room was definitely roused - it was a whisky that could have probably won on another night, had it not been for its immediate successor. Number five took off where number four had finished and seemed to add a few more years in cask to the flavour profile... this was a spread of citrus fruits, nuts, Xmas pudding and brandy butter, laid on a solid oak table and then generously coated with alcohol of all forms - Cognac, Rum and Sherry and finally flambeed in a celebration of all that is decadent. Absolutely glorious stuff and surely from first fill sherry?
The next two had a hard act to follow, but certainly held their own, offering something different to the proceedings.
The sixth mystery dram was all butter popcorn and crème caramel - snuck into Sunday mass and eaten from the pews. Was this from a single cask type - it’s linearity and precision certainly implied so! Morning mass was then followed by dinner with the devil - as the 6th dram offered an experience similar to sucking bone marrow from a rib broiled by Beelzebub himself. This was unlike any of the others with its yeasty meatiness and massive alcohol, and it certainly had a profile befitting provenance of the Midlands (and yet reminded me of a meaty Miltonduff from the SMWS I recently had the pleasure of trying) .
And here’s what they were (see below), with scores for those who like them, and links to purchase those that are available from Regional Wines.
Good news too, we have another whisky locked down for Best of the Best!
The Reid Single Malt Vodka - Cardrona Distillery 46%
1) Auchentoshan Three Wood - Aged in Bourbon, finished in Oloroso and then PX - 7.47
2) Ardnamurchan Malt Spirit 2017AD - (blended from a mixture of peated and non-peated malt, aged for 2 years in US oak octaves previously holding PX and Oloroso, and then married in Spanish oak PX butts for 4 months) - 8.4
3) Bunnahabhain Old Particular, 15 years old - 48% - 7.95 (Available in store - $212.99)
4) Glenlivet Nadurra (First Fill Oloroso) 60% - 8.89
5) Glenburgie Gordon & Macphail 1995/2017 22yo (refill sherry) 56.5% 700ml 8.95 (Available in store - $274.99)
6) Longmorn Signatory 2002 15yo 57.4% 700ml - 7.85 (Available in store - $179.99)
7) Deanston Signatory 2006 11yo 64.4% - 8.4 (Available in store - $176.99)