The Advent Calendar Adventure

Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in tasting | No Comments

I have been sent The Drinks by the dram advent calendar created by the eponym company and sold by Master of malt. So I played the game and tasted a sample everyday until 24th December. My tasting-notes were posted on FB. Here they are.

Day 1 – 1st December

N°1 – The lost distillery blend – batch 8 – 53,1% – Quite a start! This blended whisky is a marriage of single malts from lost distilleries alongside with a lost grain distillery. The nose is ethereal and floral with distinctive peat smoke in the back and a biscuity character. Dried flowers, marshmallow, a hint of cumin, barley…  The palate is crisp (raw silk) and spicy, nearly sherbety and fizzy with notes of cereals, fresh orange and delicate smoke. A touch of Turkish delight, crystallized ginger. The finish is dry and spicy.

Obviously rich in single malts, well-balanced. A garden by the sea…

I checked on the website (masterofmalt.com), there were only 668 bottles of this batch N°8 (have a look to see the list of single malts in the blend): £345.95 a bottle.

Day 2 – December 2nd

N°2 – Glenfiddich Solera – 15 Year Old – 40% – This is an old acquaintance and I don’t complain. This classic Speyside is a safe bet, not a five legged sheep. Nothing wrong with that. I enjoy nosing this delicate dessert-like profile. In French we have a word, “pâtissier”, which is more meaningful. This whisky strikes me by its balance (is that due to the huge marrying vat alike the Spanish solera for sherry wines?). Toasted bread, vanilla, honey with a resiny touch mingle in a generous bouquet, the palate is drier and spicy. Bring the crème brûlée and the financiers (rich butter and almond cakes). Well I have an Italian dinner, so I will try the zabaglione and the amaretti instead.

Day 3 –  December 3rd

N°3 – Kilchoman Machir Bay – 46% – I feel home ! A NAS (hence young) version of Kilchoman which embodies the distilllery character : grassy, citrussy, sooty. It alludes to one of the most exquisite beaches on Islay. The one I love strolling along on a windy day (but not in Summer as the beach is packed… You can count up to 20 people!). You immediately get a big whiff of smoke with a note of cold ashes. It wraps up grassy aromas (dry hay and flowers, angelica, lemon balm) with aniseed and vanilla, enhanced by a fresh squeezed lemon note. The flavours are similar on the palate. The citrussy notes balance the malty sweetness and the dry sooty finish. A refreshing and uplifting dram to share with friends on the beach (but not 20 ! Let’s keep it exclusive!).

Day 4 – December 4th

N°4 – Wolfburn – 46% – Cool! A whisky I have not sampled yet. Wolfburn is new distillery from the North of Scotland (Thurso) which started distilling in 2016. And here is its single malt. Isn’t that exciting? There are two versions of Wolfburn. I presume this is Northland (maturation in ex American Oak quarter casks. The nose is grassy and malty with a floral touch and a note of mint toffee. The palate is smooth and oily then dries on ground ginger. The finish is short but clean. I get a faint smoky note in the aftertaste with mint candies. Still an infant cheerful and raw. But promising.

Day 5 – December 5th

N°4 – Mackmyra Svensk Ek – 46,1% – Ah, we are leaving Scotland… Let’s stick our nose up North and meet with Mackmyra single malt. The distillery is renowned for its maturation experiments in small capacity casks. This sample features the Swedish Oak casks. The barrels are heavily toasted, hence the oaky and spicy print on the aromatic profile.  This whisky is not my favourite among the Mackmyra versions as I am not a fan of oak-framed whiskies. I much prefer the seasons range. But let’s come back to Svensk ek. The nose is spicy, with Autumn fruit in the back and an obvious oak character. A touch of wild berry in the back. The palate is smooth, starting on malty sweetness then toughening on an oaky astringent note and spices (ginger, touch of chili). Maybe on a very cold day, drinking coffee on the side.

Day 6 – December 6th

Rock Oyster – Blended Malt Scotch whisky – 46,8% – Thank you Drinks by the dram: well spotted on! This is exactly the sample we need on Islay on such a miserable day to face the gale! Rock Oyster is a blend (I’d rather say a vat but…) of “Island malts” (Douglas Laing the bottler mentions Islay of course but also Arran, Orkneys and Jura). The nose obviously breathes in a maritime whiff, enhanced with a generous sprayed with brine note of seaweed and enveloped in a thin cloud of smoke. The palate is dry, crisp and sooty with a slightly spirity bite and a fizzy sensation. The finish is short but refreshing. Wydiwyb: what you breathe is what you drink or vice-versa. I have not got the oysters but the elements are rocking, for sure. That’s comforting.

Day 7 – December 7th

Dalmore – 12 Year Old – 40% – Back to Scotland. As you can see on the photo, I struggle with the wax coating on the lid. I suppose this is a deliberate choice from Drinks by the Dram. You have to suffer to get to your dram, so that you deserve it (a bit judeo-christian, isn’t it ?). Let’s say it adds to the surprise and the excitement, like when you open your Christmas present carefully wrapped in two layers of paper and hidden in a locked box… But I am impatient person. I am of the “hic and nunc” sort. Now, what do we have? Dalmore 12 Year Old, a single malt from The Highlands, malty with biscuity and buttery notes. A mix of bourbon cask and sherry cask influence. Oak is well integrated. The nose is fruity with caramelized apple and vanilla notes and a touch of cappucino. The palate is crisp and spicy, fruit and oak dancing together on pâtisserie flavours : maraschino cherries coated in white chocolate, then  cappucino again and spices. Perfect with a chocolate cake and a coffee icecream.

Day 8 – December 8th

Lagavulin 16 Year Old – 43% – The dram which makes you feel home. Another classic but there is nothing wrong with that. This unmisteakable elegant smoke… I like this subtle interlacing of peat and exotic wood. Sandalwood, bergamot with a touch of Turkish delight, a hint of fig jam. On time, a note of vanilla crème brûlée brings in a sweet aroma. The palate is smooth with a rich whiff of smoke and sea air. In the back, smoked meat and dry peat. The finish is crisp with a lingering spicy festoon. Who could be tired of that beauty? Try it with a cardamom and chocolate tart.

PS: Thank you Dave Worthington for the tip: I grabbed the top of the bottle, twisted to unscrew and the wax seal broke. Did you say “blonde” ?

Day 9 – December 9th

Old Perth – Sherry Cask Blended Malt – 43% – I am delighted to find a whisky that I have not tasted yet. Double surprise. This is a vatting of single malts matured in sherry casks. A NAS, hence rather young bottled by Morrison & Mackay. I don’t think I have ever sampled a whisky from this independent bottler. Triple surprise then. The name “Old Perth” could hint that there is some Macallan in it, maybe Highland Park too, Perth having been by the past the headquarters of The Edrington group and the house of The Famous Grouse (the offices were called Bordeaux House). But I may be completely wrong. And I am. Old Perth is an old brand of blend created by a wine merchant company which disappeared and is now reborn under a blended malt.

Sherry it says, sherry it is… on the nose, damson plums, treacle and Christmas cake. The wood is present. The palate is sweet at first then dries as the oaky astringency develops. The finish is sweet, fruity and spicy with a hint of walnut. I am not really convinced. Too much oakiness for me.

Day 10 – December 10th

Teeling Single Malt – 46% – I like these incursions in Ireland. So glad to see a revival in Irish Whiskey. Teeling bottlings (and the distillery) brilliantly epitomize this dynamic. Teeling single malt was nominated “best world single malt” at Whisky Magazine  Awards. These distinctions are to be trodden carefully as you sometimes wonder how the jury came out with certain results. But in this case, it just shows that Teeling whiskey are consistent in the release of quality whiskeys. i particularly like the single malt. Although it is a Non Age Staement, there are some older casks in the vatting (some 23 Year Old).  Different types of casks are used: sherry, madeira, white burgundy, port and cabernet-sauvignon. Intense nose with a definitive exotic note enhanced by vanilla custard. The palate is malty (wholemeal bread and butterscotch). The texture is like satin, smooth and creamy. More exotic fruit (mango and pineapple). The finish dries on ginger and clove. I like it chilled in Summer with shellfish.

Day 11 – December 11th

Evan Williams – Bourbon – 43% –I don’t often sample bourbons. Probably not enough. This one should bring a bit of warmth and sunshine in my glass on that drecht Sunday. This bourbon is produced by Heaven Hills Company. A straight, easygoing bourbon. No pretention, clean and pleasant.  The nose is spicy with a note of vanilla to balance, developing on fresh aniseed and licorice aromas. The palate is incredibly smooth and velvety. Stone fruit (plums), touch of berries, licorice and a lovely oaky frame. The finish is spicy. An excellent bourbon and very affordable (a healthy change from single malts ridiculous overstated prices).

Day 12 – December 12th

Tomatin 14 Year Old, Port Wood finish – 46% – I will never forget my encounter with Tomatin 30 Year Old a few years ago: a full basket of guava and passion fruit. The most amazing (and excellent value for price) I have tasted in the last years. This Tomatin is very different. But it is always a pleasure to sample this single malt which has been through a complete revival. The Port impact is obvious. On the colour with these orangey hues and on the nose. There is a grassy and fruity profile. Tangerine, hint of cherry, mint chocolate. The palate is round and smooth with a fresh minty and chocolatey flavour. Some toffee, touch of raspberry and a gingery finish. Delicious.

Day 13 – December 13th

The Balvenie Double Wood 12 Year Old – 40% – A classic that should not disappoint. The Double Wood is the signature of that elegant Speyside single malt. Classic aging: refill bourbon cask maturation followed by a finish in sherry casks. You get the balance, the depth and the pâtisserie profile which characterize Balvenie. On the nose, sweet notes of honey and crème brûlée, tarte tatin and a delicate spicy touch. The palate is round and smooth. The same pâtisserie profile brings you a liquid dessert to finish your meal. Unless you choose to serve it on a sweet & sour dish like a pork roast with prunes. The sherry finish has enhanced the oaky notes but they are never overwhelming. Obviously a perfect mastering of maturation.

Day 14 – December 14th

Invergordon 25 Year Old – Batch 9 – 49,8% – A single grain whisky, that’s a surprise. And not a bad one I must say. It is bottled by That boutique – Y whisky Company. I could not find it on the internet. So it might be sold out. Certainly a rare sample. The nose is grassy and sweet with notes of dry hay, vanilla and biscuit (like the vanilla wafers we have in France with some written stuff which push you to eat more as to read your fate!). In the back a citrussy touch and this dairy farmyard character of straw in the stable mingling with cattle breath. The palate is smooth with the same farm profile and even a smoked note (burnt wood). Rather baffling.

Day 15 – December 15th

Glengoyne 12 Year Old – 43% – Glengoyne epitomizes Scottish weather for me! I may not please everyone but this is what it does. Nosing the 12 Year Old Glengoyne takes me to heh woods, the undergrowth on a wet November day at mid-afternoon when the dimming light makes everything look grey. 3.30 in the afternoon and it is already darkening. This is not a dull vision to me, i like winter. I like Glengoyne in winter… This bouquet of damp leaves, humus and wet branches is what you get first. Then some sweet notes swirl up like toffee and honeyed malt which is a comforting aroma (one must always find something comforting). The palate is smooth at first then dries on oaky and spicy flavours (to remind you of winter!). Maybe a touch of toffee again and a nutty finish. Roast a few chestnuts in the fireplace, open a Glengoyne 12 Year Old, play Leonard Cohen and you will be fine.

Thank you Drinks by the dram Advent calendar.

Day 16 – December 16th

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old  –  43% – Hum, that’s a good day. The right dram before I hit the road as I am leaving home to travel to France. Well, Glenfarclas 21 Year Old is not exactly a breakfast dram but that will be my cereal serving for the morning! What an enticing and elegant nose. The sherry is present but not overwhelming (second fill casks ?). Butterscotch, marzipan, praline enhanced by a cedar note and on time tropical fruit (mango). The palate is creamy and fruity. Tropical fruit again, sultanas, dates with a luscious spicy dryness on the finish (cinnamon and nutmeg). The dram to sip while listening to Mendelsohn Violin concerto E minor op 64 with Hillary Hahn (you can find it on youtube).

Day 17 – December 17th

Kavalan Concertmaster – Port Cask Finish – 40% – Oh we go exotic… I have never visited Kavalan distillery. I had to turn down an invitation in December for the 10th anniversary of the distillery. Too much on my plate! But next year I will make the trip. I want to understand why this whisky is such a hit among whisky lovers. I like it but but I still have not found the wow factor. The port influence is easily detectable: fading rose, cherry, chocolate. Quite an attractive nose with sweet maltiness in the back. The palate is sweet, light and flowing with amarena cherries and sour berries. Fruit and more fruit. The finish is dry, short but clean. A well-knitted Summer dram. It would be lovely with strawberries and raspberries.

Day 18 – December 18th

Oban Little Bay – 43% – What is the difference between Oban Little Bay and the well-known Oban standard? First of all, this is a NAS, big difference. And there is a twist about the cask. The vatting of different types of cask is then poured in smaller casks for extra-maturing. It is different from the 14 Year Old. The nose is fruity and spicy. Apples, cinnamon, a hint of cloves and oaky notes. The palate is smooth and sweet at first. The same fruity/spicy mix. I may regret the marine touch of the 14 Year old, which is more straightforward but refreshing. A little complexity here but the whisky is more flattering than characterful.

Day 19 – December 19th

English Whisky Co – 5 Year Old – Batch 1 –  – 49,5% – The English Whisky Company has released most of its bottlings by “Chapters”. I have tasted the first ones and kind of given up…  This bottling belongs to the range of “batch”. There is an age statement, this is becoming rare! Quite a high strength for a rather young whisky and probably a bourbon cask maturation. The nose is grassy and restrained. Fresh wholemeal bread, a smoky note too. The palate is sweet then the texture becomes fizzy. Some butterscotch, vanilla biscuit, an astringent touch and again a hint of smoke. The finish dies off quickly on a leafy note and some astringency. This whisky is decent but lacks character. Anyway, it is the best I have tasted from the English Company to that day.

Day 20 – December 20th

Fettercairn Fasque – 42% – A new dram for me. Of Fettercairn, I think I have only tasted one version, the 10 Year Old and a long time ago. I can’t say I was impressed at the time. This version (another NAS) is called Fasque. This is the name of a neighbouring estate to the distillery. I could not find much information on the composition of this Fettercairn Basque. I can only say that the colour seems to be “adjusted”. The nose is sweet with treacle, crème caramel, dark chocolate. Oak is showing a bit too much. I would have the same comment on the palate. There is a strong astringency. Some would say bitter chocolate. I get bitter wood. And spices in the finish. Not my style of whisky. But it will certainly please the persons who like oakiness.

Day 21 – December 21st

The Macallan 12 Year Old – Double Cask – 40% – I have never tasted that Macallan before. So will it be halfway between Fine Oak and Sherry Oak? At first nose, we are in the sherry world but this one is certainly creamier than the sherry Oak. Dried fruit chocolate, orange peel, soft spices are challenged by a musty note: moss, undergrowth. Then sweeter notes creep through: crème brûlée, vanilla custard, butterscotch. The palate is smooth, a bit weak (43% would have been preferable), showing creamy flavours (blancmange, orange posset). I like the spicy finish (ginger and cinnamon) with toffee on the aftertaste. Oak is subtle. Information taken on the Macallan site, this is a sherry release but with a higher proportion of American wood.  A very good combination. Well done (and the value for price is good : £49).

Day 22 – December 22nd

Buffalo Trace – Bourbon – 40% – This bourbon should please the “anti-bourbon” whisky lovers. Let me explain. I’ve so often heard them say: “I don’t drink bourbon, it is too sweet, syrupy, cloying”. Well this is a cliché. Explore a bit further and you will find a fantastic aromatic complexity. Buffalo Trace belongs to this profile. The nose is perfumy with an enticing mix of cedar, spices and sour apple notes. On time a floral aroma (old rose? violet?) emerges from this “pot-pourri”.  That makes me think of my granny’s wardrobe. The palate is smooth, sweeter (maple syrup) but balanced by spices and oak. This lovely bourbon is to sip when you are a bit nostalgic of your childhood. Well, a good dram for Christmas Eve (but without the Xmas carols for me, thank you!).

Day 23 – December 23rd

Highland Park 12 Year Old – 40% – Similar to Balvenie Double Wood, Highland Park 12 Year Old is a safe bet. The perfect Christmas present as you know you will not disappoint the receiver (just one day left for your shopping!). Heather honey mingling with sea breeze and a touch of smoke as if you could detect a small distant bonfire. In the back, apples and pears and black berries. The palate is round and velvety and unwinds in subtle touches on sweet maltiness and heather honey, gently framed by oak and spices. On the finish, a dry peaty touch and salted almond aftertaste. Classic but always a joy to rediscover.

Day 24 – December 24th

The Half- Century blend – Batch 1 – Aged over 50 years – 45,5% – Waouh, we are finishing “en beauté” with this fantastic bottling by The Blended whisky Company. We are not drinking whisky here, folks, we are sipping history. Only 3 cl right, so don’t lose a single drop! Of course this whisky is expensive (£600) but only 768 bottles were released and all the whiskies in the blend are over fifty year old. The nose is incredible. So fruity, so deep and rich. Cider apples, then buttery notes (apple tart), cedar, surprising estery aromas, intense complexity and liveliness. The palate is even fruitier with a full basket of exotic fruit (mango, passion fruit, guava) and dry biscuits. The texture is so thick, nearly sirupy. In the back a sherry oaky flavour. The finish is lingering, everlasting.  Magnifique. If I were you, I would not let a drop for Santa Claus!

Rampur selectRampur Select – 43% – Non chillfiltered

This is a new Indian Single Malt which I discovered at The Whisky Show in London in October.

It is produced by a large spirits group called Radico Khaitan. They own three distilleries in the north of India. Rampur is a single malt, here in a non age stated version. The nose is fruity and fresh: passion fruit, jasmine, vanilla, toffee. The palate is smooth and well-balanced with the same fruit/floral profile. Lychee, passion fruit, biscuity notes. The finish is lingering and dries softly on spices. This is an excellent whisky at a very decent price: £42. Look out for Rampur. That whisky deserves attention.