Last week, I was honoured to take part in Albannach’s inaugural Digital Whisky Twitter Tasting. I signed up to the tasting after having spotted it online; it went beautifully smoothly from there. My samples arrived the day before the tasting and, despite discouraging opinions from others (suggesting they looked a little like sample bottles from the doctors), they were deeply exciting. The whole affair had an Alice in Wonderland theme – every bottle labelled with “Drink Me” in an elegant presentation box and instructions; beautifully presented.
We had five whiskies to try – Scapa 16 year old, Longmorn 16 year old (which Twitter and most autocorrect insists on changing to LongHorn), two Glenlivets – the Nàdurra and 18 years old and the Aberlour a’bunadh. I know the a’bunadh of old and I have bottles of a previous run of Nàdurra and the Glenlivet 18 at home but the other 2 were completely new to me. I had visited Albannach the day before to see the providers of my alcohol based feast and where I was almost tempted to try them early but I figured I should wait; instead, I had a rather wonderful Ardbeg Blasda and a Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel, which I shall talk about more soon.
Unfortunately, the Twitter tasting did not turn out precisely as I had expected – I was held up at work and arrived at home slightly after the 6.30pm start time. This was thankfully ok, as one of the speakers was also held up, so the start time was revised to 6.50pm. However, as soon as it was mentioned that Scapa would be the first dram to try, the airwaves (or rather, the Twitter waves) went mad with people immediately slinging it down their neck, clamouring for the next one. Eventually, the start rolled around, and @albannachwhisky started to lead the tasting – providing info on the whisky – where it’s from, effects of ageing and maturing in any particular location; the sort of history and info that I had been led to believe was normal in a tasting, also, one of my favourite aspects of any new whisky. Unfortunately, most of that information got lost, not at the fault of Albannach, I must point out. The tasting very quickly got taken over by the tasters; we were all swept along with the wave. As soon as a few comments had been made on one whisky, we moved to the next with very little time to enjoy or appreciate exactly what we were drinking. I wonder whether some of this may have been down to connections and slow posting of tweets, for example, but it quickly got chaotic. I think my mother said it best while trying to follow the Twitter feed, “How can you learn anything from this, when everyone’s just shouting at each other?”. In the end, I drank as much from each bottle as I needed for a taster, knowing that I had a good opportunity to properly taste them coming up, and participated along with everyone else. This is not intended to be discouraging about either Albannach or the nature of Twitter tastings but I just don’t think this particular one ran quite to anyone’s plan.
I spent Saturday night with my Cousin, who I am introducing, kicking and screaming, to whisky. It’s been a number of years now, the first tasting was executed when we spent a glorious evening the Uisque Beatha, taking advantage of their “4 drams for £10” deal. We went through a lot of whisky that night… But we are now both more grown up and sensible, so I thought it would be a more educated evening this time around; thankfully, I was right. We started off by doing our own research into the whiskies and trying to work out why Albannach had chosen these 5 in particular. As best we could work out, they are all non-peated drams although their location varies widely, but they all have a comparison with at least one other dram in the pack. The Nàdurra and a’bunadh are both non-chill filtered, cask strength, natural or “old fashioned” whiskies – the a’bunadh is even packaged in a Victorian medicine-bottle style bottle. However, The Glenlivet 18 compares favourably with the Nàdurra, Aberlour, Glenlivet and Longmorn which are all speysides and, the only tenuous link, the Longmorn and the Scapa were both 16 years old.
Tasting notes below are a combination of Cousin’s Ramblings in brackets (he got more verbose as the evening went on…), and my own.
Scapa 16 Years Old
Colour – light amber gold
Nose – honey, sweetness, sharp lemon
Body – very smooth
Palate – (grappa?) Very strong dessert wine – sweet and syrupy.
Finish – short and drying, some caramelised honey?
Colour -Dark copper bronze dark amber
Nose – (woody), sweet butterscotch
Body – (hot) bold and strong
Palate – (hot) heat, pepper, spices
Finish – (hot) long and smooth, butterscotch.
Glenlivet 18 Years Old
Colour – amber gold
Nose – (mulled wine) apples – caramelised . More depth, trifle, vanilla
Body – thick and smooth
Palate – sherry and wood – toffee?
Finish – drying, pepper.
Colour – (golden kiwi)
Nose – (playdoh) salty almonds
Body – (weak and limp) gentle
Palate – (don’t like it. Utterly dismissed, give me anything else) salted chilli chocolate and, possibly, cinnamon?
Finish – (ate fruit salad to get rid of the flavour). Short and drying
Colour – (a ducks eye?) dark straw.
Nose – (an unlit fire – tr. wood?) pear cider, cooked banana.
Body – light and simple
Palate – (summery – breath of fresh air). Toasted creaminess – my offer of toasted marshmallow rejected as too artificial.
Finish – peppery and long.