The third Scotch22 club event was held in the Howff at Whisky Galore, in Christchurch.
As for the previous two gatherings, members Mel Bromley and Ian Stopher attended. They have generously provided us their thoughts and tasting notes on the event.
All photography is by Mel.
Ian’s introductory notes:
When I arrived at the venue I found some members already started on the kindly offered Glentauchers.
While I was talking, I was consuming the G&M distillery labels bottling Glentauchers. We had had one of the other Pernod Ricard distilleries – Miltonduff – at the Light Fantastic tasting, but this one was the lighter side of Glentauchers and a great conviviality initiator.
The Main Proceedings
The six bottles of the tasting had been voted for by the members earlier in the year. This was now the third attempt to host the evening, to find what had made the lineup and what had not.
I had voted for Lochside and voted for the Glendronach. The whiskies had been poured in a light-to-heavy sequence. There is nothing controversial about that, but what was surprising was how well it worked.
The established format for the gatherings is for Michael Fraser-Milne to say something about the distillery and/or the whisky, with his various related digressions and jokes. At some point he gets to the whisky at hand and then the ensuing conversation as we ruminate.
Personally, I like this format, although I have to say Mel’s notes next to mine were far more comprehensive as I got too easily distracted talking and didn’t always put enough into the note-taking. But the important thing is to enjoy the evening, and that was certainly the case for me.
Note about scoring: I scored them in my normal 10-point fashion. Michael also added another scoring, from 0 to 5, to be used so he could more easily calculate the room favourite. With really only a few values to reasonably use for such good whiskies (3, 4 or 5) it makes for some rather hard decision making. I include this second score in brackets.
G&M Rosebank, 30 year-old from 1989, 55%, Refill Sherry Hogshead
I have only ever had the FF Rosebank bottle, many moons ago.
Rosebank might be considered a light floral style but this one, being from a Refill Sherry Hogshead, was quite a departure.
The nose had a creamy character along with dry fruity sherry.
The palate offered more of that dry fruity style but more tangy orange came through.
The finish was a bit more spirituous than I was expecting, and medium in length. Adding a bit of water softened it a bit but did not dramatically change its nature.
A very good start.
My score: 8.5 (4)
Nose: Shortbread, pear, soft, a pear crumble, orange liquer, honeysuckle
Palate: Pear crumble, much punchier than the nose, hint of cocoa on the finish, gingernut biscuits, a hint of licorice
Comment: Very pleasant!! Which surprised me, having previously decided long ago that I was not a fan of Rosebanks on the basis they were too light and floral – this one I liked!
My score: 8.3 (5th place)
Group score: 6th place.
Murray McDavid Lochside, 18 year-old, 1981-2000, 46% abv, Refill Sherry
This was the one I was really here for!
I have only had three Lochside before, two of which were single grain. This, then is only my second Lochside single malt.
Mind you, I suspect many in the room had fewer data points to go on than I did. Michael has only had about seven before, so it was going to be novel. How was this diluted bottling going to compare to my second favourite whisky of the past 2 years, my own Cadenhead (1981-2000)?
The answer was very well indeed – this was a stunner!
The nose is very orange tangy for me – others thought it was somewhat sour-smelling and tasting but that was not my personal experience.
The palate offered lovely orange notes and some burnt character as well with just a hint of sourness.
My only criticism of the Cadenhead Lochside was the finish was not long enough and this was the case here as well. Perhaps I was just wanting the lovely liquid experience to go on longer than was realistic.
That is now two Lochsides from Refill Sherry and both excellent – if you can count two data points as enough this would be my new favourite distillery, albeit a rather expensive one. At least with Tobermory, I can afford to purchase more bottles.
My score: 8.8 (5)
Nose: Malt biscuits, cream of tartar, orange rind, nectarine stone
Palate: Sweet, nectarines, malty, crème brulee (especially the burnt brown sugar on top), slight salty note, coffee, orange
My score: 8.8 (3rd place)
Group score: 1st place
HL Glen Elgin, 44 year-old, 1975-2009, 45.6% abv, Bourbon Hogshead (given the number of bottles)
This Speyside wasn’t the oldest distillation of the lineup but had the longest maturation.
I have had a mixed bag from Glen Elgin in the past. I had a bottle earmarked for a tasting last year but it was so ridiculously spicy and ginger hot that I removed it as being too disruptive.
Michael said that this ginger taste was more the distillery character than the wood itself, something that I didn’t know.
On the nose, it was quite malty but with a rich mature bourbon character that already reeked of age, but no fierce spiciness.
The palate aligned with the expectations of the nose, a bit musty but a character.
Probably the lengthiest finish of the night, with no woodiness or undue bitterness. There was a slight liquorice note that lingered – that might be how I interpret the remnant of a decent amount of peat at distillation. Others got ginger cookies, I only got a hint of ginger loaf and I was concerned that the talk of ginger had primed my expectations.
A solid old whisky that I feel we didn’t have the time to really get to grips with. In terms of scoring, that was a bit of an undoing (see Springbank below).
My score: 8.6 or 8.7 (4)
Nose: Apples, apple peel, shortbread, custard, iodine hint, cinnamon, marshmellows covered in dessicated coconut, hint of licorice again, orange again
Palate: licorice, savoury, a ginger cake or ginger loaf
My score: 8.5 (4th place)
Group score: 5th place
Diageo Pittyvaich, 29 year-old, listed as 51.4% abv but I think it is 55.3%, double matured in PX and Oloroso seasoned casks
If we include the Rosebank, this is the third ghost distillery of the evening – clearly, people wanted to try whiskies from distilleries where the supplies are dwindling.
I have previously only had the FF bottle and a 12 year James Macarthur which I did not like very much. Would this official bottling improve matters?
Yes, it does, but not dramatically so. The nose was very sharp, seeming very alcoholic and spirity which didn’t make sense for 51.4% but makes more sense at 55.3%.
There was also quite a significant malt vinegar on the nose, which does not bode well.
In the mouth, it is a very mixed experience, some yeast, sourness, leather, dried fruits. I found myself rather all at sea with this one.
The finish was possibly the best aspect, with a good malty character.
This, as it turned out, was my least favourite of the night. Not dreadful, but not really my kind of style it seems. I am not sure whether it was a divisive whisky but it could be deemed so.
My score: 8.3 (3)
Nose: Tinned pineapple, honey, plums
Palate: Chocolate wheaten biscuits (those malt biscuits with chocolate on the bottom), honey, slight rusty note, custard (minty note?)
My score: 7.8 (6th place)
Group score: 4th place
DT Springbank, 18 year-old, 1993, 56.4% abv, I would guess a First Fill Sherry Hogshead, but I don’t know for sure
If you had shown me the list in advance I would probably have the least interest in including this one (even more so than the Glendronach).
But I was very wrong.
In its day this bottling won a lot of awards and I can see why. This is heavy Springbank!
The nose is very heavy sherry (Oloroso) and dark burnt orange. The palate is very chewy, quite tarry and oily and I did remark a lot of coca-cola.
This was a lot to digest and the finish was medium to long and almost as impressive as the Glen Elgin.
I don’t think anyone present voted this low. It became my second favourite, edging out the Glen Elgin because it is a lot more instant. You cannot exactly call an 18yo young but it has lots of instant appeal – hard to resist in a short-format like a tasting.
It could have been dirtier for me, but otherwise, this was really solid and something way too expensive to purchase these days.
My acore: 8.7 (5)
Nose: Salted caramel (GORGEOUS), iodine, licorice, banana cake (in a good way), home-made hokey pokey (mixing golden syrup and cream of tartar so that it fizzes up then baking it), unshelled almonds, a slight smokey note, nectarine stone
Palate: Smooth caramel and home-made hokey pokey
My score: 9.5 (1st place) [WHO would’ve thought I’d rate the Springbank over the 1971 Brown & Gold Glendronach? Huh!]
Group score: 2nd place
GlenDronach Batch 1, 38 year-old, 1971-2009, 49.4% abv, Oloroso Sherry Butt
There was no doubting this was the darkest of the whiskies, and probably the most expensive.
All I could get from the nose to start was a heavy sherry, so I added some water to open it up a bit.
In the mouth it was very earthy and plenty of tannins, so I was not looking forward to the finish being that welcoming.
I was wrong there!
The finish was not too bitter but it was tarry and pretty long. I felt this was a bit too much – possibly too long in the cask and should have been bottled earlier.
Given it was Batch 1, was there an urge to get this whisky out to market before it got worse?
I am sure I was somewhat in the minority camp on this one, but it was still a very enjoyable whisky and I rated it sitting in the middle of the pack – above both the Rosebank and the Pittyvaich
My score: 8.6 (4)
Nose: Christmas cake, soy sauce, marmite, oranges, raisins, figs, vegemite on Vogel toast, slight vinegar note
Palate: Tobacco, prunes, soy sauce, heavy sherry, earthy, christmas cake, marmite, slight chocolate note?
Comment: I loved all the character, and the personality involved in the little hints of soy sauce – but tend to agree with Ian that it was possibly in the cask too long.
My score: 9.2 (2nd place)
Group score: 3rd place
Now it was for Michael to get a show of hands for scores and tot them up.
In the end, the Lochside won; probably not everyone’s favourite but pretty high for many, which helped carry the day for it.
Bringing up the rear was the Rosebank. I certainly felt it did better than that placing.
In summary, this is the order I placed them in:
For me the final ranking was:
And for the Group voting as a whole it was:
All that was left was to do a final toast and to bid our fond farewells to Scotch22 and 2020.
Ian & Mel