Tuesday, September 04, 2012

publish and be drammed

My wife and baby daughter are away for a couple of days, so it's time to kick back, pour a glass of something brown and volatile, and later maybe catch up on some sleep. But first there's a bit of a backlog of unblogged stuff lurking in the whisky cupboard. This will not stand.

First up, Lagavulin. This is a bottle of the standard 16-year-old, which is pretty old for an entry-level whisky - there is a cask strength 12-year-old, but it's not widely available - and generally priced accordingly at around 40 quid. Fortunately my father was generous enough to buy me a bottle for my birthday back in February.

Lagavulin is from Islay, like the Laphroaig and the Bowmore, so you pretty much know what to expect, i.e. smoky peatiness, with a side order of peaty smokiness. It's quite dark, certainly compared with the Laphroaig, as befits something that has spent 16 years sitting in wooden casks. The colour puts it nearer the Bowmore, and it's similar when you have a sniff as well - it's sweeter than the Bowmore, which was noticeably salty, but there's the same rich undertone of something umami-y, maybe a meat pie or a Cornish pasty. Taste-wise it's tremendously rich and round and sweet as well, with the trademark antiseptic after-sting that you get from the peat. If anything it's perhaps just a fraction too sweet and rich for my taste, but it runs a close second to the Bowmore as my favourite Islay whisky of the ones I've tried so far.

Speaking of Islay whisky, you'll remember the Bruichladdich, which was a non-typical unpeated one and a pretty non-typical pinkish colour as well, thanks to being finished in casks that previously held Banyuls wine. Well, here's another pink(ish) whisky: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. This is part of the same series of "special" finishes that included the Lasanta - that one got a couple of years in casks that previously held sherry, while the Quinta Ruban gets a couple of years in casks that previously held port (these are traditionally known as "port pipes", for some crazy reason). One of the side-effects of port maturation is a definite subtle pink colour.

This is noticeably sharp and fruity when you have a sniff - quite similar to the Bruichladdich in being quite grapey and redcurranty, though this is less raw and estery since the base whisky is much older (12 years as opposed to an unspecified number probably no greater than 5). It's much more mellow and gently fruity when you drink it as well, though there's a sense that the gorgeous custardy mellowness of the standard Glenmorangie is having a bit of a fight with the sharp red fruity acidity of the port finish. That could of course be me being a reactionary old duffer, but while this is very nice it's not as terrific as the Lasanta, nor even the basic 10-year-old Glenmorangie.

Finally, another whisky that I'm glad to say I didn't have to pay for - this is a Signatory bottling of a 14-year-old Glenlivet originally distilled in 1996 that my fellow whiskyologist Jim bought me as a baby head-wetting present back in May. I'd never drunk Glenlivet before, but it's one of the classic Speyside enormo-sellers, second only to Glenfiddich worldwide in sales terms. This one is from a single sherry cask and is very dark, certainly much darker than the standard 12-year-old, which I think is from a mixture of bourbon and sherry casks. Anyway, with the caveat that I can't comment on what the standard bottlings are like, this is a great big sherry monster, a bit like the Glenmorangie Lasanta and the Aberlour, without having the almondy tang that the Aberlour has. It's got just a hint of something darker as well, like Marmite or creosote (but, hey, in a good way). As "standard" Speysiders (which aren't generally my favourite thing) go this is a good one, ideal when you want something rich and warm and cakey and comforting and the wild and woolly stuff like the Lagavulin seems a bit daunting.

Here's a colour comparison for your edification and reference: left to right, Lagavulin, Glenmorangie, Glenlivet. I offer this basically to illustrate my point about the pinkness of the Glenmorangie (in the middle), the other two being your basic mid-brown, though note how the Glenlivet is darker despite being a couple of years younger.

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