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April 30, 2010

Aberlour

A lovely distillery that oozes charm and class. Aberlour (the village) is lovely, too, and the distillery sits just off the road in from Tomintoul.

A lovely distillery that oozes charm and class. Aberlour (the village) is lovely, too, and the distillery sits just off the road in from Tomintoul.

Aberlour, Banffshire, AB38 9PJ, 01340 881249. Chivas Brothers. www.aberlour.com

APPEARANCE AND LOCATION:      ***      Tucked in to a cleft in the rolling terrain that tumbles down towards the sweeping Spey, Aberlour Distillery packs a lot into a small space. On the opposite side of the Lour burn is a walk which takes you to the Linn Falls, quite a spectacular little spot and not overly taxing. The Distillery is a tidy part of what is one of the tidiest villages/towns I visited over the course of the Scotch Odyssey.

TOURS PROVIDED:

‘Warehouse No. 1 Tour’: £12. See ‘My Tour’ below.

‘The Founder’s Tour’: £25. This tour provides further details concerning the history of the distillery. You also get to nose the head, heart and tail of the spirit run in the tasting room; a unique feature in any distillery. In addition to sampling whiskies traight from the cask, there is also a tutored tasting of four Aberlours paired with the finest chocolates. They had to go some to beat the standard offering! Wednesdays and Thursdays only – pre-booking for both is essential.

DISTILLERY-EXCLUSIVE BOTTLINGS:      The opportunity to hand-fill your own 70cl bottle of whisky from a single cask is not unique to Aberlour, but they were one of the first to make the facility available and the First Fill Bourbon and Sherry casks are simply outstanding. £65.

My Tour – 22/04/2010

THE RUNNING COMMENTARY:      ***

THE PROCESS AND EQUIPMENT:      **

Notes:      Nothing is unique or unusual, but it is explained so very well and in appreciable depth. The distillery suffered a very damaging fire (it suffered several damaging fires, in fact) and while they were rebuilding they found a time capsule behind a stone in a wall comprised of a newspaper and a bottle of whisky. Lab testing brought back a profile for this whisky, and the a’bunadh is the result of the experiment to replicate it. I think mine was Batch 17.

GENEROSITY:      **

VALUE FOR MONEY:      **

SCORE:      9/10 *s

This monsieur is the proud co-owner of a single cask, first-fill Sherry matured Aberlour. I would meet these guys twice more throughout the day!

This monsieur is the proud co-owner of a single cask, first-fill Sherry matured Aberlour. I would meet these guys twice more throughout the day!

COMMENT:      Everyone had told me about the Aberlour tour, and that it was the best in Scotland. This assertion was both encouraging and mystifying: positive, because it meant I was promised a really exceptional experience but I thought I was the only one doing them all? I’m not sure I will find a better standard tour, though. They only do two tours a day, one at 10AM and the other at 2PM and it is pretty clear why. There is a lot to prepare, from the tastings to the wealth of information the guides have at their disposal. Chris must be knackered at the end of each day. I was the only native English-speaker, surrounded by 6 French people. Pernod Ricard sending busloads to make up the numbers? The distillery tour was a lot like the others I have taken, although we did get a sip of the wash, but the general feel of the place and the spec to which it is kitted out is very impressive. Even with The Glenlivet and Strathisla (home to Chivas Regal) in the group, this distillery stands out in its own right. The wealth of whisky to try after it is largely attributable to this. My guide at Cragganmore had told me that all the shops in Aberlour shut briefly after each of the tours finish, such is the amount of alcohol that flows. She was joking, but with a sample of the new make, the 14-year-old single cask Bourbon, the 15-year-old single cask Sherry, the 10-year-old, the 16-year-old and a’bunadh, it would be very easy to go beyond the legal limits. My favourite was the Bourbon: really strong, sweet wood and freshness. I can see what the fuss is about with a’bunadh, too. Mine was Batch 17, for anyone who is interested. Going back to the new make was a bit of a shock, but Chris invited us to conduct a little experiment: pour a little into our palms, rub and shake dry. The smell is pure, dry, cerealy barley! I watched two of the Frenchmen bottle their own whisky from the Sherry cask: a lovely event to spectate on, let alone perform yourself. I shall have to return and do the same. When I have money and a car! By the way, if anyone is confused by what all the stars mean, just click on ‘The Mark Scheme’ and all should be explained.

A most scenic section for a water source, and it is possible to wander up the bank, make a left and complete a loop back on to the main street.

A most scenic section for a water source, and it is possible to wander up the bank, make a left and complete a loop back on to the main street.

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April 12, 2010

Glenkinchie

The day of my visit, much like the specifics of the distillery itself, epitomised the generally-upheld Lowland style: dry, clean and all very agricultural.

The day of my visit, much like the specifics of the distillery itself, epitomised the generally-upheld Lowland style: dry, clean and all very agricultural.

Pencaitland, Tranent, East Lothian, EH34 5ET, 01875 342004. Diageo. http://www.discovering-distilleries.com/glenkinchie/

APPEARANCE AND LOCATION:        ***      With the Lammermuir Hills in pale blue haze in the background and its spartan red brick construction, Glenkinchie is certainly a smart distillery. On the way in, however, I could only smell hot tarmac, not processing barley!

TOURS PROVIDED:

‘Exhibition Only Tour’:      £3, including a £5 discount voucher against a 70 cl bottle of single malt whisky. Wander around the maps, plough coulters and video screens of the exhibition area in the former maltings before casting an admiring eye over the James Risk scale-model distillery. A complimentary dram of the very approachable Glenkinchie 12-year-old is provided.

‘Glenkinchie Tour’:      £6, fully redeemable against a 70 cl single malt purchase. The standard tour does not appear, from the specification on the Discovering Distilleries website, to deviate at all from that which I took in April, and consequently I can still recommend it. The exhibition and model distillery are self-guided, and you arrive at the ‘holding area’, with display cases and a touch-screen centre console permitting you to sample some of Diageo’s multi-media marketing if that takes your fancy. A tour of the distillery is capped off with a dram of the 12-year-old and one other malt from their exdeedingly well-appointed bar.

‘Taste of Scotland Tour’:      £10, with the £5-off discount voucher included. This is described as the standard tour with ‘additional drams giving you a flavour of Scotland’. I have a feeling these may well be the same cohort that is on offer as part of the Group Tours (see below).

‘Group Tours’:      [20 persons plus] £5, plus the £5 voucher. The standard tour is available with four drams awaiting each member of the group treated to four of Diageo’s malts from across Scotland. My money would be on Talisker, Oban and Cragganmore, in addition to Glenkinchie, but that is an unofficial guess. ‘Tailor made tours are available on request’, it says, and enquiries ought to be directed to Mary Colgan or Rhona Paisley via the visitor centre number (above).

DISTILLERY-EXCLUSIVE BOTTLING:      ‘Double’ matured in Amontillado-treated American oak, 59.3% ABV, £65.

My Tour – 12/04/2010.

THE RUNNING COMMENTARY:      **

THE PROCESS AND EQUIPMENT:      *

Notes: There is a fabulous exhibition of whisky-making and -history in the converted maltings. The highlight is a complete scale model of a distillery by James Risk which shows each stage of the process in exquisite detail. No warehouse, though!

GENEROSITY:     * (I wheedled three drams out of my time at Glenkinchie.)

VALUE FOR MONEY:     *

SCORE:     5/10 *s

COMMENTS: A very good distillery to tour for the beginner and access is excellent. Perhaps it is laid out as it is to continue on more naturally from the Classic Malts marketing which is prevalent in the place: straightforward and precise. There were new elements and means of delivery from my last visit, which was nice although not a great deal I didn’t already know. The staff are very friendly and accommodating, however. Our tour guide was Austrian, who had much of the easy Scottish charm about her, nevertheless, and seemed impressed with my endeavour. The Glenkinchie tasting room, being part of Diageo, means that it has a huge variety of malts for the visitor to choose and compare against. I had a Blair Athol and the Distiller’s Edition Glenkinchie in addition to the 12-year-old. I left fully confident about why I’m doing this; more I could not have asked for from the first of a whole heap of distilleries.

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March 23, 2010

Notes on ‘The Mark Scheme’

I want to clarify my thinking behind the criteria I have set out and against which I shall judge the 49 standard tours on my itinerary. Some of it is rather idiosyncratic and whilst I have tried to limit this, it is important that you, the reader, understand where I’m coming from. If you’re going to take my advice and visit a distillery I recommend, it is only right that I should explain to you as clearly as I can what it was about that particular tour that impressed me, and most importantly, what I am impressed by in the first place. There are certain aspects of the whisky industry that particularly inspire me, and these may be different to those which motivate you. Stars don’t really tell you very much at all, for all that I have gone in to some depth regarding the distinctions between each of my star ratings. I want you to know what I set especial store by and why I have weighted my scoring the way I have so you may draw your own conclusions. If only all whisky writers advocated such transparency in reference to their personal tastes!

‘Appearance and Location’

This is a stand-alone score. Whilst the distillery’s aspect and character, and especially its place in its landscape, are of massive significance to me, and why I am using a bicycle to begin with so that I may feel first-hand the unique micro-climate of each one – the terroir - they do not in any way give clues to or indicate the quality of the tour on offer. Therefore, the score for each distillery in this regard shall remain seperate. After all, it would be wrong to allow the wilful ugliness of a distillery to skew the representation of what may be an outstanding tour by dragging the overall score down. Equally, it wouldn’t be right that the beauty of a distillery should cover up any deficiencies of the visitor experience in the final rating.

‘The Running Commentary’

The input, level of expertise and assurance of the guide and the monologue they have to work with will of course be present and under scrutiny at every stage of the tour. However, I have chosen to isolate my judgement of it, to give it its own direct overall appraisal here, instead of giving separate ratings for how well each individual facet of the tour was directed and evoked. By treating the tour as a whole product, I can better separate the merits of the key individual components which I feel make up a tour. My understanding of ‘The Process and the Equipment’ is obviously dependent on the guide’s performance, but I have deliberately distinguished this latter category to indicate and deal with other, completely separate, qualities than those displayed by the guide.

‘The Process and Equipment’

In this section I am only interested in the range of whisky-making processes that can be seen on the tour; not – as I said above – the guide’s ability to explain and contextualise them. In these modern times, with malt being bought in and increasing amounts of spirit being matured away from the distillery in the parent company’s central warehouses, I shall reward the effort made to keep these practises on-site, and hence provide a more interactive, immersive and complete experience for the visitor. And here I get to my real gripe which influences in a major way how a distillery can attain more stars in this category. I don’t care how shiny or unusually-shaped the stills, how ornate the worm tubs, whether they have Saladin boxes or whether it is the distillery cat that separates the middle cut, if a visit to the warehouse isn’t on the tour then it cannot achieve a second or third star in this section. My justification? Quite apart from the fact that warehouses represent, in my view, the most atmospheric and alchemically mysterious stage of the whisky-making process, and are some of the most wondrous-smelling enclosed spaces in the known universe, until a distillery shows its visitors real, live, sleeping casks, it has not technically or legally shown them whisky. As the law states, a malt distillate must spend a minimum of three years in oak casks before the word ‘whisky’ can be added to the label. If the tour drifts back to the gift shop after a quick glimpse of the stills, it has missed out the very process that legally creates the drink they will then attempt to flog you and you, the paying public, have just plain missed out. As controversial as it may be, because of my warehouse initiation at The Glenlivet and the ardent mysticism it conceived, I would argue that a distillery that doesn’t mature on-site, whose only stock of legal whisky is in natty packaging with a price sticker on it, is stretching my definition of a single malt whisky distillery. Beyond the law, I have another reason for being incensed at the denial of a warehouse visit. For all it hasn’t been proven scientifically (but what does science know about it, anyway?), myself and a number of other people hold that the atmosphere a cask lies in affects the liquid within it. ‘The Angel’s Share’, which has a dramatic effect on the industry accounting for millions of lost bottles of Scotch per year, is brought about because oak is porous and allows alcohol to evaporate out of the cask. So why shouldn’t it work the other way? Why shouldn’t casks breathe in, too? And if they do breathe in, the composition and character of the air must then dictate some of the personality of the finished whisky. I don’t believe that cask/air interaction can only result in a net loss for maturing spirit. Caol Ila may be my favourite dram but I can’t help, nevertheless, wishing that the contents of my bottle of the 18-year-old had spent those 216 months sipping from inside its oak the briny air whistling between Islay and Jura. Terroir-wise the drink would damn near hypnotise me. Distilleries make such bold statements about the locality and uniqueness of their water sources, and I believe they should value the singularity of their air just as much and not sacrifice the more inexplicable and romantic claims to authenticity and provenance for the sake of the economic bottom line. So, no warehouse: no star.

‘Generosity’

How subjective a point can you get? I’ve tried to make this as objective as possible, however. By using the admission price as a core variable, this section can pass comment on ‘Value for Money’, too. However, this category deals solely with how liberal the distillery is with samples of the drink they have been explaining and selling to you for the last half hour. On this last, commercial, point: I have not forgotten that visitors’ centres are wonderful for revenue and that the complimentary dram is often a try-before-you-buy with the general deal being that the price of the tour is redeemable against the purchase of a 70cl bottle. I’m discounting this side of the coin, however, in judging this section. Having neither the money nor the space, I shall not see my fiver go some way towards buying a full bottle. So in other words, my admission fee has paid for the experience of being in the distillery, the expertise and guidance of the staff, and the “free” sample at the end. And I want to be well-wetted. I’ve settled on a ratio of one dram for every £3 asked for in the tour price. One dram for an outlay of up to £3 is “generous” and will merit one star. If the tour costs more money, I think you have a right to more drams. I shall state the precise number of drams on offer beside the star (if there are any) given. It is becasue there are free tours out there (and these will automatically receive two stars should they serve up any drams at all) that £3 is my benchmark, for all it may appear low or grasping at first. For those that charge I think you have a right to a nip or two.

‘Value for Money’

This is a tricky one to elaborate on, especially when you again take into account those free tours. We know in our gut if we have enjoyed value for money, and indeed so minimal is the cost of a tour that the vast majority will receive a star. However, I have tried to differentiate and award those tours that provided an experience of far greater worth than was asked for an additional star. Most free tours will get the maximum, but it would be wrong to imply that just because you haven’t paid for it, the experience on offer is unempeachable. In reality, one mash tun is a lot like every other and so the bare bones of a tour won’t change whether you have paid nothing or £25. Everyone should be obligated to make your visit unique and enjoyable, however, and if some distilleries with no entrance fee just don’t try hard enough then one star is all they shall receive. It doesn’t all boil down to money, after all.

I have decided that a maximum of two stars is appropriate for each of the last two sections. Any greater emphasis on generosity would penalise the smaller distilleries that maybe only have one official bottling. Likewise, the ‘Value for Money’ score is more a re-iteration of my findings, an overview, and so it could be expected to follow that a tour which has scored well in the other categories will score well in this, and the same correlation for the poorer tours. A third star would just be overkill and create an unrepresentative gulf between the good and the bad tours.

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The Mark Scheme

Here it is: my means of distillery tour evaluation, my tablets of bronze hammered in to which are my criteria for revealing the very best tours on offer. It has been devised entirely by me and reflects the expectations and needs of this very keen and relatively well-informed enthusiast (by no means am I a connoisseur). In general, what I would hope to find in a good tour is a thorough and logical presentation of the production equipment and a sincere communication of the passion, conviviality and complexity behind the Scottish people and their drink. So, how am I going to go about judging in a standardised fashion the extent to which my love of Scotch is vindicated, redoubled or even subdued by a visit to their places of birth? I’m about to show you.

APPEARANCE AND LOCATION

*          A derelict nuclear silo buried in the grunge and grime of a city.

**        The complexion of heavy industry still prevails. Cannot quite escape the urban sprawl.

***      Classic distillery facade in pleasant rural Scotland.

****    Striking architectural features or particularly pretty in the heart of a truly beautiful landscape.

*****  The most romantically-situated of distilling enterprises. Iconic appearance.

THE RUNNING COMMENTARY

*          Provides the basic information but nothing more. The spiel is generic and overall quite lacklustre.

**        The basics are thoroughly covered with an engaging, even noteworthy delivery, maybe using non-traditional techniques and resources. Something new was learned.

***      A fascinating, inspiring and pleasurable experience: the visitor is left in no doubt as to what makes Glen X Glen X. Previously unknown facts about the distillery itself or process in general are divulged with all questions answered. The guide is your new best friend.

THE PROCESS AND EQUIPMENT

*          Mash tun, washbacks, stills.

**        Mash tun, washbacks, stills and warehouse.

***      Maltings, mash tun, washbacks, stills and warehouse. From barley to whisky before your eyes.

Notes: [Details provided of any unusual or rarely-seen equipment or practices.]

GENEROSITY

[N/S]  Admission price divided by the number of complimentary drams provided equals more than 3. Bad form!

*          Admission price divided by the number of complimentary drams provided equals precisely 3. Generous.

**        Admission price divided by the number of complimentary drams provided equals less than 3. Very generous!

VALUE FOR MONEY

[N/S]  Very disappointing. I should have cycled on by.

*          Value for money was had. A good tour that justifies travel time, costs and any other potential inhibitor.

**        A superb tour during which the knowledge divulged and the experience gained might just have completed the transition to whisky expert, and for which you would have been happy to pay a lot more.

Score: [The final score out of a possible ten stars.]

Comments: [General musings about the tour, summarising my feelings, listing anything noteworthy not already covered and making a recommendation about whether to visit or not.]

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Fit For The Glens: 3 weeks to go…

It’s a really nice feeling to have known something from the very beginning. For me, that something was the belief that upon managing to ride to Rothbury and back, I would then be capable of tackling the very worst journeys on my tour. That I didn’t make it to Rothbury yesterday unfortunately suggests that I’m not quite at that stage yet.

Inspired by the acquisition of my bike lock, waterproof cycle hood and rucksack; buoyed up by Multimap’s promise that it is a mere 15 miles from my house to Rothbury, and suitably challenged by a more dismal weather forecast, I decided that the time was nigh to give myself a stern test. The instant I deviated from my familiar coastal roads, however, I began to appreciate what whole series of hills can do to my average speed. Skirting Alnwick on the old A1, I was climbing steadily. However, with the route being a foreign one (on a bike, at least), the more sustained difficulty of the terrain and the increase in fast-moving traffic meant that I was working too hard, all the while wondering if the rain which had hitherto been coming only in lazy gobbets would soon elect to rage down with a vengeance. Very early on in my ride the wetness had started, and despite the sun, I thought it wise to don my overtrousers. These were unexpectedly cumbersome and raised my temperature significantly on the hills.

The sun vanished, however; I left the beaten track and was soon very glad of them. I had turned off the road that leads to the little village of Eglingham and gone cross-country to connect with the main road between Alnwick and Rothbury. My road for the time being was a single-track affair, nothing more than a strip of faded tarmac linking farms and remote houses to the outside world. I was almost immediately immersed in deepest, darkest Northumberland. Steep ramps and quick descents made for a pleasingly different challenge, and navigating new and empty roads put me in mind of many of my rides next month. The wind and rain were, by contrast, a ceaseless agony (but still had me thinking about next month). So exposed were the roads, and so unwavering was their course straight into the teeth of the worst of it, that I could do no better than the small chainring and 9 mph for mile after country mile. Perversely, perhaps, I rather enjoyed it. I was warm, the views were spectacular and the confidence booster of breaking new ground meant I relished each time the road flicked upwards and I could get a sense of what me and my gearing were capable of. Even on a very awful section that wouldn’t look out of place on the Tour of Flanders I maintained forward motion and was encouraged.

I reached Edlingham, and sadly by this point I had stopped having quite so much fun. My food stash was disappearing, as was the water in my bidons, and when a road sign made it seven miles to my destination I decided that discretion was the better part of valour. The road out of Edlingham, just to reach the main road, witnessed me grovelling in bottom gear. Had I turned right, the hill above the A697 which takes you almost to the roof of the county with a very Scotland-esque panorama would almost certainly have demanded the same. Even an hour convalescing in a Rothbury cafe would not have altered my feelings about undertaking the other side of this hill, nor the 10% (average) gradient beside Cragside House. And even had I survived those, I woould still have been faced with the slope I did climb after having turned left.

For the previous three springs, I have envisaged attaining a fitness level that might allow me to attempt a circuit incorporating Corby’s Crags. If you have visited Northumberland, you will almost certainly have parked in the gravel layby on this awful hill which affords one of the most stunning views of Cheviot. While you snapped away on your cameras, it might not have occurred to you that there are people masochistic enough to cycle up it. In truth, it is probably less than a mile, but its average gradient is 10% and some sections, by my reckoning, are getting on for 14, 15 or 16%. On the moderate lower slopes I felt OK, but then I had no right to feel differently: I discovered I was two sprockets from rock bottom. Knowing it was going to get worse, that my ability to ride out of the saddle for sustained bursts was rapidly diminishing and that here like nowhere else I would feel the dead weight I’d put on the bike, I panicked a little. Very quickly, I had no energy to spare even for that. The wall of scarred tarmac reared up, I lurched up onto the pedals and gave it everything. I was not going to get off and push.

At the layby I mentioned above was a man sat snugly in his car admiring the vista. At least, he was trying to; my ragged, desperate exhalations and gentle cursing distracted him somewhat. It was one of the most physically unpleasant things I’ve ever done. But I didn’t get off.

A little further on I stopped and decimated the malt loaf I had brought with me. Resenting the effort required to chew it, I nevertheless felt better. I survived the nerve-shredding passage through the centre of Alnwick, waltzed up the big hill between the town and the coast (no Corby’s Crags) and trickled home. I didn’t stop feeling strange for quite a while. Alarmingly, 27 miles had taken me two hours.

Next week, I’ll tell you about my experiences in and around Edinburgh, for which yesterday’s ride was supposed to be a practise run at managing the transition from cyclist to tourist with a bike somewhere nearby. As is so often the way, though, you just do what you have to do when you have no other option. Practise has nothing to do with it. At present I’m trying to work out how the hell I’m to get out of the city and avoid the bigger roads. I’ve got my map and directions off the internet and really I can achieve no more right now in the theoretical space of my own home.

Moving on to my nice, cosy and above all indoor whisky tastings. I find that on my training days I haven’t the energy to devote to flavour exploration. I could have finished my revision of the Ardbeg 10-year-old yesterday but as you have read, I wasn’t feeling terribly alive. Instead, I typed up my mark scheme for assessing all these distilleries and their tours (see above).

Over the week, however, I did have time to taste the Singleton of Dufftown 12-year-old and the Glenmorangie Nectar

A superb investment with superb whiskies - I even appreciate the Original now! The NdO is the superior malt with the most subtle finished qualities, but I love the QR's richness, heat and spice.

A superb investment with superb whiskies - I even appreciate the Original now! The NdO is the superior malt with the most subtle finished qualities, but I love the QR's richness, heat and spice.

 d’Or. The Dufftown is a perfectly capable little Speysider and an excellent aperitif with its fresh fruitiness and clean malty flavours. I would also recommend it to new whisky drinkers for its profile is very accessible with nothing to scare. The Glenmorangie was the star, though (no, not the Astar). I first tasted it the day after completing my notes on the Quinta Ruban and I think on some level I didn’t want it to score higher. What influence can a white wine cask really have on a whisky, I thought. I’ve since realised that, for all it hasn’t the richness and assertive extra-cask character of the Port-matured dram, it is the more complete malt. The Sauternes influence is perfectly judged and a wonderful partner to the fresh, delicate and spicy character of the Glenmorangie. The balance and sweetness is sublime.

I’d also like to mention the efforts of David Walliams and his crew of celebrity cyclists. I watched the feature on the John O’Groats to Lands End ride for Sport Relief and what an incredible achievement. In the snow, over the Highlands: I shall soon appreciate just how serious an undertaking that was. Well done and congratulations on surpassing the million mark.

Singleton of Dufftown 12-year-old 40%

Colour: Full honeyed amber with tarnished gold edges.

Nose: (FS) Full and rich honey with a cool, fresh slice of Sherry-seasoned oak. Strong, firm and crunchy barley notes – very appetizing. Waxy citrus and soft floral notes round off a perfectly pleasant, archetypal young Speyside. (WW) Honeyed again but with a creamy maltiness. Lightly tofeed. Warm grassy earthiness. Ginger cake.

Palate: Malty and very spicy. Quite heavy, too, with fruit and toffee. Bitter chocolate and burnt grass/heather light smokiness.

Finish: Honey and moist, gentle maltiness. Mixed fruit crumble: apple, pear and blackberry. Satisfying pure cereal

I tasted all three of the key malts together: the standard spirit against the NdO and then both against my preferred QR. The NdO won.

I tasted all three of the key malts together: the standard spirit against the NdO and then both against my preferred QR. The NdO won.

 sweetness. Late smooth, creamy dark chocolate and returning honey notes.

Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or 46%

Colour: Clean blonde with deeper tones of rich gold.

Nose: (FS) Sweet, smooth and rounded with a rich, intense honeycomb flavour. Dryish firmness: peaty/earthy. A fabulous “3D” heather note: honeyed with faintly smoky spice. Vanilla and white chocolate. A sweet shop with lots of syrupy fruit and icing sugar. Apricot. Gentle toffee sneaks in. (WW) Excellent vanilla and syrupy sweet grape. Enveloping perfumy floral notes and icing sugar. Light milk chocolate and nut praline. Hot breaths of heathery peat. Caramelised peaches.

Palate: Sweet shop again and very spicy. A richer, fuller flavour of toffee, barley malt and oak makes its presence felt. very firm and smooth smokiness. Phenomenal.

Finish: Heathery and with a lot of honey. Vanilla but also fruity, spicy wine notes. Smooth. White chocolate for a very rich, unctuous body. Firm pale oak. Maybe even some peat. Very long and gorgeous.

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