Sunday, 12 January 2014

Deanston Batch #1 - That Boutique-y Whisky Company


    Dram number 2 in the advent calendar comes from the Deanston distillery. Deanston Batch #1 was bottled by independent bottlers - That Boutique-y Whisky Company. According to the Master of Malt website (where the whisky can be purchased) the Deanston distillery used to be a cotton mill. It was converted into a distillery in the 60's. The pop art looking label on the full size bottle depicts two hippies to capture the spirit of the 60's. Upon further research (Thank You Google) I was able to see that the conversion took place in 1965.

     The Grateful Dead also got their start in 1965, playing and recording under various band names within and around the San Francisco area. They also played as the house band during the acid tests. The acid tests were a series of parties hosted by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. During these parties people would drop acid as a group in order to see what would happen. Would they find a new level of consciousness, a new understanding of life or just dance about barefoot while giant flowers exhaled visible musical notes all around them. For the answer read the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. The Grateful Dead recordings from this era were traded for years (as almost all of the bands shows are) and became an official release in 2003.

    Deanston and early Dead. This should be a perfect match.

Nose: After an initial sharpness I found lots of vanilla and peppermint. I not only smelled the mint but also felt it, almost like when you breathe in vaporub. There was also a lot of honey which almost seemed to have been steeped with a touch of ginger. beautiful in its ability to warm and cool at the same time.

Palate: WOW. That is the most honey sweet whisky I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. This honey encases all other notes. Vanilla, carob (?), smoke, dates, kumquat and at the end traces of mint and a touch of ginger. The mouth feel is full and velvety.

Finish: The finish is long. The honey coats the mouth. Intermittently that mint comes back, more felt than tasted.

     I don't know much about Deanston but after this I am going to be on the lookout for other expressions. A delicious whisky that melts your heart with its honey sweetness while cooling your mind with that weird (in a good way) minty vapour.

     This tasting is a good reminder for me that it's important to keep trying different whiskies. There is really no end to what can be done or to what flavour profiles can be achieved. Let the experiment continue so that I may further my palate.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Master Of Malts - Islay Single Malt

After another long hiatus brought on by the consuming pace of the Christmas holidays, it is time to get back to tastings. YAY.

This year Liza (my wife) gave me a whisky advent calender. It is a very wonderful and thoughtful gift. It shows that my wife is cool with my hobby. This level of support feels great and is priceless. I am also very happy that I received it on Christmas rather than before. This gives me an opportunity to taste at my leisure.

For my listening pleasure I will continue with the theme of awesome gifts given to me by Liza. For Christmas 2010 she got me tickets to see Phish at Madison Square Gardens in New York City on New Years day. This was the first time I had seen the band in 10 years. Not only was it an incredible gift, it was also a solid show that reminded me of how tight these musicians are. 01.01.11, a great show that deserves a listen.

The first whisky in the calendar is the Master of Malts - Islay single malt. It is a mystery whisky, though the description on the Master of Malts web site says: that it has a "decidedly South Coast style..." This would imply that it is either a Laphroaig, Lagavulin or Ardbeg. It could also be a Port Ellen but that distillery is closed which would mean that this is a very rare, highly sought after dram. My bet is Laphroaig, and I will compare the quarter cask in order to try and figure it out. The reality is that I likely won't be able to prove one way or the other, but who cares, this is fun.

Now lets get tasting.

Nose: heavy peat, sea salt, white pepper and pleasant honey.

Palate: very smoky and drying. there is also pine, menthol, and a touch of ginger and cinnamon.

Finish: coal is left with a slight citrus tang.

This is a decent enough whisky but it strikes me as watered down. Is it Laphroaig I can't be sure but I believe so. Let's compare the Laphroaig Quarter Cask to see if that gives any clues.

Nose: sweetness hits right away. Christmas cake, pipe tobacco, mint. Very complex.

Palate: rich raisins at first. this is followed by smoke and leather.

Finish: the smoke remains powerfully present but is made thick and almost chewy by a sweet vanilla.

These are not the same whisky. The Quarter cask is infinitely richer, particularly in the mouth feel, while the mystery malt seemed thin and almost watery. As I said earlier I am unable to tell if what I have tasted is a Laphroaig. I still believe it is (albeit a watered down version) and in the interest of always being right I am sticking with that as my final answer. If I'm wrong go ahead and tell me... I might listen.

I will leave off hoping that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.