So the first tasting of 2018 happens to be on the eve of Burns Night! What great timing :-)
On Wednesday 24th January, I joined a some familiar faces on Twitter (and a smattering of new friends too) to participate in the Glen Moray tasting, organised by Mr Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire and with Mr Graham Coull, Distillery Manager & Master Distiller at Glen Moray in attendance.
What we had to look forward to were five different expressions, drawn directly from casks selected by Graham. One of the expressions is the current 'Bottle Your Own' cask on offer in the distillery shop, with at least two others due to become BYO casks in the near future. Graham suggested that he uses the BYO casks to glean feedback on his "experiments". It's really interesting to see the distillery experimenting with a variety of casks... experiments which are proving to be a success obviously judging by the samples we tried! My notes and thoughts follow:
2008 Cider Finish - Just under 10 years old - 51.8%, price unknown
Graham Coull - "First whisky is just under 10 yo (9yrs 9 months) and has spent just over 2yrs in a Thistly Cross Whisky Cider cask. I find the cider cask works best with younger Glen Moray. I send casks to Thistly and they use them twice and send them back to me.
Sweet fizzy cider in abundance! Oaky vanilla notes and hazelnut too… sort of dries it out a little. Once it's settled I'm getting stronger alcohol notes reminiscent of Cotswold Distillery Cotswolvados.
Lovely and juicy, cider still really evident (even the fizz) but not too sweet thanfully. Easily quaffable at cask strength. With water, still delicious and creamier with caramel and sweet pastry notes.
More tartness comes through at the end, and an almost sour (not unpleasant!) quality like sour apple sweets. With water, green apple peel & some lime zest evident.
2007 Port Finish - 10 years old - 57.1%, £50
Graham Coull - "Dram 2 is the current BYO [Bottle Your Own] at the Distillery. 10yrs old, 6yrs in bourbon, 4 in a port cask"
Oily on the nose, buttery even. Then waves of red liqorice, grape juice and something herbal I can't place… mint perhaps? Lashings of rich dark chocolate eventually too.
Stewed plums & dark cherries with rich dark chocolate grated over the top… then some damp tobacco notes come through. It's really rich!
With water (not that it's needed) it doesn’t differ much except for a little mocha-coffee note at the end.
More tartness at the end, like you're chewing red grape skins.
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Finish - 15 years old - 51.8%, price unknown
Graham Coull - "Dram 3 is 15yrs and 1 month old with 9 months in Cab. Sauv casks from Bordeaux"
Love the pink hue in the colour. A little 'spirity' initially on the nose, hints of red wine vinegar some grated ginger and eventually softening to give strawberry… it's different and not quite what I was expecting! Needs more time to consider... it deserves time to ponder and tease out all the subtleties of the spirit.
After posting this assessment of the nose, Graham queried "longer finish required perhaps?". Maybe that's it? It smells like it's on the cusp of greatness and maybe a little extra time in the Cab Sav cask would complete it.
Some yummy red berry jammy sweet notes, but with a little caramelised red onion to reign it in. It’s like a battle between sweet & tart.Some really rich tannins in there which fill your cheeks! With H2O… more strawberry jam & less onion.
Really thick & sweet jammy notes with caramelised tones that suggest the jam has been too long in the pan and is catching at the bottom.
1998 PX Finish - 19 years old - 47.2%, price unknown
Graham Coull - "Dram 4 is 19yrs 0mths old (19yo!) with 3yrs 4mths in a PX Sherry butt"
A future Bottle Your Own Distillery exclusive which will be available later on this year.
That old PX 'smoky richness' combing fig rolls, fresh tobacco, furniture polish & some chocolate
I was hoping for a little more. It's got the PX richness but doesn't contain the opulence… it's tasty, but not lasting. Some dark dried fruits (prune & fig) with sweet strawberry, but faint leathery tobacco notes fade quickly.
A nice dram, but wanting for a little more. Hints of cherry brandy on the finish.
2010 Peated PX Finish - ? years old - 55.8%, price unknown
Graham Coull - "2010 was the first year I distilled peated spirit at Glen Moray."
Another future Bottle Your Own Distillery exclusive.
Ooh you peaty, oily, phenolic bitch!
Thick, oliy, medicinal… sweet honey too. Like ribs BBQ'd in rich molasses.
Can't disagree with any of the other comments that were mentioned! It really is a sweet, rich, smoky BBQ affair with oodles of paprika, molasses and cowboy hats.
Wow… it’s the previous ever so slightly 'reserved' PX finish multiplied by 10 with thick BBQ smokey richness and an almost kippery quality that realy works well.
Meaty, fruity, fishy, smoky, sweet & rich… this puts hairs on your chest and a pillow behind your head in equal measures! Very well balanced and delicious.
I'm struggling to place these in order of preference. 1 & 5 were so different, but equally enjoyable... 3 & 2 had their subtleties that make them hard to separate although the Cabernet Sauvignon edges it. And 4 was still very enjoyable & quaffable but maybe not as good as the others..
On any given night, depending on what I fancied, I'd pick a different dram each time. I think if I were pushed to pick a fave, it would the the peated Pedro Ximinez finish, it's such a well balanced, flavoursome dram.
My thanks as always to Steve Rush, also to Glen Moray and in particular Mr Graham Coull who picked some wonderful Speysidian delights for us to try.
It was a very pleasant way to spend Burns Night Eve, and I'm sure the Bard of Ayrshire would have approved of our drams.