Today’s Twitter Tasting, hosted as ever by the wonderful folk at The Whisky Wire, is a little bit different.
Firstly, rather than being focused on an individual distillery it’s a celebration of next weekend’s London Whisky Weekender – a festival of dram-spanking goodness put together by The Whisky Lounge. Three days of whisky in oh-so-trendy Hackney; what more could you ask for?!
Secondly, this is a blind tasting – as you can see from the picture above the samples contain no information whatsoever. There’s not even an ABV statement.
Now in some ways this makes things far more interesting; I’m tasting the whisky without prejudice or preconception, and it’s hard to resist trying to guess the distillery as the evening progresses. On the other hand, this does have the potential to be an evening of embarrassment, as I make four wildly inaccurate predictions about the whiskies being tasted.
I’ve included the identities of each whisky below, but rest assured that at the time of writing, I am (along with the rest of Twitter) blissfully unaware of their true identities.
Sample 1 – Berry Bros & Rudd 1992 Longmorn Speyside (46% ABV)
A nice golden coloured whisky, the first dram of the night has a big initial alcoholic hit to the aroma, with some toffee apple sweetness and pear drops, along with a real creaminess. Fellow tasters on Twitter detect more citrus notes than I’m getting, and someone nails it as spiced mead.
Water really brings far more citrus to the nose; lemon sherbet and over-ripened oranges, still with plenty of sweetness.
The alcohol is significant on the tongue too, along with a buttery mouthfeel and a flavour of juicy green apples and light pepper – the alcohol is actually making it hard to get too deeply into the other flavours.
Adding a splash of water, then, exposes some more lemon citrus notes and quite a tannic bite in the finish along with a slightly harsh grain note.
I don’t know Speyside whisky well enough to have called this one, although it was the only region I saw being guessed on Twitter.
Sample 2 – Tiffon Chateau de Triac Cognac (40% ABV)
The darkest of the bunch, this is a rich amber coloured dram that screams of a sherry cask. The nose is pure Pedro Ximenez, with rich, sticky raisins and an almost treacle-like sweetness. There’s something harsher too, which Twitter identifies for me as hot acrylic.
Watered, the PX influence is lost and a woody character starts to come through and notes of dark rum.
Initially sweet on the tongue, it quickly yields to hot spice and perhaps a young wood resin. Water quenches that heat and exposes softer, honey like notes.
Thanks to the power of suggestion, it never crossed my mind that this might not be a whisky at all, but a cognac!
Sample 3 – anCnoc Rutter Highland (46% ABV)
The nose is so jam-packed with peat that it simply has to be an Islay whisky. Cold smoke, a touch of honey but despite the power of that peat, it’s light and alluring. Water deepens the smoky character, and enhances the sweetness but otherwise leaves well alone.
It stays light on the tongue, with a smooth warmth that lingers nicely and coats your tongue with a suggestion of light honey. Water softens things further, bringing a more rounded flavour and helps extend a slightly chilli finish. Sublime.
Most of the guesses on Twitter are on Islay too, and I can’t wait to find out what it is. And of course, we’re nearly all wrong (all credit goes to the soul I saw suggesting it was anCnoc from the start!)
Sample 4 – SMWS 53.197 Caol Ila (57.4% ABV)
A much more subtle touch of smoke to this one – almost the smoke of a distant oil fire – with a distinct malted barley edge and something decidedly coastal about it.
Water frees up the smoke more, and knocks back the sweetness in a way that makes me increasingly convinced that this must be an island whisky.
Big and powerful in the mouth, with a sweet sticky molasses character quickly balanced by a serious spice punch that just lingers and lingers. Watered, it’s tamed without losing any of it’s raw, powerful character.
I can tell that Twitter wants to call this as an Islay – as do I – but we were all burned by the previous dram, so suggestions of a peated Speyside or even further afield abound. And it turns out we should have had the courage of our convictions as it’s revealed to be from Caol Ila.
The London Whisky Weekender runs from Friday 16th until Sunday 18th May – tickets may be available at the door, but if you’d rather not risk it, head over to The Whisky Lounge to buy in advance.
Many thanks to the folks at The Whisky Wire and The Whisky Lounge for this evening’s tasting.