Friday, 7 January 2011

My Top 3 Festive Drams

I thought I'd post a wee note or two about my favourite whiskies that I was lucky enough to taste and imbibe over the festive period. These are 3 amazing whiskies each with their own individual characteristics. All are incredibly complex, all suite my palate perfectly, all were perfect for Xmas drinking, and 2 out of the 3 are incredibly rare.

Festive Whisky Number 1

Caol Ila Single Cask Bottling Feis Ile 2010
Islay Single Malt Whisky 
Filled to cask 19th August 1999 
Bottled 2010
Bottle Number 064 Cask Number 305646
61.9% abv

Nose:  Cinnamon, winter spice, honey marmalade, rich red fruit, raisins, sultanas, hint of bonfire smoke
Palate: Winter spice and marmalade right at the front of the tongue with an amazingly rich and oily mouthfeel
Finish: The red fruit and winter spice are huge with a fading waft of bonfire smoke

What a monster of a winter dram! This Caol Ila has been bottled from a single sherry cask and the overwhelming characteristics are of red fruit and sweetness rather than the usual, medicinal, peaty flavours of this Islay classic.What a Caol Ila to taste at Christmas. Bottled exclusively for the Islay Festival of Malt and Music 2010, I probably should have kept this beauty for another couple of years just to keep an eye on it's value as rarities like this can quickly sneak up to a price tag of £500 per bottle. I'm glad I opened it though and it is one that I shall enjoy sharing with friends over the next year or so....

Festive Whisky Number 2

Glen Grant Single Cask Bottling Feis 1987
Speyside Single Malt Whisky 
Distilled December 1987
Bottled March 2010
Bottle Number 104/272 Cask Number 44648
57% abv 

Nose: Olorosso sherry, raisins, vanilla, parkin, bled radiators.
Palate: Huge hit of Xmas cake and parkin then classic Spanish oak vanilla.
Finish: Very long, deeply rich finish, perfect accompaniment to rich festive deserts.

This was a gift from Leonie for Xmas and is just a classic, does what it says on the tin, sherry cask matured Speysider. If you don't like this, you don't like whisky. The type of sweet sherry monster that took us on trips to Speyside again and again to look for the odd special bottling forgotten about in a dark corner of a whisky shop or bar. Cigar anyone?

Festive Whisky Number 3

Benriach 'Importanticus Fumosus' Tawny Port Finish
Peated Speyside Single Malt Whisky 
Aged 12 years
46% abv 

Nose: Strawberry jam, cranberry, peated barley, a hint of peat reek
Palate: Strawberries, raspberries, giving way to increasing peat smoke, tar, and jeyes fluid
Finish: Drying, the peat smoke quickly takes over from the red fruits.

I'm a great fan of what the Benriach Distillery Company is doing with it's range of Speyside whiskies from both it's Benriach and Glendronach distilleries, the latter having been acquired by the company in the last two years or so. Although it does produce non-peated whiskies, of late, Benriach has become more renowned for it's peaty spirit. The company has also dabbled in 'finishing' some of it's peaty whiskies in particular in different pre-used casks. On the whole I'm not a great fan of these finishes, particularly when the spirit has been decanted into ex wine casks as I think that the whisky can become overpowered by the previous occupant of the casks very quickly. Benriach, however, always seem to manage to get the balance right where the second cask has added an interesting subtle twist of flavour to the whisky without detracting from the intended distillery character. In this case, the peat is predominant with an extra dimension of red fruit that hasn't overpowered the whisky. It makes a good introduction for those who haven't dabbled into the world of peaty whiskies, it being not too much of a monster. For those already used to a little waft of smoke, the addition of the fruity factor does make this a little too easy to drink! Unlike the previous two whiskies, this is not a limited edition bottling and you should be able to find this at any decent whisky shop, especially those found in Russell Street in Leek......



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