KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 24

24 12 2016

Merry Christmas Eve, everybody!  Hopefully by now the stockings have been hung and the parents can start turning their attention to more important things, like booze.  Back in my first year of KWM Whisky Advent, the December 24th bottle was the end of the line and thus the one everyone waited for the whole month.  This year we get an extra bonus whisky tomorrow, but it’s a special Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling and is double-miniature-sized, leaving tonight the final standard-format calendar bottle. And it delivers, at least in packaging (every scotch should be sold in a bright tartan box) and age designation (distilled 25 years ago in 1991!).  It is yet another Gordon & MacPhail offering, but from a heretofore unseen line:  The MacPhail’s Collection, a small range from a select line of distilleries (7 in all at the moment).  One of them is Glen Scotia, an ancient distillery located at the tip of the Campbeltown peninsula in southwest Scotland.  Campbeltown isn’t a huge scotch area, known mainly for Springbank and its sister distilleries, so it’s no massive surprise that this is the first whisky from the region we’ve seen in Advent 2016.  One of Glen Scotia’s claims to fame, other than being sold a trillion times and failing in the early 20th century like basically every other whisky producer, is that it’s haunted by the ghost of a prior owner, who drowned himself in Campbeltown Loch after losing everything he had in a bad business deal (hopefully not the purchase of the distillery itself, but you can’t rule that out).

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The full title of this bottle is The MacPhail’s Collection 1991 Single Campbeltown Malt Scotch Whisky from Glen Scotia Distillery, but unlike every other whisky so far in 2016 Whisky Advent, there is no other information about it anywhere.  It is only for sale at KWM in mini-bottle format (for $24, suggesting that it would be a $300+ full-sized bottle) and not otherwise available; it is not mentioned on the Gordon & MacPhail site; and it is not available for sale at any online shops I could find, even in the UK, except in miniature form.  Weird.  It’s not as dark as you might think for a 25 year old whisky (although it may not be a 25 Year whisky for age designation purposes if it was bottled a while ago, as age labelling is based on time from distillation to bottling) but carries a pure, malty nose of golden raisin, plum, fresh pear, sourdough bread and trail mix, with a hint of fitting Christmas fruitcake.  However, it then takes a left turn and goes surprisingly sharp, rubbery and industrial, filling the mouth with not-altogether-enjoyable tastes of tennis balls, permanent marker, elastic bands and shoe treads; these factory-floor notes and the whisky’s spiky alcohol combine to nearly overwhelm spicy underlying notes of rock salt, caraway and fennel.  Interesting?  Yes.  Pleasant?  Not entirely.  See you at the 2016 calendar finale, and at Christmas!!

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Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 24

24 12 2015

Merry Christmas Eve, everybody!  While the children are tucked all snug in their beds, I’m drinking scotch at my kitchen table and writing about it for the 24th day in a row.  The penultimate whisky of the 2015 Advent Calendar is giving me a couple different flashbacks, first to 12 days and half a calendar ago, when on Day 12 KWM rocked the Glenfarclas 21 Year Single Malt, and then to exactly one year ago tonight, Christmas Eve 2014, when the prior calendar’s final whisky was the $720-a-bottle Glenfarclas 40 Year Single Malt.  Tonight we fall somewhere in between, with the $215 Glenfarclas 25 Year rounding out the 50 mL selections in the current calendar (there’s a special bonus super-sized 100 mL bottling for Christmas tomorrow).  I heartily concur with the value distribution in 2015 as opposed to 2014, as I can say with certainty that there isn’t a $505 quality and flavour difference between the 25 and the 40 Year, and the savings from that selection had significant effects on what else was able to be offered this time around.

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I don’t have many production details on this whisky, but like the 21 Year it was aged in sherry casks, although it doesn’t show it in the flavour profile quite as much as its younger brother.  A dense amber colour, it billowed out intense yet relaxed aromas of smoke, carrot cake, molasses, burnt honey, spicy oak, graham crackers and celery stalks, that last lingering vegetal hint keeping the surrounding sweetness grounded.  Its quarter-century in oak made it soft and mellow on the palate, dripping with chocolate orange, roasted marshmallow, mesquite, charred wood, pumpkin spice, honey and Fig Newtons.  This is basically the perfect fireside whisky on a cold winter’s night like tonight, the ideal Santa pick-me-up.  Important epilogue:  I swear to god I didn’t read or refer back to my notes of the Glenfarclas 21 before writing these ones, but reading them side by side now, you sure can tell they’re family, can’t you?  I don’t think I’ve ever used the term “carrot cake” to describe any wine or spirit before, but it’s the first thing that came to mind with this scotch, and there it was in the Glen 21 aroma writeup; “pumpkin spice” too.  Deja vu!  Have a great one tomorrow – one last writeup to come!








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