November sees the release of two new Gjoleid bottlings at Vinmonopolet (not available from other retailers, as far as I know) I should have had tasting notes for both to share, but due to a mix-up I’ve only had the chance to taste the one they’ve named “Blindpassasjeren” (The Stowaway). It has matured in an ex-sherry cask for “almost five years”, but the unusual thing about it is that before the malt spirit was filled into this cask it had held aquavit for a period, which it is natural to expect will have had some influence on the whisky. The cask has also been walkabout (or sailabout, rather) along with the Linje Aquavit, and has crossed the equator twice between February and June this year.
Nose: Cumin, some newmake character, oaky sweetness. Towards aniseed with water, and aquavit-notes, but the malty spirit is still discernable beneath it all.
Palate: A light note of cumin, clear oak notes, the relatively high ABV is obvious. With water the taste also turns to aniseed.
Comments: Very easy drinking, and quite “aquavit-like”. A nice combination of the two types of spirit, who’d have thought aquavit-cask would be a success? I’m definitely bagging a bottle or two come November.
Bottled 25 June 2004. A tasting note for an almost antique bottle to celebrate the arrival of my welcome package from the Amrut Fever Club.
Nose: Lemon and fresh herbs, malt and cardamom. Even more malt and cardamom with water, also some apples and possibly a hint of honey.
Palate: More wood on the palate, but mostly malt, oatmeal porrige that’s a little singed, or something like that. Water doesn’t make a lot of difference, a little more vanilla, perhaps.
Comments: For a three year old (or whatever it is) this is quite impressive. The nose is interesting and well balanced, the taste perhaps a little boring, but it’s “boring, but good” rather than “boring and unpleasant”. A pity the bottle is nearing empty. I may have to pour some into a sample bottle for the archive.
Bottled in 1994 in the Connoisseurs Choice series.
Nose: Citrus, more lemon than orange, a little honey, oak and something Play Doh-ish. Water does not have any effect worth mentioning.
Palate: Oak, vanilla, dried cranberries and heather. There is something reminiscent of an open fire here, too, and it becomes more apparent with water, though I think there might be more of the seared outside of meat cooked over open flame rather than the fire itself.
Comments: Gordon & MacPhail had their moments way back when they insisted of dilluting eveything down to 40% too, and this is a very good example. Perhaps this Banff would have been even better at a higher strength, but I find it hard to imagine.
Nose: Vanilla and oak, but also peaches and cinnamon. Citrus and something tropical, maybe pineapple, with water. After some time in the glass aok becomes more apparent again, but it’s a sweet, spicy oak which compliments the fruity notes.
Palate: Vanilla, oak and peaches. Other fruits, too, gooseberries, I think. The oak turns slightly bitter with water. Cinnamon and black pepper on the finish. After a while banana & spice sponge cake and well-balanced oak.
Comments: This is what a good grain whisky should be. There is absolutely nothing to detract from this other than the fact that I only have a 3 cl sample instead of a bottle (or three).
Getting out of bed the next morning was easier than could be expected, but the motivation was there. The bus for Campbeltown was leaving Buchanan at a quarter past nine, and if we missed that bus we would miss our first event: A walking tour with Kate Watt. So we made haste towards the bus station, stopping at a convenient Sainsbury’s for lunch and drink supplies and made it to Buchanan in good time. But then we decided coffee would be a good idea, and Mats was left to watch our bags while Eva and I got in line at the station cafe. Unfortunately the guy behind the counter turned out to be unable to keep track of orders and money received (and also be eager to chat to regulars, which is understandable, but inconvenient). But we got our coffee eventually, found seats on the bus and (well, speaking for myself) relaxed mentally. With a four hour bus ride ahead of us, there was not much to do except lean back and enjoy the Scottish landscape zooming past.
In Inverary the bus stops for ten minutes and I sprinted over to Loch Fyne Whiskies to see if they had any of their own bottlings available. Since they did, a Bunnahabhain, I made a purchase of that plus a variety pack of three Fyne Ales bottles. When I exited the shop and checked the time I realised I still had seven minutes, enough to obtain a cup of coffe, hopefully, before the bus left. Pretty efficient shopping, even if I do say so myself.
After Inverary the bus stopped by Kennacraig ferry terminal, naturally, which is where you’d get the ferry to Islay, and I must admit I was a little tempted to jump off and get on board the ferry, but I resisted, and soon after Campbeltown came into view at last.
Campbeltown is not a big town, so we found Earadale B&B easily enough, and were led from there around the block to No 16 Argyll Street, where the self catering flat we had ooked for the next two night was located. We’d observed a Cooperative branch from the bus, and with no time to lose we set off for it and purchased the neccessary breakfast and snack staples for our two day stay. With about half an hour to spare before our rendevouz down at the harbour, I set off in search of Fish & Chips (I was getting distinctly peckish), and found an open cafe at last, though I had to bring the food and eat it on the move.
We met Kate Watt and 15-20 other walking (or pubcrawl) tour participants by the Tourist Information by the harbour, all ready and eager for Whisky Impressions’ first guided walk: Liquid History.
Kate started the tour by giving us an introduction to the history of Campbeltown. I took plenty of notes for my own benefit, but I’ll skip the history lesson here.
We visited three pubs as part of the tour (but had many more pointed out to us), The Feathers, Kilbrannan and Burnside, and had a “half and half” at each one, that is half a pint of beer and a half measure of whisky. The whisky was good and the pubs were friendly, but the beer selection was pretty dire. Tenants and Guiness were repeat performers, as well as Heverlee, new to us, but not an aquaintance we were eager to develop further. Nevertheless, we had a very good time, and I will most certainly repeat the experience if I ever get the chance.
We’d have happily hung out with Kate and the rest of the group for a good while longer, but were painfully aware that we had a dinner to attend and that we were rather in need of a brush up before that, so we bid our goodbyes and headed back to base. A report from the dinner, well, the parts I actually participated in, will follow.
Due to a combination of the usual travel-induced insomnia and obsessing over whether I had remembered everything for the 17th of May celebrations (it being my first year as a band mum on top of everything) I started my trip to Campbeltown with all of two hours sleep (and five hours restless dozing). Luckily I was also on an travel-induced adrenaline high, so I managed surprisingly well all things considered.
I met up with my travel companions, Eva and Mats, at Værnes (Trondheim Airport). They’d made a brave effort to get the same airport express as me, but I was even earlier than I’d said I would be. We checked in and got through security without a hitch. We’d had a message from the airline, Norwegian, that because of the ongoing strike there would be no food or drink available on board, and we were also prepared for limited service at the airport. We had hoped for an Untappd check-in at O’Leary’s, but it was not to be.
The flight to Gardermoen was uneventful, and once through to the international terminal at Gardermoen we could purchase both food and drink. We landed in Edinburgh according to schedule, got our luggage and made for “Bus stops” to find the bus to Glasgow. It was now past nine local time, and we were eager to get to the hotel to check in.
While we waited for the bus, a familiar gentleman came strolling towards “Stand C”, Jon Bertelsen had obviously arrived on the same flight and was also staying in Glasgow that evening. After an hour’s bus ride and a quick walk, Eva, Mats and I checked in to Best Western Glasgow City Hotel. Jon sent a message to say he was now at The Pot Still and that they closed at midnight, so we plunged out into the Glagow evening, beauty sleep be damned.
After a congenial hour or so at The Pot Still we made an attempt at getting another pint at Jon’s hotel (which was close by), but they were only serving guests, not guests of guests, at that time of night, so the three of us bid Jon good night and see-you-soon and made our way back to Best Western and our beds. Just as well, really, because we had a bus we HAD to catch in the morning.
Talking about Best Western: We booked through Hotels.com with our main criteria being relative nearness to Buchanan Bus Station, wifi and cheapness. At arrival, I got a keycard that didn’t work, but that was resolved in a timely manner an apart from that I had no complaints. The rooms were relatively spacious, my bed was impeccable. And the door had both a physical lock in addition to the electronic one (always more satisfying), and also a security chain, which quite simply does wonders for my stress levels.
In May Myken Distillery finally release their first product, a gin, on the Norwegian market (i.e. Vinmonopolet), and I thought that a good excuse for a vertical tasting. So here we have batch 1 at 47.3%, which I’ve already got notes up for, batch 2 at 47%, a sample I got when I visited Myken for their official opening i September, and batch 3, the one which will be available from next Friday, also at 47%, in an appealing half litre bottle with the awesome label designed by Metric Design. Please note that I happen to have the coolest bottle from the batch, number 42 (the answer, as we all know, to life, the universe, and everything). Pretty much the best birthday present I’ve had for some time (and, yes, I turned 42).
Nose: Cucumber, juniper, fresh herbs, coriander and cumin.
Palate: Juniper twigs, light liquorice. More soapy coriander with a few drops of water.
Nose: Herbs and sea foam. Juniper and cumin. Something quite waxy, as well as warm wood.
Palate: Soapy coriander, herbs and more sea influence.
Nose: Juniper berries and a sweet juniper wood note, fresh herbs, black pepper and sea.
Comments: There is definitely a clear relationship between the three batches. A little tweaking of the spice mix has obviously been going on, but no radical changes. In my opinion they’re going in the right direction with the tweaking, too, I marginally prefer batch 3. All three are excellent sipping gins, and it would suprise me if they didn’t also work in drinks, from the reasonably simple G&T to those with a list of ingredients as long as your arm.
Myken Arctic Gin will be available to order at Vinmonopolet from Friday May 6, for 509.90 NOK for 0,5 litres. The order number is 3957902 and there are only a couple of hundred bottles available in this first release, so if you want one you shouldn’t hang around.
Finally a new batch of Aberlour a’bunadh at under 60% abv, meaning it can be legally sold in Norway. According to the importer, a few bottles were on their way, but it’s possible that they disappeared immediately, at least there are noen available through Vinmonopolet just now.
Nose: Plum jam, plum in Madeira, dark chocolate. A little burnt rubber with water, but also chalk and dry, dark chocolate. After a while I find orange marmalade, too.
Palate: Dried fruits, dark chocolate, burnt rubber. Oak and cocoa powder on the finish. Much the same with water.
Comments: I should really have been paying attention and secured a bottle if it did show up at Vinmonopolet. The a’bunadh is an expression I like to have available at all times, and we’re running low. Batch 53 is a perfectly decent batch. The presence of burnt rubber reveals the heavy sherry cask influene, but it’s nicely balanced and not at all overpowering, and I really like the total. Very drinkable, as usual.