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Clynelish & Brora: An Historic Meeting

Posted on Monday, Feb 21, 2011 at 05:43 PM

For a long time, we've been wanting to do a Brora-Clynelish meeting, tracing the distillery's split with rare expressions -- and after four years of legwork, we finally had the bottles to put it together.

 

For those not familiar with the history of Clynelish, it briefly goes like this: in 1819, the original Clynelish distillery was built in the Northern Highlands of Scotland. It operated sporadically until 1967, when a new distillery was built next door to satisfy increased demand. Confusingly, this new distillery took the name "Clynelish" and the old Clynelish distillery was renamed "Brora." Brora originally supplied Islay-style malt, but peating levels soon decreased and it permanently closed not much later in 1983.

Our idea was to take a "tasting tour" starting with a pre-Brora Clynelish, following through with other bottlings up through the closing of Brora. The lineup was:

1. Clynelish 12 yo, OB (Ainslie & Heilbron)
. The juice in this bottle was likely distilled around 1965 and prior, making this the closest thing to "original Clynelish" we could find.

2. Clynelish 22 yo, 1972, Rare Malts.  This rare Rare Malts (sic) currently auctions for around $900.

3. Brora 21 yo, 1972, Connoiseurs Choice.  This "old map label" bottle is highy-respected by some some well-known tasters.

4 & 5. Brora 26 yo, 1981, Duncan Taylor Cask #1424, and Brora 25yo, 1981, Duncan Taylor Cask #1423. It was fun to see the differences between these sister casks, filled consecutively.

6. Clynelish 17 yo, 1981, Managers Dram.  Generally considered the best of the "Managers Dram" series, which are not intended for the general public.

7. Brora 22 yo, 1982, Lombard Jewels of Scotland
.  John Hansell scored this at 95 points so it seemed a tasty choice to exhibit the end of an era.

8. Brora 30 yo, 1972, Old Malt Cask, "Brorageddon" for PLOWED. We wanted to finish with something we knew would be massive, and were lucky to score this legendary sherry monster bottled for PLOWED back in 2003. (Thanks Tim of Ardbegproject.com!)


The consensus was that most of these were great malts, and those that weren't were at least "interesting" in some sense. (Exception: Andy, our resident lowballer, professed mild distaste for... um... everything?). The Clynelish Managers Dram was a huge favorite, but the Brorageddon seemed to finally win the evening. Did we just start a new tradition when draining an exceptionally good bottle?

 

A destroyed Brorageddon bottle

Diageo Special Releases

Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2011 at 01:45 AM

bottle pictures

 

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Near the end of each year, for the single-malt gifting season, Diageo unveils their Special Releases -- "a small and highly desirable collection of limited edition single malt Scotch whiskies."

 

We cracked open all seven of the USA Special Releases, not without a little bit of cynicism. After all, we're typically intent on tasting more off-the-beaten-path scotches that are, shall we snobbishly say, less "promoted." 

 

Well, I'm (Adam) happy to admit the consensus was that these are, by and large, very good and tasty malts. Sure, the prices could be better, but such are the times. Hmm, perhaps Diageo knows what they're doing... I predict success for this fledgling company!

 

As a shocker, most-enjoyed was the Glenkinchie 20-year-old. Most-talked-about (and similarly very much enjoyed) was by far the Glen Spey, which presented unusual flavors usually found in bourbons and ryes -- so much so that we're nearly certain there's something extra-unusual about the woods used on this one. If you've got info plese let us know; inquiries are out to Diageo.

 

scotch whisky bottleAuchroisk 20

Talisker 30

Glen Spey 21

Glenkinchie 20

Caol Ila 12 "Unpeated Style"

Lagavulin 12

Cragganmore 21

 

Then to finish things up, we continued the Diageo theme with The Directors' Blend -- a special private bottling for Diageo staff in 2005, which contains all of Diageo's scotch distilleries from the time (27 single malts + 2 grain). Finally, we had something to thumb our noses at! Okay, it wasn't terrible, it was a blend, it was special and fun to try, and it was at the end of a long night. Or uh, halfway actually... but that's another story.

 

(As usual, ratings/notes appear as members motivate). 

The Perfect Dram and The Whisky Agency

Posted on Sunday, Dec 5, 2010 at 09:43 AM

We Los Angelenos have a little difficulty getting to Limburg, Germany each year -- where The Whisky Fair is held. So last March, we dedicated a meeting to bottlings exclusively for the Fair. 

That meeting was such a favorite that it demanded an encore. So this December, we met and explored seven bottlings by The Whisky Fair's sister labels, The Whisky Agency and The Perfect Dram:
 
 
As members motivate and enter notes, you'll see that the meeting lived up to expectations. Some of these are still available, get 'em if you can!
 

Bowmore: Delectable Delights and Decay

Posted on Saturday, Nov 13, 2010 at 09:27 PM

A bottle of Bowmore 30-year-old Seadragon and LA Whiskey Society glassware. 
This November, Chris and I (Adam) needed an excuse to open two great Bowmores that had been collecting dust on our shelves -- a 1970 Signatory 35yo and 1968 Celtic Heartlands. We'd drank and loved both in the past, but never featured them in a LAWS meeting.

So, we threw them in an all-Bowmore lineup, adding the semi-historic Seadragon, an extinct 21yo from the mid 1990s, the always-controversial discontinued 17-year, a random 1984 Cadenhead's bottling, plus a nip of some old Claret and a recent 16yo from The Perfect Dram.

The 1968, Seadragon, and 1970 were the hits of the meeting, with the 1968 being the most-drained at the end of the night. On the other hand, there was the 21. Its God-awful stench seemed to scream, "This bottle is tainted!" Yet our best investigative efforts indicated it wasn't. It just stank like… uh… the most common descriptors were "corpse" and "farts."

Yep. Another good night on the books.
 
If anyone can help verify that this 21-year-old is indeed as intended by the distillers, shoot us an email. I'll send you a sample… I'm pretty sure none of us will miss it.

Is there such a thing as too much whisky?

Posted on Friday, Oct 29, 2010 at 02:06 PM

No. There is not. But there were so many whisky events in California this October -- WhiskyFest and Whisky Live in particular -- that I (Adam) couldn't schedule a meeting this month. Ah, what a "problem."

Kudos especially to John Hansell for pulling off another spectacular evening in San Francisco. And special thanks to lohssanami and mikeymad for the great hospitality afterwards.
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