Whisky Israel Sherry (mostly) Summit #2
A few good months passed since the Whisky Israel Peat (and others) Summit #1 we held at the end of July, and we were all very keen on having another summit, and the sooner, the better. Just like with the previous gathering, plenty of emails, phone calls, tweets and dates moving around were involved until we all were content with the date and time, and I was more than happy with the location chosen as it meant the farthest I had to drive after the whiskies was down the corridor into my bed. Yes, it was my turn to play host.
As the title suggests, this time the gathering’s theme was to be Sherry aged (or matured for a really long time) whiskies. Each of us was to bring a bottle and some of us even two. The official list of whiskies to be tasted was:
Aberlour A’Bunadh batch 25 – by Gal
The Dalmore 15 – by Kfir
The Macallan 18 Sherry Oak – by Igal
The Dalmore 18 – by Igal (yes him again)
The Macallan 12 Sherry Oak – by Richard (see quick note below)
Highland Park 1994 Vintage – by Shai (yours truly who didn’t own a Sherry whisky except for Macallan Fine Oak 10, which apparently did not count).
Quick note: Richard is the new Whisky Israel summits member, a very nice person with much knowledge and experience with whiskies. We all were very pleased to add him and meet with him and we all wish him a very warm welcome!
In addition to the above list, for which a proper Whisky Israel placemat was created by Gal (as with last and all future WI summits), there were supposed to be three surprises – mystery drams by Gal and Igal, and ‘Nikka from the Barrel’ by Richard.
The lads arrived at my place at around nine’ish to discover a nicely set table, with all the Glencairns I had (which I thought I had much less, but still was not enough and thus Richard and Igal came to the rescue; to be fair, Gal and Kfir also brought some) with small baskets of fresh bread (courtesy of my wife having access to a nice bakery next to her work), three kinds of beef pastrami and all kinds of other goodies to accompany the evening. Of course all around the table I’ve set photography equipment (3 flashes and remote controlled camera on tripod) so I can take pictures of the event; mind you, I didn’t think of moving the table and placing the camera in such a way that it would not be behind me; oh well… next time (no pictures of all us sitting at the table is given as unfortunately, some of us, me included, came out not in a very flattering way).
A non-whisky compliment is in place – in all of our pre-summit communications I warned the lads that Islay (my wee pinscher hybrid), is to be bark; a lot. Well, the doggy surprised me as she almost didn’t make a sound. I don’t know if it was due to the fact that four big boys were guests, the fact that she understood she had a connection to what we were doing, or just because she was tired. It doesn’t matter, she behaved herself very nicely and even allowed some of the lads to pet her – rare to happen with strangers. So – good girl! You’ll get a nice treat this weekend.
As always, I’m leaving the tasting and nosing notes to Gal, but am adding my general thoughts of each of the whiskies we had. Actually not only whiskies.
As this was a Sherry themed evening, we started with, well, Sherry. Two kind of Sherry to be exact, one was a Sandeman Don Fino that was waiting in my fridge, and the other was Williams & Humbert Jalifa (Solera Especial) Amontillado 30YO that Igal got as a birthday gift not long ago.
All of us didn’t take much liking to the Sandeman, which is a white very dry sherry, that for me at least leaved the palate craving for water (I bought the thing by mistake, thought it was something else). The Amontillado, on the other hand, a nice red coloured with nice nose, was easier on the palate, though I’m not sure that personally I’d like to try it again. So far the only Sherry I liked was a PX I tasted at Lagavulin; got to try PX again.
We started the whisky part of the night with the HP 1994. A mellow, fruity dram that can go nice on a breezy summer night; not too bad, not too good (by the way, when I asked Gal which HP to buy when I was on vacation abroad, he actually suggested the 1998; not sure why I got this one).
Nose: Some vanilla and heather honey. Caramel and dark fruits (Cherries,Plums), but not very deep as expected. Medium to light sherry I’d say.
Palate: Wee oak, Citrus and again some dark fruit and wood spice.
Finish : Not one of the longest I’ve sensed in HPs. Nice, but not quite there.
All in all I must say i am not very impressed with this one, I had better HPs, and this duty free version with its 40% ABV is not much of a bargain.
We continued to both of The Macallans (12 and 18) in order to compare between them. I think we agreed unanimously that they are both very much alike with one major exception – the 18 was calmer and more sedated expression that his younger brother. The 12 was all around the place trying to get your attention with wild child-like behavior, while the 18, the more mature, more experienced was waiting patiently for you to find him and get to know him. Personally I liked the 12 a little better, I thought it was livelier, though I’ll have to re-try through the samples I took of both to be sure.
I mentioned there were supposed to be only 3 surprises. Well Kfir who returned earlier that day from the UK decided to pamper us and brought along The Macallan Whisky Makers Edition. We had to compare that to the 12 and 18, and a quick poll Gal threw revealed it was the favorite Macallan of the evening. A truly fine dram, well balanced fruits and sherry nose with an equally well balanced and tasty palate.
Nose: Big sherry just i like. A classic Macallan! Sheer joy, Sultanas, plums, some orange peel as well, all very thick and luscious and syrupy. I like this one very very much.
Palate: Sweet stuff! Sultanas in liquor, some chocolate notes, plums, prunes, a real festivity of all dried fruit, sugar and some spice. Ace!
Finish: Long fruity (dried fruit remain for some time), with wee hints of cocoa.
I will not review the Macallan 18 as I’ve reviewed it in the past, but this time, it really did not strike me as that good. I think the problem was with the spirit, which was stored in a nearly empty bottle (as shown in the photo) which led to too much oxidization of the spirit, and loosing some flavours. Please refer to my previous review Here.
The Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition , 42.8 % ABV , Travel Retail only
Nose: Sweet on the nose, with the ‘trademark’ Macallan dried fruit, zest and chocolate. The chocolate elemnts here are quite distinct, and it’s a lovely combination. Very surprising stuff.
Palate: Very nice, full , some spice, and a lot of the chocolate and fruit going on,some zest also. Orange Milk chocolate combination, which i like so much.
Finish :Very long and comforting finish, with dark chocolate / sultanas lingering on and on.
Bottom line: A real treat of a dram. When Kfir told me he got this one and it’s brilliant i was quite sceptic, but when i first sampled it (before this sitting), i was impressed with the quality. It’s a dram that calls for another, and the bottle can get empty very fast. Be warned!
We moved along to take on the Mackenzie’s stags – The Dalmore 15 and 18, resting in their nicely shaped bottles. The Dalmore 15 is a whisky like I never tried before – it is totally herbal. Thoughts of Unicum, Jägermeister and other herbal based stomach tumblers came to mind. I agreed to compromise and take on Richard’s suggestion and refer to it as ‘unique’, and NOT to take a sample of it for a later trial. Honestly, I don’t know why they call that one a whisky and not medicinal liquor.
To correct the situation stepped forward The Dalmore 18. An elegant proud stag, with lovely cocoa, coffee, toffee and hiding bananas nose, and also black berries palate (I swear I got Twinings English Breakfast in there as well – lovely). The funny thing was that when we were nosing both, and moved between them, when we went back to the 15 from the 18, for a few seconds you could smell cut grass in there, which was really weird as it didn’t stand on its own in the 15.
This Dalmore is entirely Sherry aged, vatted from three different types of sherry casks: Matusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso Sherry.
Palate: Quite herbal. some Ginger, nuts, Chocolate and syrup all intermingled.
Finish : Long, herbal and some fruits, and vanilla on the very end. Nice, but not quite as nice as the next 18 year old we were about to taste is.
This one is aged in American Oak for 14 years, then another 4 in spanish sherry butts.
Nose: Orange, Cherries dipped in honey , sultanas and vanilla. Very yummy nose. A lot sweeter than the 15 year old.
Palate: Fruity, sweet, big sherry notes here, the sultanas and cherries playing a major role, as well as some cake and chocolate notes in the background. lovely, This is a sherry heavy-duty dram.
Finish : Long, sweet, cocoa and chocolate, with the odd orange peel adding a wee ‘zing’.
Bottom line: Both are very well made, but the 18 is much sweeter, thicker and for a sherry-head like me, it does the job better. Loads of that sweet, gooey nice sherry i like so much. Richard Paterson has done an exquisite job here. Well done! Worth the extra $$$ / £££ in my opinion. I need one of those in my bar . Stat! (i have the 15 already).
Before finishing with the Aberlour a’Bunadh, it was time to try the Nikka. You know the song “Amazing Grace”? Sure you do, they play it in all movies as the tune to accompany funerals, usually with bagpipes; any way, this whisky is absolutely amazing and a grace to all senses. I could have nosed it all night long. What a nose! So complex and yet so delicate, fruits vanilla and oak. And the palate is sure to match. If there is a whisky I am sure to purchase as a result of the summit, it is this one – no questions about it, and of course I now have to try other Nikkas as well.
This is a blended whisky. Yes, a ‘mere’ blend. But of boy what a superstar!
Nose: An orgy of all things wonderful. It’s not a whisky, it’s a perfume. I swear i could be sniffing it all day long, and had i wore some on myself instead of perfume, the ladies would appreciate it . Balsamic, perfume,vanilla , spice, cloves. Some flower blossom and a good measure of perfumed and spicy wood. Dear god. this is divine!
Palate: Big bodied with amazing entry and ooomph. Starting on sweet burnt sugar, then off with a splash of wooden spiciness that makes you want to cry with joy. Then comes the vanilla and honey drops, very little smoke also which complements all. Man o man. this is a thing of beauty. no less. I am in tears of joy here.
Finish : Longggggg…. oak, fruit, and spices. and you know what else? banana.
In one word: Greatness. two words: I want! This has shot itself to the #1 spot in my wish list. and mind you, that list was rather long. Kudos to Nikka. They created a perfect dram, and what a bang for the buck. amazing. no less. ACE!
After Richard and I took yet another quick dram of the Nikka, and lingered on it, Gal produced his mystery dram – a small sample bottle of a Penderyn Sherrywood Welsh whisky which he shared between us all. I’ll try to be mild and polite about this one – if you like drinking acetone, you’ll love this expression. Most of us were quite harsh about what we had to say about it and in order not to insult Penderyn distillery I’ll leave it at that.
As Gal was pouring around the Aberlour, Richard and I had a try of Igal’s mystery dram – a Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX which Gal, Igal and Kfir already knew. This one caused quite a discussion, as the amount left in the bottle was very small and it seems that the time it spent with air in the bottle influenced it to the worse. Richard and I got fruits and subtle acetone (not as an effect of the Penderyn), and all in all we thought this was a nice average enjoyable dram. Gal and Igal however, said that when they tasted it (when bottle was fuller), there was no acetone and the whisky’s features were much more alive and present. So I guess we’ll just need to find another bottle of this one and try it again, especially as I fell in love with Glenmorangie as I’ve written in the past.
The Grand finale arrived with the Aberlour A’Bunadh, a whisky with presence that needs not to announce of its arrival, it is just there! Big heavy nose, bombastic with flavours and an equally ego maniac palate. This one had to be broken down with few drops of water as it actually burnt my tongue without (but strangely enough did not affect the throat as it went down the hatch). Gal warned us that this has to be the last whisky as after having it, any whisky (except maybe for heavily peated ones) will feel like water; boy was he right (though I really wanted another sip of Nikka afterwards but held myself). This is one bronco whisky that I will have to try again over at least an hour.
The a’bunadh has long been one of my favourite sherry bombs, and when i say a bomb, i mean BOMB. with that ABV % and body, this is a cracker of a dram that you can’t stay indifferent to. It’s huge, but i prefer to drink it without any water, but i guess most people will appreciate a few drops of water to mellow it down, and lower the ABV %.
Nose: Rich, th
ick fruits, sultanas, sugar, syrup and dates. Biscuity, Big and sweet.
Palate: Big, thick fruit here as well.Plums,Prunes, Sultanas, Espresso, dark chocolate, buttery biscuit. Wow, it’s just huge on the palate. it’s like an atomic bomb, but sherried.
Finish : Long, with dark chocolate and double espresso.
Bottom line: If you love sherry bombs, this one is just for you. Price is very good (later batches 30,31 are way cheaper) and most batches are very good. It’s a real bomb i love, it has a very respectable place in my bar.
We finished the tastings quite late at night, and we still had to take photographs of the bottles, so we quickly poured samples, each of his choosing, and then I moved the lot into my “studio room” (which is actually a future nursery room and until further notice Islay’s room). As I promised in the Glenrothes Event post, I’ve built V-Cards to use in order to light up bottles from the sides. With the help of voice activated light stands (AKA Gal, Richard and Igal) each holding a flash in correct position, I did a quick studio session for the posing bottles and then we called it a night. We actually continued chatting, and would have continued until morning, be we all had work on the following day.
Voice activated light stands, left to right: Igal, Gal, Richard
To conclude (and aren’t you happy I’m finally rapping it up?), the Whisky Israel Sherry Summit was a very enjoyable evening with good company (always), good whiskies (not including the Welsh), nice nibbles, and fun conversation and sharing of thoughts and impressions.
Thanks go all around for the whiskies, companion and good time.
As I closed the last summit’s post:
Can’t wait for the next summit!