Tuesday, 30 December 2014

... sprung from my only hate.

Brora Batch 2 - That Boutique-y Whisky Company - 52.1%

Just close your eyes and think of Scotland

December the 24th rolls around and I open the final door of my whisky advent calendar to find a Brora. The only word that comes to mind is 'Jackpot'. I note with some amusement, however, that this particular Brora is part of the Boutique-y Whisky Company range of releases.

For those of you yet to read my first whisky review, I love Brora. Love it. I love Clynelish too. There's something about the waxy, smoky, soapy, maritime, citrussy goodness that enchants me. What you probably don't know is that TBWC releases irk me. It's not the whisky inside, you understand, but the way in which it's presented. Here we have (otherwise good) whisky sold in 500ml bottles, without an age statement, with gaudy (or should that be gaud-y) labels and, dare I say it, overpriced to boot. It's the 'anti-SMWS', if you will.

There's something a little Romeo & Juliet about this review. Not in the underage sex, killing spree or double-suicide sense, rather discovering something enchanting and then finding out it stems from something to which you are morally opposed. I bite my thumb, sir.

A small alcohol prickle is followed by everything that is good about Brora. Waxy lemons and honey-roasted almonds to start with a wave of candied peel, polished oak and sea spray. A hint of smoke and the merest suggestion of soap towards the back end. 

A huge hit of acacia honey followed by beeswax and chilli flakes. This is a little hotter than expected but soon dies down into delicate floral soapiness with a maritime bite.

Long and warming with plenty of oak, spice and a hint of smoked salt. 

I wanted to hate this. I wanted to say that it's second-rate, hyped-up dross. I can't though; its bloody beautiful. 

Grade: A
Going on the whisky alone, it easily gets the top grade. A word of warning though; scaled up to 700ml, it's hugely overpriced when compared to other independent, and even some OB, Brora bottlings and the lack of age statement disturbs me. Brora and TBWC - a plague on both your houses.

Red, Red Whine

BenRiach 1977 - 34yo Rioja Barrel #2588 - 44.1%

Apply Bonjela liberally

Wine finishes, eh? To some, they're a portent of doom; a sign of the shortage of quality sherry casks out there. To others, they're a revelation; taking whisky into a brave new era. Whatever your feelings, let's face it, they're like ulcers. A lot of them are red and, eventually, you're going to find one in your mouth.

You may be wondering, given my evident distaste for them, how I happened upon this particular one. Was I lured in by the intriguing packaging? Did my fierce love of BenRiach temporarily cloud my judgement? No. Put simply, and I must stress this is where the ulcer simile ends, my wife gave it to me.

Big, big nose on this. The wine influence is immediately noticeable with rich vine fruits, noble rot, grape must and a hint of sweet balsamic vinegar. Once you've fought your way through the vineyard, you are rewarded with wood varnish, cafe latte and mild spearmint. The third act brings fragrant peppercorns and a hint of clove. Hugely enjoyable.

Massive red wine hit with tannins coming from the wood, although there's a bitterness reminiscent of grape skins. Spicy and stern with a gentle sweetness nearing the finish. The quality of the malt is evident but it struggles to shine when faced with the brashness of the Rioja influence. 

Like Pinocchio having impure thoughts, it's long, woody and not particularly pleasant.

The nose beats the palate by a country mile. The woody, savoury, bitter-sweet flavours just don't hold up to the rich sweetness the nose projects. This is the perfect example of a quality malt that has been overaged and finished to its detriment. Shame. 

Grade: B
Good, but could have been so much better if bottled sooner.