Saturday, April 21, 2007


The Club's tasting panel got together in The Pot Still this week for a magnificent seven drams for the Herald's Whisky Galore supplement. Thanks to Ralf, Raymond, James,Ken, Andy and Frank for tasting and talking. The Designated Driver - me! -who humped the whisky across town deserves nothing but the highest praise for selfless devotion to the cause. Apart from the tasting notes, we also got space to puff the club, so all in all, it was a good night's work. My spare room is now awash with whisky, so we'll need to meet up soon for another club night.

There’s a wee sweetie shop in Troon that sells traditional confectionery – granny sookers, pineapple chunks Kola Cubes and Sherbet Lemons.There’s a wee distillery in Edderton, near Tain, in Rosshire that sells whisky that would
be completely at home in a wee sweetie shop.The new Balblair range has been out for a month or so; new packaging, new drams, new pricing.Gone are the age statements and in are vintages to reflect the best the distillery has to offer, married with the skill of the master blender in picking just the right cask at just the right time.The house style is rich spices; fruits and a pleasant leathery note. These are drams worth getting to know.The youngest kid on the block is the Balblair 97 , a soft, rich spicy and very attractive whisky, with a nose reminiscent of polished furniture, pear drops and vanilla fudge with a wee hint of pepper at the tip of the tongue. When tasted neat, it’s like chewing marshmallows. With a touch of water it becomes dangerously easy to drink. Its big brother is Balblair 89. The colour of green straw, there’s a touch of olives and a fruity, floral nose. With water, the Highland toffee and fudge comes to the fore and unravels to reveal a balanced yet complex malt building to a strong finish. Old but gold, the Balblair 79 asserts itself with an effervescent burst on the tongue, followed by long citrus flavours and a tiny, tiny touch of salt. It’s honey, toffee and vanilla. Then it’s deep into the sweetie jar for oranges, bananas, pineapples and pears and a final dusting of American Cream Soda.Magnificently well groomed, you could take this to tea at the Ritz.

Here are other drams we tasted:

Auchentoshan Three Wood: a feinty, eucalyptus nose leads you in to worn warm leather. Think Honor Blackman after a day filming the Avengers! There’s liquorice, rum, burnt sugar, and it’s got a complexity that keeps it interesting.

With added water, molasses come to the fore. It’s creamy, malty and you could see yourself swapping a cup of hot cocoa for this last thing at night. A real ‘put your arms around me’ dram.

Old Pulteney 17: An immediate feelgood factor with a soft mouth a gundog would kill for. A favourite of Glasgow’s Whisky Club’s tasting panel, we consider this to be an example of how good malt whisky can be.

Think Co-op Greengrocer’s of the 60s and that fresh, ripe, just-picked fruit. Fresh, with the tang of limes and lemon-drizzled butterfly cakes. It does sweet; it does salty. It does warm sea breeze to perfection.

A sequence of fabulous flavours that massages the palate. When water is added, there are oranges and a faint whiff of peat. We like it!

Not every whisky needs to be a single malt. Some of the finest drams are the result of the blender’s craft and Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a prime example. From first glance to final taste it’s got the lot. A perfect whisky colour, it just glows in the glass. Superbly crafted, it’s a whisky to lounge around with. Try it on a big comfy sofa with something not too threatening on the telly.

It’s the dram Dean Martin would be drinking just before recording Volare, and no wonder Dino was flying if this was his dram of choice. Sparkles like a diamond.

There are big drams; there are beefy drams. And there are drams you ‘d want beside you when Saturday night’s all right for fighting. Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength is your best pal when the chips are down. Understanding if you’re a wee bit feart of approaching it without water, it repays your trust tenfold. Ready Brek for grown ups, it wraps you in a warm Doctor Who scarf dipped in shoe polish, treacle and a touch of smoke. A real gentle giant.


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