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Archive for March, 2012

Introduction

I was going to post Part 2 of my Whyte & Mackay office visit today, but I just tried one of the samples I came home with from my trip, and it blew my mind, compelling me to share my thoughts while they’re fresh. I don’t mean that it blew my mind because it’s the greatest whisky I’ve ever tried (though it’s very good). Rather, it simply turned my pre-existing notion of the Jura flavor profile upside down.

Tasting Notes

Isle of Jura 1976 “Feith A’ Chaorainn”; 35 Yr; 46%

Jura 1976

I stuck the sample bottle up to my nose to see what flavors hit me first. I was immediately surprised by a light peat presence that reminded me of an old Talisker or Caol Ila. Hmm…nothing at all like any Jura I’ve ever tried. I’ve learned, though, that the way scents are pushed through tiny sample bottle openings can be very misleading. Let’s pour some into a glass…

Whoa! Upon first pouring the sample into a glass and taking a few whiffs to introduce myself, I was smacked upside the nose and through the sinus with overpowering oak. Let’s allow the sawdust to settle and revisit in 5-10 minutes…

Ok, here we go. There is definitely a strong oak presence leading the way on the nose. American/bourbon oak…not a hint of sherry cask scents to be found. The direct oak gives way to other oak-related flavors – first vanilla, then right past the vanilla to full-on butterscotch. I’m also getting some grass or barley, and a hint of citrus. Funny, I just barely notice the ashy smoke that hit me out of the sample bottle.

On the palate, the oak parade continues. It’s very dry, but not to the point of feeling like your tongue is completely shriveling up. The grass and barley come more to the fore, overcoming some of that strong butterscotch sweetness on the nose. As it hits the back of the palate, I get a mild tropical fruit sensation.

More oak grips the tongue on the fairly long finish. As the tropical fruit leaves the nostrils, it’s replaced by subtle ashy smoke and malt, and a hint of citrus again. As with my initial whiff from the sample bottle, I’m once again reminded of old Caol Ila. If you’re familiar with the standard Caol Ila bottlings, I’m talking more of a CI 18 profile than CI 12.

This is a strong B+ for me, perhaps A- if I had more time to spend with it.

Conclusion

Wow! Not what I expected. Most of the flavors, except the oak, are fairly subtle, but it’s fun to tease out the complexity. This is a very elegant expression. It strikes me as landing somewhere in between my bottle of Cragganmore 40 year (G&M Secret Stills 2.2) and what I would imagine a 35 year old Caol Ila tasting like. If I had $600 burning a hole in my pocket, would I buy a bottle? Well, no…I’d buy a bottle of Highland Park 30 and Talisker 30. But if I had several thousand spare dollars, I’d love to get a bottle of this, take it to a local whisky club tasting, and watch them all guess the distillery incorrectly. :-)

Cheers, Jeff

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Introduction

I recently passed through Glasgow for a couple of days, and made arrangements to meet up with Craig McGill for drinks on my first afternoon. He does digital PR work for Whyte & Mackay. At the last minute, he contacted me and let me know that if I could head straight from my arrival at Glasgow Airport to the W&M office, I might be able to meet with Richard Paterson (aka “The Nose“), famous Whisky Ambassador and Master Blender for Whyte & Mackay, for a few minutes in his Sample Room. Challenge accepted!

The Whyte & Mackay Office

Located a short walk from Central Station in downtown Glasgow, the Whyte & Mackay office is a modern, shiny high rise building located next door to a Gothic style cathedral built in 1904. I met Craig on the ground floor, and he took me up 8 floors to where Richard Paterson’s playground, er…sample room, is located. We were a little early, but went straight past the quiet reception desk to the blending room to wait for Mr. Paterson. The room looks to be around 20′ x 25′ in size, with cabinets running the length of the long walls. On top of the cabinets were hundreds of sample bottles and dozens of tasting glasses (all business). In the middle of the room was a large table with commercial bottlings on display, and a small replica of a still (all show). Above the cabinets and sample bottles were cupboards filled with old whisky bottles (museum-like).

Just another day at the office for The Nose

Some old bottles...and a Mackinlay replica?

It was extremely quiet and clean, with a mellow vibe. Show pieces aside, I felt like I was standing in a medical lab. I stood in the middle of the room afraid to touch anything on the side cabinets, or see anything I wasn’t supposed to. Craig walked over to the cabinet on the right side of the room, nonchalantly reached over a bunch of samples and plugged his phone in to charge. He was obviously comfortable in here, so I asked if it was ok to look around. “Sure, go right ahead!”

That’s when Richard’s assistant [of over 30 years!] Margaret entered the room, grabbed a bunch of used tasting glasses from the cabinet on the left wall and put them into an industrial washer in the front corner of the room. As I started to check out the bottles on display, and sneak a peak at the labels on some of the sample bottles, she proceeded to place 20 clean tasting glasses out on the other cabinet in front of a set of sample bottles from Invergordon (photo above), and then poured the samples into the glasses. I guess this was to be Mr. Paterson’s afternoon work…checking to see how 20 barrels from the warehouse were coming along. About that time, I worked my way to the far end of the left wall and became aware of the labels on some of the sample bottles there (photo below). My heart jumped up in my throat…Dalmore 30 Yr, Dalmore 40 Yr, Dalmore 1951, Dalmore *1926*…just sitting there in front of me!

Some very old, very rare samples!

Enter “The Nose”

After stuffing as many sample bottles as possible into my pants pockets [no, of course not], Richard Paterson came through the door in his dark suit and bright pink tie, and the room came to life. If you’ve seen him in videos, he had that same high energy level that either sucks you in, or puts you on the defensive…like you’ve walked onto the set of a Billy Mays OxiClean info-mercial. I’m a fan of The Nose, so I let myself get sucked in, as it’s all in the spirit of fun and whisky appreciation.

In my next post, the “Richard Paterson Experience”…

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