Tasting and Review – ‘Roaring Twenties’ evening with The Spirit Specialist
Having attended a few virtual tasting sessions already this year, we wanted to try something slightly different. One of our cousin’s recently set himself up as The Spirit Specialist and runs intimate, interactive tasting sessions on a Friday evening. He has been in the whisky business for years so has a vast array of knowledge from a number of distilleries across the globe. So of course we jumped at the opportunity to join a session dedicated to drams that are 20+ years old!
The Roaring Twenties …
Our tasting this Friday certainly didn’t disappoint. We were sent six drams, with two of them labelled as a ‘mystery 28 yo’ and ‘mystery 23 yo’ – slightly different to a normal tasting where you know exactly what you are getting. Quite frankly we loved this – no anticipation, just your nose and palate to deicide if you like what you have. The removal of bias about distillery, type of malt, or event spirit really added to the experience of the evening.
Of the drams that we knew we were tasting, we were particularly looking forward to the Benromach 21 and the Glenfarclas 25. For each dram, Ben presented a little on the distillery’s history and how they came about, as well as a pub quiz question on the year it was created. He then opened up to the floor to share their tasting notes, and it was great to interact with other whisky enthusiasts and share our experience!
What did we taste …
Tullibardine, Highlands, Scotland
Roughly £149 per bottle
Nose: creamy and barky, dark fruits and cut grass/straw
Palate: toffee and baking spices, the notes of dark fruits continue to come through
Finish: very smooth with peppery spices and hints of those dark fruits
A great dram to start the evening, it was creamy and fruity which I think is a crowd pleaser for any whiskey. The pepperiness was smooth and not over powering, M particularly liked this and thankfully we saved a dram to drink another time where we can let it linger and enjoy it on a Sunday night before another week of work. It was the first time we have tried this distillery and certainly one we will visit again, I would strongly recommend you do to.
Glenfarclas, Speyside, Scotland
Roughly £125 per bottle
Nose: sherry notes, certainly richer than the 15 that we have had previously
Palate: creamy with those classic sherry notes from the Oloroso casks, chocolate and ginger are very soft at the back of the palate also
Finish: rich and creamy as you would expect from Glenfarclas, tinge of smoke and more chocolate and sherry
Full disclosure I love this distillery and it is one of my favourites so getting to try another member of the family was great! It’s complex and rich with the creamy sherry notes throughout, hints of chocolate and the whisper of smoke that appears on the finish means it certainly a treat of a whisky. Given some of the RRPs of the other whiskies this is certainly feels accessible for it’s age statement. We immediately purchased a bottle of this once the tasting had finished!
Mystery Dram 25
We’re set this out slightly different, so you can also join the fun of not knowing exactly what we were tasting!
Nose: fruity, malty with buttery toffee and salty air
Palate: creamy vanilla toffee continues with hints of pepper and cooked fruit
Finish: the pepper intensifies and there is also a note of chilli spice on the lips
Now we are far from whisky connoisseurs so it was fun guessing what we thought this was – needless to say we were hopeless! I thought it maybe a bourbon cask whisky given the toffee and vanilla notes. This distillery has a really interesting story, resurrected by a grandson using his grandfather’s ledger he re-started the process previously started back in 1895. This is a blended whisky however unlike other blended whiskies it did come together and was a nice dram, the price however does put me off.
So what it is…
Tweedale Evolution 28 – 52% ABV
Roughly £140 per bottle
Mystery Dram 23
Nose: burnt sugar, nuts and chocolate
Palate: the best way to describe this is Crème Brûlée
Finish: creamy caramelised sugar, hints of smoke
This thoroughly confused me, like no other whisky I have ever had. Silly me for assuming we were only tasting whisky! This was in fact rum. Now not something I would usually go for but R definitely would, safe to say I think we may be drinking more rum from now on. It was sweet and creamy hence the palate description. Something that Ben shared with us whilst tasting this dram, is that unlike whisky where it is the youngest age spirt that determines the age statement on the bottle, it is the oldest for rum.
So what is it…
Ron Zacapa 23 – 40% ABV
Ron Zacapa, Guatemala
Roughly £66 per bottle
Benromach, Speyside, Scotland
Roughly £125 per bottle
Nose: wispy smoke, stewed orchard fruits and vanilla from the Oloroso casks
Palate: stewed plums, ginger spice with a murmur of peat
Finish: sherry and smoke with a hint of vanilla
Right we all know I love peated whisky and this Benromach is right on the edge for R. It is only about 8-12 ppm (phenol parts per million) bearing in mind that something like Laphroaig 10 is 20ppm you can imagine the levels of smoke we are talking. Personally I think a cask strength version of this to give it a bit more punch would be great! Having said that I still really enjoyed it and given I had finished the 15 the night before it was great to compare the two. A little less flamboyant than it’s younger sibling yet still delicious and would happily drink again.
Caol Ila 21
Caol Ila, Islay, Scotland
Roughly £250 per bottle
Nose: smoke, hints of grapefruit, sherbet and leather
Palate: more bonfire smoke, leather and pepper
Finish: oily and peaty but not very long at all
Given this is a peaty whisky from the nose I was very excited however, it was like a firework – lots of build-up and then bang it’s gone. The finish didn’t last and whilst a nice tasting dram I like the peat finish to linger and taste it a while after. Given its price point, this unfortunately fell quite a way down the long list of smoky whiskies that I would reach for. As said by someone else on the night, it is a great introduction to peated whisky for a newcomer, but for someone who wants to enjoy a heavily peated dram there are better offerings out there for the money. Having said that it adds to the gallery we have tried and trying a 25 year old whisky at this price point isn’t something we can do often at the moment.
Tastings with The Spirit Specialist …
Another really interesting tasting session for us with older whiskies and a rum thrown in for good measure – excuse the pun! It was great to try some from distilleries we have had other whiskies from to see the evolution that ageing produces on these drams. With Ben providing some history behind the various distilleries and whiskies it was informal and informative especially with some stories from fellow tasters it was a very enjoyable couple of hours.
A more intimate experience then other virtual tastings we have done, and definitely a lovely way to spend a Friday evening. It was great hearing the other participants opinions, and seeing which whiskies split the crowd. It was a perfect example of every has different palates, but there is absolutely a whisky out there to suit your tastes! It was fabulous having Ben’s knowledge on hand, to answer questions no matter how obscure.
We would strongly recommend having a look at Ben’s online shop and drop him a message if you want a recommendation he is more than happy to help. We’ve already booked ourselves onto the upcoming ‘Belmont and Brownies’ evening – and have our fingers crossed for a Tequila vs. Mezcal event in the future.
As ever leave some comments on what you thought and any recommendations you have for whiskies and bourbons we should try.
Disclaimer: Costs are average prices from a number of sites and may have changed since this post was written.