On Monday 7th March, I joined some fellow members at the latest Monday Night Research Group at The Vaults. We were treated to eight drams, a tasty dinner and some great whisky stories from our hosts.
Society Ambassador Ryan McCafferty welcomed guests with the first dram of the evening – 35.131: Cherries, chocolate and chai – a 19 year old whisky from a first fill toasted oak hogshead with a Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits flavour profile. A sweet yet spicy dram with a smooth finish, it certainly got us off to a good start.
Ryan then introduced Lucy Whitehall, The Famous Grouse Global Brand Ambassador who has worked at the Glenturret Distillery for over 10 years. Lucy kicked things off by asking everyone to stand up. Guests looked a little bemused but were keen to get stuck in. Lucy told us we were going to do the Glenturret Haka – a selection of moves that demonstrated the whisky making process. The Haka was practically a work-out – we did everything from mashing to filling casks. I for one was exhausted by the end of it!
Lucy let us catch our breath as she talked us through the importance of nosing your whisky. She had a small prop with her – a scratch card which unlocked four important aromas when used. We went through each scent and top marks went to those who guessed correctly (1. vanilla, 2. citrus/orange, 3. raisins and 4. smoke)
Lucy then talked to us about Glenturret’s long history of whisky making. One of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, it was founded in 1775, and began licensed distilling 1818. She said that the heart of the investment for Glenturret is the wood.
Rather than jump straight into our samples, Lucy wanted to demonstrate the impact wood can have on the spirit but also the individual distillery character by giving us four distillates from the distillery to nose. “If you ever see an oak tree, give it a big hug”, she said as we nosed the varying styles of distillates.
Before we moved on to our drams, Lucy talked about the romance of whisky and why The Vaults is the perfect setting for whisky appreciation as it encourages you to reflect on your whisky.
Our second dram of the evening was The Glenturret Sherry Edition. As we nosed the whisky, Lucy asked us to tilt the glass 45 degrees, to experience the layers of aromas in the glass. The top layers were delicate aromas of sweet vanilla, but the further down the dram you went, the richer, meatier, sherry notes jumped out at you. On the palate it was sweet and smooth, with a medium finish. There was a spiciness on the front of the tongue that was reminiscent of home-baking, which Lucy explained was from the combination of Spanish and American oak sherry seasoned casks that the whisky was matured in.
Next up was the Glenturret Triple Wood Edition. By comparison, this one was much fresher on the nose – lots of outdoorsy aromas of pine cones and ripening orchard fruits. On the palate it remained fresh but the fruits were accompanied by spicy notes of cinnamon and a nutty marzipan flavour.
The final dram in the range was the Glenturret Peated Edition, which evoked fresh smoke and an easy drinking level of peat. It was a wonderful combination of sweet, smokey and salty.
After our fourth dram, it was time for a brief dinner interval before we moved on to another SMWS bottling – 4.211: Sun, Sand, Surf and Serenity. The 24 year old refill ex-bourbon hogshead, which has an Oily & Coastal flavour profile, was a wonderful introduction to Orkney and to the Highland Park distillery, and its beautiful aromatic, sweet peat that it’s so famous for. On the nose the dram was lightly peated and very nutty. The palate was surprisingly different – the nuts turned to rich Christmas cake with burn orange peel.
Following the Society dram, Lucy talked us through the Highland Park Dark Origins. The 46.8% single malt was a real treat on the nose – white chocolate, and tropical fruits. For me it was packed full of tinned pineapple and ripe banana. It didn’t disappoint on the palate either, rich, smooth juicy tropical fruits and plenty of sherried spice.
Before we began our penultimate dram, Lucy asked us to raise our drams with her as she thanked everyone involved in the whisky making process, taking us back to the Glenturrett Haka we tried at the start of the evening. Lucy told us how much she loves whisky and working with whisky.
“Whisky is incredibly romantic”, she said, as she told us how through the wonderful world of whisky, she met her fiancé. With that, we raised our glasses of Macallan Rare Dram Black, a travel retail exclusive, which was launched in the last couple of months. The 48% ABV, non-chill filtered whisky is part of Macallan’s 1824 Master Series. On the nose it’s polished oak, with a gentle hint of smoke, and a bowl of dark berries. On the palate it was spicy, with plenty of those dark fruits that were present on the nose. Again, there was a lovely mild smoke on the finish combined with rich dark hot chocolate.
Our final dram was a particularly special one: a 10 year old SMWS bottling labelled in the old style and titled 24.37: Fruit & Nuts. It was a wonderful comparison to the whisky that came before and intrigued the room – it was sweet and full bodied with hints of aniseed, dark chocolate and nuts. It proved to be the perfect way to finish the tasting; all of the members gathered in The Vaults paid special attention to the rare bottling, taking their time sipping it and savouring every last drop.
Are you keen to experience a members tasting at The Vaults? Our next Monday Night Research Group will be taking place on Monday 18th April. We’ll be joined by Alastair Day from R&B Distillers. Special early bird tickets are available to purchase here up until the 4th April 2016.