...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Pittyvaich 29 year old 1988 Cooper's Choice

Pittyvaich Distillery spent its brief existence producing malt for the Bell's blends for less than twenty years. It's one of the lesser known demolished distilleries and is rarely bottled by the indies. Here's one from the Cooper's Choice range, issued in 2017, a year that seems much more recent than it actually is. 

Distillery: Pittyvaich
Owner: United Distillers
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Bottler: The Vintage Malt Whisky Co. Ltd.
Range: The Cooper's Choice
Age: 29 years (1988-2017)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48.6%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Lean and blend-ish, the nose offers salt and confectioner's sugar, with hints of burlap and vanilla, becoming more floral with time. The bolder palate leads with bitter oak and green bell peppers, followed by mint and iron/blood, with a few oranges in the background. The wood tones down in the finish, leaving the mint and oranges with peppercorns and oregano.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Reading like a late-teens to early-twenties blend, this Pittyvaich neither excites nor offends. The mint leaves and bright oranges were highlights, and the bitter oak a lowlight. Despite the bitter oak, I don't think the cask was bottled too terribly late, because once the oak notes are subtracted, there's not much left. It probably works well in a highball, but don't we want more from a 29-year-old single malt?

I gotta end the Mathilda Malts on a stronger note than this. See you on Monday!

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - I think it was close to $300 when it came out
Rating - 80

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Littlemill 20 year old 1984 Scott's Selection

Surrounded by unpacked, half-unpacked, and unopened boxes in my new house, I have no idea where anything is. Except the whisky. Hell, I don't even know where most of the whisky glasses are, but the liquid, yes.

Each day I set a goal (with a smidgen of LOL) to accomplish one bit of unpacking. The kitchen is functional, and occasionally has a clear path from the fridge to the stove to the sink. My cat, Suzy Creamcheese, is terrified but does have a direct line from her hiding place, to her food, water, and litter box. My functional workspace is only occasionally cramped by drill bits, postcards, scratching posts, and a bucket of half-used toilet cleaner bottles. My TV exists.

But more importantly, my girls have their own rooms, which are momentarily clean because we haven't unpacked anything of theirs. My older daughter, Mathilda, turns 10 today. Yeah, I don't know how that happened either. But last night she and I had a fun picnic dinner on the living room floor, eating black bean tacos, followed by fancy chocolates I brought back from Paris.

As I've done every year of her existence, including the birth one, I poured myself a Littlemill after she'd fallen asleep. Not knowing where the heck my pipette was packed, and also due to the intriguing nature of this whisky, I did not dilute this Littlemill, even though it was bottled at 61.3%abv.

Distillery: Littlemill
Region: Lowlands
Independent Bottler: Scott's Selection
Age: 20? years (1984-2004)
Maturation: Oakwood casks (helpful!)
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 61.3%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Oh, the nose is wild. It starts off very herbal and mossy, with a whiff of antiseptic. Then it gets a bit inky, with a current of naphthalene hovering behind. THEN comes the mango and grapefruit.

It's been a minute since I chewed on a dusty book cover, but here it is in the whisky's palate, along with tart kiwis and guavas. An industrial/metallic note meets up with moss and lemongrass. And, somehow, it works.

The finish gets a little sweeter than the palate, adding pineapple to the fruits, yet the tartness lengthens with each sip. An earthiness and pepperiness work their way in as well.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I'm quite taken by this Littlemill. It's from a completely different dimension than the 1984 Hart Bros bottling I had ten years ago. There's no way to compare it to contemporary single malts, most of which are heavily produced (much like music?). The Scott's (R.I.P.) whiskies were often left to be their own animals, for better or worse. For better here. This strange and delicious whisky was perfect for me in this strange and energizing moment in my life. Yes, an excellent Littlemill in honor of my big girl.

Availability - Secondary market, maybe
Pricing - ???, but it was less than €100 twenty years ago
Rating - 90

Friday, May 10, 2024

Moving out, and also another review of Yoichi Key Malts

The movers arrive tomorrow.

I've been packing and moving boxes by car every day, since before the Paris trip, and it feels like I've barely made a dent. And I don't even have much stuff. Plumbing and electrical mishaps still need to be addressed at the house. But I think I've gotten the smell of dog piss out of the building, and I've stayed fit by deadlifting whisky cases and attempting to paint rooms. No matter where I am with all this, those two dudes and a truck will appear on Saturday afternoon. Goodbye sad bachelor pad, hello overwhelmed bachelor house!

Since I did not visit Japan this year, I decided the reviews for my apartment send-off would be some Yoichis. There was a whole week of posts planned but that was some silly optimism. Instead, most of my drinking has consisted of me staring into space, sipping Chablis at some point after 10pm.

This trio of Yoichi's Key Malts was picked up by the Doctors Springbank last year (thank you!), so their bottlings are more recent than the ones reviewed in 2022.

One final note. This tasting was conducted in the apartment's master bathroom while tornado sirens blared for almost an hour. Mathilda sat on a zafu cushion reading a novel while her father sat in his desk chair smelling tempered poison. 

Newer Sapporo Triplets



Yoichi
Woody and Vanillic - 55%abv
Yoichi
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Yoichi
Peaty and Salty - 55%abv
Less generically woody than expected, the nose offers some fun spices like clove and cardamom layered on top of peaches and grapefruit. The vanilla and peat remain calm.Dried cherries, walnuts, and something beefy arrive first in the nose, followed by caramel, blossoms, and hints of raspberry jam and black raisins.Yes. The nose. Seaweed, antiseptic, and rubber gaskets galore. A whiff of farm, soft grassiness, and a drop of Sambuca fill in the gaps.
The palate dishes out some tannins at the start, as well as some bold peat. It's so sweet and floral that it's almost like peaty new make. Not bad though. There's a nice leafiness in the background.Cherry jam and coal smoke on the palate. Bits of earth, mint, and fig make cameos. A sharp tannic bite threatens in the distance.The palate is simple, but on target with a gentle sweetness, sooty peat, a generous dose of sea salt. The soot intensifies with time, while an herbal bitterness rises from the background.
It's very sweet on the finish, with a grassiness in the middle, and vanilla in the back.It finishes with cherry jam, serrano chiles, menthol, and raspberry candy.It finishes with kiln, menthol, and a little bit of bitterness.
Final thoughts:
Better than the previous Woody & Vanillic, which I called "the worst Yoichi I've ever tried", this whisky isn't completely wrecked by vanilla, in fact the nose is quite lovely.
Final thoughts:
Again, this one is better than the version I tried two years ago. Some bland sherry and oak notes keep this one from soaring, but I do love the cherry jam and coal smoke combo.
Final thoughts:
Picture baby Ardbeg, but with less violence, more control. It may not offer much complexity, but it does what it says on the tin, and reliably hits the spot. A great winter pour.
Rating: 82Rating: 84Rating: 87

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Until after I finished the tasting and checked my old notes, I'd forgotten how disappointed I was with the Key Malts set I'd reviewed two years ago. This set was more consistent, more on-brand Yoichi, if that makes sense. If you nabbed this set from the distillery recently, enjoy, and bask in the warmth of my jealousy.

Next week, the scotch returns...

Friday, May 3, 2024

Four whiskies at Golden Promise

While in Paris, I did not drink very much whisky, because wine. But I did go to the most famous whisky bar in town, Golden Promise.


Owned by La Maison du Whisky, the bar is located in the basement of LMDW's Japan-themed location. The warm lights of the standard bar greats visitors first, but then......to the right......there's the room of Rare, Scarce, Unicorn, Holy Shit This Can't Be Real. But it is real, and it's expensive. It's difficult to judge the prices on individual whiskies because Golden Promise has open bottles of whiskies that might not be available in any other European bar. (If you're feeling curious and masochistic, a version of their menu is/was available on the official site, as is a video that gives a little peek into The Room.)

The staff and service were excellent, and very patient as I walked countless laps around the shelves. Also true to my brand, I promptly spilled a half a pour of one of my whiskies; and the staff refilled my glass immediately.

These were my drinks for the night:


Famous Grouse "OVER 7 YEARS OLD", 43%abv

I've enjoyed several different versions of dusty Famous Grouse, and can confirm that the blend was still excellent right up through the 1980s. Golden Promise had a 1970s Italian import of the "Over 7 Years" edition, so I chose that as a palate tester.

The nose begins with a burst of polished leather and a hot greasy engine. Notes of dark soy sauce and amaretto appear after 20 minutes. The palate reads stronger and older than the official numbers, sometimes more like a dusty old brandy than scotch. Thick honey and sweet cara cara oranges settle in first, followed by Havdalah spice box and chili powder. Its moderate length finish offers orange marmalade spiked with chile oil.

This is Exhibit 7012 of why I adore old blends. It's dense, heavy, rich stuff that reads like it's all malt, all great malt. Were this any other situation, I would have gone for a second pour. But it was time to move on, my palate was awake. Rating: 87

Too many options awaited me so I strategized, deciding to focus on defunct whisky ranges and well-aged versions of less-glamorous single malts. I selected the Rare Malts, a series that ended just as I was getting into single malts, and a trio of distilleries I enjoy.


Auchroisk 28yo 1974 56.8%abv Rare Malts
Glen Ord 23yo 1974 60.8%abv Rare Malts
Dailuaine 22yo 1973 60.92%abv Rare Malts

Auchroisk 28yo 1974

Lovely mellow American oak merging with this Speyside spirit results in lots of limoncello and fresh cherries in the nose, with hints of anise and Play Doh in the background. The palate is positively soaked with tropical fruits. Dried mango, dried purple sweet potato, fresh lychees and kiwis. A dash of horseradish brightens it further. It finishes tarter with nectarines joining the dried mango.

With water, the whisky shifts a little, while holding onto its highlights. Guavas, baked pears, and mint leaves enter the nose. More citrus, more chiles, and little bit of chocolate show up on the palate.

It was such at knockout pour that I indeed knocked over my glass......which, by the way, opens a whisky very nicely. This Auchroisk had my favorite palate of the evening and took to careful dilution flawlessly. Love this stuff. Rating: 91

Glen Ord 23yo 1974

I'm not sure I can fully capture the nose's complexity here. Musty basement, car repair garage, something smoky, something savory, guava, citronella, light blue Mr Sketch marker, and a whisper of oak spice. Peach cobbler, fragrant peppercorns, and smoky mushrooms appear first in the palate, which then gets mustier, and more mineral, while also picking up some hay notes in the background. The mineral note merges well with the peaches in the finish.

Adding water brings out more dunnage and slight meatiness in the nose, while the palate balances umami and citrus notes.

This Glen Ord offered a fun, slightly dirtier edge when compared to the other two Rare Malts, but never sold out in any single direction. It drank very easily for its strength, and swam well, like its compatriots. Rating: 90 

Dailuaine 22yo 1973

This nose keeps improving with time. First there was milk chocolate and dried apricot. Then cloves and toffee pudding. Then grapefruit. Finally, hay and dried herbs swooped up and bundled all those characteristics together. Like the nose, this palate has multiple gears. Grapefruit, Thai chile, lychee candy, and industrial coal smoke arrive first. Then comes the umami, which calms it down, followed by something very mineral. It finishes with the umami and mineral up front. Moments of fruit in the middle. A dash of gochujang in the back.

With water, all of its aspects come together in harmony, with new notes of dunnage and mango all over the nose and palate.

The gentleman who poured these whiskies told me afterwards that this was his favorite of the three, and I'm going to have to agree, thanks to its complexity, balance, and its gorgeous shift once diluted. I can't imagine what it's like to have a whole bottle of this. Rating: 92

After this session I didn't drink whisky again during my Paris stay. Nothing could compete. If you're in the neighborhood, I highly recommend a visit to Golden Promise, even if it's to just see the bottles and maybe get a pour of something you cannot find anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Dispatch from home, post-Paris

Assembling another blog post via my phone became too much of a hassle, so I spent my Parisian quiet time either reading dozens of J.G. Ballard's fever dream short stories or drinking Chablis, or both.

Using my iPhone notes, I will now attempt to reproduce what should have been my second blog post from Paris:

from Chaïm Soutaine's La Juene Anglais

My previous dispatch may have come across dismissive of art and art history. To clarify (or not), I react emotionally, not intellectually, to art. While The Louvre is tremendous and I recommend it to everyone, it reminds me of Washington, DC, designed to confuse invaders. Its floors and routes are disorienting, and perhaps that's why people stay in the building for so long. Hell, it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to exit the place. Anyway, back to Art. My only emotional connections at The Louvre happened among the sculptures and non-European art. Otherwise it felt very intellectual, and a little cold.

— The Musée D’Orsay was another story. Near tears a half dozen times within the first 30 minutes, I lingered on every angle of every creation. It felt as if the museum's curators and I function on the same emotional level. Yes, I know that’s vague. Just know that Musée D’Orsay is remarkable (and intuitively structured). I spent six hours there, and only left the building because security wouldn't let me sleep at the base of The Gates of Hell.

— A peaceful marriage of Kyoto's gardens and the French countryside, Monet's home in Giverny offered one of the richest experiences of the trip. The waterlilies, the river, the bridge, they're all still there, all somehow even quieter than Monet's paintings.

— A different Monet immersion overwhelmed me at Musée de l'Orangerie, where eight massive impressions of les nymphéas curl around, forming a giant infinity symbol.

— Then there was this:

— On a related note: Despite walking 10 to 20 miles per day, I've returned to The States carrying some croissant weight. Is there such a thing as the French Fifteen? I'm asking for a friend. My tummy.

— And finally, yes, I drank some whisky. More about that on Friday.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Dispatch from Paris

Because I’m tapping this out on my iPhone, today’s post will be in bullet form. We Americans prefer to write in bullets anyway.

— PARIS BE VAPIN’! You cannot stop Paris from vapin’. Though once a day I still see at least one pair of ladies balancing cigarettes as elegantly as Bette Davis and Kate Hepburn.

Stairs de Triomphe

— I wasn’t going to buy any whisky but……you know where this is going……then I visited all three LMDWs.

— I did not pack appropriately for this trip. The forecast showed low-60s to low-70s several days before I left. Instead, temperatures haven’t gotten out the low-50s and every morning is in the 30s when I start my adventures. So yeah, did you know that one can buy clothes in Paris?

That guy

— What an alcohol culture! There are four places inside the Eiffel Tower to get wine.

— Speaking of Tour Eiffel here are my notes:
1. If you have any health concerns, don’t be a hero, don’t walk up the first two levels. Take the elevator.
2. If you choose to take the stairs, don’t smoke beforehand nor eat before the climb.
3. They should offer hot brandy toddies at the top, not champagne. The ground temperature was 50 degrees, but at the top I was met by sheets of sleet.
4 The tower was much more impressive than I’d expected. Its sturdy industrial style looks almost steampunk to modern eyes.

— Where do Parisians pee? No it’s not a riddle. Or maybe it is. The Paris tourism website brags about 400 public toilets. I have visited 16 so far, all of them broken. Yours truly has now publicly whizzed in the bushes in three European countries.

— My, the girls here are purdy.

— Guidebooks say it would take days to get through The Louvre. I knocked it out in four hours, and I never hurried. Having been to Versailles a couple days earlier, I’d had my fill of the Louiez’ decor and extravagance, so I skipped that section. More importantly, I’d already seen enough depictions of milky-white Jeezus to last me several lifetimes, so I skimmed those hallways. If you have not had your fill of said paintings, be prepared to add 2+ hours to your visit. Even more importantly, here is the Tushie de Milo.


I hope this has been informative. Perhaps another dispatch will find its way here before the trip is over.

Friday, April 19, 2024

The Irishman 17 year old single malt, single sherry butt

On Wednesday I mentioned the rough road Walsh Whiskey has travelled in less than a decade. The Walsh family continue to manage the brand and (maybe?) select casks, but Amber Beverage Group, the Latvian owners, hold the purse strings. Somehow the Walshes wound up sourcing a bunch of 17 year old single casks, several of which took the form of sherry butts. I'm not certain which of those Oloroso casks I'm trying today but I think it's the one in the picture.

pic source
Distillery: ???
Brand: The Irishman
Owner: Amber Beverage Group
Country: Ireland (with Latvian owners)
Style: Single Malt
Distillations: ?
Age: 17 years (2005? - 2022?)
Maturation: first-fill European oak Oloroso Butt
Alcohol by Volume: 56%
(thank you Doctors Springbank!)

NEAT

Nose - A lot of cask here. Vanilla extract, toasted coconut, and hint of fresh cut lumber. Brown sugar, cinnamon, and a whiff of lychee.

Palate - Fresh peaches, dried apricots, and grapefruit juice. Shortbread and a little bit of toffee. Not too sweet. Good tartness.

Finish - Dried apricots, tart limes, and some peppery tannins around the edges.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Nose - Fruity and farmy, with a leathery moment.

Palate - Not much different than the neat palate, maybe sweeter?

Finish - Sweet and floral, very pleasant.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I tried all four of this week's Irish whiskies side-by-side and this one easily won out. Though the nose carries plenty of butt, the palate is much more balanced and moreish. If not for the possibility of considerable cask variation, I dare say I'd consider buying a bottle of an Irishman 17yo sherry cask if/when cash is flush. The nice fruity touches whisper, "Bushmills", but with a palate like this I'm not that concerned about the distiller really. Had the nose matched the palate, this would've been a big winner.

Availability - ???
Pricing - $150-$200
Rating - 85