By any measure this has been a tumultuous year, 2012 has a lot to live up to it seems. It’s going to need more than the Olympics and a pile of hogwash about the end of the Mayan calender to compete with what 2011 has thrown at our feet. The Arab spring, an increasingly introverted and suicidal Euro, the UK Economy being run by a bunch of public school boys who still don’t understand why the general population can’t simply inherit some money to ease their financial quibbles. In Britain we had riots, marches, fury, extensive government cuts and a Scottish government of increasing popularity making good their promise and laying the framework for the potential dismantling of the UK. In America they had their own economic woes, they had less money than Apple at one point, and then there was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Europe finally caved and went begging to China for spare cash, everyone’s favourite EU leader Berlusconi sadly had to go due to his country managing to have some kind of anti-economy based solely on under age prostitution, ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties, whisky faking and bribery. Angela Merkel proved herself to be the Girl Guide of Europe, David Cameron failed to deny he was a Synthetic Android from the Alien film franchise and Nicholas Sarkozy remained short. China continued to become massiver and massiver and to ignore ever increasing grumbles about its rather lax attitude towards human rights, after all who cares what others think when you have that much disposable income. Greece finally collapsed after years of reliance on an economy based solely on plate breaking and Ireland still writhes in the grip of the great cappuccino famine of 2011. This was also the year of the phone hacking scandal where Rupert Murdoch and his underlings managed to create the buck that never stops. Dictators of the world fell like playing cards in a wind tunnel this year, who can forget the blood lusty, yet satisfying way Colonel Gaddafi was gunned down in the streen, HA! Happy times. The most recent one though was North Korea’s comedy miniature despot Kim Jong-il who died, we can only assume from reading his official biography, from the fact that he never defecated. An impressive feat although it did explain why he spoke utter shit for most of his life. His copycat fat son is everyone’s favourite to win Despots On Ice 2012. Oh, and Bin Laden got shot in the head by Navy Seals. Apparently the reason he wasn’t forcibly extracted back to US soil to stand trial was that he was defending himself with automatic loaded wives, or something like that according to a memo from the CIA. So, a tumultuous year all in all.
But what about the year in Whisky? Well as the above image suggests it was a very good year for publicity stunts. Dalmore, Macallan, Glenfiddich, Old Pulteney, they all clambered over each other, slavering at the gums like hounds of the baskerville with marketing diplomas. Desperate to conquer the squalid back pages of the press with their fetid little bling bottlings, or to tell us that Jim Murray, the greatest gift to whisky since domestic violence, had endorsed their product with his latest super score. There were other things afoot in whisky as well with the ‘world’ whiskies starting to finally gain the recognition they deserve. People continued to complain about the Ardbeg Committee with staggering levels of naivety, as if it was actually supposed to be some kind of exclusive country club instead of a big, oily marketing engine that runs on raw, self perpetuating nonsense. Maybe in 2012 people will actually stop complaining and realise that it is the way it is and they can’t help it so just stop approaching me at festivals and complaining to me because I happened to work at the distillery for two summers while at uni as if that somehow means I can just call up someone at Moet Hennessey and ‘have a wee word’. Gosh it feels good to get things off your chest. In related Ardbeggy news, the great blender Rachel Barrie left Glenmorangie and headed to the Bowmore/Glen Garioch/Auchentoshan stable and proceeded to say some very encouraging things about future production methods, although I’m still waiting for a reply to a comment I made on her facebook status about doing some more peated Glen Garioch, time will tell. The rush for Port Ellen 11th release drove consumers into a frenzy of mindless violence that ended in further outbreaks of rioting throughout the whisky shops of Europe. Lady Gaga got five cases though. Whiskyfun turned 9 this year on July 28th, selfishly only 8 days after my own birthday thereby overshadowing that event in the whisky calender for so many people. I’ll get you yet Valentin (shakes fist). There has been much speculation over what Serge will do once Whiskyfun turns 10. However we all know he will convert the site into an online scores auctioneering base where companies bid thousands of euros (or francs depending on how things are looking come August) a time for whatever score he is offering that week. The first score will be 98 points and we know Inverhouse are already putting together a bid for their new non-aged, Iron Bru finished An Cnoc. Good times ahead.
So what does 2012 hold for whisky? I suspect we will see even higher prices, more fakes, the pointlessness of the ‘most expensive bottle ever sold’ war will spiral into the cosmic belly button of utter despair and consume all who dare venture near, like a black hole of fat, sweaty bollocks. The German Independent Bottling market will continue to blossom providing the best whiskies and the best prices. Kilchoman will continue to get better with age. Richard Patterson will host a tasting in the Large Hadron Collider. Ralfy will move to Sky One. Joel and Neil from caskstrength.net will open for the Pope at Glastonbury. Fred and Stuart Laing will merge into a single, two-headed person like Zaphod Beeblebrox from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Port Ellen 12th release will be released in the style of Red Cross aid parcels in Ethiopia. UN soldiers will throw armfuls of them into baying crowds of angry whisky lovers armed to the teeth with pitchforks and ipads and just hope for the best while a representative from Diageo looks on via a satellite link up and calmly motions to his minions to begin ‘phase 2′. The Olympic opening ceremony will be sponsored by Bruichladdich, Jim McEwan and Boris Johnson will open the show with a beginners guide to Coopering. Octomore will be peated to 1 trillion ppm thus causing a tear in the space time continuum and creating what is known as a ‘phenolic irregularity’. Dave Broom will be the new Doctor Who companion and Martine Nouet will be the new Doctor Who. Daftmill will buy Diageo, George Osborne will retire from politics and re-open Brora with his vast personal fortune and Nick Clegg, finally overwhelmed by his spineless guilt, will commit suicide live on national television by downing a thousand miniatures of Edradour. So an exciting year for us all to look forward to.
On a personal note it is difficult to comment too succinctly on a year that was racked by so much intensity, belt tightening, death and downright misery, purely because for me it was far and away the best year of my life. I travelled and made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, I found a great new job, moved into the best flat I’ve ever lived in with the best flatmate I’ve ever had and I’m in a position where things seem to be looking up. I am, in short, incredibly lucky and I try to realise it every day. So the final tasting of 2011 will be one themed around starting as you mean to go on, at least for as long as possible, I’m not sure how many more great Brora tastings I’ll be able to do..? A worrying thought indeed.
Brora 1970-2002. 32yo. Douglas Laing ‘Old & Rare’. 58.4%. 70cl.
Huge thanks to Wayne for opening this beauty.
Colour: Straw Gold
Nose: Why do other distilleries bother making peated whisky? This is just another typically perfect early Brora. A myriad of farmyard, industrial, coastal and medical qualities with farminess taking the initial lead. Just beautiful! Opens up slowly with lemon skins, oils, mineral notes, pebbles, sea salt, camphor and tar. Sea air, brine, coal and a perfect underlying waxiness. It’s definitely leaning more towards coastal guises now. Lots of sea spray, lime juice, olive oil, seaweed, white flowers, sandalwood and tcp. It’s just massively fresh and vibrant. Just stunning, lets see if water can improve it even further… With water it just becomes almost hyper coastal, like raw sea water and oysters. Lemon juice, raw peat smoke, old kilns, iodine.
Palate: Massively oily on delivery, like boiler sheds, thick green peats, tar, peat oil, drying medicinal notes, smoked cereals, sea water, green olives in brine, hay, hessian and treacle. Smoked vanilla (?), chilli oatcakes, black pepper, Riesling, melted butter and chopped chives. Shellfish, crab meat, smoked mussels, fresh lemon juice, cured ham and more salt. With water: a really luxurious, elegant peat comes through now, loads of olive oil, bonfire smoke, burning grass, wax, smoked cereals, peppered mackerel and some wonderfully farmy notes of engine oil and horse stables.
Finish: Very long with drying peat smoke, wax, cereals, tar, white pepper, burnt toast, camphor and fish oil.
Comments: Another incredibly Brora, I think the 1970 and 71s were not quite as stellar as the 72s in my opinion. It seems like they were still experimenting and constantly tweaking the recipe, in 1972 they must have got things very right. However, this is all relative as this one is still galaxies ahead of most modern peated malts.
Brora 1972-1995. 22yo. OB Rare Malts. 61.6%. 70cl.
This is one of several truly legendary early Broras from the Rare Malts series.
Nose: Ouch! The word beast could have been invented for this one. Imagine a peat, honey, salt and turpentine smoothy and you’re not far off. Quite closed even after a long time in glass, aggressive and difficult but even with all that grumpy, miserly austerity it is still quite beautiful. Struck flints, big, raw mineral notes, hay, horse stables, burnt grass and old petrol cans. A true powerhouse whisky. I think we’ll add a bit of water straight away… with a little water it starts to freshen out a bit, salt, lemons, limes and a nice manure quality all start to make themselves felt. Becomes intensely ‘Brora’ with a huge farminess and notes of coal fires, seaweed, parsley and wax. Lets try another little bit of water: it actually got even better, now its super fresh, leafy, smoky and very medicinal. A stunning and perfect mix of all the classic Brora characters. This is one of those whiskies that swims like a fish, it absolutely needs careful time with water to bloom, but when it does, my god it’s magnificent.
Palate: Neat it is an aggressive bag of gravel, wet earth, green, concentrated peat oil and feisty minerals. Some farmyard hints of stables, hay, horses and tar then muesli, rope, wet leaves, coal and mercurochrome. With a first dilution… wow, a perfect profile, all on minty, leafy peats, all kinds of wax, a dazzling array of coastal notes and different oils. Perfect but lets try a little more water anyway… the peat gets even oilier, almost simmering like an old Ardbeg, oily, fat and mouth coating with a wonderfully farmy dirtiness. Superlative notes of seaweed, tar, tcp, bread, olive oil, brine, anchovies, kippers, black and green peppercorns, hummus, matchsticks and more salt. It’s quite incredible really, we’d best stop.
Finish: Ask me in 2013 how it’s coming along
Comments: I’ve wanted to taste this one for a long long time and, thanks to the generosity of Mr Brora (aka Serge) at D-Day I was finally able to. All I can say is these bottles are now expensive for a very good reason, they’re fucking brilliant whisky. Water is essential with this one, even adding it in increments it seems to change drastically with each new dilution. You could literally play for days if you had a full bottle, adding a little water, then a bit more whisky, seeing just how epic you could make it, mind the ‘ground zero’ of perfection if you like. There’s nothing being made anywhere in the world today in my opinion that can hold a candle to this kind of whisky. Maybe for 2012 the industry could look to the past a bit more for future inspiration.
Whatever happens next year I hope you can all become happier, wiser and more aware in everything you do and achieve. Enjoy the simple things in life, strive to make things better for yourself and all those around you. And above all, don’t take things too seriously.
Happy Hogmanay from all of us here at Whisky Online. Slante!