A little while ago I was lucky enough to preview some forthcoming releases from independent bottler, Murray McDavid. I was impressed, so jumped at the chance to take part in their recent Twitter tasting – to celebrate the launch of a new range of whiskies. You can review what was said by following the hashtag #MurrayMcDavid.
Six new samples, six different drams – and an indication of the 21 bottlings to come this year, I believe. You can read an intro to the bottler in my previous post, so I’ll let this one be all about the whiskies – the first Murray McDavid releases of 2015. (Note: prices have all yet to be determined.)
Benchmark – Glen Scotia 1991
This one was finished for its final year in a Burgundy cask.
Colour: polished mahogany. On the nose: pretty aggressive. Unusual, but very nice though. Intense aromas of redcurrant, plum sauce, a touch woody – nutmeg, all spice. Is it too woody? I can’t quite decide. Marzipan. Cointreau, apricots.
In the mouth: well that’s a winter warmer, make no mistake. Those aromas are mirrored in the mouth. It’s a big, brash spicy, mulled wine sort of dram. Coffee. Barbecue sauce. Almost sweet ketchup, with a touch of acidity – like the ketchup’s got a wee bit too much vinegar in it. Blood oranges. It works here though. A warming, lingering finish, with pepper and again wood notes.
Mystery Malt – 1992
A ‘classic bourbon and sherry’ cask duo has gone into this vatting. Sadly the mystery will remain a mystery!
Colour: deep gold. On the nose: Lemon squeezed over salmon. Creamy. Very pronounced grassy and floral notes, in a sort of Aultmore way. Delicate with mineral notes. Peaches and pineapple. Honey and vanilla.
In the mouth: not as delicate as the nose suggests. This is lively, and repeats the nose perfectly. Grapefruit, peaches, mead, green apples. Hay barns. Plenty of malted barley. It’s nice, but not overly complex.
Mission Gold – Bunnahabhain 1978
Bottled at 50% and finished in a Port pipe.
Colour: auburn, polished mahogany. On the nose: now that is brilliant. Enormously rich, rum-like nose. Molasses. Mince pies. Pencil boxes. A battered old Chesterfield.
In the mouth: gorgeous texture, a touch oily; a warming, mellow dram. Coffee, dark chocolate, chilli pepper spice. Coca cola. It’s quite meaty as well – pan-fried grouse breast with a black berry sauce. Maybe even venison. And later come some classic dried fruits, yet the sweetness isn’t overwhelming – it’s quite tart. It’s nicely complex, and changes in the glass over time.
It’s not perfect, and kind of shows its flaws – it can be crude in places, now and then. Too woody. A bit grumpy. It’s like one of those high-definition portraits of some famous old actor with a time-weathered face and a big frown. And in that sense, it’s actually quite a human whisky – which makes me like it all the more.
Crafted Blend – 30% Malt 2003
This is a 12 year old blend, which is made up of ‘30% malt whisky aged in a sherry butt’.
Colour: deep copper. On the nose: lovely stuff. Very classic, fruity aromas. Quite creamy as well. A lovely mix of honey, vanilla and strawberry jam. Lemon zest.
In the mouth: again, classic flavours done very well. A superb balance between the malt and barley versus the redcurrants, blackcurrants, raisins and sultanas. Lovely silky texture, as you’d expect from a very good blend. A slightly peppery finish. It’s actually really tasty, and a great everyday drinker!
Select Grain – Loch Lomond 1996
This has spent its life in American oak.
Colour: yellow gold. On the nose: not hugely forthcoming, but pleasant. Lemon curd. Jam tarts. Very fresh and approachable. Tinned fruit.
In the mouth: it’s a tasty grain, yet not overly complex. Creme brûlée. Custard, with a dash of golden syrup. A very pleasant biscuit taste – custard creams. In fact lots of great sugary sweetness, without being sickly. A warming peppery finish, with a nice plummy texture. Just a solid grain whisky, and the kind of thing that indicates just how much of a rip-off Haig Club is…
The Vatting – Westport
This is a 17 year old whisky aged in a sherry butt. It’s a ‘tea-spooned’ malt. 99% of single malt from 1 distillery, vatted with 1% from another.
Colour: old gold, with a vibrant yellow core. On the nose: very coastal, citrus tang, with an undercurrent of nuts. Cashews. Quite a gristy, malty, almost industrial/warehouse note. Acidic – grapefruit coming towards the end. Complex but in an unusual sort of manner.
In the mouth: again, unusual – green apples, peaches, grapefruit. Malted milk biscuits. A citrus fizz. Cava! Dry sherry, with honey – grassy, herbal notes starting to show through. I’m not quite sure this one works for me.
A great opening selection, with something for all tastes – the technique of finishing the whiskies in different casks gives some unique flavour profiles. I’m confident you could get yourself anything from this range and you’d be getting something interesting. I really liked the blend – I think that would be exceptional value. And the Bunnahabhain is clearly the winner, but one for special occasions. I’ll update the post if and when I can get hold of prices for these, as that will clearly alter my overall impression.