What makes a Christmas dram? I suppose getting a bottle of it around Christmas time probably helps, but we speak of seasonal whiskies without necessarily unpicking it. Now, in another annual review post, I will, of course, be ejaculating my seasonal grumblings, but that’s not what I’m on about today.
Instead, I suppose it is more a note about whisky and mood. People bang on about right dram, right time, right company – on a micro-scale – and though I find that whole solipsistic approach a bit mundane myself (I believe there is more to whisky than the mug sitting opposite me), there’s something to be said for it. But if it’s a great, well-made spirit, I can enjoy that even if I’m in the company of a complete arsehole.
No, I’m talking more seasonal changes. Some whiskies are particularly appropriate for certain times of years. At this time of year, more than any other, I like a nice sherry cask whisky – on the whole. There’s something about the sweetness of that dried fruit notes that seems to feel rather appropriate; and like today’s example, which has a slightly dirty coal dust note (other dirty flavours are permissible) it is even more appropriate. These flavours tend to suit so well after hearty meals in winter. Or just provide that little bit of headiness that feels more potent when frost is settling on the lawn.
I don’t tend to have much time for them in summer, mind you; but then again, I don’t have much time for whisky in summer when things get rather hot. And anyone who likes a peat bomb in the middle of August clearly has some deep-rooted issues. A light, bourbon-cask (first fill, not a barrel-rinsed version, but the real deal) single malt in late spring is just the ticket. I’m not much in the mood for the likes of Springbank, well-made, heavier, slightly industrial-noted bass whiskies until we get into Autumn again. All of which is a first-world problem for a reviewer, getting sent things all the time throughout the year that I am just – if casually drinking – not in the mood for.
But today’s dram absolute hits the spot, and it is from a distillery that I think, these days, is one of those gems that people don’t really know about; and yet it seems there are many flavourful well-made drams with its name on the bottle. Now, back in the day, Edradour – once Scotland’s smallest distillery, but very much not now in the age of micro-craft-small-batch-isation – had a reputation for putting out some very hit and miss whiskies. Not so much the flavour-absent misses of, say, every Jura release, but a few odd cask finishes, a few odd experiments, enough to put noses out of joint, and make people suspicious.
We’ve not actually covered a lot of Edradour on Malt – but weirdly, looking back, I think both Jason and I seem to like their whiskies, more often than not. We’ve raided the distillery shop – and the Signatory bottlings – a couple of times on the way up to Spirit of Speyside together, but I can’t think we’ve often even come away with many of the distillery’s own bottlings. Yet, looking back over our notes – we actually seem to like the stuff. Almost all of what we’ve mentioned here, in fact.
Could it be that whilst the rest of the whisky world has kind of taken Edradour’s title of cute-wee-small distillery, the place has been forgotten about? And whilst it has been forgotten about, it’s actually quietly putting out some really very good products? Let’s see if this continues the trend, with an exclusive bottling from Nicholls & Perks – priced at £95, bottled 57.4% ABV.
Edradour 12 Year Old 2006 (Cask 406) – Signatory Cask Strength Collection (Nickolls & Perks Exclusive) 57.4%
On the nose: an almost Kilkerran-like dirtiness, with some coal dust notes among lashings of dried fruits. Firmly in the raisins and sultana side of things, apricots and crème brûlée. Muscovado sugar. Coffee. Pears in golden syrup. Cranberries and pineapple, with some sharp blackcurrants, with a slight mossy-earthy vibe.
In the mouth: lovely texture, silky, if a touch at the lighter end of oily. Flashes of char as a prelude to a solid hit of dried fruits that echo the nose perfectly – again, raisins. Honey rather than syrup now – slightly headier, even metallic. There’s that slight industrial note (I think, indeed, you might appeal to Springbank fans here) that just brings in the sweetness, and offers balance (something hard to pin down in a single cask). Tiramisu and some very dark chocolate. Not often I say add a drop of water, but here it makes things very easy going indeed. Slightly meaty, green olives, and brings out the apricots, enhances the honey.
Quite simply a lovely little bottling from the folks at Nickolls & Perks. It has character. Identity. Personality. All of which are things I tend to value greatly in the world of independent bottlings, where things lean towards the vanilla (in every sense of the word).
What this does for me, though, is put me in mind of some very old school drams. Perhaps it’s the slightly sweet dirtiness of it all, the particular expression of flavours, but there’s something pleasingly old world about it. And yes, a little Christmassy too.
Well. I suspect next year, I need to investigate far more Edradour single malts.
We were kindly sent a bottle to review, but long-time readers will know that this doesn’t influence our opinion, perhaps only our politeness levels.