15th October 2014
Time for another Tweet Tasting, through Steve Rush (@thewhiskywire), this time for something completely different, as Monty Python might say, all blends, yup you heard me correctly a blended tweet tasting, trying the Old St Andrew’s Whisky (@OSAWhisky) range, and I have to admit I was pretty curious with just a dash (ok more a slug) of scepticism.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and I know it makes Stewart want to kill me, as I should know better), the packaging is adorable! Lovely glass golf bottle shaped whisky bottles, it is slight twee, almost how you would imagine people from abroad picture Scotland and its whisky, but it’s still cute.
So enough talking, let’s get tasting! First up:
Clubhouse 3yo 40% ABV – RRP £21
The whiskies that make up Clubhouse have been matured in casks that previously contained sherry & port.
Straight away it fresh with lots of green grass notes. There are the sweet digestive notes, dipped in sugary tea with just a tang of grapefruit, orange and lemon giving it a zesty edge. As it continues to open up in the glass there’s a touch of plums, raisins and a hint of damp rich oak. There is a slight sour white wine note which quickly recedes only to be replaced by damp ferns.
There are honeyed buttery notes, and some freshly baked bread, with moss and damp wood reminiscent of a secret picnic in a dark forest. A sweet nuttiness makes itself known, sweet like caramel pecans but with the silky creaminess of cashews and then suddenly, it arrives, it’s faint, in fact I think it’s playing hide & seek, but there, right at the very back, hiding, is a puff of smoke.
Gentle vanilla cream with just a touch of good quality milk chocolate coating the tongue. In comes the fruit with warm honeyed oranges entwined with Yorkshire pudding batter and the sweet grainy digestives. The apples, so telling of youth come in, not as astringent or prevalent as new make, more like a warm, frothy wort.
This combines with touches of nutmeg and ground spice, and reminds you of all things baking. Things start to get slight bitter with a hints of sweet coffee and buttered toast, and call me crazy but as the toffee sweetness continues, there is just a hint of warm bananas, walnuts & rich leather. This is definitely an easy drinker and although the finish is short, it’s lovely and sweet, with a toffee chewiness and just the right amount of white pepper to give it an (albeit gentle) kick.
Twilight 10yo 40% ABV – £32
Twilight is matured in American white oak casks for at least 10 years.
Warm hay on a late summer’s day, lemongrass that’s been bruised to allow all of the flavours out. There is eucalyptus honey and then in comes the darker side with dates, damsons & Plums all baked with a hint of a balsamic reduction. There is rich Demerara sugar melting over cloves and rice paper. There is some dried mango with just a touch of pears poached in red wine & sage, hitting both sweet with a savoury edge simultaneously, an assault on the senses that really makes you think.
There is a touch of smoked Birch and just a hint of star anise and then lots of hot sticky molasses melting over steamed ginger pudding, the spices putting the sweet notes back to the fore. There was a note that was evading me, it was rich, savoury and bitter, almost earthy, and then it came to me, there’s a wonderful tang of Linseed oil and toasted Flax seeds.
This is wonderfully warming with the cloves from the palate and dark 80% cocoa solids dark chocolate. Rich ruby red blood oranges with fresh coffee beans, burnt toast & Nutella, that hazelnut/chocolate combination somehow works in harmony with the oranges and cloves.
There are sticky, creamy homemade fudge notes coming through, obliterating everything else until the hazelnuts march back in. You think you have this dram worked out, but then it completely evolves bring with it tangy rhubarb & sharp apple, which you just aren’t expecting.
The cask makes itself known as this dram continues to open. There are bitter notes almost a bit too oaky, but then sweet royal icing and spiced ginger sponge, drizzled with lemon syrup shine through and it all starts to become sweeter again. It reminds me of fairground candy floss the day after, the bits that are left that have gone hard and crunchy and super sweet. Then with its dying breath there is a fragrant yet calming touch of honeycomb bring the sweetness down a notch allowing the fruits to make a return.
Fireside 12yo 40% ABV – RRP £35
Fireside is slightly peated & has been matured for at least 12 years in oak casks. This is a Blended Malt, containing 100% malt whiskies & no grain.
In comes the gentle, creamy, lovely sweetness that appears to unpinning the entire range is present. Once again there are apples but this time they are baked and filled with raisins and sultanas. There are hot baked figs, dripping in crème fraiche and a sprinkling of blow torched golden caster sugar.
There is a wonderful smoky, sooty, ashy quality and this cloaks the fruit in cream & embers. Have you ever dropped a haribo milk bottle in the mud and eaten it? No?, well me either…but it smells like this! It’s sweetness on steroids before the gritty, mineral, sooty notes elbow their way in and taking this sweetness and making it dank, and earthy. Things take a turn for the savoury with crisp smoked bacon, fresh pancakes, all smothered in maple syrup with perfumed peach kernels and just a hint of citrus oil all on an open fire
There is sweet rice milk, silky with a rich, creamed texture. There are salted chocolate caramels and silky sweet crunchy almonds before notes of chewy, sour, dried apricot and fresh peaches, tangerines, nectarines and fresh vanilla pods. On second tasting the darker side to this whisky is revealed with a mix of green, black and pink peppercorns and damp earth and rain dampened fire. The aftermath of a fire, all charcoal & Ash. There’s a definite chilli kick before sugared almonds, with some oakiness from the cask, damp wood and some sweet, starchy sweet potato with a freshness of sugar snap pea and ham soup, bringing perfectly balanced smoky notes.
Nightcap 15yo 40% Nightcap – RRP £37
15yr Blended Malt Whisky
Soft Floral notes with perfumed lilies, sweet delicate heather, rich damp moss before fruits combining plump wild strawberries, tart Scottish raspberries and rich brambles. Boiled milk, almost off coats the fruits before gentle, aromatic rosemary arrives. A minute longer and its Lilt territory, totally tropical, almost effervescent on the tongue. The tropics are next to arrive, all in dried fruit form, pineapple, mango, and guava, mouth-wateringly sour with a slight touch of honey before sour cherries come into the mix. This is one fast evolving dram. Oak from the cask comes in waves, before the sherbet notes force it to recede, leaving a mouth watering burst of tropical fruits.
The mango and the guava are joined by raisins, dates and lashings of dark chocolate. There’s plenty of rich dry oak and strong tannins, a good cup of builders brew and leather saddles. Liquorice is here and there is a hint of honey, which has been present throughout the whole range. There are dry, crunchy autumnal leaves, and the air after a heavy downpour. There is opulent toffee and I love the rich mouth feel. The fruits are perfectly balanced and when the tropics take over, the dark fruits come in and pull it back. There is some good quality parma ham, notes of charcoal, delicate lychee and fresh pencil shavings with just a kiss of wax crayons.
This a great range, far better than I expected if I am completely honest. I was slightly snobbish and thought from the off the 40% ABV would be far too low to make these good drams. How wrong I was. Each of the range is packed full of flavour and they are delicate with a complexity that surprised me. There is a sweet creaminess that underpins the entire range, tying each of the four whiskies together. The price point is spot on and makes the entire range good value for money. The youth is evident in the Clubhouse, but this has been balanced perfectly with the fruit and cream, which softens this down and just leaves a delicate apple hit. As we move up the range the age increases the fruits become richer and darker, but the same creamy notes are always there. There are rich spices and tropical fruits which were unexpected but oh so welcome.
Do not be put off by the twee packaging, it really is kind of cute, plus good or bad packaging (depending on personal preference) does not mean good or bad whisky.
Try these whiskies, they are great value for money and an affordable range, delicate yet complex, sweet and savoury, all enrobed in a creaminess that lingers. There are some great offers on at the moment, both online and in the supermarkets.
A big thanks to both Steve Rush and Old St Andrews Whisky for allowing me to take part.