Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum

Last time I sat my WSET spirits exam I got this one thrown at me. Painful as it is to admit, I had had it before, although not so much as part of a tasting session as an end of night chaser in the pub I used to run. I didn't recognise it and the crazy aromas and flavours completely threw me off track - hence my 'revenge tasting'!

It pours clear and bright, as you'd expect from a white rum. There's no louching but there is a noticeable oiliness on addition of water, and there are strong legs for a white spirit. On the nose it's clean, without anything noticeably picked up from any ageing. The aromas are of dried banana and candle-wax tempered with a touch of lime. It's not as sweet as you might expect a rum to be, the alcohol is quite well integrated for such a strong (63%) spirit, although I did only taste it with water. The flavours are unsurprisingly intense, there's a load of molasses, with lime, cashew and more a banana. Perhaps a little too much of the waxiness and solvent-like paint flavours for me though.

Overall it's a decent quality rum, although I wonder if going for the extra alcohol as left it tasting a bit feinty to put it into the realms of real quality.

Expect to pay about £25 or so for a 70cl bottle.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

SMWS '93.34' Glen Scotia

This is one of the last three whiskies I got from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society before I had to let my membership elapse. As all SMWS bottlings are, it is from a single cask, and bottled at cask strength (55.1% abv. in this case). I'm a big fan of west coast whiskies as a style; Oban, Talisker and particularly, Springbank are some of my favourite 'standard' single malts. Glen Scotia is often somewhat unfairly forgotten as the smaller of the two remaining distilleries in the now sadly almost non-existent Campbeltown region.

The pack of three I got were all quite old sherry-cask matured whiskies, this one having been matured for sixteen years in a refill butt. The sixteen years have allowed the spirit to mellow, at least on the nose, which is all rich chocolate and caramel. On the palate though, the conventional 'age as a mellower' wisdom is thrown right out of the window. It really demonstrates the difference between a sherry finish and prolonged contact - it's less of a touch of sweetness than a full on bonfire effect, the lovely west-coast smokiness is still there but the sherry is no idle passenger, it really drives the toffee and dried fruit flavours forward, a sort of iron hand in a velvet glove.

This was the first of 176 bottles, and, as always, when it's gone it's gone forever, but I'm looking forward to seeking out whiskies like this as the winter nights draw in, with a bit of luck accompanied by some imperial stout and a good film.

A colleague told me about this video of Brian Cox (the actor not the the Professor) demonstrating how to pronounce, and indeed drink, malt whiskies. I can't embed the whole thing since I could only find it on You Tube in its separate parts but it's well worth a listen even if your pronunciation is pretty good. The best bit though is undoubtedly him trying his favourite; Lagavulin.

Enjoy. I am pretty sure Brian did. Sláinte.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Hegarty Chamans 'Cuvée 2' Minervois 2004

When I first started working in Oddbins I got quite into collecting wine as well as drinking it, albeit in a completely haphazard fashion. On quieter days in the shop the discussion would usually turn to the decision of what wine we were going to have after work. I generally used to hot-foot it down the hill after closing to catch the 10 O'Clock film on Film Four - back when it was a superb subscription channel - clutching a couple of bottles; one for the cellar and one for viewing accompaniment.

This is another that I stashed from back then. When the first of the Hegarty-Chamans wines came into the shop it was a big hit with the then Assistant Manager, and it was him that persuaded me to try them, for which I was most grateful, even a few years later.

'Cuvée 2' is an unfiltered Grenache, Syrah and Carignan blend and is decidedly Mediterranean in character; chock full of rich brambly fruit with black olives and a hint of balsamic. The balance between fruit is superbly balanced; teetering on the knife-edge of sweet fruit and savoury herbs, but all the better for having elements of both. The juicy tannins giving the wine a lovely, well-rounded texture.

This wine, or at least a younger equivalent, is available in the UK at the moment from Adnams, for £12.99. Buy at least a couple, and keep one for a few years; you won't be disappointed. They also stock the very good 'Cuvée 1.'