Friday, November 25, 2016

Nikka In November

The evening's line-up (we started on the right).
Stef Holt from Speciality Brands rejoined us this month to lead us through a range of whiskies from the Nikka distillery in Japan. Having treated us to India's Amrut back in August, the upstairs room at the Briton's Protection was once again full as club members settled in for the evening.

Stef kicks the evening off.
The history of Japanese whisky is certainly an interesting and remarkable one. And, thanks to Stef's hugely enjoyable presentation to start the night off, we all now know a lot more about it!

The founder of Nikka, Masataka Taketsuru, is known as the father of Japanese whisky, and with good reason. Not only was he the first master distiller with Suntory, but he later struck out on his own to establish its great rival Nikka in 1934.

He had a vision of making whisky in Japan the way the Scots did, having himself studied chemistry in Glasgow and gained experience working at a trio of distilleries alongside his studies.

Dram number 1.
Not only that, but he also acquired a Scottish wife, Rita, who accompanied him back to Japan once he had learned his trade. There's been a lot of interest in them of late, because of a drama series loosely based on their lives broadcast on NHK.

If you want to get a flavour of it, I managed to find a clip on YouTube:



Dram number 2
Apparently it's been quite the ratings sensation, and has helped spur a renewed interest in domestic whisky in Japan. So if you struggle to get hold of a bottle of any of the Nikka drams we tried, that'll be why.

Anyway, on to the whiskies themselves and we began with two drinks distilled in Coffey stills. That's Coffey with a y, named for the Irishman who patented the design, Aeneas Coffey. Whether he may have, ahem, borrowed some of it is a source of some debate, but he got his patent in first which is after all the important thing.

The Coffey is a form of column still and Nikka uses it to create both a grain and a malt whisky. We had the grain first and some of the notes on the nose were immediately reminiscent of American oak, including vanilla and butterscotch.

Dram number 3.
It was also buttery, and Stef billed it to us as being toast, butter and marmalade - a breakfast whisky! It was an easy-to-drink 45% and decent value at £55, despite being pricier than most grains.

Its malt brother, clocking in at the same ABV and price, won more praise though. A bit sweeter, with a nose of hot chocolate or even milky coffee ("a disappointing latte" as someone put it). The butter was replaced by a treacly toffee, like the best parkin. Possibly one to invest in for next Bonfire Night.

Having tried two grains we now got into two single malts, hailing from the two Japanese distilleries operated by Nikka. Miyagikyo was the second of those to be established, in a hilly, central area of the country reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands or Speyside.

Dram number 4.
With stocks dwindling a little, Nikka's previous range of Miyagikyo has been consolidated into a single product, which Stef reckons is reminiscent of the previous 10yo and 12yo expressions. And with a definite sherry influence, it certainly does taste like a Speyside!

The contrast in the locations of Nikka's distilleries was emphasised when we got stuck into the Yoichi next. This was the first distillery established by Taketsuru, and he chose a site by a rivermouth and the sea in Japan's chilly north.

Once again there's just one Yoichi single malt now on the market, which Stef advised tasted similar to the previous 10yo. And this one had the coastal, salty, oily taste you'd expect from a Scottish whisky created in a similar landscape, although the peatiness is less upfront, more on the tongue and further back in the mouth.

Dram 5: Super Nikka Revival.
Perhaps it's the Japanese influence playing tricks on us, but this one seemed to have a bit of soy sauce about it. The club consensus was that this may have just shaded the Miyagikyo. Both are 45% and expect to pay around £70.

After our mid-tasting break we were back to try three blended whiskies. And we were also back to the story of the Taketsurus. On Rita's death, Masataka created a whisky in her memory, and the company has recently brought it back with the Super Nikka Revival: slightly citrussy, a bit peaty, and very drinkable.

Only 600 bottles came to the UK, so there aren't loads kicking about. It's £50 and 43%, and offers a window into what Japanese whisky tasted like in the early 1960s. The backstory helped win it a bit of popularity among the club's more romantic members, too.

Dram number 6.
We finished off with two of the three from Nikka's Pure Malt range, the Pure Malt Red and the Pure Malt Black. The Red features a blend of medium-peated Miyagikyo and unpeated Yoichi, and is billed as "fruity and soft".

This attracted a fair bit of comment around the room, with one common statement being that it "doesn't taste like it smells". This could have been because we'd had it straight after number 5, so that softness got a little lost. As someone noted, it almost tasted "like juice".

Dram 7: Pure Malt Black.
Perhaps unfortunately for the Pure Malt Red, its Black cousin rounded the evening off in storming style. Dubbed "smoky and mellow", this flipped the components round, giving us a medium-peated Yoichi and an unpeated Miyagikyo.

This really was an instant favourite. Not just smoky but also peaty, although as with the earlier Yoichi single malt, the peat wasn't a punch-in-the-face job. The Japanese seem to prefer to tame their peaty notes a little, and it works a treat on this dram. At just £42, phones were out and orders were being made while some of us were still finishing our glasses.

Despite some strong competition, it was indeed the Pure Malt Black which took the Dram of the Night vote. Another successful evening then, and thanks to both Stef for her excellent guidance, and the Briton's Protection for being gracious hosts, as ever.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Old and Rare Night 2016

The line-up. 
It was a busier-than-usual Manchester Whisky Club crowd which gathered upstairs at The Briton's Protection this month, for our semi-regular Old and Rare evening. Committee member Martin had
picked out five unusual and hard-to-find drams for us to knock into, many sources from online auctions, and there were certainly some interesting stories behind the whiskies in the line-up.

Dram 1: Shackleton Journey
None was more interesting than the opening drink, the 47.3% Mackinlay's Shackleton Journey Edition. It's a recreation of the whisky taken by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton on his 1907 expedition to Antarctica, cases of which were discovered more or less in tact a century later.

The Mackinlay's brand is owned by Whyte & Mackay, and it's they who analysed three of the original bottles before putting together the new blend although, as before, the main component is whisky from the Glen Mhor distillery in Inverness.

Dram 2: 18yo Tomintoul
Unfortunately, the story behind the whisky proved to be rather more appealing than the whisky itself. Most seemed to think it was ok as far as it went, but not worth the RRP of £110. Looking on the bright side, one member commented that it was the sort of whisky "you'd expect to taste like absolute arse, but it doesn't". So there's that.

Up next was an 18-year-old Tomintoul, a 40% bottled in 1985, back in the days when it was still branded as a 'Tomintoul-Glenlivet'. The bottling was done by an independent that no longer exists, ABC of Dundalk in Ireland, which was mainly known for bottling Guinness as well as soft drinks, which could help explain the unusual screw top on this particular bottle.

Dram 3: 20yo J&B
This one certainly had an unusual taste, but it was disappointingly flat for an 18yo. It did improve with a bit of water, and there seemed to be a hint of sherry in there, although some suggested that given the nature of ABC's other work it might have been matured in Vimto casks. Another one to pass on if you see it for sale anywhere.

The evening picked up considerably with the third dram, a 20yo J&B at 43%. Again the branding gave away the age, as it was produced during the days when J&B was still known as Justerini & Brooks, a company with roots going back to 1749.

Little information was available about this bottling so Martin got in touch with J&B's present day owners, Diageo, to see if they could shed any light on it. According to the archive team there, the bottle we had was probably produced in 1969 and contained Knockando single malt, a precursor to the early 1970s when bottlings under the Knockando name began to be released. They added that they had no tasting notes and had never heard of anyone who had drunk it, so were keen to find out what we thought!

Dram 4: 23yo Imperial
This won lots of plaudits. It's recognisably a Speyside whisky, but a Speyside from another era, as befits whisky which would have been produced in the late 1940s. There were muted sherry notes, potentially a legacy of having to re-use sherry casks from before the war.

After our mid-evening break, another rarity came our way with a 23yo Imperial, bottled by Mackillops. There won't be too many more of these available, as the Imperial distillery (another Speyside) was mothballed in 1998 and demolished three years ago. This particular one was bottled in 2014 and was 58.4%.

Dram 5: 20yo Laphroaig
Again, this went down well, with enthusiastic comments ranging from "a nice drop" to "very good" and even a "superb" or two. Some members thought it went well with a bit of water, but it was perfectly fine as a cask strength whisky as well: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" as someone said.

Martin saved the best for last though, with an interesting and unusual bottle of a club favourite, Laphroaig. He queued up at a recent show to get his hands on one of just 516 bottles of The Whisky Exchange's latest Masterpiece bottling, a 20yo Laphroaig which spent its full maturation in Pedro Ximinez casks.

To say that this gave the whisky a few sherry notes would be quite the understatement. In fact, it looked browner than some of the glasses of real ale dotted around the room.

The dram of the night voting.
On the nose and then on the palate, the big question was: "Where's the peat gone?" It was still there, but was largely masked by the sweetness of the PX, and it was more of a smoky flavour which remained prominent. "An exceptional drink" and "a bit of class" were sentiments which propelled this to a virtually unanimous triumph in the dram of the night voting.

So, the end of another successful tasting, and it was one of the busiest ever with an excellent turnout of members old and new. Thanks in particular go to Martin for taking the time and effort to source such an interesting selection of whiskies for us, and of course to everyone at the Briton's Protection for hosting us well as always.

And on the day it was sadly announced that Vine is to close, here's the line-up of whiskies in, what else, but a Vine!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The ABC of Islay

The evening's line up.
Our September tasting was as easy as ABC, as we tasted five cask strength Islay whiskies from five different distilleries. Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila were in these glasses but because it was a blind tasting, we wouldn't know which was which until the end.

Dram 1: Caol Ila 17yo
Or at least that was the theory. Plenty of the club's members were convinced that dram number one was a Caol Ila. Some thought it wasn't bad but others were a bit more critical of a "bitter finish" and a dram that, on the whole, didn't really hang together.

Right enough, it was a Caol Ila, which didn't exactly surprise too many in the room. But there was a bit of shock around at the age and price of the whisky: a 17yo unpeated clocking in £92.75. Not a bottle that anyone is going to rush out and buy soon, unfortunately.

Dram 2: Bruichladdich 21yo
As well as peatiness, Islay whiskies are often renowned for being on the salty side. And salt was one of the key notes which came through on the second dram. Seaweed was another, while salted caramel was another shout, and it did seem to get a bit sweeter once it was warmed up a bit. There was no doubt that it had seen the inside of a sherry cask at some stage.

It turned out to be a 21yo Bruichladdich, bottled by independent favourites Gordon and Macphail. Distilled in 1994, it came in at 56.2% and £110.67. Again, this didn't exactly blow the members away, perhaps a surprise as both the distillery and G&M are established club favourites. But that's a blind tasting for you.

Dram 3: Ardbeg Uigedail
Dram three went down a lot better straight away. Citrus was one widespread tasting note, with some going even further and pinning it down to orange. Less sophisticated comments included "tasty" and "nice". This was generally the favourite of the night so far, and there was much expectation that it would be an Ardbeg.

And so it was. The Ardbeg Uigedail to be precise. A marriage of Ardbeg from bourbon barrels and sherry butts, it's bottled at 54.2% and is a very reasonable £53.75 from your favourite online whisky retailer.

Dram 4: Bowmore
After the traditional mid-evening break of oatcakes and a pint from the downstairs bar at the Briton's Protection, we were back for dram four. And it was clear straight away that this was not your typical Islay whisky. A little oily on the nose, but on the palate were tropical fruits, almost reminiscent of the Fruit and Fibre you might have for your breakfast (other cereals are available). Mango was another disctinctive flavour, and the drink as a whole seemed to have a thickness that put some in mind of mango lassi.

Not many in the club, if anyone, correctly had this as a Bowmore. It was a Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling, number 3.278 called Dirty Martinis in the Boatshed. All very un-Islay like, successfully challenging a few of our preconceptions, one of whisky master Matthew's aims for the evening as a whole. It was 52.2% but don't bother trying to find one to buy, as apparently we had the very last one.

Dram 5: Bunnahabhain 7yo
Our last dram of the night was finally the super-peated experience we'd been waiting for all evening. This immediately put the members in mind of one of Bruichladdich's products, either a high end Port Charlotte or, at a push, an Octomore (we didn't know at this point we'd already had a Bruichladdich earlier in the evening). A couple of others thought some coal-y notes suggested a Caol Ila, but obviously it wasn't that either.

Much to his delight, and everyone else's surprise, Matthew revealed this to be a 7yo Berry Bros and Rudd bottling of Bunnahabhain. Although obviously quite a young whisky, at 56.1% and with a price tag of £60, this had a few supporters as the dram of the night.

Not quite enough though. The Ardbeg carried the day with 11 votes, with the Bowmore second and the Bunnahabhain third. It was another excellent evening, and thanks go not only to Matthew and the rest of the committee, but also to the many faces old and new who came along, and of course to the Briton's Protection for looking after us once again.

11 votes for the Ardbeg!



Friday, August 26, 2016

A Taste of India with Amrut

The line-up.
We had a muggy, wet August evening for our latest tasting, which about as close as Manchester gets to simulating the climate of Bangalore, origin of the line-up of whiskies from Indian distiller Amrut.

The Amrut Cask Strength.
Stef Holt from Speciality Brands was on hand to guide us through proceedings, and she started us off with Amrut's Cask Strength offering.

Clocking in at 61.8% this seemed like a bold start to the evening, but, while obviously strong, it didn't pack nearly as powerful a punch as might have been expected. In fact, "worryingly drinkable" was one comment as club members got their mouths around the cereal and buttery notes of this one. At a very affordable £54, it may not be the last time some of us try it, either.

Amrut Fusion.
An old club favourite was up next, Amrut Fusion. We last had it during a round-the-world tasting in 2014 and, if memory serves, it ended up with dram of the night.

A flagship drink for the Amrut brand, it's named because it uses a mixture of Indian and Scottish barley, the latter peated for good measure. It's again quite easy to drink considering the ABV (this time 50%), with a nice palate and, according to one club member, a "silky" texture. You can usually get it for under £50, also excellent value.

Amrut Peated.
All of the Amrut whiskies come without an age statement, which Stef explained was to do with the warm climate.

The whiskies are usually only aged for about four years, unavoidable because of the huge annual angel's share of 12-15%, but a figure best kept off the packaging to avoid unfair comparisons with more familiar Scottish whiskies.

The next two whiskies were both Amrut Peated. The first was the standard bottling at 46%, the other its cask strength sibling at 62%. The standard dram was, perhaps surprisingly, a little less complex and actually harsher in a way than the two stronger whiskies already tasted.

Amrut Peated Cask Strength.
Citrus came through almost more strongly than the peat, with orange rather than lemon to the fore. Not bad at all, especially with a £40 price tag, but maybe not the standout whisky from the range.

The cask strength version had a familiar sort of taste, all peat and salty seaside. The surprising thing is that Bangalore is actually nowhere near the sea. Which sort of implies that the distinctive flavour of several well-known island whiskies might have less to do with the exact geographical location of the distilleries than we like to think.

But anyway, that's a bit of a leap. The important aspect is that this one probably shades its little brother for both taste and, at £54, value.

Amrut Portonova.
After the traditional oatcake break, Stef encouraged us to keep a drop of the Cask Strength in our glasses to have before another go at the Fusion. Tasting it after the peated whisky certainly boosted some of the wood and citrus notes, although views were mixed about whether it was actually better or not the second time around!

The evening finished with Amrut's Portonova. Stef described the "sandwich method" used in its production, with the liquid moved from American oak into old-style (and hard to find) port pipes, before going back to American oak to finish.

Stef in full flow.
Again a strong drop at 62%, although this one tasted more like its ABV than the others, at least after the nose which wasn't quite as notable. On the palate some of the fruity and spicy notes which had proved to be a regular feature of the evening were certainly present.

A bit pricier than the others at £80, but the favourite for many of the club members. In fact, it tied in the dram of the night voting with Amrut Fusion, while the very first Cask Strength also picked up a few votes. I suppose we'll just have to try them all again to decide which we really like best.

Thanks to Stef for great evening, and it was particularly good to see so many members both old and new at the tasting. Thanks also once again to everyone at the Briton's Protection for being excellent hosts, as ever.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lowlands Night: How Low Can You Go?

The line-up.
With several of the group fresh from taking the high road to Loch Lomond for Dramboree 2016, we all took the low road to this month's tasting with a series of whiskies from lowland distilleries.

The Ailsa Bay.
Our first stop was the Ayrshire coast and a bottle of Ailsa Bay, the first release from the distillery of the same name, owned by Grant's.

What's inside is of course always more important than the packaging, but this particular bottle won some early plaudits for a stylish, straight design and a bit of the famous Ailsa Craig granite, better known as the source of the world's entire supply of curling stones, as part of the stopper.

Surprise new club member.
The drink itself is a no-age statement peated whisky. Martin, acting as whisky master for the evening, noted that it was unusual to begin a tasting with something peated, but this certainly isn't the sort of heavy peat monster you'd want to save until the end.

Nice and light, it also tasted on the young side, and there was widespread agreement it would improve further with future expressions. Costing around the £55 mark and bottled at 48.9%, it's one to keep an eye out for.

The Littlemill.
That's not something that can be said for our next whisky, the 12yo Littlemill. This particular distillery on the banks of the Clyde was in and out of mothballs down the years, but finally closed in the mid-90s and eventually burnt down. So to find a bottle is relatively rare these days. Indeed, ours was sourced from a whisky auction site.

Unfortunately, it didn't get a rapturous reception from the members. Good on the nose, it sadly disappointed many with a lukewarm showing on the palate, although it did improve a little after a few sips.

This 40% dram has been well-reviewed elsewhere, so there was some suspicion that this particular bottle's curious history - it had been to Greece and back - may have affected the taste by the time we finally got our hands on it.

Place mat.
Whiskybroker - also known as Martin Armstrong - has long been one of the club's favoured independent bottlers, with an Aultmore of his a particular hit last year.

This month's dram number three was a bit of a family occasion as it was an 8yo Bladnoch, from Scotland's most southerly distillery which was run for some time by Martin's dad Raymond (it's now been acquired by an Australian yoghurt entrepreneur - fill in your own punchline).

The Bladnoch.
The nose on this was quite something, and not really in a good way. "Baby vomit" was about as close to a consensus as we got. It had many of the most experienced club members racking their brains to think of a time they'd smelt something quite so pungent in a glass.

It was much better on the palate, although as someone pointed out, that was setting the bar pretty low. Wine finished, a bit buttery maybe and certainly not unpleasant at 43%. It had its supporters in the room but it didn't really do enough to send anyone online to snap up a bottle for £55.

There were high hopes for the last two bottles of the night though, and they lived up to the billing.

The Glenkinchie.
The fourth dram was a limited release 12yo Glenkinchie, a Diageo distillery near Edinburgh. As Martin pointed out, the standard Glenkinchie bottling is also a 12yo and it's probably available in your local supermarket. But this particular expression is a cask strength 58.7%, produced as part of the Friend of the Classic Malts offer and again on this occasion bought from an auction site for just over £60.

And despite the strength, it was very drinkable. This one got murmurs of approval all round straight away. With 5,000 bottles produced it's certainly worth tracking down, even if it may take a bit of searching.

Auchentoshan excitement.
It was back across the country to Clydeside for the final bottle of the night, a distillery cask sherried dram from Auchentoshan. And it was well worth waiting for.

This is officially a no age statement expression, although the dates on the back gave it away as just over 11 years old. Aged in Oloroso sherry casks, this had a lovely, deep colour with a taste to match, all fruitcake and Boxing Day regret.

For dram of the night it came down to the Glenkinchie and the Auchentoshan and, although there was a good deal of support for the former, the sherry lovers of the club won the day.

Thank you to Martin for running another successful tasting and for everyone who came, it was another busy evening with barely enough whisky to go round. And thanks as ever to the staff of the Britons Protection for being generous hosts.

The voting.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Independent Bottlings Night

The line-up.
At our June tasting we were delighted to welcome several new paid-up members to the club, and they had five whiskies from a variety of independent bottlers to enjoy, as yet more summer rain lashed down outside the Britons Protection.

The Inchmurrin 19yo.
Tom acted as whisky master for the evening, and he started us off with a 19yo Inchmurrin, bottled by Signatory. As Tom revealed, Inchmurrin is made at the Loch Lomond distillery and is named for the island in the middle of the loch, which is possibly best known for being the home of a naturist colony.

Not that the dram itself was naked. It's finished in sherry casks, something clearly in evidence just from the nose. That sherried sweetness won quite a few approving nods on first taste, but if anything this whisky disappointed a little thereafter, just sort of fading away after a strong start. However, at £40, it's not bad value.

That TBWC label.
Up next was a no-age statement dram from That Boutique-y Whisky Company from the Allt-á-Bhainne distillery near Dufftown. Somewhat tenuously, because Allt-á-Bhainne sounds a bit like House of Pain, the label features cows listening to old school classic Jump Around, while standing next to a river of milk (which is what Allt-á-Bhainne actually means).

But enough about the packaging, and on to the whisky. This one's herby on the nose, vaguely reminiscent of dandelion and burdock. And we got a range of opinions from the membership, although most could at least agree that this was an "interesting" drop. It retails at a shade under £50, which would be fine if it was in a proper 70cl bottle!

The Glenburgie 19yo.
The most expensive whisky of the night was next and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it turned out to be our favourite. It was a Glenburgie 19yo, not just sold by Master of Malt but also bottled by them.

Appropriately enough for Wimbledon fortnight, this one had strawberries if not cream, along with distinct notes of butterscotch and a bit of citrus later on in the finish. Despite general warm approval, this wasn't a bottle that got the membership reaching for their phones and credit cards - purely because of the price at more than £90.

This led to the quote of the evening from Nic: "I'd buy it, but I wouldn't share it!"

Douglas Laing's Double Barrel.
After a mid-tasting break, we were back with bottle four and a mash-up of Ardbeg and Inchgower in the form of Douglas Laing's Double Barrel. If this was a marriage of Islay and Speyside, it was clear on both the nose and the palate that Islay was the dominant partner, with a peatiness and saltiness that really took over the drink.

It was felt that the Inchgower got a little lost up against its distinctive bottle-mate. While decent value at £45, some of Douglas Laing's offerings which we've had at the club in the past - Scallywag in particular - are probably a better bet for a slightly lower price.

The Paul John 6yo.
We finished with a passage to India and the 6yo Paul John, another bottling by Master of Malt. A young whisky, but not by Indian standards where, it's said, the heat makes six years equivalent to three times as long in rainy old Scotland.

Reactions to this one can be divided into those who drank it before and after adding water. Initially, it tasted very strong, as well it might at 59.7%. In the words of one member, it tasted "like cardboard". But when we started to put a few drops of water in there, things opened up considerably and it became much more palatable. That dreaded word again - "interesting" - but probably not worth splashing out the £78 retail price for.

The vote at the end of the night when decisively in favour of the Glenburgie. No chance of a 52/48 split here! Thanks to Tom for leading another great tasting, and to the faces old and new who came down.
The vote. No secret ballots here.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Taste Of Teeling

The Teeling range, about to be sampled.
Bottles of Ireland's Teeling whisky have been well received at the club over the past couple of years, so we were delighted this month to host an evening dedicated to the stuff, courtesy of Craig from Eaux de Vie.

The Poitin!
Before opening the first bottle, Craig filled us in on the story of Irish whiskey and how Teeling fits into that. Ireland had once been a far larger player in the world whiskey market than it is today, but its share was devastated by the twin issues of prohibition in the US, and trade restrictions in the UK related to the fallout from Irish independence.

At one stage, Irish whiskey was down to the merged Irish Distillers and that was about it. But, things are looking up, with Craig telling us that sales of Irish whiskey are now going up at the rate of about 20% each year, impressive growth albeit from a low base.

Teeling Small Batch
We didn't get straight into the whiskey. Instead, the first drink of the night was Teeling's poitin, a drink usually known here in its anglicised form as pocheen. It's basically very strong Irish moonshine, and a few club members had hazy memories of having some in the past. Teeling's poitin is not as powerful as some, but at 61.4% it still packs a significant punch alongside a pleasant sweetness reminiscent of pear drops. Not one for a session, but as Craig suggested, a drink to have a bit of fun with from time to time. It retails for £30.

On we went to the first of the four whiskies. The Teeling family has a long history in distilling, going right back to 1782. The modern Teeling company was founded in 2012 by Jack Teeling, who left his job running the Cooley Distillery when it was sold to Jim Beam, but struck a deal to keep 16,000 barrels to get him started with his new venture.

Teeling Single Grain
And the first drop of that we got to taste was the Teeling Small Batch. Finished for six months in old rum casks, it again had a sweetness about it, although at 46% it was a lot lighter than the Poitin. This got an enthusiastic reception from virtually everyone. Available at £33 from Master of Malt, it's good value, too.

This was surpassed by the next dram, though, the Teeling Single Grain, fully matured in Californian red Cabernet Sauvignon casks. If we'd had pear drops earlier, this was a move further into the sweet shop to the toffee jar. As Craig noted, another lighter drop, particularly good for enjoying at this time of year. And again super value, at about the £35 mark.

At the half time break, Craig generously offered the bottle around again and there were several enthusiastic takers!

Teeling Single Malt
The fourth drink of the evening was Teeling's vatted Single Malt, and what a mixed bag it was. The bottle features whiskies aged up to 23 years, matured in a real range of wine casks: sherry, port, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon.

While another enjoyable drop, there was a general feeling in the room that all those influences meant there was just a bit too much going on here. It possibly suffered slightly having come after the outstanding Single Grain, but "it just needs a bit more knitting together" was one comment echoed by a few of the members. It's a little more expensive than the others, but can still be found for less than £40.

Teeling Revival
Craig finished off the evening with Teeling's 15yo Revival, aged in rum casks and produced in honour of the fact Teeling's is the first new distillery to open in Dublin for 125 years. This was another light and very enjoyable whisky with a bit of sweetness, clearly hallmarks of Teeling's range in general.

This turned into a strong contender for the dram of the night, but coming in at over £80, the value offered by the Single Grain perhaps allowed it to edge ahead as our favourite of the evening.

Thanks once again to Craig for a great tasting, and to the team at the Briton's Protection for looking after us as always. Thanks also go to the folks at Aston's of Manchester, who have generously offered club members a discount on these Teeling bottles when we produce our tickets on our next visit.

Craig in full flow.