Archive for January, 2021


Convalmore: 1984: Special Release 2017 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 32 Years: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale apple juice to gold colour. A few initial streaks come from the spirit followed by very slow puckering.

Nose: Vanilla. Soft praline. Apples. Soft white grape juice touch. Water adds a sulphur and burnt matches style. More water gives orange zest and pear drops. Madeira. Cinnamon spiced apples.

Body: Initially numbing. Oak. Grassy. Dry. Peppery. More water adds Madeira and watered down spiced rum. Spiced red grapes. Cinnamon apples. Gunpowder tea. Caramel. Cinder toffee. Very mild molasses touch.

Finish: Charring. Roasted chestnuts. Water adds sugared almonds, nut bars and a salty touch. More water makes spicier. Dry red wine. Chocolate cake. Gunpowder tea. Cinder toffee. Creamy.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, and in general a robust one, with a lot heavier nut character that I expected from a Speyside whisky. It is also an example that, even in an over 30 years old whisky, water still does the job!

While water is needed later on, the aroma always had what it takes. Smooth as silk, showing green fruit mixed with vanilla sweetness. It was pretty much exactly what I would expect of the region and the age, if not more than that.

Thus I was surprised when I took a sip and found out how dry and, while not harsh, kind of numbing the main body was. The flavour was very nutty with lots of oak influence making it woody, with little else in play. It felt like such a let down from the nose.

Similarly the finish was nutty, slightly rough, and unexpectedly slightly salty. The state of the body and finish felt like an utter let down for something this old, expensive and with a decent nose.

So, anyway, I added water and…

It was better, still simple and nutty, but now a bit spicier. However the backing seemed to become more harsh – the additional green fruit notes made it better but it was hard to appreciate it against the harsher notes.

So, heck, I may have only 3cl of these, but you only live once. So I added more water, risking flooding it, aaaand.

This is now soooo goooood. No, seriously. Like it is such a change, and such a jump in quality I found it hard to believe it. Wine like and spiced rum notes come out along with spiced fruit, toffee and many spirits. More green fruit. A creamier feel. It doesn’t feel like the same whisky at all.

It has still got a few of those salty, heavier charring and gunpowder tea notes at the back, along with a fair set of tannins, but now they seem balanced as there is so much more available to contrast that. Now it is rich, with lots of dessert like notes, Speyside fresh fruitiness, smooth with lots to examine and so easy to drink despite the harsh underline.

This needs water so much, but get it right and it is great. Still just a touch over harsh, but only minorly so, and apart from that it is great.

Just avoid it neat.

Background: Convalmore is another dead distillery, and therefore one of the few distilleries in Scotland I had yet to try. It seems to be a long lived one, closing finally in 1985, with, oddly, no official bottlings at the time – all the stock went into blends. This is one of the few official bottling that have come out since and one that there was no way I could afford a full bottle of. So, I recently had the chance to treat myself and took advantage of the fact that The Whisky Exchange was selling 3cl samples. It makes it very expensive per cl, but hey, it is pretty much the only way I was going to get to try something from the distillery. A quick google says this won Jim Murray’s best single scotch whisky 28-34 years. For what that is worth. Went with Prodigy: No Tourists for background music. May not seem like a match for this whisky but, screw it, I only just found out it existed and wanted more Prodigy. That is the whole reason.

Big Drop: Good Things Irish Stout (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black. Good inch or so of mounded creamy brown head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Milky chocolate. Slight cream. Slight charring. Milky coffee.

Body: Roasted character. Dry. Chalk touch. Bitter coffee. Sour cream touch.

Finish: Charring. Bitter. Dry coffee bitter character. Bitter cocoa. Sour cream touch.

Conclusion: Ok, you may have seen the can – some of you may have even seen the text on the back of it. It is making some very obvious references to a certain beer from a certain brewery. Because of that, you may think that this is going to be the low alcohol take on the creamy keg version of Guinness. It is not.

Instead it is a, to my mind far more impressive, low alcohol take on the classic dry Irish stout style bottled Guinness and oh yes it has hit its target.

The normal tells of a low alcohol beer are nearly invisible here, in part due to the style choice, and of course due to quality brewing. The low alcohol notes normally evident, such as iced tea or isotonic drinks character are hidden easily by the charred and coffee notes. The dry character of an Irish stout also means that the thinner body of a low alcohol beer isn’t really a problem here. It feels nicely attenuated, and has a bit more weight than usual – though don’t go into it expecting anything too heavy. It has weight for a low alcohol beer, not for a big stout.

Now, I will admit it, the dry Irish stout isn’t my favourite of the beer styles. I find it too, well, drying for me. Shocking I know. Even with that said, this is a good beer, lots of coffee bitter notes, lots of roasted notes, hints of bitter cocoa though with no sweeter chocolate release, again probably a character of the style, not a flaw in the beer.

So, a decent Irish dry stout, even more impressive for the low abv. I enjoy it even though I am not a fan of the style, and, considering that it utterly nails the style, I have the feeling that if you are a fan of that, then this is going to rock your low abv world.

Background: For those of you who have not seen the can, the text on the back is “Good things do come to those who wait. But when tick follows tock, follows tick follows tock, we thought, hang on, toucan play at that game. And whilst we don’t want to harp on about it, it was a bit like pushing at an open gate: our AF stouts are some of the best in the world. So here’s our Irish Stout. “ Now, maybe I’m reaching, but there seems to be some subtle references in there. And by subtle I mean not subtle. At all. Anyway, more experimentation with low alcohol beers is always of interest to me, so I had to grab myself a few cans of this from Independent Spirit to give a go. Anyway, went with Miracle Of Sound: Level 11 for backing music again. We are in 2021 and A Long Year already sounds far too relevant again.

Vandenbroek: Brut Nebbiolo (Netherlands: Fruit lambic: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Reddened orange to a rose wine, or onion skin. Lots of tiny bubbled carbonation. Thin dash of a white head.

Nose: Dry white grapes. Cake sponge. Spicy red wine. Chill seeds and paprika. Vanilla touch. Wet oak. Strawberry as it warms. Menthol. Red onions touch.

Body: Dry white wine front. Wet oak. Mashed cherries. Mossy dark touch. Charring. Light chalk. Tart grapes. Strawberry. Vanilla yogurt. Red onion.

Finish: Black cherry yogurt. Dry white wine. Black pepper. Wet oak. Red onion. Mashed cherries. Lemon curd.

Conclusion: While not up to the standards of the amazing Watergeus that the same brewery turns out, this is still another rewarding and complex lambic from Vandenbroek.

I really have to stop summing stuff up in the first line, I need to give you lot a reason to read further.

On the eye this reminds me of the much praised Cantillon: Rose De Gambrinus, even though the load out of fruit used to make it is very different. Admittedly I am saying that from memory, so feel free to point out if I am full of shit. It had that reddened kind of onion skin to rose wine colour that really catches the eye and gives a great first impression.

The aroma is fairly standard dry lambic, though with a bit more spiciness in this take. Warming lets more notes slowly come out, giving a more rounded character.

The body is where the main play comes out. It is very dry white wine feeling. The darker fruit seems to wait and subtly come out in sweeter ways in the middle of the beer. The fruit is rich, with cherry to black cherry like notes coming out, and strawberry hints around the edges. There are tart grape notes, but they work into the main body of the dry lambic character easily, reinforcing rather than contrasting it.

There is even, oddly matching the visual, a kind of sharp red onion style character – especially in the finish where it gives a quiet savoury underline to the finish. Also, I mean this as a complement, it is really odd what flavours actually work in a lambic where you would hate them elsewhere.

As you can see from the main notes, there is a lot to examine – from lemon curd thickness to peppery spice and fresh menthol air, but I’ve tried to cover the main prominent themes here. The rest are just extra sparks of flair.

A lot going on, a lot worth examining, another great Vandenbroek.

Background: Vandenbroek! From the Netherlands, not Belgium. I may have, erm, made that mistake last time and had it pointed out to me. Many thanks! Serves me right for half arsing research. Especially as it turns out it is a place name. Anyway, always good to admit you are fallible. Still, been adoring their lambics, so decided to grab this one for giving a go. This is made with fermented grape must, with the peel and grape pips remaining in the beer for up to 10 months – duplicating a traditional wine making technique. Since lambics are already the most wine like of beers, this is an interesting take. The abv on the bottle may be saying 6.0 or 6.8%, a quick google suggests 6.8 so that is the one I went with. This is another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. They have a decent range of Vandenbroek and a huge range of sours in general, which makes it very easy to dabble with this style. Music wise I went back to IDLES: Joy As An Act Of Resistance to listen to. Ultra Mono is good, but that is IDLES best in my opinion – and that mix of anger and emotional vulnerability still kicks, especially in the current world situation.

Vandenbroek: Watergeus (Netherlands: Gueuze Lambic: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Clear, just slightly hazy, with an apple juice colour. Thin white bubbled dash of a head. Very small amount of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Horse blankets. Fresh cut apples. Dry. Light chalk. Crushed dry roasted peanuts. Crushed walnuts.

Body: Juicy apple. Brown bread. Nutty. Light chalk. Dry white wine. Slight champagne. Vanilla.

Finish: Pears. Fluffy feel. Popcorn. Yeast funk. Slight mild cheese.

Conclusion: This somehow manages to feel both dry and yet also fuller than most lambics I have tried. It is an impressive and pleasing mix.

The bigger weight side of things is felt in a fruitier, especially more apple filled, character, and touched by vanilla sweetness. However, despite that it still keeps the very dry, white wine like undertones – which gives a mouth drying, yet simultaneously refreshing style. The more refreshing notes are especially notable in the main body while the dry wine like air roars over the finish after each sip.

In-between that full front and dry finish is a yeastie experience. It calls to champagne in some ways, and the brett influence feels more like how I have encountered it in some non lambic beers – giving a fluffy, lightly cheesy notes that give real weight to the middle.

Around all that are those traditional horse blanket aroma and nutty core that make it very familiar as a lambic. This is such a showcase of lambic style. It is very telling that I have had a ton of these already, have one ageing, and have only just around to doing notes. I really enjoy it.

A fantastic lambic on every level. Expect to see more from this brewery here whenever I pull my thumb out and do more notes.

Background: Oh man, how many of these Vandenbroek beers have a I tried before I finally pulled my thumb out and did notes on them? Quite a few! Anyway, I was obviously enjoying them so decided it was my duty to do some notes and maybe bring these to the attention of people who may have overlooked them until now. This is their standard gueuze – coming in a slight bit higher abv than I’ve seen listed in other places online, so I’m guessing the abv changes batch to batch. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, who were the people who introduced me to them and have a great lambic and sour collection. Went with Miracle Of Sound’s Level 11 to listen to while drinking, “A Long year” was especially feeling appropriate as the end of 2020 loomed in front of me. Which, reminds me – Happy New Year! Enjoy Your drink!

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