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Well, I guess all those don’t grow on the island, but that’s an impressive list anyhow. Lots of fresh wood (vanilla, tannins), butter, roots, liquorice stick… French oak casks are used to give a layer of soft vanilla and to enhance mouth feel, and port casks to accentuate the cocoa on the palate. Quite short finish, on a mix of toasted bread and fresh fruit. Lots of tropical fruit like mango (eh, an old bottle again? Then a lot of kiwi – but it can’t be a malt from New Zealand, can it?
Nice but really lacks complexity, especially when compared to a Calvados. I guess it would have been better with a few more years, but it’s perfectly done for such a young age. Lots of odd aromas: parsley, dill, rotten orange, old wood, cardboard, dried Chinese mushrooms, fresh pepper… Again some weird tastes: fruit spirit, cheap Cognac, old wood, burnt cake… 75 points According to fellow malt maniac Ho-cheng, from Taiwan, that means ‘Red Star King’s Liquor’, and it’s a very famous and popular liquor. First mouthfeel: again, almost the same as #1, just a little more ‘dirty’. First nosing: we’re along the same lines again, if this one is a little more ‘stylish’ and quite cleaner.
Much less fruity than the nose, but still very good. I guess it’s the best non-Scottish or Irish or Japanese Single Malt whisky I ever had, and I guess it deserves no less than 83 points. According to Suntory, this is one of the finest blended whiskies in Japan. Its colour is dark straw, and it’s quite weak at first nosing. Let’s check the palate now: the first mouthfeel is weak and watery. Yes, very enjoyable, even if again, I wouldn’t say it tastes like a single malt whisky at all. Again, better than #1 and 2, but nothing thrilling, still.
In the autumn, vintage cider apples, with wonderful names like Dabinett, Kingston Black, Stoke Red, Yarlington Mill and Harry Masters, are gathered, blended, pressed and the juice is then fermented in huge oak vats. Extremely aromatic, the fruit even masks the alcohol. A lot of sour off-beat notes, that make it difficult o drink. Absolutely wonderful, somewhat in the Highland Park 18 yo style, only even better – and peatier. Mouth: rich, superbly fruity and, again, quite peaty. You can listen to her beautiful singing on Wedding Dance (mp3). I've somehow shocked myself with the 69 points I gave to the Clynelish 14 yo (46%, OB) while tasting it blind last night. Well, if I really have to give you three names, I’d go for Drumguish, Tobermory or Loch Lomond.
After three months the cider is distilled and clear spirit is trickled into either Sherry, or new Hungarian or French oak barrels. I’ll stop it right now, last time I remember I still had a sourish feeling even after I brushed my teeth two times. Palate: quite balanced like a rather good Speysider, but it’s still quite MOTR. Honey, courgette flower, crème brûlée, some lavender. Murray rated it 88, and Jackson 81, and that’s another league! The finish is quite short, making the whole quite unenjoyable.
From left to right: 1967 Zsa Zsa gabor for Smirnoff 'Don't darling with me if it's not Smirnoff' (warning - yeah I know, it's no whisky but I like Zsa Zsa) - 1967 Lauren Hutton for White Horse (claiming) - 1971 J&B (inviting)From left to right: 1975 Black Velvet (very inviting) - 1981 Bushmill's (very very inviting) - 1995 Black Velvet 'as smooth as it gets' (calm down! His thick Scottish accent instantly transports you to Inverness, Port Charlotte or John o'Groats, whichever Scottish place you're in the mood for.
Well, perhaps you just can't always talk about pure crystalline water running down the hills... - Maybe it's because the Islay Festival is approaching: I just felt the need to listen to some old Harry Lauder tunes. Hints of peat and a little pepper, then gets a little spirity and sourish (cooked green apple). The mouth is quite powerful at first but gets then much more balanced with some white fruit (gooseberry), some peat and some peppery notes. Elaborated not far from Tbilissi, this brandy (some still call that a Cognac) is made out of various grape varieties. The colour is curiously orange, which just can’t be 100% natural. It’s said to be white and crumbly, rich in juice, sweet smelling, sweetish-sour and muscaty. Quite different from the Williams pear we distil here in Alsace. In short, of course it was impossible to beat our amazing Alsatian Williams pear – yep, chauvinistic again – but this Vilmos is quite enjoyable, especially in summer, because it’s quite light and fresh. Carmel is Israel's leading producer of wines and spirits and of course they make some arack, the well-known anise-flavoured drink of the Middle East. Quite interesting at first nosing, wit some pepper of course, but also some nice honeyed notes, and some hints of grass, vegetables, and even a little ginger. A sudden blast of pepper is soon to attack your palate, and just coats it all around. There’s one very good mp3, though: 10 Miles to Go On a 9 Mile Road. The latter might be subject to batch variation, or the bottles that had contained the samples haven’t been opened for the same time. At first nosing, it’s much closer to a grappa than to a Cognac, which might prove that the wood had little influence. Cooked butter, pear, cider apples, and finally a little wood and some brunt cake notes. Let’s check whether the spirit has the same characteristics now. If it’s aged, it’s aged either in steel tanks or in glass. I’m sure one could drink two litres of it when chilled. Man's creativity has no limits, and that's a good thing - sometimes. Well, I guess that mustn’t be too bad when mixed with some lemon juice and chilled, on Copacabana beach, while listening to Chico Buarque… Its colour is plain white, and at first nosing it’s full of anise and slightly ‘burnt’ notes. You can feel just a few fruity notes on your tongue, but other than that, it’s just pepper from Pepper’s. This title itself says long about White’s almost Dadaistico-pataphysical (eh? What strikes me as well, is the fact that besides his great lyrics, inspired melodies and interesting ‘collage’ techniques, he never sounds exactly the same, unlike so many other singers. You can really feel it’s the same distillery, or even the same age, but the first one was dirtier, while the second one was much cleaner. I can’t wait to taste their single malt, to be launched in… From Germany: I’ve heard good things about this new Bavarian single malt. It’s distilled twice in a 450 litres pot still, and then aged in some new American oak casks exclusively. The palate is quite powerful, with some spirity notes, a lot of fruit (melon, gooseberry, kiwi, rhubarb) and quite some wood. What's even funnier is the fact that I saw this bottle in Turkey, just next to its 'regular' version. I like her songs which gather some slightly Celtic influences (no wonder, her name is Briton), some catchy folk-rock ala Natalie Merchant and a haunting voice. Okay, 80 points for this very, very good gin, which much better that any Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater or Gordon’s. This one’s much cleaner, certainly much stronger, and quite sharp. - This is the first example of a 'light' whisky I ever saw - I mean, 'light' being the opposite of 'regular' in this case. She's been around for ten years or so, but never reached huge notoriety, which is a shame. Glen Albyn - Glenallachie Glenburgie - Glencadam Glencraig - Glendronach Glendullan - Glen Elgin Glenesk - Glenfarclas Glenfiddich - Glen Garioch Glenglassaugh - Glengoyne Glen Grant - Glen Keith Glenkinchie - Glenlivet Glenlochy - Glenlossie Glen Mhor - Glenmorangie Glen Moray - Glen Ord Glenrothes - Glen Scotia Glen Spey - Glentauchers Glenturret - Glenugie Glenury Royal Time to go back to Europe now, before we have a final pre-Islay session tomorrow. It’s a bottle I brought back from China a few years ago. First nosing: peat and smoke, not unlike an Ardbeg. Grainy, dusty, perhaps a little more feinty with some burnt wood notes. Again, it gets bitter towards the end, and the finish is medium long, which is bad news. It’s even worse than #1 in fact, and I wouldn’t go farer than 50 points.