Thursday 5th March saw us at a new location in Cardiff – the Old Market Tavern. To blast the away the cobwebs of winter we ran a Tour of the Islands whisky tasting, including 3 cask strength expressions! Read on to find out what we got up to
The Old Market Tavern has been open for a few months now, having taken over from o’Neils that used to be at the location. I’ve since found out, it was in fact called the New Market Tavern in the past, so almost like the libraries in Cardiff (Old Library, Old New Library and the New, New Library), this venue has recurring names over the years. We met up with them soon after they’d opened and having looked upstairs, Matt and I realised that the dedicated space would be perfect to hold tastings, and we were definitely right! But first, the whiskies…
A tour of Islands seemed a perfect way to shake off the winter blues as well as give Matt an excuse to open his Barolo finished Jura Sacred Mountain. We’d also managed to pick up a travel retail exclusive Talisker and these two combined set us up for the whole theme.
Six Isles Blended Malt:
Starter dram for the evening, this blended malt proved very popular and got some strong votes overall. Many were impressed by the ‘all-roundedness’ of the dram and thought it was well priced at around £30. This blend contains whiskies from all 6 islands that produce whisky (including Islay) and was a perfect way to start the evening and introduce the theme.
Ledaig (NAS) from Morrisons
I say ‘from Morrisons’ as this is the only place I’ve seen this dram. Not to be mistaken with the Ledaig 10, this dram comes in at an amazing price of just £19. I personally think it’s a fantastic whisky for the price and had hoped others would agree. To my surprise it really wasn’t very popular, even at that price and the general opinions was that it was just too young and light. Possibly more peat or strength would combat it’s youthful quality (perhaps we may have something like this later!), but overall this was the least popular of the evening.
Talisker Dark Storm (Travel retail)
The heavily charred version of the storm got some great reviews from the group, especially liking the smokiness and extra peat. General opinion was that it could even go stronger, or perhaps a little higher proofing would have helped as well. It didn’t really stand out against other Taliskers, of which we have a few fans, with many commenting that they’d like to do a side-by-side tasting to see the difference. Talisker, you need to release a Super Dark Storm for these guys!
Jura Sacred Mountain
Matt’s choice from our trip to Jura was this amazing Barolo finished Jura 15 year old (one of 1366 bottles). This dram really has a fantastic finish and Jim Murray’s comment on it being a great interaction between wine and whisky is spot on. The warmth of the wine cask gives the dram such a great heat, it tastes a lot stronger than the 46% on the label. Very popular amongst the group, I think it’s definitely worth the £100 price tag. If this had been in our Jura tasting it would have easily won.
Gordon and MacPhail Highland Park 2005
The first cask strength bottling of the night, this was a real crowd pleaser. A fantastic balance to the whole dram was the major appeal and at only £45 a bottle, really a complete bargain. Not much to say except grab a bottle if you can – it’s just a perfect little whisky at a great price that you’ll just keep coming back to.
Arran Machrie Moor Batch 1
The clear winner of the night – which is to be somewhat expected as I know the group likes their cask strength peated whiskies – but this was easily the most popular dram we’ve ever had. For me, it could be a little peatier, but it does not feel like it’s lacking any phenolic level. Also, despite being nearly 60%, this really doesn’t taste too strong, it’s very complementary to the whole character. Again, a bargain at £50 I know a few people will be buying a bottles of this soon.
Ledaig Cask Strength 2005 Whisky Exchange Straight From the Cask (7th Dram)
I was recently in London and visited the shop in Vinopolis to find a few other whiskies for the club. I was served by Mariella, who was extremely knowledgeable and helpful and suggested this one for me – and boy did it go down well! Completely different to the earlier Ledaig – this is what it wants to be when it grows up. Nearly 60% (and you can feel this one) and a great level of peatiness makes this one of my personal new favourites. It’s overall show piece is the fact that a drop of water completely changes it’s character, bringing out notes of pineapple and citrus notes, compared to the strong earthiness at the natural proofing.
The clear winner of the night was the Arran, which proved so popular we also ran out of samples in the shop as well. The GM Highland Park was second with Matt’s Jura just slightly behind. I think this was the most successful of evenings we’ve had so far, a great group of people, great venue and some fantastic whiskies. Thanks again to Old Market Tavern for hosting us – we’ll seen you all again on the 19th, and this time on TV!