.masterclass – with Robin Laing

During the Hielander whisky festival in Alkmaar, the Netherlands on 16 February 2013 we had booked a masterclass with whiskybard Robin Laing.

Instead of the expected talk about the ‘wonders of the industry’ or the different steps in the process of creating whisky, Robin had prepared the masterclass with five whiskies that all were all accompanied by his whisky-brand-specific songs or poems, telling us with a wink and a lot of humor what the whisky we are drinking is all about.

All of them are bottled by independent bottler Malts of Scotland, without any added colorant or chill-filtration.

Bruichladdich – 1988-2012

54,3% abv, non chill-filtered, no caramel added

There is the scent of malt and a whiff of sweet marshmallows, oak and chocolate, while there is a strong alcohol taste, covered in a layer of sweetness. It finishes sharp, continues long and ends with caramel and chocolate.

This one is a keeper. She can have a lot of water, which brings out the sweet notes, remembering you of the sherry hogshead it has spent it’s life in. A Bruichladdich of the old era that has been created with the same equipment but most likely a different recipe.

Glenturret – 1977-2012
47,4% abv, non chill-filtered, no caramel added

At the first sniff there is a light glue scent, that quickly makes place for a fresh sour, citrus, accompanied with sweet honey and heather blossom. It has a dry taste, with a pepper-like spice, honey, oak and more heather blossom. A hint of glue at the finish, but once that is gone it lasts for ages with a full and round ‘throat-feel’.

In spite of the returning glue whiffs, this is a really nice dram. In fact, for me it was the winner of the day. Besides with independent bottlers, you will have a hard time finding any Glenturret that has been bottled as a single malt since most of their production ends in the blends of their Famous Grouse.

Arran – 1996-2013

56.3% abv, non chill-filtered, no caramel added

On the nose there is Arran whisky; round, caramel, sweet, red fruits that are traceable back in the dry taste, that also houses a spicy chocolate. It finished long and firm.

There is not much to say. If you have tasted Arran whiskies before, this is very recognisable as one. Not that that is a bad thing, because they have a great product, but I had expected something with more… punch. Maybe in this case she is just a victim of the previous dram in the class.

Bowmore – 1999-2011
61.2% abv,  non chill-filtered, no caramel added

A light medicinal scent on the nose, the expected mild peat, liquorice, soft (as in; nót sharp as expected from the high abv) and hints of briny sea breases. A honey sweet taste, also less spicy as expected, yet round and creamy, with a medium long (and there it is) spicy finish.
I am not a true Bowmore fanboy, but this is quite good.

Port Charlotte – 2001-2012
63.3%, non chill-filtered, no caramel added

Peat, oak, liquorice meet the nose and taste where the latter gets hold of the sweet honey and heather blossoms and gets spicy like white pepper. It finishes with a long, spicy, smoke aftermath.

A Port Charlotte as you know it, yet there is this extra sweet smoothness. Lovely.

We had a great time with the whiskies that were talked, sung and limerick-ed together by whiskybard Robin Laing. If you ever get the chance to enjoy one his sessions, make the time and let yourselves be entertained. Afterwards we hade the possibility to but one of his CDs, that he signed on the spot.

Whether you are a fan of his works or not, the CD adds to a great memory.



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