Just last week we were given a marvellous opportunity to taste 3 miniature samples of fabulous Malt Whiskies from a mail order company specialising in the “water of life” in all its various forms, www.masterofmalt.com and their new “Drinks by the Dram” concept.   This is a way of tasting some of the myriad of spirits on the market, including some exclusive blends put together for the online whisky specialist, but in diddy little 3cl “drams” from their global selection.   A chance to explore different styles before getting into serious investment with big bottles.  Also a super opportunity to discover that there ain’t no such thing as “just a Malt Whisky”!  If you’ve been a conservative sticker to the same old tried and tested favourite – a Macallan quaffer historically, for example, you might be enticed to try one of the many other similar (yet different) malts from the same region.  And yes, I did check, they are more than happy to despatch to us outcasts here in the South of France.   So here are the results of our little sampling session from the other night.    Curiously, although only teensy 3cl – still enough for a “dram” each, my handwriting for the tasting notes seem to have become discernibly more scrawlly and illegible as we progressed…….

1. Masters of Malt 12 yr old Islay

Definitely a smokey one! Quite vegetal with a hint of boiled cabbage (now come on you dedicated wine tasting students of FWW – you know by now that we describe aromas and flavours in ways that jig your memory bank and so don’t actually “taste” of that, in the strictest sense!!).  Also a bit “fishy” – like smoked mackerel (or an Arbroath Smokie for the real celts & Scotophiles out there).  A nice medicinal, herby taste with quite a peppery kick and generally “sweeter on the palate than the nose led me to expect”.  Probably my (Helen’s) favourite of the trio.

2. JW Dent Special Reserve Bourbon

For me this had aromas of honey and marmalade (almost Speyside like), a bit floral – maybe orange blossom?  Then the bit that makes Bourbon taste like it does….caramel and butterscotch (from the new toasted oak used for maturation) and rather delicate.  I also got something between a toasted muffin and a buttered crumpet – almost felt like I should be pouring the Dent Bourbon from a china teapot!! Not quite as much sweetness came through on the aftertaste and I had flavours of crystallised angelica and cinnamon and then, whoa “gunpowder” – like we finished cowboy style!

3. Smokehead

The smoke here is of the sweet variety and not as pungent as you might expect (not like the real “ashtray” ones you can get).   A nice hit of chestnut on the nose, plus a little iodine and seaweed, put fairly restrained. And this one does pretty much taste like it smells.  Some minerality adds itself to the smoke on the palate which is followed hotly by a bit of burnt rubber. Probably my least favourite of the trio – but hey, how would I have discovered that without tasting them in little shots? 

Helen Brotherton