Masterclass - La Bevuta Degli Dei - Milano Whisky Festival - SOLD OUT

TASTING NOTES

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Undisclosed Distillery (40)

cask force: Milano Whisky Festival medley

[Our intrepid reporter Marco Zucchetti attended the Milano Whisky Festival: he’s back and ready to share his impressions with us. And we’re deeply grateful for this]


Sunday evening, after the final whistle closed the weekend at the Hotel Marriott in Milan, you could feel that particular sensation that every football supporter experienced at list once in a lifetime, coming back home from the stadium after an epic triumph: the simple joy of being there. The 14th edition of the Milan Whisky Festival indeed was a triumph for each of the 5,400 visitors. Two exhibition salons, 30 masterclasses and tastings, an increase of 10% in visitors, an touching tribute to Giorgio D’Ambrosio and a general great enthusiasm. A special moment. But moments are like Diageo Special Releases: if you’re not in the right place, you miss them. That’s why this isn’t going to be an accurate report on the Festival, because who was there already knows. And who wasn’t… well, shame on him! Regret, bitterness and vodka & Red Bull until the next edition is the punishment. We’re not going to write a “Best of” either, because it would be doing an injustice for many and because some malts are going to be reviewed on this site in the next few weeks…
So what? What is going to be this article about? A random memorandum? An
electrocardiodram? Risky whisky? Pretty Zucchetti? Yes, all of this. An
unpretentious medley of wonders, curiosities, masterpieces and delights we’re going to remember. And maybe we can no longer taste.

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PORT CHARLOTTE 15 yo (2019, Chorlton, 54,9%)

Brother-in-arms of the already reviewed Ben Nevis 23 by the same independent bottler, this single cask of peated whisky from Bruichladdich distillery was one of the most popular at the Festival. Maybe also because an anonymous reporter spent two days recommending it to anyone with a Jeovah’s witness’ insistence… The problem is that’s hard to find turbocharged peaty whiskies like this. The nose is impressive, it starts with kippers and a harsh seaworthiness: fishing vessels and diesel, but also creosote, seaweed and damp leather. With time, it becomes more aromatic and two-faced: on one hand bitter chocolate and licorice; on the other fresh herbs (thyme, sage and mint). Actually, there’s also lavender, as if someone got lost between Provence and Islay. On the palate is an uppercut of extreme sensations. The pure licorice hits you, the tar and the burnt wood knock you down, the bitter chocolate and the roasted chestnuts bring you back to life. You’re at the mercy of elements, on a rollercoaster of sweetness and oiliness (hazelnuts and Brazil nuts) alternating under this pungent and tangy smoke of burnt peat. The combination between chili and embers continues until the finish, with salmiak and gorgeous roasted chestnuts, again. Strong and complete, it owes nothing to the comfort. But it leaves you happily breathless, with butterflies in your stomach like the first love at the secondary school. And you feel lightweight facing the force of nature. 91/100

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TEELING SINGLE MALT 24 yo (1991/2016, OB, 46%)

It stood there, discrete and understated, away from its fancy and coloured competitors. A squared bottle, severe as a Prussian dignitary. It’s not easy to believe, but that almost anonymous bottle is the “Best single malt of the world” at
WWA 2019, the first Irish whiskey awarded and the oldest Irish on the market: a Teeling whiskey distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2016, after 20 years spent in a bourbon cask and 4 in a Sauternes one. Teeling is generally a super-gentle spirit and it doesn’t betray itself. But the unusual long maturation stresses the oily aromas: pecans and candlestick. It’s the classy lobby before entering the main olfactive room: an elegant fruity nose focused on sweetness (joys and sorrows of Sauternes casks…): apricots, peaches and pears in syrup. No peat, but a faint sense of far smoke… In mouth is surprisingly crisp, vibrant as a sparking sweet cider or a Moscato wine, and we swear we haven’t started drinking Prosecco yet. Fresh tangerine, light impact: the oak chiselled but didn’t distort the spirit, providing an aftertaste
of licorce and white pepper at most. A curious metallic taste: copper?
The finish is probably the most significant evidence of differences between Irish and Scotch, because it’s mild, fruity and gently vegetal, not exciting as the nose and the palate. It’s probably the only weak point. Because this Teeling isn’t probably the best of the world, but it surely shows grace and pleasantness. 87/100

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TOBERMORY 23 yo Tokaij finish (1996/2019, Wilson & Morgan, 58,7%)

Every year, the Wilson & Morgan’ stand is looking more and more like a veterans’ wall, with medals everywhere. The independent bottler from Treviso
usually brings to the Festival several new expressions, which fatally are awarded. It’s hard to pick one, like answering the greatest question: which is your favorite novel? You can’t think about it, you need to talk with heart.
Following our instinct, we choose this Tobermory 23 yo cask strength, finished in Tokaij casks: a dram that impressed the panel during the blind tasting, earning a gold medal. It’s clear right away this is not a drink for beginners. It starts winey and rather dirty, with notes of extinguished candle and copper, and a not-unpleasant moldy hint. The alcoholic structure is powerful, it gets milder with time but it allows a great aromatic intensity, a sarabande of flavors: licorice paste and toffee on one side, blackberries, dried figues and prunes on the other. In-between, all-spices powder (black pepper, caraway) and a hint of beef broth, distillery’s trade mark. On the palate it’s even more intense, a real supernova. The winey character becomes sweeter, like a “dessert dram”: sultanas, madeira cake and pecans. The sensation of concentrated fruit is still here, with blueberry jam and dried oranges. It’s oily, sophisticated, with divergent suggestions flickering all over: bitter cocoa, gunpowder, matches. Even Toscano cigar in the humidor. And – oh
Lord – there’s even a touch of violet. The finish is sweet and consistent, focused on toffee, dried apricots and matches again. We previously mentioned novels: a detective story is easy to read, but those you’re going to rememember are always the classics, which talk
about meanders of soul. This is not a classic – thundering and dirty, and the Tokaij’s influence could be divisive – but it certainly tell different stories without jarring. 89/100

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GLENCADAM SINGLE CASK 33 YO (1982/2016, OB, 53%)

It’s quite rude to arrive when a masterclass is just finished. Particularly if the speaker welcomes you saying “Hey, it’s already over!”. But you know free press has straight face and dry mouth, so we decided to sit down shameless. Even because Iain Forteath, Glencadam brand ambassador, is a nice man, selfless
enough to share with latecomers two unusual single casks: a 1989 vintage 28 yo
and this 33 yo distilled in 1982. Last one drinks better. We share the same birth year, so it’s love at first glance. On the nose, the tropical and fruity softness is astonishing, detecteable only in oldest maturation: guava, strawberry, ripe pineapple and banana. There’s also a
vibrant acidity, much more unusual in over 30 yo whiskies. Definetely sweet, if you close your eyes you suddenly remember marshmallows and candies at the luna park stand. This side is well-balanced by an elegant oaky influence (polished wood) and by a hint of walnut. Usually, venerable malts give their best on the nose. Actually, the really stunning experience is here on the palate. It’s pulpy and succulent, showing a subtle oiliness (almonds) and an exciting minty touch. There’s also fruits, dried plums and pineapple, again. The oakiness is increasing, the profile becomes more severe: cloves and wood prolong the finish, which – despite the juiciness – slightly set your teeth on the edge. If Glencadam distillery won two medals with its core range bottlings (gold medal to the 17 yo Triple cask Portwood and silver medal to the 21 yo “The exceptional”), just imagine how many prizes a single cask like this could win. A rare, graceful balance between fruit and cask, like a ballet etoile pirouetting on the stage. 91/100

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MORTLACH 22 yo “GIORGIO D’AMBROSIO” (1997/2019, Silver Seal & S.P. Murat, 56,9%)

And so it was that Giorgio D’Ambrosio’s blood turned into whisky. The transubstantiation took place Saturday evening, after the tasting of the Whisky
for You malts. After the fourth whisky, Simon Paul Murat surprised the audience with a celebrative bottling dedicated to the Milanese “Father of Single Malt”: 141 bottles from a Mortlach 22 yo cask, selected with Max Righi’s Silver Seal company. On the label there’s a drawing, a portrait of Giorgio that does no justice to his charm: come on, artists, Giorgio doesn’t use red lipstick! Anyway, we were not there to discuss art, let the whisky talk! And we pause in silence, because it’s suddenly clear this whisky lives up to Giorgio’s hype. The alcohol is almost absent, the first nose surprisingly reminds us to infused tea leaves and carcadè, giving wat to an aromatic vortex of ripe strawberries and hibiscus flowers. Under this dress is still recognizable the Mortlach’s DNA, with a dark, massive sherry influence: chocolate, leather armchair, tobacco and even a note of shitake mushrooms. While we’re writing this, the thundering voice of Giorgio echoes in our mind: “Stop being a nerd!”. He’s right, so let’s talk simple: a majestic nose, winey and not sweet at all. Closed drawers, blood orange Bitter and something intruiguing, reminding to
certain Armagnac. On the palate it starts tannic and astringent, a smack of pure licorice and bitter chocolate. The damp wood is now stronger, the winey side is now much more on the fortified wine side. Dried plums, blood orange, burnt strawberry jam and that unmistakable meaty hint, like gravy. The finish is unforgettable: oak, liqueur sweetness and red fruits jam. Simon says it’s easy to be enchanted by Giorgio, but it’s hard to find a whisky good enough to represent him. Mission accomplished, with a Mortlach whose nose and finish are frankly majestic. A palate a little too astringent doesn’t prevent it from entering the Olympus of the greatest, with Rivera, Baresi and
Maldini. 92/100

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BENRINNES 23 yo (1995/2019, Càrn Mòr, 48,8%)

On our fantasy’ stand, there’s every possible whisky. Some of them are real, some are still to come. So, when Fabio Ermoli pours a CocaCola coloured dram, you have to double-check if you’re awake or asleep. That’s not rare when you talk to the man of dreamy whiskies, that selects and imports fairy tales’ malts as
a Grimm brother would do with stories. Anyway, once upon a time there was a Benrinnes 23 yo Càrn Mòr: this beautiful girl felt asleep in 1995, spent 23 years in a sherry hogshead and Ermoli woke her up with a moustached kiss. End of the fairy tale metaphore. The first nose is dominated by a persistent, strong scent of tea leaves. It is definetely worth using the term “leafy”, because there’s also some damp tobacco
here. Sandalwood and resin, too. Really rare nose, forest-like and autumnal. Under this layer, nice notes of dried fruits: cherries, plums and bergamot peel. The alcohol is well-integrated and almost impossible to note. With time, something floral (magnolia?) pops up and dried apricot hint gets more intense. And finally comes the wood, in form of shoe polish. You can spend hours sniffing this stuff. It’s also rather surprising on the palate. Such an incredibly dark color would suggest a monstrous oakiness, but it tastes juicy instead. Zero astringency, no
tannic at all. Apricot is still the main character on the stage, with its slightly acidic touch. An ongoing sign of vitality, because also the winey side – here more evident – shows a nice acidity: a raspberry wine, perhaps? As said, the wood is not overwhelming, but in the aftertaste the tea comes back. Peach tea, to be precise. Alcohol still absent, and that’s good. But it probably lacks an extra touch of intensity. Finish is middle-long and consistent: tea, baked peaches, strawberry and not-
too-bitter chocolate. It’s at the same time unimaginably easy to drink and beautifully complex, from tea to stone fruits. This is a unique sherried malt, never annoying. And everyone lived happily ever after. 90/100

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SIERRA NORTE Mais morado (2019, NAS, OB, 45%)

First mexican whiskey is never forgotten. It comes from Oaxaca, land of mezcal and Zapotec furious gods, used to sending monsters, snakes and tornados when something doesn’t go as they like. So we approach this dram with a blend of curiosity and concern. The underlying idea is to distill separately different varieties of ancestral corn, grown in these mountains without GMO: we taste the “Maiz morado” version, with 85% of the mash from purple corn (there are also yellow, black and white corn versions). The impact is a bit unsettling. You actually smell the corn, the sweet cereal
notes of bourbon are recognizable. But they’re not shining. There are some dirty shadows, like warehouse or hessian, and a strange spiciness, maybe dried beans? It’s not unpleasant, but unfathomable. On the palate, however, something bad happens: the alcohol is really harsh and the expected mellowness is covered by the young spirit’s exuberance. Official tasting notes suggest “a buttery and soft palate”: it’s a bit optimistic… There’s some banana, a hint of Angostura, a lot of vanilla and caramelized sugar. The finish is quite long, but monopolized by an alcoholic burn. The cereal influence is strong and gives the spirit a peculiar profile, rather different from the usual bourbon. A brave whiskey, but it lacks maturation (and finesse), so the potential is unexpressed. On the contrary, it could be interesting in mixology. It was worth tasting it, but we leave it to bartenders. Suerte! 74/100

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