The first meeting of 2015 has set a high standard for the rest of the year. Three excellent whiskies were showcased – a Signatory bottling of 22 YO Ben Nevis bottled at 46% ABV, a bottle of Inchmurrin 18 YO at 46% distilled at the Loch Lomond distillery, and a bottle of Glendronach 15 YO also at 46%. All of these bottles retail at around £55. A bottle of Glen Marnoch 18 YO 40% ABV remaining from a previous meeting made up an enticing foursome.
Signatory Ben Nevis – Light gold in appearance with some grassy and citrus fruit notes; oak developing when a few drops of water are added. Very smooth on the palate, some pepper with hints of light fruit and oak followed by a medium finish of lingering pepper and oak. A whisky to share with good friends.
Inchmurrin – Very light straw in colour, maybe suggesting that it wasn’t matured in first fill casks and certainly no added artificial colour. A vaguely unpleasant nose reminiscent of rotting vegetative matter, maybe a seaweed strewn shore – one of us summed it up as old boat rope! The taste was, in contrast, surprisingly complex and mellow with citrus fruits, toast, and blossom underlined by a slight saltiness and a lingering finish. A whisky for contemplation.
Glendronach – This is a highly regarded whisky and it didn’t disappoint. Matured in Oloroso sherry casks this is a real sherry monster with trademark dark fruit and toffee on the nose. Very smooth on the palate with raisins, figs and toffee coming through strongly - almonds in there too. A sweet and pleasing finish rounded the experience off very nicely. A whisky to savour.
Glen Marnoch – A bit of a wild card this one, hailing from an un-named distillery and sold by Aldi at the princely sum of £25 a bottle. Golden in colour with sherry notes to the nose - maybe a touch of bubble-gum and some musty notes there as well. Reasonably sweet in the mouth with dark fruit flavours coming through and a middling slightly peppery finish. All in all a little one- dimensional. A whisky for adding to the Christmas cake or pouring over the pudding!
With three splendid whiskies in contention the straw poll at the end of the evening was always going to be very interesting. In first place with a comfortable margin was the Glendronach. Second place was very close with Ben Nevis taking it by the smallest margin from the Inchmurrin. Languishing in fourth place was the Glen Marnoch. Don’t let that put you off – it was in very accomplished company and if you’re looking for a cheap 18YO whisky you won’t go far wrong.