For some reason I’ve started coming into possession of miniatures. It’s quite nice really. It means people can give me alcohol without having to spend too much money. There’s far too little in those bottles for me to give each product its own post, but it doesn’t mean I can’t group them together. So I thought I’d look at miniatures this week.
Grant’s The Family Reserve (40%)
One of four old miniatures that were delivered to my work one day. When I say “old”, I mean the branding suggests these were bottled in the 90s and had been sitting in someone’s booze cupboard ever since… until the day the owner passed on and their son decided to put them in a jiffy bag and send them to me. Many thanks. I would be interested to find out how the contents might be different from the current incarnation, but I didn’t have the resources or inclination to buy a bottle for this.
I actually decided to try this one alongside Aldi’s Highland Black8, as I was conducting a blend test at the time. For the record, I have decided to include the results of this particular matching here and not in the earlier post because I’d already written the bulk of that one, and didn’t want to have to deconstruct and reconfigure it just for the sake of 5cl of cheap blended scotch.
My notes state that the Grant’s is lacking immediate sweetness, and is quite savoury. I concluded that the product must have improved since then, as I consider Grant’s Family Reserve to be half decent, low cost, entry level blended scotch. In comparison with the Highland Black, this miniature didn’t match up.
I’ve never bought a Macallan (except in a restaurant once), as it always strikes me as being more expensive than it should be – not that I based that conclusion on evidence of quality, more on comparable categories. A no age statement, entry level expression for example, shouldn’t be £37 to £42, while a 12 year old sherry cask finish shouldn’t be £60+ - unless it’s cask strength.
Perhaps I’ll change my mind if I do ever buy a bottle, but for now, this miniature is going to have to form my lasting impression. And in all fairness, it was a good impression.
Mortlach 15 (Gordon & MacPhail) (43%)
Impressing me more than the Macallan Gold however, was a miniature Mortlach 15, bottled by Gordon and MacPhail. A standard size bottle of this might be even more expensive, but I’d be more inclined to find out at this point.
Ardbeg 10 (46%)
I’m already a massive fan of this one, so it was lovely to receive it from a colleague who is from the magical island of Islay. I used it to help in my evaluation of Old Ballantruan, though I won’t ruin that upcoming post by revealing anything here – other than that Ardbeg remains a true gent among peaty malts – in fact, among any malts.
The first of the remaining three miniatures from the 90s. I’ve tried the standard Bushmills Original before, finding it average but acceptable, so single malt offering was intriguing, and I’m pleased to say it’s good. It has an inviting nose, and while it’s light-bodied, making it reminiscent of its blended cousin, there’s a lot to recommend it.
This one came in a little cardboard tube, which was a nice touch. I hadn’t seen this before, but a little internet research revealed that this expression preceded the 12 year old that we’re all so familiar with today. I drank it alongside a glass of today’s standard 12 year old, and my conclusion was that the Special Reserve was marginally better. It was lighter in colour and smelled younger and less rounded, while the 12 year old exhibited more sherry notes on the nose. In terms of flavour though, the Special Reserve tastes better than it smells – sweet and syrupy. The 12 year old brought to mind rubber and pears.
St Michael – you don’t see that anymore, do you? Do you remember? Yes, this used to be Marks and Spencer’s own brand – we used to get their crisps. And this is their version of a lowland single malt. Very interesting, and in fact, very enjoyable. I found it light, fresh and playful, though perhaps with an unfortunate finish.
Everyone knows the Smirnoff. This one came as a free gift with a bottle of Crown Royal I received at Christmas. I saved it for sipping in the car during our lift to the airport and, as such, it was very enjoyable.
What is it with salted caramel? It is so hot right now. This bottle formed part of a package that my sister sent over for my birthday. It was a nice idea to add one or two miniatures (and a beer) to the order, and one that gives me a chance to try something I wouldn’t normally bother going near.
Best served chilled over ice, says the website, so I popped this in the fridge for my Tuesday evening drinking session. I have to admit, I don’t like the smell. There’s just something dirty about it. The flavours are good though. It’s still not something I’ll be inclined to return to, but if you are a fan of salted caramel, I don’t think you could go wrong with this. Mrs Cake had a sip, and was suitably impressed.
I finished the evening with a slice of cake and a glass of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, which I’m afraid was a mistake. The sweetness of the vodka and cake hijacked the bourbon, dispersing its normally beautiful construction and making me consider tipping it back in the bottle for later. There was also an odd meaty smell hanging around, which I put down to the vodka… but equally, I suppose it could have been my clothes.
Hotel Chocolat Special Reserve Tawny Port (20%)
Another component of my birthday package, I looked this one up on the Hotel Chocolat site, and found that it is recommended to be taken with milk chocolate. I’ve often had a problem mixing chocolate and various other sweet things with alcohol, so this seemed a surefire way to get what all the fuss is about – an alcoholic beverage, sold by a chocolate producer for the express purpose of consuming with chocolate.
What can I say? It’s fine, like, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I enjoyed the port more when I drank it on its own. This whole combination thing just strikes me as another attempt to get consumers to engage with products. I like chocolate, I don’t normally like port – in fact, I think this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned it on this blog – but I did like this one, and it doesn’t need to be combined with the chocolate in order to impress. It is actually a little lighter in the body than other ports I’ve tried and, while I’ve been very impressed with the Hotel Chocolat chocolate I’ve had in the past, I felt this one, which was half white, half milk with like, a reindeer on it or something, was a little bland. Perhaps it is the fillings which normally make this chocolate so enjoyable.
So in conclusion, I didn’t feel these items complemented each other in the way they were supposed to. The port though: very nice.
You have to wonder how much of the money you’re spending on a bottle of Grey Goose is paying for the packaging, because the bottles are always impressive – frosted glass with a clear centre that serves to distort and enhance a colourful image that has been placed on the back of the bottle. I ask because Grey Goose is one of the well known premium brands here in the UK – you’re generally looking at £35 for the standard, unflavoured variety – and I can’t see anything special about its flavour.
Mrs Cake got this miniature when she purchased a bottle of the standard in Canada, probably around 2 years ago. Finally I got to snaffle it. I thought it was nice and sweet at first, but that impression quickly changed to one of childhood medicine. Sure, that might be nice enough to persuade a sick child to drink it, but it’s not something I want reflected in my spirits. I also got a bit of a bready taste somewhere in there, that served to ultimately make this a fairly unpleasant experience. Sure, it’s probably intended for use in cocktails, but if that is the case, that just makes it worse – you shouldn’t be paying £30 plus for something to make a slight difference to your cocktails.
Now, I see Grey Goose also produce a “VX” expression, which includes a “hint of precious cognac”. Sounds interesting, but inevitably over-priced to me… I’ll just have a look… yes, £90 for a litre. Fuck off.
That’s my recent batch of miniatures finished. I’ll start a new post as time goes on, and return to this theme some time in the future. Thanks for having a little read, and see you next week.