Writeup by Luke Jones…
As we begin to exit lockdown and bars start to reopen their doors to willing punters, maybe now so more than ever, we begin to reminisce about those things we once took for granted. One of those such punters is James B who kindly offered to host the first of our “Members Series” where one of our Club Members takes us through some of their favourite drams. James was joined by Eddie, General Manager at Milroys as they discussed each of the whiskies as well as sharing their memories of one of London’s best whisky bars and what makes Milroys such an amazing place.
For those of you who are not yet well acquainted with James, Milroys has become a home away from home. He is based in Bristol but often works in London. If anyone needs to get hold of him while he is in the city he can always be found propping up the bar at Milroys. He has probably tasted most of the drams at Milroys if not all, so who better to select the top drams on offer.
Pre-lockdown members were also well versed with Milroys. TLWC has a long history with the whisky bar with many members frequenting the bar for a warm up tipple before a Club event. A big thank you for accepting our request to partake in the event and I’m sure you will all join me in looking forward to be raising a dram at Milroys in the near future.
The full line up for the “Memories at Milroys” was:
- 18Yr Braeval (Douglas Laing) – 48.4%
- 19Yr Royal Lochnagar (First Editions) – 55.5%
- 23Yr Bowmore (Carn Mor) – 56.6%
- 23Yr Royal Brackla Claret Finish (Cadenheads) – 52.9%
- 21Yr Ledaig Manzanilla Finish – 52.9%
The night kicked off straight into the first dram with James giving a history lesson about the connection of the names Braeval and Braes of Glenlivet and how the latter changed to the former back in the 1990s. The dram itself is one of James’ favourites indie distilleries and brings him back to about 12 months when he shared a Braeval with the master distiller of Santory at Milroy’s. For me this is what good whisky is all about. Besides the obvious, every dram has a story associated or a fond memory that we often recall when next having the dram.
While we all settled down to taste the first dram, Eddie (bar manager of Milroy’s) spoke about the history of Milroy’s and how it was originally a wine bar started by John Millory. This was at a time when single malts were still few and far between in London and Milroy’s is famed for being one of the first to introduce single malts into the market. When John’s brother, Wallace, joined the market started to flourish. In the early 80’s world-wide trade grew and they brother could even count the likes of Michael Jackson as a loyal customer. For a long time the brother held the record for the most expensive bottle sold, a Balvenie 50yr. As popularity grew so did the customer base and the likes of downing street becoming a customer. One could say an empire began to develop. In the early 90s they sold the company with the view to rebuy at some point in the future but things didn’t pan out as planned. The company changed hands a few times and the concept of a whisky bar was diluted until 2014 when the current owner bought the bar. What was a wine bar at the time within one year the bar become solely a whisky bar as it’s known as today.
Second bottle is another indie bottle. It’s a Diageo but a very small traditional style distillery and not what you expect from Diageo. James begins to reminisce back to when he first spotted Lochnagar and how Eddie was very excited by the bottle. All the bar staff loved the dram and it flew off the shelf in no time. Probably driven by the high recommendation of the bar staff.
The third bottle is the 23yr Bowmore. Another big recommendation from the staff at Milroy’s and of course James couldn’t resist. A bottle that opened his eyes to bourbon cask Bowmore. Its not a traditional heavy smokey maritime Islay but the bourbon cask works really well and adds a stubble difference.
Up next was the Royal Brackla. Previously a lot of the Brackla barrels were reversed for blends, but more recently there has been a push into single malts. In the 80s this was one of the distilleries that was mothballed. It closed in 1985 and didn’t reopened until 1992 and so tonight’s bottle would be some of the first liquid to come of the stills when it reopened. This is one of the first drams that Eddie recommended to James. Eddie used the dram to break the ice to a lonely drinker in an effort start a conversation. Eddie explained how this is an expensive dram so was left on top shelf for quite a while and the first time he tried the dram he wasn’t overlay impressed but the second time it was a whole new drink. And this is what a lot of us love about whisky, the setting, the company, your mood all play a large part in our thoughts and feelings towards the dram.
And the last dram for the night was the 21yr Ledaig. The only dram that is not a single cask but it is at cask strength. A limited released with the bottle not really hitting the shelves until early this year. James was fortunate enough to have a sample at Milroy’s just before lock-down back on Bimber cask release day after heading down to Bimber distillery in the morning to pick up a bottle. Back to Ledaig and due to the cost it was a case of not wanting to pull the trigger on a full bottle but James couldn’t resist when it could be purchased by the dram. And this is when James went off into dreamland over the nose of the dram. It was as if he thought he was back in Milroy’s tasting the dram for the first time again
Hopefully all the members enjoyed the walk down memory lane of when we could have a dram in a whisky bar was taken for granted and that every dram has its own story to tell.
One thing that was unanimous was that it’s very difficult to pick a favourite and even more difficult to rank from first to last. What wasn’t so difficult to predict was that at the end of the night some of these bottles would be sold out at all internet retailers.
18Yr Braeval – Luke
Nose: Apricot jam.
Palate: Nutty, almond, Bakewell tart, with sweet malt, cherry.
Finish: Cereal, honey hoops.
18Yr Braeval – James H
Nose: Vanila, woodspice and orchard fruit crumble.
Palate: Grapefruit, vanilla, peaches and cream.
19Yr Royal Lochnagar – Luke
Nose: Rhubarb and ginger.
Palate: Honey, apricot, fruit.
19Yr Royal Lochnagar – James H
Nose: Heather, vanilla, rhubarb and apricots. Light oak and a little marzipan.
Palate: Spicy and velvety at the same time. Rhubarb and custard. Drying but not tannic, more fluffy. Charred oak.
23Yr Bowmore 1995 – Luke
Nose: Little peat, delicate.
Palate: Pineapple cubes, Refresher bar, Smoked pear drops.
Finish: Smokey fruity floral spicy.
23Yr Bowmore 1995 – James H
Nose: Nutty with walnuts and almonds. Clean wood smoke. Citrus freshness. Mango, coconut and toffee.
Palate: Fizzy refreshers, fermented pineapple and a long lasting fruity finish.
23Yr Royal Brackla – Luke
Nose: Apricot and spice.
Palate: Peach, cream and sweet blueberry.
Finish: Wine cask funk and nutty.
23Yr Royal Brackla – James H
Nose: Oak forward. Raspberries, vanilla and laundry smellies.
Palate: Spicy, sweet blueberry, stone fruits and a touch of mint.
21Yr Ledaig – Luke
Nose: Burnt rubber, sweet peat, vanilla and spicy pepper.
Palate: Sweet peat, black pepper, dark fruit and caramel.
Finish: Sweet, pepper and spiced fruit.
21Yr Ledaig – James H
Nose: Rich peat. Earthy. Dirty. Smokey dark fruit and oxo cubes.
Palate: Medium viscosity, oil, diesel and smokey BBQ pork. Slight note of rubber but not in a sulphuric way.
The next club virtual tasting from the Glenallachie distillery is set be the evening of Wednesday 22nd July.