I organised a tasting last month for some folks who wanted a selection of "interesting" wines, rather than any regional or grape theme. We had a great discussion about wine in general, and afterwards one of them sent me a bottle from a producer I haven't tried. So I tried it, purely for the purpose of assessing the wine, of course, no actual hedonistic drinking involved.

The Bradgate Syrah 2007 is a densely purple wine, with the utterly characteristic South African nose of rubbery smoke - oh how I love it. Of course you can't say that when you are selling a wine, so let me add that it's sweetly fruity (plums, I think), a little savoury - like soy - and there's a touch of vanilla structure from the oak barrels.

On the palate it's rich and fairly sweet, again very South African, with smokey notes, a little herbal tobacco, and a touch of chocolate. It has a nicely drying finish, where the fine-grained tannins come through. Altogether good to excellent, 3-4, and by a happy coincidence, soon to be available from Oddbins.


Off to Alloa...

...for a charity fundraising whisky tasting. The six whiskies were all donated, so there was no theme, but some interesting contrasts arose anyway.

Tullibardine was mothballed in 1995 and did not produce whisky again until 2003, when they became independent. They have approached the problem of this gap in production (which leaves them unable to offer a ten year old whisky until 2013) and made a virtue of necessity by presenting the whisky as a Bourbon Cask Edition, which is rather like Hovis offering their bread as the Yeasted Edition. It's a light easy whisky which reminded me of Auchentoshan 10yo, being spirity and sweetly floral. Good, 3+.

Tormore 12yo and Dufftown 12yo (sorry Diageo, Singleton of Dufftown) were both very easy Speysides in the toffee-ish mode, although I did see an interesting herbaceous aftertaste in the Tormore. Bunnahabhain 12yo was also an easy malt, and tonight it seemed maltier than usual for an Islay whisky.

Lagavulin 16yo and Laphroaig Quarter Cask were a fine pairing. The Lagavulin (the oldest standard release of any malt?) is all smoke and brine and intense oily saltiness, but the Quarter Cask has reined in the usual Laphroaig TCP aroma somewhat, perhaps allowing the whisky to appeal to a wider audience. The texture, too, is easier -smoother- than the ten year old. Both these whiskies I rated as excellent, 4 to 4+.

The best description of the night, about the Lagavulin, was, "like a mixture of amyl nitrate, ether and methylated spirits", from a chap who claims that he fuels model airplanes with such a mixture.