The act of being able to be surprised is an odd one. People watch horror movies, believe in fanciful things, and overall will be ignorant to be surprised. It’s part of the human condition. It’s just part of us.
Others don’t like being surprised, or rather don’t actively try to search it out. As such, I was surprised to try two whiskies in the evening before St. Patrick’s day that blew my perception of whiskies wide open.
You’ll notice in reviews that I typically don’t add a lot of water. I typically sit back with a whisky for an hour and am able to pick out notes. If I add water, all the notes come forward that would have, and typically I end up with a watered down dram.
That’s my typical experience.
In the case of Glen Moray 1988 Jack Wieber Locomotive Breath, I ended up with something vastly different.
Instead, I ended up with a dram that was complex, though very one noted, which changed into a completely different dram when I added water to it. So two drams in one. Or a Transformer, but without whatever the hell Michael Bay does with them.
I’ll explain more in the dram.
Price: $369.99 CAD at Kensington Wine Market
Age: 27 years
Cask type: Bourbon Cask
Number of bottles: 154
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Grass/hay, a clean stable (Igor recommendation), pineapple syrup/Korean pineapple cakes
The initial nose of this dram is made up of barnyard elements, mixed with strong acidic notes, yeast, and cake.
Yes, there’s only three notes there. Yes, each of them is vastly different and made up of tiny notes that work seamlessly to create a complex nose.
With water: Fruit salad, now basil/light fennel balanced perfectly on a pasta sauce
But then you add water. Now it’s a general fruit, or rather what I typically note when I add water. And that’s normal, right? But here it’s not normal, because it’s more melon, cherry, pear notes. And then it goes into this perfectly made pasta sauce note that makes me want to be Italian because we know it’s only this good when nona makes it or you pay $30 a plate.
Taste: Black pepper, pineapple, honey roasted nuts, pear
So at first this tastes a little hot. It’s a nice mix though, smooth, and goes down well. Less complex than the nose, however I enjoy the tartness mixed with different notes.
With water: Fruit salad, cinnamon toast rye bread, maple syrup
But then we add water, and gone again is the pineapple, back is a fruit salad mixture of pear, melons and what not, and then blam! Black pepper to cinnamon is a norm, but bread? And rye notes? That’s odd. Not to mention a sweet, syrup note. Somehow more water made the mouthfeel thicker. I don’t get it.
Finish: Raspberry tart, brown butter, wheat/cereal
Finish has this amazing, thick syrup note of raspberry, then a nutty note of well done brown butter, all mixed with an ever-present cereal note. The finish goes for a long time, and is quite tasty, continuing on with nutty notes.
With water: Grape brandy, espresso, green wood/rosemary
But then you add water! And you get this evolution of earth, wood, and herbal elements, all mixed with grapes and brandy, which I put down as “Grape Brandy” but that’s silly because I believe that’s just called “brandy”. It’s a strong black grape note mixed with the brown sugar/heat of brandy.
Conclusion: So this made me rethink how I look at whisky, which is problematic after 980 reviews. Old TOModera would sit back and note that each of these are complex drams that have punchy note however aren’t too complex. And would give each one mid 80s.
But the fact they are both in the same glass, which means that if I used my old method, I’d either miss things or maybe I’d need 2 hours. And now I’m at a crossroads because I’m second guessing myself, even though I typically try most things with water and they don’t do this.
Then I’m having a anxious moment and then I buy a bottle of it because, well, it’s amazing, well priced, and I’m drunk… Then I’m freaking out because I didn’t plan on this but then again I’m fine to buy it and then again… fuck.
Alright. So let’s take a step back.
If you take each tasting note as a whole, this is an easy win for me. There’s no off notes. At all. There’s one or two light notes, which is the only reason I’m lowering it. But it’s magic. It’s evoking a sense of childlike wonder about whisky. Maybe because I’m kinda drunk and pre-drank for a tasting, but that normally doesn’t do it and if anything I become even more bitter the longer the day goes and the more I drink.
Alright, let’s take a step back again.
It’s complex. It does crazy things. It’s the best from the distillery. And it’s got a train on it, which my dad loves. I bought it. Others gave it a more fair review. This hits the right buttons. I dock 2 points for some simple notes and due to the fact that this is new for me.
Don’t judge me too much.
Scotch review #588, Speyside review #180, Whisky Network review #981