Review: A Passionate Pavlova

A couple of weeks ago I was following the Advanced Whisky Ambassador course in Zwolle – at the wonderful hotel Fidder – when I got to try this gem of a whisky for the first time. On the second day of the course our teacher (Bob Wenting from Comedus) had prepared a “wee” tasting of nine! different whiskies for us. And even though it was filled with heavy hitters, this was the one that just hit the spot for me. Such a beautiful and unexpected dram from this Lowland distillery.

Looking at the name on the bottle, I imagined that the SMWS tasting panel had been referring to Anna Pavlova and found that the dram danced on the tongue in the manner of the Russian prima ballerina of yore. When I googled “pavlova” though, I found out that it was also a meringue-based dessert, topped with an abundance of fruit. Reconsidering, I think that’s what the panel had in mind… they just hadn’t taken my lack of dessert knowledge into consideration. Anyway, all kidding aside. Know that I know what a pavlova is… let’s see if I can find some of those flavours in this dram!

Tasting Notes: A Passionate Pavlova – SMWS Society Cask 5.98
Stats:

ABV: 58,2% (116,4 proof)

Age: 18 years old

Distillery: Auchentoshan

Owned by: Beam Suntory

Category: Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Setting:

It’s been an odd day in the Netherlands. Code orange was announced because of the predicted heavy storms that would sweep the land. And yes… it was very windy today indeed. But, at the same time, it was sunny and warm. So, undeterred by the winds, I took the dogs out for a long walk. For me, it was the first long walk in a while, after having been cooped up inside with Covid for a week. Thankfully my smell and taste weren’t affected though and now that I’m better I can fully enjoy a wee dram again. I find myself very much looking forward to it, so I quickly poured the pale golden liquid into a Copita and set about writing when I got back home from my walk.

Nose:

I instantly get the pavlova now that I know that it’s a meringue. But if I were to describe it in my own words I probably would have gone with a macaroon. There are some blueberries on the nose as well and once I focus on that note, more fruity flavours start to come forward. Powdered sugar dried figs and fresh strawberries come forward too. There’s a creamy note to it as well, reminding me of a MonChou cheesecake. This is very much a cup of liquid dessert. Water doesn’t seem to take away any of the notes, but it adds some lavender for me. Especially the kind you’d find in your grandmothers’ soaps. Although I don’t feel entirely sure about that added note, I still think it’s an amazing nose over-all.

Palate:

The first thing that strikes the tongue as you take a sip is a thick and luscious honey, followed by a creamy mouthfeel that’s once again reminiscent of a heavy cream cheese (like MonChou or Mascarpone). On the back of the tongue a little bit of crushed black pepper shows up, but it fades as fast as it came. The powdered sugar dried figs are once again very present, and I find that I absolutely adore that note in this dram. But there’s also some hard mint candy, like a Christmas candy cane. The meringue note is much less noticeable on the palate. And instead, I find myself thinking of baking spices and “speculaas” a spiced biscuit type of cookie from the Netherlands. Water ramps up the sweetness a little and gives a major boost to the spice in this dram. Making the spice much more pronounced throughout the experience and almost turning it from a black pepper into a slightly roasted jalapeno.

Finish:

On the finish the flavours that make up a pavlova are once again a bit clearer. The meringue has returned and so have the blueberries, strawberries, and figs. There’s a bit of dark brown sugar that lingers here as well and as a completely new note I start to pick up on vanilla custard on the finish. The finish lingers for a very long time, and it remains as complex as the rest of this dram proved to be. The finish gets lengthened with some water and it brings forth a cinnamon note that I didn’t find before, adding to the complexity of this dram in a delicious way.

Verdict:

My palate was not off that day in Zwolle, as I’m once again falling head over heels for this dram. If I truly had to name one downside, it would be that the focus lies very heavily on the sweeter elements. But when it’s as delicate and well-rounded as it is in this dram, I don’t mind that one little bit. I would gladly pour myself a glass of this on a regular basis. I think the name Pavlova fits both because of the dish AND because of the ballerina, because this does indeed dance across the tongue. Imagine the liquid moving to a beautiful symphony and knowing exactly which spots on the palate to hit and striking them with deadly precision. I have no other words for it, this dram is a joy to behold.

Rating:

94/100

How did I know this bottling came from Auchentoshan? Just look at my list of SMWS codes here!

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