Thanks very much to Axel, Wolfgang and everyone else who helped organise this and for Rob for letting me have his place at the last minute.
This was very much a game of two-halves, with the Sandeman house-style rather dramatically changing in 1967. Before that, the wines were delicious; quite light and gentle, with caramel or toffee predominating over a long after-taste. I didn’t really see the strawberry which jdaw1 found, but I agree with the some-what paradoxically dry body under the layers of sugar. From 1967 onwards there was a little more bolder fruit with cherries and, quite unexpectedly, the strongest flavours of mint I have encountered in Port.
The very old Ports, up to 1911, unfortunately all seemed somewhat too decayed to be excellent drinking today. A slight exception was the 1911 which, although obviously damaged and almost madeirised, proved very nice. I suppose that just goes to show how much damage you can do to a Port before it becomes undrinkable! From then on, until 1967, the quality was extremely high in all years, with the major declarations (1963, 1955, 1945) being fabulous. The last half-century has been a bit tougher for the house and I wonder how well the 1997 and 1994 will be drinking in 20-years; they seemed rather light-weight to me. That said, even among the younger years, there were no unattractive Ports. I think Sandeman’s great strength is being able to produce something very good in both major and minor years and it is, perhaps, a shame that they do not have the market to allow them to do full declarations in every available year, as in the past.
One final thought; the glass-washing issue is becoming quite severe, since it requires two people to give up most of a day or three to give up most of an afternoon to get it sorted. I wonder if the organisers of the next big tasting should give some thought to hiring proper glasses to avoid this.