Wednesday, 4 January 2017

SMWS January 2017 Outturn

IMG_0953January’s outturn doesn’t usually include laurel resting or slowing down ever, apparently things don’t get quiet until February at the bar – it seems that whisky enthusiasts aren’t done until Burn’s night!

This is really a very good outturn, a masterclass in young first fill bourbon for quite a lot of it.  Selection of really good casks is what the tasting panel is for after all.  There’s some mucking about with crazy casks in here as is now to be expected and in the main they work really well too.  There’s also a fair few interesting or firsts here including the first Tomatin in 6 years (according to Chris), the first gin cask (finish I think), the first VO finish Arran that I’ve heard of and the first refill Oloroso finished in PX that I’ve heard of.  And there is a truly remarkable Glen Grant that I’ll be under starters orders to buy on Friday morning. Other than that my main recommendations are the Dailuaine, the snogfest Glen Moray, the Ardmore and the VO Aultmore.

Cheers!


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SMWS G7.12, Girvan, Thumbs up all round, 23 years old, 58.6% A⊕

22nd September 1992, 192 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead. "After spending 22 years in a refill hogshead it was transferred to a 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead for the remainder of its maturation."

IMG_0948Nose - An extremely promising start to January's whisky schedule, for some reason this reminds me very heavily of being in The Vaults in Leith. It's bright, slightly clarty, and plasticky (like wood glue is), with a really wonderfully balanced, sweet grain backing.  And topped out by floral notes - Turkish Delight, strawberry laces. Very woodwork class though, or perhaps it's like having the woodwork done on your windows - sanded wood and gloss paint. With water, slightly more floral, some custard and a better integrated grain and sweetness. After tasting, lots of milk chocolate. Just beautiful.

Body - Intensely, unexpectedly sweet, and quite hot, with refreshers, more strawberry laces and fence panel. Late in the delivery, Hershey's "chocolate" (not quite sweet, slightly fake and woody) and licked perfume. There is a lack of integration between the grain and sweet chocolate malted notes neat but that's fixed with water, which brings stronger tannins and more structure too.

Finish - Long with sweet coffee and chocolate hundreds and thousands (is that what they're called? I'm recalling them round a French bakery cake which is a ball of cream filled meringue covered in them). Spicier with water, and longer too.

A really delicious, interesting drinker, and a good balance between grain (floral, yellow wood) and sweeter notes from the cask and presumably its previous inhabitant. Better with water. The year of the grain continues.

BUY

SMWS 85.45, Glen Elgin, The lemon rocket ship, 8 years old, 61.8% A+

25th October 2007, 210 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0949Nose - Lemon fluff, cloudy lemonade, chalky bonbons (that hit me first), smelling a pot of tic tacs but… not all sweetshop. Balanced by a typical earthy sweetness, like melon, like grapefruit juice, or fresh new potatoes. Fresher and waxier with water, more like polos than tic tacs. Young whisky with a nose this confident is so fantastic, fingers crossed.

Body - Sweet, then minty and chalky again, with unlit menthol tobacco and liquorice, charred red chilli and finally grapefruit zest. With water, there's more wax in the profile, which brings together the burnt chilli, sweetshop and fruit.

Finish - The charring continues, unexpectedly, with more fried chillies, burnt candle wax and blackened red pepper skin. Menthol verging on toothpaste at the end.

Quite hard to stop sipping this, particularly with water. Young but confident, vibrant and a little challenging, this is a must have on the bar and an interesting one for home too, if you’re not already overloaded with great, young single cask whisky.

BUY

SMWS 11.32, Tomatin, Cirque de Saveur, 8 years old, 61.6% A+

6th June 2008, 252 bottles, first fill bourbon.

IMG_0951Nose - Sweet cereal, chocolate covered marshmallow, dried apricot and very clearly then, magic balloons. Prunes in chocolate? Warming spices (ground ginger, cinnamon, very light clove) in the chocolate. It's another lovely young confident one on the nose, more obviously fruit forward than the Glen Elgin but not quite so interesting or complex. Cleaner and more floral with water, mint and waxy again.

Body - Spicy - hot peppermint - and almost meatily rich and intensely sweet, like Moroccan hot chocolate with clove in it. More balanced and less challenging with water, hard candy shell and Werther’s originals, extremely chewy.

Finish - Deep, very sweet and long and hot, with toast and honey and liquorice root. Long and astringently sweet with water, with mukhwas and refreshers.

Maybe I'm just in the mood for whisky today but hard to stop sipping on this one too. I like the balanced clove notes in here, quite a Moroccan feel to it, but really, really sweet too.  As for it being the first Tomatin in a while, this is good and worth having for the novelty of that alone, but this isn’t remarkable otherwise.

SMWS 7.158, Longmorn, All fired up, 11 years old, 61.3% A+'

7th September 2004, 186 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0950Nose - Squeezed orange juice and coffee, brioche toast, fresh flowers and more minty young malt. Quite arboreal though, fresh mossy bark, humus and clean air. Behind this there's the more obvious sweetness, like foam bananas, but it's held in check by that earthy tone - window putty, coffee. I like it.

Body - Rich, complex and enticing. Werther’s originals again, rolling into peppermint creams and dandelion stalks, but that richness is like a café latte and a slice of chocolate cake. More floral, more perfume with water. Retronasal grapefruit pith.

Finish - Long, quite dry and mouth filling, but sweet and chalky - in the same way that extra strong mints chewed are. Lasting, numbing astringency like a mouth full of rolling tobacco.

Really tasty this one, and solid choice for a rich, rolling and interesting young Longmorn for your shelf. Coffee and sweetly rich on the nose, full and balanced on the delivery. Delicious. I'm definitely in the mood for whisky today.

BUY

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SMWS 41.84, Dailuaine, Laundry lady lets hair down, 11 years old, 60.6% A⊕

4th March 2005, 210 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0955Nose - Rich and classical, blackboards and passionfruit, milk bottle sweets and piña colada. Chalk dust rather than chalky, acrylic rather than gloss paint, neat Vimto. This would appear to be another little cracker.

Body - Fizzing and sharp in the initial arrival, then rich and milky, with gooey chocolate puddings, pain au raisin, orange and mango juice and pineapple sponge pudding. Slightly more sharp and structured with water.

Finish - Long and sweet/sour, with chewed orange peel and pips and caramelised sugar (so, marmalade then).

That sour tone after the initial fizzing/sharp arrival is extremely compelling and it is very hard to stop sipping this indeed.

Highly recommended, another great society Dailuaine.

BUY

SMWS 36.113, Benrinnes, Sawmill in a summer meadow, 13 years old, 57.9% A+

23rd April 2003, 234 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0956Nose - Lighter and a lot less exciting than the Dailuaine (the perils of big flights), this is back into chalky bonbon territory with lemon tart, mint Pacers and the ghost of a curly wurly. Actually with time there's more interest - lots of chocolate but also blackcurrant jam, poached pear and something herbal, like old dried oregano. More Mexican chocolate with water, really ripe.

Body - Big chocolate, then strikingly astringent with cigar tobacco, black pepper crisps and dark roasted coffee beans. Much more complete and fruity with water.

Finish - Medium, slightly spicy, fruity and sweet with Haribo, Amarula, black pepper and sawdust. Really gets you in the side of the mouth with sweet, fruity tannins with water.

I think the initial restraint was just a newly opened bottle. This turned into quite a big, fruity dram.

SMWS 35.156, Glen Moray, A sweet and cereal snogfest, 14 years old, 60.2% A+'

2nd November 2001, 186 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0957Nose - Now things are starting to get interesting.  This is darker, more toffeed with birthday candles, candied orange slices, New World hop pellets and very old Calvados. I can see why it has snogfest in the title, it smells like teenage girls and cherry lip gloss. And I am remembering that from being a teenager myself, before you think badly of me!

Body - Yikes, another fruit bomb - neat kia-ora but with an odd virgin oak twang. There's quite an insistent seam of that behind the lemon and orange curd - sour and fizzing wood, cigar tobacco and tar, coffee grounds, soft liquorice. Sweet, sour and wood - intense, quite strange but rather good. With water, things crash a little - the sugar is a bit runaway and the integration falls apart. The extra strong mints are back though, as are the hop pellets.

Finish - Sweet but quite intense soft liquorice, lots of wood (not convinced this hasn't had a brief trip through one of the weapons grade VO casks at SMWS). The wax is back at the end, this was either a very strong cask or an interesting combination of casks, you're left with lots of tannins and oils.

I do love society Glen Morays and this is another one that challenges and interests, I might need to get one. A complicated whisky in the same way that young children are sometimes a bit complicated. One for the bar, but you might fall in love with it.

BUY

SMWS 35.178, Glen Moray, The dunnage bakehouse, 13 years old, 58.3% A+

13th December 2002, 294 bottles, first fill gin hogshead. That's a first! I can't find any evidence of this being a finish in the notes or literature but I would assume so.

IMG_0958Nose - Initial impression is that this is much younger and hollower than the 156 with hints of virgin oak. Given time though and the expected intense sweetness starts to poke through, and then this has perfume, dried rose petals, sandalwood, kendal mint cake, furniture polish and dried orange and lemon peel. I might be imagining it but those peel notes are a little gin-y. Interesting…

Body - Balanced, floral and intense with more grapefruit peel, stewed tea, sweet pastry and this quite sharp astringency poking me in the back of the throat. I suspect what I'm getting is first fill bourbon Glen Moray with retronasal gin cask. It's more chocolatey with water, more FF bourbon.

Finish - But in the finish that spikiness starts to integrate better - quite a long, interesting finished with chewed flower stalks and lime. More coffee and pastry at the end. Very drying with water.

A confusing whisky, intense and uncompromising whisky and (what I believe is) the gin finish works quite well with the herbal and citrus peel notes balancing that intense sweetness. Definitely have a go on it at the bar, it's not as obvious as you might hope but it does add a certain something.

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SMWS 7.160, Longmorn, Ending a perfect day, 23 years old, 55.5% B+

20th April 1993, 204 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0960Nose - Gentle pastry, granite, hints of petrol, Sauternes and sealing wax. Carrot cake with buttercream icing, sweetly ozoned. Good to be back in the land of the subtle - dried earth round a potato, petrichor, snapping green beans and subtle, mature toffee cask.

Body - Sweet but herbal, an odd lack of midrange but with more bloody coffee and fruit tart. There's chocolate now and toast but it is a little… ordinary, like an over-watered whisky or an over-attenuated beer. Slightly better with water, more astringent and confident.

Finish - Very long, with icing sugar, fizzers and vodka. A very refill bourbon barrel.

Poor expectation management perhaps but this is a lacklustre cask.

SMWS 9.114, Glen Grant, Manzana Verde Daiquiri, 23 years old, 50.6% A⊕+

16th November 1992, 138 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0961Nose - Balance in the universe is restored. Classy, complex and fruity on the nose, but waxy and gentle. Toffee apple, candied peel, smouldering apple wood (without the smoke), Cheerios and triple sec.

Body - Wow… apple wax, Mexican hot chocolate, cloves again and licked joss sticks. Strangely alien but absolutely delightful, it's alien in the same way I think of 26yo Bowmore as alien - very sweet but oddly dry and tannic, fizzingly white but deep and weird. Most whisky doesn’t taste like this. More tobacco with water, orange pith and less chocolate.

Finish - Kind of short in the "main" finish, but quite long with repeated sipping and clean yet oily. A little cross channel ferry with neat orange squash. Very zesty at the end.

A remarkable whisky. I don't usually go in for Glen Grant (although I recognise the quality and respect the majority opinion that it's generally awesome) but this I will definitely be picking up.

BUY

SMWS 55.43, Royal Brackla, In the share of the fruit tree, 15 years old, 57.6% A⊖

26th September 2000, 192 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead. No mention of finishes in the notes but again I would assume this was briefly finished in Sauternes after refill bourbon.

IMG_0962Nose - Should have had this before the 23 year olds but I feared a sulphured cask. No hint of that here, but this is a bit of a climb down from the 9. Hot wort, freshly baked sponge cake, then metal rulers, new plastic figures (I've got a he-man in mind for some reason) and just set UHU glue.

Body - Much more interesting in the delivery, a really good intense sweetness, but balanced by sour wood and cigarettes. With time the sweetness becomes a little artificial, striking an unhappy note with the tobacco - an effect that's amplified by water.

Finish - Medium and with more of that lingering sweet but slightly fetid wood - last night's ashtray and whisky and port glasses, butter just turning sour. It really does remind me of diet coke after a while - at times it's vibrant and fruity but sometimes you just really feel the artificial sweetener and that effect is most apparent in the finish.

Hopes were raised briefly on the delivery here but this doesn't stand up to an outturn this good.

SMWS 46.47, Glenlossie, Mexican Breakfast, 14 years old, 59.8% A+

31st May 2002, 600 bottles, 1st fill PX Butt. "After 13 years in an Oloroso sherry butt, we transferred this whisky directly into a 1st fill Pedro Ximenez butt for the remainder of its maturation." - so Oloroso then FF PX, another first (AFAIK?)

IMG_0963Nose - Bright and sweet, not the nutty Oloroso fest I was expecting, although there's definitely an interestingly savoury edge to this, I might venture corn tortillas/masa harina given the name. And now we're auto-suggesting I'd give in to some fresh coriander leaf, avocado and squeezed lime. Forget that for a second - there is sherry cask here, classy society stuff, but it's fleeting and hard to separate the sherries. And I can smell the PX too but how odd for them to combine in such an evocative, savoury way? More tobacco with water, wet charred wood and blackcurrants.

Body - Retronasally arresting, there's the Oloroso but it's having its punches pulled by the PX again. Nutty but fruity, with sherbet dibdab stick, midget gems, wood varnish and bong water.

Finish - Very long and nutty, more avocado and corn tortillas, Mexican rice and cough sweets.

A very strange but exciting whisky. I'm tempted to deploy the A? score again but this isn't as weird as 7.154 in December.

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Ordinarily we would be working up to the Laphroaig at the end (perhaps saving room for a young peated bunna at the very end) but this is 21 and I'm not risking my palate on a flight this size with a 66 sulphur risk and two virgin oaks.

SMWS 29.197, Laphroaig, Stairway to your imagination, 21 years old, 58.2% A⊕’

4th April 1995, 186 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0965Nose - Room filling peat. Sweet, medicinal, crushed shells on inhale, fetid and slightly rotten on exhale (you know I mean that kindly). This is pretty old school Laphroaig, a little like you remember (TCP) but more like it really (probably) was (old bandages and fizzing sweets). There's also lemon sherbets, apple sauce, natural firelighters and capers. Waxier and fruitier with water.

Body - Wow.

Really intense and fetid, just need to try that again.

Very sweet, fizzing lemon and refreshers, alien Islay and smoked joss sticks, apple chews and black pepper. Retronasal burning hair and plastic, but it blends well into the sweet old Islay and fruit. The late delivery is all about stewed builder's and raspberry tea. The whole thing is even better with water, it takes the edge off the char and leaves more of the medicinal Laphroaig.

Finish - Very, very long, massively tannic with burnt toast, charred lemon, joss sticks and then orchard fruit and hops. A study in black. Practically Bretted, horsey, funky and charred wood, numbing waxes.

The first sip of this took me about 3 minutes to recover from. The second was a revelation - I'd forgotten what the delivery was like after 3 minutes of that finish. I just love the nose and initial delivery on this, but the finish is enormous, and extremely challenging. The fly in the ointment is the amount of charred wood in here, it detracts from the sweet alien Islay and medicinal qualities that I love. But make no mistake, this is a big, important Laphroaig with some fascinating, waxy, fruity cask tempering big, brutal, medicinal spirit.

BUY

SMWS 66.94, Ardmore, Fire-roasted Sweet Potato, 11 years old, 60.2% A⊕

21st June 2005, 150 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0966Nose - A bright, young peater. Cut lemon, cut pineapple, buttercream icing and ozone, against sweet coastal peat. Blackcurrant glaze perhaps? Hard to follow that Laphroaig but this obviously has balance and a lovely peat character. Warmer with water, musky Chardonnay.

Body - Amazingly this has managed to follow the Laph! A big, sweet, lemony peat hit, with white wine, aspirin, hair gel and fried prawns with lemon zest. Even better with water, funkier and fruitier, refreshers and cheap apple juice.

Finish - Long but slightly bitter and hollow compared to the technicolour delivery, but lime juice and coriander leaf pick things up, I don't want to head back into the Mexican breakfast auto-suggestion-cycle though.

Unexpectedly, deliciously complete as a whisky, and that's as whisky 14 after that colossal Laph. Highly recommended.

BUY

I really don't know where to put these Virgin Oak casks. Put them before the peaters and it cuts the flight short (in November and December I kept having to split the flight), but is it fair to have them after the likes of Laphroaig, Caol Ila and Bowmore? Can a 14 year old Aultmore that briefly met a VO cask stand up to a 29 and then a 66? I will do my best.

SMWS 73.80, Aultmore, Trip the light fantastic, 14 years old, 59.3% A+'

4th September 2002, 210 bottles, VO, MT HC. "After spending 13 years in an ex-Bourbon hogshead it spent the remainder of its maturation in a Virgin oak hogshead."

IMG_0967Nose - Sweet, I would have called it refill sherry before the encroaching VO cask. Herbal and waxy, this has handwash, lavender, dried cherries, orange peel and big yellow wood on it. Actually this might be quite interesting…

Body - Unexpected and quite exciting, with massive orange zest, cut oranges, custard and lemon curd. A touch of tobacco with water and… biscuits.

Finish - Very clearly something to do with oranges that I can't quite put my finger on.

It's when you add "zest and juice of one orange" to the Christmas pudding I think. It's that, right to the end.

When these VO finishes work they really do work. An unexpected hit, highly recommended bar and bottle.

BUY

Last one. An Arran in VO with a name like that? Good luck kid…

SMWS 121.96, Arran, Afternoon cream tea, 16 years old, 53% A

20th April 2000, 168 bottles, VO, HT MC. "Following 15 years in an ex-Bourbon hogshead this was transferred to a virgin oak hogshead for the remainder of its maturation."

IMG_0968Nose - Sweet, fruity and creamy, like strawberry jelly and double cream. Crayons and orange squash, and kids bubble bath. Baked plum tart with water.

Body - Weird and wonderful. A car crash on the palate at first (jarring wood, fruit and a light funk), that separates into bright orchard fruits, cookie dough, then fly spray, then fresh tobacco, then posh apple juice.

Finish - Surprisingly short, but quite compelling with more of that VO orange and cherry, and stewed tea. There's a burnt pastry note here at the end which is rather attractive.

A transatlantic experience, Arran is struggling to keep its head above water and so it's a bit of a clash but it's worth it. It's more Arran than the Aultmore is Aultmore. One for the bar, again you might fall for it but I would struggle with a bottle.

I think I’ll keep putting the VO finishes at the end, that worked quite well, but it makes for an intense flight!  Happy New Year all…

Friday, 23 December 2016

Cadenhead’s Edinburgh shop, Springbank 19 years old

This was a special release for the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s shop back in August.  I made notes back in October after we split one, but got distracted and just found them.  This was one per customer and sold out quickly back then, but you might find it in auctions, well worth seeking out (these shop selected casks are always amazing).

Remember next year is the 175th anniversary at Cadenhead’s, so there will be much, much more of this kind of thing happening!  Can’t wait.

Springbank Cadenheads 19 years old, 53.4% A⊕+

13900082_628062357370222_1760641783453774481_nNose - Complex, robust and elegant. Perfumed, parmas and peat. And Parma ham? Springbank ages so quickly! It's like an old Caol Ila but gentler, with crab apple jelly and preserved lemons. Chalky bonbons round out this slightly baffling but incredible nose. Even better with water, with oaked white wine and fizzers.

Body - Heavily peated with bags of fruit and boiled sweets, but really gently balanced somehow too - apple pie and custard, salted caramel. Waxed apples, swimming pool, tooth coating tannins. You can't find whisky like this made in Japan.

Finish - Very, very long. Gunpowder, more jelly and toast with pate, sandalwood joss sticks at the end.

What a complicated, fruity and deliciously old peated whisky. So complete, so much fecundity. Imagine just tripping over that in the warehouse one day! Fantastic stuff.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Douglas Laing Grains

This was a tweet tasting that Douglas Laing, in typical fashion, really pushed the boat out on with the packaging and samples – four grains with matching (and very posh) confectionary.  I don't really hold with whisky pairings but somehow this was more special.  Grains seem to go very well with pastry and sweets and these were very good grains and very good sweets!

Unfortunately I had to miss the actual tasting due to work and life getting in the way (as seems to be the case with all tweet tastings recently, I very sadly had to miss the Balcones one this week to a wedding on a Monday!) but that means I put my effort into writing these notes later and without distraction.

Old Particular, Lomond Grain, 19 years old, 51.5% A+

Refill hogshead DL11184

loch-lomond-19-year-old-1996-cask-11184-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Beautifully sweet, sharp and cakey, with men's perfume, icing sugar, orange squash and weirdly, on exhale, the sweet crust of a slow roasted lamb shoulder. The wood here is perfect, after sipping there's almost liquorice, with warm radiator and beeswax. Really compelling.

Body - Great balance of robust grain and really rich, fatty banana fudge. Simple but just delicious to drink.

Finish - Medium long with soft vanilla oils throughout.

A really lovely character to this easy drinking but structured grain, I'd happily settle into a bottle of this.

With "mini Christmas cakes" - incorrectly. The two certainly play off each other nicely, I think the cake is enhanced by the whisky, but the whisky is better on its own. Excellent eating experience though!

Old Particular, Cambus, 24 years old, 51.5% A+

Refill hogshead DL1172

cambus-24-year-old-1991-cask-11172-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Bright with green apples, candy cigarettes and fruit polos. More perfumed than the Lomond (and more complex, mature cask) but with a sweeter, fudgier note. It is also lovely, this year really has been a good year for grains! With time there's something like toilet freshener (in a good way), and warm dessert wine. There is a good funk on the nose here too - big fat crayons and buttercream icing. Better with water; more fruit, more wax.

Body - Lots of apples in the delivery, really creamy, slightly odd, like Cajeta (goats milk caramel) on crackers.

Finish - Quite short, slightly mini-milky, I'm back with the fruit polos.

Another great drinker. Slightly more interest to it but a little less robust.

With "crème brulee chocolate cups" (which are f'ing delicious), the apple notes of the whisky become the backbone of the intensely creamy chocolates - the chocolate wins on the finish but the whisky ties the whole thing together.

These cup things are superb with peated whisky too, there's a delicious crunch that really goes well with them - where can I buy these!

Xtra Old Particular, Garnheath, 42 years old, 44.5% A⊕+

Refill barrel DL11209.  Another one of these over 40 Garnheaths!

garnheath-42-year-old-1974-cask-11209-xtra-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Dark and winey, with red cherries and big, deep waxes. Quite a step up from the Cambus, this has blood orange, furniture polish, royal icing, black forest gateaux, stewed red peppers in red wine and the general demeanour of a properly important whisky. The grain character is a bit of a footnote here - dried fruit, earth, cut flowers and cask are centre stage.

Body - Big and ripe - bright red lipstick, chupa chups and now the grain comes to balance things out - slightly sour yellow oak, a new ream of printer paper, candy cigarettes.

Finish - Medium, more paper, a hint of fly paper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I didn't get to add water to this one. Big and bold on the nose, hard but interesting grain on the delivery. Delicious.

With "spiced Christmas fudge" - incorrectly. This works amazingly, it makes the fudge taste like chocolate. And it removes all the paper and makes the whisky taste almost sherried. I bet the tiny Christmas cake would have been even better though!

Xtra Old Particular, Invergordon, 50 years old, 49.7% A⊕⊕

Refill hogshead DL11182.  Douglas Laing really know how to knock it out of the park. 

invergordon-50-year-old-1966-cask-11182-xtra-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Less exciting on the nose than the Garnheath (more restrained), but fresher and with an even more complex style. More plastics, more plasticine, more clay. Overripe, browning apple, roasted pineapple and melted crayons.

Body - Ah… that is enormous. The pineapple comes first, then pancakes with maple syrup, then light peat and bananas.

Finish - Very long, very fruity. Extremely drying too. Waxes and floral notes keep trying to peak out from the cask but they're overpowered by tannins and wood (in a delicious, highly compelling way). This is a finish that speaks directly to your hind-brain. Your hind-brain wants another sip.

An extraordinarily compelling whisky, excitingly pitched with a real peat hit about it. I love it.

With "barley sugars and christmas flavoured hard candies" - I went with the barley sugar. Which is remarkable for some reason I can't quite fathom - it's a simple block of almost pure sugar, but has real complexity (slightly medicinal, woody). Where do you get incredible sweets like this? Anyway, with the whisky, it's almost pornographic on the nose - this is most unexpected - I probably should keep this to myself. Much, much younger on the delivery with this weird, austere, simple/complex sweet in my mouth. Makes me feel younger!

An unexpectedly fascinating and exciting whisky pairing and some great whiskies here.  I would recommend the Lomond and the Invergordon if you can push the boat out to it. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Macallan Edition #2

IMG_0721I’ve had this one a while and split it with a few friends (as we did #1 – reviewed in the middle of this lot), and am close to finishing the remains of the bottle, so a review is overdue! 

I’ve really been enjoying Macallan recently. When I toured the distillery, I couldn’t have had a more in-depth and intense tour, we saw pretty much everything.  We saw (as you do in most distilleries to be fair) the massive amounts of care taken to produce the spirit, look after it and select and blend it into releases.  There’s a whole team at the distillery dedicated to blending together the whisky, and they take real pride.  And of course Macallan is famous for good reason. 

Macallan, Edition #2, 48.2% A+

Quite the most orange bottle and box you've ever seen, which I wholeheartedly approve of.

IMG_0723Nose - Warmer and more "OB" than the Ed1, so it's a little softer, a little more elegant with stronger cask influence. Dried apricots, fresh peach and crayons. Felt tip pens, glace cherries and a new box of Marlboro lights. There really is that special something you only get with a properly blended whisky - a balance thing. Brighter fruits and more cask with water. Beautiful, really.

Body - Far drier than the Ed1, with toast and truffle honey, and spicy tobacco, but that characteristic heavy sherry Mac is lurking in the background. A bright, rich fruitiness, like Vimto has (not that it tastes of Vimto), and good balanced tannins. Everything disappears with water though, it's sold at 48.2% for good reason.

Finish - Quite short with Cherry Ripes and stewed tea. Clean and considered, wax cask at the end.

Another delicious OB Macallan meant to be enjoyed in a tumbler while chatting, not in a Glencairn in front of a laptop. Well recommended.

IMG_0722Compared to Ed1, it's less winey and I prefer 1’s oranges and lip salve on the nose. The nose on Ed1 also seems more Asian side by side and more spicy.  Ed2 is definitely more classy. Both are great whiskies, and both very Macallan – I think I prefer Edition 1 though.  Just a bit more power.  Both I could happily work through a bottle of.

Friday, 2 December 2016

SMWS December 2016 Outturn

December’s outturn is usually where you get the big guns, after the volume outturn in November and everyone’s bought their presents, they buy something for themselves.  That whole setup is becoming very expensive for me!  Also, getting this one in the can is something of a relief as having reviewed 96 SMWS whiskies in the last 6 weeks I’m starting to yearn for some more gentle whisky in front of the telly out of a tumbler with no laptop… or maybe being able to talk to people while drinking!

Not that I’m complaining of course – there are over 170 single cask whiskies behind the bar in Greville street, all unique, all with their own interesting things to discover, atoms of distillery character, cask and finishing foibles, ages and styles.  There’s a lot to explore, discover and understand, and that’s why I love SMWS.

November and December went off in Greville street like a bomb, the place really isn’t quite set up to hold that much stock, there’s whisky everywhere.  And now they’ve done away with paper outturns they’re even more confused.  22 different casks arrived in time for the outturn and we were working off a packing slip until the outturn was published yesterday.  I’ve tried them all*, notes are below, and marked as to which are in the outturn (on sale at 9am today!) and which are bar only.  A few (all of which are worth getting) are small outturn and\or will go quickly, so you should be quick if you want them. 

* actually not quite all, a 16 year old Caol Ila finished in virgin oak was a step too far, and negotiating with Phil over text message to get a photo of the label (with him several hours into drinking with Andreas)  so I could find out what the damn thing was or was even called took too long.  I’ll come back to that next week!  It’s bar only anyway. [EDIT: this is done now, I’ve snuck it inbetween the others]

SMWS 54.43, Aberlour, Fresh and fruity frolics, 9 years old, 59.5% A⊕

4th April 2007, 228 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0662Nose - Quite appealing this. Initially quite dry and wooded (splints, not quite fences) and you fear youth, but then a grown up and quite deliciously balanced sweetness comes - refreshers, beeswax and honey, digestive biscuits, earth, pencils. With time that earth comes through even more, with a touch of tobacco and some cocoa powder. Even better with water, more of that earthy chocolate, more orange.

Body - Lemon sherbets, crayon wax and fennel seeds, candied orange peel. More fruit with water, more orange waxes.

Finish - Long but quite astringent. Some toffee at the end.

Surprisingly delicious this, I hadn't meant to open with such a good one, I just went for the youngest! That is a particularly lovely nose, with old school cask and chocolate, not too sweet on the bourbon, and a delicious but considered delivery, just the kind of bourbon cask I enjoy. Highly recommended!

BUY

SMWS 7.157, Longmorn, Cleopatra meets Robin Hood, 12 years old, 60.9% B+

22nd September 2003, 186 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0663Nose - Slightly warmer, muskier, a little meatier than the 54 - a bit less exciting, a little simpler but has more cheap milk chocolate and a little washable kids paint. Much more interesting with water; new carpet, new gloss paint.

Body - Delicious in the initial delivery, with big, bright lacquered fruit - very FF bourbon. Then it degrades a little - sharp, sour woods. The simplicity of this isn't holding up to the earthy complexity of the Aberlour. A touch of overripe fruit and tobacco with water.

Finish - Long and slightly sour. Hints of fruity, musky cask coming through, perhaps pulled a little young. Hot alcohol at the end. Better with water but lacking midrange.

A decent dram, a little simplistic perhaps but nothing terribly wrong with it. A little more interesting with water but I would have left it in cask another decade.

SMWS 64.87, Mannochmore, Rays of Sunshine, 12 years old, 59.2% A-

26th May 2004, 222 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0664Nose - A big difference here, this is all pink marshmallows, women's perfume and strawberry jam on wholemeal toast (my typical breakfast). On exhale there's this hint of very old refill bourbon cask. More fruit but simpler with water.

Body - Very sweet with apricot jam in the initial delivery, turning into toast with honey. Better with water, that sugar is more balanced with fruit and wood.

Finish - Medium long, with more apricot, rose water, a little almond and candy cigarettes. Quite astringent and a little tougher than I'm making out, although very drinkable.

Intense, fruity sweetness and purple marshmallows makes me think of that Penderyn that I'm having trouble finishing the bottle of, so I can't recommend this as a bottle buy, but worth a go at the bar.

SMWS 36.105, Benrinnes, Herbal delights, 13 years old, 55.8% A

14th August 2002, 198 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0665Nose - Bright but earthy, chalky bonbons, fresh flowers (I'll say lilies because it's the only one I know), herbal (dried bay and oregano) and underneath all that, toffee chocolate sweetness. Lovely and floral. More chocolate toffee with water, more fruit (cut oranges), and a touch of swimming pool.

Body - Quite a gentle delivery, like sweet melting chocolate on the tongue. Toffee pennies and chocolate orange perhaps. There's an interesting balance of fruit, chocolate and tannins in here that's quite compelling. Better with water, more obviously delicious with a musky retronasal note.

Finish - Long but astringent, back into the florist rather than the sweetshop. Matchmakers (mint) at the end though.

Very drinkable, well balanced but probably not one you'd come back to during a whole bottle. Worth a go at the bar.

SMWS 48.79, Balmenach, 'Caught Red Handed', 11 years old, 56.8% A+

29th March 2005, 168 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0666Nose - Intense, naughty sugars (gummy sweets, the white bit in liquorice allsorts, foam bananas), but well balanced - minerality, ozone, limoncello, candle wax, cask musk. Floral again but sweeter and fresher. A really compelling nose.

Body - Big fruit sweetness at the front, then toast and sesame, then a ripe, waxy funk, and a light feeling of peat. Cigarettes feature briefly (both unlit and then a touch of ashtray). An even better fruit, cask, petrol balance with water.

Finish - Medium with pickled chillies and sweets brought back from holiday (a bit weird, a bit well-travelled). Good bright spices and fruit/wood balance make it very drinkable.

A complex, interesting and well put together drinking whisky. Good tannins and lemon sour make it balance and bring you back for more.

BUY

SMWS 41.87, Dailuaine, Punchy perfumed peach and plum, 11 years old, 59.3% B+

4th March 2005, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0681Nose - Sweet, grapey and mineral - bright, fizzing and green. Back on the cheap icing here but with a juicy agave feel to it… but there's something more, like dissolving vitamin C tablets. I do like these young, mineral whiskies that are interesting and complete, and the wax, chalk and grape thing is compelling. More chalky with water, but more pronounced chocolate.

Body - Arrestingly sweet and sharp, with great minerality and waxes. Unripe pear and whistle pops, lots of spicy toffee. Sour apple with water.

Finish - Long, very sweet, quite sour and very spicy. Sour wood at the end. No… more hot chocolate at the end.

A really interesting, curious nose on this, and a very ordinary delivery.

SMWS 85.44, Glen Elgin, Have your cake and eat it, 10 years old, 59.4% B

22nd June 2006, 234 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0675Nose - Really interesting again, my initial impression was one of that deep, winey sweetness you get in beef stew, but sourer, like you've just deglazed a pan with vinegar. With time, nuttier, charred raisins, pencil cases, angelica - perhaps fruit cake then. More freshly fruited with water.

Body - Extremely sweet at first, pure sweetshop (the denser, sweeter foam bananas) and fake cappuccino drink (from a packet), then stewed tea. Astringent and a slightly fake sweetness with water. Even more fizzing.

Finish - Then toffee at the end, Sechuan peppercorns on the tip of the tongue, fizzing tannins at the side of the tongue.

Ordinary first fill bourbon padding. This could have done with a trip through the virginoakinator.

SMWS 76.130, Mortlach, Forever Young!, 28 years old, 53% A⊕+

24th September 1987, 186 bottles, refill bourbon – BAR ONLY

IMG_0667Nose - Old and rich, like a big old white Burgundy. Blusteringly old actually, this feels more like 35  with old leather chairs, well-polished wood, orange buttercream icing, and a dark, almost dank backnote of coffee beans in dark chocolate, drying sherry vinegar and old cask. The fruit here is good but it's all about the old wood, neat. With water, it opens up even more. It now reminds me, weirdly, of old Glenfiddich.

Body - Extremely old.. Just give me a minute. Enormous waxed cask, with dried bitter orange peel, petrol station, strawberry laces and apricot and almond tart. A really satisfying floral, waxy, fruity character. So gentle - old fruit and tobacco. I really can't stop drinking this. Even better with water, into old Tomatin territory with the fruit.

Finish - Dandelion stalks, cigar tobacco, baked apple, and effortless cask right to the end, outpacing the fruit. This reminds me of the finish on a 40 year old calvados. Quite zesty with repeated sips, I was waiting for this youth! It's a footnote.

This is old school amazing whisky. Intense, balanced, well matured (any longer might have been pushing it). Highly recommended, I will be getting this.

BUY

SMWS 72.50, Miltonduff, A Nomad's tent, 31 years old, 54.4% A⊕

27th November 1984, 210 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0668Nose - Where the Mortlach was blustering, this is fresh, important, bright. Starfruit, unripe green apple, Coconut Ice, royal icing and sugar crusted pistachios. A little fabric softener, some warm white wine, some flaked almonds. It's all a little austere though, I think this should have come before the Mortlach and really you need to take your time with it.

Body - Sweet but extremely elegant on the delivery, no austerity anymore. Soft, green fruit, softened homemade ice cream, raspberry jam, glossy chocolate icing. It's delicious.

Finish - Long and perfectly balanced, that "posh dessert" thing goes right to the end. Finally, waxes.

This is a big, fruity, delicious whisky which you would smash, but it's not as good as the Mortlach in my opinion. Popular view at the time was the other way round though so… well I can only tell you what I thought!

BUY

SMWS 35.147, Glen Moray, Spicy sweet sensation, 21 years old, 55.3% A-

11th November 1994, 270 bottles, first fill toasted oak hogshead

IMG_0669Nose - Red, hard berries, jammy dodgers, a little Sangria and good hard/sour rye oak note. Cakey with time, but the American feeling of this whisky on the nose is quite exciting after the old stuff and presumably a good lead in to what's next. It gets better with time too, mellowing and integrating… to a point. Better with water, the parts come together more readily.

Body - Very interesting - playing a line right down the middle of spicy rye, middle-aged Scotch, black fruits and coffee. It's a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none though. I really like the sweetness and fruit but then… it's kind of arrested by one dimensional wood.

Finish - Unexpectedly extremely sweet and rich in the finish, Victoria sponge and buttercream. Delicious.

A schizophrenic whisky. Some of it is very delicious but it hasn't come together with the charred oak yet. Maybe it never would have, who knows! Definitely a good pick for the bar but there have been so many funky, fun Glen Morays this year that do this kind of thing better that I can't recommend it for a bottle.  Certainly try it at the bar.  Darren loved it.

SMWS 44.75, Craigellachie, Sticky blossom and spice, 12 years old, 55.9% B⊕

9th June 2004, 210 bottles, virgin oak hogshead, heavy toast medium char.

IMG_0679Nose - Much more classical on the nose, with sweet tobacco, planed oak, ripe Victoria plums and frost blown raspberries out of the freezer. There is a disconcerting youth nudging in here, with hollow cereal and yellow wood, but it's pushed back by fruit and wham bars. Sweeter and fruitier with water.

Body - Sharp, bright, very toasted and richly sweet with honey, beeswax, raspberry juice and orange oil. Mexican chocolate with water.

Finish - Long, very fruity and very oily, with cigarette tobacco and red chilli. Toffee pennies near the end, followed by chewed pencils. Very spicy with water.

Very interesting this one, quite a ride with all that fighting between the fruit, wood and spice. Definitely worth a dram at the bar.

SMWS 7.154, Longmorn, Stylish & Vibrant!, 30 years old, 44.4% A?

24th September 1985, 72 bottles, virgin oak hogshead, heavy toast medium char  – BAR ONLY

IMG_0677Nose - Very strange. Like you took a big old whisky and splashed vinegar on your hands before smelling it. There's waxy tropical fruit bubbling away underneath very clear cigar tobacco, fence panel next to candle wax, new gardening compost with baked, nearly mouldy apples. It's more rotten on exhale than inhale, that cigar on inhale is very special, but the wax, fruit and wood are all at odds. Better fruits and integration with water, the apple is less rotten too. Reminds me of floor boards being stained, or balsa wood.  It’s also very strangely formic.

Body - Very interesting - more of the same though really, baked apples, cigars, toffee oak, camp coffee plus cold red wine and milliput. With time, peach sweets and red apple skin. With water, skin on rice pudding and stewed tea.

Finish - Medium, hot and musky, with lots of spongey wood.

I invented a new mark for this. It's an enormous car crash but quite interesting and really drinkable nonetheless. I like the fruit, I like the old Longmorn, I actually quite like the virgin oak but it doesn't belong with the first two. And hats off to Euan for having the stones to do this: "30 year old, refill bourbon Longmorn, 72 bottles… finished in Virgin Oak".

I wouldn't recommend buying it though.

SMWS C2.1, Exquisitely polished, XO, 67%

Cognac Petite Champagne, 492 bottles, Cognac barrel. I don't know anything about Cognac!  – BAR ONLY

IMG_0683Nose - Apple pie, varnished wood, linseed oil and.. There's just so much apple pie and wood in here - burnt candle wax, dry poster paint. Apple pie… Varnished wood…

Body - Intensely polished, actually knocking on fly spray (if you can remember what that smells like), quite sharp and weird, quite chemical. Although, what do I know… better with wood but it's outclassed by everything else today.

Finish - Medium-short, medicinal. Hints of wax near the end but nothing to write home about.

I've little interest in this, it isn't whisky and it isn't worth the units.  Unlike the next one…

SMWS C3.1, A fragrant ramble, Extra Old, 50.9%

Cognac Grande Champagne, 558 bottles, Cognac barrel.

IMG_0684Nose - Much more interesting, sour and volatile like marker pens, but far bigger, fruitier and better integrated. This is more like November's Cognac (C1.2), with stewed apples and libraries galore. There's a lovely herbal element to this; slightly cooked with pastry, green olives, cut grass. Better with water, more pastry, absolutely delicious.

Body - Bright, then waxy, rich, and fruity (like an olive oil is fruity), extraordinarily tasty - I could quite get into this Cognac thing. There's a really beautiful balance here between citrus zest, sour wood and sweet apples that's really delicious to drink.

Finish - Really expressive, right through the finish, really green, herbal and sweet with lightly charred raisins, bamboo and green apple skin. Apple pips with water, right at the end.

This is phenomenal.

BUY

SMWS B4.3, FEW distillery, Full flavour behaviour, 3 years old, 63.4% A⊕

8th February 2013, 108 bottles, new charred oak

IMG_0685Nose - You can just picture the tiny oak casks here. Initially this is pure hollow oak (the colour is fabulous by the way). Start digging, there's charred pineapple, UHU glue… wood glue? I want to say cake but its more meaty, like sausage meat goes after long smoking with really fruity BBQ sauce. With time this really grows on you, delicious.

Body - Big, apply, fruity oak. Chocolate covered raisins, cherry tunes, cheap raspberry jam. The vivid fruit in here is a real surprise, seriously delicious.

Finish - Medium and very juicy, cherry pipe tobacco, cheap cherry pie and liquorice. Mouth wateringly fruity.

This is extraordinary. How? Tiny casks and extreme weather conditions I guess.

BUY

SMWS RW1.1, Rye from FEW Distillery?, Simply supermassive, 3 years old, 61.8% A

4th April 2013, 96 bottles, new charred oak. Rye whisky!  I am (quite reliably I think) led to believe that this is Rye whiskey from FEW distillery but don’t know for sure.

IMG_0686Nose - Pure milk chocolate on the nose, quite rich and creamy, the wood is much softer here, better integrated. Ripe pear, rose petals and almost overripe peach, some cask wax with digging, amazing to get that after 3 years. Coffee, blackcurrants, dark chocolate with time.

Body - Sharper, but richer than the B4.3, there is a really deep creamy note to this with that rye. Cherry chocolate cake with double cream, blackcurrant sorbet. Quite spicy too, like a black pepper, chilli glaze.

Finish - White wine, tobacco, lemon sorbet.

Again, this is delicious. Not as remarkable as the B4.3 but really chuggable, I could drink more of this in an evening than the bourbon.

BUY

SMWS 4.223, Highland Park, Angel's delight, 20 years old, 52.1% A⊕+

30th November 1995, 210 bottles, 1st fill PX hogshead (previously ex-bourbon) – BAR ONLY (sorry)

IMG_0688Nose - Restrained sweetness, a little wax, a faint, faint peating. Give it time… there's a delightful, almost Japanese austerity here with light cigarettes, green apple skin and sealing wax. It's a metal workshop, with engine oil, burnt and wiped away. It's really compelling to smell but it's quite light, fingers crossed.

Body - Certainly less restrained, burnt candles and wicks, ancient waxy cask, cut cherries and then the toasty peat. There's a herbal quality here too, with cucumber, washing chives, pea pods. For some reason I could see this in the HP Fire bottle.

Finish - Big, rich, complete, red.

It is delicious. It's a bit restrained on the nose but the delivery (waxy, intense peat and oak, red fruit) is so remarkable I can forgive it. And it's the wax and red fruits that really make it stand out. Recommended - bar and bottle.

BUY

Two Bowmores next, only the first of which is in the outturn.  The outturn one was distilled and bottled a year before the bar only one, and they’re completely different.  Both are excellent to be honest, one’s shy but elegant, the other’s bigger, sweeter but more obviously delicious. 

SMWS 3.274, Bowmore, Crab sticks and foam shrimps, 20 years old, 53.1% A+'

6th April 1995, 216 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0670Nose - Bright white and powdery, crushed shells and salt, a squeezed Marlboro light cigarette. Just a small hint of fizzers. A touch of Chinese supermarket about this with water.

Body - Sweet, rich and complete, with refreshers, green apple and apple jelly. Delicious - quite edible actually. Even better with water, more earthy.

Finish - Slightly funky, very long with seafood and (very clearly) Marie Rose sauce. It gets sweeter as the finish develops, fruit salad chews at the end.

Quite a restrained Bowmore, but well-judged and delicious to drink.

BUY

SMWS 3.295, Bowmore, Bouquets and spades, 20 years old, 54.6% A⊕

5th April 1996, 228 bottles, refill bourbon (a year minus one day after the previous one)  – BAR ONLY

IMG_0671Nose - Much riper, more waxes, more refreshers, maybe even a touch of blessed parmas? Icing sugar and chalk take the edge off a bit. The 274 is more waxy and austere than this, which more obviously "old Bowmore" and a lot classier for it.

Body - Ripe and delicious, like Haribo dunked in white wine, but with a surprisingly floral edge, and fruity too (star fruit and pineapple). The delivery on the 274 is more restrained but this is a mature blockbuster (and even better with water).

Finish - Long and deliciously sweet, great balance of gentle peat and fruit and very long oils.

More fruits, oils and just bigger in every way than the 274, this is very different indeed and also well recommended.  Bar only so get some while you can.

BUY

SMWS 53.240, Caol Ila, A Gathering Dinner Party, 16 years old, 64.2% C

16th March 2000, 276 bottles, virgin oak hogshead, heavy toast medium char.

IMG_1163Nose - Oddly light, biscuity, slightly herbal like, well, twigs. There's a faint red berry note too, which with the balsawood apparently almost completely obscures the Caol Ila. Real digging is required to find some Islay sweetness. Slightly better with water but there's suntan cream, red wine and wet cigarettes.

Body - Hot, spicy, peppery, slightly mucky and earthy (and not in a good way). The second sip is a lot better, much more jammy fruit, but I can't get my head round this very young balsa, cigar, biscuit thing. Hints of the dreaded Adnams whisky here, although slightly better sweetness.

Finish - Medium, most of that is sour cereal and sour hard sweets. Very hot.

A clumsy, sour and hard to drink whisky. Not recommended!

SMWS 33.134, Ardbeg, Peat roasted pig Hawaiian style, 8 years old, 60.9% A⊕

24th May 2007, 648 bottles, 2nd fill sherry butt

IMG_0689Nose - Quite ordinary sweet cereal on inhale, oddly meaty and floral on exhale. Maybe I'm being influenced by the title, but there's cold pork fat in there somewhere. Gets better with time - bright, medicinal raspberry jam, hundreds and thousands and a touch of Ribena. There's a really lovely alien dusty element here with, weirdly, French Fancies and Lemsip powder (as a powder) behind it. WTF.

Body - Mineral, primarily. Then quite significant charred wood, redcurrant jelly and pineapple juice. It really is delicious to drink, unexpectedly tropical. More fruit with water.

Finish - Long and really sweet, that pineapple really gelling with the peat. Aspirin at the end, omnipresent charred oak.

Delicious stuff, really fruity. Took a while to get going though.

SMWS 29.204, Laphroaig, A day at the beach, 18 years old, 53.6% A+

3rd December 1997, 276 bottles, refill bourbon  – BAR ONLY

IMG_0690Nose - Unexpectedly sweet and bright, like a fresh Christmas cake - royal icing, marzipan and fruitcake, but still moist and vibrant. Sauvignon blanc, fizzers and limestone… and melon flesh… and swimming pool up the nose. Part of this is disappointingly light, part is excitingly bright.

Body - At first, gentle with light cereal and then, enormously, extraordinarily peated! Then back to lemon and lime pastry and a touch of bandage, with tiny chorizo sausages and lots of black pepper. Sweeter, fruitier with water, and just a hint of sulphur.

Finish - Slightly fetid, a touch of bandage, and quite a lot of lemon juice. Lots of lemon and peat at the end - the finish seems to die off quickly but with repeated sips there's that intense, lingering peat and even some TCP.

More intensely peaty that TCP'y, it's great to get an intense Laphroaig although this more brutal than classical.

Still, certainly worth a go at the bar.

Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Two Christmas Crackers

IMG_0340Another pair.  A couple of rarely spotted, well matured, intensely coloured whiskies from two excellent independent bottlers.  I meant to post this before the November outturns but it got lost in the excitement!  I was reminded because there was an online tasting tonight of old Douglas Laing grains, not including the Carsebridge but interesting stuff which I should have been on but couldn’t attend at the last minute.  I’ll write notes for those soon though.

Note these bottles were both fresh open (only a couple of days) and whisky this colour often benefits from air and time. 

Douglas Laing Old Particular, Carsebridge, 33 years old, 44.9% A+

December 1982-September 2016, refill hogshead DL11339. Clearly a refill sherry hogshead, it's the colour of Vimto.

IMG_0342Nose - You don't get many ancient sherry cask grains, so when one comes along (like the 48 year old Whisky Agency Girvan) it's worth pouncing on it. This is a slightly shy dance between sherry (Christmas pudding mixture, wood varnish, ripe banana and toffee sauce), grain (apple and oak), and cask (milk tart, wax and orange), in much the same way Fig rolls are. Fig rolls are awesome aren't they? Think how you'd like a very old grain in sherry to be played out - it's like that here. Now, I don't know if this was 30 years in refill bourbon and then finished, and to be honest I suspect it was something like that from the nose because of the amount of yellow in here against the red, but I like it.

Body - More fig rolls, cocoa powder, red chilli and endless pastry. Some of the grain character makes itself known through lemon and wood splints mid-way through the delivery, but it's soon overcome by Mexican chocolate and yoghurt covered raisins. Weaker, more separated with water.

Finish - Medium, lip-smackingly tasty, big stewed tea tannins, sawdust.

This is an exceedingly drinkable whisky, although it's all over the shop in terms of character and probably has nothing to do with Carsebridge (not that I’ve had much) or perhaps even grain whisky. Essentially it's a very nice, well matured whisky cocktail.

Whisky Broker Glenrothes, 19 years old, 53.5% A⊕

28th April 1997, bottled 17th October 2016, Sherry Butt 7157, 643 bottles. I don’t think this one is finished.

IMG_0341Nose - Funkier fruit here, riper. When I first nosed this on opening the bottle I thought I couldn't detect any Glenrothes but now it's starting to remind me of that tasting in the dunnage warehouse. I still think Glenrothes is best drunk very old in bourbon but this is quite classical. Black jacks, toffee, a little charcoal and strawberry laces. This is the kind of single cask nose that's fascinating and delicious but really, badly wants to be blended into something utterly majestic (single malt, but with other balancing casks).

Body - Hot red berries, sangria perhaps? Very sweet up front - all travel sweets and foxes glacier fruit. A light hand with the sulphur, nuts and raisins later. Red chilli takes the edge off the luxury a touch, but the tannins help. More strawberry with water, a bit more cask.

Finish - Long and spicy. Chargrilled chicken with flaked red pepper, lemon juice and sherry vinegar.

On reflection, this is classic big sherry Glenrothes. That doesn't mean it's as good as big old Glendronach, but it's pretty crushable.