Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Springbank TWE Retro Label

Gotta collect them all!  Thanks Sjoerd for a taste of this one.  Curiously still in stock from release at the Whisky Show 2012 I think – why?

Springbank 1995 Cask Strength, TWE Retro Label, 56.5% A⊕

sprtwe1995Nose – Unexpectedly bright and light and dustily sappy.  Warm, rich wax, freshly planed oak planks, hair gel and elegantly balanced strawberry laces.  The oily, springer toffee lurks behind this fruit and fresh wood.  It is uncommonly fruity for a Springbank, with the dusty, tropical nose of a grand whisky.  It is seriously delicious.

Body – Bright, rich, oily tropical wood.  Elegant like an old Glenfiddich (and I’ve had a few of those recently).  Ripe fruit, a touch of sulphur and some fresh raspberry.  A bit of damp cardboard with water and good spirit sulphur comes through.

Finish – Long, a bit sour, good wood and oils.  Quite peppery.  Very moreish.

What’s not good about it – Slightly sour cereal, flat on the finish. 

What’s good about it – Enormous nose from humble openings – just unfolds and enfolds you.  Intense and complex on the nose, great sulphur and wood in the delivery.  Another winner!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Springbank Green 12 year old

A late review, thought I’d get it in before the bottle disappeared (lots to friends, don’t worry, and another held in backup). 

As I wrote before, this is a 12 year old whisky which was made with organic barley, and has been fully matured in bourbon casks.  Autumn 2015 will see a 13 year old fully in sherry casks.  The “Green” bit is because some of the ingredients aren’t organic – I can’t remember which, a technicality though.  The barley is organic, not that it matters at all to me.

Springbank Green, 12 years old, 46% A⊕+

spgreenNose – My initial reaction, with the freshly opened bottle, was joy at a more austere, pure elegant bourbon cask expression from Springbank. As this has opened up and I’ve worked through it though, my joy has deepened as the whisky has widened.  It’s certainly sappy (green, even, although I suspect next year’s sherry “green” won’t be), but unmistakably Springbank.  Apple, window putty, acrylic, sugar, almond croissant, sweet grain and barley sugar.  Lots of soft pastry, sugar mice and icing sugar, but balanced and structured.  Everything a fresh, bourbon cask Scotch should be, and pure Springbank. 

Body – Sweet, sharp, wooded arrival then a long, sweet delivery with toasted cereal, fresh musky sulphur, splints and sugar puffs.

Finish – Medium, slightly sulphured, quite light and refreshing, and then a tail of oily, pure toffee Springbank.  It’s a winner.

What’s not good about it – As a young whisky, nothing.  I look forward to the 13 year old and to enjoying many bottles of this 12 year old over the years.

What’s good about it – Fresh, balanced, complex, a touch of spirit sulphur, excellent distillery character and lovely structured sweetness.

Let’s have the 45 now, seeing as Jon was so good as to send me a drop.

Spirit of Freedom “The 45”, 45% (of course), A-

“The 45” blend consists of 45 different whiskies from across Scotland. This is being bottled following the Scottish Independence Referendum on September 18th 2014, in support of the 45% of the voting population who said “Yes".

springbank-spirit-of-freedom-45-blended-scotch-whisky-250Nose – Light, a little sweet, quite sour, some good wax, some Springbank tones of rich fruit, toffee and spirit sulphur, and quite a good ripe cherry and barley note. 

Body – Bright, good depth, like the sweetness but out of kilter obvious grain and a little heat.

Finish – Quite hot and grainy.  Quite long though. 

What’s not good about it – a bit too sour on the nose.  A bit unbalanced, and hot with the grain – but understandable at this price point.

What’s good about it – But no lack of intensity, good wax and sulphur and a good nose overall.  Obviously some good wood in here if a bit high on the grain for me.  And an absolute steal at £25.

And here, for the reader who commented on my “news” post from before, is my notes from the drinking hall at The Whisky Show where I tried the upcoming 17 year old “red” – all in sherry.

Nose – elegant, toffeed.  Body – very Springbank, lovely and strong and balanced sulphur.

There – you can see why I didn’t bother posting it before!  It did mark it out for me though, for future interest (which was the point of the note).  I’m certainly looking forward to the release in January.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Ballantines Tweet Tasting

I do enjoy a (very) good blended malt, so I was pleased to be up for this one, with some seriously old blends in it.  Getting a blend right is hard, but then it’s very hard to get near the balance of a well blended whisky with a single malt, particularly a single cask.

What was consistent here was what a good job they’ve done with the nose on these whiskies.  The delivery doesn’t start to make good on that promise, unfortunately, until you get to the 17 year old.

Ballantines Finest, 40% A

A NAS blended Scotch.

whisky-ballantines-finest-1000ml_1 (1)Nose - Sweet, sharp, sour, a little wax, light cereal, some hazelnuts.  Some popped rice?  Chocolate rice krispie cakes.  A touch of drying peat.  Obviously good balance.  It’s rather nice on the nose.

Body - Light, lightly sweet, gentle peat and a little apple on the tip of the tongue.  Quite disappointing and mild after the nose - almost watery in the delivery.

Finish - Very light wood, too light, but with a rather pleasant afternote of tropical wood that hints at something a bit interesting in the recipe.  It wouldn't be the first blend that hasn't lived up to it's nose - a good marker for the rest of the range though.

Ballantines 12yo 40% A

American & European oak casks with Glenburgie & Miltonduff as the signature malts.

ballantine-s-12-year-old-blended-scotch-whisky-scotland-10504766Nose - The same feel as the Finest, but more obviously intense, with good wood, wax and a slightly winey edge.  Coconut ice, sweet berries, midget gems, new plastic and ripe green apple.  The coconut ice is enormous, it’s a very good, balanced and interesting nose.

Body - Damn, this is still too light.  If this was 50% we might be onto something serious, sadly this range only goes up to 43%.  Better than the finest though.  Putting the light demeanour to one side, there’s well balanced fruit (cherry), wood (pine) and a touch of smoke.  A good level of tannins, very well blended.  

Finish - Again, short and wet.  Another let down in the delivery from a very good nose.

Ballantines 17yo, 43% A+

ballantines-17-year-old-pictureNose - The same level of intensity with the wood, fruit and sweetshop as the 12, but a sight more drying.  Even more appley, a little cheeseboard (with the wooden board), and a bit of marker pen.  The drying notes and the sweet cheese goes very well together - like oat cakes, blue cheese and quince.

Body - Finally, some body!  Great balance of peat and wood to the syrup fruit sweetness.  Glace cherry, sulphur and thyme.

Finish - Medium, a tiny bit of bandage, top notes are quite tannic.  Lingering kiwi fruit and pine.

Ballantines 21yo, 43% A⊕

The 21 Year Old has a higher proportion of whiskies matured in European oak casks compared to the rest of the range.

0003334_ballantines_21_year_old_whisky_700mlNose - Incrementally more intense, jewelled, oaked sweetness - good hot wires and wax.  And now the nose is becoming significant.  I do love the balanced intensity blends excel at on the nose.  Grown up sweets, oak furniture, dried apricot, a hint of rich peat, parsley stalks, cut tomato.  Earth and acrylic paint in the empty glass.

Body - Hazelnut chocolate, sulphur, malt vinegar, bright wax, toast and honey.  Quite chewy.

Finish - Long, very drying, toasted wood.  Liquorice allsorts at the end.  Bodes very well for what’s to come.

Ballantines 30yo, 43% A⊕+

Some of the whiskies in this blend are incredibly rare, from distilleries that are no longer in existence

ballantines-30-yo-blended-scotch-whisky-70cl-43-abvNose - Fruit bomb immediately, I’m reminded of the beloved Tomatin 30.  Sweet bright wood and ripe tropical fruit.  Wham bar and Chinese noodles.  Slightly bread and buttery - a real ham sandwich thing going on!

Body - Beautiful, balanced, intense, bright oak and wax.  Good musk and sauce.  Well balanced bitterness and smoke.  Almost a bourbon edge in there?  Beautiful sulphur structure.

Finish - Very long, old and dignified.  Balanced throughout.  You can’t beat mature blends.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance Series

The Micro Provenance series is unique to Bruichladdich and is conceived as an exploration into cask evolution, each individually picked by master distiller Jim McEwan to explore the fine nuances of the Bruichladdich whisky and the effects of warehousing, oak, cask and micro-climate on maturing spirit.

A few new ones of this series have been released recently, all being OB single casks, rare for Bruichladdich:


The 1985 I would love to try but is outside of my price range, the other two are just inside and I was able to split them with Jon.  No, I don’t want to encourage Bruichladdich to produce 9 year old whisky at £90 a bottle, but then I don’t want to miss it either.  Oh well…

Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance Cask 1527, 9 years old, 57.2% A-

Distilled 01.12.04, Optic barley, Quercus Robur cask, Sauternes full term (assuming d’Yquem), warehouse 11, rack R24.

mp-single-cask-scotch-whisky-2004-sauternes_0Nose – Dark, malted, sweet, much like the Cuvee E, but deeper and much more lactic.  Dusty and robust – tomato stalks.  A little petrol and quite young but has complexity with unlit cigars and soft toffee.  I quite like the juxtaposition of the too-young spirit with the full term maturation in Sauternes.  With water, lots of chocolate, but even younger.

Body – Sweet, robust wood, spicy, young arrival but veers into more interesting territory with wood shavings and peach liqueurs retronasally.  With water, sweet sour booze and more peach liqueur. 

Finish – Medium, very sweet, cloying… almost peated in its spiciness.  Extremely sweet at the end, and very oily.  The Cuvee E is a lot more gentle than this.

What’s not good about it – Too young, too young by a long way.  Doesn’t swim well.  And too expensive.

What’s good about it – Quite satisfying neat, good nose – complex and challenging and fun to sip.  I will enjoy the rest of this bottle but I won’t be rushing to buy it again.

Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance Cask 1310, 9 years old, 57.3% A+

Distilled 15.11.04, Optic barley, Quercus Robur cask, Amarone full term, warehouse 5, rack L4.

mp-single-cask-scotch-whisky-2004-amerone_0Nose – Clean, winey, really lovely malt and wine balance.  Dusty again, chalk and slate.  Young again.  With water, a bit better.  I’m reminded of Octomore with the fried BBQ meat and robust cereal influence (not that it’s new makey). 

Body – Ripe, beautifully deep port-like delivery.  Black cherries, tart tatin, lightly peated, like a gentle Bowmore.  With water, much better integrated and rather lovely – a very good wine influenced, young and feisty whisky.

Finish – Long, long and sweet, some chorizo?  Bitter grapefruit.  Very savoury, good wood spice.  Holds together a lot better than the sauternes.  Lingering pepper and sweet wood.  Good tropical burps – I thought that was an age thing?

What’s not good about it – A little one dimensional.  Overpriced.  I guess I should be looking at these as an interesting data point (which I am) but they need to sell it as a 20cl bottle for that to work for me.

What’s good about it – All you could really want from a young, winey Bruichladdich – very competent, savoury, balanced and interesting.  I’d certainly buy this again – I might not though, given the ridiculous activity at SMWS recently!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

SMWS December 2014 Outturn

When will it end!  The excellence continues, I can’t take much more of this…

I’m not sure which of these will make it onto the website, some of the Japanese malts are very limited.  Everything here is a BUY.  Just see if you like the notes or the distillery.  If you do, excellence is assured.

SMWS G12.1 “Oh so sweet”, Nikka Coffey Malt, 58.9% A⊕

Cask: Re-charred hogshead

Age: 11 years

Date Distilled: 6 March 2003

20141204_164219Nose - Light, juicy sweet red cherry. Lightly mineral, banana skin - seared banana and brown sugar. A little bit of petrol.

Body - Incredibly sweet, quite spicy, juicy and very bright, lovely oils, lots of retronasal orange juice. With water a bit more petrol.

Finish - Orange juice and stone, between a malt and a grain in depth of flavour, well balanced and good intensity.


SMWS 25.66, Rosebank, Bette Davis doing DIY, 57.8% A⊕

Cask: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead

Age: 23 years

Date Distilled: 14 November 1990

20141204_165023Nose - Restrained power, tequila/agave on the nose. Beautifully elegant malt tones, rich but restrained. Reminds me of making xmas pudding (not the cooked one, the base ingredients - lemon and orange zest). With water, the raw chopped almonds in the pudding come through and candied peel. No dark flavours from the cooked pudding though.

Body - Incredibly bright, orange zest. Quite spicy. With water, much more rounded, but still extremely powerful.

Finish - Long zesty oils, very powerful and bright. Surprisingly intense. A highly challenging and fascinating whisky, but not exactly luxurious.


SMWS No. 1.183, A vibrant Enigma!, Glenfarclas, 49.8% A⊕+

Cask: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead

Age: 48 years

Date Distilled: 7 July 1965

20141204_170117Nose - A beautiful sherried colour for a refill bourbon - what year did this have bourbon in it?  Could have been the 50s! Unsurprisingly intense but not overdone on the nose. Woody herbs, hedge, raisin, sushi rice and konbu, old wood. There's something fungal here, with damp, old, fallen tree, stewed tea, windfall apples and pritt stick.

Body - Amazing and intense sweetness, bright apple and pear, very floral, almost like air freshener at the end of the delivery.

Finish – Very, very long, lingering metallic notes, like licking a coin. Then long, long wood sweetness and sap. A remarkable whisky, not over wooded. Beautiful.

BUY if you can stretch to it, it's a bargain at £489 for a 48 year old of this intensity.

SMWS 24.127, Northern Lights, Macallan, 47.7% A⊕+

Cask: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead

Age: 23 years

Date Distilled: 16 April 1991

20141204_171525Nose - Austere, oaky, acrylic paint, malty, peachy - very rich and thick, like a hobnob biscuit. Beautiful toffee malt sweetness. Lovely.

Body - Ripe peach and orange, balanced and toffeed. Quite light but persistently sweet.

Finish - Peach stone, balanced and gentle, orange juice and zest. Lovely.


SMWS 5.42, Bathed in a bakers shop, Auchentoshan, 59.5% A⊕

Cask: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead

Age: 13 years

Date Distilled: 11 October 2000

20141204_172542Nose - Sweet and lightly dusted malt. Tile cement, window putty, fresh growing barley and blueberry muffin.

Body - Bright, spicy, lemon toffee, then really spicy and a bit one dimensionally sweet. Water opens it right back up though, bringing out the elusive waxy, woody note I'm getting more and upping the integration.

Finish – A really lovely wax and sulphur note develops, lingers and comes back in waves. With water, a very long finish, great sweetness and integration.

Lovely - another Auchentoshan buy. If this wasn't in such epic company….


Cask No. 124.5,  Juicy fruits and spicy oak, Miyagikyo, 66.7% A⊕⊕

Cask: First fill hogshead

Age: 23 years

Date Distilled: 12 Dec 1990

20141204_173448Nose - Deep, deep fruit, dark cherry toffee and cherry cake. Rich, rich, beautiful balanced sherry. Amazing. Even better with water on the nose, even more complexity and waxy wood, and clean new planed oak furniture. Wow. The empty glass gives intense prunes.

Body - Ripe, bright wood, oily, bright and fruity as well as being dark, loads of chocolate coconut. Intensely oily and toffeed.

Finish - Really long, sweet, dense toffee wood, sweet, sweet varnish. Pineapple burps. But very balanced - some of the most intense, balanced whisky I've ever tasted. Amazing.


SMWS 120.7, Sweet, fragrant and satisfying, Hakushu, 55.5% A⊕+

Cask: First fill Bota Corta butt

Age: 14 years

Date Distilled: September 2009

20141204_174621Nose - Ripe but restrained, overripe fruit and dark sherry. Very sherried but not overdone on the nose. A little musky, with bright deodorant notes in there. Beautiful, even if it's a very tough act to follow the 124.

Body - Lovely, long, gentle development, with the dark toffeed fruits and the sherry is very well integrated.

Finish - Long, lingering, balanced sweetness. Again, intense but very polite. Lovely stuff (quite like The Whisky Exchange sherried balblair). This is a seriously lovely whisky.


SMWS 4.199, Boy scouts and bikers, Highland Park, 56.2% A⊕+

Cask: First fill ex-bourbon barrel

Age: 14 years

Date Distilled: 15 October 1999

20141204_175610Nose - Back to blighty. Sweet cereal, unripe melon, fresh cut flower stalks and deep down, some sweet nut toffee.

Body - Fabulously sweet, unexpectedly so given the austere nature on the nose. A kick of spice but it's all so wonderfully integrated. An extremely good delivery.

Finish - Very long, ripe and a slight structural hint of peat balancing the intense sweetness, with long ripe fruit coming through finally and some great tropical notes from the wood component. Just wonderful on the delivery, perhaps a little closed on the nose.


SMWS 2.91, Buck’s Fizz and Gewurtztraminer, Glenlivet, 61.1% A⊕

Cask: Refill ex-bourbon barrel

Age: 12 years

Date Distilled: 16 April 2002

20141204_180705Nose - Much lighter than the previous whiskies but still a lovely warm, waxy malt - yet another cracker. Some deodorant in there, floral and nicely wooded, just a hint of spirit sulphur. With water, the titular white wine comes through and some drier, earthier notes.

Body - Bright wham bar, balanced but very sweet, with gentle mint chews and a touch of earth.

Finish - Long, balanced, beautiful. Lingering toffee. A beautiful, gentle, but deeply sweet dram, lovely balance and an absolute cracker.


SMWS 119.13, Fathoms deep, Yamazaki, 60.2% A⊕

Cask: 1st fill bourbon

Age: 11 years

Date distilled: May 2003

149 bottles

20141204_182007Nose - Younger cereal, top notes of sweet, soft toffee. Fried parsley. Pith.

Body - Young and intense, but deep and seriously wooded. Quite spicy. A really delicious delivery.

Finish - Very long, oily, oaky, spicy but clean. Oiled wood working tools. Long and intense, with the profile of a very old whisky and the fire of a much younger whisky. Remarkable.


SMWS 120.8, A surge of sweet peat, Hakushu, 63.1% A⊕+

Cask: 2nd fill hogshead

Age: 13 years

Date Distilled: December 2000

20141204_182904Nose - Bright, gentle cherry with a lovely peated edge. Ripe conference pear. Varnished pine furniture and pecan chunks for smoking. Balanced, polite and beautifully put together. Strikingly fruited and cakey.

Body - Spicy. Beautifully sweetly waxed. More cherry, loads of candle wax. Absolutely beautiful.

Finish - Long, sweet soft toffee, deep fruit and wax. Dark, dark and elegantly peated. A total cracker.


SMWS 3.234, Scallops cooked on a puffer shovel, Bowmore, 57.5% A⊕

Cask: Refill ex-sherry butt

Age: 16 years

Date Distilled: 25 September 1997

20141204_184644Nose - Bright, seaside toffee, seaweed and light peat. Quite restrained. Some rope, some drift wood, some ozone, the merest hint of peat, you get the idea. This is quite closed in the bottle though, big hopes for this once opened up…

Body - Oh man… beautiful refill sherry Bowmore. Fizzing refreshers, parma violets. Floral.

Finish - Very dry, massive tannins, coastal, balancing sweetness and pot pourri, lingering herbal notes and classical Bowmore.

This is unexpectedly old for its age, I would have pegged this as a 20 something on the delivery.


SMWS 53.216, BBQ in pine-clad dunes, Caol Ila, 60.6% A⊕

Cask: Refill ex-sherry butt

Age: 21 years

Date Distilled: 13 July 1993

20141204_185356Nose - Light - some plastic cement, marker pens. Spent fireworks. Old wet burnt wood and coffee. And very bright and fruity in its own way - peach tea.

Body - Now it's intensely peated, with burnt pine needles, burning oak and deep rooted, ancient sweetness.

Finish - Long, long and loads of cigarettes and wood. Reasonably brutal but very satisfying.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

SWMS 53.207–Caol Ila–Cod wrapped in Parma ham

The other (sherried) Caol Ila from the enormous November outturn. 

SWMS 53.207, Caol Ila, Cod wrapped in Parma ham, 20 years old, 58.7% A⊕

Refill sherry butt, 572 bottles.

SMWS-0053-207NNose – Very sweet, gentle cereal, classic Caol Ila.  Heavily peated but even handed.  Ripe apple, marshmallow, hot dogs and a little steel wool.  More sweet wax with water.

Body – Shockingly sweet but balanced by intense oil and granite.  Seared cod wrapped in Parma ham (can’t deny it).  Toast and salted crisps.  With water, more integrated and a touch of wax comes through.

Finish – Refreshers.  Very long, oily and cereal sherry.  Toffee.  Weetabix.  Travel sweets and lavender with water.

What’s not good about it – Rather angular and lumpy in it’s delivery – there are gaps and the overall feel is intense and lacking a little integration. 

What’s good about it – Intense, balanced and seriously delicious.  Fascinating mineral balance on the nose and epic Caol Ila fun throughout.  Despite being an “industrial” distillery aimed at producing Islay peat for blends, the single late teen, 20+ year old casks SMWS have been releasing are spectacular.  You just can’t go wrong picking one of these up.

Thanks to Sarah at SMWS for the sample.

Springbank 1996, Cask #263

Available from time to time in auctions, this sounded amazing – thanks Sjoerd for the sample of this Springbank sherry bomb!

Springbank 1996, Cask #263, 54.9% A⊕

610 bottles.  This was distilled in 1996 then specially bottled in 2009 for Hanseatische Weinhandelsgesellschaft, Bremen (Hanseatic Wine Trading Company apparently, thanks Klaus!).

springbank-1996-cask-263Nose – Deep, rich wax and ripe black cherries.  Dusty oak and really dark sherry, crayons and school hallways.  Deeply feminine – roses, lip gloss and very sweet.  With water, becomes more simply feminine, adds more school floor polish but loses none of it’s allure.  A serious, expansive and balanced nose.

Body – Sweet, dusty wine and sherry, quite spicy and slightly vegetal, retronasally tropical.  With water, toast and sherry and hotter sulphur. 

Finish – Long, oily (of course), ripe and fecund with engine oil, mango, orange, cough sweets and more crayon.

What’s not good about it – Rather obviously sherried on the delivery, which descends a little into bitterness with water.

What’s good about it – Seriously impressive nose, balanced and enticing delivery, good sulphur balance.  Tropical burps.  A glorious whisky.