Monday, 16 May 2016

Some Whisky Exchange exclusives

I was kind of saving this post to see what survives of my bank account after Campbeltown festival – maybe my enthusiasm would tip the balance between it being in stock or not on my return?  Too late now that Serge has published his notes.  I’ve no chance.  Some you just have to let go!

English Whisky, Classic, TWE, 53.4% A+

stgob.non19Nose - Rich and deep with travel sweets, burning propane and a touch of toothpaste. It's a really hard, almost brutal nose softened unexpectedly with toffee, tropical fruit, pulled pork and menthol, and it just shouts cask quality. There's a herbal note in here too, like flyspray (remember that?) and chalky bonbons. Very compelling, pretty tuff though. Soft and mintier with water, fresh flowers too.

Body - Hard again, floral, toffee pennies and blonde oak. Green apples. Much softer with water, a touch of rolling tobacco against the toffee.

Finish - Medium and quite restrained. Needs water… quite long, citronella, grapefruit zest. More toffee at the end.

A robust, complex young whisky with lots to offer. It stood out at the whisky show but I'm not sure I'd burn through a whole bottle very quickly.

Here’s the new pair, thanks to TWE for samples of these!

Aberlour 16 years old, TWE Exclusive, 53.5% A⊕+

First-fill sherry, Cask #4738

ablob.16yov2Nose - Intense but balanced super-sherry, Japanese levels of ooh. Sangria, wet tobacco, furniture polish (clearer than I've had for a while, even with that slightly sour edge from the solvent in the spray), candle wax balanced out by black pepper. A tiny spike of sulphur seasoning. Mango juice with water, more tobacco, more sulphur. Very classy and quite wonderful, fingers, toes and eyes crossed for the delivery…

Body - Ripe, bright fruit and dusty sherry cask. Balanced and fascinating, numbing and oily like cough candy is. Vanilla sponge, slightly caught, old icing.

Finish - Marker pens and Marlboro reds, long ripe blackberries. Very fruity. Black pepper and fag ash. Some sourness creeps in the finish with water but it opens the fruit out - the finish is very long.

A glorious, complex, slightly dirty but very well judged sherry monster. Very highly recommended.

Highland Park 1999, 16 years old, Gordon and MacPhail, TWE Exclusive, 56.6% A⊕+

First-fill bourbon barrel, Cask #4260

hlpg!m1999Nose - Elegant and old, with sour fruit and mint bonbons. Charred wood, fresh rain, more mango juice. It gets mintier the longer you spend with it. There's a wet wool, germolene and floor polish edge that makes it slightly more challenging than I was expecting. Orange juice with water, and a lot waxier, and old school highlighter pens (I hadn't realised they'd changed smell over the last 20 years until now).

Body - Oh man… unexpectedly rich, massively deep and well rounded, big toffee and supporting sulphur, soft liquorice and cherry pie. Dirty orange (grilled?), moving into grapefruit flesh. Even better with water, that sulphur integrates with the toffee, more orange juice, more grapefruit juice. Perfect.

Finish - Long, spicy and very sweet, very hot at the end, almost fried chillies. With water, burnt toast and almost charcoal.

Single cask HP can be amazing (not surprising the big blends are some of the best on the planet) and this is one of those. Very highly recommended.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A big flight of epic Tomatins

tomatin1988The new Tomatin bottle and packaging is pretty lovely, but it's been a while since we had anything super cool out of the distillery, like Contrast or Cuatro. I'm sure there'll be something along soon. Meanwhile, a pretty awesome flight has built up in my backlog, totally due to whisky friends like Stumbler and Veira.

I warn you though – look away if you’re not a fan of enthusiasm.  There’s some big old gear in here.

The Antiquary 35 years old, 46% A⊕+

Thanks to Stumbler for this gem!  A blended whisky.

antiquary-35-year-old-whiskyNose - Heavenly and robust? Blackberries and floor polish, tobacco and leather belt. It's a blend, so of course the whisky maker is able to balance this out and it really is both interesting and luxurious on the nose. And pretty old school too.

Body - Spiced, dark sherry, toasted wood, tannic with a touch of funk. Quite chewy, strawberry laces with a suggestion of black jacks. Very mouth filling actually, delicious.

Finish - Long and very tannic, blackberries again at the end but it's surprisingly astringent. On first sip this is a bit of a downer but of course it pulls you back in for more black fruit and that complex, mature nose. Almost like they planned it.

Absolutely delicious. The body is surprisingly charred wood and lands in dry tannins but that blackberry brings it all together in fruit and leads you back for another sip. It's just lovely, once in a while, to drink something designed rather than discovered. Cracking stuff.

Tomatin, Distillery only, Hand fill 12 year old bourbon cask #2592, 62.1% A+

Thanks to Matt who scored a bottle of this and the virgin oak at the distillery and split it with the team.

IMG_0754Nose - Young and fruity, hard wax and just a kiss of smoke? That wax strays into (thanks to that smoke) black cherry and almonds, and there's a touch of funk with window putty - something I often get in the (lightly peated) Highland Parks. Limoncello on exhale. Water and a little time gives big fruit and oily citrus, and a slightly Springbanky engine oil on steel quality. Pretty awesome.

Body - Spicy - well it's very strong too. Numbing oils, lemon and peat, that numbing's quite like the bark on some good BBQ; charred sugars and numbing tar. Much sweeter with water, slightly funkier. It's definitely young but it's a really good one.

Finish - Long and lightly tropical, preserved lemons. A touch of gunpowder with water, lemon sherbets, Sichuan peppercorns at the end.

These big, young bourbon single casks can be so delicious when writing notes, but absolute bruisers when you just want a dram. A fantastic cask but perhaps tasting rather than drinking whisky.

Tomatin 2003, for Bresser & Timmer, PX cask #35327, 58.5% A-

An official single cask bottling for Bresser & Timmer, a booze shop in the Netherlands from what I can tell. A bottle we split and shared.

20160418_150833Nose - Dry, nutty and a bit dirty. Candy cigarettes and instant coffee. That dirty, dry sherry does rather cover over the spirit and wood, but underneath there's quite a lot to look for… if I can just push aside the fag ends and mould…. Black cherry again? Candy floss and fruit toffee. Milliput. Dirtier with water, verging on Gorda filth.

Body - Dry, robust, nutty, definitely PX with charred raisins and lots of toffee. Sulphur and chocolate brazils. Softer with water, either I'm just getting used to it or the whisky is coming together.

Finish - Beef and prune tagine, all the way down. Actually, soft liquorice at the end, very distinctly. Astringent.

I have to admit I was pretty disappointed with this when I first cracked the bottle but it opened up with time and water helps too. It's complex, a little bit dirty (but perhaps not quite enough given the interference of the cask with a quality spirit) with lots of discover. I'm not sure I'd go back for a full bottle though.

Tomatin, Distillery only, Hand fill 10 year old virgin oak cask #61, 60% A⊕

20160418_151344Nose - Clear virgin oak, hard but ripe fruit like pear, cherry lip salve, surf board wax. There's a big hit of cherry imps in here to - sweet, hard and artificial (not that that's a problem, in the same way the urinal cake in the 36 (below) isn't). As I've said before, I love these charred or virgin oak Scotches because they scratch that cakey bourbon itch but carry the complexity and gravitas of Scotch too. Fruitier and almost coastal with water.

Body - Intense, black oak and Indian spices (turmeric, asafoetida), chewed menthol tobacco. Pilaf, with charred onions with water. That's not a fault, the sulphur works well with that intense cask. It's more and more drinkable as you settle into the glass.

Finish - Long and intense wood oils, black tea and walnut shells. A touch of Sudocrem with water and time, just slightly medicinal and creamy, and big hop bitterness, like a super-IBU IPA. Sulphured, dried mango slices at the end.

Tough but rewarding, this is the kind of robust, complex and fascinating Tomatin I wish SMWS would release every couple of months! It's been a while. Talking of which…

SMWS 11.16, Tomatin, Smoke in Speyside?, 62.6% A⊕

From my own collection, from auction, but Stumbler scoring that other old society Tomatin inspired me to buy it.

20160418_150416Nose - A bit like the handfill bourbon, but better (more rounded). Young and fruity but the toffee, smoke, funk thing is a bit further forward, better rounded and it's a touch more medicinal. Maybe it's time in glass that's done it? Hard, funky and a little bit odd, better in real life than on paper. More tropical with water, pineapple juice.

Body - Definitely, properly peated now. Sour but rich, charred peach and cashews. Almost bandagey. Seriously tasty.

Finish - Long, complex and very fruity, you can see why the Cu Bocans are so much fun to drink. Quite BBQ/Virgin oaky too, like pineapple glaze on ribs.

Anyone wanting to surprise and delight a blind tasting should pick up a bottle of this. Young and (frankly) heavily peated, with tropical notes throughout, nobody would suspect Tomatin, but the hard fruit was there all along…

Next, two Tomatins from Whisky Broker… from the same parcel, but bottled 9 months and 13 days apart.  And labelled using different label printers.  These are gone but he has a 21 year old on the site at the moment.

Tomatin 24 years old, Whisky Broker, 56.2% A+'

Refill sherry hogshead 18822, 18th October 1990 to 25th February 2015, 233 bottles.

20160503_162151Nose - Clear but austere, hard waxes and plastic fruit. Slightly metallic, a little young cereal, mint toffee and fresh cut flowers. Much better with water, more open but the kind of vanilla and cake I'd expect from a bourbon cask.

Body - Much sweeter and completer than the nose suggested, almost Glenrothes at the start with hot cereal and then some of that fruit and sulphur funk that the 70s stuff usually has. Even fruitier with water.

Finish - Long and deeply sweet, very rich and oily, not austere at all.

A hard, young nose but a big, rich and oily delivery with lots of structure that promises at something that could have been epic at 35.

Tomatin 25 years old, Whisky Broker, 53.6% A+

Refill sherry hogshead 18824, 18th October 1990 to 10th December 2015, 166 bottles.

20160503_162156Nose - Sweet, hard fruit, flinty cleaning fluid, refreshing juices though, freshly squeezed orange juice. Light toffee, more earthy though, like cold coffee. With time though, some more interesting oak sweetness starts to come through and a touch of Danish pastry. It makes more sense once you've tasted it.

Body - Sweet and hard again, like a gobstopper. Menthol tobacco. But with time, juicy fruit chewing gum and sandalwood. A touch of spirit sulphur with water, I'm really starting to enjoy it now.

Finish - Long, slightly flinty but that juicy fruit is really starting to show. Long tannins with water.

Compared to the 24, it's less fruity on the nose, a little harder. The 24 has more floral sweetness. The 24 is more intense on the delivery too but there's something a little more complete in the 25. There's not an enormous amount in it but I'd say the 24 is overall better but the 25 has a little more complexity and grace in the delivery.

Tomatin 25 years old, Official Bottling, 43% A⊕+

Reviewed before.

20160503_162253Nose - Now that's an old Tomatin. Hubba bubba and mangosteen, lovely ripe tropical fruits, cleaning products and crayons, quite sexy. I think this is what I said in my last notes though.

Body - Soft and dirty fruit, balanced structure though. A touch of licked pipe tobacco, and hint of sulphur. This is what's so awesome about these old official Tomatins, it's the lewd fruit and balanced wood structure.

Finish - Medium, slightly fetid wood, drying tannins at the end brings you in for more.

My opinion of this has definitely gone up over the last two years. Maybe that's because I haven't had a bottle of the 30 open in a while. Anyway, what a cracker.

Cadenhead Small Batch Tomatin 1978, 35 years old, 44.1% A⊕⊕

Reviewed before at the same link before, just having it again to compare with the 36 so I won’t write too much.  This is one of my favourite whiskies of all time.

20160503_162218Nose - Holy moly, that's properly old Tomatin. Just like the official 25, it's ploughing the bubblegum and sexy oak thing.

Body - It makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Deep, intense, perfectly balanced at the top end with ripe Asian fruit and lots of spirit sulphur which has intensified over the years against the wood.

Finish - Long. Perfectly balanced with an otherworldly intensity of fruit and sulphur. Still as epic as ever.

Tomatin 36 years old, 1977, Batch 1, 46% A⊕⊕

Thanks again to Stumbler for a sample of this, an official 36 year old. The main event in this flight, bourbon and oloroso casks, 800 bottles.

tomatin-36-year-old-1977-batch-whiskyNose - It is of course a fruit bomb. Complex, ripe fruit, Seville orange zest and besswax, but it also has that delightful, throat catching vanilla pastry, floral tone that reminds me of hubba bubba, cross channel ferries, the dearly departed OB 30yo and the Cadenheads 35yo. It's perfect.

Body - Fascinating. Spicy initially, apple wood and perfectly judged sulphur, tannic and well-structured but enormously luxurious. If you just start drinking it, the tannins start to build and your mouth becomes slightly overloaded with oak, but the sulphur pulls you through this. Water makes it juicier but more ordinary.

Finish - Apple Danish, urinal cake (piney), long, soft wood and tannins with loads of reverb. An Asian fruit, nuttiness at the end like lychee and Durian. Funky fruit dominates with water, and the finish is deafening and very long… after a few minutes I'm thinking of beer fermented with Brettanomyces.

This lives up to all its (sky high) expectations and is the epitome of 70s Tomatin. Fabulous.

Compared to the 35, the nose is more polite, less alien, but classier for it (honestly the 35 is just loopy). There's sherry in the OB too, which softens things further. But the 36 is just one of the most poised, well-constructed whiskies, totally drinkable whiskies I've ever tried.

More, please.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

SMWS May 2016 Outturn

A big outturn this month, and it was chaos in the bar tasting these with some missing and loads of extras – too many for me to get to all of them but I’ve got everything from the new outturn that I could.  There’s some fun to be had in here and importantly there’s quite a few interesting and reasonably priced ones to pick.  If you’re after some summer dramming you’re in luck.  But there’s not too much for the archivist.

26.117, Clynelish, Silky smooth sundowner, 14 years old, 56.8% A⊖

17th April 2001, 282 bottles, refill bourbon, finished in 2nd fill sauternes

20160428_175052Nose - Bright. Ozone and fruit toffee, modelling clay and bathroom spray. It's hard and young though, that finish has fattened out the nose with fruit oils and a light funk, but the hard refill bourbon lives on.

Body - That works though… the delivery has flowers, soap, rosewater and a little funk. Fruitier and rounder with water, with a cinnamon jawbreaker thing going on.

Finish - Long and zesty (grapefruit, preserved lemons), soapy but compelling. I really like the delivery. Hot at the back though.

A weird, unbalanced nose, disintegrated. An interesting and very drinkable delivery, but not a big hit overall.

39.123, Linkwood, A juicy jamoboree, 8 years old, 59.8% A

17th February 2007, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_180115Nose - Full fat after that lot… fruit polos and iron filings, a little grilled corn on the cob with butter… washing up liquid… but that fruit polos thing is quite nice. Danish pastry with water…

Body - Soft, sweet and delicious; lemon curd and foxes glacier fruits now. A really lovely drinker, all boiled sweets and fruit juice. But with water, the fruit disappears.

Finish - Long and fruity, blood orange … quite a lot of spice at the end.

Young and fun, delicious neat but doesn't hang together with water.

If you want a fun drammer for summer, BUY

SMWS 36.102, Benrinnes, After the rain, 12 years old, 57.7% A+

23rd April 2003, 228 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_181059Nose- Sweet, lightly petrolic and mineral. Washing up liquid, toffee pennies, petrichor… yeah very clearly after the rain! On hot summer tarmac. Perfumed and clean, lovely.

Body - Gentle and juicy, a good cereal backing, plastic and popping candy. Delicious.

Finish - More fruit juice, hard oak. Softer overall with water, and good structure and long tannins.

A solid drinker. Evocative and well named.  Recommended.


SMWS 9.106, Glen Grant, Fun without fireworks, 23 years old, 51.7% A

16th November 1992, 198 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_182810Nose - Zesty with fresh sweat and hand soap, birthday candles in buttercream icing. Liquorice imps. So perfumed it's practically Indian. Fuller and fruitier with water, more cereal too.

Body - Zesty again… Laminated cardboard, cut flowers. Toffee with water, charred newspaper, orange zest.

Finish - Long but restrained, toffee and cardboard again. Very long with water, more birthday cake…. Love that orange icing.

Looks good on paper but it was hard work - competent but not that interesting.

SMWS 7.131, Longmorn, Apples in the cellar, 12 years old, 58.3% A+

22nd September 2003, 186 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_185823Nose - Sweet, sour and bourbony, charred wood and candy cigarettes (quite austere) and fake apple (boiled sweets). Vanilla cream with water.

Body - Big and fruity, the full sweet shop, oily and not too young, posh lemonade, fence panel. More robust with water, lots of vanilla though.

Finish - Long, oily and delicious. Sherbet dib dabs, black pepper, cheap vanilla ice cream. Mint bonbons at the end.

A big, oily, sweetshop of a whisky. Delicious.


SMWS 123.16, Glengoyne, Madagascan white chocolate mice, 10 years old, 57.5% B+

4th May 2005, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_191232Nose - Wax and white chocolate, freshly cut courgette, oat cookies? With time some hand soap, chardonnay and icing. Subtle, clean, young. More interesting with water, only a little bit though.

Body - Wax and chocolate again, but spicy and zesty, with Sichuan peppercorns and pea pods. Good white wine and white flowers with water.

Finish - Medium, soapy, hard. Nougat at the end.

A quite ordinary whisky with some decent floral sweetness.

SMWS 73.75, Aultmore, Raspberry Atholl Brose, 17 years old, 56.1% B

29th May 1998, 294 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_192218Nose - Hard to pin this one down… raspberry jam on toast, more perfume, minted potatoes… it's hard work though. Cracked black pepper, Ryvita… hmm.

Body - Sharp and spicy, thin and dry, crusty bread. Slightly more interesting with water, a touch of Sauvignon Blanc? The centre of an aniseed ball.

Finish - Ginger nuts. Long but vodka like (dry, thin, spicy). This is more grain than malt.

Amazing that this is 17 years old, it must have been 5th fill.

SMWS 46.39, Glenlossie, Continental breakfast, 23 years old, 59.0% A+

2nd November 1992, 240 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_192222Nose - Cereal. Pretzel pieces. Crunchy nut cornflakes. Black pepper? Urinal cake? Interesting… behind that there's some really well hidden toffee and fruit, there's a good cask in there somewhere. Works a lot better with water, now its classy rather than just closed.

Body - Big and sharp and fruity, pine and orange juice. Ozone. Really classy with water, like a fino sherry.

Finish - Seville orange, orange oils, sanded rosewood. Very long with water, orange slices with cinnamon powder. Very classy. Nutty at the end.

A weirdly austere whisky that works so well with water.


SMWS 41.73, Dailuaine, One night in Bangkok, 11 years old, 58.9% A

11th May 2004, 198 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_194712Nose - Ripe and Asian, waxed fruit and mango squash. But don't get too excited, that's under a blanket of spirit …. A recently extinguished coconut candle,

Body - Soft and fruity, the mango squash to the fore. Liquorice torpedos. Cut flowers with water.

Finish - Short but fruity, clean. A ton of coconut… almost Malibu levels.

This is the young blockbuster you're looking for.  BUY

SMWS 30.91, Glenrothes, Deliciously dark and sweet, 18 years old, 58.7% A⊕

17th April 1997, 744 bottles, refill Gorda

20160428_195616Nose - Dry and dirty but actually the ozone makes it clean too. Walnuts and chocolate sponge (dry and dusty though) with chocolate icing. Sherry vinegar, very pronounced, proper salad dressing. Caught stew. No sulphur.

Body - Pure Gorda here but no sulphur still. Dry and sherried.. Actually here's some sulphur. God I love these Gorda casks. Starting to get some proper filth with water, but much more tannic.

Finish - Lemon shells in the roasting pan, long and dirty. Very meaty, gamey even.

This is so compelling. I'm a sucker for these Gorda casks though.


SMWS 66.83, Ardmore, A memory of summer, 14 years old, 54.7% B⊕

26th November 2001, 222 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_200600Nose - Like a modern Laphroaig (like Select cask). French cooked pastry and ordinary peat. Smoky bacon, but quite weak. A touch of plasticine. Some lolly stick. With water, granite.

Body - Like a mescal, actually that works quite well - green and agave. Fresh, clean, green apple and after eight mints.

Finish - Medium but here's some actual whisky flavours. Toffee and cask, still fresh though. Big tannins at the end.

One of the dullest noses I've smelled, but it'd be an epic mescal on the delivery. Extremely neckable, and I mean this when I say BUY

SMWS 3.260, Bowmore, Delicate perfumed sweetness, 15 years old, 55.3% A⊕

28th March 2000, 240 bottles, first fill bourbon. Didn’t get a photo!

Nose - Mulled wine, salt and vinegar chipsticks, blueberries. Love hearts and sugar syrup.

Body - Deep, soft, crushed barley, quite dreamy. Tinned pineapple.

Finish - Condensed milk, really creamy.

This is a beautiful whisky, it bears a passing resemblance to Bowmore but I would have called it as Caol Ila if it wasn't for the deep vanilla cream. Absolutely delicious, it's like a cream liqueur Bowmore.

I didn't try it with water.  Always a good sign.


SMWS 29.180, Laphroaig, An apothecary shop on the shore, 16 years old, 52.3% A⊕

1st July 1999, 264 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_204045Nose - Lime cordial, bandages, cob nuts and clay. Proper sticky danish pastry, cinammon swirl nearly. This whisky has a very clear mission statement. Wax, blackboard and agave with water.

Body - Sweet but tart and fruity. Dirty bandages with water. Delicious.

Finish - Slightly dirty, warm white wine. Very long, with burnt bandages at the end.

A classic society Laphroaig, just excellent. Buy it. I can't, I've got decalitres of Laphroaig at home.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cadenheads and OMC Dalmores

I have a sample of the previous Dalmore from Cadenheads from Mark which I can’t find anywhere!  When I dig it out I’ll post it up.

I don’t share the general hatred of Dalmore due to premiumisation.  I also don’t share the general bad will towards Macallan, which I’m quite enjoying of late (more on that another time).  I would challenge you to taste these two blind and tell me you don’t like them.

Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask, Dalmore 1996, 16 years old, 50% A⊕

Refill hogshead 9816, October 1996 to May 2013, 371 bottles.

October 1996 to May 2013.  Thanks to Mark Newton for the sample.

dalmore-16-year-old-1996-cask-9816-old-malt-cask-hunter-laing-whiskyNose - Do you know what… this is much classier than I was expecting. Great old school cask (musky, floral, sour and slightly funky, but really sweet vanilla) with a big whack of toffee behind it. Enormous toffee in fact, with mint bonbons (those chalky ones). What I love about this nose is the balance between mineral, oak, musk, mint and toffee - it's quite sublime.

Body - Quite fiesty, as promised by the nose, more floral toffee and after eights. Big, beautiful, balanced malt here though, extremely drinkable.

Finish - Long, chocolatey with colgate toothpaste. Ripe and slightly dirty at the end.

Just an excellent whisky. Highly recommended.

Cadenheads Small Batch April 2016, Dalmore 25 years old, 56.3% A+

1990-2016, Sherry Butt, 474 bottles

20160412_202008Nose - White wine, deodorant, a touch of sushi (white rice, sugar and vinegar) and smouldering oak on exhale. Quite masculine, very mature, but that white wine freshness picks it up and balances it out. Complex and lovely. Better with water, it opens up with candle wax, peach, celery and white flowers balancing out the mature brown sugar and leather tones.

Body - Tighter than the nose would suggest, although maybe the whisky just needs some time to open up… sweet but slightly cardboardy neat. Much better with water - more white wine, more funk, darker brown sugar and some burnt pastry.

Finish - Very long, fruity and sour, Christmas cake (royal icing).

A complicated, mature and structured whisky that I think will develop with time in the open bottle. Already it has a fantastic, mature nose, but the delivery needs to open up a little.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Ancient Bunnas

The inspiration from this flight came from Cadenhead’s recent 39 year old sherried Bunnahabhain, from the amazing 35 year old XOP the other week, and from the rest of the big guns sitting in bottle shares in my whisky collection.  The youngest whisky in this flight is 28!  Why are there so many ancient, indie Bunnahabhains out there?

Whisky Agency, Bunnahabhain 28 years old, 55% A⊕+

1987-2015, refill hogshead.

whiskyagencybunnaNose - Classically, instantly recognisable old Bunna; waxed window frames, red berries, jelly snakes and ice cream with wafers. Dark red wine, fruity hot toffee. Fruitier with water, with fresh mango and green apple next to pritt stick and freshly sanded, varnished pine.

Body - Dirty, spicy and lots of waxy wood. Wood oils and wine. Oil paints. Fruitier again with water, kiwi?

Finish - Very long, numbing with a balancing, but almost acrid bitterness. Don't get me wrong, this isn't out of place under the intensity of wax and wood oils. After about 4-5 minutes, sweet vanilla pastry remains, almost apologetically. Sawdust in the empty glass.

Played with all the stops out, this is big, oily and numbing - what a massive whisky. Tiring on the palate but the only way to live up to the nose.

Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, Bunnahabhain, 38 years old, 43% A⊕+'

1968-2006. Not the oldest whisky but the earliest distilled whisky in this ludicrously old lineup.

rareoldNose - So deeply sweet and dirty it's almost stilton. Hot amber and glacé cherries, bakewell tart and old school marker pens. Rich cake, candy cigarettes and there's an alien Islay thing without the peat. Epic.

Body - A masterclass in perfectly soft, fruity structured sulphur. Just beautiful, almost a red wine balance of tannins, fruit and structure. And an avalanche of oak. Softer but with sourer wood with water.

Finish - Long, very well poised. Very dry and tannic without being overbalanced, but there's almost touch too much wine? Tobacco with water. It's a beautiful thing.

The nose is intense - gravitas and even ruder than the 28. Distilled almost 20 years prior and held in cask 10 years longer, the delivery is still ridiculous but even better balanced. Glorious.

Cadenheads Small Batch, Bunnahabhain 39 years old, 49.4% A⊕+

1976, 3 sherry butts, 648 bottles. Just reviewed (like, 10 days ago!), but I have an open bottle so let's see how it stacks up to the previous bourbon casks.

image6Nose - Winier than the two before, and certainly more gentle. More poised, not the big 303s I’ve just had, rather it's chocolate malt, tannins and coffee.

Body - Even deeper and sweeter, and obviously sherried compared with the others (but it wasn’t so obvious compared to the Cadenheads outturn). Lots of stir fried nuts and a touch of caraway.

Finish - Completely different to the others. Coffee and cigarettes, tannic with plum skins and red wine.

The nose is very in keeping with the others, unmistakably old Bunna again, but the delivery is a completely different beast. Epic.

Douglas Laing XOP, Bunnahabhain 40 years old, 51% A⊕⊕

January 1975-February 2015, DL ref 10704, 258 bottles. This was born only a few days before I was.  And this is the third full marks XOP this year!  They’re nailing it every time (except that Bowmore).  This is still available.  Thanks to Douglas Laing for the sample.

bunnahabhain-40-year-old-1975-cask-10704-xtra-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - The intensity of the 38, the elegance of the 39? A touch of bonfire in here, it could just be the proximity to Douglas Laing's other stock for 40 years! Ok, so that familiar old Bunna plus toothpaste, dried poster paints, and brightly coloured Indian sweets (stale and milky, almondy, mainly sugar). And an old man in an old leather jacket (he hasn't smoked today but his jacket still smells of it). Intensely sweet with water, acrylic paint and neat mango squash. Definitely the most important whisky here.

Body - I've just been prevented from making notes for 120 seconds by the intensity of the delivery. It's still going on…. Hang on… I'm not sure how well I can document this delivery but I will try. Big, waxy, sweet and wood oil, but restrained… then Stagg levels of cakey oils, walnut, but more depth… then PX sherry, then old waxed wood and leather chair, red chilli… I think we're into the finish now.

Finish - Oak floorboards and caraway, croissants and butter, sandalwood, liquorice allsorts. Enormous levels of wood, Stagg but Scotched. Even better with water, the bitterness is rounded off... agh I give up.  I’ve run out of whisky anyway.

A (literally) awesome whisky.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

William Cadenhead, Speyside malt, 40 years old


An un-named 40 year old Speysider under the William Cadenhead label, this was released alongside the 31, 32 Caol Ila, 39 Bunna.  I bought a bottle of this to split and now regret not securing more than 10cl.  It’s seriously good.  And it was only £125.  I think the anonymous label, the low strength and the low price worried me slightly but Stephen at Cadenheads told me it was good, I should have listened to him and will from now on.

It’s Glenfarclas in here though (of course… it’s always Glenfarclas), it’s printed on the bottom of the bottle.  Oops.

William Cadenhead, Speyside malt, 40 years old, 40.2%, A⊕+

20160420_072135Nose - Intense, sweet, polished wood. Old school permanent markers (the metal ones) and turkish delight, quite solventy but so much floral sweetness. Leatherette and cologne, hot candle wax. But most of all, it's just so approachable - almost a tropical balance of sweet, sour and structure. Pretty groovy.

Body - Big and balanced, good structure late on with raisins and tobacco … almost at cigar level.

Finish - Medium, caramel and mango juice (more the texture than the flavour I guess). Slightly effervescent at the end.

A fun, balanced, well structured whisky with lots to offer.  I think the main thing this is, is approachable.  Crushable, even?  Dangerously drinkable anyway, what a gem!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Laddie 8, PC CC:01 and some Valinches

I’m a big fan of Bruichladdich.  A thorough range of releases from esoteric single casks and highly processed Octomores, to lakes of affordable NAS whisky.  Purposeful, high quality, consistently interesting, and always something new going on. 

Here’s the two new travel retail releases, plus a couple of Valinches.  The Valinches are casks that rotate in the distillery shop as hand bottlings, I’ve had quite a few of these and there’s a few duff notes in there but some are truly sublime, such as the Valinch 08 (Chrissie Angus, a 22 year old  Bruichladdich in bourbon cask and Spanish oak) and the PC Valinch (Cuan Ard) below.

The Laddie Eight, 50%, A⊕

New for travel retail, bearing an eight years age statement, that kind of confidence usually implies good things are coming.

laddie8Nose - Flinty, hard candy - super sweet and austere. Menthol tobacco and cappuccino on inhale, chalk on exhale. Waxy lipsalve and sun-bleached milk chocolate backs it up. There's a wine in here too - I'm tempted to say there's ghostly third fill PX and some white wine cask going on? Young but satisfying, and very Islay. Great cask complexity with water.

Body - Big and sweet, musky wood and slightly peated. It's bordering on fruity but more apple pips than the apple in the end. Water brings out sweet toffee and doesn't leave any holes in the midrange.

Finish - Quite long, winey, lots of rolling tobacco and very sweet and bitter. And therefore very moreish.

This is a superb whisky - it's not pretending to be old but it's so confident and balanced. 

The Laddie Valinch 17, Kate Hannet, 25 years old, 48.2% A⊕

Cask no.006 - 1990, sherry hogshead

20160301_124531Nose - It's soft, gently sweet, warm and slightly musky with a touch of the coastal to it. Woody herbs and a little stainless steel back up the classic Laddie character. It's restrained though, quite delicate, and nicely matured - I always love that waxy orchard and wood notes that remind me of when I was first getting into Scotch whisky. With water, much more berried.

Body - Spicy and toasted, ripe and honeyed with a lovely wood/sour/structural edge that is a little more confident than the nose. There's a white wine edge here too. Very good.

Finish - Medium but with sudden fruit and wax. Then stewed tea and fountain pen ink.

Seriously classy this one, quite polite but lovely stuff.

Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01, 57.8% A+

Travel retail, full term in French oak, previously eau de vie from Cognac.

x1004021503.jpg.pagespeed.ic.kn5uGhGzfuNose - Young PC. Confident, sour plum, moderate cereal and zesty (lemon and orange). Marlboro light tobacco and window putty. Fresh and enticing, with lots of carpentry going on. Sechuan peppercorns with water, dirtier peat.

Body - There must be virgin oak casks in here. Bright, blonde oak, more tobacco, sour and numbing peat, lemon juice. Much better with water - the integration takes a massive leap forward.

Finish - Lemon most of the way down, zest and curd. Numbing wood at the end, sour tannins in the back of the tongue and liquorice imps.

Port Charlotte is so challenging, much more so, in some ways, than Octomore. This doesn't disappoint, but I prefer the Islay Barley.

Port Charlotte Valinch, Cask Exploration 06, Cuan Árd, 10 years old, 58.6% A⊕+

Grenache Blanc cask.

20160301_124523Nose - Sharp, sour, intense and complete. Permanent marker, white wine, some chocolate, red wine cask, but not too dirty. Hints at the ash of an Octomore. Lots of ozone too.

Body - But the delivery is intensely sweet but dusty, just like a gobstopper. This is sherry bomb transformed into something bizarre, just like 30+ years in cask transforms Islay peat into something alien. I've just realised how incredible Octomore 17.5 could be in Grenache Blanc…. Give me a minute….

Finish - Love hearts all the way to the end and a little parma violet. Very, very long. Remarkable for 10.

A seriously sexy and, frankly, epic single cask of joy. I believe this is still for sale at the distillery. Run, don't walk….