Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Glenallachie Old Particular, 22 years old

Glenallachie is an obscure malt distilllery which produces large quantities of liquid for Chivas blends.

This distillery was a new one on me. Douglas Laing have an in stock, Old Particular of a weird distillery, so I thought I'd give it a pop.  Question is with these "for mass blending" malts, how much do they care?

Glenallachie Old Particular, 22 years old, 51.1% B⊕

February 1992, Cask #10422, Refill barrel, 181 bottles.

glenallachie-22-year-old-1992-cask-10422-old-particular-douglas-laing-whisky (1)Nose - Roses. Posh hand soap, strawberry laces, fried, icing sugar dipped batter and love hearts. Really girly, and very attractive, with shiny red fruit and blonde wood.

Body - Much spicier than anticipated and much more masculine. Spritely, sappy and slightly bitter, but malty and competent. With water, weaker but better integrated.

Finish - Kind of short and uneventful. No flaws, just short.

What's not good about it - Unexciting delivery. Extremely restrained, almost like white wine.

What's good about it - Delicate, feminine and enticing nose.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Wemyss March 2015 outturn

I do enjoy the single cask outturns from Wemyss - it's relaxing to get some single cask gear at 46% sometimes (what's the average at SMWS? 55%?) and some of them are dangerously, unstoppably drinkable.

The March outturn for Wemyss is out, but you need to be quick as they have about 10 bottles of each for the UK it seems. I tried the new Bowmore ("The Rockpool") at Whisky Live London and very much enjoyed it.

Thanks to Wemyss for some samples of the others from this outturn!

Wemyss Aberfeldy 1999-2014, Toffee Tuile, 46% A+

abfwem1999Nose - Old floral toffee, menthol, herbal mint and rosemary. Some pine, foxes glacier fruit and privet hedge. It's a very compelling, sweetly toffeed, floral and balanced nose.

Body - Oddly dry and tannic with lots of tobacco. Slightly peated, perfectly (delicately) so. Perfectly balanced and incredibly drinkable.

Finish - Medium, balanced, dry and oily. Fantastic stuff.

What's not good about it - Very little.

What's good about it - A compellingly sweet, but balanced nose, followed by a very grown up, complex and masculine delivery. I could drink this all night. Buy now!

Wemyss Glenrothes 1993-2014, Kumquat Cluster, 46% A⊕

This is from a sherry butt which produced 730 bottles so should hang around a little longer than the others. I've never met a whisky that shouted Chinese Supermarket as loudly as this!

grswem1993Nose - Absolutely filthy. Hoisin sauce, Asian fruit (presumably kumquat, I need to study these fruits a bit harder), sweetly sour and overripe, almost rotten with a top note of white flowers. And I say all that in the best possible way - this is dirty, sexy whisky, and very challenging.. And very good.

Body - Massive fruit, sulphur and more hoisin - a full Chinese supermarket. Ground black pepper.

Finish - Medium, oily with a touch of spice. Dry but fruity and still naughty. Good stuff.

What's not good about it - Challenging and almost unbearably dirty. What happened with this cask? Something early on which came good after a couple of decades in wood perhaps.

What's good about it - Very complex, fruity, sexy and drinkable. It reminds me of the Lady of the Glen Ben Nevis with the weirdness but has all the DNA of Glenrothes behind it. A remarkable whisky.

Wemyss Mortlach 1995-2014, Stem Ginger Preserve, 46% A⊕+

mtlwem1995Nose - Sweet and dark, polished glass and Drambuie. Much easier going than the last two, with toffee pennies, copper pennies and toasted coconut. Almonds, waxed wood and black cherry. The longer you spend with it the deeper, warmer and more introspective it becomes.

Body - Warm and gentle, waxy and deep, very oily with grapes and sulphur, and a little top note of menthol and mineral. Impressive balance and a really considered delivery.

Finish - Medium, incredibly poised with lemon toffee and a touch of grapefruit juice at the end. Lingering, balancing sulphur and tannins against the warm sugar. Where's the ginger though?

What's not good about it - I can't think of anything.

What's good about it - Complex and warm, changeable and delicious. Fabulous.

Three crackers!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tomatin 21 year old, BBR

Thanks Stumbler, for this.  Twice.  I’m so interested in trying this I got him to send it to me, lost the sample, forgot about it and got him to send it again! I’m enjoying my 6cl, cheers dude.

Tomatin 21 year old, Berry Bros and Rudd, 54.8% A⊕

tomatin-21-year-old-1991-cask-51-berry-brothers-and-rudd-whiskyNose – This is the second funky Tomatin I’ve had this week.  The nose is dark, dank, rich and Asian.  Very un-Tomatin.  Asian fruit, tomato ketchup, black pepper, sulphur, toast and nutella.

Body – Rich, ripe, fruity and dirty.  There’s Tomatin fruit and structure in here now, but buried under musky sulphur and wood.

Finish – Long, intense, vegetal (but perfectly done) and tasty with apple and wethers originals. 


What’s not good about it – Not very Tomatin.

What’s good about it – this is a massive whisky, and it works really well.  The Asian fruit on the nose doesn’t quite dominate the Tomatin fruit on the delivery and the whole thing is complex and perfectly integrated.

Whisky Live London 2015 Report

[EDIT: Incorrectly reported the age spread of standard Compassbox Hedonism]

Whisky Live London seemed busier this year (on the Friday) but with less whisky – no sign of BBR or Glen Garioch, which were highlights for me last year, but some weird and fun stuff like Millet whisky, and some rums filled in the gaps.  Also, it seems I know a lot more whisky folk than I did this time last year, and everywhere I turned there was a friendly face and a hearty handshake.  I had a blast – whisky people are extremely friendly and sometimes quite drunk.


I spent a little while with Malts of Scotland/Highland Laird.  These guys were distributing Malts of Scotland (a German company) in the UK and decided to create their own label.  Everything I tried was interesting, and a bit funky, especially this keenly priced 19yo Tomatin.

Highland Laird Tomatin 19yo, 1994

n – sweet, glazed wood, a little one dimensional.  b – dark and funky with a lot of sulphur for a Tomatin, very interesting.

Highland Laird Springbank 21yo

n – a little astringent, underlying lovely fruit, ripe cooked apple and spice.

b – wow – another weird one! Dusty and joss sticks.  Not unpleasant but not exactly gluggable.  Water brings a lot of spice.

Highland Laird “His Excellency” Ben Nevis, 1970 (45yo), Blended whisky.

20150320_170728This is one of these “last Ben Nevis blended whiskies”.  Apparently malt and grain whisky from Ben Nevis distillery, together in a cask for 45 years.  It looks like fanta and is less revolting than the whisky exchange one (which was just really odd and lactic as I remember).

n – Sweet, gentle and highly perfumed.  Like a girly cocktail.

b – Gentle, slightly funky, lingering bitterness and a little spicy.  Like many VERY OLD whiskies, it’s a bit of a let down, but it’s priced very keenly.

Next up the geniuses at Compassbox and their 15th anniversary edition of Hedonism.  The regular version is whisky around 18-20 years old, 100% first fill.  Hedonism Maximus was 25-32 year old grain whisky.  This new one has a big spread, some very young and very old grain whisky in it.  It’ll be officially released April 15th at about £125 (although it’s already available at some sites).

Compassbox Hedonism Quindecimus

n – Dark, sour, almost winey, ripe pear.

b – Very sweet, great structure, amazing balance, a touch of sulphur.

f – Very long, extremely balanced.

Now Koval, a distillery in Chicago showing some whisky made with Millet in the mash.  The Millet one is 100% millet – even spicier than rye.  The bourbon is 49% millet, 51% corn.

Koval Millet


n – Young, american grain, but sweet and approachable.  Quite soapy but better than expected.

b - Sweet, medicinal,  cough candy.  Balanced, quite weird, but quite good.

f – Long, oily and very good.  Challenging.


Koval Bourbon


n – Also sharp and medicinal, but with an underlying sweet vanilla corn – it lends some maturity to the spirit.

b – The youth comes through a bit more here, but better rounded.  Rather good!

Duncan Taylor Octaves, Bruichladdich 1992

n – sweet, musky, a little ordinary, slightly metallic.  b – Big, dry oloroso hit – nutty, sweet but lacking integraiton.

Mortlach Rare Old


n – Dark, young and cereal dominated.  Metallic, odd seaweed and driftwood.

b – hints of greatness – orchard fruit, bitter tannins, a hint of pine wood.  Good balance but musky.

f = Medium, spicy, some structural peat.


Then some fun at Wemyss (more of them to come in the next post).

Wemyss Velvet Fig

n – Lovely structure, b – Sweet, balanced, works.

Wemyss Bowmore “Sweet Peat Posy”, 1987


n - Sweet, wooded, beautiful parmas

b – Perfect balance of parmas and structure, this is exactly what I want from an older Bowmore.

f – long and beautiful.  Has the perfume and the structure.

This is a big buy.  It’s a lot of money so it’s still hanging around but it’s a fantastic whisky.


Wemyss Bowmore “The Rockpool”, 1995


This is the new Bowmore, just released.

n – Gentle, salty, lots of ozone.

b – Dark, light suplhur, again balanced but much more intense.  This is very much in line with the 1987 but a bit younger and more intense.


Glenfarclas 1980 Family Casks

Bret rocks up, buys a DBTB dram of this and splits it with me and Steve!  Cheers Bret!


n – Oddly meaty, deep and dark.  Beautiful and elegant.

b – Spicy, oily toffee apple.


Glen Moray Elgin Classic

20150320_185145This is the new peated expression from Glen Moray.

n – A little sour, metallic, sour plum.  Good tobacco.. 

b – Lovely, almost wine cask.  Structured peat, bright and numbing.

I also tried the 25yo port cask but my notes just read “Meh”.  Everyone else seemed to be going bonkers for it though.


Finally some others.  Botran rum was great, as was the El Dorado range.  TBWC Ledaig and Bruichladdich batch 2 were good, particularly the laddie.  Then of course it all became a blur… cheers!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Islays from the SMWS March outturn

I didn’t do these in the full March tasting because I’d tried them before and knew I was going to buy them.  So, while it’s still March, I wanted to get these notes out and line things up for a massive set of Islay posts which I’ll be publishing after the April outturn (assuming I can ever finish adding things to them).

What’s interesting (for me) about these two is that they’ll appeal to a really jaded palate.  You wouldn’t start a Bowmore or Caol Ila journey here but if you’re deep into one (which I most certainly am) you might find a lot to love in these two awkward bottlings. 

SMWS 3.239, Bowmore, Acrylic paints and petrichor, 16 years old, 57.6% A+

25th September 1998, refill bourbon, 134 bottles.  [Petrichor definition]

IMG_3397Nose - Oaked honey, light peat, charred driftwood, winkles and beans.  Dried acrylic paint and clay.   With water, everything comes to life with elegant (but lewd) musk, banana foam sweets, leather chair, parmas and ozone.

Body - At first sugary, then very dry shellac and mineral, with a saccharin sweetness.  Unbalanced neat.  With water, unripe pear, parmas, fireworks and sulphur.

Finish - Numbing bitterness, a bit harsh.  Softer and sweeter with water, tobacco, but still bitter.

What's not good about it - Doesn't hang together neat.

What's good about it - Gentle parmas and classy wood beyond its years with water, not overly sweet and very drinkable.  This divides the house somewhat but I really enjoy it.  I'd recommend it for the "had them all" Bowmore fan, for sure.  It's actually one of my favourites of the March outturn.

SMWS 53.222, Caol Ila, The Three Little Pigs, 13 years old, 58.4% A+

7th December 2000, refill bourbon, 284 bottles.  I like to think the 222 looks like the three little pigs tails on the label, but I believe this is a coincidence!

IMG_3399Nose - Ripe pear, sweet peat and wet rope.  Sweet, dusty blackcurrant jam, charred wood, wafer thin ham.  Icing sugar, and a little iron filings.  With water, lemon, sun baked inner tube, apricot jam, a little more metallic. 

Body - Herbal lavender, angelica, sweet peat, toast and honey.  Rosemary, charred oak.  Sweet grapefruit with water, softer with more lemon, and a touch of smoked cheese.

Finish - Long and numbing.  Soda water.   With water, slightly dustier at the end.  Lingering grapefruit seed bitterness and catches you with some chilli heat at the end.

What's not good about it - Overly bitter if you look at it sideways.

What's good about it - A little rare to have an early teens Caol Ila as the monthly 53.  Once you give it a serious amount of water, the fruit comes through, but the Caol Ila intensity is there from the start.  A complex and feisty drammer.

SMWS Edinburgh

My wife took me to Edinburgh to celebrate my birthday, a pilgrimage to the two SMWS venues in Edinburgh. While the London rooms at Greville Street, Farringdon are about the size of a large living room, the operation is a bit bigger in the society's home town. There are two venues, the original rooms in Leith, which I guess you'd call downtown Edinburgh, and the other in the city centre, on Queen Street.

20150207_125943We had lunch on Saturday in "The Vaults" in Leith, so called because the building used to be a site where imported casks of wine was stored and tasted before trading (not because, as you might assume, the next cask of society Bowmore is resting before being bottled). Society casks used to be stored all over the place, at various bonded warehouses and distilleries across Scotland, but recently they've been transferred to a central warehouse in West Scotland. Either way, they're not at The Vaults.

20150207_132733We walked from Edinburgh castle to Leith, via Royal Mile whiskies and a pub. Once you get past John Lewis the trip is along a major road filled with Polish supermarkets, pubs and headshops (selling a good selection of bongs alongside whisky and cigars). The Vaults itself is an imposing, period port warehouse building set among the remains of its peers (converted into offices mainly) and 60s flats and highrises. Inside, the venue is large, imposing, high ceilinged (literally two floors worth), lots of leather, red walls and roaring fires. The room was mainly full of people having lunch rather than drinking whisky, although that's probably not the case in the evening. A display cabinet on one wall houses every *.1 release - 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1 sit next to each other in the first cabinet, and the later *.1s are stacked on top of the cabinet at the back.

We met Crystal Coverdale there, The Vaults bar manager who came to Scotland from Vancouver to "do" whisky a year ago and ordered the society share lunch - a meal for two with two 20cl bottles of previous cask samples, out of which you have a dram each and take the rest home. You get to choose from a large bible of old bottles, one from "tier 1" and one from "tier 3". This was previously set up for four people and four shares, but has been scaled down to two based on customer feedback. As you can imagine, this is all old, lost bottlings from years ago, and the choice was pretty tough - loads of Ardbegs, Springbanks, Caol Ila's I'd never heard of, Macallans, Rosebanks and even 129.1, which I might have gone for if I'd not already tried it (wonderful though it is).

I picked a 29 year old Glenugie and a 7 year old Ardbeg in the end. Lunch was genuinely excellent - who knew the food was so good here? Fish and chips - light, perfectly cooked haddock, brittle beer batter, excellent tartar sauce. Crystal also gave us a couple of bonus drams - the dregs of cask samples of an old Rosebank and a Macallan.

It was a great lunch, a wonderful venue and I was checking out the "for sale" signs on the flats on the way back to Edinburgh.

SMWS 99.11, Glenugie, Tickled by mostera deliciosa, 29 years old, 43.4% A⊕

May 1980, Refill bourbon, 192 bottles.

20150207_133501Nose - Fresh tropical fruit, lots of cereal. With water, golden, shinier toffee, pritt stick, herbal.

Body - Quite spicy, lots of wood, light peat, a little musty, floral.

Finish - Very long, oily, orange juice, pepper, lacquered wood.

SMWS 25.52, Rosebank, Fresh and juicy collides with spicy heat, 18 years old, 53% A+

July 1991, Refill bourbon, 216 bottles.

20150207_140410Nose - Rich, ripe cereal and toffee, ripe pear and pear drops. Then ripe green apples, toast and rainbow drops. Marshmallows. With water, very herbal.

Body - Sharp and spicy, black pepper, lots of wood and dried chilli.

Finish - Long, fizzy, chilli hot, almost cinammon.

SMWS 24.108, Macallan, Ferarri screech, 13 years old, 57.9% B+

June 1996, Sherry butt, 556 bottles.

20150207_140416Nose - This end of a 500ml sample bottle is over the hill and it shows most on the nose. Damp cardboard, cooked rice, light red wine cask - old.

Body - Spicy red wine, bitter tannins, sweet fruit and Sichuan peppercorns, lovely delivery in the end.

Finish - Very long, sweet red fruits, Japanese plums.

SMWS 33.83, Ardbeg, "Oh, for the joys of a long winter night", 7 years old, 60.2% A⊕

2002, Refill bourbon, 231 bottles.

20150207_133507Nose - Sweet, beeswaxed wood, ripe, medicinal with salt and vinegar crisps. 70s bandage, germolene, midget gems and fresh barley.

Body - Acrylic paint and turps, garden twine, balanced by intense sweetness. Extremely drinkable.

Finish - Long, hot and sour, intensely peated, tannic and beautifully bright. Very good.

In the evening, we went to Queen Street for dinner. Queen Street is full of upmarket, Edwardian townhouses, and the venue is a converted house centred round a grand, central spiral staircase with rooms off it on each floor. While waiting for dinner, we chatted to Angus behind the bar, who took me on a tour of the many bottles that don't appear on outturns and happened to be behind the bar that day, many of which I tried. Dinner was excellent again, but more importantly, here's some of the whisky I tried (I didn't take notes, we were out for dinner!)

53.201- Caol Ila, True love on a pebble beach (extremely good, can't believe out of all the Caol Ila I've bought recently I didn't pick this up!)

53.219 - Caol Ila, Confident high-wire artist (A jobbing society 53)

59.52 - Teaninich 30yo, Tasty melange of exotic fruit (good)

3.230 - Bowmore, Sports day - 26yo parma monster, beautiful, and not in any outturn. Had to pick this up, happy birthday to me.

3.218, Bowmore, Opening the bonnet of a classic car - 13yo and also outturn-less. Nothing to write home about though.

1.185, Glenfarclas, Russian, Jamaican, Turkish, Thai. A big 30 year old refill bourbon Glenfarclas, again no outturn. Very good but too rich for me at £170+

85.26, Glen Elgin, Fragrant perfumes and deeper resonances. A 28 year old, overlooked Glen Elgin which was so good I had to hunt one down. From an old outturn.


Edinburgh is a fantastic city - we did the gallery and nearly did the castle, walked a lot and had some nice pints, and stayed in an amazing hotel. And two society rooms really is ridiculously indulgent. We'll be back.

Monday, 16 March 2015

SMWS Old and Dignified tasting

Last call for the SMWS Old and Dignified tasting!  I’ll be on it virtually, really interested to see what’s in it! I understand the SMWS Vaults have been particularly generous with the whisky for the tasting.  The mind boggles…

503601-250You can buy tickets here http://battleforbailey.brownpapertickets.com/ – the money goes towards cancer treatment for a 15 year old girl.  If you can’t make it physically in Edinburgh on March 25th,you can donate directly online at the link above, and follow the tweet tasting at #BattleForBailey.

Looking forward to it – cheers!