Monday, 2 September 2019

SMWS The Gathering pack

This week SMWS are opening up the Vaults for various celebrations and you can buy a tasting pack to join in.

9th June 2004, 188 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - Perfume (some musk) with a kind of latex, lacquered feel to it - a balloon and a greased tube.  Also mineral and slightly austere - dried orange peel and cold granite.
Body - Beautifully clean and jewelled, exactly the kind of "young" (obviously it isn't that young) bourbon cask you can get into a bottle of.  A good balance of sweet and mineral.
Finish - Clean, with bitter pith and long orange oils.

The austere nose gives way to a delicious young drinker.  Very good.

5th March 2008, 218 bottles, refill bourbon

Nose - Waxy, medicinal cream, a lowlandery floral peachiness with quite hard minerals and brown sugar.  Softer, warmer with water. 
Body - Soft, really quite sweet and creamy again, gentle white fruit and milk bottle sweets.  Richer and peachier with water, but a bitterness is building.
Finish - A fizzing bitterness against buttercream and royal icing.  Very long sugars to the end.

Chuggable bar fodder, the cream and white fruits in the nose and initial delivery is quite classy and very satisfying to drink.

27th October 1995, 202 bottles, refill bourbon

Nose - Clear and shiny, elegantly fruited.  Then some kind of spirity cardboard - light boiled sweets and a beguiling, sort of dirty musk.  You need to dig but it's quite old school underneath the spirit.
Body - Sweet and perfumed, icing sugar sweet actually, with Nice biscuits and praline.
Finish - Medium and coldly, dustily sweet.  Plasterboard and liquorice allsorts.

Far too sweet for me, the simple sugars riding all over the background mature spirit.  

4th April 2011, 524 bottles, 5 years in ex-bourbon hogshead then second-fill toasted oak butt.

Nose - Sweet, simple and winey, with bourbon soaked raisins, chocolate brazils and caramelised orange slices.
Body - An excellently played big casking for a young whisky, this is one of the good ones, with bright, woodsy fruits, very red in character with strawberry laces and chewed liquorice root.
Finish - Medium, the wood against the sugars works.  Water adds cake to the whole thing, but brings ringing tannins.

I really feared for this but the spirit works well with the big wood flavours.  Fans of the Rocktown bourbons we had will love this.

27th November 2008, 1st fill bourbon

Nose - You won't be disappointed nosing this.  Classic Islay, dirty and old school with that slightly plasticky weirdness Ardbeg has sometimes.  It's musky, with burnt electronics and almost a drain on a hot summer day.  In a good way :)
Body - Soft, then sour and sweetly peated with a bright herbal character - mint, rosemary.  Water turns up the burnt peat and liquorice.
Finish - Short, with Kendal mint cake and Pret carrot cake.

This one is a proper cracker.  It's been too long since I've had single cask Ardbeg.

Monday, 19 August 2019

SMWS 36.155, Marmalade in a nutshell

15th August 1997, 185 bottles, refill bourbon

Nose - Fresh, bright and jewelled.  The clean, sweetshoppy fruitiness you'd expect from Benrinnes, with dusty wood adding gravitas and complexity.  I'd go whistlepops rather than marmalade, perhaps a little wham bar. Wood and flower stalks with water.
Body - Wonderfully creamy, balanced boiled sweets and a musky, dulche de leche caramel midrange.  Creamier and woodier with water, almost clotted cream.
Finish - Long, with sesame snaps and black pepper crisps. 

A lovely, fruity but considered drinker and nicely balanced.

Cadenheads summer batch 2

Nose - A fresh, floral but rich, thick and fruity nose.  Immediately compelling, and exactly as expected from Dailuaine.  Waxy and classical, with a little Christmas cake, lovely.
Body - Soft and ripe at first, then a little hot and spiky with flashes of cardboard.
Finish - Long, hot, peppery and with a slightly bitter floral quality, like chewing a flower stalk.

Despite the mention of Christmas cake, this is a good, chewy, floral and waxy drammer for long hot summer evenings.

Nose - Good balance of fruit and off dry this month, light waxes, lots of toffee, a little fresh mint and slightly medicinal.  Even a little fency.  
Body - Rich and creamy, hot chocolate and again, slightly herbal like a Mexican hot chocolate can be (nutty, a touch of cloves)
Finish - Soft and shorter than some of them, vanilla pastry and icing sugar.

Good stuff but not as toe curling as some of its (many) predecessors

Nose - A beautifully waxy, mineral nose, with lanolin and candle wax, fresh cloth and oil paints… perhaps a little lawnmower oil.  Extremely grown up.
Body - Soft but with deep black fruit and even some blackcurrant sorbet.  A little spice at the sides of the mouth.
Finish - Medium with a touch of gunpowder and old wooden box, quite spicy on the lips at the end with a biscuity mouthfeel (what are those tiny Italian biscuits you get with coffee?)

This is a superb drinker, I love the professional but robust delivery on this and waxed nose.  

Nose - Lemon sherbets and lemon curd tarts at first, both the boiled sweet and the clarty pastry.  Satisfyingly rich yet citrusy.  Maybe a little lolly stick.
Body - More of that sweetshop, a little bong water but quite a hollow delivery.  
Finish - Sweeter at the end, charred lolly stick and definitely melted ice lolly.  There’s a slightly harsh burnt citrus and sour malt at the end.  

That harsh, sort of rotten ending nags a bit, however the front of it is very interesting and quite delicious, particularly the nose.

Creations 22, 45% A+
A vatting of Ben Nevis, Blair Athol, and Tomintoul, bottled from a single cask that was vatted together in 2007
Nose - I was hoping for this.  Balanced but tropical, lush and luxurious.  Flashes of forest floor, distillery tours and wooden boxes.  Strawberry laces.
Body - Dusty, ethereal; sawdust, lipstick and fruit polos.
Finish - Medium with insistent sugar and green apple.  Tannins bring the necessary structure at the end and bring you back for more.

Fantastic stuff, and as usual a great advert for blends.  Wasn’t this one one of the long term in a cask together ones?  They work really well.

Creations 45, 43.1% A+
Nose - Deeper still, tropical with gunpowder and plenty of fruit.  Slightly cheesy too, as the best and oldest Scotches are.  Cheddar, leather shoes and star fruit.  Wonderful, and slightly austere in its own way too.
Body - Soft and with that wonderfully weird parma violet, sandalwood and floral quality that the best old Bowmores have.
Finish - Soft, short and elderly, with patchouli joss sticks and cotton.  A little damp wood and liquorice at the end.

What a delicious, soft and gentle, but poised whisky.  You could do serious damage to this in the right circumstances.

Bunnahabhain 5, 58.9% A+
Nose - <insert all previous young peated bunna notes here>.  This is a particularly dirty and meaty one, with burnt crayons and cuttlefish bone.  Really rich and cereally with a lovely burnt character, quite Laphroaigy actually.
Body - Intense burnt seaside, sweet toffee apple and sesame snaps.
Finish - Short but ripe, liquorice root and a little cigarette tar.

A real smasher this, the high sugars against the seaside peat work extremely well - not that this is uncommon for Islay of course, but this particular one is very good with its dirty meats.

Nose - Off sour with green apple on the turn, hay and hot rain.  Glassy.  Boiled sweets with time, a little stewed tea.  Even more honest with water, perhaps a little raspberry jam, but I'm reaching.
Body - Sweet, clean, simple and with a fungicidal cream.  
Finish - Strawberry jelly with single cream poured over, a bit anty.   Short and oily.

Almost pure refill bourbon cask and ethanol.  Unremarkable.

Nose - Night and day compared to the Cameronbridge.  Cheesey in its ancient age, deep and rich with hints of tropical fruit, soft caramel and silly putty.
Body - Delicious and very old; blue cheese on crackers with ripe pear slices.  Palate coating oils, mouth warming spices (chilli and clove).
Finish - Medium, effervescent and a little cardboardy like a whisky on the cusp of being understrength.  


Nose - Perfumed with complex, if slightly weird, woods galore.  The perfume is marker pen, white wine, lily and emulsion paint.  The wood is plywood, a little balsa and new, varnished, flat pack.  Robust but Summery.  Meaty on the nose with water.
Body - Hard grain, apple and pine.  Balanced sugars, a bit… reminds me of weak orange squash.  Better with water, richer and more complex.
Finish - Zesty and very sweet.  Slightly metallic with water.

A richer grain, with an interesting and challenging nose but not for me.

Nose - Leather sofa and felt, ripe strawberries and their leaves, clean red fruit and a balanced wood.
Body - Balanced; fruit, liquorice root, stewed tea and flying saucer sweets.
Finish - The liquorice root starts to take over, black jacks and burning tannins near the throat.  

Ripe with lots of midrange, a solid drammer.

Littlemill, 28 years old, 50.7% A+
Nose - Considered.  Melon with lemon curd tart and - actually more like the pear and salami danish pastry you can get at that place in Borough market.  A bright, jewelled tropicality starts to develop with time.  Beautiful.
Body - Deep with leather belt, horse, manure (in a good way) and very distinctly, Calpol.  Significant lacquer.  
Finish - Very long, it would be cloyingly sweet if it wasn't so bonkers.  Orange barley squash and more wham bars.  Linseed oil.

Doesn't disappoint, this one's quite mental yet assured and full of fruit and oil.  

Nose - Fruit and nut bar, nutty more than chocolatey though.  Big on the high end women's perfume, really deep and weirdly wooded, like they all seem to be. It is lip smacking stuff though.
Body - Wood oil, that perfume, felt box and tropical squash.  Reminds me of a posh night out in a London restaurant for some reason.  Significantly better with water too, it grows up another decade or so.  
Finish - Long and very thick - mango lassie?  Salty too.  

An absolutely superb old whisky, highly recommended.

Glen Spey 23 years old, 57.5% A+
Nose - Dried raspberries with hard woods and salted almonds.  Something mineral and dusty, like ground artist chalks.  A little lipstick with some old lacquered wood.
Body - Off sweet fruits, the Drumstick chew lolly thing and that hard wood/grain thing from the nose again.
Finish - Long, with plenty of wood tannins and a mini milk?

Delicious and austere.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

SMWS 37.119, Plum sauce rancio-fest

SMWS 37.119, Cragganmore, Plum sauce rancio-fest, 16 years old, 56.6% A+
11th June 2002, 1st fill PX hogshead (14 years in bourbon HH)

Nose - Deep, ripe and delicious; lots of soft caramel against old school sherry cask. There’s a deep Glendronach-y sherry bomb beauty here with a lovely balancing top spike of tropical scotch. Balanced but with a waxy richness.
Body - Soft and ripe again, then quite a hardwood-y, sweetshop sourness that gives it structure - bright boiled sweets and a little burnt orange marmalade.
Finish - Long and brightly sour, more cut orange peel and the first bites of liquorice imps.

An extremely well judged finishing here, that richness has worked very well with what was probably quite an astringent cask to start with.  That does leak a little in the final character of the whisky, but there’s loads of luxury, structure and complexity to get into.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Single Malts of Scotland, Imperials 21

These two beauties.  The German (I think) cask was on at the whisky show last year next to a 22 year old, and it stole the show for me.  No mean feat against a whole show’s worth of amazing stuff.  The UK cask is very much in the same vein.  SMOS have some amazing bottlings.
Now, I apologise profusely for taking so long to get these out.  This was stymied by Google trashing blogger integration with Open Live Writer, which I’ve now given up on them ever fixing.

Imperial 21, UK bottle, cask 2472, 50.5% A⊕+

Nose - It's just complete and classy. Dusty, planed oak and deep rich (but restrained) fruit. Expensive men's perfume with cloudy cider, cut apples and lemon joss sticks. It's lovely, dusty and masculine.
Body - Cigarette papers and dried rolling tobacco, fresh cut oak and blood orange segments.
Finish - Orange juice takes over in the finish, but the rolling, structural woods keep it propped up and bring you back for more. Citrus in Xmas pudding batter at the end.
This is pure Speyside, bourbon cask perfection. This is the kind of bottle I really covet; the old bourbon Glenrothes, the really remarkable Hazelburn, restrained but utterly compelling.

Imperial 21, German bottle?, cask 2473, 50.6% A⊕+

Nose - Classy is the word here too, wood glue and sawdust, long orchard fruit, also perfumed and delicately fruited. It's the balance of toppy floral fruit, musty but zesty cask, and deep richness that works.
Body - Restrained sugars, peppery tobacco and lemon sorbet, custard filled pastries, lolly sticks. A dry, tannic, but decadently rich bourbon cask, but with that really old school leathery, tropical feel.
Finish - Very long, with rich fruit toffee, stewed plums/tea and a little Pritt stick.
Another superb cask, which obviously stood out enough against significant competition (the rest of the SMOS stand for a start) at the Whisky Show last year for me to march over to the shop and buy it.

These are both superb - the UK bottle has a more expressive, varnished nose, but the German bottle is riper and just a touch more luxurious in the delivery.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Compass Box Affinity and No Name 2

Compass Box Affinity, 46% A+

Nose - Sweet, fruity and waxy… so far so good. High on the dusty cask, I can only detect any calvados by looking for it, actually the effect is that of a beautifully fruited Scotch. Wax candles, straying into crayons, with royal icing and vanilla.
Body - Thick and oily, slightly odd in that it’s quite peppery and new oaky rather than being appley- the waxy note comes across as more baked apples and pie crust now, if I’m being suggestible. As it builds though, that Scotch character I liked on the nose re-asserts and maybe I wasn’t just being suggestible with the baked apples.
Finish - Medium but some elements of the calvados now come through. Apple chews perhaps, vanilla custard, orange peel and liquorice.

There’s just that misstep in the initial delivery, but otherwise I really quite liked this. It doesn’t, however, really feel like a mix of whisky and calvados, more like just some peppery Scotch. But a good one!

Compass Box No Name, No.2, 48.9% A+

"If No Name was peat as thrash metal, No Name, No.2 is the progressive genre: still potent, yet cerebral too"

Nose - Sweet, white winey peat - that will be the 75.5% Caol Ila in it (9-10 years old I'd guess). Waxy and appley, with cherry compote and orange powder, whistle pops. Mouth watering fruits.
Body - Softer than I expected, with cough candy, dark orange marmalade and Pret carrot cake.
Finish - Medium with trebor soft mints. A little christmas cake at the end, some pine.

Chuggable; definitely rounds out the Caol Ila's sharper, coastal edges.

Cadenheads Summer batch 1 2019

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12yo (2006) 56.6%: HHD A-

Nose - Sweet and flinty, with sudocrem, or maybe milk tart.  Boiled sweets and a slightly salty, cold and coastal feel to it.  More creamy with a little wax, with water, soft fruits coming through. Less tough overall.
Body - Peppery, then creamy, then more flinty, hard boiled sweets.  Charred lemon shells and bandages later on.  The pastry for the milk tart with water.
Finish - Quite short in the fruit and cream, a hard, wet oak winning out later.  Much more rewarding with water,  the pepper becomes grapefruit tannins and citrus, better integration with the woods.

A hard but oddly refreshing whisky, needs some water to bring it out of its shell.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11yo (2007) 56.6%: HHD B+

Nose - A perfume bottle in a felt lined box. Gently floral, slightly exotic, very feminine* with added sandalwood and a newly opened magazine (cross between paper and plastic).  Actually, one with a perfume sample in it.  You get the idea.
Body - Soft and fruity, then bright, tannic citrus, charred and a little rotten, like black driftwood.  A background soft, salted caramel and a little frying oil.  More of the citrus zest with water, and a slightly Asian (food) edge with licked crayons and peanuts.
Finish - Long but bitter and tannic.  Slightly harsher and drier, with water.

A promising nose but a hard and clumsy delivery on this one.

Strathclyde 29yo (1989) 50.8%: Brl A+

Nose - Deep sugars, balanced fruit, slightly tropical but refreshing.  It flits between wood, fruit, grain and a brighter spearmint, with a backing of leather and musk. Complex, full spectrum yet restrained.
Body - It’s a soft but beautiful grain, all orchard fruit, leather and zesty woods. A little fungicidal cream too.
Finish - Green peppercorns in brine.  Bandages.  Big grain tannins at the end though, building and numbing.

A quite beguiling mixture of luxurious and fruity at the front, but hard and tannic at the back.  That means you need to take your time but it keeps you coming back.

Tomintoul-Glenlivet 12yo (2006) 54.3% A+’

Nose - Ripe.  Somewhere between orange and peach, with deodorant, lime marmalade (and butter, no toast) and plywood.  A little iron filings/swimming pool at the back of the sinuses, but the fruit wins out.
Body - A classy delivery; soft fruit, then magazine, then salt water and rich, ripe vanilla and pastry.  It is robust though, hard wood and citrus zest keep you on your toes.
Finish - Medium to long with balanced fruit toffee and pastry throughout.  Orange segments with juice down the chin.

A really classy, delicious drammer.  No fireworks for sure, just honest** drinking whisky. I could settle into a bottle of this (probably in the Spring though).

Macallan-Glenlivet 30yo (1989) 42.8%: Brl A⊕+

Nose - Beautifully tropical, with UHU glue, balanced but intense old cask, very clear and very buttery toast and honey, and softly layered woods and oils.  Orange curd and sesame toast.  Wonderful and gentle.
Body - Important.  Massive at first, then retreats into woods and black tea.  Then a vanilla cream and gentle fruit (it doesn’t taste of strawberry, but you know how strawberry tart is quite watery with low sweetness on the fruit side).  Then charred pastry, liquorice imps and hints of bidis.  The feeling at the sides of the tongue is oily and intensely fruited.
Finish - Long and more stewed tea.  Pontefract cake and some pear drops at the end.  Ghostly sugars.

This is a very special whisky, I’m very pleased that it isn’t as in your face as you’d expect and it is a drinking whisky.  Macallan is a luxury whisky for a reason, and there’s the Campbeltown maturation too.  But don’t expect a black sherry monster, it’s nothing like what Edrington would release.

Benrinnes 18yo (2000) 57.3% A⊕

Nose - Warm but minty and medicinal, bandages and mojitos. Leather belt with engine oil.  There’s probably some kind of military thing going on here but I don’t have the smell-memory.  It’s really warm and comforting too though, I can detect the juicy fruit I was expecting behind the other stuff, and the waxes build.
Body -  Big - alternating between big fruit, wood, instant coffee and new magazine though.  Hot chocolate.  Not one of the luxury fruit bombs but a ripe, spicy, woodsy and complex delivery.
Finish - Long and slightly sour.  Some red chilli behind the woods.   Tropical at the end, wood oils on the tip of the tongue.

A ripe and fulfilling experience.  Not what I was expecting but still big and full bodied, and wonderful drinking whisky. 

Pulteney 13yo (2006) 54.7%: HHD A

Nose - Slightly sour apple at first, a little salty of course, lots of soft toffee and milk bottle sweets.  Bright and rewarding.  Expectations set to high.
Body - Fruit toffee, sour, toppy, petrichor.  Especially on the tip of the tongue, practically ozone.  Very oily.
Finish - Milk chocolate chip cookies, raisins by association.  Cheap hot chocolate at the end, and a little Black Forest.

Great nose but a little challenging in the delivery.  Fascinating to drink but not a whole bottle.

Inchgower 10yo (2009) 56.6%: HHD A⊕

Nose - Fresh and mineral, ripe green apples - a really complex but beautiful grown up character - apple wood and cashew nuts.  Slightly charred but deeper with water, more shaved wood.
Body - Balanced sweetness - there's dark toffee with hazelnuts and a wham bar but hard wood oils.  Fruitier with water, foxes glacier fruits and a little of the mints.
Finish - Long with cracked black pepper, orange peel and popping candy at the end.

The depth and complexity on this 10 year old is superb, with lots of rich fruit and toffee notes balanced out by structural woods and oils.  Very well judged, just the kind of cask you could pour yourself into after a tough day.

Littlemill 27yo (1992) 49.8% A+

Nose - Deeply rich (caramel and old varnish), slightly winey and with balanced minerality and waxiness.  Fruity like a Fruit Salad chew in a hot pocket.  Really creamy.
Body - Soft and slightly cardbordy, with a gentle tropicality and a nice packet of fags.  Oily like an extra strong mint is.  Baked fruits.
Finish - Long and quite astringent, with more toffee (a touch of Werthers to it too). 

A delicious old whisky, with a lovely gentle, balanced and grown up quality to it - but as is sometimes the case with these old closed distilleries, it doesn't quite live up to the hype.

Paul John 7yo (2011) 55.4%: HHD A+

Nose - Big and sour, gastrique and tropical wood juice.  Red wine and sawdust.  Wham bars. Waxier with water.
Body - Rich, creamy, more sawdust and a little gunpowder.  Some Sichuan peppercorns and this really interesting, sparky, slightly medicinal sweetness - something in the preserved lemons and rosemary area.
Finish - Medium to long with lingering coffee, flat cola and sparklers.  Thyme with water, numbing clove oil.

Quite the bruiser this one, the fruit is down a little (it's not pretending to be a heavy but ancient Scotch) but it really works well.  I prefer the Scotchier ones of course.

Fettercairn 10yo (2009) 55.8%: Sherry HHD (since August 2017)  A⊕

Nose - Dank, dark sherry cask, as expected.  Irish coffee - maybe a little Baileys.  Wonderful structure though, cask wax, black fruit and vibrant spirit.  High hopes.
Body - Off sweet fruit, Morello cherries - it has that exact balance of musk, sweet red fruit and sourness that a ripe cherry has.  There's a big astringency here too, and some spearmint (perhaps left over from the Paul John). 
Finish - Slightly burnt pastry, meatier than the initial delivery with some pork fat and auto-suggested rosemary.  Very long and oily, almost engine oil.

What a full bodied, exciting and delicious drammer, highly recommended.  Damn thing's out of stock, there may be some back later.

Cradle Mountain from The Small Concern 23yo (1996) 53.2%: Ex Cabernet Sauvignon A⊕+

Nose - A serious colour on this.  Wow - intense, dark red fruit and waxes.  Bright sugars, some combination of petrol station, cola cubes and, like, raspberry slush puppy or something.   But there's this really beautifully elegant fruitiness tying it all together.  Remarkable.
Body - Softly sugared, intense cherry tunes, some echo of a urinal cake and hugely structural tannins.  Christmas, including a trip to the freezing cold toilets in a soho pub.
Finish - Medium, rich and ripe.  Those wine tannins are extremely compelling, as is the almost curry-like experience with the warm, weird spices - black cardamom and liquorice root.

A phenomenal experience, extremely intense and very un-whisky like in a lot of ways.  A transformational cask treatment. 

Loch Lomond 12yo (2007) 55.8%: HHD A+

Nose - Clean, lemony peat with coconut cake and crushed cashews.  That desiccated coconut is very clear.  Some medicinal cream, a little rosemary but that might just be in my palate now.
Body - Sweet and creamy, clean Kendal mint cake, a very clean whisky with some of that weird and unique peat from a Croftengea.
Finish - Medium, fizzing with lemony peat and sherbet. 

A cork chucker.

* When I say feminine, it smells like perfume that would be marketed as for women.  This is not a sexism in whisky issue.
** when isn’t whisky honest?  When it’s been through an increasingly desperate procession of 3 month maturations in different casks, including an unstated virgin oak and at least two different types of sherry.