Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Whisky Agency Glenrothes, 20 years old

As Sjoerd said, there’s been some fantastic 1997 sherried Glenrothes recently.  There was the Whisky Broker sherry bomb, and the Cadenhead’s one, both of which I loved because they retained the distillery character while being interesting, funky and total bombs.  Then this one comes with Whisky Agency and Whisky Exchange on the label.  A lot less funk but absolutely delicious, this drinks like a big 18 Macallan – pure sherry Speyside.  Fantastic stuff.

This sold out quickly (brand and colour) but I believe it may come back soon.

The Whisky Agency Glenrothes, 20 years old, 51.3% A⊕+

A joint bottling with The Whisky Exchange, 1997-2017, ex-sherry butt

IMG_3065Nose - This is what sherry bombs are supposed to smell like (forget A'Bunadh). Incredibly ripe, loads of depth and no missteps. There's chocolate covered raisins and not quite rotten fruit, roast beef (the scrunchy bits that have caught on the pan), lipstick (the smell of how it tastes) and behind this, the completely not-lost Speyside spirit. There's crayons, small amounts of petrol… and it's so wonderful to smell a proper bomb that can back it up with wood, fruit and balance.  Power and control.

Body - Rich, slightly sharp, green apples and a little acetone. Sweet, sharp wood oils, reduced balsamic vinegar. French polish. Sweeter and creamier with water, a touch of gunpowder.

Finish - Long and woodsy, more apple - baked with raisins. Slightly spicy at the end. Tastier, more delicious with water, the wood oils echo round the mouth.

This is proper. An outstanding cask that I'm sure I'm sure Edrington would liked to have bottled themselves (it would certainly fit in the vintage range).

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Cadenhead’s Autumn 2017 Authentic Collection

The year is drawing on, I know a lot of wallets will be looking forward to the end of the 175th anniversary year at Cadenhead’s but I’ve just realised how much we’ll miss it when it’s ended!

Quite a lot of this still in stock. 

Tomintoul 2006, 11 years old, 57.2% A+

tomintoulNose - Sweet, great wood, classy. Chalk and cherry whistlepops, with deodorant and a posh hotel (new carpet, flowers). The sweetness is evocative; ice cream and sweetshop, lots of vanilla and an insistent creaminess like rhubarb and custard boiled sweets. A really beautiful nose. Practically Christmassy with water, holly leaves and royal icing.

Body - More sweetshop, quite hard wood behind all that cream with lots of numbing and mineral notes up the sinuses. Chipped marble and caramel, with a little charred chilli. Slightly more ordinary with water.

Finish - Medium, lots of sweet oils - orange oil, foxes glacier fruits. Cut branches with water.

This is a cracking whisky, lots of interest and drinkability - sweet and fruity on the nose, not too austere but classy in the delivery and a good long term drinker. Highly recommended, particularly for the nose which wouldn't be out of place on a much more expensive whisky.

Ord 1996, 21 years old, 55.7% A⊕

ordNose - Ripe and dusty, weirdly this reminds me heavily of those weird soda stream concentrates from the 80s. Generally fruity (somewhere between strawberry and orange), deeply sweet and slightly acrylic on exhale. Waxy woods. Really mature.

Body – Sweet, almost peated in its depth with charred wood, clotted cream and something almost rotten (moss, meat, blue cheese). Cigar tobacco on the tongue.

Finish - Medium with dried fruit and more cheese. Lots of cigar at the end.

Just phenomenal this, such maturity at 21. A warning though that I took these notes from probably the smallest sample I've ever tasted, probably 2-3ml, so no chance to try it with water. But I am heavily tempted to buy one even on that basis.

Auchentoshan 1992, 25 years old, 44.8% A+

auchentoshanNose - Sweet, floral, delicately perfumed, very light on the funk and oils, still very white. Marshmallows, slightly medicinal (somewhere between Sudocrem and Germolene) and foam Haribos. There's something like new carpet in here too.

Body - Extremely delicate again, gentle sweetness, more marshmallow and candy cigarettes.

Finish - Long with a savoury edge, like a sweet brie on oatcake. The woods slowly fade in at the end.

An extraordinarily subtle and delicate whisky, that should undoubtedly be drunk in large quantities in a dark room. One for periods of deep contemplation!

Aberfeldy 1996, 21 years old, 54.6% A-

aberfeldyNose - New paint, old curtains and wax, echoes of peat. There's a fetid quality that reminds me of the dunnage at Campbeltown, but there's also fresh red apple and a flinty quality. And behind all that, a beer festival in a windy warehouse (malt, hops, cold air and distant hot dogs). Fruitier with water, more sweetshop.

Body - Fruity at first, then a big belt of tannins and astringent wood, tobacco and some rotten apple. Jelly sweets then matchsticks. More paint with water.

Finish - Long and fizzing, slightly dirty. Great tannins at the end though.

Striking fruit, but slightly troubled in the delivery.

Glenburgie 1993, 24 years old, 53% A⊕+

Refill claret since 2008 – a 9 year finish!

glenburgieNose - Fence, plaster of paris and Special K. Restrained sweetness but a really savoury maltiness; cherry pie with caramelised brown sugar. There's a real maturity to the nose here though; balanced, elegant. Even better with water, perhaps a little coffee, toffee and a touch more fruit.

Body - Malty again, very cereal led, feels like a 70s 10 year old Bruichladdich or something, waxy and chalky and full of angular malt. Restrained sweetness and lots of salt. Chalkier and dustier with water.

Finish - Long and full of oils, the fruit is held under by the oils. Important, salty casks. Quite a lot of bitterness but it's in keeping with this robust but honest old Scotch. Longer and dustier with water.

An absolutely fantastic whisky, so much poise - perfect balance.  The star of the show.

Glenturrent 1987, 29 years old, 42.1% A-

glenturretNose - Wax and slightly sour fruit at first, sweetening with time. Hot tub (sauna wood and a little swimming pool chlorine), and an unforgiving orchard fruit, I'm going with quince. There's a real sweetness under here though.

Body - Oddly savoury, curry leaves and turmeric, asophetida and wet wood. Where's the sweetness gone? Coffee grounds and then an amazing underlying cask. This comes out more with water (more Hershey's chocolate than curry), it's still quite challenging though.

Finish - Black pepper and cigarette paper glue, my mouth is properly numbed by this. Wetter and thinner with water.

Hide and seek with an excellent cask and fruit, some challenging but complex flavours in the development. Really interesting (particularly so on the nose) but a little weird for my palate.

Ben Nevis 1998, 18 years old, 50.2% A⊕

Belize dark rum cask since September 2015 (2 years)

bennevisNose - Just on the point between sweetshop, wood, fruit and wax, a finish of this precision on the nose gives me very high hopes for the delivery. The sweetshop is warm, wet Haribo (found down the seats in the back of my car), the fruit green apple on a hot summer day. It is a truly lovely thing.

Body - Dusty and alien like an old Islay or an 18-21 year old Springbank or Longrow. Chalky and oily, perfect balance but really quite charred. Was this previously in a Springbank ex-rum cask? It's picked up a lot of Campbeltown either way. Even better with water - Marlboros and white foam sweets.

Finish - Long and oily, liquorice root and allsorts at the end. Very numbing, significantly peated. Quite bitter at the end though.

Either the rum is playing tricks with me or something else has had a trip through this cask at some point. This didn't have the weird funk I was hoping for but that peated finish is very well judged.

Glen Scotia 1992, 25 years old, 44% A⊖

glenscotiaNose - Waxy. New wellies, cut red cherry and a waxed jacket. Slightly musky with lipsalve and a touch of cardboard. Slightly medicinal. Unpeated.

Body - Dry and a touch overwooded - chewed liquorice root with hazelnuts and chalky bonbons.

Finish - Long and very drying, with wet wood, buttercream icing and twisted orange zest. Leatherette at the end and a lingering sweet woodiness.

Not as majestic as I was expecting unfortunately, I think this was picked a little too late.

Bonus dram from the excellent creations range…

Creations 1992, Light, creamy vanilla, Batch 2, 23 years old, 51.6% A+

creationsNose - As the name says, with wooden splints, strawberry jelly and new swimming hats (it's not specific to the hat, it's that kind of silicone covering though). I'd say it's fruitier than the name suggests though with good warm cask notes. There's something very right about this nose.

Body - Definitely creamy, again the wood is the standout note here with vanilla behind it. A touch of orange too.

Finish - Slightly hot with flat pack furniture and chewed orange peel. Lots of tannins at the end.

That late citrus feel to it is the making of this whisky. It's really crushable - a very well put together blend.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Douglas Laing Summer 2017

Douglas Laing are still knocking good stuff out, I see the Old Particular outturns come and go but I can’t do much about them with so many other whiskies I have to buy that I am able to taste before doing so… but I know there’s some gems in there.  These remarkable regional malts are quite a good option for NAS drinkers, expressions of a style.  I’ve liked some more than others but they are generally a good bet, and some have been phenomenal.

Apologies to Douglas Laing who sent me some of these ages ago to taste, which I duly did and then forgot to publish the notes!  They’re all still in stock anyway.

Timorous Beastie 18 years old, 46.8% A-

Highlands

timorous-beastie-18-year-old-whiskyNose - Quite robust in its highland way, with green apple, crayons and radiator dust. I love that combination of orchard fruit, waxy spirit, ozone and varnished woods. There's a touch of petrol here to add some grown up complexity.

Body - But the delivery is a little disappointing at first - slightly bitter, a little hollow, although that does develop into a more peppery toffee with some of the fruit returning later on. I think this is perhaps just a little austere even for me.

Finish - Medium to short with chalk and oils at the end. Slightly fizzing with big tannins at the back of the throat.

Loved the nose on this but the delivery didn't quite do it. A little austere, perhaps a little awkward too.

Rock Oyster 18 years old, 46.8% A+'

Islands.  There’s a new Rock Oyster sherry edition out now too.

rock-oyster-18-year-old-whiskyNose - Quite vegetal, slightly dirty, very evocative of rock pools funnily enough, slightly funky and green with algae and ozone. It has a kind of waxy lowlandy feel to it too. And unrelated, cracked black pepper crisps.

Body - Really gentle and creamy this, with that peppery almost peat from the Jura providing the bass notes.

Finish - Long, and peppery again, and now apple chews provide the bass notes with dried flowers and a touch of new bandage.

This one is full where the beastie is hollow, although both have a lovely restraint. I'm a fan of this one.

Rock Oyster Cask Strength, 57.4% A⊖

rock-oyster-cask-strength-whiskyNose - Sweet and chalky, very coastal though, almost Islay. Quite swarthy - leather and sweat, wet rocks, salt water. Slightly richer and subtly floral with water.

Body - Sweet but very malty, fizzing lemon - quite hot, lots of youth here. Cracked black pepper, lemony Sichuan peppercorns later on, although a really lovely sweetness and some good casks. Much better with water, there's peach and orange, big bitter tannins though.

Finish - Numbing and oily. Quite biscuity. Red chilli with water.

The higher strength exposes the youth here a little, these are better presented at drinking strength I think? Anyway it's still good juice, bit spicy for me perhaps.

Scallywag 13 years old, 46% A+

Speyside

scallywag-13-year-old-whiskyNose - Ripe, red and berried. This is the kind of nose that made old Glendronach so well loved - lots of sherry but lots of quality. Lip salve, Vimto and black jacks complete the luxury. Fingers crossed…

Body - … not quite. Good body here with quite a sour sherry development, redcurrant jelly and good tannins. But there is a lack of depth and luxury that takes it down a couple of notches, and a simplicity in the sherry that gives the age away a little.

Finish - fizzing and slightly bitter with chewed orange pith and Sechuan peppercorns and leatherette.

This is a good drinker but not quite would I'd hoped it would be given the nose.

Provenance Feis Ile 2017, Caol Ila 6 years old, 50.6% A-

caol-ila-6-year-old-2010-feis-ile-2017-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - It could only be CI or young Bunna. Sweet, slightly dank, cereal and crushed shells but meaty… actually a big hit of slightly fetid bandage puts it elsewhere in Islay. Digestive biscuits dipped in milky, instant coffee. Ketchup. I give up. Simpler and more approachable with water - green apple and leather.

Body - Rich and remarkable, very sweet, very definitely Tunnock's Milk Chocolate Caramel Wafers. Slightly burnt with water, but there's flashes of cherry.

Finish - Long with that chocolate toffee and a slightly peppery edge - and some dried, old Marlboro light tobacco.

Lots to taste here, lots to write about but the delivery is so robust it's quite tiring to drink. Good “tasting” whisky (would be a great end to a tasting) but you'd struggle with a bottle.

Douglas Laing, Consortium of cards #1, Laphroaig 18 years old, 50% A⊕

laphroaig-18-year-old-1998-old-particular-consortium-of-cards-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Sweet and mature Scotch at first, then mineral and funky later, lightly medicinal. This has that intensely sweet backing to brighter, more mineral peat and wood that makes mature Islay what it is. Slightly rotten apples and cigars. Definitely more medicinal with water.

Body - Intense in many ways and very good - hard to keep up with it. Ripe and very fruity at first, a little Germolene, cigarette tobacco, orange sorbet.

Finish - Long with lots of fruit juice - neat orange barley squash, orange zest and honey. A little aniseed at the end.

This is particularly good - the initial delivery is just fantastic, really rich, ripe and complete.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Highland Park Valkyrie and friends

So relaxing to taste a blended single malt, an OB aimed at a profile!  Of course I love the single caskers but… nice to be on the receiving end of Max McFarlane’s lifetime of blending skills for a change.

Then a couple of oddities to balance it back out, both Cadenhead’s HPs that you can’t buy.  The first from the warehouse tour at the festival, the second from the Cadenhead’s cage in the Edinburgh shop.

Highland Park Valkyrie, 45.9% A+

highland-park-valkyrie-whiskyNose - Rich, quite dark, quite red-wine cask, good waxes. It's been so long since I had an official HP I couldn't remember the profile. I get the window putty I'm used to in mature refill bourbon indies, but there's some good wine and sherry casking in here spicing things up too. It's all balanced quite nicely with cakey, wood vanilla.

Body - Bitter cigarette tar, sweet cigar tobacco, fizzing sweetness, more sherry and a bright, young bourbon cask. Chewy and mouthfilling, lemon sherbets and earth.

Finish - Medium short but reasonably flawless, ends in young, bitter peat but none the worse for it.

A tasty HP in the classic style, young NAS stuff but I wouldn't judge it any differently if it had 3 years old written on the label.

Highland Park 1988, 29 years old, Cadenhead's Warehouse Tour, 51.5% A⊕

IMG_2603Nose - Deep but gentle, fruit and putty. Freshly squeezed orange juice, ozone and hand soap, freshly laundered towels. Very clean with just a hint of peat. It's the putty and wax that makes HP so special though, seasoned with peat and full of fruit.

Body - Pritt stick, big old Scotch, then a spike of pepper and peat and then fence panels. And bunsen burners.

Finish - Oranges, Sichuan peppercorns, iron filings and toffee pennies. Very tannic at the end, bitter peat.

The usual rollercoaster of flavours from an old Highland Park, and another fantastic cask here. This is a fascinating whisky, one to take time over. It's a little too heavily peated in the finish but the nose is joyful.

Highland Park 22 years old, Cadenhead's Manager's Cask (Edinburgh cage sample), sherry butt, 59.6% A+

Thanks to whisky rover for splitting his bottle of this.

HPCageNose - Ha… this is so orangey I'm thinking it's virgin oak! Maybe it's a recharred sherry butt. It's really fresh and zesty, but very spirity and toppy, makes me think of wasabi on sushi rice. Much better with water, some of that wax I was expecting, more fruit. Could go either way.

Body - What a strange HP, it's hot and woody and quite American. Fried panko, toast and honey. Again, better with water, there's a little petrol and a slightly otherworldly sweetness and fruit to it.

Finish - Long, hot and back with the orange zest, very drying and a lick of sulphur. The finish really makes you come back for more.

A weird nose, a weak delivery and a very compelling finish. Strange stuff, not that it matters, who knows what happened to the rest of this cask! I probably ended up loving it after it took a trip through a red wine cask. A good, fun oddity for 20cl.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

SMWS August 2017 outturn 2/2

The balance of the drams I can get my hands on from August.  I’m missing a few from this very large outturn – 3.302, 64.82, C3.2 and R8.3.  There’s a R9.2 somewhere too, not sure about that.  Anyway there’s so much here I’m not complaining about missing a few. 

Thanks to Chris for taking all these bottle shots!

SMWS 54.50, Aberlour, Expensive perfume on a fruity tart, 10 years old, 60.4% A+

21st April 2001, 197 bottles, refill bourbon

image001Nose - Light, fresh and clean. Nothing overdone, more mineral and wax than fruit, although there is a sweetened, chalky sweetshop note to this. Chewy meringues, a little acrylic paint, and a slightly sour berry feel. More floral with water, there's the perfume, and there's a more pronounced, creamy, almost lowland musky fruit.

Body - Really creamy in the delivery, rich and full of vanilla, and so much oil. Slightly floral, a little milk tart, a little spirity. Much improved with quite a lot of water, there's a zesty fruit - orange zest and cooking apple flesh.

Finish - Slightly hot and biscuity in the end, perhaps a French baked tart. Quite short though, with clean woods at the end.

A tired cask has, over a short period of time, had just a small, steadying hand on some excellent spirit here. This is a fresh and delicious drammer, bar and bottle.

BUY

SMWS 48.91, Balmenach, Sweet, juicy and perfumed, 10 years old, 60% A

28th February 2007, 145 bottles, refill bourbon

image002Nose - Slightly plainer, more one dimensional than the Aberlour, this has less wax and more fruit, but a very full sweetness, a much fresher cask. Marker pen, artificial strawberry and cut cherries.

Body - Very ripe and mouth filling, with fruit salad chews and twists of lemon peel. More bitter with water, balsa wood and I'm sure there's a lick of smoke in there.

Finish - Long and fruity, good structure from the cask and lots of sweetshop. Bitter at the end. Tannic with water.

In contrast, another excellent young spirit in a much fresher cask, this drinks like a first fill. Tasty stuff for the bar, but these young fresh casks are tiring for a bottle.

SMWS 36.133, Benrinnes, An irresistible experience, 19 years old, 55.2% A-

15th August 1997, 171 bottles, refill bourbon

image003Nose - Very gentle. Slightly stale milk chocolate (an old chocolate digestive) and a deep, understated sweetness, like smelling a cold wham bar. There's some mint in here too, and a little sauna wood. Fruitier and more complex with water, a touch of old cigarette tobacco.

Body - Biscuity, perfumed, very gentle, a very refill cask here again. Crunchy green apple and biscuity malt, and then a very fresh and vibrant squeeze of ripe orange, quite lip smacking.

Finish - Quite new makey - that malty twang - although that's not a flaw here. Short and citrussy, slightly spicy (chilli heat) and perhaps a little too sweet at the end.

An interesting experience, there's something really special in the nose but in the round this doesn't have the vitality of the Aberlour or the intensity of the Balmenach.

SMWS 64.93, Mannochmore, Tutti frutti spiced cream, 12 years old, 57% B+

26th May 2004, 227 bottles, first fill bourbon

image004Nose - Clean and white again, creamy but barely there. Vanilla cream, a little peach perhaps, roasted plums? More interesting with time, there's a slightly deeper sourness in here, some paint.

Body - As suspected, this has ice cream plus a gentle but jarring bitterness. Some lip gloss, even some pork crackling… it's growing on me. Richer with water, but still very white.

Finish - Short and biscuity, apple pips and pear skin. Unfermented wort.

Too pale, too ordinary. Not flawed, just not that exciting.

SMWS 96.11, Glendronach, Frisky fun, 10 years old, 57.6% A

8th June 2006, 210 bottles, refill bourbon

image005Nose - A confident citrus nose here, freshly squeezed orange juice, orange zest and a lovely clean spirit. Behind this, well balanced sweetness and lots of waxed wood, almost beeswax. Reminds me a little of apricot jam.

Body - Rich but fizzing in the sinuses. Clean, ripe orange again. Rich and delicious with water, with a slightly hot edge that detracts a little.

Finish - Young and zesty, quite long for it though with chewed orange peel and caraway seeds. Wood glue with water.

This is delicious and compelling, if a little simple.

SMWS 9.125, Glen Grant, Strolling in paradise, 13 years old, 60.9% A+

17th June 2003, 220 bottles, first fill bourbon

image006Nose - Peach and baked plums with raisins. A little petrol, some warm candle wax and fruity cask. Very professional. Slightly medicinal with water, a little younger feeling.

Body - Harder than I was expecting, big fruit and toffee but fizzing hardwoods and white grapes. Unchanged by water, you might as well add some as you get more whisky.

Finish - Quite long with intense, sweet woods. A balancing hand with grapefruit zest and icing sugar.

This is a sociable whisky. Delicious, robust, balanced but a real drammer.

BUY

SMWS 4.233, Highland Park, Asian-style barbecue, 11 years old, 64.2% A-

31st January 2006, 234 bottles, refill bourbon

image007Nose - Initial feeling is that this is a little young, a little hollow. The smoke here is uncharacteristically charred, but there's more depth in time. Cherry lip salve (quite faint), Pritt Stick and Marlboro.

Body - There's an incredible sense of Asian-style BBQ here! Very distinct sesame and hoisin sauced pork ribs. Bitterly peated, rich, malty tannins. A brown, rich, malty delivery, extremely umami and satisfying to sip.

Finish - Medium, a little bandage. Tannic and drying, like chewing a paper towel. Sichuan peppercorns at the end. Actually, then some berries.

Well… this is actually really compelling but it does so much so wrong I wouldn't want to have to work through a bottle. Definitely worth a dram at the bar though, probably an evening ender. Mind you, I haven't got to the paint stripper yet.

SMWS 41.94, Dailuaine, A small glass of happiness, 12 years old, 57.3% A⊕

25th August 2004, 216 bottles, virgin oak hogshead HTMC

image008Nose - I misrepresented, it's not paint stripper. Sweet as anything though, and as expected, hard oak and berries. Quite fresh orange zest (Christmassy here) with glacé cherries and Pimms.

Body - It's the full Christmas pudding actually, the raw batter as you set it aside for its overnight tempering before steaming. Full of oranges, and very warm and rounded - lots of VO character but no harshness. Absolutely delicious.

Finish - Medium and citrussy, like the finish from chewing on a sliver of orange zest. Rich cereal. Even more integrated with water.

Really delicious, but these casks just do my head in. VO is the great leveller, reducing all distilleries to the same "thing", even if that thing is unpredictable. I'm beginning to see why SMWS release so many of them.

BUY

SMWS 44.84, Craigellachie, Smooth edges, 13 years old, 56.6% A+'

27th June 2003, 221 bottles, virgin oak hogshead HTMC

image009Nose - Some sulphur in here immediately, this presumably spent some time in a sherry cask before the VO. Works well too, this is dried fruit - raisins and fig rolls - plus coffee and toast with marmalade. There's a really compelling richness here. Even better with water, more fruit. More damn oranges, and recently oiled, sanded oak.

Body - Hot, rich cereal, burnt fruit and chilli chocolate. Sherry or VO? This is on a knife edge. Thick cut marmalade, toothsome slices of peel. Rich fruit, toast and sulphur with water, and some clay.

Finish - Medium to short but that red chilli, black pepper and deeply sweet fruit is pretty exciting.

This is also really good. Damnit. Dirty though.

BUY

Friday, 4 August 2017

SMWS August 2017 outturn 1/2

IMG_2632This month sees the launch of SMWS’s “other” spirits range, including a gin (why!  Actually this first one has spent half a year in a cask), plus cognac and rum.  Of course they had released cognac and rum before (the rum output certainly predates my time in the society), and bourbon and rye whisky, and Japanese and grain whisky for that matter, but the new branding and focus shows intent to focus on these non-whisky spirits a little bit more. 

Some old timers/reactionaries are probably already so dismayed by the multitude of short finishes and crazy casking that this split focus will be seen as final proof that the society has completely lost its way.  Personally I was ambivalent until I tasted them – now I’m quite excited.  The cognacs and rums in this outturn have haunted me ever since trying them, I can’t wait to have more.

IMG_2613

It is slightly ironic that I no longer expect unadulterated Scotch whisky from SMWS but I do now expect great, pure cognacs and rums. And that I will finally be forced to learn something about these spirits by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

IMG_2619

IMG_2631Fortunately they were good enough to provide us with a crib sheet for what the hell cognac actually is, which I will summarise for you here:

  • Distilled wine, primarily made with Ugni Blanc grapes, matured in oak casks
  • All cognac is brandy (distilled fermented fruit juice), but only brandy from the Cognac region of France is called cognac, and brandy from the Armagnac region of Gascony is called armagnac.
  • XO on bottle means at least 10 years old but you can’t say exactly how old (C3.1 was over 30).  There is a lot of funny business with the ages.
  • The appellations are given as regions within Cognac, France, with the central region called “Grande Champagne” which is where all the cognacs in this outturn are from

Finally, this is 1 of 2 for the August outturn because the majority of the whisky wasn’t available when I went to try these, but they have come into the bars now.  Some of the missing ones from July (G15.1 and 66.104) never made it to the bar at all! 

Unfortunately two of the best spirits in this outturn aren’t freely available – R6.1 is only available at the bar and R7.2 as part of a trio (with the gin and C4.1, which to be fair is quite a compelling proposition).  R8.3 wasn’t available to try and is advertised with a three week wait if you buy it now, more labelling difficulties no doubt.

IMG_2614

SMWS GN1.1, The Glasgow Distillery, Glasgow, Gee-Whiz, 50.1%

2nd fill bourbon barrel (6 months)

IMG_2615Nose - Sweet, very zesty and quite mineral, but with some depth - like a cross between limoncello and a hot toddy. Very definitely lemon sherbets. There's a noticeable wood influence in here, maybe it's in the macerated herbs and barks and stuff, maybe it's from the cask. Lip salve with water, maybe a little clove (and juniper, of course).

Body - Quite dry and oily, still with that deep seam of lemon sherbets (for all I know they actually put lemon sherbets in the neutral grain spirit before rectifying it). A little spicy near the end of the arrival. More obviously juniper with water, and over sweetened. Are they allowed to actually put a load of sugar in gin?

Finish - Long with dusty lemons and lots of sugar, fizzing with lemon at the end.

I actually quite like this. A lot better neat though so I wonder how it'd perform in the (already very sugary) tonic.

I'm not going to recommend gin to anyone but that doesn't mean you shouldn't BUY it.

SMWS 11.34, Tomatin, Magical mystery, 16 years old, 53.9% A⊖

9th October 2000, 179 bottles, 1st fill Spanish PX hogshead (previously in an Oloroso butt).

IMG_2616Nose - Warming but restrained, faint fruit and nut bar in a lacquered wooden box, some ghostly but quite rich PX in here - lovely integration, like a 20 year old PX Glendronach. Which is impressive if, as I assume, this is just a brief finish after a short spell in the Oloroso butt. There is a definite butyric note here but it turns into refreshers and cigarettes with time. Slightly herbal (cut hedges) and zestier with water (maybe I'm just still tasting the gin though).

Body - Rich and sweet, coffee and oranges. Quite hot and one dimensional but not the worse for it. A lick of sulphur adds seasoning. Simpler with water, but slightly more floral and waxy.

Finish - Quite short with good orange oils and toffee pennies. Quite hot at the end, with faint waxes. Red chilli with water, eventually cinnamon hot.

Good sherry bomb nose on this (good and restrained sherry, but intense character), but the chilli heat, sulphur and butyric notes ultimately don't add up here.

SMWS 73.86, Aultmore, Work of art, 14 years old, 59.2% C+

23rd September 2002, 580 bottles, refill sherry butt

IMG_2617Nose - Now we're talking; fresh and floral, but also old furniture and tropical fruit (tinned pineapple and peach). There's a light cheese note that makes me think of older society bottlings, but also a more recent bright, sour virgin oak note. Even better with water (a touch more mineral), although the virgin oak comes through a little more.

Body - Oh dear, hard and yellow, tannic oak and licked joss sticks, mouth tarring wood oils. It burns the side of the tongue with lemon oils and oak planks. Much improved with rather a lot of water, some toffee and fruit salad chews. My mouth is on fire though.

Finish - Long and bitter, lots of wood.

A bitter, harsh virgin oak experiment hiding in a sherry cask. But with a lovely nose. A little bit alarming.

SMWS 93.77, Glen Scotia, A classic rally, 9 years old, 58.8% A+

29th February 2008, 225 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_2618Nose - Heavenly, please let this work on the delivery! That Campbeltown light, coastal peat, with well balanced sweetness and that slightly fetid but enticing character that Campbelltown's doppelganger distillery can have (when it's getting it right). This is hot and dusty, with refreshers, old bandages and very old bibles. Ground cloves and asafoetida, and a tasting on the distillery tour.

Body - Perfect (I should try not to gush too much, it's perhaps to do with what came before) - the sweets, coastal funk and clear plastic book covers are perfect. There's something here I'm struggling to put my finger on, it might be goldfish flakes/food?

Finish - Dirty water. But I like it. Liquorice and chilli chocolate. Lots of cloves with water. Chlorine at the end.

Big fan of this, although it is pretty challenging in the round. A big, dirty slug of first fill bourbon Campbeltown.

BUY

IMG_2621

SMWS 10.118, Bunnahabhain, Enthralling pink and peat intensity, 10 years old, 60.6% A⊕

IMG_26241st December 2006, 257 bottles, 1st fill port barrique (previously ex-bourbon). A beautiful rose colour to this.

Nose - Rich, bright, floral and intensely peated, the port cask has done to this Bunna what those bruising sherry cask Laphroaigs had (on the nose at least). IMG_2622Fizzing, slightly nutty, medicinal and alluring. Fingers crossed.

Body - Very sweet, slightly dirty, a definitive port presence with waves of fruit and peat, and drying, nutty wine cask. Peppercorns (let's say they're pink just to go with the flow) and TCP.

Finish - Long and elegantly fruited against the bandages and Germolene. Fizzers and nuts at the end…and then more TCP.

An inspired finish, very well executed. Highly recommended.

BUY

SMWS 29.223, Laphroaig, Relax, refresh, rejuvenate, 17 years old, 58.3% A+

1st July 1999, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2623Nose - Very gentle after the 10, restrained sweetness, light wax and wood glue, with ripe peach, grilled pineapple and cut mango. Obviously more mature than the Bunnahabhain. Dirtier with water, more cigars, more wood glue.

Body - Dusty with a robust bitterness and a very deep sweetness (like neat orange barley squash). Moist cigar tobacco and Seville oranges. Oilier with water.

Finish - Long and intense, waves of medicinal peat, cut oak staves and orange zest, very juicy, very first fill.

A classy nose and a crushing delivery.

BUY

IMG_2626

Here’s the cognacs. These are all XO which means over 10 years old but some of these are clearly a lot older.

SMWS C5.1, A tapestry of flavours, XO, 44.9% A⊕+

Appellation Cognac Grande Champagne Controlee, 483 bottles, Cognac Barrel

IMG_2627Nose - Elegant, balanced sweetness but this is a really lovely sweet old cask. Apple chews and acrylic varnish, strawberry laces and liquorice allsorts. I’m struggling to place the wax; emergency power cut candles I think (perhaps crayons, but it might be the old drawer with its fuse wire I'm really thinking of).

Body - Again great restraint with the sugar, off dry I'd say. It really does have a tapestry of flavours (although I would have gone with "mosaic"), this has balanced sugar, wax, mineral, tannins, wood and herbal notes.

Finish - Short with spiky courgette off the plant, and its flowers (yes, really). That herbal, green against the rich wood and fruit is really compelling, I can't stop sipping this.

Highly recommended.

BUY

SMWS C5.2, Herby goes bananas, XO, 47.1% A+'

Appellation Cognac Grande Champagne Controlee, 478 bottles, Cognac Barrel

IMG_2628Nose - Much more herbal, not quite so perfectly poised as the .1. Cut dandelion stalks, cut hedge, then banana cake with walnuts and a milky instant coffee, and some American chocolate. But there's that bright, alien sweetness that you get in French spirit.

Body - Much more obviously a Cognac, this is again showing some of that elegant restraint the .1 had. Toffee, vanilla sponge cake and a watery rum drizzle. Apple wood chunks and cheap apple juice.

Finish - Short and herbal again, with UHU glue and a touch of rich funk, apple pips.

Another excellent spirit but eclipsed by the sheer elegance of the C5.1

BUY

SMWS C3.2, Strolling through bliss, XO, 60.9% A+

Appellation Cognac Grande Champagne Controlee, 554 bottles, Cognac Barrel

IMG_2629Nose - It smells younger, but looks a lot darker. Light fruit, acrylic paint, dried hibiscus flowers and crushed rocks. This is like one of those honest, light whiskies, with a really clean fresh wood character that are really rewarding to drink (I hope). Richer and fruity wood, but dustier with water. It has the dusty smell of a freshly opened packet of dried chillies with time.

Body - Very different to the C5s (I'm assuming Cognac distilleries have a distinctive character, or maybe it all comes from the soil and elevation, into the grapes). Sweet, rich and oily with a dusty, zesty toppy citric delivery. I think it needs water. Water does bring out more fruit and more "Cognac" but also tomato leaves and green olives.

Finish - Hot and short neat. More wood glue with water, still very hot. A developing fruitiness with lots more water.

This is the first time I've tried two different Cognac distilleries side by side and I definitely prefer the character of C5, whatever it is. But this is a rather lovely drinker in its own right, and a particularly good nose.

BUY

SMWS C4.1, A tantalising tightrope, XO, 57.5% A-

Appellation Cognac Grande Champagne Controlee, 478 bottles, Cognac Barrel

IMG_2630Nose - Sweeter, a little more wine led with Asian notes (ginger, fried rice), pear drops, lemon sherbets and Sudocrem. It took me ages to dig this one out because it's been more than a decade since I've thought of it, let alone tasted it I think but: Bhel Puri. Waxier and fruitier with water, almost malty (? Go figure).

Body - A lot more glue led than the others, brighter (almost overripe) apples too. Vanilla and wax, then lots of red chilli - a flaw here. There's more of that tamarind and popped rice with water.

Finish - Hot, tannic, burning but intensely sweet. Much more balanced with water and time

A great nose but a really delicious delivery under a flaw. That Asian feel, the slight funk and sourness, is really compelling. I'm torn in the scoring but I have to acknowledge the flaw.

BUY

Now the rums.  I’d been warned to leave these until last and I was thinking about the old R5.2 or whatever it was, 80% ABV.  These are a lot gentler than that was (I still have the heel of a bottle of that somewhere).

IMG_2633

SMWS R6.1, Barbados, Spice at the races, 14 years old, 57.3% A⊕

31st October 2002, 210 bottles, refill barrel.  BAR ONLY.

IMG_2636Nose - Clean, ripe fruit first off, well casked and balanced, this could easily be a whisky. Then the rum, there's something deeply wrong about rum in a whisky context. Overripe fruit, flowers on the turn, love hearts, I don't have the muscle memory for these smells…. It reminds me of being a mucky child with a bag of sweets and squeezable bubble gum in a tube (yikes). But it is very, very Scotchy. More medicinal, waxy cask with water. I'm really hopeful…

Body - Plastic, leatherette and very definitely that squeezable tube of filthy bubble gum. It's really rich, fruity and plasticky. Like the Star Trek replicator's first attempt at generating a glass of Scotch whisky.

Finish – Oily, with worn leather and horse blanket. Dirty fruit, cheap sweets and I've only just noticed how spicy and tannic it is.

So much fruit in the nose, so much mucky fun in the delivery. A big hit.

BUY

SMWS R7.2, Jamaica, Jamaica me crazy, 16 years old, 52.8% A⊕+

30th September 2000, 199 bottles, refill barrel

IMG_2635Nose - Slightly hysterical (not funny, panicked). Bright, fruity, slightly sour, a very obviously excellent cask and lots of funky, rotten fruit, gloss paint, BBQ sauce and blackberries. And a big roast shoulder of pork with apple sauce.

Body - Unexpectedly amazing. Rich, mouthfilling fruit and cane, on point sweetness with rum babas and banana fritters in custard (I used to love those at the Pepper Tree in Clapham). Spicy, sweet and complete and really weird.

Finish - Very long, full of coffee, custard cream biscuits, and mouth coating oils.

I'd've given extra points for the excellent punning in the name but this didn't need them. It's making me crazy too.

BUY

SMWS R10.1, Trinidad, Carnival concerto, 25 years old, 63.4% A+

31st December 1991, 228 bottles, refill barrel

IMG_2634Nose - Almost washed out brightness compared to the previous rums, lemon zest and lemon meringue, peppermint chewing gum and menthol fags. Softmints.

Body - A completely different experience, I knew I should have done this first. Much more like a first fill, big and delicious Balmenach than a rum. Rich mint toffee, buttercream icing and cough candy.

Finish - Medium, numbing cloves and more cough candy.

A rich and interesting spirit but none of the fireworks from the others. Back into the whisky end of the spectrum. Scotch does that better.

I should be able to get the notes for the majority of the actual whisky in this outturn over the next week or so.  Plenty to go for in this lot though!