Thursday, 22 September 2016

Diageo Special Releases 2016

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Hooray!  For Christmas whisky season has fully started and while it is a time of extreme business for everyone, some fantastic things come out of hiding after summer.

It was a great honour and privilege to be at the launch of the Special Releases again this year in London.  I went to the TWE tasting of the SR in 2013, 2014 and finally got to go to the launch for the first time in 2015. This year was a different venue with better lighting but the evening seemed to get away from me and they were packing up by the time I got to the Lagavulin! 
Highlights for me were the Brora, then the Linkwood.  The unpronounceable Auchroisk is the best of the sub-£300 set.  The Cambus has the most fantastic nose on any grain I’ve ever smelled.


Cambus 40 years old, 52.7% A⊕

1975, refill American oak hogsheads, 1,812 bottles.

IMG_0068Nose - Gentle but insistently deep, lots of fruit, almost UHU depth. Reminds me in some ways of very old Glenrothes in the fruit and musk, but with an absolutely superb grain edge. Grassy, lacquered, old cask, with a touch of burnt rosemary and leather. Fantastic.

Body - Slightly hot, slightly musty with fruit polos and licked leather belt. Fruitier and more glue with water.

Finish - Unmistakably grain now, a little short perhaps. Definitely getting the promised spangles.

An absolutely stunning nose on this, beautifully structured. Slightly too musky and hot on the delivery. Love that fruit though.  And the bottle design.

Glenkinchie 24 years old, 57.2% A+

Refill European oak butts filled in 1991, 5,928 bottles.

IMG_0069Nose - Intense fruit, almost rotten, against nostalgia invoking wood with posh cigarettes and jaffa cake. Balance and intensity of cask in this nose. Beautiful, even better with water.

Body - Acrylic, pear drops, new pine planks, and quite a bit of red chilli and fennel.

Finish - Long, slighty dank, more spice at the end of the delivery. Spicier with water but reduced chilli.

Again, a world class nose, slightly unhinged in the delivery.

Auchroisk 25 years old, 51.2% A⊕+

A mix of refill American oak hogsheads and refill European Oak butts filled in 1990, 3,954 bottles.

IMG_0081Nose - Predominantly light, wet, sun bleach wood at first, on top of cold, tropical fruit. With time, lightly floral and finally seriously elegant and balanced with boiled sweets, candy necklace, lavender and figs. Wow.

Body - Perfectly judged (after spending all that time with the nose), cut flowers, refreshers, a touch of ozone and lots of numbing candle wax. Even better with water.

Finish - Medium and zesty, back notes of cask musk, tropical burps and a little spice developing at the end. Tropical funk with water.

A fantastically complex and elegant whisky, and just delicious to drink. Love it. Just take your time.

Cragganmore, NAS, 55.7% A⊕

From three cask types chosen for “flavour alone” – refill and rejuvenated American oak hogsheads, and ex-bodega European oak butts.  Apparently, ex-bodega casks are those which were actually used to mature sherry, not casks that have been seasoned with sherry specifically to make sherried whisky.

So we’ve got NAS, refill bourbon, very winey sherry butts and heavily recharred bourbon.  Should be interesting…

IMG_0082Nose - Lighter than last year's flavour led whisky (the Clynelish) at first, but rapidly gathers weight as you get into it. Sweetshop levels of sweet oak, liquorice root, black tea and glacé cherries - cherry pipe tobacco perhaps? A touch of Ribena (neat, slightly tannic). The heavily re-charred casks in here give that robust fruit and almost purple colour.

Body - Big and hot. More black tea and blackcurrant, thick and almost cloying. Numbing waxes and fruit.

Finish - Very, very long, with dark fruit, dried apricots and cigarette tobacco.

A slightly clumsy whisky but a blockbuster nonetheless.

Mannochmore 25 years old, 53.4% A⊕'

Distilled 1990, first fill bourbon and new ex-bodega European oak butts, 3,954 bottles.

IMG_0085Nose - Arresting lacquer and beautifully structured sherry. Black cherry and fresh raspberries with vanilla - pound cake? It's really rich but smells extremely expensive. Beautiful. A touch of petrol and touch of refreshers.

Body - Hard oak, blackberries. Balanced but intense sweetness. Blackcurrant boiled sweets.

Finish - Granulated sugar, chilli and more fennel. Numbing at the end.

A lovely, structured sherry bomb in the nose and early delivery. Slightly angular at the end but finishes with cakey, tropical burps. Fantastic stuff.

Linkwood 37 years old, 50.3% A⊕+'

1978, the second Special Release bottling, refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts, 6,114 amazing bottles. It’s pretty impressive that the distillery can produce that many casks from 1978 to be honest.

IMG_0086Nose - Very deep, serious age on this… bright, ripe stone fruit (peach, starburst) and it reminds me of a big, hot Victorian brick greenhouse in the height of summer.

Body - Clean, intense fruit, then slightly dirty - cask musk and jelly sweets. That dirty, sweet old cask note is extremely compelling, like a very old Tomatin.

Finish - Long with bags of fruit, hints of refreshers and sponge backed Haribo. Well balanced wood throughout.

A phenomenal whisky, wearing its age with real class. Beautiful to drink, fantastic to explore, with wood, fruit and musk balancing each other perfectly.

Brora 38 years old, 48.6% A⊕⊕

Refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts from 1977, 2,984 bottles. 

IMG_0088Nose - Darkly exotic, as ever. Hints of burnt caramel on top of overripe plums, swimming pool and sweetly charred fruit - maybe grilled prawns with mango.

Body - Perfect wood and ancient, fiizzing peat, charred paper and tannins. And that alien, Asian, purple Brora magic. Amazing.

Finish - Very long, intense but sweetly dusted oak, vanilla and such beautifully balanced fruit, minutes after the end.

As usual a magical experience. Such intensity, balance, otherworldly fruit and everything that's wonderful about very old, peated whisky.

Port Ellen, 37 years old, 55.2% A⊕

The oldest PE ever released, from refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts filled in 1978, 2,940 bottles.

IMG_0087Nose - More extra-terrestrial fruits, more ashen than the Brora though. Honeydew melon, gentle old wood, clear ozone, fresh orange pith and white wine. The peat is just slightly medicinal - like fisherman's friends. Really, really classy.

Body - Intense but funky old peat and incredibly sweet - poised… but it's got this awkward sour/bitter/ash one-dimensionality that takes the edge off for me.

Finish - Very, very long, that sweetness carries through, with it coming together better in the late delivery. Green apple, chalky bonbons, whistle pops and fried whitebait.

A classy, intense and very sweet PE, but something doesn't quite hang together. Or maybe it just can't stand up to the magical Brora.  If I seem a bit down on it it’s because it’s a 37 year old PE! It needs to be perfection.

Lagavulin, 12 years old, 57.7% A+

14th release of Lagavulin 12 year old in this range, refill American oak hogsheads.

IMG_0079Nose - Sweetly medicinal with bandages and germolene and white lilies and…

Body - Spicy but fruity, more TCP than your average Laphroaig. Great balance of peat dust and spice.

Finish - Long and medicinal. And they took my glass away! They're clearing up!

I need to find another glass for the…

Caol Ila, unpeated, 15 years old, 61.5% A

The 11th release of unpeated Caol Ila, for blending in the “Highland style”, distilled 2000 (the first of the series from the new millennium), refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts, undisclosed outturn.

IMG_0089Nose - Balanced toffee minerality, as always. Clean earth, hard apples. Hot radiator and pacers.

Body - Menthol cask, black pepper. Bracingly mineral but certainly drinkable.

Finish - Long, quite hot with fence panel and…

Hometime.

Thank you for the great whisky!

Bring it on, Christmas whisky rush.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Old Particular, Clynelish 18 years old

A chance conversation on twitter with Craig from Green Welly yielded (via DM) a personal recommendation for this whisky.  One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is to obey heart felt recommendations from people who work in whisky shops.  I wanted to get something out about this before it sold out (these OPs are so limited and go very quickly), so… here it is.

The reason for the interaction on this one was that it’s billed as refill hogshead but looks heavily sherried.  I hear that DLaing only give the last cask the whisky was in, not any previous homes, so my gut feeling is that this is part of a butt (maybe kept for later) which then spent some time then in refill bourbon.  The result is a sherried whisky with real structure, balance and most importantly, drinkability. 

Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, Clynelish, 18 years old, 48.4% A⊕

298 bottles, refill hogshead DL10999.

IMG_0038Nose – Black olives, sherry, cold tea leaves and honey. It’s so clean, for something so dark and (relatively) young; earthy, honest and compelling.  Fresh laundry, a touch of cereal, loads of ozone.  Lovely.

Body – Cold red wine and lip gloss, icing sugar and cigar tobacco.  Refreshing and sherried?  Colder, sweeter with water.

Finish – Long, balanced and delicious, the oak and red wine against the toffee is particularly pleasing.  Cloying with water with lurking red chilli, don’t add any.

There’s something really “right” about this whisky, quickly get some before it’s gone.

At the time of writing, Welly has some, and MoM do too.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Springbank 21s

A bunch of Springbank 21s. As far as I'm concerned 21 years old is over the hill for Springbankiness, but good 21s are just sublime whiskies. So - two privately bottled 21 year old casks and two official 21s, one of which is from the nineties. Perhaps a purely academic exercise then but at least I learnt something.

Springbank 21 years old, Case in Cask syndicate, 51.2% A⊕+

17/3/1989 to 17/8/2010. Thanks to Billy Abbot for the sample!

13106026_10154356547490934_1968865560_oNose - Deep chardonnay perfection, whiteboard markers and rolling tobacco. Candy cigarettes perhaps? Actually it's pipe tobacco used in a rolly. New carpet. Pretty special.

Body - Waxy, austere but largely perfect. More candy cigarettes, a ghost of Springbank engine oil, sticky plastic wrap. Crayons with water, that was unexpected. Very juicy next to that light peat though.

Finish - Very long, slight spice and funk, a strand of that pipe tobacco in the mouth. Bitter wood at the end. And what were those nasty little squash cartons that you stuck the straw in through the film at the top? That.

Everything you want in a venerable Springbank. And delicious too. Particularly good on the nose.

Paul Hatt's Springbank 21 years old A⊕⊕

There’s a story behind this which ends with a friend asking if I thought a bottled cask of 21 year old whisky from some distillery called “Springbank” would be any good.

20150807_210535Nose - Much more robust, much more Springbank. No shortage of Springbankiness in this 21 year old! Green apple and light engine oil, chalk, cut nettles and white wine. Clean, fresh, summer soil. Fascinating. Summer air with water, fresher, more ozone.

Body - Deeper, sweeter, swimming pool and wax, but perfectly balanced between sweet, spicy, cask and just pure Springbank.

Finish - Developing cinnamon jawbreaker, icing sugar, orange zest. Very long, very balanced, pure swimming pool at the end.

This is perhaps the most austere whisky I've given top marks to.

Springbank 21 years old, Official bottling, late 90s bottling perhaps. A⊕+

Thanks Sjoerd for the sample of this.

sb21Nose - Ripe green apple, wax and Sauternes, red cherry. Incredibly inviting. Slightly Highland Park in its sherry peat complexity, ripe cask oils and something black and concentrated like pomegranate molasses. It's complex and Springbank but it's doing the over the hill thing compared to the previous one (although don't get me wrong, it's fantastic).

Body - Juicy, mature Scotch, ripe with black cherries and prunes, cigar tobacco and licked oak. Gentler with water, it loses a lot of its character.

Finish - Long, black fruit and chilli spice. I'm guessing chewing tobacco has a finish a bit like this.

Predictably this is probably the most drinkable of the three, and the least "interesting".

Springbank 21 years old, 2016 single cask for the UK, Oloroso sherry, 49.6% A⊕+'

The latest 21, an interim Springbank 21 OB release, single casks this time. Different geographies got different single casks and we got an Oloroso sherry cask.  The 21 year old I tried in Campbeltown I still believe will be out in January 2017, which I will be buying.

springbank-21-year-old-single-cask-2016-releaseNose - Quite straight up and down Springbank. I was expecting restrained, almost shy, but this is a bit more ballsy. That elegant but very confident cask wax is there though, behind the peat - very, very reminiscent of the Longrow 21. Give it time and there's earth, crayon, candle wax and a hint of stewed beef.

Body - I couldn't write anything first sip. You know when a delivery takes you on a journey, before you can form your thoughts, you're somewhere else. How do they do it at 21? It's all in the balance. Chalky, waxed fruit, lawnmower (petrol and oil, cut grass), black cherry and orange zest. Cherry pipe tobacco, and just in the top of your sinuses, sulphur and practically cabbage. That's a dangerous game but it's nailed here.

Finish - Very long. Clarty toffee, lots of oil, the fruit and wax and dirt form a balanced triangle.

You really need to take your time with Campbeltown over 18. These were epic.

Friday, 2 September 2016

SMWS September 2016 Outturn

This is a very large outturn that signals the beginning of Christmas.  Whisky begins Christmas in September and ends at the start of December.  I suppose people who are into things that take a minimum of a decade to be awesome are into planning ahead too!

There’s no mention in the notes or labels of any of the bottles in this outturn of any finishes being used, and I’m a little concerned that this isn’t actually the case.  I don’t remember seeing any gorda casks at Glenrothes when I went there but we have one apparently 19 years, full term in gorda here in this outturn. I’m not adverse to finishes obviously but I do like to know (in forensic detail if possible) where my whisky has been.

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By the way, this is also a really, really good outturn and it’s going to cost you a lot of money.  It’s full of cracking first fill bourbon, great value young bottles, menthol and sugar, enjoy and Merry Christmas!

SMWS 7.139, Longmorn, Salsa Verde, 11 years old, 60.5% A+

7th September 2004, 186 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_162152Nose - Bright and fruity, but grainy and exotic, like a silver tequila. Tropical with fruit salad chews and banana Nesquik. Despite all that rich, sweet fruit it has a balancing hard edge (like a yellow grain whisky). Even better with water (more wood, more rich wood and hard mineral). I like it.

Body - Very hot neat, spicy with more bananas and crème de menthe. A bit too tough with water.

Finish - Long with menthol cigarettes and numbing like extra strong mints. More tobacco with water, and cinnamon jawbreakers. Mint and tropical burps (that's a new one).

Careful digging is required to extract the quite balanced and significant fruit, wood and menthol in this dram - just drinking it means the spice dominates.

SMWS 41.77, Dailuaine, Spring in your step, 11 years old, 59.1% A⊕

11th May 2004, 198 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_162202Nose - More restrained than the Longmorn, a touch of strawberry and flat pack furniture (pine planks and cardboard). But give it time (new bottle, I paused this one for the Glenlossie) and a world of fruit and almost Sauternes like sweetness comes through with Victoria sponge and ripe peach. More fruit, more cask musk with water. Lovely.

Body - Beautifully sweet, lacquered wood with tons of fruit (strawberry daiquiri mix) and wham bar. Even fruitier with water, but balanced by grown up, slightly funky notes (like a raspberry Lambic)

Finish - Long, more dessert wine with candied orange peel and glace cherry.

What a difference a little patience makes. A fantastic whisky.

BUY

SMWS 46.42, Glenlossie, Yummy Scrummy, 13 years old, 58.3% A+'

31st May 2002, 498 bottles, first fill Oloroso butt (not sure about this - the printed material all says refill, the label says first fill)

IMG_20160901_162157Nose - Sweet but structured sherry (dry currants, slightly sour), rich underneath with pastry and strawberry jam… but it’s right on the line between sweet and dry, with just unwrapped cigars, liquorice and burnt toast just underneath the surface. More juicy fruit with water, it opens up quite nicely.

image1Body - Ripe red fruit, sour plums, very short pastry tart and strawberry jam again. Spicy like cigar tobacco on the tongue. Better balanced with water but that exposes a slightly simplistic cereal.

Finish - Medium long with liquorice imps and numbing like Sichuan peppercorns. Mint at the end.

I love the nose on this but the delivery is a little sharp/sour. Still, it's a well-structured sherried drammer.

BUY

SMWS 54.39, Aberlour, 'Get a kick out of it', 9 years old, 59.9% A+

4th April 2007, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_162206Nose - Sweet, gentle and floral, big, floral vanilla cask on inhale (with honeysuckle and mature oak), raspberry pound cake on exhale. It's another beautiful cake-fest. Again, even better with water.

Body - Big, structured and more crushing menthol. But it lends it some maturity it wouldn't have otherwise had - that lacquered oak is something you can either get in 9 years with a very active cask or 40 years with a third fill.

Finish - But the finish is where it definitely feels 9 - it's long but sour and numbing (water helps). Good background funk though.

Young but high quality, a good one for the bar.

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SMWS 64.79, Mannochmore, Mango in a rum spiced syrup, 11 years old, 59.3% A⊕'

26th May 2004, 156 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_172855Nose - Ripe, tropical fruit (let’s go with mango), UHU glue and oak staves. The balance of rich, refreshing, sweet, floral and acid that fruit has is here too, and it's making me think of a beach holiday (and it's not just the name - it is very hot here right now!). Underneath all this pineapple upside-down cake fun there's structural wood, Sudocrem and musk. There's also an intense society edge to it that takes me back to my first days as a member. Very good.

Body - Quite a rollercoaster, I'll see if I can remember what happened. Initially young but then immediately swept into tropical fruit (practically Lilt) but before we hit sweetened rum it comes back to quality cask, a touch of tobacco and spice, toast and honey and a background toffee funk. Less good with water (fortunately - and tellingly - this dram was mostly gone before I added any).

Finish - Brief but clean, you're left with fruit, mango curd (if such a thing exists) and panna cotta.

This is a fantastic whisky for one so young, highly recommended

BUY

SMWS 39.131, Linkwood, Caribbean habanero hot sauce, 9 years old, 59.9% A⊖

17th February 2007, 198 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_172843Nose - Hard and woody, I can get the name in the astringent red herbal smell of chillis, although you don't usually get them with shortcrust pastry and frangipane. After the sugar rush before, this has some dryness on the nose backing up that first fill cask - cigarettes, beer and perfume. I can get behind that.

Body - Spicy hot, very red, loads of chilli backed by classic young Linkwood tropical bourbon. Repeated sips (it is actually quite compelling) reveal more of the Linkwood and less of the red chilli, but give it a rest and the fire comes back, more-so with water, which also brings neat orange squash, weirdly.

Finish - Long with chilli chocolate and Mexican hot chocolate.

I'm no longer quite so much behind this although it's an interesting curio. You can't doubt the quality of the underlying whisky but the red chilli is a flaw (for me).

SMWS 48.78, Balmenach, The perfect hammock dram, 13 years old, 58.3% A

25th November 2002, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_172834Nose - Light orange juice and new cardboard, washing up liquid (towards the magic bubbles end) and a touch of wasabi. With time, the orange juice deepens and strengthens and the cardboard becomes more like cigar box, but the washing up liquid remains.

Body - More chilli, chilled white wine, a little (very welcome) touch of sweet funk and loads of toffee. More herbal with water, but the shortbread biscuits rolled in brown sugar come back to get you.

Finish - Tomato stalks, a little bandage, a whole bag of demerara sugar, lots of candied orange at the end.

Things are good on paper but this is a tiring whisky - too much sugar, not enough structure.

SMWS 35.165, Glen Moray, Variety - the spice of life, 13 years old, 52.9% A⊕+

25th April 2003, 180 bottles, first fill chenin-blanc hogshead

One of two Glen Morays in the pre-xmas outturn - this appears to be full term in chenin-blanc, the other is 20 years full term in first fill bourbon. Although I am beginning to doubt that elsewhere I can believe it for Glen Moray and I’m quite excited about both of these. Great colour on this one by the way, you would have thought it was sherried.

IMG_20160901_172840Nose - A big, meaty, musky nose, herbal but fresh and yet funky. Again, I'm reminded of funky beers, this has a rye, brett edge to it. But this isn't beer, or red wine, it's a white wine cask and I love these for the same reason I love Fino casks - there's a fresh elegance behind the wine funk that makes them complex and refreshing. What else? Pipe tobacco, salami, tomato leaves and marinara sauce.

Body - Fabulous. It's approaching the gorda red (big, funky, dry nuts and sulphur) but balanced by green - cucumber skin, olives, Bepanthen and kiwi fruit. Fascinating, complex and balanced.

Finish - Long but gentle; kiwi, strawberry laces and more tomato leaves. Didn't try it with water.

An incredibly complex cask influence that's never overpowering or unbalanced. What a beautiful whisky. I've been buying a lot of society Glen Morays recently, so great to cross it with the gorda (but with a twist).

BUY

SMWS 35.154, Glen Moray, Rewarding end, 20 years old, 54.2% A+

27th October 1995, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_172849Nose - Restrained sweetness, lanolin, hints of Ribena. Ryvita with butter and honey, fresh strawberries with their leaves., chocolate and ozone. It just seems a little… obvious compared to 35.165. A lot better with water (and time), more lemon cereal and more balanced.

Body - This London Cheesecake, with glace cherries and strawberry laces. Tastes like a 9 year old, ironically, with water - cereal and lemon.

Finish - Medium and gripping - very sweet, slightly astringent. Lemon shells at the end. Tropical burps.

This is good, and well-priced, but my personal preferences are overriding that and comparing it to the much more interesting previous Glen Moray. If you want fruity and mature, I'd go for the (similarly priced) Mannochmore.

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SMWS 9.107, Glen Grant, Intriguing adventures, 23 years old, 51.4% A⊕

16th November 1992, 216 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_20160901_182701Nose - Masculine hand soap (charred oak, flowers and leather) with ozone and cut flowers and freshly cooked pasta. A touch of petrol. There's a gentle, slightly burnt, slightly toffeed, quite classy character to this. Very restrained, quite classical.

Body - A beautiful, gentle, tropical delivery. Thick, gentle mango juice backed by a little fresh mint leaf and cask funk.

Finish - Long, a little spice, more complex wood. Tannic at the end.

This took a while to get my head round after all that sugar and that gorda, but it was worth it. Classy and really drinkable although a little pricey.

BUY

SMWS 50.79, Bladnoch, Tickly, zesty and exotic, 25 years old, 49.4% A⊕+

28th May 1990, 114 bottles, refill bourbon.

IMG_20160901_182705Nose - Why is all Bladnoch 25 years old? Having spent the last 10 whiskies exploring good, young, first fill whisky, this definitely shows the 25 years on the nose. Wood well balanced with ripe melon and lemon curd, lemon sherbets – yet still masculine  with leather and tobacco. With time, that melon becomes slightly more tropical, like pineapple with lemon juice. Even better with water, window putty and cloudy lemonade.

Body - Refreshers and sherbet dib-dabs, knocking on alien Islay - it's really weird when that happens in a non Islay (like that BBR Auchentoshan) and I'm guessing not everyone has my penchant for it but I do love that. I've certainly never had it in a Bladnoch before. That with the lemon is a lovely, refreshing but exotic combination.

Finish - Long and juicy, homemade lemonade with mint leaves and incompletely dissolved sugar. Tropical burps and a touch of cask funk.

Fascinating and endlessly drinkable. Totally fantastic. I'm flinching at the price but it's a very strong

BUY

SMWS 121.90, Arran, Spiced Pear Planter's Punch, 16 years old, 52.8% A⊕

31st July 1999, 258 bottles, refill bourbon. It's been too long!

IMG_20160901_182709Nose - Meaty and dark, but creamy and green. Lemon, red wine, milk tart and cooperage… hazelnuts, shower gel, pear drops. Arran is becoming more refined as it’s getting older.

Body - Deeply sweet, but fresh - like the Fino cask I was thinking of earlier. Slightly musky, with very thick double cream and poached pears. Even better with water, wine cask and Ryvita with marmalade.

Finish - Medium and almost clarty, one of the creamiest whiskies I've ever tasted. Quite winey too, wood structure, a touch of sulphur and heat, and so… much…. cream….

An extremely accomplished whisky.

BUY

SMWS 36.108, Benrinnes, Warms you from the inside out, 9 years old, 58.2% A⊕

16th March 2007, 486 bottles, 1st fill Oloroso butt

IMG_20160901_182658Nose - Warm, nutty and tickly on the nose, with chocolate covered raisins, petrol and overripe mango. With time, pineapple cubes, Gorda and granite, burnt, salted caramel with rosemary. I quite like this.

Body - Sweet, big and nutty, new leather and toast, but not over sherried at all. Some spice from the youth but it works well against the sherry. More toffee with water, good musk behind that with a touch of gunpowder and summer evening.

Finish - Medium, lots of leather and Oloroso.

A bit obvious at first but with time and patience it's quite the blockbuster. Recommended.

BUY

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SMWS 30.93, Glenrothes, Tonka Bean Crème Brulee, 19 years old, 59.1% A+

17th April 1997, 786 bottles, refill gorda.  This is a weird one.

IMG_20160901_194543Nose - Very refill! Window putty, mirror cake (thanks bakeoff), I'm guessing this rich, cakey, vanilla tone is the Tonka bean (which I've never tried, and should according to this). It's warm and inviting, but a bit weird. Hand cream with water.

Body - Overripe, dark and very fruity, like a fruit cake with white chocolate and apricots. And brutal tannins. Less of that brutality with water, I'm quite enjoying this red fruit, marker pen and cake thing.

Finish - Long, spicy with red wine cask by the shovel and liquorice root.

Well… this is a weird one. I'm really enjoying drinking it but it would take you an age to get through a bottle. As gordas go it's restrained on the nose but the opposite in the delivery. It is very, very wine cask. Is this full term or a finish? If it's a finish, what went into it in the first place?

BUY (but beware)

SMWS 66.89, Ardmore, Sea breezes over Lilliput, 12 years old, 59.6% A

17th November 2003, 168 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_20160901_194538Nose - Smoked mackerel pâté on sourdough toast, charred wood, crushed shells, you know the drill, it’s very Islay though. There's a big medicinal note here though, bandages and germolene.

Body - It's as you'd expect from the nose but a lot sweeter… oranges and preserved lemons against the Laphroaig-style peat, deep fried panko too.

Finish - Roasted lemons in the chicken pan, candy cigarettes and old bandages. That sweetness is cloying by the end though, too much first fill.

A solid but quite ordinary peater.

SMWS 10.95, Bunnahabhain, Smoky porky perky pokē, 10 years old, 59.8% A+

20th December 2005, 198 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon. The tasting panel's choice 2016! Terrible name.

IMG_20160901_194534Nose - Sweet medicinal peat, TCP and germolene, freshly cut ginger.. Really strikingly sweet sour, like a vinegar is in BBQ sauce (or like a gastrique). A really lovely, but young and confident whisky.

Body - Ordinary big peat at the start but then a jolt of cereal, like a fresh pilsner, with lemon sherbets and caraway.

Finish - Long with gin and lemon, malted barley.

An honest, interesting, but simple whisky.

BUY

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SMWS 3.284, Bowmore, Salt and Smoke, 14 years old, 56.7% A⊕

8th May 2001, 186 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_20160901_203946Nose - Very light. I see the name - salty and peated and seaweed and… there's more. A ripe but understated white fruit, almost cold milk, white wine, white flowers, Camel light tobacco. Quite a pure nose.

Body - A big whack of fresh sage, remarkable. It's almost like dried American hops, and the blessed start of old Bowmore in here - that's the second weird combo of alien Islay in this outturn. Just delicious.

Finish - More dried hops, grapefruit juice and refreshers. Preserved lemons at the end.

A remarkable whisky. Atypical but it all comes together in such a fascinating way, ideal for the jaded palate and one of the best whiskies in the outturn (despite the score).

BUY

SMWS 3.286, Bowmore, Islay village peat-smoke haze, 17 years old, 57.8% A+

IMG_20160901_20395125th September 1998, 138 bottles, refill bourbon

Nose - Light again but more mineral with toast, lychee and S&V. Very light toffee and mature cask underneath the citrus peat, cut runner beans and malted barley.

Body - More standard peated Bowmore compared to the 3.284. S&V, preserved lemons again(!), baked apples and barley sugar. Fried whitebait.

Finish - Long and fresh, good cask-led fruits and spice.

It's a long way into this outturn and I think this is good but it's not remarkable for a society Bowmore. Still worth buying on an absolute basis but I've had a lot better here.

SMWS 29.186, Laphroaig, Spicy smoky seaweed salad, 16 years old, 56.1% A⊕+'

1st July 1999, 138 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_20160901_203959Nose - Really interesting. Full of TCP, this is fresh, complex, rain soaked and elegant. Blonde wood and Sauternes against the TCP, like the Octomore Comus, but there's a real back-of-the-sinuses belt of swimming pool which takes the edge off once you know it's there (thanks Darren). Having said that, this is really, really good, really old school.

Body - One of the most TCP forward Laphroaigs I've had in a long time. Deep, bright, tropical TCP (that's a new one too), fresh bandages and pineapple. This is remarkable mainly because it actually tastes of TCP.

Finish - Long and dirty, medicinal with the beginnings of alien Islay.

Jeez… it's phenomenal.

BUY

19 is definitely my limit for detailed notes in one extended sitting! Thanks to Darren for being my assistant for the evening.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Macallan

TheMacallanLogoI’ve drunk quite a lot of Macallan in my time but barely written about it.  It’s position as *the* jewel in Edrington’s crown means that there’s a lot of premium whisky coming out of the distillery, and some very high prices for some quite ordinary single malt, and that makes the brand pretty unfashionable with the kind of people I hang out with.  As has been pointed out a million times before, that crowd make up about 0.001% of whisky sales and so Macallan has its market.

Anyway I’ve been enjoying Macallan more and more recently, for some reason.  My own internal fashion sense is swinging towards whisky at drinking strength – it might be because of the scores of open bottles of cask strength tasting whisky on my shelf I rarely turn to on Friday evening, it might be because I taste so little low strength whisky to write notes for this blog!  And there’s something honest about drinking well structured sherried whisky – like admitting you like Bailey’s.  Just enjoy it, it’s booze.

Macallan 12 years old, Sherry, 40% A-

This has passed me by so far and is lamented for its lacklustre performance compared with the olden times. I'm sure they churn a vatting of this out every month at Macallan, but I know for a fact they take time and pride in doing it well.

the-macallan-12-year-old-sherry-wood-whiskyNose - Sweet but restrained sherry, instantly recognisable as Macallan - sweet, almost fake red cherry, white wine, a touch of chopped parsley. Classy, sweet, and totally Speyside.

Body - Light, gently sweet, some toffee, cardboard and the initial delivery has a noticeable lack of midrange.

Finish - Quite long, richer than the delivery, gentle wood tannins and strawberry laces.

Can you get a more regular, drinking whisky? But the nose on this is classy and delicious, I'm sure this used to be a lot better but I could drink this all day (happily, it’s at 40%)

Macallan, Edition #1, 48% A+

This looks filthy in the bottle, absolutely cloudy with bits floating in it. Compared to the scrubbed, polished brightness of the normal output this is quite disconcerting!

A blend of 8 different casks, mostly sherry butt and puncheon.  Presumably more editions will be along shortly.

macallan-525x1011Nose - Darker and winier than the 12 (as you'd expect), richer fruit, cherry whistles, it has a much fuller "nose feel". Lip salve and marker pens, nearly - the ones that have an almondy note to them. Slightly burnt, a little bit toilet-like, weirdly. Wham bars with time.

Body - Deep, tannic and quite dirty/sexy. Oddly sweet and slightly nondescript, but it's extreme non-chill-filtering brings oils that save it slightly. There's an interesting sulphur here.

Finish - Quite long, blood oranges and sulphur. Very orangey at the end, orange squash practically.

Macallan does NCF? This is oily, orangey and politely dirty. I may have to come back to this one.

Whisky Broker, Macallan 24 years old, 54.5% A⊕

An ordinary bourbon cask here.

whiskybrokermacNose - Mineral and medicinal at first, not TCP, more like citronella. A deep toffee sweetness underneath that, sharp and bright though. And then, after digging through that, there's something properly exciting… there's that classical cask influence, the tobacco, clean sweetness and preserved lemons. Almost Islay, but a deep Speyside sweetness.

Body - Zesty, floral, balanced and obviously single cask, but it could be any distillery on the delivery. But it's a nice drinker. A nice touch of spirit sulphur, lemon sherbets.

Finish - Tannic and waxed, plenty of vanilla and quite tropical, like mango yoghurt. Spicy at the end. Actually, the lemon sherbets again right at the end. No… actually some time later, soy beans. Go figure.

A complex and downright delicious single cask whisky, and more typical of Whisky Broker than Macallan, perhaps, although I can spot some common DNA.

SMWS 24.127, Macallan, Northern Lights, 23 years old, 47.7% A⊕+

16th April 1991, refill bourbon, 262 bottles.

Reviewed previously at outturn, here.

20141204_171525[4]Nose - Definitely not austere anymore (as it was at the outturn), this has been open nearly 2 years. Very sweet pear drops, glazed cereal, toffee apples, and tannic skinned but juicy ripe nectarine (it's a bloody hot day today and this is refreshing on the nose, like nectarines are). Behind this, the utterly classy dusty cask that's (actually) so rare…. More ordinary cereal with water.

Body - Sharp and deeply sweet (more pear drops), licked joss sticks and transparent orange lolly pops. There's a lacquered sweetness that plays well against the hot alcohol here that makes this something special.

Finish - Long and beery, hot nectarines and varnish.

This is a big whisky that you would have called for first fill if younger, and goes to show how special the gear Macallan has to play with is before they let it down with water and blend the hell out of it. I liked it when it was newly opened, but I think I like it more oxygenated.

G&M Speymalt Macallan 18 years old (2016), 43% A⊕

Jun16-Speymalt-Macal98-16Nose - Sweet and wooded like wet, solventy varnish on fresh wood. Berried and cakey, like black cherry trifle. Those two things are simple but balanced, I have high hopes for this as a drammer. Actually this really opens up with water, there's more fruit and more dusty cask (than varnish).

Body - Unmistakably Macallan. Heavy sherry and heavy spirit, a touch of liquorice and salt, black plums. Softer and classier with water, jelly sweets against the stewed plums - but phenomenally sweet overall.

Finish - Long and deeply sweet, we're down to fresh plums and raisins at the end. This is so thick that, despite the very low ABV, I'm going to add water - which brings more black fruit - blackcurrant jam nearly.

A fantastic, mature Macallan, right on style, very drinkable and an absolute bargain at £60. Still available at Green Welly.

Macallan Ruby, 1824 series, 2014, 43% A+

the-macallan-ruby-1824-series-whiskyNose - Inkily sherried, just backing off silly as good heavily sherried OBs do. After that, crayons and clay, heavily sedimented port and window putty. Back to the sherry; it's really very well played, although not anything I wouldn't expect as a matter of course from Glendronach. It's juicy though, like a NEIPA, and berried, like a blackcurrant boiled sweet.  And wooded like new pine box. I like it.

Body - Soft, red wine, black cherries, stewed tea. Competent but sour in the way that Mac can be, balancing sherry, wood, spice and sour… but a tannic bitterness and overly sweet Vimto delivery takes the edge off.

Finish - Long and berried, the sour becomes slightly peated, everything is well integrated right to the end but it just tastes… a little young.

Very obviously big cask plus young cask doesn't quite hang together the way they'd hoped. It's very drinkable for sure, but it's no classic.

Macallan Rare Casks, 43% A⊕

the-macallan-rare-cask-whiskyNose - Ever so slightly classier while being sweeter and even more sweetly sherried. There's an almost rotten fruit funk in here which I find very appealing, and behind that pure distillery (the mash, the malt, the wood). Sweeter and cleaner with water.

Body - Much brighter than the Speymalt, slightly more competent than the Ruby but ploughing the same furrow. Sharper and slightly spicy but more interesting for it. Mango juice with water (especially texturally).

Finish - Really long, really, deeply sweet. Like sucking a boiled sweet in a hot car. Just balanced by wood though.

A big, big, boiled sweets whisky with depth and length. Meant to be drunk out of a cut glass tumbler after dinner, having enjoyed the theatre with the bottle, not dissected in a Glencairn.

Macallan Rare Casks Black, 42% A⊕

Thanks to MBNDavid and the team for a taste of this all the way from Israel!

macob.non67Nose - Unexpected. A little plasticky, some green apple, slightly Asian, quite deep wax. There's something BBQed on exhale, like a lit splint or licking your fingers after picking up a long-smoked piece of meat. With some time, something rather special develops… it becomes more sweetly Asian, with teenage cigarettes, and the exhale becomes funkier and sweeter.

Body - Dry and appley again. And just, frankly, a little old school. It is really tobacco-y too, and you know I love that. Toffee oils, burnt newspaper and balanced tannins.

Finish - More teenage smoking, this time it's the tar on the lips after a particularly satisfying rolly. Really, really tannic but very moreish, it reminds me of this bizarre clove, chocolate and tea hot-drink I had by the shot in Morocco once… no idea what that was, but it was merciless. And this has its soul but it's tempered.

I know it's not cool to like this, but I like this. Heavily sherried, oily with leather and tobacco. I could drink it all night.

Murray McDavid, SUM16/00, Macallan, 16yo, 46% A⊕'

First fill Oloroso Sherry Butt. I first tried this on the summer tweet tasting and saved the dregs for this flight – I never seem to write these MMD bottles up as there’s a disconnect between the tasting and the whisky getting bottled.  What are we actually trying?  Anyway, this one was good.

Nose - Fresh wine, perfume and lime juice. More toffee musk, there's a meal in here I can't place though.. Aubergine, ginger, green beans? I dunno… anyway it's a dark, complex, lacquered nose, really rich and satisfying, and that white wine and green herb is a breath of fresh air after all these OB sherry bombs.

Body - Simple sugars, icing and mushrooms stewed in red wine (on toast). Spicy oak, very tannic, lovely balance of sweet and savoury. Much more complex than the Rare Casks, very moreish.

Finish - Very long, light sulphur on exhale, a touch of gunpowder, delicious.

Really meaty this, and a great balance of spicy, sherry fruit and savoury. Pretty robust though.