Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve

A fine NAS sherry dominated dram from Glenrothes.  If you’re looking for something to spend hours nosing and easy drinking this is a good bet.  My tastes are set a bit further over to “challenging” but I can appreciate this. Beautiful toffee and sherry on the nose and great structure.

From the press release: Bottled at 40% abv,The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve will be available from brand owner Berry Bros. & Rudd Spirits and its representatives in key markets for an RRP of £55 per 700ml bottle.

The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve, 40% A+

Glenrothes-Sherry-Cask-ReserveNose - Dark tobacco and leather, Seville orange juice, Serrano ham, herbal greenness and wet oak.  A youthful sherried nose and rather good - well balanced and not overly sweet or raisiny, but with loads of depth, and a lovely lick of sulphur.  

Body - A little spice, sweet sherry, nice wood but lacks a little intensity.  Has a wet cardboard note to the delivery that I associate with young sherried drams.

Finish - Medium, balanced but approaching one dimensionality on the bitter and sweetness at the end, but with some good tobacco notes coming through.

What’s not good about it - Lacks intensity and interest in the delivery

What’s good about it - Fantastic nose, loads of depth and balance.  Love the darker, older tones with the leather and tobacco, and well judged sulphur.  I could session this all day long, but not sure it’s set at that price point.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Kilchoman PX Sherry Cask Finish, Abbey Whisky exclusive

It’s a cracker.

Kilchoman Cask Strength, PX Sherry Cask Finish, Abbey Whisky exclusive, 58.3% A+

11.6.2009 - 17.7.2014, Cask number 285/2009, 4.5 years in fresh bourbon barrel, followed by 4 months in a PX cask.  Only available from Abbey Whisky.

kilchomanpxNose - Dark, medicinal peat, a little raw sugar, BBQ char-sui pork in hoisin sauce, lots of seville orange juice and dried fruit - raisins and mixed peel.  With water, some more sweet shop fruit notes (midget gems and travel sweets) comes through as well as a little (for once, lit) cigarette.

Body - Phenolic, sweet and bitter, toasted, ashen sherry.  Intensely sweet in fact, and balanced with ashes with something like aspirin at the back of the throat.  

Finish - Long, young, a touch raw, very spicy and tons of numbing ashes.  Fizzing refreshers around the side of the palate and lingering sweet fruit against the peat.  Rather moreish.

What’s not good about it - A little raw, but offset by the intensity.  Lacks complexity.  A touch expensive. As with other young, intensely sherried whiskies I’ve had this strays a little into “cocktail” due to the extreme influence of the sherry.  I personally don’t see that as a bad thing though.

What’s good about it - Intense sherry Islay experience, deep dark PX, loads of zesty citrus, balanced by long, all consuming ash and bandages. I hope there are some PX casks at Kilchoman with spirit sitting in them full term!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

SMWS August Outturn–Micro notes

Just a sketch, as usual, and an indication of whether I think you should buy (if you were so inclined!)

13.46, Dalmore, Something sweet for a beekeeper, A

IMG_20140731_180023661_HDRNose – Lovely cereal and toffee balance, intensely honeyed and floral, backnote of musk and dandelion. With water, intensity remains but better poise, a little more citrus, extremely sweet and pastried.

Body – Herbal and wooded. Intense sweetness but balanced by wood and a slight peat note. Some overt citrus and wood spice. Rather good. More bitter with water.

Finish – Citrus, wood sour, stewed tea. With water, numbing, raw wood, some musk develops but doesn’t hold together at the end.

A bit young.

1.184, Glenfarclas, Few and far between…,  A⊕+

IMG_20140731_190141677_HDRNose – Sweet tobacco, pencil topping rubbers, sherried ?? Absolutely beautiful, fruity, balanced and darkly sweet.

Body – Intense, sweet and biscuit

Finish – Long, fresh, sexy and balanced


35.122, Glen Moray, Perfumed lady at a garden fete, A⊕

IMG_20140731_192740335_HDRNose – Beautiful floral toffee, dark oily and satisfyingly sweet. Clean, planed oak, coffee.

Body – Sweet, spicy, wooded and perfect balance

Finish – Spiced, quite long, beautiful. A little stewed tea at the end and unsettled but very good overall.


50.55, Bladnoch, High class luxury, A⊕+

IMG_20140731_193836695_HDRNose – Dark, complicated, the honeycomb middle of a crunchie (debate over what this is called –hokey pokey??), soft toffee, buttery flapjack, lightly herbal with parsley. Softly beautiful. Some chocolate.

Body – A little spice, acrylic paint, complex.

Finish – Lovely and gentle but a little short.


9.89, Glen Grant, Balanced and harmonious, A⊕+

IMG_20140731_195941668_HDRNose – Balanced tobacco (Marlboro Red), boiled sweets, fence, cherry and apple, a lovely thread of wax (floor polish). Just beautiful – the balance between sweet and masculine is spot on.

Body – Massively sweet, spicy and wood balance.

Finish – Long and fabulous, not cloying.


53.210, Caol Ila, Fantastic stuff, A⊕+

IMG_20140731_201500010_HDRNose – Islay perfection: dark, spicy salami, loads of toffee, ancient smoked ham, old bandages, burnt newspaper, green unripe pear. Exquisite.

Body – Spicy fennel, boiled sweets.

Finish – Long, ashen, balanced and excellent. Intense ashes.


29.157, Laphroaig, Heidi's holiday to Islay, A⊕+

IMG_20140731_203857220Nose – darkly peated, loads of sulphur, ham and mozzarella, parsley and rolling tobacco. And massive sherry peat!

Body – Massive ash, peat and hugely sweet. Burning logs, sherry, sulphur and ash. Still balanced.

Finish – Long, sweet, a little vegetal.


39.101, Linkwood, Sophisticated adult sweetness, A+

Nose – Golden, sweet berries, honey toffee, remarkably sweet, very balanced but a bit one dimensional.

Body – Toasted oak on top of the sweetness and balanced.

Finish – A little cloying at the end, but seriously drinkable. Very oily, quite balanced before that.

121.73, Arran, A layered sponge fruit cake, A+

IMG_20140731_214340511Nose – More beery than normal, more cherries and tobacco

Body – Immense toffee Finish – A little odd savoury edge

44.60, Craigellachie, Growing on you, A⊕

IMG_20140731_214331109N – perfumed, flower stalks, floral and lovely

B – Sweet tobacco, beautiful

F – Lovely and long, marshmallows


26.103, Clynelish, Fresh and Lively, A⊕

IMG_20140731_214349263Nose – Bold, intense, wooded, balanced by restrained sweetness and tobacco.  Stunning Clynelish.

Body – Delicious toffee and tobacco, extremely sweet.

Finish – Long, tobacco, fab. 

Light on the nose, epic delivery, quite dry, sappy and tannic.


53.184, Caol Ila, Fairground on the beach, A⊕

Not from the August outturn.

N – dark and rich, toffee smoke, b – sweet and ashen, f – long


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Three Independent Springbanks

A couple of NAS boutique-y single malt springers and a truly epic (of course) SMWS single cask.  Oh the intensity!

Springbank Batch 1, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 54.6% A⊕

springbanklabel-bigNose - Warm wax, floral elegance, sweet, ripe fruit - cherry, peach - and a good backbone of cereal and old oak.  Just lovely, this is the kind of nose that got me into whisky.  With water, more wax and something medicinal from my childhood - Amoxicillin - and chew sweets, and a beautiful deep, sulphured sweetness.  And some hobnobs.  Love it.

Body - Unexpectedly spicy and sharp.  Doesn’t really take any prisoners undiluted.  With water, lots more sweet shop notes and toffee come through, and loads of numbing sulphur.

Finish - Long bitterness undiluted.  With water that classy, oily sulphured note comes through more, although it’s still a little bitter.

What’s not good about it - A little thin in the delivery diluted, harsh and bitter without water.

What’s good about it - But a fantastic nose, everything I could hope for in the nose, and lovely richness and fruit in the delivery. 

Sold out, but samples still available.

Springbank Batch 2, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 53.1% A⊕

That_Boutique-y_Whisky_Company_-_Springbank_Batch_2Nose - Wow.  Happily very similar to batch one but with the bright fruit turned up a notch and the darkly brooding wax turned down a notch.  Bright, complex wax, juicy red and tropical fruit, hubba bubba, and all backed by toasty new fence panels.  Lovely.  With water, the wood complexity comes up a notch and the fruit doesn’t suffer.

Body - That’s better - rich fruit and tobacco, tons of wood and dark furniture polish.  With water, I think I prefer it slightly less initially but the end is better balanced..

Finish - Long, long, and very bitter undiluted.  A lingering waxy tropicality and coastal peat.  Challenging but very good.

What’s not good about it - A bit unbalanced, a bit chaotic.

What’s good about it - But very interesting for it.  Also it’s a wonderful, complex and satisfying whisky to drink.  Buy now.

Comparing batch 1 and 2:

n - 1 is dark, more sulphured, more smoke and better balanced.  2 is more sweetly fruited, still stunning and more floral.  1 just takes it on grounds of elegance but both are stunning.

b - 1 is overall classier, more sulphured and spicy.  2 has a little less aggression but still provides many of the same experiences with a little more fruit.  

Overall - there’s very little in this.  Batch 1 is my preference, but only just, and objectively the 2 might actually be better.  Batch 1 is a bit OTT on the spice but makes up for it with superior sulphur and wood.  Batch 2 is still awesome, and batch 1 is sold out, so…

SMWS 27.92, Springbank, Wake-up call, 10 years old, 53.5%  A⊕+

March 31 2000, Refill ex-bourbon barrel.  Bought and (AFAIK) only available as part of the (excellent) Surf and Turf Seaside BBQ “might minis” set of four 10cl bottles.

27.92Nose - Go go go SMWS!  Enormous intensity and balance of refreshing, juicy fruit, waxed marker pens, cherry and almond.  Absolutely delicious and so fresh and fruity.  Balancing notes are oily, slightly coastal, furniture polish and Victorian oak floorboards.  Stunning.

Body - Sweet, ice pops, fruit, balancing sulphur and wax all the way.

Finish - Long, sweet, balanced but staggers a little with the bitterness, recovered by oily complexity.  What a whisky.

What’s not good about it - You can only buy it as part of a set of 4 minis.  I need at least a litre of this.

What’s good about it - A perfect, delicious and incredibly expensive Springbank nose.  Doesn’t let you down in the delivery either.  Lots of oily, coastal, sulphured wood and fruit.  Fabulous.

Three Highland Parks

I’ll be back to my Springbank obsession after a bit of the slowly developing Highland Park fun I’ve been having.  Here’s the 12, which I’d never really sat down with before, and got to appreciate as part of the White Lyan Tweet Tasting, followed by yet another pair of stunning HPs from SMWS.

Highland Park 12 year old, 40% A

HP-12yo-bottle-packNose - Comforting, waxed, sweet and toasty wood. A little cereal rawness but no problem.  Some chocolate covered popcorn (always welcome) and fresh, clean cherry.  A touch of teenagers deodorant (Lynx Oriental kinda thing), some sweet preserved lemon, and something herbal. There’s a sour note developing - swimming pool?  The perfume brings me back.  It’s rather good.

Body - Light, quite sweet, a little malt, a little toasty peat.  Very mild, a little watery for my tastes, but nicely done.  Some nuts and toffee.

Finish - Some fresh Marlboro. An oily delivery, quite long in the finish, and a little austere at the end.  But very pleasant overall, especially the structured, toffee wood bitterness that develops right at the end.  I do so value a whisky that takes you for a consistently interesting ride and leaves you wanting more.

What’s not good about it - Weak initial delivery.  Lacks intensity overall.

What’s good about it - Rather good, classy nose and sees things through very well for the price.

SMWS 4.189, Highland Park, 13 years old, Cracking!, 59.4% A⊕+

24th August 2000, 206 bottles, first fill ex-bourbon barrel.

IMG_20140730_185045158Nose - Initially wax, then blackcurrants and Ribena generally, some cherry, some balancing smoke and quite a lot of menthol and mint fags.  Quite refreshing, as well as reasonably intense.  As you progress, the mint becomes the main body of every inhalation, bookended by boiled lemon sweets, tobacco leaf and furniture polish.  Extremely enticing.

Body - Sweet, sweet and chew bars, then sulphur and smoke.  Citrus elegance, fruit and toffee.  Lovely.

Finish - Long, long lingering wham bar, then long sulphur and wood.  Finally, tobacco and wood shavings.  So, so interesting, and deeply delicious.  

What’s not good about it - Nothing, assuming you’re not offended by the menthol nose.

What’s good about it - Balance, complexity, refreshing, perfumed and masculine.  No wonder HP are so adept at producing OB single malts when this kind of barrel is tumbling out into IBs.  

SMWS 4.190, Highland Park, 22 years old, Big boys smoking in the sauna, 53.9% A⊕+

31st May 1991, 246 bottles, refill ex-bourbon hogshead.

IMG_20140730_185107465Nose - Tasty, oaky, slightly restrained charred wood (although the bottle is newly open and could be a bit closed down), Marlboro light and sweet red cherry - which starts to come out of the closet more and more as you investigate.  Light fruity wax and fresh tobacco leaf.   An almost strict character, but hiding some rather delicious fruit.  I can see it’s quite grown up, and what are they doing in the sauna?

Body - Ripe, sweet, but austere and wooded.  Serious numbing smoke pokes it’s head out and then ducks back in.  With water, the fruit and tobacco develop (as they will) but the intensity has gone.

Finish - Really sweet character develops, long toffee notes balanced by spicy wood.  Very, very long and deeply sweet.  Really double sided, with tropical burps to boot.  With water, the peat starts to dominate, with more tobacco, and rather good it is too.

What’s not good about it - Not exactly a beginners malt.  Quite challenging and austere, and weirdly two faced.

What’s good about it - Complex, fascinating, masculine and feminine.  Uncompromising and very rewarding.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Springbank–a couple of blends

Here’s some blends produced by Springbank, including (one assumes), a large quantity of Springbank single malt, but also other stuff (grain of course, and other malts).  They’re both great, particularly the Campbeltown Loch, but the Springbank CV really stands out now as a total bargain.

Campbeltown Loch, 21 years old, 46% A⊕+

campbeltown-loch-21-year-old-40-percent-whiskyNose - Glorious sweet, sappy bourbon intensity.  Brightly waxed, with intriguing blonde wood notes and a background of tobacco and engine oil.  A real carpenters workshop behind this, right down to the pencil shavings.  Rather epic.

Body - Extremely sweet, toffee pennies and smoky caramel.  Intense aged hardwood and a little bitterness.  SMWS single cask intensity.

Finish - Oily, dark toffee, long and satisfying.  Balanced, complex and highly drinkable.

What’s not good about it - Nothing - this is a fabulous blend.  40% Girvan and 60% single malt, this displays the usual excellence from the producers.

What’s good about it - Trademark complexity, touching sweet, sour, salt and smoke on the nose.  No let up in excellence in the delivery.

Thanks to Johnnie Stumbler for the sample!

Spirit of Freedom 30 year old, 46% A+

75% malt, 25% grain.

spirit-of-freedom-30-year-old-blended-scotch-whiskyNose - Intense quality; aftershave, leather and oak panelling.  Bright glace cherries, pencil shavings, cigarette tobacco and floral notes.  Fabulous nose with plenty of structure and fun, living up to it’s bargainatious yet ancient billing nicely.

Body - The initial delivery is slightly disappointing given the nose.  A little sour and smokier than expected, without the intensity I was expecting.  Spicy wood and juicy tobacco leaf, some apple and bitter liquorice stick.

Finish - Deep toffee offsetting the spicy sour notes.  Quite long, balanced but lacking some midrange.  Ultimately unbalanced as the bitterness and sweetness fall out of favour.  

What’s not good about it - Lack of midrange near the end of delivery and a bit of harsh landing.

What’s good about it - Fabulous nose, loads of intrigue and opulence, tobacco and hashish.  Much of the delivery is spicy, excellent and moreish.  Just falls down a bit at the end.  An interesting antidote to the NAS debate, as it’s heavily age statemented but probably is correctly priced at about £70.  For the same money, the 15 year old Springbank single malt is half the age and much better.

Compared to the Campbeltown Loch 21: n- the 30 is more masculine, aftershave and wood, where the 21 is fruitier with more wax (although both are waxy, the 30 is more crayons).  I prefer the nose on the 30 but there’s not much in it.  b- the 30 is more austere, sourer and a little thinner.  The 21 has much more intensity, a longer development and a beautiful landing.

Compared to the Springbank CV: n- not much comparison here, they are very different.  The CV makes the 30 smell overly weak and icing sugary, but the 30 makes the CV smell like a Diageo special release.  It’s wonderful.  b- compared directly, the difference on the body is less marked in the initial delivery but the CV takes over later on, with long, long drying notes of sulphur and lots of complexity.

Monday, 28 July 2014

SMWS 50.58, A seesaw of spring cleaning and scones!

Why is there only 90 bottles of this?  *Clickety*

SMWS 50.58, Bladnoch, 24 years old, A seesaw of spring cleaning and scones!, 55%, A⊕+

26th January 1990, 90 bottles, refill ex-bourbon barrel.

50.58Nose - Solvent sweet, thinners, plastic book coverings, cherry ripe sweetness and fresh gloss paint on freshly planed pine wood.  Deep down in there there’s something extremely fruity.  Quite a challenging and curious nose, a resinous deep wax running through it, with just the slightest hint of drying peat, mature oak notes and something oddly vegetal - sliced carrots?  And something meaty and fatty like a French pate.  I get the bread.  Complicated.  With water, more cherry notes start to come through and that fruitiness comes out - cherry, orange, juicy pineapple and loads of menthol.  And some pencil shavings.  Much more rounded, more complexity, more citrus fruit.

Body - Undiluted, very hot and sappy.  Spicy, with lingering toasted notes and great belts of toffee.  With water, significantly more wood and quite a fruit bomb with orange, and waxy, musky cherry.

Finish - Quite wood sour in the finish with long oily waxed tones.  With water, much more soapy wax and really oily, with the fruit chews on the label coming to the fore.  Long numbing finish and a tropical after glow.

What’s not good about it - Needs water, undiluted is quite severe.

What’s good about it - But you can spend a long time adding water and enjoying how it unfolds.  With water, lots of fruit, wax, well integrated mature wood, and loads of body.  Great complexity, loads of challenge and interest, keeps on giving.