Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Springbank Vertical

OK now I’m hooked.  Right then OB range, let’s be having you.

Springbank CV, 46% A⊕

A NAS Springbank, discontinued I think but available from Arkwrights at the time of writing, and something of a bargain too at £35.

springbank-cvLargeNose - Sweet, waxed peat, and a little sweat.  Deep toffee, ripe, ripe pears and a touch of amyl nitrate.  Extraordinarily lush, sweet, toffeed, wooded and just a balancing note of masculinity and tobacco.  Another glorious, complex and balanced nose from Springbank - seriously waxy and interesting.

Body - Oily again, more robust with coastal edges.  Perhaps more obviously sweet with icing sugar in the delivery than the some of the others.

Finish - Long, bitter engine oil and peat notes, well balanced just straying into one-dimensionality in the very end.  And a little overbalanced into oily versus structure and wood at the end.  Goodness me for this money though, they can do no wrong.

What’s not good about it - Icing sugar and lack of complexity at the end?

What’s good about it - Everything else punches in the 80-100 quid bracket - wow what a whisky!

Springbank 10 year old, 46% A

springbank-10-year-oldNose - Dark demeanor, light peating, sour pears, rich toffee, balancing sulphur and lots of wood structure.  Some slightly coastal notes - smoked mackerel and brine.  Rather good.

Body - Toffee, sulphur and balancing peat, a little thin although topped and tailed by interest (sweet toffee, sulphur and peat) and complexity (wood, coastal and red berries).  Lacking midrange near the end but plenty of substance initially.

Finish - Long, peat coming through against the sulphur, eventually straying into watery wood bitterness a little.  

What’s not good about it - Midrange, a little thin compared to its siblings.

What’s good about it - Expensive feel on the top and bottom for the money - although I prefer the CV.

Springbank 15 year old, 46% A⊕+

springbnak15yoboxNose - Darkly waxed, a little vegetal (carrots), dark toffee, balsa wood and PVA glue.  Some minerality.  Apples and engine oil, pears and pine.  Trainers and tarmac.  It’s all pretty complicated, poised and of course, perfectly balanced and rather exciting.  The empty glass (and I guess the full glass) has this kebab shop air to it (not in a bad way) of pickled chilles and meat.  This has the most sulphur of all so far, and it’s so perfectly pitched.I think it’s just wonderful.

Body - Peat and sherry, but encased in toffee and oak.  I guess that’s whisky for you, but it’s so beautifully expressed here.

Finish - Long, long toffee, sharply sweet and wooded.  Epic.

What’s not good about it - Nothing... actually... perhaps the wood in the final, final moments strays into bitterness a little far.

What’s good about it - Long, great complexity.  Enormous balanced sherry notes and wood backing.  Intense, balanced and a long finish.  Not much else to ask for.

Springbank 18 year old, 46% A⊕

Springbank18-LARGENose - Restrained, a little more classical, but still has that darkly understated tropicality the other malts have.  Wax, ripe pear, a hint of cherry and that beautiful balanced peat that Springbanks have.  I love the way the range are all such great blends of sherry, bourbon and peat.  The results are beautiful.

Body - Sweet landing, waxed bourbon and then sherry.  Oddly uncomplicated compared to the 15, but still destroys most 18 year olds.

Finish - Long but sour but with expensive waxed edges.  Bitterness again, and a little one dimensional in the icing sugar sweetness.

What’s not good about it - Long, bright icing sugar sweetness is a little dull compared to other expressions.  The nose is more restrained.  It’s not, in my opinion, as good as the 15.

What’s good about it - Lovely peat and sweet balance, intense sherry and oak sweetness.  A fabulous dram despite the competition from its siblings.

Comparing the 15 and the 18.

15 n - more peat, more ripe dark cherry and red fruit, more rich wax.  b - more structure, more tropical, more smoke at the back

18 n - restrained but classier, more wax and lipstick, more strawberry.  b - more tropical at the front, bitterness at the back, more tobacco.  Comparing them side by side, the 18 is clearly superior.  Comparing them sequentially, I enjoyed the 15 more.  Weird that.

Springbank 21 A⊕+

springbank-21jr-oude-uitgaveLargeNose - Intense fruitbomb nose and bubblegum, old-Tomatin like but lacking some of that three dimensionality.  Faint backing of oil and structure but it’s hidden a little more behind the lewd front notes and the Marlboro lights.  It’s still balanced but younger expressions had more impact with the integration between the masculine and feminine aspects.  On further investigation, this 21 is showing recesses of complexity and perfume.  Reluctant and a little shy, but has depth.  

Body - An amazing, long, intense and complicated development.  From initial fruit explosion to dark, bitter, long and deep finale, this delivery can’t really be broken into body and finish.  Although maybe....

Finish - an unexpected sherbety and bright, citrusy finish arrives way after you would expect, with oil, wax and peat balancing everything out.  The intensity is there and bright and bold.

What’s not good about it - Doesn’t give up its treasures easily.  Compared to the rest of the range, very expensive (at release, now it’s sold out it’s way over the mark).

What’s good about - Complicated, challenging, exciting and extremely well played.  An enormous, easily misunderstood whisky.

My money is on the 15.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

SMWS–Joe’s retirement tasting!

Joe McGirr has been with the SMWS for almost exactly 10 years.  He’s had a number of roles including the renovation of Queen Street, and for the last four years he’s been manager at Greville Street in London.  He and Tom Thomson really introduced me to the society – Tom sent me my first tastes and got me interested, and Joe made sure I got hooked and became a member.  At the start of August he’ll be leaving (to join the London Distillery company as Chief Operating Officer) and this tasting, at the sign of the don restaurant in Bank, was his last with the SMWS. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Springbank 12 year old Cask Strength batches

Springbank don’t add the batch number to their bottles of the massively wonderful and wholly recommended 12 year old CS.  This causes lots of confusion for retailers and customers, if they want to go by the batch number.  David Allen was good enough to provide me with a definitive list, which I provide here for the education and enjoyment of all.  You can identify the batch by the (so far unique) alcohol ABV.

Batch # Year Month ABV
1 2010 January 54.6%
2 2010 September 58.5%
3 2011 September 55.3%
4 2012 February 55.1%
5 2012 August 52.2%
6 2013 January 53.1%
7 2013 July 50.3%
8 2014 January 52.3%
9 2014 July 54.3%


So -

Batch 7 at TWE http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-21414.aspx

Batch 8 at TWE http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-23467.aspx

Batch 5 at TWE http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-17954.aspx

Batch 8 (not 7) at Green Welly http://www.thegreenwellystop.co.uk/whiskyshop/springbank-12-year-old-cask-strength-batch-7/prod_3237.html

Batch 7 (not 6) at Master of Malt http://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/springbank/springbank-12-year-old-cask-strength-batch-6-whisky

Monday, 7 July 2014

Rundlets and Kilderkins Horizontal

Three Springbank expressions all matured in small barrels (15 and 18 gallons) so as to mature faster.  At the Springbank masterclass, David Allen told us that they wouldn’t ever make any more Rundlets and Kilderkins expressions as the cost was too high – they should just put the bottle price up!

Hazelburn Rundlets and Kilderkins A⊕+

image_HAZEL10RK_1Nose - Intensely sweet, fruity, cherried, light, sweet men's perfume and waxy leather.  Much more wax and expense than I remember at the masterclass.  A peat edge, some black pepper and some charcoal.  Great depth balanced by charred oak notes.

Body - Creamy, sweet, toffee and some spice.  Chocolate notes and a little swimming pool.  Intense, sappy pine.

Finish - Medium, chocolaty, fizzing at the end.  Great light sulphur and petrol tones.  Just delicious.

What’s not good about it - Very little, perhaps a little on the sherbety, fizzing, light side (due to the 2.5x distillation perhaps) but that’s its character.

What’s good about it - Deep complexity, intensity and balance.  Great fruit and toffee delivery, some chocolate, balanced wood and spice.  Lovely stuff.

Springbank Rundlets and Kilderkins A+

springbank--rundlets-and-kilderkins--abbeywhisky-250Nose - Immediately arresting, very, very lovely on the nose.  Deep dark wax, toffee, old wood, juicy red fruit and leather, raspberry and cherry liqueur, and brown sugar dissolved in melted butter.  The sweet fruit is expertly balanced again, with spicy, waxed wood, bright leather and light herbal notes of sage and rosemary. With water, the fruit recedes a little leaving a little more in the way of cigar tobacco, leather and light toasty, toffeed peat.  Still lovely.

Body - Oily, a little fried fish, toasty, raisins, some intensity but quite restrained (in some dimensions) given what I was expecting from the nose.  

Finish - Long, oily, rich and good apple juice and intense pine wood.

What’s not good about it - The delivery lacks a bit of balance and fruit, water doesn’t open it up much.  A small let down given the nose.  Some unwelcome bitterness in the finish.

What’s good about it - But what a fabulous nose.  Loads of balanced, intense fruit and dark tones, great complexity.

The Springbank has such a wonderful nose I’m disappointed that the body isn’t quite so stunning.  It’s not bad - it’s just shown up compared to the Hazelburn which does deliver, and to my expectations.  Thanks to Chris for the sample!

Longrow Rundlets and Kilderkins A⊕+

lgrob.2001Nose - Sweet peat and cider vinegar.  Smokey toffee.  Deep fried whitebait and tartar sauce.  Bright, creamy wax.  Apples and fresh oak staves.  Very exciting and mouthwatering, deeply sweet and savoury.

Body - Smooth, intense delivery, with unripe apples, intense toffee, musky leather and book bindings.  A torrent of oak and malted barley.  

Finish - Long, sour cherries, toffee pennies.  Wonderful balance and character, complexity and confidence. 

What’s not good about it - I guess challenging - the character is toasted, savoury vinegar offset with balanced peat so it’s quite a toothsome, fish and chipsey kind of dram.  

What’s good about it - But that’s pulled off effortless and with real virtuosity.  Complexity, character, integration and balance are all spot on, plus it’s really different.  It’s almost like a good blend, the range of components and their integration.  I love it.

Thanks to Chris for the sample again!

HazelRowBank Rundlets and Kilderkins A⊕

Ralfy did it so I thought I would too, but with the Rundlets and Kilderkins range.  Equal proportions of each three, “bottle matured” for 2 weeks in a 3cl sample bottle.

Nose - Sweet with red cherry and light wax, offset with a subtle coastal smoke, loads of apple and red apple skin.  A little ozone.  A rather lovely, classy toasted peated edge, some cigar tobacco and toffee apple.  Very good!

Body - Sweet, cigars, a little vegetal, bright pine notes, waxy and long oily salted caramels.  

Finish - Quite long, loads of cigar, oily toffee penny and a little bit of damp charred oak.

What’s not good about it - Well, you have to buy three bottles to make it.  The initial part of the delivery is a little thin or perfumy, but that’s made up for almost immediately.

What’s good about it - But otherwise it’s actually pretty good.  Loads of toffee, great light peat, like the musky, dirty backing to the fruity wax. Tempted to make more than 3cl now...

Sunday, 29 June 2014

A couple of historic Feis Ile

I have in stock, samples of the most of the 2014 Feis Ile lineup. So to clear the decks for that, here’s a couple of older ones that have been on my todo list for some time.

Ardbeg Day Feis Ile 2012, 56.7% A⊕+


Nose - Incredibly bright and sweet, intense, balanced toffee pennies and ash.  Almost rotten apples, sweet burnt cardboard, raisin, port and dairylea cheese slice sandwiches.  Ashes, autumn leaves and charred, damp oak staves.  Very sweet, then very savoury, and rather good.

Body - Ham and ashes.  Peanut toffee.  Dark sherry notes (rum soaked raisins).  Wonderful sweet, dark peat and old bandages.  

Finish - Perplexing - there is a plastic, ham, and cigarette element in here that lingers and I can’t identify.  In any case - long, numbing, rich and tasty, intensely sweet and drying.  Intensity and balance throughout gets you top marks.

What’s not good about it - Some bitterness lurks in the end.  That ashen note isn’t integrated perfectly with the sweetness late on and mars the overall experience a little.

What’s good about it - Complicated, grown up and serious nose with classical sweet Islay notes and good phenols.  Interesting, intense and tasty.

Thanks to Steve for the sample!

Laphroaig Feis Ile 2013 - Cairdeas Port Wood Edition, 51.3% A+


Nose - Rich, burnt cardboard, big 70s bandages and winey peat.  Peas and earth.  Wet oak and gunpowder. Rather exciting but oddly thin.

Body - Chorizo, fennel and toffee apples.  Rich chorizo peat.

Finish - Tasty, meaty, peaty and rich.  Quite long and well balanced, good phenols (this isn’t a mild or “accessible” Laphroaig) and definitely in the meaty corner.  Great longevity actually, the chorizo lives on.  Really enjoyable, if not exactly elegant and beautiful.

What’s not good about it - While the nose is pleasant and interesting it lacks a little intensity.  And I’m not sure how many times I’d reach for a pink, chorizo Laphroaig.  

What’s good about it - Great port integration, hangs together very well with a very typical Laphroaig delivery.  


Thanks to Tom for the sample!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

SMWS 5.37 (Auchentoshan) Lazing on a Sunday afternoon

I’m starting to develop a thing for triple distilled whiskies, I might have to avail myself of the BenRiach Horizons at some point.

SMWS 5.37, Auchentoshan, 13 years old, Lazing on a Sunday afternoon, 59.5%

11 October 2000, 169 bottles, refill ex-bourbon hogshead.

IMG_20140628_182743230Nose - Lemon boiled sweets, pine needles, crayons and rich backing cereal. A touch of grapefruit. Fresh, bright, clean and summery.  Lovely.  With water, the boiled sweets and rich wood come through more assertively and the nose opens up to include freshly squeezed oranges and a little hot rosemary.

Body - Fizzing lemon and pine.  Water brings intense grapefruit and grapefruit zest, but reveals some bitterness.

Finish - Long, toffeed, bright and clean and a little bit spicy.  Complex and rather good.  Water upsets the balance somewhat.

What’s not good about it - Bitterness is the curse of the fruity whiskies.  Water makes the most of the nose and the initial delivery but upsets the finish.

What’s good about it - But overall this is quite a bargain- extraordinarily citrusy, sweet and delicious with loads of complexity and interest.  Definitely recommended, and as part of the epic trio in June (with the Arran and the Bowmore) it was a no brainer.  They’ll still sell you a bottle in the bar, I reckon.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

SMWS July Outturn Tasting

I was lucky enough to attend a tasting of the July outturn for SMWS last night, with most of the new outturn available and a bunch of either rare, sold out or non-UK bottles also available to taste and for sale.
I often produce these notes for my bottle share friends but at Joe's request I'm putting them on the blog for wider consumption!  They're micro-tasting notes though, just a brief impression, an initial grading and an indication if I think the whisky is a consideration to buy.  Hopefully this will be of use if you want to work out where to focus your attention in July.