Thursday, 4 October 2018

Cadenhead Club - Campbeltown tasting

This year, the night before the Campbeltown festival, they held the first tasting to pick the next Cadenhead’s club bottling.  I couldn’t go to this, I couldn’t take another day off work and away from home, but Ronnie, bless him, saved me the dregs from around his table (I think!) so I could taste them.  Now that the new club bottling has been announced (a 25 year old Glen Grant, the last whisky in the tasting), it reminded me that I’d made notes for these!


These were tasted blind at the tasting and I tasted them blind too – my guesses are given inline (and 100% wrong as usual).  I had a video of the “reveal” to get the answers from and I’ve found it a little hard to hear the results over the sound of a large number of cheering, clapping, middle aged men at the tasting (why are they cheering?) – also Jenna’s accent is hard to decipher for me over the noise too – so some of the details might be wrong.  Please correct me [EDIT: thank you Ozgur Ozlen for providing the full details!]


1 Inchmurrin 21 years old, 1996, 53.1% A-

Hhd, cask 4574, 17 December 1996

Nose - Warming and woodsy with lots of midrange. Lovely waxes, quite dusty but a little cereal sour with it. Apple chews, white marshmallow and some perfume.

Body - Softly fruited at first, then a spike of slightly harder spirit, some cardboard, then a first fill bourbon saccharin sweetness.

Finish - Medium, with pink peppercorns and sesame prawn toast.

A lovely nose here, really floral and inviting. Clumsy sweetness in the delivery.

Guessing Speyburn 11, FF bourbon.

2 Speyside 26 years old, 50.1% A'

Hhd, cask 51, 16 September 1991

Nose - Medium sweet, rich and nutty; warm caramel with peanut brittle. Newly painted furniture and treacle tart.

Body - Soft with Mexican chocolate and a Pomander. Walnut whip.

Finish - Long and sweet with caraway and lemsip. The midrange falls away quite quickly leaving fruit and caramel.

Rich, sweet and satisfying (particularly on the nose) but slightly unbalanced in the delivery.

Guessing Glenrothes 19, refill sherry.

3 Littlemill 27 years old, 52.1% A

Hhd, cask 3040, 16th October 1990

Nose - Big and malic, brown apple juice with brown sugar and cherry pipe tobacco. Mr Kipling chocolate cupcakes.

Body - French browned pastry with burnt sugar and pop tarts. Some petrol, some tobacco.

Finish - Long and musky, with slightly charred raisins and plum crumble.

Sweet and waxy, slightly winey but great waxes.

Who knows, I will guess it's FF bourbon and 13. Miltonduff.

4 Tullibardine 24 years old, 46.1% A⊕'

Hhd, cask 1868, 8th June 1993

Nose - Ripe with Sauvignon Blanc and brie, biscuits and grapes. A beautifully balanced and considered character, perfect spirit against the cask. Candle wax and oat cakes.

Body - Soft and dusty with buttercream, acrylic varnish and black pepper.

Finish - Long with more buttercream icing and muhkwas, quite astringent and a little cheesy.

I like this - it feels weird and old, it has gravitas. I know there is a Littlemill in here that everyone didn't pick, so I'm going to guess that, 27 years old. Bourbon cask.

5 Glenrothes 21 years old, 55.8% A⊕

Butt, cask 22, 21st October 1996 

Nose - Dank and herbal, tack dry gloss paint with chocolate and Sangria. A beautifully sweet red wine cask feel here, very deep, sweet and waxy. Either that or its Indian.

Body - Sweet and formic, bitter woods, very ripe with tarte tatin. Baked plums and black pepper.

Finish - Long with black pepper and marzipan. Very moreish.

I love this. I am doubtful that Cadenhead's would pick an Indian whisky as a club bottling so I'm going to discount the Indian thing, so I will guess 21 year old Glenfarclas, sherry cask (long finish). I'd buy it.

6 Glen Grant 24 years old, 52.4% sherry hogshead since June 2016, A+'

Cask 15/249-1, 13th October 1993

Nose - This is an old sherry cask too. Old cracked gloss paint, library and blue cheese. Very rich with leather jacket and men's perfume, but slightly herbal (fresh rosemary, thyme).

Body - Cherry Ripe bars, milk tart and condensed milk. Absolutely delicious.

Finish - Medium long with milk bottle sweets and cherry compote.

A big, sweet, creamy and fruity whisky, but balanced by wood and a big spirit. I'm guessing Blair Athol 28, sherry cask.


Thursday, 27 September 2018

Daftmill’s first two


Daftmill Summer Release A⊕+

daftmill-2006-summer-batch-release-whiskyNose - Light, citrus, wax, insistently creamy. Then there's a much dirtier depth to it, a lowlandery fecundity which has rosemary and roasted pork fat, cut flower stalks and peach.

Body - Extremely fruity if understated, it has that '76 Tomatin funky tropicality to it, perhaps a little Irish too. Some petrol/plastic book covering.

Finish - Long and ripe, really quite sweet and full of apple and ripe nectarines, orange jelly sweets and cut oak. It seems to get fruitier as it fades.

If the excitement dies down a little I'm looking forward to drinking bottles of this.  Such deep fruit and sugars, but balanced by weird, slightly alien funk.

Daftmill Inaugural Release A+

daftmill-2005-inaugural-release-whiskyNose - Noticeably rawer and more angular than the summer release, with acrylic paint, fresh planed oak and liquorice rizlas. It feels like there's some virgin oak in the mix here. That character from the Summer release is here too though; waxy, fruity, a bit weird, herbal and winey. It feels a bit more "single cask".

Body - Fresh, then sugar sweet, then sort of meaty (slow cooked pork belly and soy) with sugar coated fennel seeds.

Finish - Long with the same astringent sweetness from the initial delivery. Spicier, hotter than the summer, but robustly fruity with a big bourbon cask woodsy pepper. Feels like something you'd have at the bar in SMWS.

Another delicious whisky, nowhere near as luxurious as the Summer though.

Thanks a million EdC for sorting out these!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

SMWS 35th Anniversary Tasting Pack

This was a tasting hosted by John virtually and in person from Leith!  I couldn’t attend at the time but have been allowed to taste them.

It’s been nearly a year since I stopped tasting the outturn every month but the relatively small number of casks I’ve tried in that time have been really good on the whole.  And honestly it is quite nice to not be quite so obsessive about it.

SMWS 135.6, Inchmoan, Cones versus crones, 10 years old, 57.1% A⊕

13th September 2007, 2nd fill bourbon, 297 bottles. I had a couple of 135s in the London bar the other night with Mr. Storry and they were both great.

135.6Nose - An immediately arresting nose, very confident. Waxy is the main thing - rich, plasticky wood with vanilla sponge, raspberry jam and party balloons. It must be the weird stills that makes this unmistakable and very drinkable character. Underneath the wood glue thing there's warm, cut peach and apricot sweets. More citrussy with water, and a little more anty.

Body - Sweet but balanced, Fizzers and a coke float. A sherbet dib-dab dibber. A little more herbal with water, rosemary and poached pear.

Finish - Turns into Refreshers (they are different from Fizzers, but subtly so) and buzzes round the lips and tongue with twisted orange peel, grapefruit peel and sherbet.

What a cracking whisky; confident, interesting, well balanced and a real pleasure to drink.


SMWS 35.214, Glen Moray, Without pretence, 22 years old, 55.7% C+

27th October 1995, 1st fill bourbon, 221 Bottles

35.214Nose - Waxy but much more cautious than the 135, with boiled sweets, linseed oil, blue-ball-liquorice-allsorts and custard creams. I'm still getting those Fizzers on exhale but I think they're a remnant from the previous. Deeper and better with water, with candied orange peel and beedis.

Body - Strange… some of it's young, some of it's bitter and some of it's virgin oaky. It's a bruising delivery, palate stripping. Orange oils at first, then this oaky, liquorice fire comes down on you…

Finish - Long and bitter with burnt orange, rolling tobacco and chewed liquorice root. There's a deep sweetness underneath but it's crushed by this bitter wood oil, like a young, black, cask strength bourbon.

An interesting nose, but an extremely clumsy delivery full of chilli, bitter oak and numbing oils. I suspect this has been finished in something extremely active, and it hasn't worked. A shame because the nose is great.

SMWS 63.49, Glentauchers, In the dark of the abyss, 11 years old, 60.6% B+

29th June 2006, refill oloroso butt, 549 bottles

63.49Nose - Just ever so gently dirty, a charred, nutty (waxy) but imprecise sherry nose. Hazelnuts, filter coffee and posh dark chocolate, and a very dark sweetness - prunes, fig rolls, treacle pudding. It really is a very compelling, exciting nose.

Body - Flaking, dark varnish, then chewy toffees, Christmas cake icing, burnt orange and acrylic paint. Brighter orange with water, cake with an apricot jam filling.

Finish - Medicinal, dirty again - bandages, hoisin sauce and Durian. Very long with more prunes (the packet has been open a while and they're drier) and sweet, cumin-y mukhwas.

This is all over the place, but fascinating for it. This is another palate crusher and would make a good end of evening dram at the bar, or as a bottle - something out of the ordinary if you are starting to build up a collection of so far "safe" society bottles.

SMWS 93.94, Glen Scotia, The final trawl, 15 years old, 56.8% A+

6th May 2002, refill bourbon, 226 bottles

93.94Nose - Blessed Campbeltown! Dry and dusty, yet intensely sweet with dusty Kipling slices and jelly lemon sweet slices. This is so ripe, balanced and well composed compared to the last two, it's night and day. Waxy, sweetshop, weird Campbeltown heaven.

Body - The same - dry and sweet, waxy and weird, dirty and fun - coffee chocolates and leatherette.

Finish - Long and very sweet, with milk chocolate icing, warm double cream and a little stilton at the end. Deep wood varnish with time though, it builds and builds.

Citrus, farmyard and a lingering sensation of blue cheese. Glen Scotia plays a dangerous game with its Campbeltown cards and sometimes wins - this is one of the winners.  Yum.


SMWS 29.249, Laphroaig, Sweet black tea in the surgery, 21 years old, 48.6% A⊕+

26th November 1996, 2nd fill PX hogshead, 230 bottles. 19 years in refill bourbon before.

29.249Nose - Felt lined box, old varnished wood, Refreshers again (old Islay being where I'd expect them) and royal icing. One of those posh nylon-looking tea bags ([googles] tea pigs apparently, and it's made out of biodegradable corn starch) and that wonderful smell of Summer-into-Autumn evening air. Pellet smokers, cut orange, carpet tiles.

Body - Sweet and medicinal, with star anise, soy sauce and new magazine.

Finish - Medium-long with dirty, medicinal peat. A longed-for cigarette on a cold, windy day. It's not quite TCP though, those days, apparently, are gone.

The nose is extremely special on this, the delivery is a little more tricky in terms of the prestige this whisky should have, however I'm more excited by this than the others.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard

A new addition to the core range for Compass Box and a lovely drammer.

Compass Box The Spaniard, 43% A+

Compass-Box-The-SpaniardNose - Rich and sweet at first, then lots of wine - sweet and sour - some pineapple. Musky and soft toffee underneath that, and a candy necklace. As always, a beautiful nose from CB.

Body - Slightly gunpowdery, licks of a red wine cask - nutty but no sulphur. Reminds me in some ways of the Macallan 12 sherry oak, which I tasted at the start of this session (but not this post). Lots of depth to this, but also quite waxy, quite painty, quite burnt.

Finish - Medium but highly tannic, burnt toast with fizzers and a little bit of cigarette smoke. Black pepper and red wine at the end.

Compass Box blended malts are a great opposite to single cask/cask strength and this is a proper drinker. I wouldn't have too many problems seeing one of these bottles off in half a year or so (that's good going) although it could do with 3% more ABV.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Compass Box Flaming Heart 2018 edition

The 2016 version of this was just brilliant, I have squirrelled away a few bottles for the whiskypocalypse, so I have eagerly cracked a bottle of the 2018 version. 

Compass Box Flaming Heart 2018 edition, 48.9% A⊕+

compass-box-flaming-heart-2018-edition-whiskyNose - Ripe, fruity, waxy, grown up - spent gunpowder peat, caught caramel, a little blown electrical components, some furniture polish and chocolate mousse. Baked fruits, boiled sweets and apple pie. All of that beautifully balanced, it's brilliant.

Body - Earthy and spicy from the designer woods, rich and waxy with plum crumble (a little caught), some sweet and sour peat at the end of the arrival - like the nose, the delivery is a journey.

Finish - Sweet and fruity, then into perfumed, waxy peat. Medium length and very graceful at the end.

A superb drinking whisky, perfectly balanced and extremely moreish. Rich, waxy and fruity with quite robust peat, the lick of sherry cask is very welcome. Another success.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Aldi Irish 26 years old

Read all about it here, this was sold at some ludicrous price like £40, then actually discounted later on. Thanks so much to the ever awesome Jon for sending me a dram of this.

Aldi, Irish 26 years old A⊕

Nose - Dark fruit and fizzy sweets; a little bit of musk at first then a surprisingly nice complexity - cask and Refreshers. The fruit is sort of blackcurrant travel sweets, icing sugar and that almost petrol structure. Very promising.

Body - Orange chews and blackcurrant jam under buttercream icing. A luxurious, fruity arrival.

Finish - Quite long with the cream and fruit well balanced.

To be this well balanced and structured despite the fruit, sugar and age is quite a feat. Very impressed. They should have given this to the whisky agency to bottle for £260 a bottle.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

More Springbank Officials

As this is my favourite distillery, I am delighted to post this wrap up of nearly all the 2018 official releases so far (I’m just missing the 12CS - the Longrow 18, Springbank 21 are here with the HB Oloroso, and that amazing re-charred HB and Chardonnay Longrow are here).  These below are still available, except I think the (not core) Longrow Oloroso which has finished showing in the UK.

Hazelburn 10 years old, 46% A+

August 2018 batch. Triple distilled, "unpeated", and bourbon casks.

fullsizeoutput_4de-750x1000Nose - The purest expression of Hazelburn (aside from remembering the R&K); the slightly off-sweet waxy oils, the sweetshop cask, a sherbet dib-dab dibber. Floral (air freshener and pot pourri), a tiny amount of cherry pipe tobacco, maybe some liquorice Rizlas.

Body - Wax crayon and buttercream icing after a toot on that cherry roll-up. The engine oils make this dry when the notes read as sweet. Quite a lot of peat builds up with repeated sips.

Finish - Sweet, floral, a little burnt and quite short, liquorice imps and coffee granules are left at the end.

I wonder if it's the equipment that has all the peat in it, or if it's in the casks? Either way, this is a very compelling drinker and an absolute steal - as a more "pure" or austere version of Springbank it's extremely balanced and very well put together.

Springbank 10 years old, 46% A

August 2018 batch. 2.5x distilled, peated, sherry and bourbon casks.

SPRINGBANK%2010%2046%20-750x1000Nose - More three-dimensional than the Hazelburn, but then this is less distilled, has more cask variety and non-incidental peat! A very confident nose, with linseed oil, Campari, singed rosemary, vanilla cream and candle wax (big ones, not birthday ones). Water makes it sweeter, with a touch of superglue and clay.

Body – Off-dry with metal filings, engine oil (properly) and quite burnt. Dank and dusty, although the dustiness does have a hollow side to it here, particularly with the low ABV.

Finish - Charred wood, licked joss sticks and cigar tar.

The nose is just stunning in this batch, but the peat is really quite high in the delivery and it seems a little aggressive.

Springbank 15 years old, 46% A⊕

August 2018 batch. Sherry casks.

SPR%2015%2046%20VOL%20-750x1000Nose - The sweet spot for Springbank, it comes alive with currants, toasted almonds, sweet fruit cake, gastrique, blackcurrant jam, new carpet tiles and new library. Medicinal too; fresh bandage and Sudocrem.

Body - The peat in the 10 is turned down a couple of notches and the sherry cask fills in the gaps perfectly, adding chocolate icing, more blackcurrant jam, sulphur and walnuts. There's an almost red wine cask feel to this as you keep drinking, cloves and leather start to develop (a character that is explored more fully with Longrow).

Finish – Long, with new lino, fondant icing and vanilla ice cream. Nutty and oily at the end, the sherry cask and the Campbeltown dry the mouth out and make you sip again - one of the most compelling whisky experiences there is.

It's my favourite drinking whisky, those that you can just pour yourself into. I should make a list of those, and this will be #1.

Springbank 18 years old, 46% A⊕+

August 2018 batch, bourbon casks.

springbank-18-year-old-whiskyNose - Cleaner (because of the bourbon) than the 15 and more elegant than the 10, this has the best of the Hazelburn 10 and the SB15. It's fresh and waxy, but deep and poised - "complete" is the first word than came to mind. So; waxy cask, gently "tropical" fruits like peach and ripe pear, with plastic book covering, polished leather, cut grass (and a big sod of earth) and whistle pops.

Body - Whistle pop first, again, then red apple, strawberry mivvi… and Marlboro reds, toast and honey, Christmas cake and acrylic paint. Peppery notes build with time, but the engine oils back them up.

Finish - Very long, peppery and perfectly balanced bitterness. Victoria plum jam at the end.

Campbeltown just matures whisky faster. While you can hardly miss in the Springbank warehouses, it's impressive that this blend of casks just hits the mark so perfectly. This is as complex and intense a whisky you could ask for but it's so perfectly drinkable. And we haven't even got to Longrow yet, where the fireworks are.

Longrow Classic/Peated, 46% A⊕

August 2018 batch, 2x distilled.

longrow-peated-whiskyNose - Sweet, sour, dusty, off-dry, but weirder. The heavier the peating, the fewer the distillations, the deeper it becomes. The peaches are there again, with baked red apples, Germolene and old school permanent markers, but as with Octomore the heavier peating somehow mellows the peat and makes it more alien.

Body - Clean, a little sweet, with baked bramley apples, raisin, coffee and anise.

Finish - Medium-short and very clean, with window putty, royal icing, aniseed and fizzing lemon sherbet at the end.

The dusty nose with this balance and complexity is something that you need to spend a lot of money to achieve on Islay and Longrow has always nailed it. When I first tasted Springbank, I had a dram of this and then bought a bottle and stashed it, thinking "you won't be able to get whisky at this price and quality for much longer" - and you still can.

Longrow 14 years old, sherry cask, 57.8% A+

9,000 bottles, 2018 official release, refill Oloroso. I've been looking forward to this, thanks Jon for sharing this with me!

longrow-14-year-old-sherry-cask-matured-whiskyNose - Deep, intense, with menthol and new fence panel. Reminds me a lot of the society Longrow Sauternes with added lavender and crushed marble. And with time it really deepens - leatherette, sriracha sauce and cut spring onions. Much more new paint with water.

Body - Dirty sherry, oily and ripe, restrained nut, sweet sulphur and then so much Campbeltown. It's an archetypical Springbank whisky turned up a couple of notches. Lots of liquorice with water, roots and imps, very tannic and black.

Finish - Sweetly jewelled, grapes and paint. Very long and acrylic, especially with water.

I imagine this is what Campbeltown whisky was like 50 years ago. I bet in 20 years' time a closed bottle of this is going to be incredible. It's a Campbeltown rollercoaster today, extremely challenging and rewarding… but an open bottle will last a long time!