Monday, 5 October 2015

Longrow Red Pinot… Video Review?!

Not my finest hour but then that’s why this is a blog not a vlog!

I have a share on a bottle of this so I’ll make a real review soon but here’s me, slightly worse for wear, at The Whisky Show last Saturday.

And yes, if I’dve known I’d be on camera I would have worn a suit!

The ‘show was ace by the way, I’m off to the trade show in a little while and will report back.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

TWE The Whisky Show 2015

It’s nearly time!  Literally the most important date in the London spirits calendar (for me at least), this will be my third time at the show and this year it’s in a new, bigger venue.  The mind boggles…

Tickets are still onsale for the Sunday (Saturday sells out quickly) or 2-day weekend tickets.  If you think they look expensive, bear in mind the central location, free (very decent) lunch and pudding, massive number of whiskies you can sample (589 listed so far with many exhibitors bringing more) over 7 hours plus a token for a dream dram with more available to buy when you’re there.  Using these, it’d cost you £40 for a dram of Auchentoshan 1966 (which would be £114 for 2cl if you bought the bottle), or you could use your included token for a dram of this ‘80s Springbank 21yo, which would cost you £22 if you bought the whole bottle.  Also, remember that it is AWESOME.

If you’ve not been before, have a look at the site, my report from last year’s show (note that the first picture shows an almost empty show right at the start of one of the days, it’s pretty busy an hour in), maybe check the list of whiskies you can sample and goggle at the list of Dream Drams.

What else is on?  Food pairing with whisky (last year there was posh chocolates, cheese, and even music with whiskies), masterclasses (but you’re too late for the Laphroaig one) and first access to a few show bottlings (although this doesn’t mention some for-some-reason-not-mentioned stuff like a TWE exclusive Arran Private Cask).  There’s also loads of other whisky that’ll be launched at the show, including the two enormously exciting Compass Box whiskies “This is not a luxury Whisky” and the “Flaming Heart” 15th anniversary.  And a ton of other new things that make their debut at the ‘show. 

I shall report back, hope to see you there! 

SMWS October 2015

We* approach the October outturn, appearing as it does right before Xmas and the big November outturn, The Whisky Show and the general excesses of December, wearily and with some trepidation - perhaps even a little fear?  It looks like we might get out of this cheaply on paper, but then there’s a 20 year old Laphroaig in at the end, a 17 year old refill sherry Bowmore, and sneaky extras to be discovered at the bar.  What can you do?

* I’m talking about me and you, I’m not using the royal “we”. 

This tasting was dominated by flowers, coconut, agave, lemon sherbets and big tannins.  And some unexpected results - never judge a single cask by its cover!  


SMWS 48.64, Balmenach, Clean as a whistle, 11 years old, 57.8% A+

8th March 2004, 1st fill bourbon, 223 bottles

20150929_161115Nose - Clean dunnage; ethanol, barley, hard mineral and hand cream. Flinty and fresh with ozone and a little lemon meringue pie. An excellent opener. Sweeter and more juicy with water, reminiscent of old tiled kitchens (my grandmother’s specifically – I don’t know the names of the cleaning products but central heating wasn’t installed and it was cold and windy), plus more of that excellent clean first fill.

Body - Clean apple and big mouth oils, a persistent and building spice and salty MDF. Fruitier, suddenly with water, and suddenly very agave, like a clean blanco tequila. Delicious.

Finish - Clean and spicy. With water, very tequila.

What a refreshing, delicious whisky - and a fantastic opener to a session. Very clean and quite grain like in its austerity.  But it's a great clean spirit and makes a change from big, soft, old fruit bombs and raw cereal / new makey NAS; highly recommended.


SMWS 46.34, Glenlossie, Honey in a sunny garden, 22 years old, 58.9% A⊕

2nd November 1992, refill bourbon, 256 bottles

20150929_161102Nose - Immediately very girly, compared to the tough but still feminine 48 before. Soft, sweet and floral, lots of vanilla (custard and pastry, pineapple upside down cake), but backed by a touch of musk, blonde oak and Sauternes. Lovely but blustery. With water, a little more gown up; the oak and fruit come together better and there's more meat to it.

Body - Soft, sweet, initially quite spicy with refreshers and chewed liquorice root. Deep black liquorice later, sweet and slightly acrid. With water, excellent – well integrated cask, sulphur and floral sweetness.

Finish - Very long and numbing. Chewed petals, liquorice imps, caraway seeds and what I’m guessing chewing tobacco tastes like.

This is slightly over the top but very entertaining, and water really brings it together. A cracking whisky.


SMWS 55.33, Royal Brackla, Dancing, tickling and charming, 17 years old, 56.8% A+

26th September 1997, refill bourbon, 260 bottles

20150929_163232Nose - Austere and flinty again, lightly petrolic with a little bit of newmake. Some plasticine, some petals, some chardonnay. With water, more of that refreshing white wine and floral vanilla fun that's becoming the theme tune to this month's outturn.

Body - Chewy and rich - savoury pastry, milk tart, clean bourbon cask (ripe orange, lemon, vanilla). Lovely mouthfeel and that austerity is nicely offset by frangipane and more petals. Richer and better integrated with water. Sometimes I wish they’d start bottling this stuff at a lower ABV.

Finish - Long and hot, but not off-putting. Rolling floral sweetness at the end. Softer and better integrated with water.

This one crept up on me; take your time and play with the water additions and it's a lot of fun. And a bargain.


SMWS 64.67, Mannochmore, Pleasing, teasing and comforting, 25 years old, 54.7% A+

5th February 1990, refill bourbon, 225 bottles

20150929_164833Nose - simultaneously sweet and creamy, and cereal savoury. Red wine soaked oak, onion tart, blood orange and roasted peach. Retronasally vanilla, like tic tacs are (but not minty).

Body - Balanced and lightly spiced, great soft toffee and fruit (cherry, orange, pear) and very ripe. Spicier with water but the fruit and vanilla ups its game too.

Finish - Long, ripe, toffeed and lingering black pepper and a touch of grapefruit bitterness. Very fruity at the end, but slightly offputting with the spice and bitterness. Delicious, though.

SMWS 121.83, Arran, A passion for puddings, 15 years old, 53.8% A⊕

2nd December 1999, refill bourbon, 273 bottles

Let's see if this agrees with my conjecture about young, more recent Arran.

20150929_170033Nose - Creamy, fruity (peach, apple), but breezily sweet (boiled sweets, lemon sherbet) and interestingly petrolic. Tomato and onion salad too, vinegar and oil dressing - happily not as unremittingly sweet as the name would suggest. Balanced, complex and interesting. Deep fruit and ripe cherries with water.

Body - Sweet but arresting - a great seasoning of cask and sulphur, salt and fruit over the Arran sweetshop, very well balanced. Great mouthfeel too. Awesome stuff.

Finish - Long, with meringue, bounty bar and finally a real tropical belt - mango, pineapple and custard. Absolutely delicious.

This is a big hit.


SMWS 1.189, Glenfarclas, High on the hills with a lonely goatherd…., 21 years old, 54.3% A+

24th May 1993, refill bourbon, 245 bottles

20150929_171529Nose - Gentle, insistent toffee, baked apple with raisin and sugar syrup, deep fried courgette flowers. Fruit n' fibre with lots of cold milk, hot radiator dust and felt tip pens (yes I know this sounds ridiculous, but when you’re digging for descriptors you take what you’re given). Now some tropical wax, but dusty and held back behind some general fruit and vegetables. It's a weird one. But enjoyable.

Body - Ripe, herbal and gently spiced, more caraway and some kiwi fruit. New plastic with water.

Finish - Light and relatively uneventful, but clean and balanced with coconut and milk chocolate. Sweet, slightly citrus and a touch of cut flowers.

Interesting, balanced and enjoyable but somehow not that compelling.

SMWS 2.92, Glenlivet, Coconut panna cotta, 13 years old, 60.7% A

16th April 2002, refill bourbon, 199 bottles

20150929_173528Nose - Light, young and confident and tons of coconut. Hard cereal, hard wood and lots of washing up liquid - makes your eyes water! It's a typical, young, bruiser of a society whisky - unripe apple and pear but compelling all the same.

Body - Sweet, bright and fruity - hard orchard fruit and quite hot. Softer but more petrolic, some vanilla and plasticised with water. Good though - but violent.

Finish - Sweet and rich, but fruity, quite hot and sour. At the end: tannic, woody - new blond oak, lots of wood sour. Very tart with water, with some bitter walnut membrane.

While this is a competent, interesting and complex young whisky, I'd struggle to see off 10cl of this let alone a bottle. Objectively it's decent though.

SMWS 50.69, Bladnoch, A celebration of life!, 25 years old, 56.5% A+

26th January 1990, refill bourbon, 91 bottles, 90 for the UK (I wonder who got the last bottle?)


Nose - Sweetly complex, quite dreamily put together - white, cut flowers, orange cream, peppermint, flint and dandelion stalks.

Body - Milk chocolate, Horlicks, toast with honey, then grapefruit - an interesting but not altogether satisfying development.

Finish - Quite long, creamily malty again, lime and tequila, more grapefruit. Finally some deep, ripe vanilla tones - like mango yoghurt.

The nose on this one promises something quite sublime, and while this is very good, it doesn't really hang together (at this price) in the delivery - the A+ is an A⊕ plus a minus (if you see what I mean).

SMWS 54.33, Aberlour, Holidays and honeymoons, 12 years old, 60.1% A

2nd October 2002, refill bourbon, 163 bottles

20150929_182140Nose - A lot more mid-range than the Bladnoch, but still very bright with lemon tart, cracked black pepper and lemon sherbets. Promises great refreshment.

Body - Clean, sweetly creamy and fresh too - limoncello with rhubarb crumble and custard. Treads a fine line with its youth but just makes it. With water, slightly spicier, with more burnt toast.

Finish - Long, very tannic but not too hot, almost hoppy in its dank, citrus bitterness. But not unbalanced. Water does unhinge it at the end though, the tannins take over.

SMWS 7.121, Longmorn, Salt Water Taffy, 12 years old, 58.4% A

17th September 2002, refill bourbon, 205 bottles

20150929_183218Nose - Clean, young, earthy, balanced, confident. I love its earthy warmth, it's almost mezcal/vodka in its spirity honesty - there's a dirty edge too; sweaty burger stand. Maybe that's just the smell of me. I really hope this is great.

Body - Reminds me of the X4 Bruichladdich whiskies - almost but not quite brutal in the spirit but well integrated and clearly well made. Coffee and chocolate, slightly burnt.

Finish - Medium, with massive tannins again. Burnt peanuts, lime juice, too much lemon zest in a custard.

Another weirdly white whisky - clean and interesting but playing that game leaves nowhere to hide, and this has way too many tannins in the delivery to hold it.

SMWS 4.211, Highland Park, Sun, Sand, Surf and Serenity, 24 years old, 52.2% A⊕+

31st May 1991, refill bourbon, 208 bottles. This ones not in the outturn, just at the bar (previous European release apparently).

20150929_184417Nose - Thank heavens for Highland Park, signalling the transition into peat! Pancakes, maple syrup and bacon, quite sweet, "white wine" peat, but bright and ozoney (shellfish, sun baked beach and squeezed lemon). Clean, yellow cereal too, the faintest hint of floor polish, with sweet lemon sherbet and FCOG (frozen concentrated orange juice, trading places).

Body - A masterclass in balance through development. If it'd stop I could write something. The whole thing is brought together by light peat, which is of course HP's special move. Soft fruit, toffee and oak, then herbal (cut rosemary), sulphured toffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, then fried rosemary and long, waxy oak.

Finish - More orange juice, waxy cask, floor polish and tannins, red apple skin then more lemon sherbets (damn, get out of my tasting lemon sherbets!). At the end, sweet apple, lots of toffee. A long, fascinating ride. I didn't get round to adding water. Deeply satisfying.

BUY although I appreciate this is the one you'll least be able to, sorry about that.

SMWS 4.212, Highland Park, A dram from Treasure Island, 19 years old, 55.4% A

30th November 1995, refill bourbon, 258 bottles.  This one is in the outturn.

20150929_185602Nose - Sweet, clean, lemon curd and ozone. The peat is there with digging but more obvious retronasally. I did this in the wrong order from the bar HP, this is a lot simpler and lighter.

Body - But there we go, very satisfying in the delivery - bright lemon peat and oak, drying sulphur, big raw malt (not new make, dusty crushed malted barley), fresh tobacco, grapefruit juice and musky wax.

Finish - Green papaya, black tea, Indian sweets and grapefruit. Tannins. Damn you tannins!

Not a patch on the 4.211, sorry again.

SMWS 53.226, Caol Ila, Teddy Boys at the beach, 15 years old, 63.5% A

16th March 2000, refill bourbon, 270 bottles

20150929_190754Nose - Light, young, cereal, almost pure ozone after the HPs. A touch of S&V… just lightly, pleasingly coastal and what I (again) assume jellied eel with white pepper and vinegar tastes like (but, to my shame, don't know). Fruitier with water. Honest (I mean the whisky is honest, but also I’m being honest with you).

Body - Rich, competent and very bread and butter, toast and honey. Ripe plum and olives. With water, Sauternes, sweet and dirty. The peat is pure Islay, young and hard.

Finish - Toast and butter, coffee. It's a breakfast drink. Perhaps, even Nutella. The finish is long, hard and wood sour.

SMWS 3.248, Bowmore, Like a hot coal in the mouth, 17 years old, 57.7% A⊕

25th September 1997, refill sherry, 594 bottles. 17 years, refill sherry, Bowmore - those are the money numbers.

20150929_191826Nose - It is good to meet a sherry cask again. This is well poised on the nose, it dulls the devils cask sharpness but gives you some nuttiness. Hazelnut coffee, plum, sweet oak, furniture polish - very nutty indeed.

Body - Classic big Bowmore sherry cask: sulphur, gunpowder, fruit and nut bar, snuff and sawdust. Thick and intense.

Finish - Classic Bowmore again: sweet cask, dried fruit, ripe peat, xmas pudding, cherry tobacco and bitter tannins.

This is absolutely delicious, and balances the Bowmore sherry thing a lot better than the feis one IMHO.


SMWS 29.169, Laphroaig, Beach bonfires, creels and boats, 20 years old, 56.5% A⊕

4th April 1995, refill bourbon, 205 bottles

20150929_193620Nose - Sweetly peated, clean, fresh apple, massive refreshers. Glorious bandage, thank god for that. Smoked mackerel, Chipsticks and scampi flavour fries.

Body - Apple, sweet strawberry laces, old Islay barley. Maize snacks, beer batter and burnt toffee. The most perfect Islay peat. Soft, sweet, complex and an exciting punch in the face, you can't beat it.

Finish - Long and dusty, charred plum skin and marzipan. Lots of long, sweet fruit. More tannins!

This has been another truly epic session (you taste the whole outturn, how can it not be?), and this was a fitting ending. All is forgiven Laphroaig.


See you at The Whisky Show!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


The fourth tweet tasting for Wemyss (I was on the last one but missed the actual tasting due to circumstances out of my control), and I think I’ve finally learnt how to say and spell Wemyss.  These four are all NAS, and mostly NAS re-releases of blends that have previously been available as 8 or 12 year old whiskies – I don’t think they’ve suffered much from that.  No single cask stuff in here either (the single cask Wemyss I find consistently interesting and compelling) but that allows us to concentrate on the blends, which have the opportunity of course of being much more rounded, complete and easy to drink. 

The Hive (NAS), 46% A

hiveNose - Very light, some honey, vanilla pancake, digging for blonde oak and refill cask. Fresh ozone. Duskier cask with time and some air, Mcvities Gold Bars (thanks Joe), apple fritters and warm wax. Considerable digging though - this is a very gentle nose, but nicely balanced.

Body- Gently sweet and creamy, honeyed and soft on the initial delivery. Then quite unexpectedly spicy - baked plums, more vanilla.

Finish - Quite hot, wooded, some young cereal mellowed by toffee sweetness. Quite long too, unexpectedly insistent, in a good way.

Spice King (NAS), 46% A-

WemyssSpiceKingbottleNose - initially younger but then shows some interesting warm spice, funnily enough. Cinnamon, clove, warm toffee and furniture polish. definitely maxing on the "about to bake a chocolate cake" thing - dusty spice and cocoa, orange zest and chopped almonds.

Body - Very clean, clear and then lots of dry tannic wood and stick cinnamon. Well constructed - not overly sweet with a clear agenda. I'm reminded of pork crackling? Might just be the warm/Chinese spice thing. Soft and delicious.

Finish - Long, mulled wine, black pepper and soft oak. Spiced and wintery. At the end, it's a little bit firebally - there's not cinnamon actually added to this right?

This is a fine drink, a bit like Kings Ginger and Glenrothes is a fine drink.  But it’s not exactly what I’d reach for when I want a whisky.

Peat Chimney (NAS), 46% A

peatchimneyNose - Sweet and savoury, with a very light, woodsy smoke backing to it. Orange juice, rosemary and earth, very nice. Olives and wafer thin ham.

Body - Ripe, fruity and dried peat, well balanced and peppery. Hot dogs, lots of hot dogs, assuming that's Caol Ila. But overall its sweet and delicious.

Finish - Lots more dusty cinnamon - it must be a hangover from the Spice King. Spicy peat and a great amount of mango and oak.

Kiln Embers (NAS), 46% A+

kilnembersNose - Darkly sweet, lemon zest, orange juice, cut furniture and kaffir lime leaves? Earth again too- a deeply inviting nose. Quite sexy and very drinkable, why are peated blends so rare?

Body - Sweet, complex and delicious - peated blends are a good thing. Grape, pear juice, massive tannins and coca cola.

Finish - Pineapple cubes and gentle peat. Long and lemony, fishermans friends, balanced by more coke. Quite delicious, and more accomplished than the Peat Chimney.

Thanks Wemyss and Steve at the Whisky Wire for a great tasting!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Cadenheads September 2015

Cadenheads in September – some of it didn’t last long enough to get to try (the Royal Brackla), some is selling so quick there’s no tasting stock (the Cambus) and luckily the Burnside was already open! These are all rather good though, if it wasn’t for the whisky show at the weekend, first Friday at SMWS and the threat of another 45+ bottle outturn in November I’d be struggling not to walk away with all of these.  For the money, the Glen Elgin and Blair Athol are just amazing.  The Glenrothes is a big vanilla beauty that comes close to matching that small old bourbon cask in the dunnage warehouse at the distillery.  The Linkwood is epic.

There’s some good stuff coming next time too – a 20 year old Caol Ila, a 23 year old Caperdonich hopefully, and another 13 year old Hazelburn.  Remember, in the whisky world, Christmas is coming… be very afraid!

Burnside 26 years old, 48.8% A+

Burnside-cr-200x300Nose - Lovely sweet, ripe and appley, fresh crayon. A beautiful cask.

Body - Intense, fruity, oily, cherry and apple wood. Quite a lot of spice. Angular, blonde oak with water.

Finish - Long oak and a belt of bitterness. Juicy and spicy.

A beautiful nose on this but just let down a touch by the spice and bitterness in the delivery.

Glenrothes 26 years old, 52.3% A+

Glenrothes 26-cr-200x300Nose - Light, gentle wood, fresh green pears and strawberry laces, lots of custard. Effortless and gentle.

Body - Vanilla icing, very creamy - cherry and dusty books.

Finish - Spicy - very hot actually. Long with orange juice and wood sour.

A fabulous nose on this and a lovely initial delivery - wonderful oak and vanilla throughout. Again, knocked at the very end.

Blair Athol 14 years old, 46% A⊕

Blair Athol 14 Sherry-cr-200x300Nose - Deliciously balanced between cask, sour plums, toasted wet and lightly charred wood. Cut red cherries and cherry chocolate cake. A wonderfully balanced, interesting sherry nose.

Body - Bright, sweet oak - incredible balance and depth for a 14 year old. Intense but quite gluggable, lots of antique furniture and popcorn.

Finish - Long, sweet and fruity, with jelly snakes and balancing sulphur. Lovely.

Glen Elgin 23 years old, 46% A⊕+

G Elgin 23-cr-200x300Nose - Immediately beautiful, sour furniture polish on fresh acrylic varnish, hard oak sawdust. Deep fruit and sulphur, fabulous.

Body - Deliciously fruity, liquorice too. Cream, balanced, and very old.

Finish - Long, refreshers and balanced but intense oak. Delicious and an absolute bargain with old Islay overtones and lovely wood.

I will have trouble resisting this.

Linkwood 26 years old, 50.2% A⊕+

Linkwood 26 sherry-cr-200x300Nose - Bright, jewelled sweets, raisins in Sauternes, lovely clean sherry wood. Underneath, orange juice and mixed peel - elegant and tropically sweet.

Body - Long, sweet, fruity and mouth coating. Orange zest and marzipan, incredibly delicious.

Finish - Long, tickled by sulphur and oak.

Another epic old whisky with a gold label.



Tuesday, 22 September 2015

London TequilaFest 2015

While whisky is my greatest love now, Tequila was there first.  I didn’t round to attending TequilaFest last year – or more properly Tequila (and Mezcal) fest 2015.  This year it was held in Old Spitalfields market – literally in a roped off area in the middle of the market.  That was a bit weird. 

20150919_144445On show were a small number of exhibitors – from the mass market tequilas like Olmeca and Don Julio, a great show of spirits arranged by Speciality Drinks (picture left) including Tapatio and Don Fulano, through to some very interesting Mezcals, particularly from Del Maguey (who were spoken of with great affection due to their contribution to Mezcal in the UK). 

There was music and food, although I didn’t have any food because I lost my show money.  There was a lot of standing.

20150919_144753We did have quite a few interesting tequilas and mezcals though.  Our favourite was, weirdly the Tapatio Plato – great oils, very fresh and green and delicious to drink.

20150919_145536Don Fulano had a good range too, the blanco had great mouthfeel, lots of good oils again, and the cask strength version was more perfumed, bitter and aniseed.

The 1800 range seemed a bit ordinary – the Reposado was pretty boring and the Coconut infused tequila was actively unpleasant – cloyingly sweet, very artificial. I should have known when I saw they had a set of bottles with “art” labels (not those below)


Del Maguey were much better – single village Mezcal.  Sometimes the same stuff from different villages, sometimes the same village, different species of plant used to make them.




20150919_154005I’d tasted a few of these on the barrel top at the whisky exchange after work one day, and bought the Chichicapa, but there were a few new ones to me here, like the San Luis del Rio – sweet, fresh, lots of ozone and hard tobacco.

And the same but finished in first fill bourbon barrels – this was overly sweet for me – a clash of styles.

Another cracking mezcal was Derrumbes, and the Michoacan was up there with the Del Maguey – delicious, salty, very green and very intense.

I was really looking forward to tasting the Siete Misterios range again (having sampled two of them at the whisky exchange mezcal tasting years ago) but they were all gone by the time we got to them.  In fact, all of the interesting stuff was gone by about 7:30. 

Apparently there were seminars and classes, but I couldn’t see any sign of them.  The food looked ok but not that interesting – we were expecting to feast but didn’t have any in the end.  Most upsetting though was that there wasn’t any water anywhere!  I’m not sure how you can run a spirits festival without water to hand everywhere.  The lowest ABV drink I was prepared to pay a fiver for was Mexican beer, and £5 seemed a bit steep for a 330ml can of Mexican ale.

So all in all, between the lack of water, the good stuff running out, some extremely drunk exhibitors and it all being very small, I think you could either call in charmingly unprofessional or I could admit that I’m a bit spoilt with things like Midlands Whisky Festival (held twice a year and about 4 times bigger than this) being the smallest I’ve been to.  We are, as my wife pointed out, lucky that whisky is such an institution in the UK and these other spirits have quite a way to go.  I’ll check back in 5 years or so and see if this grows.

Oh and another thing!  We arrived a little early in Shoreditch and wanted to pop to a pub before lunch.  At 12:30 in Old Street/Curtain Road/Liverpool Street on a blazing hot Saturday none of the pubs were open.  That’s just insane.  It was like being in another country.

Actually The Reliance was open – all the doors were open but all the lights were off and nobody was in there.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Laphroaig Live 2015

On Thursday 24th September at 8pm local time the ninth annual Laphroaig Live will broadcast live on the web from the island of Islay

Previous shows have brought you the flavours of Spain, Germany, America and even Australia but this year will be tasting 4 very special expressions. The one off’ Laphroaig 15 YO – The official 200th Expression, Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015 (distilled using only the original small stills), Laphroaig 21 YO – Created for the Friends of Laphroaigs 21st Birthday and a unique Laphroaig 32 YO 100% sherry matured- A very rare, special expression.

And if I’m very lucky they might even let me try it!

Tune in at 8pm at or below...