Thursday, 9 February 2017

Cadenheads February 2017 Authentic Collection

IMG_1236Another great outturn in honour of the 175th anniversary, just a quick one before the new Local Barley hits the shelves. 

I wasn’t able to get this out before the bottles hit the shelves (something about it being on the first Friday in February!) but nearly everything that was in stock is still in stock anyway.  The Highland Park, tasted below, didn’t make it to the site*, neither did the 40 year old Carsebridge, which I haven’t tried but have managed to get on a bottleshare of, so will get notes up for that soon.

IMG_1242Another one I haven’t tried is the Invergordon 25 year old which is apparently rather good.  Samples have been requested.  I am a bit of a completist with these outturns now so fingers crossed.

After the new Local Barley (11 years old, Bere barley from Aros farm near Machrihanish airport, 53.1%, rumoured to be roughly £85 and highly anticipated) there is another small outturn at the end of February (I think) that’s a little more ordinary but no doubt has some great casks in it.  Later on in the year we will see some seriously rare and interesting casks coming out in celebration, and of course we’re all booked up now to go to Campbeltown festival in May.  What a year!

* [EDIT: apparently a few bottles did hit the site but didn’t last long!]


Balmenach 2004, 12 years old, 54.4% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_1233Nose - That heady combination of sweet, overripe fruit, intense high quality bourbon cask (including new oak sawdust) and Sangria that really sings. Marker pens, wood glue and blueberries. Heady, berried and exciting, more so with water - more berries, more intense sweetness.

Body - Delicious, but quite hot and dusty, with cut green apple and charred peaches. A touch of cardboard. Creamier with water and a touch of Marlboro light tobacco.

Finish - Sun bleached wood and ripe peach. Spicy and acrylic at the end with retronasal petrol, more wood varnish with water, turning to zesty women's perfume.

Fantastic fruit and great complexity in this juicy, summery drammer. Recommended.

Aultmore 1992, 19 years old, 54.2% A-

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_1232Nose - Sharper woods but more varnish here, white wine instead of red, green apples instead of peach but also a really delightful, fresh cask wax. Lovely cream and white floral tones too - just the most beautifully elegant but delicious nose. Softer and simpler with water, but still delicious.

Body - Clay, cream and a touch of red chilli. Then double cream and green pepper. Warm and musky with water.

Finish - Quite hot and lactic, spicy cinnamon - building spice in fact. Gentler with water. A little horseradish sauce at the end.

A totally wonderful nose but not a massive fan of the building cinnamon jawbreaker in the delivery, a little too hot.

Caperdonich 1996, 20 years old, 46.4% A+

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_1235Nose - A gentle but insistent fruit and cask, hubba-bubba and marshmallow, a touch of petrol station, chocolate covered marzipan. Slightly unreal. High hopes now…

Body - Soft, sweet with foam bananas and chilli dusted grilled pineapple. A gentle but intense and mouth filling experience between cream, wood, fruit and spice that makes me want to sit back with a big slosh of this rather than a 1cl sample! Slightly astringent though, not feeling too old, just properly matured and still challenging.

Finish - Medium to long, more chilli spice (wondering if it’s a hangover from the Aultmore or just my palate today), green apple wood and lemon zest at the end.

Astringent woods, citrus zest, orchard fruit and totally mouth filling. This is a whisky for long consideration over the course of a whole bottle (over many sittings of course). Recommended.

Benriach 1996, 20 years old, 44.5% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead

Benriach 20 .jpg 186 bottles -750x1000Nose - Gentle wax, white modelling clay, soft cut plums, white pepper, slightly floral with a touch of potpourri and HQ cask musk. But that clay and fruit is the best bit. Tobacco with water, perfume in the empty glass.

Body - Wax, cask and toast. Big fruit oils, foxes glacier fruits and a little mango (texturally as well as tropically). Suddenly very mature with water, that cask comes to the fore with extra tobacco and Asian fruit.

Finish - Medium, gentle and chalky. A very considered dismount (a long slow fade out). Cask musk at the end.

A slightly unexpected hit, this got better the more time you gave it and eventually has the demeanour of a very important whisky indeed. Restrained but serious. Highly recommended.

Glen Elgin 1995, 21 years old, 54.7% A+'

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_1239Nose - Sweet lemon, flinty, slightly minty (fresh, herbal mint) - quite mineral and a little earthy, minted new potatoes I guess, or maybe cold potatoes from the ground. This is either a palate cleanser between courses or a serious whisky to challenge (there’s promising cask sweetness and fruit underneath the herbs and minerals). More lemon juice with water, more cask.

Body - Exciting, bright fruit, minced cooked lamb and menthol tobacco (I thought the lamb I had on the nose was autosuggested by the minted potatoes and filtered it out but it's definitely there). French cooked pastry, sweet and… so much lamb! Almost chewy with water.

Finish - Minty, chalky bonbons, deep lemon boiled sweets at the end.

This was definitely a challenging whisky, and absolutely delicious too. Glen Elgin is always a dark horse… I really like this one for the confusing but compelling mix of fruit, musk and meat. Recommended.

Fettercairn 1993, 23 years old, 50.7% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_1238Nose - A noticeable step up in maturity in the nose, more glazed, more cigar than cigarette, glacé cherries and bubble mixture, just crushed coriander seeds. With time, UHU glue and poster paints. Beautiful. Even better with water, more acrylic and oil paints, fantastic balance.

Body - Well judged. Warm with overripe fruit and smores, marmalade and cigar tar. Less interesting with water, too far into the volatiles.

Finish - Long, with cherries, Sauternes, more coriander, fruit toffee and a gentle descent into woods.

This is the slightly alien but extremely delicious I was hoping the Caperdonich would be (even though that was great for other reasons in the end). This is highly recommended.

Glen Keith 1993, 23 years old, 51.2% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_1240Nose - Redder and more charred - cranberries, leather, poster paint again (let's assume its red) and beaten old oak. Importantly, behind this there's a really special chalk and fruit, minty bonbons, fried sage and a little engine oil. Very special, fingers crossed.

Body - Sweet, deep and extremely herbal. Loads more herbal mint and bright, chopped rosemary.

Finish - Long, sweet and creamy, with more rosemary and a touch of sriracha. Impressively creamy and oily at the end, practically peppermint creams.

Another beautiful whisky from an unexpected distillery. Creamy and chocolatey, complex and enticing on the nose, and delicious to drink. Recommended.

Bruichladdich 1991, 25 years old, 48.2% A⊕'

Burgundy hogshead since October 2011

IMG_1234Nose - Glazed red berries, mukhwas, liquorice torpedoes, blackboard chalk and a touch of swimming pool. Red wine casks are unpredictable! It's perfumed with men's deodorant and candy cigarettes. Sweet and white, ironically. There is a lightly dirty element here that I'm looking for; strawberry laces, buttercream icing, bubble gum… but that might be confirmation bias more than anything.

Body - Extremely soft and fruity, fantastic alien Islay in here, that dirty red wine cask works perfectly with it. Flashes of sulphur, gets the adrenaline pumping! This really pushes my buttons (but YMMV!).

Finish - Long, musky and hot, fizzers. Much less interesting with water.

For me, this one is really special. I suspect that might be something odd about me - the filth tightrope plus the fizzing alien Islay really turns me on. I'm in love…

Cragganmore 1999, 17 years old, 52% A-

Sherry hogshead since December 2013, previously bourbon hogshead.

IMG_1237Nose - A big, fruity sherry nose, with sweet/sour chalk and cask, one of these whiskies I suspect is going to make me think of very expensive Glenfarclas - it's the depth and quality of the sherry that does it. I wonder what was in the sherry cask before, or is it fresh fill? Black fruits, PX sherry, mineral, menthol cask, almost medicinal. Slightly charred with water.

Body - Sweet, creamy, extremely oily - more medicinal notes with cloves and germolene.

Finish - So much oil. Very long, lots of wood and toast. Liquorice with water, just a little hint of sulphur.

What a perfect nose on this well-built sherried whisky. Too much wood in the end though, too oily. I'd struggle with a bottle but could smell this forever, this would have been better in a small batch I think?

Highland Park 28 years old, 49.6% A⊕+

Port hogshead since 2007

IMG_1241Nose - Chalky fruit, talcum powder, cigarette smoke. Charred cherry wood, black cherry jam and hot earth. Another hot summer whisky.

Body - Deep and intensely sweet and fizzing with old peat and wine. Water makes it softer but more intense (weirdly) with a lick of sulphur and red wine. Last sips include Turrón.

Finish - Very long and dusty, black fruits and licked tobacco. A complete and exciting finish. Even longer with water, fruitier. Lots of fizzing tannins though.

A fascinating, complicated and brightly fruity whisky redolent of Campbeltown as much as it is of Orkney. Very highly recommended.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Timorous Beasties

The two special edition Timorous Beasties from last year.  I was disappointed with the original (although I think Rock Oyster and the Epicurean are great) and so didn’t pay too much attention to these two coming out - except to go in on bottle shares (although the 21 I did get sent a sample of by DLaing).  Not paying attention was a mistake as I would now bite your arm off for a bottle of the 40 year old having tasted it.

Timorous Beastie 21 years old, sherry edition, 46.8% A⊕timorous-beastie-21-year-old-whisky

Nose - Fresh but waxy stone fruit - peach mainly, and green apple. Candy cigarettes, fruity shower gel and jelly sweets. It's as fruity as star wars strawberry shower gel is, with a touch of talcum powder and long creosoted fencing.

Body - Gentle, but deep and cakey - carrot cake with buttercream icing, a touch of soft liquorice and mini-milks. Absolutely delicious.

Finish - Long and ripe with the distinct and remarkable flavour of wine gums. Great cask musk and woods at the end reinforcing the structure of this extremely well blended whisky.

One of the ripest whiskies I've ever tasted, extremely fruity and absolutely delicious, particularly in the nose and initial delivery. Certainly not timorous again. I don't usually think whisky under 46% rocks so no water added.

Timorous Beastie 40 years old, limited edition, 54.7% A⊕+

timorous-beastie-40-year-old-whiskyNose - Brighter with more apple than the 21, and a slightly unexpected but extremely grown-up medicinal edge of new bandages. Absolutely living up to its age this has extraordinary depth with an almost blue-cheese/ammonia note that, with the wood work/varnish edge you'd expect from 40 (marker pens and glace cherries), is very special indeed. If not, in any way whatsoever, timorous. Also, marmalade, drizzle cake and more jelly sweets. Chalkier with water, still very fruity though.

Body - Complicated, beautifully intense - wood varnish, honeyed cake, Ribena with that blue cheese edge again. Chocolate cake and cherry jam. Even better with water, the blackcurrant is intense, the whole thing is structurally sharper round the edges.

Finish - Medium, darkly fruity with black cherry compote and sharpies. More wood with water, more sour.

Phenomenal. I can't believe I didn't buy this when I had the chance. Knocking on A⊕⊕


Thursday, 2 February 2017

SMWS February 2017 Outturn

Christmas and Burns night is finally over!  This is a really weird outturn, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  No young refill bourbon (that’s not “peated”) at all, no Highland Park, Bowmore, etc., a Tullibardine, loads of finishes (sherry, port, red wine).  The list I had only had a Bunnahabhain and Laphroaig on it for peaters but the Laphroaig didn’t make it into the outturn so the 10 is the only smoky one here [EDIT: looks like another 29, that bar only Laphroaig, 29.199 (reviewed here) made it into the outturn in the end]. 

What’s strange for me personally here is that the best ones on here are the youngest and simplest, there’s some really great young first fill bourbon casks here, my personal picks are the Dailuaine and the Glen Scotia but there’s some others in here which are well worth it.  Of the finishes, the IMG_1244Cragganmore is the most fun and honourable metnion goes to the Strathisla for surviving the virgin oak rinse the best.  There’s also a fair bit of double finishing in here I suspect, although that’s not mentioned on the label and I have no evidence for it, it just smells and tastes like it to me.

Have you noticed the new logo on some of the bottles here?  There’s new SMWS branding – from these new bottles it seems much more modern and clean to me, I really like it.  Only half of the bottles here are using the new branding (I think they ran out of “old bottles” and had to use the new bottle design for some of them early).  Next month should give us new labels too, so I think this month has a unique run of old labels and new bottles. 


SMWS 36.126, Benrinnes, Manly, masculine and medicinal, 10 years old, 60.4% A+

8th November 2006, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_1246Nose - Cake at first (this bottle is just opened), then bright cereal, cheap cherry jam and strawberry chews in their paper (there's a slightly odd fruit | cardboard thing going on here). With digging, some interesting earthy notes, chalky bon bons, burnt candle wax and a little pritt stick. Even more waxed fruit with water and a little freshly cut red chilli.

Body - Intense strawberry chews, perhaps red liquorice, lots of wood sugars and fruit (grapefruit zest and freshly squeezed orange juice) and a great waxy heat. Spicier with water, but still delicious.

Finish - Medium, more grapefruit zest, a little Sichuan pepper… sour oils. Longer and hotter with water.

Despite the name, this is as fruity and delicious as I had expected it to be from the distillery number. A bright, fruit driven whisky with lots of interest. A strong start! Recommended.


SMWS 35.157, Glen Moray, Reward for a brass band, 14 years old, 58.2% A

11th December 2001, 228 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_1247Nose - Lighter, greener, fresh cut cucumber and flower stalks, with a very enticing sweetness underneath (buttercream icing, a little cough candy and melted vanilla ice cream).  That greenness is really lovely. More ordinary with water.

Body - Balanced, dusty sweetness, chalky again and fizzing, with oaked white wine behind it. Sweeter and more one-dimensional with water, but more fruit.

Finish - Quite long and hot, mint imperials towards the end of the finish with a little more Sechuan peppercorns and slightly lactic.

After that fresh and vegetal nose the delivery is a little ordinary. Nevertheless this is a delicious whisky.

SMWS 64.88, Mannochmore, 'Put Through One's Paces', 13 years old, 62.4% A+'

11th June 2003, 210 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_1248Nose - Very different… Lowland white fruit but slightly medicinal and chalky, Sudocrem perhaps? Very light and floral with meringue pie and just a little swirl of raspberry sauce. Very "society" with water - intense, fruity and balanced.

Body - Sweet and creamy, more sweetshop fruit notes and building cinnamon. Extremely delicious on repeated sips due to that, with the fruit and cinnamon piling on top of each other. Sweeter and fruitier with water, absolutely delicious.

Finish - Long with lots of warming spice. Wood tannins dominate towards the end.

This is secretly a highly structured whisky with spice, wood and menthol balancing out the young first fill bourbon, and it works really well. A lovely fruit and wax drammer. It's hard to stop drinking this and pace for the rest of the flight!


SMWS 41.92, Dailuaine, A hedonistic experience, 13 years old, 61% A⊕

14th August 2003, 180 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_1249Nose - Sweet of course, but sharply sour/acrylic with wood glue, cherry boiled sweets and a little gastrique. That doesn't quite do the warm cask musk justice, which underpins the whole experience. It's sweet but complex. Fruitier with water, freshly cut Seville orange.

Body - Even better than I'd hoped on the delivery, one of those first sips that stops you writing. Warm, sweetly waxed, then buttercream then a complicated, slightly spicy wood and fruit development. Musky fruit (old orange, tobacco) and then orange juice. Slightly spicy with water.

Finish - Long and tannic, burnt candle wicks at the back of the throat and lots of oils on the tongue. Twisted, flamed orange peel with water at the end.

Another fantastic society Dailuaine, quite complex with meaty notes and lots of orange, highly recommended.



SMWS 48.86, Balmenach, Floralicious!, 13 years old, 59.2% A

25th November 2002, 222 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_1252Nose - More wax, sourer fruit this time, sesame snaps and cheap vanilla ice cream. Come at it sideways and it has a musky maturity with toffee pennies and extra strong mints.

Body - Arrestingly malty with more of that sour cask maturity, rich and oily in the same way that werthers originals are. Rich and rolling with flecks of cigar tobacco. Chewy. Unbalanced with water.

Finish - I've been hunting for flowers and the end has dandelion stalks? Pacers and aniseed at the end. A surprise hint of marzipan with water.

A delicious whisky that's outshone by its peers.

SMWS 46.50, Glenlossie, A sweet thrill in the sawmill, 23 years old, 54.2% A+

16th November 1992, 288 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1251Nose - Light compared to the first fillers, so strange to wait so long for refill bourbon! Need to readjust before the virgin oak lands… recently dried paint on hot radiator, ripe peaches on a hot afternoon, rhubarb and custard boiled sweets and orange jelly with cream. Custard powder.

Body - Intense and fruity, with a lovely clean, hot cereal delivery and a vague feeling of red wine cask behind gentle pastry. Water makes it slightly muskier with banana Nesquik in the nose.

Finish - Very long with mouthcoating oils, lemon waxes, banana milkshake and honey. Roasted lemons shells near the end.

Took its time but the gentle intensity, balance and weird fruit choices really work here. Reminds me of a tasting in a dunnage warehouse.


SMWS 7.143, Longmorn, Boiled sweets and brandy butter, 23 years old, 53.7% A+'

4th May 1993, 258 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1253Nose - Approach this carefully and you definitely get boiled sweets and butter, there's complex malt cask there too with white chocolate and summer time drinks (cold, bits of apple and orange in them) and now I've suggested it, a hint of suntan cream as well. More white chocolate with water, restrained but very tasty

Body - Interestingly mineral, with melon, citrus zest, candy cigarettes and cooled wort. Quite young feeling, but lovely with it, like a very expensive white tequila. Water brings cigar smoke and toast.

Finish - Long and floral, with fizzers and white flower petals but this strangely compelling light, peppery malt that really works. More echoes of smoke with water.

One of those very refill casks that is unexpectedly rewarding and just goes to show the quality of the distillery. Delicious, but very restrained. One for the bar and take your time.

SMWS 73.81, Aultmore, Dark chocolate destiny, 14 years old, 59.8% A-

23rd September 2002, 606 bottles, refill sherry butt

IMG_1254Nose - Immediately it's a school hall. That dusty parquet with a full millimetre of chipped floor wax polished into it. There's a big hit of virgin oak in here too, a failed VO experiment moved through sherry to compensate? Brown sugar, roast beef and cherry wood chunks, thick skinned lemons and cherry chocolate brownies. And coffee. It's a lot sweeter after sipping, more boiled sweets.

Body - Hard oak, red wine, fresh bay leaves and more of that thick lemon zest. Thick and oily with water, like a society bourbon (like the virgin oak), and very sweet.

Finish - Medium, cold and sweet, lemon ice lollies perhaps. Coffee and cream in the finish with water.

Well, I do like this but it is not remotely refill sherry and it’s very virgin oak. Leaving that to one side, the intense sweetness and cherry works well with the lemon and it's very well integrated. Definitely one for the bar, but leave it until the end.


SMWS 5.53, Auchentoshan, Exotic fruits and Eastern spice, 16 years old, 60.1% B+

11th October 2000, 228 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes (previously ex-bourbon)

IMG_1258Nose - The immediate perfume and floral notes, with intense musk, vanilla funk and white fruit that I adore in society Auchentoshan. Step back and there's gunpowder, melon flavoured perfume and cold earth. Orange squash with water.

Body - Yikes… incredibly effervescent, almost medicinally, electrically so, this needs water. Still very acidic with water, really hiding that fruit and funk in the delivery which I can tell is there but my tongue is being burnt! Adding lots of water helps more though, but there is a charred character to this that doesn't work with the spirit.

Finish - White, floral funk, spicy wood, chewed Sichuan peppercorns and coffee beans. In the end the lowland character starts to reassert but the tannins and acid are giving it a hard time. Even cloves at the very end.

A lovely nose on this but the delivery is too crushing. Brutal oak and spices, and too much acid.

SMWS 9.116, Glen Grant, Boozy fruit trifle, 20 years old, 61% A-

23rd April 1996, 234 bottles, first fill port barrique (previously ex-bourbon). A beautiful burnt rose colour on this one.

IMG_1256Nose - Sweet, ripe and fudgy on the nose, with almond filled dates, marzipan and royal icing, and fresh rose petals. Caramelised blood orange slices. Petrichor. Red wine with water, like a glass from last night, and last night's cigarettes too.

Body - Sharp and hot, but a really ripe, fudgy nuttiness underneath. Almost meaty, with struck match, crunchy roast potatoes and duck with red wine sauce (a note that Yves tells me I will be experiencing in the 37 in two bottles' time).

Finish - Red apple, fruit toffees, sherbet dibdabs. Spicy and numbing with water. Sweet toffee and fruit lingers long after the wine has subsided.

Quite a hard feel to this port finished Glen Grant (and it's not a young one either). The wine works well, love the nuttiness, red wine and meatiness with water, but I wish it was more luxurious.

SMWS 39.139, Linkwood, A most luscious remedy, 20 years old, 58.2% B+

1st July 1996, 588 bottles, first fill PX butt (previously oloroso sherry butt)

IMG_1259Nose - This one's meaty too, with pan fried steaks deglazed with red wine and sugar puffs (separately, I don't think you should deglaze a pan with sugar puffs). Rosemary, hot chocolate and burnt toast with nutella, the chocolate particularly with water.

Body - Another zesty one with that youthful cereal spice on top, the sherry influence is very faint here - its more white wine than sherry and has sherbet lemons, kumquats and shower gel (some radox herbal thing, I'm no expert here). Better sherry with water, less zest.

Finish - Surprisingly perfumed in the finish, more of the cask with water and a light petrolic funk at the end.

Tasty but doesn't hang together (lacks integration, clashing bright spirit and not assertive enough sherry).

SMWS 37.87, Cragganmore, Puff Pastry Plum Tarts, 13 years old, 58.8% A

5th November 2003, 264 bottles, first fill red wine hogshead (previously ex-bourbon)

IMG_1257Nose - Puff pastry yes, but I'd say pear and chocolate, with espresso and a cigarette on the side. Chocolate covered toffee wafers, red wine, fried caraway and poster paints. Very deep and rich. Less interesting with water, more cereal than red wine driven.

Body - Deep, rich and hot, with liquorice, bidis and old flaked paint. Slight chocolate and clove, red wine reduction and coffee. Orchard fruits and dried mango. I felt a hint of virgin oak at first here too but I must be imagining it. Delicious though, and better with water - spice and a touch of funk.

Finish - Long and fiery, fruit and nut bar with soapy red wine. Weirdly Highland Park-y with water. I think my palate is confused.

This is undeniably delicious to drink, fruit and tannic red wine cask working well together. This would be popular at a party.



SMWS 28.32, Tullibardine, Solar Eclipse, 8 years old, 60.3% B+

20th May 2008, 564 bottles, first fill Oloroso butt (no finish mentioned)

IMG_1261Nose - Balanced. Prunes, pastry, custard and a little UHU glue, with more fruit and nut bar. That becomes the theme of the nose after sipping, and with time. Fruit and chocolate.

Body - Again balanced, between light lemon and orchard fruit, and deep chocolate and raisin. There's a belt of sulphur in there to wake you up (particularly retronasally) - it's only just into cabbages, tolerably so for me, but as you know that depends on your DNA, so YMMV. This feels more red wine cask than the 37 for me.

Finish - Medium with icing sugar, ice pops and apple.

Ripe, dirty, tarry. Not particularly complex but drammable, one for the bar (but late on due to the sulphur).

SMWS 93.71, Glen Scotia, Nautical but nice, 9 years old, 59% A+'

15th December 2006, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1262Nose - Perfumed, glazed, bright. Why am I tasting young refill bourbon now! The spirit is good though, real depth of sweetness and that cold, coastal quality, mixed with the intensely sweet spirit of Campbeltown. Waxy and chalky too, with potatoes and Indian pastries, but some real quality in that cask. A lovely nose. Better with water, the terroir shines though. I cannot detect any peat.

Body - A considered arrival, although not pulling punches with the spirit. Incredible wax and fruit for 9, oils on the tip of the tongue with mango and banana milkshake behind that. Absolutely delicious with water, milk chocolate and mini milks.

Finish - Quite long with the floral, fruit funk I wanted in the Auchentoshan! Rich toffee, mango squash at the end and a compelling hint of perfume and radiator.

A properly delicious, unpeated Glen Scotia.


SMWS 10.107, Bunnahabhain, Summer-time at the beach, 10 years old, 61.2% A+

6th October 2006, 168 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1263Nose - Gentle for the 10 year old peater (and this is the only peat today!). Slightly musky, very faintly waxy and lightly minty, with sponge cake and buttercream. Imagine a green iced cake that hasn't had enough mint essence in it to properly taste of mint.

Body - Forgetting (as I am bound to by the numbering code of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and by John McCheyne) that this is a peated Bunnahabhain, this is a properly lovely arrival - soft, warm and well-oiled with oranges in the juicer and a touch of liquorice.

Finish - Black pepper and Seville orange zest, cheap orange juice and fags. Of course the peat is raging somewhere underneath this but that's filtered out/structural.

A toothsome, young and honest whisky that's well worth it, bar and bottle. The peat is pretty forceful with intense scrutiny - it sneaks up on you - but before that it's all very gentle.


SMWS G1.15, North British, Could pacify a mob, 25 years old, 63.9% B

12th September 1991, 486 bottles, virgin oak butt HTMC, "previously in an oloroso butt" and presumably before then in refill bourbon, although it doesn't say. Should be fun! Great name.

IMG_1266Nose - Distinct styles in here, with the virgin oak and grain standing out and taking time to come together. Unexpected but welcome waxes, Sauternes, apples and slightly herbal with it. Tobacco with water. The nose is disorganised but good.

Body - Again, that cocktail of grain and virgin oak, it clashes more on the palate than the nose. Tobacco and hard wood, black pepper and caster sugar. The virgin oak makes the grain feel younger I think. With repeated sips it all becomes a bit menthol. Virgin oak is palate destroying stuff though.

Finish - Medium to short, with muscovado sugar and espresso. That bitter wood from the grain hangs around at the end, green apple skins finishes the finish.

This is interesting, and quite tasty but all over the shop as a whisky. This is the kind of thing I am expecting BrewDog to come up with.

SMWS 58.19, Strathisla, Fruity, sticky, yummy, 10 years old, 57.7% A+

30th March 2006, 270 bottles, virgin oak HTMC. No finish mentioned, presumably it is previously refill bourbon.

IMG_1265Nose - Definitely fruity and sticky. Cherry gummy sweets, black cherry jam, rice pudding and puff pastry tart with roasted plums. Warmer with more black fruits with water.

Body - Mercifully gentle, great sweetness (perhaps this is previously first fill bourbon?) with chocolate spread on toast, panna cotta and strawberry compote. Even better with water, a properly delicious whisky - the virgin oak is a passenger here to the bourbon cask.

Finish - Medium, with white wine and Vimto. Toast and black pepper.

I feared the virgin oak cask with this one but needn't have. We're all finding our way! A delicious, sweet, balanced whisky, and shouldn't have been the last.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Two old Tormores

A couple of Tormores that I took in a split from Julian from Whisky Rover.  I’ve not really had any Tormore before so I was interested to try these.  He was raving about the first, a famous old 10 year old from the before-time, and with good reason.

Old whisky being amazing is a common theme, and I can get behind it to an extent.  But it doesn’t follow that there’s nothing to be excited about with modern whisky.  I’m having trouble just finding room for all the unmissable bottles I’ve been tasting over the last couple of years, stocking up on epic Springbank, the new Kilkerran 12, the most fantastic Highland Parks, Longmorns and Glen Morays at SMWS (and that last Glen Grant), blockbuster Glenrothes, Mortlachs, Glenfarclas’ and a never ending stream of over 30 year old Caol Ila’s from Cadenheads (and of course they’re still releasing 39 year old Tomatins, Glentauchers, a Glen Mhor just now and much more to come this year for their 175th anniversary).  Not to mention Douglas Laing slinging them out constantly and of course everything from Compass Box being incredible.  It feels like a real high point in many respects for whisky, we have a lot to be thankful for.  If you’re feeling bogged down by it all, just remember it basically amounts to infinite complexity and fun, and there’s oceans of it.  Enjoy!

Tormore 10 year old, pure malt, 1970s, 43% A⊕

Tormore10Nose - Blackcurrants, grape jelly, crushed malted barley and tobacco. Blackcurrant jam with time, the intensity of the fruit increases the more you smell it. Lapsang souchong, burnt candle wax and roasted apples. Absolutely phenomenal.

Body - Soft, floral and ripe, but balanced by cakey acrylics, orange oils and fizzing tannins. Waxy and complicated (with a touch of old bottle).

Finish - Medium, with wood dust and varnish, red fruit and chocolate covered coffee beans at the end. Tropical burps.

Really high quality, amazing that this was bog standard 10 year old in the 70s. Amazing that this is 10 years old full stop!

Tormore 1995, 20 years old, casQueteers, 51.6% B-

13th September 1995, bourbon hogshead, cask 20277, bottled July 2016

tormorecasqNose - Younger, woodier, red berries and charcoal. Hard oak, peanuts, dried rosemary and a little swimming pool. Hopelessly outclassed by the 10 year old.

Body - Ouch! Very astringent, virgin oak levels of wood, aniseed gobstopper centres and orange oils. Chewed flower stalks and fizzy vanilla. A quite hollow whisky. Slightly better with water, but still young feeling.

Finish - Medium to short, with black pepper and burnt sugary glaze. With time and water, this is almost exactly like the tar at the end of far too many rollies.

Palate destroying.  Not a good one.

Nevertheless, thanks Julian for sharing these with us!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Half-Century Blend, Batch 1

A 50 year old blended whisky from the blended whisky company.  A remarkable thing even though I have had quite a lot of very old whisky recently.  For example(very special, buy two bottles) 43 year old Cadenhead’s blend from last year, the (amazingly still in stock) 36 year old sherried creations, the 50 year old Douglas Laing Invergordon (there’s a 52 year old out this month), Timorous Beastie 40 year old (notes are in the can) and anCnoc 1975 (ditto).

Anyway this is another slice of history in a tincture of ethanol.  Thanks to the blended whisky company for the sample!

The Half-Century Blend, Batch 1, 50 years old, 45.5% A⊕+

the-half-century-blend-whiskyNose - Gentle, waxy, appley, tobacco laden complexity, quite a lot of floral grain. Balanced sweetness, really lovely judgement on the cask influence and really, really clean. Toffee apples, glazed carrots, lamb fat, fresh pipe tobacco, old polished wood, cold charred wood, candied peel and just the most elegant, beautifully poised bourbon cask. Very impressive - loads of fruit, sweet without being sweet and extremely well balanced.

Body - Rich, cakey, quite drying with a big old grain hit sandwiching spikes of toffeed malt, tobacco cask and charred wood. The intense age of this whisky is immediately recognisable in the delivery - drying, intense oak. After a few sips that fruit, malt and cigars fights out of the wood. This has every year well evidenced.

Finish - Extraordinarily long, liquorice and joss stick, big oils but mouth puckeringly drying. Aniseed and black pepper, cherry tunes, threads of rolling tobacco in the mouth.

An absolutely phenomenal nose on this whisky, the kind of deliciously entrancing fruit, wax and wood that smacks of those tiny tastes of under the counter bottles you sometimes get at whisky festivals, or tastes of ridiculous samples in distilleries. It's obvious to say that this is old school whisky but it really smells it. The delivery is complex and fascinating, but a high grain content and intensely drying wood makes it less luxurious than you might hope for. A tasting whisky rather than a drinker, not that that's a bad thing. The finish is, I think, the longest I've ever experienced in any drink.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Cadenheads January 2017 Small Batch Outturn

IMG_1161Apparently my order for Belize rum at 00:02 was the first of order into the Cadenhead’s UK website in 2017, which was a bit keen, but then I was last man standing chez Cops by that point… and who else but Stephen Worral puts an outturn live during Hootenanny?

So this outturn isn’t the first of 2017, but it is the first whisky release of 2017.  There’s a lot more coming - 1842+175=2017 and restraint has been repeatedly advised.  There are two Authentic Collection releases coming very soon (“Spring 1” and “Spring  2”) which contain excitements such as a HP 28 in port since 2007, a Bruichladdich 25 in Burgundy since 2011, a Caperdonich and a 40 year old Carsebridge (and a 17 year old Cragganmore in sherry since 2013 which caught my eye).  That’s all before we get all excited about anniversaries and their special bottlings.  We’re aiming to get to the special Cadenhead’s dinner at Campbeltown festival in May too – quite an exciting year!

Anyway the Small Batch outturn goes live this morning and has been for sale since Wednesday really.  The big news was a 34 year old Glen Mhor which was so limited (6 bottles per shop) that it is already long preallocated everywhere.  No samples available for that obviously so I haven’t tasted it.  Nevertheless, there are some cracking whiskies in this outturn.  Surprise highlight for me was the Arran.  Not sure why I was surprised, Cadenhead’s have had some really fantastic old Arrans (that SB one from the year before last I think, single cask small batch, I don’t seem to have notes for it, the full term Fino one in May last year (where’s my notes for these!), and the one at the Campbeltown festival).  Anyway this is 16105748_359637864403298_8608000869996175292_nfantastic with intense orange oils.  Honourable mention to the Linkwood for being the most restrained, elegant Linkwood I’ve had in a while but also great structure.  The Glenburgie is a cracker, as is the Tobermory, but the stand out for me was the one I was most excited about, the Glenrothes.  One bourbon cask and one rum cask, 27 years old.  Superb.

Oh – and the next batch (batch 14) of Springbank CS 12 goes live this morning too plus the next Springbank 25.  The 12 (with the 10 and 15 already out) has the new label design which I think is excellent, although it has seriously divided opinion! 

I’m looking forward to an amazing anniversary year from Cadenhead’s.  Cheers!

Aberfeldy 1997, 19 years old, 55.3% A+

2 hogsheads

IMG_1152Nose - Tropical fruit, white chalk and wax, juicy fruit chewing gum and a hint of blackcurrant chews.

Body - In front of the fruit, it's very dry, quite sharp but chalky again. Harsher with water but riper fruit and a little black pepper.

Finish - Bitter tannins, a little liquorice and finally floral, with echoes of the intense fruit from the nose at the end (orange squash).

A really fruity, well structured drammer. Recommended.

Linkwood 1995, 20 years old, 55.5% A+'

2 hogsheads

IMG_1159Nose - Lighter oranges here, like marmalade from the fridge, there's an almost marshmallow fluffiness in the nose though, and slightly herbal too (dandelion stalks). That marshmallow is a gentle, foundational sweetness that makes this rather elegant, if quite light. Opens up with water, more fruit, a little menthol.

Body - A really classy delivery, that old school thing with roasted apple and toffee apple cask, with tobacco and slightly burnt sourdough toast. Even better with water, slightly spicier, more wax.

Finish - Long and peppery, blackcurrants and apple sauce.

A really classy whisky. Doesn't leap out at you but it's just delicious with investigation.  Out of the two really “restrained” ones here this is the one to get.

Glenburgie 1992, 24 years old, 51.6% A⊕

2 hogsheads

IMG_1157Nose - Darker this one, with ripe, roasted Victoria plums, marzipan, short pastry and ice cream. Fruitier with water, more marzipan. Really luxurious.

Body - Rich, waxy, quite spicy with roasted lemon shells and a touch of red chilli. Great depth, the wood is so well integrated you don't quite notice its intensity until you look for it. Opens up with water, the structure against the fruit and that cask wax behind it is excellent, and there's a little tobacco too.

Finish - Long with numbing orange oils, scented erasers and berry hand soap.

A really beautiful, structured and delicious whisky. Highly recommended.

Arran 1997, 19 years old, 52.4% A⊕’

1 sherry hogshead, 1 bourbon hogshead

IMG_1153Nose - Ah… beautiful. The gentle sherry cask here is perfectly played against the Arran sweetshop and orange juice. Light parquet floor, very light reduced sherry vinegar and preserved lemons.

Body - Bright orange - fresh cut orange zest in Spain, sliced bitter orange peel and chewed crayons. There's an almost peated note with water, rich vanilla sponge, toast and marmalade.

Finish - Long and full of citrus fruit - orange and grapefruit, orange barley squash.

What a fantastic whisky, I'm a real sucker for big orange notes in whisky and this blend of bourbon and sherry casks in Arran is very well judged. Highly recommended

Bruichladdich 1992, 24 years old, 53.3% A+

3 hogsheads

IMG_1155Nose - Vanilla sponge, drizzled with honey. Lightly coastal, with a much waxier feel, although there is a really deep sweetness lurking underneath - apricot jam and butter.

Body - Wow… unexpectedly big and white, with chalky sweets, lots of vanilla and slightly spicy fruit.

Finish - Medium and full of fruit and vanilla cream. Acidic at the end, like a Sauvignon Blanc, and a touch of numbing tobacco.

A well put together whisky but a bit light and creamy for me.

Auchroisk 2006, 10 years old, 46% B+

2 hogsheads

IMG_1158Nose - Light, brightly sweet and sour - I'm thinking Bramley apples with brown sugar, fresh chilled white wine, and with a really lovely malt character behind that (Shreddies, cherry whistle pops, beeswax). With time, it's dustier, drier. With water, some more waxes, more complexity.

Body - Mainly; floral with simple white malt and big drying tannins, it's basically new make. There are stripes of refill bourbon here and it's not like it's harsh at all (like good new make isn't), but it is very young. Much better with water, with milk chocolate and buttercream icing

Finish - Quite short, very clean, very drying at the end.

A lovely nose on this obviously young whisky, but very easy drinking.  I dunno, maybe I just can’t get my head round diluted whisky in amongst a flight of cask strength stuff?

Tobermory 1995, 21 years old, 52.5% A+’

2 hogsheads

IMG_1162Nose - Leather, granite, ozone and really deep toffee base-loading that balances. With time it really reminds me of a massive old Bordeaux, or perhaps even a Cahors, it has that dirty, earthy edge to it that's so very compelling. Just a hint of alien fruit with water, and a real dunnage note.

Body - Soft but fizzing, with salted caramel, dried mango and really creamy red fruit. It is a deep, swarthy whisky (as many Tobermorys are), and very relaxed with it. Slightly nutty with water, quite a lot of fizzing spice.

Finish - Short but clean, leaving light black pepper and a touch of lemon. Longer with water, with red peppers

Complex and relaxing, this is a proper drammer. I am in love with the nose, but there's too much effervescence and spice in the delivery for this to deliver on everything I wanted. However it's still a really lovely whisky and wouldn't last long if you had an open bottle.

Ord 2006, 10 years old, 58% A

2 hogsheads

IMG_1160Nose - Young again (hard cereal, candy shells) but with lemon sherbets, white foam sweets and unripe peach. There's a minerality that works well with the lemon and vanilla. Gentler and greener with water.

Body - Rich and mouth-filling, despite its youth, with bright fruit and vanilla cream, more candy, some wax and a touch of apple. Better with water, creamier and fruitier.

Finish - Medium, green apple, fence panels. Liquorice torpedoes with water.

A proper young drammer this, honest as the day is long!  Superior spirit than the Auchroisk or just stronger?

Glenrothes 1989, 27 years old, 53.7% A⊕+

1 barrel, 1 ex-rum barrel.  This was the one I was most excited about.

IMG_1156Nose - Rich and ripe, quite the tropical wax bomb (as hoped) with pineapple, lime curd and meringue. Dusty and waxy, like a candle melting on a hot radiator.

Body - Thick buttercream icing and mango puree, extremely ripe, tropical, with lots of vanilla. Fruit toffee, a touch of red powder chilli on pineapple with black pepper. Quite outrageously rich with water, that tropical vanilla cream is intense and very delicious, and starting to approach bubble gum.

Finish - Long and very fruity, sliced banana behind grapefruit and finally sliced lemon. Quite bitter at the very end. With time and water that rum barrel really makes itself felt, not in the kind of minty way that it does with some whisky but with a really fruity funk that's very rummy.

A fascinating and delicious whisky. How long was the second barrel in rum? I would assume it was a kind of long term secondary maturation rather than full term (so 6 or so years like they do with wine casks). It really works well. Highly recommended.

Bunnahbhain 1999, 16 years old, 49.6% A+

Sherry hogshead since 2013

IMG_1163Nose - Sweet raisins, blackberries, carrot cake and imperial red ale. Glazed walnuts and coca cola. Arrestingly bright, sweetshoppy and darkly herbal this, almost medicinal, and delicious for it.

Body - "classic" sherry bomb, but with its sherry punches just pulled - one of the spicier, bitter orange ones, rather than dry and nutty. More black fruit, some coffee and mouth puckering oils with water.

Finish - Long and dry, with more walnut (membrane and a bit of shell) and persistent coffee and black fruits throughout.

Quite a remarkable whisky. Intense, exciting, quite different but little elegance or poise.

Highland Park 1996, 20 years old, 50.6% A+

Single hogshead

IMG_1164Nose - Gentle, waxy sweetness, window putty and a little bit of brown sauce. Cigar tobacco and blackberries. Dark marmalade with water.

Body - More tobacco, very well placed dry red wine tannins, old leather. The peat is quite Ardmore-y on this, quite strong too. A touch of the cross channel ferry in here (tired, petrol, rubber). More cigars with water.

Finish - Very, very long, with lemon hand soap, creamy vanilla and very long oils to the end. There's a waxy undercurrent in all of this which is very "posh HP" but the peat is so intense that it backs it down the luxury scale a bit.

Good stuff, very well put together but the peat is a bit off character for HP and the integration suffers a little.