Thursday, 2 July 2015

SMWS July Outturn

We had a good feeling about this one and we weren’t wrong.  July’s outturn is dripping with raspberry jam, Quality Street and toast.  Incredibly sweet, with lots of ex-bourbon casks and some very high quality wood, it’s capped by some big Islay fun including an old Caol Ila and a young Kilchoman.  Happy Summer!

SMWS 85.31, A toy shop in an orange grove, Glen Elgin, 15 years old, 56.1% A⊕

6th October 1999, refill bourbon, 311 bottles.

20150630_162532Nose - Orange hand soap. Beautifully deep and sweet, foam sweets and candied rose petals. Rich Turkish delight (melting chocolate in this heat) and chocolate toffee Quality Street. Bright, balanced, malty and very delicious. Water brings out a lovely herbal quality.

Body - Sweet, spicy and menthol. Horlicks and orange oil, more Quality Street. Spicier with water with a sharper top note that makes it less one dimensional.

Finish - Medium, good oils, gentle chocolate. Spicy and perfumed with water, lots of rose water and lemon oil, pine notes throughout and lemon and lime. Some bitterness lingers at the end.

A really interesting and solid performer. A real taster, highly recommended.


SMWS 77.37, Baked fruits and nuts, Glen Ord, 13 years old, 58.4% A⊕

3rd April 2001, refill bourbon, 293 bottles.

20150630_163957Nose - Light, quality cask and good wax. Lemon tart, roasted cashews, Christmas fruit and nuts, wine poached pears and leatherette. With time, lemon zest - brighter. Again, a really high quality nose - top quality start to this session! Nuts and laundry with water.

Body - Sweet, bright and intense, zippy lemon, pepper and tomato juice. Very savoury, almost with a vinegar edge, quite delicious. Much juicier on the palate with water, loads of fruit and lots of tannic grapefruit.

Finish - Long and quite winey in the finish, sweet and sour and big bitter tannins at the back. Very compelling. Orange juice with water, more spice and burnt toast right at the very end.

This is a big whisky. Balanced and intense, lots of fruit developing with water. Beautiful.


SMWS 55.30, Remarkable freshness, beguiling sweetness, Royal Brackla, 14 years old, 57.6% A⊕

26th September 2000, refill bourbon, 288 bottles.

20150630_165300Nose - Light, clear and clean. Furniture polish, new wood, more lemon, more pastry. Sharpened pencils and cherry Tunes. It has a real, high quality cask thing going on. Sweet and elegantly wooded. With water, warmer and more wooded, some Victoria sponge.

Body - Rich, three dimensional and cakey. Cherry brownies and bounty bars. Big, sweet and bruising. Slightly spicier, a little burnt with water.

Finish - Long, tannic and mouthfilling. Neapolitan ice cream. Fruitier and spicier with water. Very good.

A bit more structure and more three dimensional but sharper than the previous two, still lovely stuff.


SMWS 26.113, A joy to savour, Clynelish, 10 years old, 58.3% A-

3rd June 2004, first fill bourbon, 185 bottles.


Nose - Bright, raspberry jam and ice cream, a touch of iron filings and icing sugar. 7-up and Mr. Whippy.  Driftwood. More cask with water, less obviously sweet but better balance, a touch of swimming pool and (by association) suntan cream.

Body - Deep and intense, fruit syrup, almost like neat Vimto. Big, intense, sweet black fruits. Even sweeter with water, wow, saccharine sweet, diet coke concentrate  Eek!

Finish - Medium, very sweet, balancing tannins, lemongrass.

Weirdly, a lovely big intense whisky neat and just way over the top with water. Artificial sweetener. Buy it for the neat experience if you like but it's all over the place diluted.

SMWS 26.114, Grandma's summer jam recipe, Clyenlish, 11 years old, 61% A+

16th Jun 2003, first fill bourbon, 238 bottles.  Obviously this was the “mid month” special last month to go with the ice cream, but this is the first time I got to try it.

20150630_172955Nose - Bright and metallic, raspberry jam, red wine and permanent markers. The blue hundreds and thousands liquorice allsort. Swimming pool and deodorant. Cigar tobacco. With water, jam sponge, toffee pennies - lovely.

Body - Very sweet, intense ice cream, liquorice torpedoes and red wine. Sweeter and even more mouthfilling with water, bigger on the vanilla and cake - richly sweet but not cloying.

Finish - Long, drying turning into tannins. A touch of sandalwood.

All gone but this was a big one, absolutely delicious and on the right side of incredibly sweet, just.


SMWS 48.59, Cidre de Glace, Balmenach, 11 years old, 62.7% B+

7th August 2003, refill bourbon, 210 bottles.

20150630_174744Nose - Massively sweet, oaked, with glossy magazine, limoncello and permanent markers. Tart tatin with cream, coconut ice, French Fancies!

Body - Arresting! Big, intense, almost sour in the tannins, backed by enormous sweetness. Menthol, wax and pineapple sweets. Even more with water, not spicy but intensely wooded (new pine) and incredibly sweet.

Finish - Long, extremely sweet, very long tannins linger.

An intense but ultimately unbalanced whisky - incredibly sweet and big bitterness at the end, lacks midrange and doesn't hang together.

SMWS 50.65, Tutti Frutti, Bladnoch, 25 years old, 52.5% A⊕+

26th January 1990, refill bourbon, 87 bottles.


Nose - Bright, lewd and fruity at first. Juicy fruit chewing gum, watermelon sweets, freshly cut red chilli and fresh cut flower stems. Pomegranite. Walking a line between fruit and fresh vegetable, tropical with balancing tobacco.

Body - Hubba bubba and chilli, deeply tropical with ancient cask. Toast and honey, floral and a touch of sulphur. A little overbalanced on the tannins with water perhaps?  Splitting hairs.

Finish - Very drying to balance the lewd fruit. Long and spicy tobacco. Toffee and oak.

This is extremely good. I love it when a whisky just shouts quality, and is extremely drinkable. You wouldn't be unhappy with this as a £400 OB, the balance is spot on for a single cask.

BUY and don’t hang about, it’s only 87 bottles.

SMWS 44.64, You can fly, Craigellachie, 24 years old, 52% A+

13th August 1990, refill bourbon, 288 bottles.


Nose - Gentle, balanced, soft and sweet but with warming notes of rosemary and cumin. Fruit salad chews and marshmallow, pistachio ice cream? Lovely and sweet but nutty, almost like a sherry, but almost too polite. With water, the tobacco and cask comes out a bit more.

Body - Sweet, gentle, rounded and balanced, with tobacco providing some spice at the front of the tongue while the big old bourbon cask rolls round the mouth. Orange toffee and chocolate. Marmalade.

Finish - Long, winey, hobnobs, then jaffa cakes (not so much the orange, more that "sponge" base plus the chocolate).

This is a seriously delicious whisky but needs to stand up for itself a bit more.

SMWS 35.135, A pure stoater!, Glen Moray, 20 years old, 55.9% A⊕

11th November 1994, First fill toasted oak hogshead, 269 bottles.

20 years (I assume!) in a single first fill toasted oak?  A real curiosity.  Let’s see…

20150630_182931Nose - Rabbit food, strawberry laces, unmistakably bourbon. Carrot cakes, praline, deeply sweet lacquered with a balancing char. This is a good bourbon nose, very reminiscent of Stagg, although this drops off over time, with some a touch of sulphur.

Body - Sweet and toffeed, floral and fruity, much more Scotch than the nose suggests. Good wood, pepper, fruit. Rather lovely - intensely sweet but with a balancing tannin and sulphur.

Finish - The bourbon is back for the finish. But lots of toffee and good wood, and dark Stagg wood varnish at the end..

Hmm… a fascinating experiment over 20 years that seems to have paid off, for £70?


SMWS 76.123, Warm, joyous and gratifying, Mortlach, 27 years old, 52.2% A⊕

24th September 1987, refill bourbon, 214 bottles.

20150630_184619Nose - Bright ozone, marker pens and light menthol, but very floral and hints of turmeric. Raspberry jam, banana bread with raisins, cedar planks and lots of pastries and coffee. Balanced, competent and expensive (smelling).

Body - Bright, dusty like an old Islay, almost a touch of parmas. Sweet and old, beautiful Danish pastries, more jam! A touch of funk, giving it a little more class. A lovely old cask.

Finish - Medium, old and dusty. Drying at the back of the throat, big tannins. Sweet and very special.

This is just on the right side of the line between great and wrong - there's big bitterness and tannins in here and lots of sweetness, I'm very impressed but John not so much.


SMWS 7.114, Ode to Grown up George, Longmorn, 25 years old, 56.9% A+

11th December 1989, 20 years in refill bourbon followed by 5 years in second fill port barrique, 253 bottles.  A controversial multi-maturation for SMWS – although rumour has it this wasn’t the first time.  Perhaps the first time declared though.

20150630_190726Nose - Deliciously sweet and fruity, more jam and dirty wine. Magic balloons, new out of the box paddling pool, toast and cranberry jelly. The toffee chocolate Quality Street are back. Extraordinarily ripe.

Body - Very sweet and fizzy, crackers (water biscuits) with butter, old fag ends and wet cardboard. With water, that comes together a bit more - the sweet cheap perfume and some sulphur comes through and it's balanced by better tannins.

Finish - Long and very sweet, cloyingly sweet in fact. There's an element of unfermented wort and yeast starter in here. With water it's better, there's balancing black pepper and tannins, but the integration is off.

This is an awkward whisky with the integration off for me - there's good, interesting things in here but this newly opened bottle needs (in my experience) a good airing and a bit more time and attention than I can give it.

As a controversial and collectable whisky this is still a buy, and I think this will open up with time. I'm sticking with a BUY. But it's not all plain sailing.

SMWS 39.107, Coconut oil and candy floss, Linkwood, 10 years old, 61.3% A

7th May 2004, refill bourbon, 227 bottles.

20150630_192422Nose - Dusty lemon, liquorice allsorts, malted barley, lemon sherbet, icing sugar. Coconut ice, flat pack furniture and metal.

Body - Extra strong mints and Blackpool rock. Chalky bonbons. Warm, sweet and rather lovely. A little winey.

Finish - Long and winey. Good but quite ordinary in this company.  A jobbing society Linkwood.


SMWS 66.68, Bon AppƩtit, Ardmore, 11 years old, 60.9% A

17th November 2003, refill bourbon, 217 bottles.  Must remember not to be too impressed by the peat….

20150630_193213Nose - You can smell the bacon frazzles from the glass before bringing it to your nose. Sweet, smoked streaky bacon, and lavender - a bacon sandwich with lots of butter and brown sauce. Heaven after the enormous amounts of sugar that preceded it. Sweeter with water, but shows its youth a bit - still, lovely stuff.

Body - Sweet, floral with lots of toast and butter. More lavender, lime zest, fried rosemary. Sugar sandwiches.

Finish - Long, intensely peated, loads of tannins and very toasted. Tarry ropes. Less astringent with water but still big, fishy and intense, with pipe tobacco and dandelion and burdock.

This was a serious relief after the candied delights before, but it's quite a big, tough whisky.

SMWS 53.223, Angels and Demons, Caol Ila, 23 years old, 56.5% A⊕

17th January 1992, refill bourbon, 260 bottles.

20150630_193230Nose - Oily and malted, sweet and salty. Mackerel and engine oil, Germolene and mussels cooked in burning hay, with fried rosemary oil. Dry, oily, medicinal but with lurking sweetness, wet cardboard and overripe fruit. With water, fishier.
Body - Tinned pineapple, toast, roasted barley, malt, mango chutney (with pepper and cardamom). Incredibly sweet. Apricot jam with water, on toast!  Lots of toast this month.

Finish - Incredibly peated, very numbing. Very, very long, with tropical top notes and more mango chutney. Finally, coal.

BBQ, fish, incredibly sweet, fruit, curry. This is a big, slightly deranged, rollercoaster of a whisky that definitely works and takes no prisoners. Hence…


SMWS 29.160, Fifty shades of dark, Laphroaig, 17 years old, 51.5% A

3rd October 1997, refill bourbon, 267 bottles.

20150630_193220Nose - Sweet, quite light actually, austere with very light medicinal edge and some good cereal. Deeper digging gives honey, soy sauce, tea leaves and seaweed. It's a really gentle Laph but quite rewarding.

Body - Sweet and gentle, popcorn, gunpowder and malted barley. A touch of bandage, some cigarette.

Finish - Quite long, a bit funky, some orange and brett.

To be honest we hit this too late, but how would you know? It's gentle, fishy, calm and forecourt-y. This is good but not as good as last month’s.

SMWS 129.7, An artist in an antique boat, Kilchoman, 4 years old, 64.5% B+

29th June 2010, first fill bourbon, 272 bottles.

20150630_193238Nose - Deep, sharp and confident. Blackcurrant, barley and syrup. Funky but bright and fruity, with peach, apple, crayons and crumble. Dirty and good.

Body - Extraordinarily sweet and tannic, brutal. Don't take this the wrong way, but there's a meths thing going on here. A real party smasher. With an iceberg of water, there's extra strong mints and apple, but it takes a lot of work.

Finish - Long, lots of pear. Pastry rolled on marble, but very dry. It's less peaty and numbing than the Ardmore on the finish though.

A good nose on this, but just too intense and young. It has a certain, petrolic charm, but it's too expensive and too young to recommend.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Expensive Laddies

There’s a galling trend for Bruichladdich to be quite expensive, but very good.  And ultimately, worth it.  It’s almost as if they know exactly how much they can get away with!

The first set are from the Micro Provenance series (previous reviews here) and were released initially as a 3x20cl set for £90 with an associated tweet tasting.  I split this down the middle with my mate Jon but missed the TT.  The relevant full bottles are still available for sale on the Bruichladdich website (£90 each and mostly quite young, although the Pomerol cask is more reasonably aged), but the 3x20cl set sold out very quickly. 

Then High Noon, the Bruichladdich Feis Isle 2015 bottling (£100 for 50cl), some old whisky in here but very winey.  Then the Master of Malt single cask laddie pair.  These were the first to have their new glass stoppers (pretty cool) but at 12 years old and about £120-£130 on release, there was widespread outrage when they came online.  They clearly sold very few and reduced the price to under £100 which was enough for the international bottleshare group to split the pair and hence, the review appears below.  MoM need to be careful with their reputation.

Anyway, the world kept turning, and then Whisky Broker released a 12 year old Port Charlotte with a peculiar wine finish.  This wasn’t expensive (although, as usual, Whisky Barrel bought up half the stock and is now selling it for 20% more) but takes away the taste of price gouging and rounds off the flight – enjoy!

Micro Provenance Cask #014, 63.6% A⊕

2007 Islay Barley Fresh Oak, 468 bottles

Distilled in 2007, bottled in 2015. This single cask is the first ever release of the 2007 harvest of Islay Barley, matured in fresh oak. The barley was grown Rockside Farm on the wild west coast of the Rhinns by Mark and Rohaise French.

b14Nose - Remarkable. This smells old and elegant, like a big Glenfiddich, but with a red wine sauce backing. It has some youth too, some new make cereal behind it, but it so perfectly balanced with fresh red berries, furniture polish and toffee. Wonderful nose, epic cask - big expectations. With water, sweeter and slightly more gentle but no less fun.

Body - Ouch! Youthful intensity, sharp barley, lots of spice and power, seriously lacking in elegance although it certainly works. It's a bit like getting a whiff of someone else's fag and remembering your first cigarettes - it's strong and powerful and you know something important is happening, but the feeling doesn't really feel sustainable. With water, gentler, a bit more together. A lot more water brings sweet soap and less aggression.

Finish - Long, soapy and spicy. Lingering wood, numbing aniseed and tobacco in the mouth. Shorter finish with water and less dimensional - numbing blonde oak and tobacco.

What's not good about it - The delivery doesn't live up to the hype. It needs some old complexity and depth to round this out.

What's good about it - A fantastic nose, clearly something really special cask wise. Compelling and aggressive throughout. It's a pity they don't sell more of the 20cls of this though - one a decade would see you right.

Micro Provenance Cask #007, 63.6% A⊕

2004 Ribera del Deuro, 303 bottles

Distilled in 2004, bottled in 2015. This single cask from Warehouse 11 contains Bruichladdich spirit matured full term for ten years in European oak that previously held wine from the Duero valley, one of Spain's DenominaciĆ³n de Origen on the northern plateau.

b007Nose - Big again. Deep and elegant, dusty and lacquered. Strawberry laces, cherry pipe tobacco and granite. Pure and excellent. Water brings a touch more tobacco, less fruit, but arguably it's more grown up, although a touch of deodorant suggests a teenager.

Body - Spicy, dark and big red wine. Sweet engines, like a big, dirty, wine finished Springbank - and that's before water, at nearly 65% ABV. Remarkable stuff. With water, some sulphur in the immediate delivery, balanced oak and gunpowder, granite, liquorice. Sweeter, but still mature.

Finish - Long, dirty wine (but no sulphur) and tobacco. Drying tannins and constrained spice. Rather compelling.

What's not good about it - Challenging, again, for sure. The sweetness promised in the nose, and that would round out the whole delivery, doesn't happen. But it really works.

What's good about it - Another epic nose, much more accomplished in the delivery. Fruit, balanced sulphur and a big dirty wine finish that's dry but not nutty or overdone. It's like the Longrow Port but drier and sourer.

Micro Provenance Cask #009, 52.1% A⊕+

1992 Pomerol, 296 bottles

Distilled in 1992, bottled in 2015. This single cask from Warehouse 12 contains Bruichladdich spirit that has matured in casks of European oak from one of the great winemakers from Pomerol.

b009Nose - Now this is an exceptional cask. Sweet, pure wood, sweet red wine and a touch of black Chinese vinegar. Intense, bright and venerable, with sour cherries and polish.

Body - Big, juicy, but a bit dry and with copper coins at the side of the mouth. Pine nuts and privet hedge. Deep oak, and lots of age. Really drinkable too. I'm reminded of a big old Balvenie.

Finish - That immediate drying sulphur I love so much, then a little travel sweets, fried parsley, toffee. Perfectly spice. Wonderful stuff.

What's not good about it - struggling to find anything.

What's good about it - Finally a bottle in this set that fires on all cylinders. Balanced, old and elegant, intense and fruity, waxy and numbing. Brilliant.

Bruichladdich High Noon (Feis Ile 2015), 48.7% A⊕

bhnNose - Flipping heck this session isn't getting any easier. It's like he's been blending all his favourites! Immensely dark and sweet, but with that compelling dry, sweaty sock edge that can balance deep toffee and a little metal. Big and beautiful. Expensive. With water, wax, fruit and luxury. Beautiful.

Body - Very, very winey. Dry and nutty, lots of playbark and almonds. Not as luxurious as the nose would suggest, but pretty damn delicious nonetheless.

Finish - Medium and metallic. Ozone and more playbark. How odd! Good fun though.

What's not good about it - Seriously dry on the finish, too much wine.

What's good about it - The best nose of the night. Some big whisky in here. Despite the balance problems, this is beautifully drinkable and I'd happily stick on this for many hours.

Now the MoM single cask laddies.  These are low outturn because they bunged the rest into Darkness! casks for extra sherry.  They’re already pretty silly.  No denying the quality of the spirit even if the first fill tomfoolery is a distraction, but way too expensive.

Master of Malt, Bruichladdich 12 years old, First Fill Bourbon cask, Single Cask Series, 57.3% A⊖

15th July 2002 to 26th November 2014, 114 bottles. Special stopper!

bruichladdich-12-year-old-2002-bourbon-cask-single-cask-master-of-malt-glass-closure-whiskyNose - Dark and intensely first fill bourboned. This smells like a sulphured sherry cask has been racked into a first fill bourbon. Not that this doesn't work on the nose - it's young, brutish and sweet, but simultaneously beautifully spiced, with raisins and big vanilla custard and pastry. A delicious nose. With water, sweeter, more Islay, some truffle honey.

Body - Deeply sweet, toffeed and balanced with drying sulphur and tannins. Lovely. With water, softer and more more rounded.

Finish - And then cabbage. Big, boiled cabbage and cabbage water. Palate destroying sulphur. Hidden behind this may be a brilliant whisky. Except I can't taste anything else but cabbages.

What's not good about it - Sulphur.  Given the colour and sulphur you would call this as a sherry cask – maybe it was in one at some point?

What's good about it - Beautiful nose, lovely initial delivery. Destroyed by sulphur. The good news is that if you're not sensitive (and you should know if you are by now!) you'll love this. I'm somewhat sensitive, and really love it just up until the cabbage stage, and that’s too far for me. If you're very sensitive, you'll be unhappy with this.

Master of Malt, Bruichladdich 12 years old, First Fill Sherry hogshead, Single Cask Series, 62.3% A+

28th June 2002 to 26th November 2014, 86 bottles.

bruichladdich-12-year-old-2002-sherry-cask-single-cask-master-of-malt-glass-closure-whiskyNose - More restrained, fresher cask influence and classic sherry. Quite young though, with dusty raisins, sherry soaked barley and slightly fetid (although no sulphur). A compelling, deep, joss stick like sweetness, if a little one dimensional, neat (but it is 63%!). With (quite a lot of) water, a lovely, complex sweetness develops - cask and spirit together. Polished furniture, leather and roses.

Body - Sherry bomb. Poised on lightly sulphured, nutty, quite dry. Meaty and toothsome, cabbage highlights. No problem though, lovely stuff. More peppery with water, much more with it.

Finish - Very long, slightly peppery, deep spicy sherry, lingering barley. Water, after all this talk of pepper, brings chilli and sesame snaps. There is, sadly, still some cabbage in here but I'm learning to filter it out.

What's not good about it - Still sulphur. For the price, it's another underperforming whisky (you could certainly do better elsewhere)

What's good about it - but price aside, it's rather delicious. A sherry bomb and no mistake.

Regarding the glass stoppers, these are pretty cool.  They look good in the bottle and it’s an interesting curiosity.  The deal is that these won’t degrade over time and there is a tight plastic seal which presumably won’t allow evaporation over time, so the whisky won’t disappear if stored for decades.  Quite a consideration for “looking” whisky that’ll probably never be drunk (unlike these 12 year old indies).




The stopper is very tight indeed, you can pick the full bottle up by the stopper.  To get it off you have to lever it off at the side (the wedge shape internally allows you to do so).  It’s sealed by a plastic ring at the top edge of the stopper.

You can read more about them on the MoM blog here, and even buy one for a quid, here.

Whisky Broker Port Charlotte 2002, 12 years old, Gran Callejo Wine Cask, 55% A+

Goodness me we need some peat and something a bit more down to earth price wise. This Whisky Broker PC 12 sold out in minutes, and I scored one, but Sean sorted me out with a sample so I don't need to crack mine open just yet. Thanks Sean!  Still sold under a different label by Whisky Barrel.

pcwhbNose - Immediately swimming pool - that wet towel thing with damp chlorine. Then the big peat and wine makes me think more of Longrow port cask. Not cutting it after the High Noon as it's another wine finish, and not quite as well done, but I'm pleased for some peat finally, and a lot of earth.

Body - Delicious. Dusty PC, sweet, balanced and clean, although not fresh. More fetid, but still fecund. Orange juice and liquorice torpedoes.

Finish - Juicy, ripe and correct. Long orange juice, bitter peat and oak between. Works well.

What's not good about it - Oddly, compared to the rest of the session, the nose is the weak point. Too much wine, not enough midrange. Mind you, bear in mind that this whisky came after some of the best laddie noses in the business!

What's good about it - Juicy, balanced, delicious delivery. Great fun to drink and very satisfying. And always fun to meet a whisky where the delivery outclasses the nose. Also, thank god for peat, the salt of the whisky world!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Signatory Vintage, Imperial 1995 Cask #50164

Spending, as I do, so much time exploring single cask indies, it’s quite rare that I manage to get notes out while the whisky is still in stock!  This one is though, and comes highly recommended.

Signatory Vintage, Imperial 19 years old, 54.6% A⊕

Hogshead #50164, 21.08.1995 to 06.03.2015, 273 bottles.


Nose – Gentle, but deep and classy.  Ballpoint pen, lacquered wood, sour plum and strawberry chewits. Deep, sharp, balanced and intensely sweet, with bright, waxy cologne highlights and overall, very special.  More so now than when I first opened the sample actually, some time and O2 have opened the nose up.  Water brings a little more citrus fruit and juice, and some pastry.

Body – Intense – lots of toffee, some spice, a lot of wood, some preserved lemon, a backing of spirit sulphur.  Quite a nutty, dry backing behind that sweetness.  This is actually quite a robust whisky, but balanced and engaging.

Finish – Medium, nutty and some pine, drops the ball a little at the end in terms of complexity – at least compared to the nose.  A big, numbing, grapefruit finale.  Delicious stuff though.

What’s not good about it – Robust – if you’re reaching for a gentle, well rounded married malt from the bottler, you won’t reach for this.  Water softens things out a little but it’s less interesting, I’d stick to the full cask strength experience for a bit.  The finish isn’t as compelling as the nose but that’s a minor point when the rest works so well.

What’s good about it – Fantastic nose, great complexity, very interesting and engaging, serious stuff.  What a cracking cask!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Kilchoman 100% Islay, 5th Edition

The 4th is still my summer favourite – everything about it says the second night on a beach holiday.  And classic Kilchoman too – read my rather gushing review from last year here.  2015 brings another batch of this whisky, created entirely on Islay.  I must say I’ve found every single “Islay everything” whisky I’ve tried to be fantastic, what an island.  Hooray for Islay and Kilchoman, and hooray for the 5th edition!

Kilchoman 100% Islay, 5th edition A⊕

kilchoman-100-islay-5th-edition-whiskyNose - Bright ozone and freshly cut grapefruit. Really fruity, like a seabreeze (the cocktail), bacardi, a touch of wet cardboard and just a little cinnamon. Sawdust peat and peppered salami. Bright and summery. Water brings more fruit, refreshers and clean skin.

Body - Sweet then intensely sour (again, like grapefruit), more sawdust and some digestive biscuit. Just an echo of pear drops.  Enormously sweet but balanced by bitter peat.

Finish - Long, lemon scented peat and astringent. Sherbet lemons and cardboard at the end. Lovely.

What's not good about it - not the most complex dram in the world…

What's good about it - … but still one of the summeryist. I love the breezy, lemon juice, clean sweat and grapefruit. And Kilchoman spirit is so damn good…

Compared to the 4th edition (which I have a bottle of and has been open for nearly a year) -

On the nose, the 4th is grapier, winier, more granite peat. Dustier and more sun baked. The 5th is deeper, some more toffee, and a little waxier.

Delivery, the 4th is still wonderful - intense, toasted, bright peat, classic Kilchoman. The 5th is more three dimensional, with an almost Limoncello ending. Wonderful stuff.  Overall, although the 5th looks better on paper the 4th is still my favourite.  A little more austere and more sun bleached – take one on that staycation to Kent.  Both great though.

Thanks to Kilchoman for the sample!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

SMWS June Outturn

This outturn was brought to you by the flavours of raspberry jam, coconut, chocolate hobnobs and too much spice! 

Great outturn this month though. Some interesting “tasting” whiskies in here and a few big “drinking” whiskies too.  If that makes any sense.  Those Islays at the end are massive.  Get ready…

SMWS 17.39, Relax, take it easy, Scapa, 12 years old, 56.1% A⊖

23rd January 2002, refill bourbon, 243 bottles.

20150603_161519Nose - Light, dusty but rich ice cream. Peaches and cream, raspberry jam, pastry and coconut, with a mineral high note. Really beautiful, rich, creamy and delicious. Hopes are set very high. With water, lighter and less of that richness but good light vanilla and lemon.

Body - Initially sweet and delicious, but then spicier and younger than expected. Finally really quite hot and quite harsh – roast (burnt) lemon and lemon pips.

Finish - Long but very hot. Ashen, sour and quite harsh with water.

A beautiful nose but a serious flaw with the heat.

SMWS 7.118, Long johns and velveteen smoking jackets, Longmorn, 12 years old, 59.1% A-

17th September 2002, refill bourbon, 224 bottles.

20150603_163020Nose - Now we're talking - deeper, ruder raspberry jam, on rice pudding, a touch of incense cone, a well seasoned oak log, travel sweets and bakewell tart. Lovely.

Body - Sweet, oak sour, more pastry and spicy again. Deep boiled sweets on the tip of the tongue.

Finish - Long and hot, dry and tannic. Lemon curd.

Better on the spice but still a bit challenging. Again, a lovely nose, lovely fruit but marred by the spice.

SMWS 7.117, Mouth-coating, viscous and weighty, Longmorn, 24 years old, 55.2% A+

15th June 1990, refill bourbon, 244 bottles.

20150603_170535Nose - Ripe, deep and balanced. Toffee pennies, hob nobs, white flowers, coconut ice, hot butter and deodorant. Grow-bag. With water, significantly fruitier, but pleasantly dusty like a hot summer day.

Body - Tobacco, toast and (retronasally) fresh coconut dug out of the shell with your teeth. Sweet but balanced, spicy again. With water, more masculine in the delivery.

Finish - Medium, straying into bitterness. Pine oil. Salt.

Interesting, quite intense. A really compelling savoury pastry and coconut edge, not totally integrated but interesting.

SMWS 30.85, Citric and sweet duality, Glenrothes, 21 years old, 50.2% A⊕+

9th June 1993, refill bourbon, 203 bottles.

20150603_170547Nose - Everything I'd hoped for. Deeply, deeply sweet, quince jelly, Brasso (thanks Ben), Sauternes and copper coins.

Body - Deep, fruity and tropical. Dusty oak and good tannins, macaroons and malted barley. Popcorn and fizzers. Delicious.

Finish - Long and understated, but tannic and drying. Very well poised. Sweeter with water.

A beautifully put together whisky. I'm so happy!


SMWS 48.56, Popcorn in a sauna, Balmenach, 13 years old, 56.3% A⊕

1st November 2001, first fill bourbon, 214 bottles.

20150603_172556Nose - Fresh, bright and zesty. Lemon sherbet, orange ice cream, a touch of garage forecourt and tomato leaf. Balanced by good cask - vanilla cream. Just lovely. With water, the cask comes through a bit more, with just a touch of peat. Beautiful.

Body - Deeply sweet and more pastry, earth and tomato plants. Vanilla cream and chocolate hob nobs with water. Ripe, biscuity and a little pineapple.

Finish - Medium long, Sauternes, deeply sweet. Lovely.

A beautifully made whisky, and wonderful drinking. Not a duff note played.


SMWS 39.106, Deliciously sweet but feisty, Linkwood, 10 years old, 61.1% A⊕

7th May 2004, refill bourbon, 264 bottles.

20150603_174817Nose - Young and feisty, orange zest, tea tree oil, pea pods, fairy liquid and granite. Sweet malt, intensely so, very nice with a big young SMWS nose.

Body - Dark toffee and jaffa cake, blood orange and PVC glue. With water, lovely intensity and more balanced.

Finish - Long and sweetly oaked. Almost endless pain au raisin. Very good indeed, although not quite as good as the Balmenach.


SMWS 121.78, Dinner time!, Arran, 15 years old, 54.9% A⊕

2nd December 1999, refill bourbon, 281 bottles.  A more modern Arran – so younger but made later, rather than (as usual) tasting stuff right at the end stops of how old it can theoretically be.  So they should have got better at making the spirit, right?

20150603_180548Nose - More chocolate hobnobs. Light stone fruit, menthol tobacco, sugar puffs and Victoria sponge. Shampoo, whipped cream and Danish pastries. With water, some acrylic paint and more tobacco. It is very shampoo - in a very good way.

Body - That balanced sweet, dry, oak thing that older Arran is doing so much these days. Unripe apple and suet pastry.

Finish - Long, balancing sulphur. Dusty oak and cherry. Very good.


SMWS 41.65, Sweet couscous with Argan oil, Dailuaine, 30 years old, 48.7% A⊕

25th September 1984, refill bourbon, 86 bottles.  Another ancient Dailuaine!

20150603_181849Nose - Sweet but dry, more fairy liquid, shoe polish and Pritt Stick (in a good way). Oloroso sherry, new printed card (John says vinyl but I think the record cover) and new carpet.

Body - Salted lemons, oak floorboards, nice biscuits, bright, complex wax and coffee. Pretty epic.

Finish - Pepper, grapefruit juice and lingering lemon zest. Quite long, very balanced overall and generally epic. Enormous. But lacking just a touch of midrange.


SMWS 64.61, The Angel and the Devil, Mannochmore, 13 years old, 57.6% A+

5th March 2001, first fill bourbon, 231 bottles.

20150603_183118Nose - Blue cheese and good oak. Dusty cherry, kumquat, and lactic, sour butter. Poster paints and chalk. Takes a good while to open up though, and lacks integration, but interesting.

Body - Lovely. Dark, ripe and cherried, but balanced with dry citric top notes. Some new make - not fully formed, but interesting and oddly compelling.

Finish - Hot and buttery, a little cloying, over the line in terms of sweetness. A confused dram that doesn't quite know what it is.

It took me a while to decide what I thought of this.  It's good, definitely interesting, and quite challenging. I probably wouldn't drink it if I had it at home.  A taster.

SMWS 4.205, A riddle wrapped in a mystery, Highland Park, 14 years old, 62.1% A⊕

2nd June 2000, first fill bourbon, 213 bottles.

20150603_185717Nose - Deep, burnt oak, embers. Beautiful Highland Park toffee. Herbal and intensely sweet with a touch of Germolene. Deeply satisfying, intense and warm, with that earthy, baked pine thing that's so society Highland Park. A really lovely nose.

Body - Ripe, intense orange and toasted oak. Charcoal and chocolate malt. Pickled lemon and Sichuan peppercorns.

Finish - Big, bitter oak and aspirin. Deep toffee. An echo of peat finally. Water brings more toasted notes with salted, roasted peanuts.

The nose is just wonderful. But the delivery is a little bitter. It's still a strong buy.


SMWS 27.109, Guns on the grouse moor, Springbank, 16 years old, 58.3% A⊕

31st May 1998, Refill sherry gorda, 738 bottles.

20150603_190927Nose - Immediately sexy. Mid-range heavy, dry, nutty sherry and Springbank engine oil. None of the over-nutty dryness of the 27.107 though, plenty of sweetness from (yet more) raspberry jam filled fried doughnuts, caught caramel, dark marmalade and good level of sulphur. Incredible on the nose.

Body - Wow. Intense nutty sherry but balanced perfectly against massive character, red wine and stuffed vine leaves. Salty and slow baked ham hock. Complex and winey. Balanced.

Finish - The nuts and wine comes in waves. Lingering cabbagey sulphur takes the edge of the perfection but I would expect this to sort itself with some time and air.

BUY - it's a real shame about that sulphur in the finish (in the nose it's perfect) but I'm confident it'll open up. This is an epic whisky, it's put a real smile on my face.

SMWS 29.161, A bodega is burning, Laphroaig, 14 years old, 60.4% A⊕+

14th April 2000, refill sherry, 494 bottles.  This will be popular, fortunately there’s loads of it.

20150603_192808Nose - Intense and wonderful. Ripe toasted peat, bandages and germolene and toast and butter. The wine is perfect in here. It's like the intense TWE signatory Laph 15 but a bit less intense. Wonderful.

Body - Doesn't disappoint. Big hitting Laphroaig, sherry and TCP. Numbing peat, vinegary and ashen. Fabulous.

Finish - Long, balanced, beautiful. Intensely peated, long burnt barley and burnt sulphur.

Wonderful stuff, again. Society Laphroaigs can do no wrong at the moment. Make no mistake though, this is robust.


SMWS 53.220, Flirting with Florence Nightingale, Caol Ila, 17 years old, 57.2% A⊕

3rd March 1997, refill  bourbon, 253 bottles.  Good to see Caol Ila back on the menu!  You had me worried for a bit then…

20150603_194328Nose - We should have done this before the Laphraoig (sorry John). Sweet and sour, S&V. Barley and acrylic. Cut cherry, spaghetti bolognaise, permanent marker. Strawberry glaze and vanilla essence. Laundrette. In time, some seriously old Islay comes through.

Body - Rich and ripe - Portuguese vanilla tart. Tobacco and licked new leather.

Finish - Salty. Tannic. Leather belt. Big and brutal but also has a backnote of that old dusty Islay thing - that's what you're left with. This is old beyond its years.

Another interesting whisky, but very drinkable too. Tannic, very drying, but loaded with sweetness. Really divided but definitely works. What a remarkable whisky.


Have a great month!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Cadenheads - June and July

News of yet more big gear in Cadenheads!  We'll be seeing the following in June and then in July, some really interesting Islay casks.


  • Auchentoshan 23 years old, 46.1%
  • Benriach 19 years old, 47.1%
  • Glen Spey 19 years old, 58.5%
  • Glen Garioch 23 years old, 54.4%
  • Glenlivet 42 years old, 40.2%
  • Glenlossie 21 years old, 56.1%
  • Invergordon 24 years old, 51%
  • Littlemill 24 years old, 53.7%
  • Cragganmore 16 years old, 46%
  • Glengoyne 14 years old, 46%
  • Glen Keith 42 years old, 45.8%
  • Mannochmore 37 years old, 49.9%
  • Miltonduff 36 years old, 44.9%
Where is all this ancient whisky coming from?  Can it continue?  It's blowing my mind... start saving kids.

Then in July:

  • Ardbeg 21 years old, 53.2%
  • Bowmore 26 years old, 56.5%
  • Bruichladdich 22 years old, 53.3%

Frankly, that's a ridiculous lineup :)

Friday, 29 May 2015

Some new Tomatin!

I’m a long term fan of Tomatin and it’s because the whisky is so solid.  It’s not flashy (not always anyway, not until it’s over 30), it’s not extreme.  It’s elegant, robust, balanced and it gets you right in the malt centre of your hind-brain.  And the Cu Bocan (lightly peated, NAS) malts are becoming something of a sleeper hit for me.
Great news!  Here’s some new Tomatin!  These two are OB and show (respectively) solid house style and some serious flair.  In the next couple of months we can expect some more – another Tomatin and the third cask variation in the Cu Bocan series.

Tomatin Cask Strength Edition A+
tomatin-cask-strength-57-point-5-percent-whiskyNose - Bright, sweet fruit. Sour oak. A dark, meaty backnote (charred pork crackling). Dusty mineral and pepper. Classic young Tomatin with something a little more interesting on top. With water, the sourness recedes, bringing out more sweetshop - tiny, brightly colour boiled sweets and refreshers.
Body - Sweet, sharp and waxy - quite hot actually. Kumquat? Great engine notes. I'd swear this has some small element of peat in it. Numbing, oily oak. With water, more structural peat, cigarette tobacco and lovely wax. Much more balanced with water - hey they should let this down with a bit before they bottle it! Beautiful juicy fruit balanced by engine block and a touch of sulphur.
Finish - Long, balanced, juicy and glazed. With water, quite tannic, compelling.
What's not good about it - Not the world's best integrated whisky. Neat, the nose is a bit sour and young at first but give it time. The delivery is slightly awkward - spiced and sweet out of kilter. But this all tones down with a bit of patience. Tomatins often take a while to open up anyway.
What's good about it - Fruit and tobacco, wood and wax. Juicy and compelling with a lovely, structured, tannic finish fizzing with fruit and cask. It's a cracker.

Tomatin Cu Bocan, Virgin Oak A⊕
tomatin-cu-bocan-virgin-oak-whiskyNose - Deeply sweet, tropical wood, cherry tobacco and citronella. Pineapple, BBQed pork and bamboo skewers. Summer perfume. Very much like a night on the beach. Beautiful and evocative.
Body - BBQ competitions (that's mainly pork fat, paprika, smoke, salt and apple juice), tobacco (leaf and smoking), fruit (more pineapple, some toffee apple) and honey.
Finish - Very long, sweet, with dusty pepper and lots of structural tannins and sulphur again. A small, retronasal, flowering of peat. Just a touch of youth in the cereal in the finish, a small flaw in the decadence.
What's not good about it - bah - very little, except some youth. Lovely stuff.
What's good about it - Slightly weird and funky - tropical and Asian - as well as being great Scotch and doing the Tomatin thing of being understated, but unputdownable and excellent. I love it.  Buying a bottle of this.

Thanks to Tomatin for the samples!

Apologies for the continued dodgy formatting, looks like the loss of Windows Live Writer to may be permanent :(