Ruinously expensive or unmissable? Old whisky is both, sometimes. SMWS whisky is unpredictable – sometimes epic, sometimes toe curlingly delicious, sometimes confusingly complex, sometimes just confusing, and a few times a bit of a let down, but never ordinary. The older, I have to say, the more likely they are to be a let down; expectation management and cost.
This pair were the “Old and Dignified” pair from the February 2014 outturn and I was able to arrange a bottle split with a bunch of friends in order to offset the £250 odd it cost to acquire them. The 76 is a Mortlach, a distillery which Diageo just announced its intentions to make unaffordable, so we’re all setting about buying it up and trying it before someone takes it away from us. It’s good. The 35 is a Glen Moray, almost 30 years old and classically presented.
Nose – Immediate authority. Candied peel and dried pineapple, sweet toffee malt and thick, well dried oak staves. Freshly laid plaster and plastic. Lightly spiced, a cigar backing… actually once noticed it’s very intense. All in all, quite an authoritative, dignified and forceful character, and serious delicious on the nose. I didn’t get chocolate for a while, but then on returning I suddenly got the belt of classy, expensive chocolate popcorn and spiced toffee.
Body – Lots of milk chocolate and caramel, lots of chocolate popcorn, then ripe, fruity, floral uplift. Suddenly the nose is all toffee apple with a musky, sandalwood note. Wonderfully intense oak flavours, balancing the deep, chocolate, spiced sweetness.
Finish – Very long, balanced but quite sharp. Beautifully sweet pineapple burps. Lingering cigar tobacco bitterness – by the end, I may as well have been chewing a cigar: love it.
What's not good about it: The whole thing is perhaps a little angular?
What’s good about it: But all the more fascinating for it. I love the long reveal on the chocolate popcorn, balanced by the cigar, wood and tropical elements. Truly fascinating, tempted to get another.
Nose – Immediately: classy, sherried wood, lots of malt, lots of fencing. Dark, old fruity leather. Treated pine fence, ripe pears, mixed dried fruits, a little bit of a real ale brewery tour in the background. At the fore though, is definitely a dark, tropical, classical, dried fruit and leather affair. Extremely elegant, a little restrained perhaps but lots of poise and complexity. And chocolate, of course.
Body – Oily, cream, milk chocolate. A spiced malt backing and a hint of men’s deodorant. Dark, warm spice balances the sweetness. Quite a bit of pepper.
Finish – Very long, balanced and very fine – loads of tobacco and liquorice. Smooth, furniture polish landing, lacquered and with a peppermint edge. Quite a complicated delivery.
What's not good about it: Overall, a bit sappy for me. The nose is enchanting and addictive but the body has too much pepper and wood spice to hang together quite.
What’s good about it: But don’t get me wrong, this is very good whisky. Complexity and leather, spice and fruit on the nose. Creamy, chocolaty delivery.