Sunday, 30 November 2014

SMWS B3.1–A little box of treasures - Rocktown Bourbon

Someone said it’s been a decade since the last SMWS bourbon, way before my time certainly.  I tried one at Joe’s (final?) leaving drinks at SMWS Greville Street (Heaven Hill, cask 5) and it was seriously good.

December is shaping up to be a blockbuster outturn for both breadth and depth, with lots of Japanese casks, the oldest ever SMWS bottling and a “long lost friend from a closed distillery”… and this new bourbon. On the back of the 50 odd in November it’s been quite an expensive xmas so far!  This is in the December preview – wait until Friday for the full outturn.

SMWS B3.1, A little box of treasures - Rocktown Bourbon, 3 years old, 53.9% A+

15 July 2011, 238 bottles.

B3dT1RHCIAADMZQNose – Sweet vanilla, mineral oak, lilies, seaside rock sweet, driftwood and tobacco.  With water, separates into charred oak, granite and flowers.

Body – Intensely sweet.  Ripe cherries, fresh oak cask, and coconut.  With water, fresh, floral tones come through, it really opens up, with the sweet floral elements balancing out with the wood.  Too much water though, and the youth shows and it becomes bitter.

Finish – Long, long and sweet.  Toffee, a little banana and finally, coconut ice.  With water, some clean oak lingers.

What’s not good about it – Still young.  Lack of integration generally and hard to find the right balance with water. 

What’s good about it – Very complex for a whisky of this type and age, even if that doesn’t quite hang together.  Quite a challenging, perfumed, almost Asian nose in some ways, which really sets it apart from most bourbons.  Very interesting.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Arran Bere Barley, 2nd Edition

“We are one of only a handful of distilleries that use bere barley as it is notoriously difficult to grow,” commented Euan Mitchell, managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers. “However, for those who can persevere, it can produce an outstanding malt, as is the case with this highly-anticipated new release.”

This is the second release of Arran’s malt made with this tough strain of barley. 

Arran Bere Barley, 2nd Edition, 10 years old, 56.2%, A⊕+

arrob.2004v1Nose – Sweet granite, cherry lipsalve, ozone, deeply malty, enormously earthy – like digging in summer soil with your hands.  Cut summer grass, sunshine.  What an inopportune time to release this, and what an absolutely fabulous, sweet and dry nose.  With water, the mineral note becomes even more pronounced, and drops a touch of the soil and – this is going to sound odd – is like a baby’s breath.  Sweet with calpol, unsullied with food between teeth, a little lactic and very clean.

Body – Like gunpowder neat, right up the nose with party poppers, sweet toffee apple and burning wood.  Incredibly Autumnal.  How strange!  With water, more peppery and spicy in the side of the mouth.

Finish – Long, appley and more bonfire night burnt wood and toffee apple.  A lingering, delicious, fiery edge.  It’s a very long finish with water or without and the final notes are of wood – structural, lightly tropical, and very fine.

What’s not good about it – This isn’t a typical Arran by a long stretch.  If this is the effect of the strain of barley, it’s very pronounced.  Do not buy this expecting citrus toffee and other wonderful Arran tones.

What’s good about it – Fascinating, balanced, intense, earthy, seasonal, and cask strength.  This is an epic release that would have passed me by if I hadn’t had the sample.  It’s an instant buy.  Arran are going places.

Thanks to Arran for the sample!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Compassbox–GKS and the Lost Blend

The Lost Blend is the latest signature blend from craft whisky blenders Compassbox, and caused quite a stir at the whisky show this year.  I’ve not covered the Great King Street set yet so this is a good opportunity to hit these, as well as the new blend.

Compassbox Great King Street - The Artist’s Blend, 43% A⊕

A  marriage of delicate Lowland grain and robust, complex Highland malt whiskies.

High quality oak, high proportion of malt and high quality grain.  Natural presentation.  

gks_largeNose - Immediately fabulous.  You have to try very hard to beat the nose on blends and this is a good one.  Dusty warm wax, floral floor polish, bags of ripe peaches, jelly snake sweets, custard tarts with candied lavender, warm, comforting and beautiful.

Body - Dry, then sweetly oaked, floral and just slightly peated.  A faint note of wet cardboard takes the edge off the opulence.

Finish - Long and floral, some apple and spicy oak.  Good oils and lingering balance.

What’s not good about it - The initial delivery doesn’t quite deliver the fruit bomb I was kind of expecting, but that’s more initial expectation management than a flaw.

What’s good about it - What a nose - phenomenal floral wax and fruit at this price point (or any).  The balance is pitched just right (of course) and the overall experience is considered and well delivered.  This is a wonderful blended whisky.

Compassbox Great King Street - Experimental Sherry 00-V4, 43% A⊕

I tried this and the V6 in The Whisky Exchange out of one of those small disposable shot glasses.  They really need to stop using those, it didn’t do this whisky justice at all.

gks_v4_largeNose - A very similar feel to the Artist’s Blend - a touch deeper on the sweetness, a touch more balancing peat on the nose.  Again, lovely wax and fruit, with a hint of jammy dodgers and glace cherry and a tiny bit of something meatier - tomato stew and tomato leaf, with long cooked bay.

Body - Sweet and brightly smokey - a real belt of bacon in here which repeats into the finish.  More cardboard, but overall a richer delivery that the Artist’s.

Finish - Long, sweetly spiced, toffee pennies and toasted sesame bar.  It’s perfectly balanced again.

What’s not good about it - If this is really the sherried one I’m not getting much sherry.  The nose on the artists is more expensively waxed.

What’s good about it - Rich, balanced and quite serious.  A better delivery than the Artist’s.  A good sessioner too, plenty to get involved with here.

Compassbox Great King Street - Experimental Smoke 00-V6, 43% A+

gks_tr06_largeNose - The peat dimension played nicely on top of the V4, with a balanced, rich but gentle cereal backing across the nose.  Sweet seafood, a touch of rope and now some fried raisins (as in pilaf) adding depth.  A sherried Caol Ila in there?

Body - Sweet, gentle peat and icing sugar.  Like a Big Peat turned down a few notches and balanced into a more toffeed, grainy blend.  

Finish - Medium and very Islay.  Straying into bitterness and an uncharacteristic faltering in balance at the end. 

What’s not good about it - The delivery isn’t one thing or the other, it’s overly sweet Islay and that’s good fun but I’m not sure when I’d turn to it.  The finish doesn’t hang together as expertly as its mate’s.

What’s good about it - Love the nose, really captures the sweet Caol Ila thing well while balancing it into something more gentle and considered.  Obviously still a very good blend.

Compassbox Great King Street - Glasgow blend, 43% A⊕

gks_gb_largeNose - The big, deep sweet nose is back with dusty toffee and floor polish to the front, backed off to bitter Islay peat.  Orange juice, dried orange peel, almond, shortbread and fresh marlboro lights tobacco.

Body - More pronounced peat, a little thin on the tip of the tongue but very good retronasal oils, wax and juicy orange with a drying, balancing wack of woody, herbal peat.

Finish - Medium, quite light but then lingering tobacco, peat, wood, wax and raisins.  Some bitterness but balanced with oils and syrup.

What’s not good about it - At a push, the integration isn’t quite there between all these elements.  But splitting hairs.

What’s good about it - Very complex, very interesting, excellent balance.  Most impressive.  The intense nose, light juicy delivery and rich finish is a very moreish combination.

Compassbox The Lost Blend, 46% A⊕

The first single malt blend from Compassbox was Eleuthera.  One of the component malts became unavailable, so the blend was retired.  John Glaser, “whiskymaker” at Compassbox, found a replacement and created this blend containing Clynelish, late teens Allt-a-bhainne and Caol Ila. 

When I was more involved in bands and music I used to be able to listen to any music and be able to dissect it, understand what was involved in producing it.  John Glaser must be the same with blended whisky. 

gks_lb_largeNose - Beautifully waxed, glace cherry, strawberry laces and tropical fruit juice.  Very ripe and deeply sweet, just the merest hint of balancing smoke.  The nose speaks of lots of age, excellent wood and total control of composition and balance.  

Body - Rich, ripe, deeply toffeed and incredibly intense and balanced.  Slightly sour tropical juice with a backbone of peat, apple pips and wet wood.

Finish - Swings between wet wood, peat and tropical fruit juice.  A little on the short side, but balanced throughout.  Lingering Islay peat right at the end.

What’s not good about it - That sour note in the tropical juice on the palate is an off note in an otherwise very well played chord.

What’s good about it - Phenomenal nose of big, old single malt.  Fascinating, intense, ripe and juicy.  Fabulous stuff.

Thanks to Compassbox for the samples!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Glenfiddich Gallery Tasting

This was a press launch I attended on behalf of Tom Thomson – the launch of Glenfiddich Gallery, a luxury bespoke whisky experience site, iPad app and digital experience that (if you’re rich enough) will see you with a completely bespoke bottle of Glenfiddich.  Pick the liquid, pick the packaging, get it shipped to you.


During the launch event we were talked through the tasting of four whiskies, and I sneaked a taste of a fifth from Mark Thomson.  While the report from the event is on Tom’s blog here, I’ve put the tasting notes here on mine.  There are some really interesting whiskies here, a far cry from the ubiquitous bottle of 12, and all were very good.  Lots of warnings about this being cask strength whisky – I can handle it chaps!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve

A new NAS Glenrothes, which launches about now in Taiwan only and should be with us in the UK some time in 2015, which is a shame as I’d definitely recommend this as a xmas dram.  It’s NAS but the casks involved have been specified in the press release (but not on the label).  Here’s the info from the press release:

Vintage Reserve comprises 10 different Vintages from the last three decades: 1989, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

The combination of different Vintages aged in a variety of casks creates a balanced whisky with mature experience and vibrant youth: the most venerable constituent (a full 25 years old) is Vintage 1989, bringing mellow oak and dried fruits; the greatest proportion is Vintage 1998, adding soft, mature, sweet vanilla; the more youthful vintages add exuberance and lemon citrus notes.

It’ll be on sale in Taiwan now and will launch in the UK in the new year at £39.95, and will be available from Berry Bros. and Rudd.

The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve, 40% A+


Nose – I do like mixed decade blends of casks – you get depth and complexity as well as vigour. This has that going on with light waxy wood, very juicy, lots of cereal (quite Mortlach-y in some ways) and zesty musk. Soap, cobblestones and orange juice, some toasty and honey, and some very malty (but not out of balance) new make.

Body – Juicy – lots of orange juice and clementine.  Quite xmassy, even down to the xmas tree pine notes.

Finish – Quite long, a little fizzy, lots of orange zest and some love hearts.


What’s not good about it – Feels young when the bottle’s opened, takes a while to open up.  Give it time.

What’s good about it – An excellent single malt at this price point, and I don’t really care about the NAS thing so long as the whisky works.  Love the orange juice and zest and could drink this all night.  A great one for sipping over the course of a film – not too strong, doesn’t need diluted down and lots to get into while your eyes have something else to do!

Another thing that’s very satisfying about this whisky, of course, is the bottle.  Packaging does make a difference!

Thanks to Glenrothes for the bottle.

Drinks by the dram, Christmas Crackers!

Another excellent xmas concept by Master of Malt, following on from the whisky advent calendar (and then the vodka, two types of gin, tequila, cognac and rum advents), and various xmassy bottles including a mulled wine concentrate. I’ve reviewed a lot of different things in my time (believe it or not I was briefly the PC games reviewer for smutty lads mag Front magazine), this is the first christmas cracker though.  I’ll give it my all though, as it might have whisky in it.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Springbank Sherry 17 years old–January 2015

Here’s the label for this excellent springer arriving in January 2015, which I tried and loved at the whisky show. This is as well as the Springbank Green 12 year old coming out this month and Springbank Green 13 year old coming out in Autumn 2015, reported here.  Good things to come!  Thanks to Neil MacKinnon for this photo from the Glasgow Whisky Festival 2014.

I have finally reviewed the Springbank Green 12 and Red 17 - Green is here, Red is here

sb red

Sunday, 16 November 2014

SMWS 121.74 Arran, A box of Chocs

Another little addition to the big November outturn.  I thought I had the SMWS bottle name capitalisation strategy understood until this one!

It’s been a while since the last SMWS Arran, a run I was buying most of but did skip a few, and it’s been a few months since the last one.  This one was anticipated to be popular and had a 9am Friday posted release time (with most of the others available at some random point on Thursday afternoon).  It’s sold out, come back in stock and sold out again since.  When are we going to start seeing the 17 and 18 year old SMWS Arrans?  Hopefully they’re being held back for the first 25 year old SMWS Arrans or something.

SMWS 121.74, Arran, A box of Chocs, 14 years old, 55.7% A

2 December 1999, refill bourbon hogshead, 315 bottles.

IMG_1332Nose – Sweetly perfumed, like a candle shop – very department store.  Plus some kind of tropical custard tart – pineapple and pastry.  Delicious and typically malty.  With water, the perfume dominates, and the spirit seems younger.

Body – Sweet but intensely wooded, fizzingly so and not so well integrated.  Very malted, chocolatey, and a light touch of sulphur.  With water, more refreshers but a little bit richer with well rounded cask influence.  With quite a lot of water, the sweetness starts to reassert and the whole thing comes together better.

Finish – Medium, lots of wood and malt.  Bitter wood dominates.  Water brings out tropical fruit and icing sugar sweetness. 

What’s not good about it – a little young and raw.  Neat, the experience is verging on the unpleasant in the delivery.  Quite a lot of water is required to show what this whisky is all about.

What’s good about it – quite robust for a young(er) Arran and love the tropical pineapple tones throughout. 

Thanks Stu for the share on this one!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

SMWS 27.107 Springbank, To the manor born

Imagine the excitement at a 16 year old sherried Springbank turning up in the October outturn!  Lots to live up to here, and you’re not in for a totally easy ride.

SMWS 27.107 Springbank, To the manor born, 16 years old, 56% A⊕

31st May 1998, refill sherry gorda, 759 bottles.  This is a lovely copper colour and surprisingly cloudy before water.

27.107Nose – Springbank fans will unanimously be extremely pleased with this nose.  Nut toffee, aged sherry, bright, oily, almost tropical sweetness, passion fruit and dusty, oily engines.  With water, even better – more tropical, more oil, deeply sweet.

Body – Sweet, spicy, beautifully Springbank and then suddenly… dusty and very dry sherry blows away all Springbank beauty leaving you rather crestfallen at first.  But the sulphur that immediately precedes it and the bubblegum sulphur that follows it marks out the complexity and enjoyment that you’ll come to love in due course.   With water… that does smooth out the experience.  The dusty dry sherry arrives later, significantly better integrated with the sweet oil.

Finish – The sweetness returns with echoes of the dusty disappointment and the sulphur heat.  A very long finish ensues with lots of ripe old complexity, ending in balanced, tannic sulphur. 

What’s not good about it – It’s hard not to be let down initially when your nose prepares you for a Springbank 15yo experience and you get dry sherry.  But go with it.  It’s worth it and this definitely works in the end! 

What’s good about it – The nose is Springbank perfection.  Dark, sweet and masculine.  The journey I’ve describe to you through the delivery is extremely moreish, and it’s just expectations that get in the way of initial enjoyment.  Water takes all the sharp corners off the experience, I’d almost recommend skipping trying it neat.

Friday, 14 November 2014

New Springbank releases

Official news from the Springbank Society on the new bottlings I tasted at the Whisky Show!

I have finally reviewed the Springbank Green 12 and Red 17 - Green is here, Red is here

Springbank Green

greenThis is a 12 year old whisky which was made with organic barley, been fully matured in bourbon casks and has been bottled at 46% ABV. There will be 9,000 bottles available for worldwide distribution. The retail price for the
Springbank Green is £60.00

In Autumn 2015, Springbank will release another version of the Springbank Green, again made with organic barley (preview tasting is here). This time however, it will be 13 years old and 100% matured in sherry

Official tasting notes:

Nose: This whisky has a real Springbank nose, earthy, peat with a salty coastal influence.
Palate: The palate is fruity; apricots and peaches are accompanied by buttery, creamy
nutty shortbread. This is a lip licking whisky, oily and chewy.
Finish: The finish is long, smooth and complex with a lingering sweetness and saltiness.

Springbank 25


This has been matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks before being married in port casks for the final few months of maturation. It has been bottled at 46% ABV and is limited to only 1,200 bottles for worldwide distribution. The price of this is £350.00.

Official tasting notes:

Nose: The nose is rich with a peated port influence. It’s redolent of the dunnage
warehouse in which it was matured. Fruity too, but this time berries to the fore:
blackberries, cranberries and strawberries.
Palate: The port wine influence is perfectly balanced with flavours of sherry, plum jam, blood oranges and pink grapefruit.
Finish: The finish is long, soft and elegant, with earthy, peaty and woody qualities.

Spirit of Freedom “The 45”

45“The 45” blend consists of 45 different whiskies from across Scotland. This is being bottled following the Scottish Independence Referendum on September 18th 2014, in support of the 45% of the voting population who said “Yes". This will retail at £25.00 per bottle

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

SMWS November Outturn PART TWO

The “rest of the November outturn” is ridiculous, the largest outturn in SMWS history, making the whole of November come in at about 50 casks.  Whittling that down to 10 to try here wasn’t easy and there were a lot left behind.  Hopefully I’ll get back there soon enough for it to be useful.

Save some money for December though, there’s some big, weird and old whisky coming in a small parcel on December 5th.  God I hope we get out of January ok!

SMWS 5.39, A vibrant promise of spring, Auchentoshan, 15 years old, 58.7% A+

20141111_145959Nose - Quite fresh, malty, dusty, more lemon sherbet, like crushed barley and lemon sweets. With water, slightly cleaner, more citrus fruit, more oak comes through.

Body - Hot, almost plasticky, spicy, real barley sugar. The same heat, less integrated sugar on the palate with water.

Finish - a cough sweet edge, medium, very sweet, slightly lip smacking. Very good but last week's was better (and quite different to this).

SMWS 42.14 Hot water bottle, Ledaig, 9 years old, 60.1% A⊕

20141111_150758Nose - Deep wood and waxy bright cask, with bright tequila and agave top notes. Very sweet, almost tropical backing to this. Absolutely lovely. More relaxed with water, lots of sawdust. Has the character of a far older whisky.

Body - Covornia cough mixture immediately, then very spicy and darkly sweet with loads of wood and some peach. Herbal.

Finish - Medium, a little astringent - quite long and quite a lot of bitterness at the end. A remarkable whisky, quite odd with youthful fire and a lot of old character.


SMWS 35.105 Santa's Christmas stocking, Glen Moray, 17 years old, 55.9% A

Designer cask here means that it’s taken from the Mark Twain forest. The wood is taken from the north edge of the forest trees, which has less sunlight and so grows slower with denser wood.

20141111_151700Nose - Sweet, cake and icing, deeply orange wooded and a little dusty. Quite complex and pretty.

Body - Very sweet, very spicy, good citrus zest - lots of wood with water.

Finish - Quite short, bit one dimensional and sweet shoppy - almost too zesty. Lovely initial delivery and lots of xmassy zest but doesn't hang together on the finish.

SMWS 41.60 Fun to chase, Dailuaine, 25 years old, 49.6% A⊕+

20141111_152516Nose - Deeply almost overripe fruit, mango juice and an edge of pork crackling, fecund and quite outrageous. An edge of sulphur.

Body - Beautiful arrival of flowers, mango, banana and lime juice. Good balanced sulphur and wood, lovely oil. Just a beautiful whisky.

Finish - The intensity is short, but the finish is long, very gentle with mango and lots of waxy wood.


SMWS 30.82 For a moment of intensity, Glenrothes, 24 years old, 49.1% A⊕

20141111_153536Nose - Beautiful sherry but lovely structure. Some UHU glue, some light fruit cake and marzipan, a little wet acrylic paint. Burnt sugar on the nose - like slightly overcooked fruit cake. Very well balanced.

Body - Quite soft sherry delivery immediately, good tannins thereafter.

Finish - Quite long, light sulphur, a finally bitter orange zest. Lots of fruit.

A fabulous, intense nose with everything you want from a sherried whisky - balance, structure and not just fruit and nut bar. But then a slightly disappointing delivery - too soft and a little damp. A shame. Still a great whisky but a lot of money for a bit of a let-down in the delivery.

SMWS 46.26 Killer bee surf wax, Glenlossie, 21 years old, 54.4% A⊕

20141111_154545Nose - Deep, beautifully floral - honeysuckle, peach and wood. Really floral fruit. Good balance and great intensity. With water, slightly more dusty and warming.

Body - Endlessly fruit and peachy, great sulphur balance.

Finish - Long, very fruity, very juicy, amazing intensity. A challenging heat at the end but balanced by the peach juice.


SMWS 4.194 Lip-smacking and mouth-puckering, Highland Park, 18 years old, 53.3% A⊕+

20141111_160208Nose - Balanced. Leather and cigarette tobacco, apple sweets, just a balancing edge on the nose. Wonderfully complex, elegant, restrained but delicious. With water, less intensity and more oily coastal notes. Very good.

Body - Beautifully spicy, juicy toffee and lovely sulphur. Even more balanced with water, seriously delicious and the peat starts to come through.

Finish - Long, drying and balancing wood and toffee. Very special.


SMWS 53.214 Seafood cocktail, Caol Ila, 17 years old, 57.8% A⊕+

20141111_161216Nose - Very sweet initially, then on exhale very dry sea shells and seafood. A grown up, meaty whisky, loads of barley. Smoked ham and dusky fruit. Beautiful. Again.

Body - Rich, very sweet and beautiful fruit. Parma violets, total balance and structural peat. With water, more medicinal and dustier sweets - love hearts.

Finish - Very long, sweet, balanced, sulphurous, drying finish. Another epic 53.


SMWS 3.231 This little piggy went to market…, Bowmore, 24 years old, 53% A⊕

20141111_162817Nose - Sweet, Parma violets and refreshers. Some malt, some earth, quite manly? Light meat and peat, some cola bottles, quite restrained but on intense investigation a really beautiful, elegant character, particularly with a little water. Give it a while to open up. Don't try it straight after a Caol Ila, either.

Body - Parma violets again, quite rich and dusty/meaty. Sweet toffee and balanced sulphur, some pear, a little cake.

Finish - Long, mainly sweet but not cloying, a gentle landing. An almost peatless delivery.

I didn't appreciate this at first, but I ended up not being able to stop drinking it. A good whisky.

SMWS 3.228 A deep, brooding masterpiece, Bowmore, 26 years old, 46% A⊕+

There’s always one, no matter how many times I check, that I forget the photo on! And this is the pick of the bunch too.  This is an venerable, deep and elegant Bowmore.  Worth every penny.

Nose - Bright orange, incredibly fruity, orange juice, floor polish, chewy mints, nut toffee, lightly phenolic. What an incredibly intense, fruity and dynamic nose - bright and deep. With water even fruitier.

Body - Parma violets, massively. Very fresh and fruity. Dusty, spicy peat behind this, and very old coastal wood, like a sub baked groyne.

Finish - Very lightly ashen on the finish, long and parma with plenty of beautifully drying sulphur and a lingering dusty refreshers edge. Tropical. Absolutely epic.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Craigellachie OB Single Malts

Craigellachie is a malt I mainly know through SMWS casks and has just been given a life as a single malt by the producers, Dewars and Sons, who have so far been pouring it into their blends. 

The range includes an odd set of age statement single malts (13, 17, 19 (travel retail only) and 23 years old).  The 23 year old has gained some notoriety as being outrageously expensive in the UK but extremely well received as a whisky.  The ages are all prime numbers – that sets your stall out eh?

Huge thanks for Dewars and Sons for letting me try this lot.

Craigellachie 13 years old, 46% A+

crgob.13yoNose – Sweet and hot doggy.  Some mineral, cereal heat, lightly metallic and like a hot heating element.  Behind this some sweeter, more fecund notes of old flowers, toffee pennies and light coastal peat.  Water knocks out the hot dogs and metal, leaving the more floral sweetness behind.

Body – Sweet, rich, clarty and tannic, with some good wood top notes and some pear.  With water, sour edges come through and the sweetness is less integrated.

Finish – Long, very sweet and a little cloying, drying notes right at the end and some good wood finally appears round the back of the sweetness.

What’s not good about it – lacks balance in the finish, lacks a little integration there too.

What’s good about it – however this is an interesting, complex and intense whisky, and well worth the asking price.  The nose is fine at this price point but the initially delivery is extremely good and leaves you with an overall experience that works well.  Recommended.

Craigellachie 17 years old, 46% A⊕+

crgob.17yoNose – Loads of balanced wax compared to the 13.  The minerality is still there, quite a lot of ozone, and bright pear.  Enormous pastry notes – almond croissants.  None of that peat wisp.  Some damp cardboard, smells expensive.

Body – Sweet, some peat, dark wood and perry.  With water, almost Springbank like with the spirit sulphur coming through and drying out some sherry like sweetness.  Also very drying.  Very good.

Finish – A little heat, quite a long, wooded, intense finish with toffee, oak and apple. Quite musky at the end, balanced sulphur and very complex.

What’s not good about it – Not much unless you’re looking for something gentle, which this isn’t! 

What’s good about it – Intense, dry, tannic, deafeningly sweet and balanced with the wood.  What a blast!  Also recommended.

Craigellachie 23 years old, 46% A⊕+

crgob.23yoNose – More intensely waxed but the peat is back.  Hopefully this is going to be a “best of both worlds” of the two before.  Waxed wood, elegant toffee, some toasted crispbread and toast and honey.  After tasting, wonderfully tropical with pineapple, mango and yoghurt and weirdly, agave and tequila tones.

Body – Rich, oily, meaty (finally!) and ripe.  Lots of wood and well balanced.

Finish – Very long, very oily, drying and elegantly sweet but totally balanced throughout.  This is a big, chewy, meaty, sweet yet balanced whisky.

What’s not good about it – Again, not exactly a first timer’s whisky and reasonably challenging.  The price in (only) the UK.

What’s good about it – Deep, rich, oily, balanced, intense and dirty.  Big fan.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

SMWS November Outturn PART ONE!

That November outturn a week before first Thursday was a surprise to many of us, including some staff of SMWS I think.  It’s puny, at 13, but the good news is it’s a prequel to a total outturn of about 50, released at the end of this week.  It’s going to be epic!

However, there’s these lot to get through first.  Here’s some small notes – definitely some good stuff in here and some strong buys.  Clean and bright?  The 5.  Weird and interesting?  The 35.  Earthy malt with Islay in it’s core?  The 3.  Filthy, overt, beautiful Islay?  The 53.  There’s even a “I can’t believe I could have bought that for only £150” special in here…


SMWS 5.41, Vibrant lively and zingy, Auchentoshan, 13yo, 56.2% A⊕

20141105_154417Nose - lovely sweet, floral and balanced wood structure. Lovely citrus, wax nose very bright - up to cleaning products and lemon wax. Just a lovely fresh, balanced, clean and expressive nose.

Body - Spicy, sugar coated fennel seeds, good wood structure. With water a little harsher but more toffee and structure.

Finish - medium, balanced and clean. Just a wonderful, clean, fresh dram. A little bitter in the finish with water, but love the nose.


SMWS 9.93, Interplay of light and shade, Glen Grant,  17yo, 55.6% A+

20141105_155240Nose - Sweet, sour, structured, earthy, damp wood and sprouting potatoes. But all balanced, works well with the name, very yin and yang dram working together. Lots of toffee and citrus brightness. Refreshers with water, lots of icing sugar sweetness, more lemon toffee.

Body - Bitter sweet, suddenly very floral, a little spice

Finish – Long, very sweet, bitter wood and lemon pith - quite an odd whisky but very balanced and works very well. Excellent but not sure when I'd turn to it. Lovely but troubled.

41.61, Liquid Hedonism, Dailuaine, 33yo, 51.5%  A⊕+

20141105_160803Nose - Deep, ripe fruit, strawberry laces and cherry sweets - maraschino cherries at the bottom of a martini. Totally integrated wood, totally polished and deep. With water - a little less fruit but good wood and balance

Body - Fruit bomb immediately, then balanced wood, then UHU glue and waxed wood. With water, dried tropical fruit and some lovely sulphur. Extremely intense now and loads of toffee.

Finish - Gentle but lingering, elegant. Worth it.


2.90, Flower meadows and patisseries, Glenlivet, 10yo, 60.2% A+

Can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of this – I’ve got 2 of the Bowmore and Caol Ila!

Date Distilled: 25 November 2003 Colour:Angel’s curls in the moonlight Age: 10 years Flavour : Young & spritely Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon barrel Whisky Region: Speyside Spey Outturn: 208 bottles

Nose - Sour and light, then some sulphurous notes and pastry, some copper coins but some very lovely toffee sweetness underneath. Some malted barley. Quite a small whisky but pleasantly formed.  Not the greatest whisky to follow a 33 year old Dailuaine to be fair!

Body - Spicy, good sweetness, rather lovely spice and sulphur actually - a classic intense delivery and a good angular SMWS interpretation of Glenlivet.

Finish - medium, bitterness starts to dominate. Balanced a bit better with the water on the finish and lengthens out the finish, adding fizzing notes and green apple.

SMWS 7.108, Exotic fruit and spices, Longmorn, 10yo, 61.2% A⊕

20141105_161539Nose - Earthy, exotic, warm fruit, warm spices, leatherette, warm cloth, warm toffee a very juicy fruit - orange juice. With water even richer, more fresh pine. It's rather lovely.

Body - Really orange zesty, warm xmas spices, clementines. With water, lovely toffee and sulphur,

Finish - Orange bitter, very zesty and mulled wine. Very long and very xmassy, like the kings ginger. Glorious.


SMWS 35.119, An Alice in Wonderland dram, Glen Moray, 16yo, 57.7% A⊕+

20141105_162336Nose - Intense. Toffee fruit and cooked ground beef. That green hand wash you use in a workshop. Bread, butter and jam. And a classic wax wood sweetness.

Body - More earthy, very intense sweet blasting. A little spirit sulphur, good drying back notes. Toasted bagels and bright glace cherry. What wonderful fruit and structure!

Finish - Very long, great balance and integration, good oiliness. Very Springbank in the delivery. Big fan.



SMWS 3.227 Tasty farmhouse cooking, Bowmore, 16yo, 56.4% A⊕+

20141105_164429Nose - Dark and gentle. Definitely cooking beef stew with braising carrots and onions, some red wine and deep vegetal sweetness. A real gentle structure to balance the gentle sweetness, and only the merest structural note of peat, like a blend might have. Grows and grows on you. With water, more cereal (not new make, I mean fresh malted barley) peat, a touch of sulphur on the nose.

Body - Toasted malt and bright cereal sweetness, lots of rich toffee and lightly sour peat and more beautiful drying sulphur, increasing with water.

Finish - some ashen notes start to come through, last night's burnt logs. Finally, bright and spicy and very Bowmore – you’re left with lingering, beautiful, clear peat. With water, bitterness starts to show through. Yet another awesome Bowmore.


SMWS 53.211 …And it is goodbye to care, Caol Ila, 22yo, 54.8% A⊕+

20141105_162401Nose - Very sweet, sour cheesecake and sour peat. Salt and vinegar crisps, nudging into ammonia, a little restrained, a lot of barley and very grown up.

Body - Massively rich and sweet, unexpectedly so with lovely ripe fruit and perfect peat. Damn! I thought I was going to get away with not buying it this month!

Finish - Long, menthol tobacco, numbing like tobacco on the tongue, lingering deep sweetness. Damn it's beautiful. I didn't get to add water to it because I drank it all!