Another interesting, complicated and intense outturn! Much like the whisky itself. A Glen Ord (eh?), an intensely sherried Bowmore, an officially-in-the-outturn (this time) Port Charlotte, and another flipping Rosebank. Not to mention the world’s first ever (I think) 19 year old Arran. Did you know that Arran hold the record for the longest unbroken run of non-rejection by the SMWS tasting panel? (three years)
I even forgot to taste the Inchmurrin, and tried to stay clear of the Caol Ila for adding to my massive pile of unopened Caol Ila. I’ll come back for it though, looks pretty good…
SMWS 35.117, Glen Moray, Cock-a-hoop with happiness, 17 years old, 54.6% A+
17th December 1996, First fill designer barrel, 185 bottles.
Nose - Shiny boiled sweets, dried strawberries and vanilla cake, liquorice torpedoes. Underneath this and some ozone it's deeply sweet with raspberry cream and quite herbal - privet hedge and summer forest. With water, more rounded - pancakes and maple syrup, liquorice and musky wood, and the wet sponge fingers at the bottom of a trifle. A really lovely nose with water.
Body - Very sweet - and surprisingly astringent with lots of spice and that Indian end-of-meal stuff (Mukhwas). Interesting and quite complex. With water, even more astringency, a little too much perhaps.
Finish - Quite long, lots of wood sour, lots of wood all over actually, good oils and lingering cakey sweetness. Interesting and complex but not too balanced.
SMWS 25.68, Rosebank, Vichy kisses, 23 years old, 57.8% A-
14th November 1990, Refill bourbon, 214 bottles.
Nose - Sour pear, crushed rocks, flapjack, warm candlewax, steak sauce, very metallic - copper coins. Complex, austere, rich and interesting. With water, warmer toffee notes manage to fight through the metallic edges, and the age and wood starts to come through better, but this is a troubled dram.
Body - Very spicy, musty, hot wood and more metal. Sweet toffee apple and hot sauce. With water, the lack of integration comes through more.
Finish - Long, good toffee, grapefruit bitterness and sour wood. Ultimately a bit weird and unbalanced, but with hints of greatness.
SMWS 77.36, Glen Ord, Easy peasy lemon squeezy, 13 years old, 59.3% A+
3rd April 2001, Refill bourbon, 267 bottles.
Nose - Pure lemon curd, waxy and buttery. Lemon sherbet, floor polish and key lime pie (including buttery golden brown pastry). More privet hedge, cashew nuts and proper mint sauce (mint leaves, granulated sugar and vinegar).
Body - Intensely sweet, quite hot again, lots of wood oils. With water, much richer and waxier.
Finish - Medium, hot and quite grainy. With water, oilier, some more warmer citrus (orange), quite juicy actually and quite mouth coating. Lots of tannins.
A very interesting, young and (initially) quite harsh dram, but confident and takes water really well. One of those good, young, intense SMWS bottlings.
SMWS 121.77, Arran, Dunnage warehouse orange boxes, 19 years old, 53.4% A⊕
As far as I’m aware, this is the first ever commercially available 19 year old Arran.
15th November 1995 (first spirit run from the stills was 14:29 on 29th June 1995, so we could be seeing a 20 year old this year), refill bourbon hogshead, 276 bottles.
Nose - Ripe, outrageous peach and marzipan, hazelnut, Seville orange, oily and quite lively and dusty. A touch of swimming pool and some dry black tea. Complex, rich, bright but substantial. With water, almost grapefruity, with a touch of ammonia. Very oily toffee still though.
Body - Orange oils, complex wood, good toffee and nutty, dry sherry. With water, quite dusty, with acrylic notes.
Finish - A surprising dry note at the tip of the tongue, with a really bright orange sweetness.
A very interesting and quite a delicious dram. Not quite the wall to wall excellence I was hoping for the first ever 19yo Arran but very good nonetheless.
BUY (for historical reasons if nothing else)
SMWS G3.8, Caledonian, Eccentric and Exotic, 35 years old, 53.9% B+
28th May 1979, Refill bourbon, 198 bottles.
Nose - Light, floral cigar tobacco, clean blonde wood, earth. Quite fruity - peach and cut red cherry. Stainless steel ruler. Very natural, clean, austere but interesting. A refined and lovely nose, really lovely.
Body - Rather hot, very grainy, quite intense, and frankly not much going on . With water, some more grapefruit and citrus in the delivery, and much better integrated.
Finish - Quite short, light bitterness at the end. Almost vodka like, quite a disappointment. With water, more bitterness - almost no wood for 35 years in cask. Bah.
SMWS 3.237, Bowmore, ‘Candle taking its last breath’, 17 years old, 57.2% A⊕
25th September 1997, Refill sherry, 537 bottles. Yum…
Nose - Wonderfully intense and meaty. Oily smoked fish, animal feed pellets, pork scratchings, a dusty top note of refreshers... Also, old car (petrol, oil and leather… and dirty metal), dates, men's cologne, and the good sherried Islay thing - lacquered wood, walnut and leather, and good, balanced sulphur notes. A really lovely, complex and intense nose. With water, soft, sweet toffee and fruit, and beautiful sulphur.
Body - Massively intense and sweet, with fizzers and loads of wood. It's actually a bit far with the sweet shop, cloying - not that it doesn't work - but it's so (unexpectedly) intense and uncharacteristic for Bowmore. With water, much more gentle and approachable, seriously delicious. You can even see the parmas starting to come in for 18 years old (you can set your clock by it).
Finish - Quite metallic, again. Long, tannic and bitter with long, musky, waxy toffee. Water brings out some subtle sweet shop elements on the finish.
SMWS 4.202, Highland Park, Salt and pepper, 27 years old, 45.1% A⊕
8th December 1986, Refill bourbon, 261 bottles.
Nose - Mmm…. Warm wax, dark red fruit, recently painted window sills, quite salty but still very warm. A shed at the bottom of the garden, with old window putty and some thinners, old leather gardening gloves with dusty earth and lovely wax. Doesn't disappoint. With water, redder still, with Victoria plum jam.
Body - Lovely sweet, complex HP arrival with structure and complexity. Oils, deep, high quality wood, ripe pear and tannic tea. With water, more sulphur and wood sour.
Finish - Long, savoury, almost sherried, with touch a touch of sulphur. Water brings much more tannins and toast. Lovely, waxy tropical burps though.
Good complexity and balance, with a classic 30yo HP feel. Lacks some integration though.
BUY if you’re looking for a way of getting some of that 30yo HP goodness at a good price point, but there have been better, younger HPs recently.
SMWS 127.42, Port Charlotte, Peat freak heaven, 12 years old, 63% A⊕
21st June 2002, Refill bourbon, 127 bottles (I will be surprised if much of this makes it onto the website or lasts more than a few seconds).
Nose - Really sweet and incredibly medicinal - I can't think of a more bandagey whisky! Sauna wood, gloss paint, surgical spirit, and intense summer flowers (I'm no good on flowers so I can't say which). The peat is right the way into TCP, it's incredibly medicinal, but backed by warm, sweet PC cereal. Massive. With water - warmer, sweeter, more fruit juice.
Body - Bright, intense, but balanced, sweet and ripe. Liquorice, dusty fizzers. With water, brighter fruit (cherry, orange) and some grapefruit.
Finish - Long, beautiful, balanced and ripe. Sherry levels of sweetness, lots of Islay, lingering hospital. Water brings wax and Asian wood. Just lovely.
Another very special 12 year old PC.
And finally, one for the road. A very old bottle from uber-member Chris Davies’ 60th. I wasn’t at the party but Chris very generously left the rest of the bottle behind the bar and I was lucky enough to get a taste. Thanks Chris!
SMWS 43.14, Port Ellen, Endless hospital corridors, 13 years old, 58.8% A⊕+
March 1984-October 1996
Nose - Bright clean and fruity, silly putty, flaked gloss paint, bandages and Germolene. Lots of white flowers, very brightly floral on top of grapefruit juice peat, vanilla ice cream and sparklers. It's much more open and white than I was expecting, and certainly younger and more swaggering than any other Port Ellen I've had (although those had had a lot longer in cask). Really lovely on the nose - warm, waxy, bright, complex and aggressive, with that rich, satisfying peat that defines Islay. With water, grapefruit, apple, more wax and the hospital notes really start to come through. I'd pick this up in a shot, if I was writing this nearly 20 years ago.
Body - Bright, rich, intense wood and beautiful sweetness. Green apple boiled sweets, devilled whitebait and very peppery. Absolutely nails the balance between intense peat and sweetness. With water, the delivery is simply beautiful - so sweet, structured, dusty Islay and waxy wood. Amazing.
Finish - Extremely sweet, quite young and very intense. Very long. Dusty, ripe toffee peat, lemon sherbet, love hearts and wet sawdust. With water, possibly even longer, what a fabulous whisky.