Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Glenallachie Old Particular, 22 years old

Glenallachie is an obscure malt distilllery which produces large quantities of liquid for Chivas blends.

This distillery was a new one on me. Douglas Laing have an in stock, Old Particular of a weird distillery, so I thought I'd give it a pop.  Question is with these "for mass blending" malts, how much do they care?

Glenallachie Old Particular, 22 years old, 51.1% B⊕

February 1992, Cask #10422, Refill barrel, 181 bottles.

glenallachie-22-year-old-1992-cask-10422-old-particular-douglas-laing-whisky (1)Nose - Roses. Posh hand soap, strawberry laces, fried, icing sugar dipped batter and love hearts. Really girly, and very attractive, with shiny red fruit and blonde wood.

Body - Much spicier than anticipated and much more masculine. Spritely, sappy and slightly bitter, but malty and competent. With water, weaker but better integrated.

Finish - Kind of short and uneventful. No flaws, just short.

What's not good about it - Unexciting delivery. Extremely restrained, almost like white wine.

What's good about it - Delicate, feminine and enticing nose.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Wemyss March 2015 outturn

I do enjoy the single cask outturns from Wemyss - it's relaxing to get some single cask gear at 46% sometimes (what's the average at SMWS? 55%?) and some of them are dangerously, unstoppably drinkable.

The March outturn for Wemyss is out, but you need to be quick as they have about 10 bottles of each for the UK it seems. I tried the new Bowmore ("The Rockpool") at Whisky Live London and very much enjoyed it.

Thanks to Wemyss for some samples of the others from this outturn!

Wemyss Aberfeldy 1999-2014, Toffee Tuile, 46% A+

abfwem1999Nose - Old floral toffee, menthol, herbal mint and rosemary. Some pine, foxes glacier fruit and privet hedge. It's a very compelling, sweetly toffeed, floral and balanced nose.

Body - Oddly dry and tannic with lots of tobacco. Slightly peated, perfectly (delicately) so. Perfectly balanced and incredibly drinkable.

Finish - Medium, balanced, dry and oily. Fantastic stuff.

What's not good about it - Very little.

What's good about it - A compellingly sweet, but balanced nose, followed by a very grown up, complex and masculine delivery. I could drink this all night. Buy now!

Wemyss Glenrothes 1993-2014, Kumquat Cluster, 46% A⊕

This is from a sherry butt which produced 730 bottles so should hang around a little longer than the others. I've never met a whisky that shouted Chinese Supermarket as loudly as this!

grswem1993Nose - Absolutely filthy. Hoisin sauce, Asian fruit (presumably kumquat, I need to study these fruits a bit harder), sweetly sour and overripe, almost rotten with a top note of white flowers. And I say all that in the best possible way - this is dirty, sexy whisky, and very challenging.. And very good.

Body - Massive fruit, sulphur and more hoisin - a full Chinese supermarket. Ground black pepper.

Finish - Medium, oily with a touch of spice. Dry but fruity and still naughty. Good stuff.

What's not good about it - Challenging and almost unbearably dirty. What happened with this cask? Something early on which came good after a couple of decades in wood perhaps.

What's good about it - Very complex, fruity, sexy and drinkable. It reminds me of the Lady of the Glen Ben Nevis with the weirdness but has all the DNA of Glenrothes behind it. A remarkable whisky.

Wemyss Mortlach 1995-2014, Stem Ginger Preserve, 46% A⊕+

mtlwem1995Nose - Sweet and dark, polished glass and Drambuie. Much easier going than the last two, with toffee pennies, copper pennies and toasted coconut. Almonds, waxed wood and black cherry. The longer you spend with it the deeper, warmer and more introspective it becomes.

Body - Warm and gentle, waxy and deep, very oily with grapes and sulphur, and a little top note of menthol and mineral. Impressive balance and a really considered delivery.

Finish - Medium, incredibly poised with lemon toffee and a touch of grapefruit juice at the end. Lingering, balancing sulphur and tannins against the warm sugar. Where's the ginger though?

What's not good about it - I can't think of anything.

What's good about it - Complex and warm, changeable and delicious. Fabulous.

Three crackers!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tomatin 21 year old, BBR

Thanks Stumbler, for this.  Twice.  I’m so interested in trying this I got him to send it to me, lost the sample, forgot about it and got him to send it again! I’m enjoying my 6cl, cheers dude.

Tomatin 21 year old, Berry Bros and Rudd, 54.8% A⊕

tomatin-21-year-old-1991-cask-51-berry-brothers-and-rudd-whiskyNose – This is the second funky Tomatin I’ve had this week.  The nose is dark, dank, rich and Asian.  Very un-Tomatin.  Asian fruit, tomato ketchup, black pepper, sulphur, toast and nutella.

Body – Rich, ripe, fruity and dirty.  There’s Tomatin fruit and structure in here now, but buried under musky sulphur and wood.

Finish – Long, intense, vegetal (but perfectly done) and tasty with apple and wethers originals. 


What’s not good about it – Not very Tomatin.

What’s good about it – this is a massive whisky, and it works really well.  The Asian fruit on the nose doesn’t quite dominate the Tomatin fruit on the delivery and the whole thing is complex and perfectly integrated.

Whisky Live London 2015 Report

[EDIT: Incorrectly reported the age spread of standard Compassbox Hedonism]

Whisky Live London seemed busier this year (on the Friday) but with less whisky – no sign of BBR or Glen Garioch, which were highlights for me last year, but some weird and fun stuff like Millet whisky, and some rums filled in the gaps.  Also, it seems I know a lot more whisky folk than I did this time last year, and everywhere I turned there was a friendly face and a hearty handshake.  I had a blast – whisky people are extremely friendly and sometimes quite drunk.


I spent a little while with Malts of Scotland/Highland Laird.  These guys were distributing Malts of Scotland (a German company) in the UK and decided to create their own label.  Everything I tried was interesting, and a bit funky, especially this keenly priced 19yo Tomatin.

Highland Laird Tomatin 19yo, 1994

n – sweet, glazed wood, a little one dimensional.  b – dark and funky with a lot of sulphur for a Tomatin, very interesting.

Highland Laird Springbank 21yo

n – a little astringent, underlying lovely fruit, ripe cooked apple and spice.

b – wow – another weird one! Dusty and joss sticks.  Not unpleasant but not exactly gluggable.  Water brings a lot of spice.

Highland Laird “His Excellency” Ben Nevis, 1970 (45yo), Blended whisky.

20150320_170728This is one of these “last Ben Nevis blended whiskies”.  Apparently malt and grain whisky from Ben Nevis distillery, together in a cask for 45 years.  It looks like fanta and is less revolting than the whisky exchange one (which was just really odd and lactic as I remember).

n – Sweet, gentle and highly perfumed.  Like a girly cocktail.

b – Gentle, slightly funky, lingering bitterness and a little spicy.  Like many VERY OLD whiskies, it’s a bit of a let down, but it’s priced very keenly.

Next up the geniuses at Compassbox and their 15th anniversary edition of Hedonism.  The regular version is whisky around 18-20 years old, 100% first fill.  Hedonism Maximus was 25-32 year old grain whisky.  This new one has a big spread, some very young and very old grain whisky in it.  It’ll be officially released April 15th at about £125 (although it’s already available at some sites).

Compassbox Hedonism Quindecimus

n – Dark, sour, almost winey, ripe pear.

b – Very sweet, great structure, amazing balance, a touch of sulphur.

f – Very long, extremely balanced.

Now Koval, a distillery in Chicago showing some whisky made with Millet in the mash.  The Millet one is 100% millet – even spicier than rye.  The bourbon is 49% millet, 51% corn.

Koval Millet


n – Young, american grain, but sweet and approachable.  Quite soapy but better than expected.

b - Sweet, medicinal,  cough candy.  Balanced, quite weird, but quite good.

f – Long, oily and very good.  Challenging.


Koval Bourbon


n – Also sharp and medicinal, but with an underlying sweet vanilla corn – it lends some maturity to the spirit.

b – The youth comes through a bit more here, but better rounded.  Rather good!

Duncan Taylor Octaves, Bruichladdich 1992

n – sweet, musky, a little ordinary, slightly metallic.  b – Big, dry oloroso hit – nutty, sweet but lacking integraiton.

Mortlach Rare Old


n – Dark, young and cereal dominated.  Metallic, odd seaweed and driftwood.

b – hints of greatness – orchard fruit, bitter tannins, a hint of pine wood.  Good balance but musky.

f = Medium, spicy, some structural peat.


Then some fun at Wemyss (more of them to come in the next post).

Wemyss Velvet Fig

n – Lovely structure, b – Sweet, balanced, works.

Wemyss Bowmore “Sweet Peat Posy”, 1987


n - Sweet, wooded, beautiful parmas

b – Perfect balance of parmas and structure, this is exactly what I want from an older Bowmore.

f – long and beautiful.  Has the perfume and the structure.

This is a big buy.  It’s a lot of money so it’s still hanging around but it’s a fantastic whisky.


Wemyss Bowmore “The Rockpool”, 1995


This is the new Bowmore, just released.

n – Gentle, salty, lots of ozone.

b – Dark, light suplhur, again balanced but much more intense.  This is very much in line with the 1987 but a bit younger and more intense.


Glenfarclas 1980 Family Casks

Bret rocks up, buys a DBTB dram of this and splits it with me and Steve!  Cheers Bret!


n – Oddly meaty, deep and dark.  Beautiful and elegant.

b – Spicy, oily toffee apple.


Glen Moray Elgin Classic

20150320_185145This is the new peated expression from Glen Moray.

n – A little sour, metallic, sour plum.  Good tobacco.. 

b – Lovely, almost wine cask.  Structured peat, bright and numbing.

I also tried the 25yo port cask but my notes just read “Meh”.  Everyone else seemed to be going bonkers for it though.


Finally some others.  Botran rum was great, as was the El Dorado range.  TBWC Ledaig and Bruichladdich batch 2 were good, particularly the laddie.  Then of course it all became a blur… cheers!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Islays from the SMWS March outturn

I didn’t do these in the full March tasting because I’d tried them before and knew I was going to buy them.  So, while it’s still March, I wanted to get these notes out and line things up for a massive set of Islay posts which I’ll be publishing after the April outturn (assuming I can ever finish adding things to them).

What’s interesting (for me) about these two is that they’ll appeal to a really jaded palate.  You wouldn’t start a Bowmore or Caol Ila journey here but if you’re deep into one (which I most certainly am) you might find a lot to love in these two awkward bottlings. 

SMWS 3.239, Bowmore, Acrylic paints and petrichor, 16 years old, 57.6% A+

25th September 1998, refill bourbon, 134 bottles.  [Petrichor definition]

IMG_3397Nose - Oaked honey, light peat, charred driftwood, winkles and beans.  Dried acrylic paint and clay.   With water, everything comes to life with elegant (but lewd) musk, banana foam sweets, leather chair, parmas and ozone.

Body - At first sugary, then very dry shellac and mineral, with a saccharin sweetness.  Unbalanced neat.  With water, unripe pear, parmas, fireworks and sulphur.

Finish - Numbing bitterness, a bit harsh.  Softer and sweeter with water, tobacco, but still bitter.

What's not good about it - Doesn't hang together neat.

What's good about it - Gentle parmas and classy wood beyond its years with water, not overly sweet and very drinkable.  This divides the house somewhat but I really enjoy it.  I'd recommend it for the "had them all" Bowmore fan, for sure.  It's actually one of my favourites of the March outturn.

SMWS 53.222, Caol Ila, The Three Little Pigs, 13 years old, 58.4% A+

7th December 2000, refill bourbon, 284 bottles.  I like to think the 222 looks like the three little pigs tails on the label, but I believe this is a coincidence!

IMG_3399Nose - Ripe pear, sweet peat and wet rope.  Sweet, dusty blackcurrant jam, charred wood, wafer thin ham.  Icing sugar, and a little iron filings.  With water, lemon, sun baked inner tube, apricot jam, a little more metallic. 

Body - Herbal lavender, angelica, sweet peat, toast and honey.  Rosemary, charred oak.  Sweet grapefruit with water, softer with more lemon, and a touch of smoked cheese.

Finish - Long and numbing.  Soda water.   With water, slightly dustier at the end.  Lingering grapefruit seed bitterness and catches you with some chilli heat at the end.

What's not good about it - Overly bitter if you look at it sideways.

What's good about it - A little rare to have an early teens Caol Ila as the monthly 53.  Once you give it a serious amount of water, the fruit comes through, but the Caol Ila intensity is there from the start.  A complex and feisty drammer.

SMWS Edinburgh

My wife took me to Edinburgh to celebrate my birthday, a pilgrimage to the two SMWS venues in Edinburgh. While the London rooms at Greville Street, Farringdon are about the size of a large living room, the operation is a bit bigger in the society's home town. There are two venues, the original rooms in Leith, which I guess you'd call downtown Edinburgh, and the other in the city centre, on Queen Street.

20150207_125943We had lunch on Saturday in "The Vaults" in Leith, so called because the building used to be a site where imported casks of wine was stored and tasted before trading (not because, as you might assume, the next cask of society Bowmore is resting before being bottled). Society casks used to be stored all over the place, at various bonded warehouses and distilleries across Scotland, but recently they've been transferred to a central warehouse in West Scotland. Either way, they're not at The Vaults.

20150207_132733We walked from Edinburgh castle to Leith, via Royal Mile whiskies and a pub. Once you get past John Lewis the trip is along a major road filled with Polish supermarkets, pubs and headshops (selling a good selection of bongs alongside whisky and cigars). The Vaults itself is an imposing, period port warehouse building set among the remains of its peers (converted into offices mainly) and 60s flats and highrises. Inside, the venue is large, imposing, high ceilinged (literally two floors worth), lots of leather, red walls and roaring fires. The room was mainly full of people having lunch rather than drinking whisky, although that's probably not the case in the evening. A display cabinet on one wall houses every *.1 release - 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1 sit next to each other in the first cabinet, and the later *.1s are stacked on top of the cabinet at the back.

We met Crystal Coverdale there, The Vaults bar manager who came to Scotland from Vancouver to "do" whisky a year ago and ordered the society share lunch - a meal for two with two 20cl bottles of previous cask samples, out of which you have a dram each and take the rest home. You get to choose from a large bible of old bottles, one from "tier 1" and one from "tier 3". This was previously set up for four people and four shares, but has been scaled down to two based on customer feedback. As you can imagine, this is all old, lost bottlings from years ago, and the choice was pretty tough - loads of Ardbegs, Springbanks, Caol Ila's I'd never heard of, Macallans, Rosebanks and even 129.1, which I might have gone for if I'd not already tried it (wonderful though it is).

I picked a 29 year old Glenugie and a 7 year old Ardbeg in the end. Lunch was genuinely excellent - who knew the food was so good here? Fish and chips - light, perfectly cooked haddock, brittle beer batter, excellent tartar sauce. Crystal also gave us a couple of bonus drams - the dregs of cask samples of an old Rosebank and a Macallan.

It was a great lunch, a wonderful venue and I was checking out the "for sale" signs on the flats on the way back to Edinburgh.

SMWS 99.11, Glenugie, Tickled by mostera deliciosa, 29 years old, 43.4% A⊕

May 1980, Refill bourbon, 192 bottles.

20150207_133501Nose - Fresh tropical fruit, lots of cereal. With water, golden, shinier toffee, pritt stick, herbal.

Body - Quite spicy, lots of wood, light peat, a little musty, floral.

Finish - Very long, oily, orange juice, pepper, lacquered wood.

SMWS 25.52, Rosebank, Fresh and juicy collides with spicy heat, 18 years old, 53% A+

July 1991, Refill bourbon, 216 bottles.

20150207_140410Nose - Rich, ripe cereal and toffee, ripe pear and pear drops. Then ripe green apples, toast and rainbow drops. Marshmallows. With water, very herbal.

Body - Sharp and spicy, black pepper, lots of wood and dried chilli.

Finish - Long, fizzy, chilli hot, almost cinammon.

SMWS 24.108, Macallan, Ferarri screech, 13 years old, 57.9% B+

June 1996, Sherry butt, 556 bottles.

20150207_140416Nose - This end of a 500ml sample bottle is over the hill and it shows most on the nose. Damp cardboard, cooked rice, light red wine cask - old.

Body - Spicy red wine, bitter tannins, sweet fruit and Sichuan peppercorns, lovely delivery in the end.

Finish - Very long, sweet red fruits, Japanese plums.

SMWS 33.83, Ardbeg, "Oh, for the joys of a long winter night", 7 years old, 60.2% A⊕

2002, Refill bourbon, 231 bottles.

20150207_133507Nose - Sweet, beeswaxed wood, ripe, medicinal with salt and vinegar crisps. 70s bandage, germolene, midget gems and fresh barley.

Body - Acrylic paint and turps, garden twine, balanced by intense sweetness. Extremely drinkable.

Finish - Long, hot and sour, intensely peated, tannic and beautifully bright. Very good.

In the evening, we went to Queen Street for dinner. Queen Street is full of upmarket, Edwardian townhouses, and the venue is a converted house centred round a grand, central spiral staircase with rooms off it on each floor. While waiting for dinner, we chatted to Angus behind the bar, who took me on a tour of the many bottles that don't appear on outturns and happened to be behind the bar that day, many of which I tried. Dinner was excellent again, but more importantly, here's some of the whisky I tried (I didn't take notes, we were out for dinner!)

53.201- Caol Ila, True love on a pebble beach (extremely good, can't believe out of all the Caol Ila I've bought recently I didn't pick this up!)

53.219 - Caol Ila, Confident high-wire artist (A jobbing society 53)

59.52 - Teaninich 30yo, Tasty melange of exotic fruit (good)

3.230 - Bowmore, Sports day - 26yo parma monster, beautiful, and not in any outturn. Had to pick this up, happy birthday to me.

3.218, Bowmore, Opening the bonnet of a classic car - 13yo and also outturn-less. Nothing to write home about though.

1.185, Glenfarclas, Russian, Jamaican, Turkish, Thai. A big 30 year old refill bourbon Glenfarclas, again no outturn. Very good but too rich for me at £170+

85.26, Glen Elgin, Fragrant perfumes and deeper resonances. A 28 year old, overlooked Glen Elgin which was so good I had to hunt one down. From an old outturn.


Edinburgh is a fantastic city - we did the gallery and nearly did the castle, walked a lot and had some nice pints, and stayed in an amazing hotel. And two society rooms really is ridiculously indulgent. We'll be back.

Monday, 16 March 2015

SMWS Old and Dignified tasting

Last call for the SMWS Old and Dignified tasting!  I’ll be on it virtually, really interested to see what’s in it! I understand the SMWS Vaults have been particularly generous with the whisky for the tasting.  The mind boggles…

503601-250You can buy tickets here http://battleforbailey.brownpapertickets.com/ – the money goes towards cancer treatment for a 15 year old girl.  If you can’t make it physically in Edinburgh on March 25th,you can donate directly online at the link above, and follow the tweet tasting at #BattleForBailey.

Looking forward to it – cheers!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Glenmorangie–the Unseen Bar popup

Last night I visited the Glenmorangie unseen bar, a popup bar in Soho (15, Bateman Street, W1D 3AQ) which runs until Sunday (March 15).  The theme is “the unseen lengths we go to to make the whisky”.

I learned a little about some of Glenmorangie’s whiskies – Signet is made with chocolate malt in the wash!  And had a particularly good old fashioned with caraway.  If you fancy it,  you can pick up a dram of some seriously old Glenmorangies including the 1963 – read more here http://glenmorangie.com/en/unseen/issue-1/the-glenmorangie-unseen-bar.

Glenmorangie have the highest stills in Scotland, 5.14m, exactly the height of every giraffe.  The place is therefore full of plastic giraffes.


The Original 10 year old, a blend of first fill and second fill ex-bourbon casks (American oak from the Ozark mountains).  This tight grained wood makes for a light, tight whisky.  Glenmorangie casks are only ever filled twice.

We then had the Signet.  This expensive expression contains whisky that was made with the mash containing 30% (!) chocolate malt, some designer casks (these have even tighter grain as they are from that same side of the forest as the Glen Moray designer casks that SMWS have), and some 1970s Glenmorangie in the blend.


Cocktails are a big part of the bar, this was the Tain Fashioned.  Excellent.


Then deeper into the room, there were the older whiskies on display and we tried a couple at the cheaper end!


The 18 year old, at 43%.  Light, elegant nose, some wax and pineapple, ripe pear.  Restrained, quite dry on delivery.

The 25 year old, finished in Burgundy casks.  Darker, sweeter, and a good wine finish.  Balanced, polite and clean.

They didn’t let me try the 1978 Pride!


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Springbank 12 year old, Port Finish, Cadenheads

EDIT: Please note that this is a Springbank distillery bottling, not a Cadenheads bottling as originally thought!

EDIT 2: More bottle details now in from Springbank; single cask, UK only, 680 bottles

You’ve got to love Cadenheads.  Some of the biggest, most interesting whiskies coming from independents and hooked right into Springbank.  There’s been some real gems recently - that Benromach 38, the Caol Ila 30 year old (review soon), Bruichladdich 35yo, loads of interesting rums.  I could spend hours in there – look anywhere in the shop and there’s something interesting with their label on. 

This Springbank is still sitting in a (refill, I think) port cask and should be bottled the week after Easter, landing in the shop late April, early May.  It’s a lovely, atypically feminine and elegant whisky that retains that Springbank “thing”, a bit like the Green does.  It should take on a bit more cask over the next few weeks.  My pre-order is made!

Springbank 12 year old, 2003, refill port (?) 58.4% (cask sample) 

Official Springbank bottling, single cask, UK only, 680 bottles.

20150306_123440Nose - Clean, clear, juicy and fresh (but very light) port. Lightly peated barley. A touch of engine oil, fresh barley, some plum, a little stainless steel, some dunnage. Altogether very clean, restrained. With water, brighter fruit, almost citrus, and quite feminine. Lovely and elegant.

Body - Juicy, spicy, very Springbank, a touch of heat, some fennel and ginger. With water, just lovely, fresh and grapefruity.

Finish - Long and oily, sweet, quite hard oak.

There’s some great things coming soon too.  The London shop’s 20th anniversary is May 5th, and there will be a special bottling of Caol Ila 31 year old. They’re choosing between a refill and a fresh fill bourbon barrel.  Probably going for the fresh fill.  This will be the first time I’ve heard of a Caol Ila 31 years full term in first fill bourbon!

Other interesting Cadenhead labelled bottles coming soon:

Glentauchers 38 year old authentic collection 1976 (apparently amazing)

25 year old Tomatin – apparently very rich ,very fruity, orange whip.

Some amazing Glen Grants - small batch 19yo, 21 and 24 authentic.

Dailuaine 17yo in a Lafite cask.

Longrow, refill bourbon - 12yo

Laphroaig, refill bourbon (?) - 16yo

Arran - 18yo

“A small Australian distillery” 18yo, wine cask

Glenlivet 18yo, cask strength, bourbon cask

Ledaig, 21 yo

22yo Cooley peated

And 2 single grains.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

SMWS March Outturn

The outrageous spectacle of November seems a long time ago, and the Japanese bloodbath in December a distant memory.  I’m ready for more.  Laphroaig, you say?

SMWS 5.44, Auchentoshan, Fizzling, sizzling lip-smackingness, 14 years old, 59.1% A-

October 11 2000, Refill hogshead, 170 bottles.

20150303_161749Nose - Lovely wood, balanced sweetness, floral lemon curd, plasticene and dandelion. Really interesting, structured and summery. Society Auchentoshan is either beautiful or bland on the nose, and this is beautiful. More musky wood with water, and lovely sweet citrus.

Body - Very spicy, pickled chilli lemon, salt and vinegar crisps. Quite swimming-pool on the nose neat, quite harsh sadly. Water doesn't help much, just a bit more bitter.

Finish - Long, one dimensionally wooded. A little disappointing - quite a shame.


SMWS 55.24, Royal Brackla, Cherry pie moonshine, 20 years old, 52.7% A⊕

February 21 1994, 2nd fill hogshead, 189 bottles.

20150303_170820Nose - An immediately compelling nose. Sweet, slight sour sherry, slightly burnt toffee apple, fragrant wood and pleasingly earthy. Cherry, and finally with water, almond tart.

Body - Very sweet, quite spicy, suddenly bone dry – Oloroso nuttiness, tannins and a touch of sulphur. Wonderful. Hot pastry and more pronounced sulphur with water.

Finish - Quite short, clean, an echo of burnt brown sugar. Lots of tannins. A carnival with candy floss, burnt hot dogs and a touch of danger.  With water; biscuity and lovely spirit sulphur. A fascinating, well balanced and typically schizophrenic Royal Brackla. Highly recommended.


SMWS 35.127, Glen Moray, Pineapple upside-down cake, 16 years old, 56.6% A⊕

March 13 1998, 1st fill barrel, 222 bottles.

20150303_170838Nose - Fresh ozone but classic SMWS; menthol tobacco, fresh mint leaves, liquorice torpedoes, curry leaves but with a deeply sweet oak edge to it. Waxy and toffee wood now on the nose. With water; gentler (older) oak, almost moss covered, and more warm curry spices.

Body - Richly sweet, loads of tobacco, pineapple and chilli. With water, more bitter and less balanced.

Finish - Long, sweet and heavily wooded. Coconut. Intense and loads of fun. A surprisingly interesting, complex and challenging GM


SMWS 85.30, Glen Elgin, Tropical Exotical, 15 yo, 56.6% A+

October 6 1999, refill hogshead, 321 bottles.

20150303_172000Nose - Almost an artificial tropical nose, like mango squash and fake fur. Really astringent - lime cordial, and flash floor cleaner. There's also a bar soap quality to it, and a rich toffeed wax that needs acknowledging. It's quite synthetic though.  Basically, like the 80s. With a little time though, things start to open up and even out. Brighter and more mineral, almost chalky. Very interesting.

Body - Baby pineapple dipped in chilli and salt in the tropics. Lovely, juicy and very spicy. A touch of gunpowder, and a touch over spiced with water.

Finish - Long and surprisingly tropical right to the end. Pineapple juice and big wood. Pretty epic.

A complex and surprisingly challenging whisky for one so tropically aligned. Not easy drinking but fascinating - I'm not sure how often I'd turn to it though.

BUY but beware.

SMWS 84.16, Glendullan, 'A beaker full of the warm south', 13 years old, 56.6% A⊕

October 4 2001, refill barrel, 184 bottles.  Almost completely clear, even slightly green?

20150303_173802Nose - Very faint, slightly sweet, like "drumstick" chews on a stick. Lemon sherbet, blueberry and appletize. And with considerable digging, there's a slight rich, savoury sweetness with MDF and new flat pack furniture. Pretty Ikea. With time, floral and elegant. With water? slightly bandagey (although no TCP), a little modelling clay and wet, like a disappointing tangerine.

Body - Wow. Amazingly intense given the nose. Fruity - peach and musky apricot stone, and highly mineral, like a fist sized, salty rock at the seaside. Very, very good. With water, more coastal - salty, slight reek of shellfish and ozone, and a deep, insistent sweetness.

Finish - Long, sweet and balanced. Extra strong mints retronasally. With water, extremely salty although not unbalanced.

This is a surprise hit, the initial enormous restraint quickly gives way to lots of complexity, minerality, fruit and flowers. Smashing.


SMWS 4.203, Highland Park, Romantic tales, songs and whispers, 15 years old, 55.8% A

October 15 1999, 1st fill barrel, 202 bottles.

20150303_180237Nose - Wood varnish. Marker pens (red), pencil shavings, cut rose stalks, flower stems in water. Liquorice allsorts, astringent like gooseberries, but with loads of red berries. With water, tart tatin.

Body - Extremely sweet, but balanced by that light peat. Deeply toffeed but almost …. Marmalade on slightly burnt toast. Juicier and lovely sulphur with water, beautiful.

Finish - Medium long, lingering wood and more pencils. Apple strudel with raisins and sugar syrup. Complex and almost… mysterious?

Much sweeter and juicier than HP normally is, the peat is very very subtle and structural. Atypical, and excellent.

SMWS 29.159, Laphroaig, Anyone for cricket?, 17yo, 51.7% A⊕+

October 3 1997, refill hogshead, 280 bottles.

20150303_181632Nose - Beautifully, classically Laphroaig. Germolene, bandages, pear, satsumas with a backnote of cereal. Mezcal; massive, bright and mineral. Really summery, and really optimistic. With water, much more musky, dark plums and more smoky. Slightly farmyardy but still bright - hay, but more medicinal - fresher germolene? And ink. An art room - charcoal and oil paints.  Welcome back Laphroaig!

Body - Oh yes - a beautiful, mellow, fruit forward, malt heavy Laphroaig. Slightly metallic, pork scratchings, lots of orange juice. Tobacco. With water, juicier, still very sexy - toe curling and massively delicious.

Finish - Salty, slightly sharp, very long and juicy. Very sweet at the end, with grapefruit and orange, and a lingering, toffeed peat.

This is an epic, unmissable Laphroaig. And very Laphroaig.


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

SMWS 121.60–Arran - Interesting nooks and crannies

Here’s a random thing, well over 100 bottles of 13 year old Arran appearing on the SMWS site at 6pm on a Monday night.  This was in the June 2013 outturn if Google serves me correctly.  Having just opened a bottle of the 19 year old 121.77, it’s interesting to step back to 13 years old and remember how long Arran has been good.. 

SMWS 121.60, Arran, Interesting nooks and crannies, 13 years old, 56.4% A+

September 28 1999, Refill bourbon, 298 bottles.

IMG_3082Nose – Sharp and sour immediately.  Then very appealing with poster paints, new magazine, Milliput, green beans (raw), green grapes and carbon copy paper.   Dusty wood too, almost sandpapered.  Ultimately, a little solvent forward and harsh, although time gives it a bit more of a gentle, nutty edge.  With water, vanilla icing, matchmakers and apricot tart.

Body – Rich, ripe, slightly alien but brightly citrus and bitter, like grapefruit and liquorice root.  I haven’t had a young bitter Arran in ages!  Toffee pennies and a little milk chocolate are in there too, as requested.  Freshly squeezed orange juice with water, with a dash of bitter ruby grapefruit juice.

Finish – Long, lingering warm spices, ginger nuts and candied angelica.  But bright, citrus and numbing too, particularly with water.  And a massive blast of grapefruit tannins.  A hint of spirit sulphur.  Young and striking.

What’s not good about it – Solvent heavy, sour and a little harsh. 

What’s good about it – But pulls that off with confidence.  Complex, interesting and challenging.  Lots of bright, ripe fruit, some chocolate, lots of quality.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Port Dundas 20 year old

This has been around a long time and small pockets of it still existed.  Recently, Alexander and James had it on at a cut down price (£115) but those stocks have now gone.  I’m led to believe that this was an experiment by the staff blenders at Diageo (go wild! see what happens!) which explains the complicated finishing regime (three years in refill bourbon, then equal thirds “finished” for 17 years in American oak sherry casks, new charred European oak and first fill American oak bourbon casks), and the complexity of the finished whisky.  It was also the first grain whisky in the Diageo special releases. 

Port Dundas 20 year old, Diageo Special Releases 2011, 57.4% A⊕

grain_por7Nose - Sweet, clean clear sherry, juicy red fruit, peaches and old school permanent marker. Rich, bright, sharply wooded with an underlying vanilla current of old Scotch grain and old single cask rum. Slightly lactic? With water, more complex and deeper, richer wood, less grainy in fact. Lots of bright, ripe, Victoria plum and waxed wood, very very nice indeed. Lots of fun to be had here.

Body - Immediately very ripe, old grain. Boiled sweets and earth, some light peat. With water, juicier and fruiter - orange and plum come through – with some chewed pencil.  Lightly spicy, a bit oily, complex and interesting. 

Finish - Lacquered and slightly numbing. Oily and ripe. Water brings out a lovely, light sulphur edge, ripe oak tannins and more oils. Beautiful.

What's not good about it - Lactic notes and frankly, a bit grainy before adding water.

What's good about it - Loads of fun when you start adding water. You could spend happy hours adding small drops and chasing the nose. Very special.