Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Springbank Forever!

A couple from Cadenheads, a couple from Whisky Broker and one from history.  I’m still in love with Springbank, but none of these beat SMWS’s recent 27.109, Guns on the grouse moor, a whisky I fell so head over heels with – such elegant, dark filth, and it got better and better the longer the bottle was open (and that sulphur went away).  And a real drinker too… it’s definitely upgraded to an A⊕+

Anyway, more Springbank!

Springbank 12 year old, Port Cask, 58.3% A⊕

Originally reviewed as a bottle sample in the Cadenheads shop in London, I've had the finished product a while now. Time for a taste in the comfort of my own home.

springbank-12-year-old-2003-port-pipe-matured-whiskyNose - The initial reaction is still the same - this is so light. Light port, floral and spirity. But I grew to really love the Springbank Green, which was so light… but so correct. My second reaction is also the same - the heavy Springbank spirit shows through. Engines, beef stew, toffee, oak chunks, hand soap, cigar tobacco and metal ruler. The more you nose it, the more authoritative it gets. Water sweetens it up, but brings some bitterness.

Body - There's the port, and there's the Springbank. Icing sugar, sugar work, oily, slightly numbing, a gap….. then the Springbank sulphur that keeps you coming back. Cereal plays a single duff note, but it's very good.

Finish - Lemon zest, orange juice and sherbet. Lots of bitter wood dominates the ending, with citrus left behind.

What's not good about it - Requires a lot of digging. Not really something you can talk over while drinking!

What's good about it - Seriously delicious though, very interesting and ultimately, very Springbank: balance, balls and integrity.

Cadenheads Longrow, 12 years old, Sherry Cask, 53.1% A-

A Cadenheads independently labelled whisky originating from Springbank distillery is always a cause for celebration!

Longrow 12 S-cr-160x240Nose - Deep and dark, demerara sugar and dark sherry - almost rum-like, but a bit inner tubey.

Body - Ripe, fruity, heavily sherried with a sweet sulphur top note backed by dry wine. "Good".

Finish - Sweet fruit, dark sugar, spiked with cabbage notes of over-played sulphur. Incredibly tannic at the end. This was a lot worse with the sulphur, I must say, on opening. Time has done it a world of favours, but it's still there, and the dryness is unbalanced.

What's not good about it - Sulphur. And pretty clumsy.

What's good about it - Big, deep and winey, lovely sweetness and very rich. Spicy tannins balance it out a bit, loads of floral sherry and top deodorant notes. Pretty massive.

Springbank CV, bottled 1997, 46% A⊕

The classic NAS CV from Springbank, bottled nearly 20 years ago.  An auction favourite.

downloadNose - You can see what the fuss was about immediately when you nose this, it's properly complicated and almost unsettling, even though it clearly has some youth. At first, it's deep, a little funky with sulphur and Springbank engine goodness. Then sweet and clear with liquorice torpedoes and cut plum. Very inviting.

Body - Dark, cut black cherry, more liquorice, some tobacco and planed pine planks. A little fizzing spice. Mango. But now oddly closed - boiled sweets and cigarette packets.

Finish - Very long, orange juice and pipe tobacco. Quite a lot of bitterness, but also brighter fruit and toffee notes right through to the end. Some lingering funk.

What's not good about it - A little closed, a little young? But who cares.

What's good about it - A big whisky for a NAS and tons of beautiful Springbank character - sulphur funk, fruit, toffee and lots of fun.

Whisky Broker Springbank 15 years old, Rum barrel, 52.8% A⊕

20150701_133802Nose - Zesty lime, cut green apple, musky deodorant (men's, bright, sweet and spicy), blonde wood. When I first opened the bottle this was pretty workaday but as ever, a couple of months later it's showing its true potential. Bright, refreshing, complex and clean. Lovely stuff.

Body - Deep toffee, spicy and with good Springbank sulphur, loads of oil and character and malted barley. Tobacco and old shelves. Goodness me this is good.

Finish - Long, perhaps a little bitter, with chilli and coffee tones. Very long actually, engines and musky toffee right at the end, and then even, a little winey with Putty Rubber (took a while to dredge that out of the memory banks!).

What's not good about it - Perhaps young, but also very closed on opening the bottle.

What's good about it - The more whisky I drink (the more jaded I become) the more I appreciate Springbank, the more I appreciate 15/16 year old whisky. This pretty much ticks that lot. While (despite the rum cask) this is reassuringly "ordinary", it's almost perfect. That bitter edge is the only fly.

Whisky Broker Springbank 18 years old, Sherry Hogshead, 56.3% A+

20150701_133814Nose - Sweet, balanced, winey, sherried Springbank. Window putty and candle wax, old polished bookshelves and magazines. Big, elegant, less restrained but with less complexity. I do find Springbank becomes more elegant but less compelling between 15 and 18 (personally).  With water, almost SMWS intensity - boiled sweets and waxy wine. Lovely.

Body - A little spice, sweet with sulphur sherry, lots of red wine, quite a lot of heat. Red fruit and tobacco. Much woodier with water, more classical.

Finish - Long and tasty. A lasting tobacco bitterness and again a little one dimensional.

What's not good about it - Lacks complexity.

What's good about it - But does the sherried Springer thing very well. When I first opened both these bottles the 18 was absolutely my favourite and I wondered when I'd get round to finishing the 15, but the tables have turned completely. Both of these whiskies are excellent, quite different, both very Springbank.  It’s taken me a long time to review these last two because the 18 is so “great” but I’m bored of it, and the 15 is so “boring” but I love it.  I think I finally nailed it…

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Cadenheads July Outturn–micro notes!

Lots of big, old whisky at Cadenheads again this month.  The release of the three Islays in July produced the predictable flurry of activity with the (excellent) Ardbeg selling out before it hit the shelves, and the June outturn not lasting long enough to keep the London shop in whisky over the summer – something had to be done!


More casks were bottled, and I snuck a quick chance last night to try them and make some scratch notes.  Not the 4-5 hour mega session it takes to write the SMWS outturn notes but a pointer and initial impressions.

Some great stuff in here - some extremely well executed finishes and sherry casks, and lots of maturity, most of it in the 25+ years bracket.

There’s more coming too this year, in the lead up to cool, planned bottles like the new Longrow Red…

Dufftown 26 years old, 51% – Very sweet, honeyed, tropical, pepper, wax.  Wonderful stuff and probably my favourite.  A⊕+

Tamdhu 25 years old, 53.3% – Grapefruit, spice, pepper, very good cask, wax, but a little harsh for 25.  A

Dalmore 24 years old, 54.9% – Rum cask.  Dark rum intensity, honey comb, lovely wax and orange zest.  A cracker, and very Dalmore too.  A⊕

Glencadam 26 years old, 55.3% – Marzipan!  Ripe and fecund.  More orange zest and juice and a sour finish.  Lovely, very interesting and tropical burps too (always good).  A+

Macduff 26 years old, 51% – Fruity nose, lovely ripe sherry.  A little sulphured, but with a great, dry sherry finish and extremely returnable to.  A+

Clynelish 20 years old, 55.4% – Sherrywood cask.  Beautifully elegant oak and fruit on the nose.  Excellent structure, wood, some spice and not too sherried at all (which was my fear). A⊕

Blair Athol, 26 years old, 48.9% – Sherry cask since 2008.  Wax, fruit and Oloroso.  Just a fabulous body, very well integrated, ripe and beautiful.  A⊕+

Tobermory 20 years old, 57.8% – Sherrywood cask.  Dark sherry nose, richly dark with raisin and chocolate, but still very bright and structured.  Very good indeed.  A⊕

Highland Park 27 years old, 53.3% – Claret cask since May 2008.  Ripe, musty and delicious.  Bright red fruit, quite a lot of spice, and very sweet in the finish with some Vimto.  Delicious and refreshing, good sulphur and a tropical finish.  But not very Highland Park!  Great stuff though.  A⊕+

Bruichladdich 22 years old, 53.3% – Elegant and mature, classic Bruichladdich.  Great structure with orchard fruit and more pepper.  Delicious.  A⊕

Bowmore 26 years old, 56.5% – A particularly perfumed, dusty old Bowmore, with some bitterness that offsets the refreshers.  Deep and important with a very long, fruity, winey finish.  I absolutely adore 26 year old Bowmore! Still in stock at the time of writing.  A⊕

Ardbeg 21 years old 53.2% – Bright pear, apples and cologne.  Melon and funk on the palate.  Big, elegant and brutal – it’s got first day of Spring written all over it.  Fag ash in the empty glass.  Another smasher!

For me the Dufftown and Tobermory are the picks, although if I was feeling more spendy I’d pick up the Blair Athol and the Highland Park too.  Plus all three Islays of course.

Next time in Cadenheads, some more fun looking stuff:

  • 15yo Aberlour 54.3%
  • Another 14yo sherried Glengoyne (58.2%), initially destined for Japan I believe
  • A 26yo Girvan, 57%
  • Two 18 year old Linkwoods that are supposed to be very special (53.5% and 52.3%)
  • A 25 year old Longmorn, 54.6%

That’s about the time of the new Longrow Red and hopefully, perhaps a Calvados Kilkerran…

Monday, 20 July 2015

Three OB Laphroaigs

You wait ages for a new Laphroaig and then three show up at once!

Let's do these in reverse order, I don't want to have the gentlest and best last, and after the 10 year old cask strength!

Laphroaig 25 years old, 2014 edition, 45.1% A⊕+

laphroaig-25-year-old-cask-strength-2014-release-whiskyNose - So gentle and so much fruit juice. Dusty old Islay, as is expected, and gentle, fruity and blendedly balanced, also as expected. An echo of peat - old, fruity and medicinally clean. An echo of the sun-baked coast - ozone, salt and sand. Everything you hoped for.

Body - Arresting. Dusty sweetness, balanced with salt and deep fried corn. Barley sugar, lemon sherbets, old tobacco and almost fetid, but a bit exotic, like kissing a smoker.

Finish - Epic. Very long, poised. Cigarette tobacco, travel sweets, preserved lemon and lots of old, charred oak. A little wet cardboard. Hops and barley. It's a changing, rolling finish that won’t unbalance.

What's not good about it - It's quite dry, quite ashy behind the fruit, but otherwise nothing really. Unless you're not up for complexity. Not exactly a drammer!

What's good about it - This is one of the most obviously beautiful whiskies I've ever tried - elegant and balanced, and delicious. A fantastic nose, interesting and compelling but luxurious and delicious on the delivery and a rollercoaster finish, with no let-up of balance. Expensive but worth it.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015 Edition, 51.5% A⊕

Laphroaig Feis Ile 2015 bottling, 200th anniversary (of the distillery) edition. Fully malted onsite, you just know this is going to rock.

laphroaig-cairdeas-feis-ile-2015-200th-anniversary-whisky-webNose - Deep, sweet and medicinal - germolene and bandages. Dusty Islay, the "nose finish" is fetid, sweet and malty. Lovely and very old-school Laphroaig. With water, dustier, still fetid. Wonderful stuff.

Body - Cherry, wet varnish, oil paints and wood. Crayon and WD40 (apparently you can cook with WD40). Oily, tarry and agave, like a dirty mezcal.

Finish - Juicy, boiled sweets, whitebait and the old, burnt petrol and oil of a small engine kept in a shed (lawnmower, strimmer, whatever). Water lengthens the finish and intensifies it. Really, really drinkable.

What's not good about it - Verging on mezcal, this is quite an intense, astringent and young whisky for one so balanced and compelling.

What's good about it - Old school. If, like me, Laphroaig is what flipped the bit for you with whisky, this'll work for you.

Laphroaig 10 years old, Cask Strength, Batch 007, 56.3% A⊕

They've got some good scalability with that numbering system. It'll be a good millennium before that runs out. I wonder, if there are any humans around then, if we'll still have whisky or Laphroaig and what will it be like? This'd be worth a fortune. Drink up!

laphroaig-10-year-old-cask-strength-batch-007-whisky-webNose - Deep toffee peat, wine cask almost in its intensity and sweetness. Cereal and retronasal stewed carrots. Medicinal (I'm really craving that at the moment, am I just peat blind?), sharp, focussed and balanced. Beautiful, really.

Body - Fizzing, intense, very sweet and wooded Laphroaig. Licked perfume, chewed bandages and malted barley, refreshers.

Finish - Long, orange juice and toast with honey. The intense tip-of-tongue sweetness is balanced by dry, cereal peat.

What's not good about it - If you don't like fetid and heavily peated, the superb balance, Asian fruit and intensity won't save it for you.

What's good about it - Classic, heavily peated and medicinal Laphroaig on the nose, follows through. What a whisky.

Thanks Jon for sorting out shares in those three.  Let’s round things out with one of the many SMWS Laphroaigs we’ve had show up since the sale of the society.

SMWS 29.164, Laphroaig, A ballerina at the barbecue, 17 years old, 49.2% B

3rd October 1997, refill bourbon, 261 bottles.

Thanks to Chris for a share in this.  This was supposed to be in the May outturn but got swapped out with the 29.162.  Murky and almost completely colourless, this is a weird one.

11749265_1086159221411753_1132834565_nNose - Sweet and sour, musky and with a real BBQ pork thing going on - pig candy. Lots of cereal and very sweet. For some reason I'm thinking of Laphroaig Select. With water, oaked chardonnay behind that peat and a lot more interesting - swiney still.

Body - Sweet, simple. Apple sauce, peat. Icing sugar and licked jossticks. A little more vanilla with water.

Finish - One dimensionally peated. Clean. Quite long though, sweet through to the end.

What's not good about it - This is the most straight laced (and professional) but boring SMWS Laphroaig I've ever tasted.

What's good about it - As a general fan of pork I appreciate the swiney element but that might be a turnoff for you. Overall this is a real disappointment though (but you set your expectations high when you open an SMWS Laphroaig).

Remember – peated whisky is a summer drink!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Garnheath 41 years old - Carn Mor, 1974

This is from a share of a bottle Chris bought (his review here) as the distillery was local to him although it closed in 1986.  Garnheath was the name for the grain whisky produced in some coffey stills in the Moffat distillery, and was used as a cheap grain for blends.  Very old grains are usually interesting as they’re often in tired casks so don’t take too much over the years, and Garnheath is a rare one anyway (I hadn’t heard of it before), so I was very interested to try this.  Thanks Chris!

Carn Mor, Garnheath 1974, 41 years old, 50.8% A⊕

11751081_1084238351603840_103081445_nNose - Big, deep, fruity and very grain. This reminds me massively of the Compass box Hedonism Quindecimus on the nose, with deeply sweet solvent, grape juice, buttered popcorn, wet wood varnish and apple sauce. This is a big, fruity, ancient grain in nose as well as age, with the wood being deep, old, but clean and still a bit meaty. A wonderful nose. With water, fresher, a touch of sandalwood, and just a little rosemary.

Body - Younger, more astringent and sharper with cooking apple and lolly sticks. Mouthfilling oils, seriously drinkable with a hint of mint toffee and menthol tobacco. A little spice but not offputting. Water removes a lot of the intensity on the delivery but the oils are more present. I'd keep it neat.

Finish - The intensity fades quickly but tannins linger - almost red-wine like - at the end with a touch of cough candy, and the full afterglow is very long - almost tobacco like at the end and there's actually some wine notes in it with water. A very long time in cask hasn't unsettled this whisky.

What's not good about it - Given the nose, the sharp delivery and relatively short finish is a little disappointing.

What's good about it - A truly fantastic nose - deep, balanced, but fresh fruit. This is the nose I always want from a grain. And while that delivery is at first surprising, it (so often is the case) quickly becomes compelling and the reason to return for another sip. And this is the other thing I want from a grain - some proper structure and a great cask (it was probably great once, who knows which fill this was).  Now I'm starting to dream of the 41 year old blended whisky this might have become…

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Oc1–Elements of Islay

I’m an enormous fan of the elements range, with some of my favourite ever whiskies in there including the Ar4 – quite a snip, all things considered, at about £100 for 50cl. 

This is the first Elements of Islay Octomore, and big thanks to Stevie P for saving me a sample from the whisky boat he was on at Feis Ile. At £175 for 50cl (£245 a 70cl bottle – 10 quid a glass in your own home) it’s frighteningly bad value for money.

Elements of Islay Oc1, Octomore, 65.4%, C⊕

C⊕ means “faulty but with some really good points” (I don’t deploy that score often)  – and those good points are from the distillery and the cask.  It’s faulty because it’s too peated!

elem_oc1Nose - This smells like Grillstock - boozy, lots of bacon and oak smoke. Briny too, ozone and smoked fish, toast and dill and smoked salmon. Red wine and musk. Agave, chapulinas and churros. Fetid wood. With water, even more fetid and a lot of rubber. This whisky could do with a shower. The empty glass reminds me of a dirty garage forecourt at the end of a very hot summers day. Fascinating as this is to smell, I'm not sure when you'd pour a glass of this to drink.

Body - Marker pen, rotten plums, chocolate and forest floor. Black forest gateau iced with tarmac.

Finish - Long, palate smashing, rotten peat. Wrapped in marzipan.  Finally, pears on the turn.

What's not good about it - A curio. Octomore has officially just jumped the shark for me. Obviously, it's also laughably expensive.

What's good about it - The complexity and competence inherent in the Bruichladdich stills almost battles through the poison pumped into the malt - and the cask was probably pretty interesting. They should refill it to Port Charlotte.

A real "looking" whisky.

Time for a beer!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Girvan Vertical

This was a rather fine tasting laid on by “the Grainfather” Phillip Storry (grain hoover) at SMWS for me and Whisky Cyclist.  I saw this as an introduction to Girvan, a whisky I’ve certainly tried before but not concentrated on much (the odd glass at a whisky festival, a couple of society drams).  

Girvan, New Make spirit 42.6% A+

This comes off the still at some outrageous percentage (94%), which our host apparently tried at the Whisky Show one year and enjoyed (“full of fruity flavours like the peach, orange juice and apple skins, but the alcohol masked the flavours a little”).  Sadly they let it down a bit before putting it in these tasting packs!

20150416_173942Nose - Sweet cereal and green apple skin. Wheat (dry grass), hot baked grass and light peach stone. Bubblegum (hubba bubba, before you start chewing it). Bread. Loads going on the nose for a "neutral grain spirit".

Body - Light, perfumed, sweet but grapey, white winey – grappa-like with more grass and white grapes. Beautifully clean, with a note of cheap orange squash. Incredible for a new make, they should bottle and sell this!

Finish - A touch of spice, surprisingly long finish for an unaged spirit, cinnamon and prickly like carbonation would bring.

Girvan, Apps No. 4, 42% A+

Apps No. 4 refers to the number 4 apparatus – an unimaginative name for the fourth still at Girvan (although only three remain).  This is an official NAS Girvan expression.  At under £45, this is the best place for your money on official Girvan.  If you were feeling more spendy, the independents will see you right.

20150416_173950Nose - Crème caramel and men, with light cigar tobacco, jelly sweets and new leather belt. A little dusty. Old but fresh, ripe pear.

Body - Sweet and intensely volatile. Remarkably oily with tinned fruit and gat gun.

Finish - Very short, a burst of grapefruit zest, balanced and delicious. This would be a lovely dram to have at the start of a hot summers evening.

Girvan 25 years old, 42% A⊕

Priced to match where officially bottled grain whisky will no doubt soon be, this is an excellent grain whisky.

20150416_174003Nose - Darkly sweet and waxy, not obviously a grain. Pink grapefruit juice, musky, very juicy with an edge of volatiles. This is a fabulous nose that would be well placed on a 25 year old single malt.

Body - Butterscotch and honeycomb. Cadburys milk chocolate. Again very oily but balanced by a wooded dry edge. Some warming spices, bitter chocolate,

Finish - Crunchy bar, a bit short though. Twix at the end.

A competent whisky - well put together with amazing fruit on the nose and chocolate at the finish. Not something I'd drop £250 on though, that comes later.

Girvan 30 year old, 42% A⊕

This was distilled just before Girvan switched from corn to wheat.

20150416_174013Nose - Darker, more deeply toffeed, waxier than the 25. Blood orange, but despite it being instantly more luxurious on the nose, it's more recognisably a grain later. Coffee and chocolate, hot summer foxgloves, classic foam bananas. Spicier on the nose with some time, and a little bit meaty.

Body - Rich, cereal, very grainy retronasally, with lots of corn, some lemon.

Finish - Medium short, quite new makey weirdly. Later, apples and apple skin again. Quite a confused whisky though.

The Whisky Agency, Girvan 1964-2012, 48yo, 49.5% A⊕+

Here’s a crazy whisky.  Sherry cask full term, 487 bottles. Apparently from the first quarter of ‘64 - 2nd or 3rd run at the brand new Girvan distillery at the very latest.  Bottled 2012.

20150416_173914Nose - Dark raisin, a touch of new elastoplast, sweet Christmas spices and sharp with aged vinegar and beautiful oak. Beautiful sherry and very well integrated - underneath there's a really perfect structural wood. This wears it's ancient age so wonderfully - what's right here is the intensity, plus the restraint.  An absolutely wonderful nose.

Body - Orange wood, pomander and incense oil. Spicy, sexy and very Christmassy. Amazing stuff.

Finish - Long, beautifully balanced and fruity. Well poised, but massively wooded. Sandalwood in the empty bottle/glass.  A truly epic whisky, and certainly dram of the night for me.

G7.2, Fascinating and inspiring, 27yo, 60.3% A⊕

28th May 1984, 270 bottles, refill bourbon hogshead.  A little SMWS magic to end the session on.

20150416_173856Nose - Sweet, sweaty and lots of orchard fruit, green apple, pear again but slightly less ripe. Toasty, with a wooded note like a bunch of twigs, and a fresh cut branch too.

Body - Bright, sweet, spicy and a bit sharp and thin. With water, coconut, some petrol and olive, grappa again and very dry and grown up. Seriously interesting and chewy in the immediate mouthfeel. Like most big SMWS grains, it's at first, austere but then very compelling and moreish.

Finish - Oily and sharp. Quite short and stern.

I consider myself properly introduced.  Thanks a million Phil!

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 Appétit, 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.