Saturday, 5 September 2015

SMWS September Outturn

20150904_202418Sorry it’s late!  There’s some big stuff in here, hiding in an outturn that doesn’t look too great on paper.  Also I think I’ve made some peace with Laphroaig (for now).

Lots of funk, incense and dirty whisky in here and some really sweet stuff.  Most things are still available at the time of publishing, if not online, in the bars.  And it’s a big outturn in the end, enjoy!

SMWS 48.61, Concerto zenzero, Balmenach, 13 years old, 63.1% A

7th March 2002, 240 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_165028Nose - Bright, perfumed and quite zesty - green wine gums. A good backing of floral sweetness though, herbal too with cut flower stalks and lemongrass joss sticks. Typical young society stuff, but rather lovely, very sweet and floral.

Body - Clean and clear, big beautiful fruit (apple, pear skin) and young, blonde oak. Some marzipan

Finish - Spicy, very tannic - over perfumed perhaps.

A solid young society dram and quite tannic in the delivery - lovely nose though. A lot softer with water but retains that marzipan and young wood.

SMWS 37.65, Bursting with interest and imaginings, Cragganmore, 29 years old, 46% A⊕+

19th December 1985, 192 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_165056Nose - Deep orange wax, lily petals, soft toffee and a lovely (library) plastic book covering backing to it - it's not just blustering old soft whisky, it's got structure. Marmalade on hot buttered, slightly burnt granary toast. A  gentle and elegant nose. With water, much fresher, juicier, lots of orange - almost fake orange squash.

Body - Deep, rich, buttery, with a wonderful texture and lovely structural sulphur. Just the most gentle, sweetly balanced, drinkable old whisky. With water, fatter and totally delicious.

Finish - Medium, some tannins but perfectly balanced - with water there's a lot more orange and grapefruit zest.

A wonderful, old whisky with perfect balance and structure. Very good, and between this and the Glenfarclas, the pick of the outturn.


SMWS 63.32, Bitter-sweet, eccentric character, Glentauchers, 25 years old, 49.6% A⊕

28th November 1989, 128 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_165107Nose - Ripe stone fruit, copper penny and just a little hint of peat? Waxed, definitely good cask but not giving much up. Quite masculine, in a sweet way. Some Sauternes and Kiwi fruit.

Body - Winey now, sweet, dusky, quite meaty - crackling and pork fat. More Kiwi fruit, very drinkable.

Finish - Long, lots of sweet toffee and sulphur and the return of the copper penny metallic note near the end, finishing on malted barley.

This is a seriously delicious, drinkable whisky - loads of balance and interest, not quite the nose of the 37 or the elegance but very good.


SMWS 35.137, Delightful evocation of the boudoir, Glen Moray, 25 years old A+

25th August 1989, 87 bottles, first fill bourbon.  25 years in first fill!

20150904_165119Nose - Very sweet, overripe fruit (pear?), Victoria sponge with buttercream icing. Too sweet and obvious for me - cloying. Floral now, more Sauternes, more cake, particularly with water - much more interesting with time and water.

Body - More vanilla and buttercream, icing decoration, and plastic like a brand new Action Man (thanks Sam). Sweeter, juicier with water, and a long overdue balancing hand from the cask.

Finish - Long, lots of sweet wine, lots more icing sugar.

This is a very drinkable, delicious drink, but it's barely whisky and it's improbably sweet.  This whisky’s faults are a good illustration of what's so great about the 37.

SMWS 46.32, Summertime and whisky is easy, Glenlossie, 22 years old, 53% A-

16th November 1992, 275 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_165038Nose - Hard and muted. Hard toffee, more toast, malted barley and lots of new make. A very inactive cask. Better with water though, it's bringing out more sugar, some cask, some plum.

Body - Sweet and robust in the delivery, good musk, unripe fruit and just … not much. Much better with water - better made, some sulphur.

Finish - Medium, quite tannic. Drying with water.

It's competent with water but quite boring otherwise.

SMWS 4.210, Whisky Smash, Highland Park, 16 years old, 60% A+

19th April 1999, 228 bottles, first fill bourbon

20150904_174915Nose - Really dark and winey, perfect balance and loads of deep, red depth. And it smells of Dal - starchy, warm spices and cinnamon. But throughout (the whole thing in fact) it has a really sweet backbone that ties is all together.

Body - Big, sour and spicy - quite big peat, and with a real funky, sour back note to it. Seriously delicious though.  Sam says it tastes like a Northern Irish bonfire – burning wet wood crates and traffic cones, effigies of the pope.

Finish - Very dirty - lots of burning rubbish (in a good way), but balanced out by beautiful sweetness. Coffee, but then a big, brutal dirty edge to it. Strange, but absolutely wonderful stuff. Now it's quite cloying? Complex and challenging. Tobacco and more oak with water. 

This is a big, complicated and seriously delicious whisky, but it's a real taster rather than drammer, and quite hard work – you play a dangerous game with dirty sulphur and funky off flavours in whisky but this carries it off well.


SMWS 58.16, Margarita cocktail, Strathisla, 9 years old 59.4% B⊕

30th March 2006, 289 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_174850Nose - Barely there - green apple, hard pear, woolly fruit. Lots of new make. Menthol tobacco? With time it opens up, giving deodorant and a touch of pastry, but it's pretty young and closed.

Body - Now I get the tequila - green, herbal and bitter. Quite soft with a touch of spice. Very interesting, but again, barely whisky.

Finish - Medium, clean. Better with water, like a good new make. Lots of barley.
This is an interesting dram – one for the bar to break up a session- but not one for your collection.

SMWS 121.79, Over the rainbow!, Arran, 15 years old, 54.8% A+

20th April 2000, 146 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_180012Nose - Sweet and nondescript. Another new makey one. PVC, barley sugar, mastic but a musky backing too. It's pretty hard work. With water, quite petrolic and a lot better but with a burnt bread edge.

Body - Sweet, overripe plum, very fruity but I want to say peated. It's musky, dusty and oaky. Much more balanced with water and a tiny bit of sulphur. It definitely grows on you but it's really not very Arran.

Finish - Medium, simple and sweet-tannic. At the end, rye bread and some artificial sweetener.

Remembering the telling off I got from John about distillery expectations - this is a BUY

SMWS 7.119, Lubbly jubbly!, Longmorn, 11 years old, 60.9%  A⊕

26th May 2003, 227 bottles, first fill bourbon

20150904_180056Nose - Bright and hard, but not citrussy - hard acrylic varnish, swimming pool toilets and maybe (going back on the not-citrus) there's some grapefruit zest in here too. Young but confident. After tasting it, the hard toffee comes through a lot more, with richer cereal. With water, lots of cake and more buttercream icing.

Body - Much richer and fruitier than the nose would suggest, plus a lot of rich cask and balancing musk. Fruity coffee. Riper with water, and more balanced.

Finish - Long, spicy and nutty - it took me a good while to dig nutty out of this fruity whisky! Especially with Darren telling me off about Laphroaig the whole time.  Good balance, tannins and sulphur.

This is a hard but confident drammer. I could get behind this. Lovely stuff, although takes a time to get going.


SMWS 55.29, A barley harvest and "fizzy buzz", Royal Brackla, 14 years old, 56.9% A⊕

26th September 2000, 239 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_180029Nose - Barley sugar, and clean, competent but at first… not that interesting. A bit thin. Some second hand cigarette smoke and cut potato. A much better presentation with water, the musky cask is more apparent – light tropical fruit finally, and those fags are now funky and complex.

Body - Sweet, good musk backing, grapefruit flesh and butter sandwiches. Asian fruit and apple danish.

Finish - Oddly cloying, a big chocolate/mars bar belt throughout the finish and very long. But with citrus bitterness and an agave touch.

Another confident, well put together whisky and showing complexity beyond its years, but takes a bit of digging to get going.  Some time with the bottle open would probably improve that anyway.


SMWS 1.194, Attractive, rounded and comforting, Glenfarclas, 16 years old, 60.6% A⊕+

9th April 1999, 211 bottles, first fill bourbon

20150904_180040Nose - Deeply ripe and sweet, balanced and yes, extremely attractive. Beautifully winey, lots of glace cherries, lovely cask wax, but happily backed by some more funk - musky, overripe peach, cat basket. Bloody lovely on the nose.

Body - Ripe, waxy and spicy, but with burnt butter and burnt bread (my first thought was a toasted baked bean sandwhich, which I used to love when I was a student). Wonderful mouthfeel, very ripe. With water, spicier, more wooded, and lovely.

Finish - Long, numbing grapefruit and quite bitter too. Pineapple kubes or burnt apricot jam at the end?

This is a seriously delicious whisky - it's complex, challenging, drinkable, mature and balanced. I can't fault this.


SMWS 3.246, The Curious Apothecary, Bowmore, 16 years old, 57.2% A+

4th May 1999, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon

20150904_194004Nose - Close to heaven after the amount of bourbon sugar and vanilla in this line-up, as usual the peat is a blessed relief. Grilled lemon halves, lemon sherbets. A sandalwood box (I keep my earrings in one), and some fried fish bones. There's a big hint at the sweetness to follow but a lot more complexity on the nose than the body delivers.

Body - Juicy and sweet, an intense blast of tobacco and vanilla. But this is a bit simplistic - very Tempest like.

Finish - Long and cloying. I initially loved Tempest but I've recently come to view it as too sweet. I'm afraid this is a bit, too (although it's defintely better than Tempest). Lots of Mukhwas (after dinner Indian seeds).

This is a big, classic, MUST BUY society Bowmore on the nose, but let down by the delivery - it would have been better in refill.

SMWS 66.73, Midnight feast at pony club camp, Ardmore, 10 years old, 61.1% A⊕

5th October 2004, 268 bottles, 1st fill white wine (from previous Ardmores I would presume Chardonnay but it’s not stated).

20150904_194015Nose - Deep and lovely, and again with the funk! The gentle Ardmore peat is assertively spoken over by some really dirty white wine. Rotten apples, bacon, pancakes, maple syrup and éclairs.

Body - Complex and quite savoury. Pork and apple, wild rice and white wine. An absolutely delicious delivery. With water, it catches at the back of the throat (a bit) in the way that I don't like Ardmores do. But otherwise it's lovely stuff.

Finish - Cloying, artificial sweetener. Long and juicy but a bit brutal.

This is overriden by the white wine cask, but very well. The throat catchy thing is just me with Ardmores.  And I love the funk.


SMWS 29.168, Fade to black, Laphroaig, 15 years old, 51.8% A+

1st July 1999, 281 bottles, refill bourbon.

20150904_194027Nose - I'm a bit torn between causing controversy and not! So I'll just tell it how I see it. It is light, but it's herbal and savoury, some pastry, and actually quite mineral - granite rather than metallic. With time, and after tasting (and water) there's some medicinal notes - dirty bandage, old med kits.

Body - Gentle, good balance between white wine, peat and apple. Carrots? Gooseberry? Lovely (refill) cask.

Finish - Medium, quite dirty, dry peat. Blackberries (bearing in mind they tastes of almost nothing despite being so richly coloured) and stale bandage. I do prefer it to last months though - it's better balanced - but it's still very light, although there's big peat tannins in the finish.


SMWS 53.227, Sweet, salty & smoky, Caol Ila, 18 years old, 56.8% A+

3rd March 1997, 248 bottles, refill bourbon

20150904_194034Nose - Bright, jewelled fruit. The nose is sweet and perfumed, with Sotol and cream, a hint of sour cherries and E45 cream. Expensive (musky) honey and speciality malt (hot and dusty at the start of a brew day in summer).

Body - Beautifully rich, demerara sugar and apple pie. Toppy with bright, sweet peat, and lovely sweet wine.

Finish - Very long, and very sweet, big oak and less dirty than usual.

This is a big, sweet, beautiful Coal Ila. The peat takes a back seat but it's there. Fruity sweet funk works though.



  1. Hi Ben, for the SMWS 29.168, on the SMWS site and on your post it says that it is 16 years old but if you look at the picture of the bottle it says 15 years. Do you know which age is the correct age and why there is a discrepancy between the online info and the bottle label?

    1. The info I had before (and the site) say 16 but I suppose the bottle must be correct - I've updated this post to say 15.
      There was a lot of late bottling going on this month, which is why my post was late, and I think there may have been a few slip ups along the way (some of the percentages on the site don't agree with the bottles, which I've corrected to match the bottles).