We* approach the October outturn, appearing as it does right before Xmas and the big November outturn, The Whisky Show and the general excesses of December, wearily and with some trepidation - perhaps even a little fear? It looks like we might get out of this cheaply on paper, but then there’s a 20 year old Laphroaig in at the end, a 17 year old refill sherry Bowmore, and sneaky extras to be discovered at the bar. What can you do?
* I’m talking about me and you, I’m not using the royal “we”.
This tasting was dominated by flowers, coconut, agave, lemon sherbets and big tannins. And some unexpected results - never judge a single cask by its cover!
SMWS 48.64, Balmenach, Clean as a whistle, 11 years old, 57.8% A+
8th March 2004, 1st fill bourbon, 223 bottles
Nose - Clean dunnage; ethanol, barley, hard mineral and hand cream. Flinty and fresh with ozone and a little lemon meringue pie. An excellent opener. Sweeter and more juicy with water, reminiscent of old tiled kitchens (my grandmother’s specifically – I don’t know the names of the cleaning products but central heating wasn’t installed and it was cold and windy), plus more of that excellent clean first fill.
Body - Clean apple and big mouth oils, a persistent and building spice and salty MDF. Fruitier, suddenly with water, and suddenly very agave, like a clean blanco tequila. Delicious.
Finish - Clean and spicy. With water, very tequila.
What a refreshing, delicious whisky - and a fantastic opener to a session. Very clean and quite grain like in its austerity. But it's a great clean spirit and makes a change from big, soft, old fruit bombs and raw cereal / new makey NAS; highly recommended.
SMWS 46.34, Glenlossie, Honey in a sunny garden, 22 years old, 58.9% A⊕
2nd November 1992, refill bourbon, 256 bottles
Nose - Immediately very girly, compared to the tough but still feminine 48 before. Soft, sweet and floral, lots of vanilla (custard and pastry, pineapple upside down cake), but backed by a touch of musk, blonde oak and Sauternes. Lovely but blustery. With water, a little more gown up; the oak and fruit come together better and there's more meat to it.
Body - Soft, sweet, initially quite spicy with refreshers and chewed liquorice root. Deep black liquorice later, sweet and slightly acrid. With water, excellent – well integrated cask, sulphur and floral sweetness.
Finish - Very long and numbing. Chewed petals, liquorice imps, caraway seeds and what I’m guessing chewing tobacco tastes like.
This is slightly over the top but very entertaining, and water really brings it together. A cracking whisky.
SMWS 55.33, Royal Brackla, Dancing, tickling and charming, 17 years old, 56.8% A+
26th September 1997, refill bourbon, 260 bottles
Nose - Austere and flinty again, lightly petrolic with a little bit of newmake. Some plasticine, some petals, some chardonnay. With water, more of that refreshing white wine and floral vanilla fun that's becoming the theme tune to this month's outturn.
Body - Chewy and rich - savoury pastry, milk tart, clean bourbon cask (ripe orange, lemon, vanilla). Lovely mouthfeel and that austerity is nicely offset by frangipane and more petals. Richer and better integrated with water. Sometimes I wish they’d start bottling this stuff at a lower ABV.
Finish - Long and hot, but not off-putting. Rolling floral sweetness at the end. Softer and better integrated with water.
This one crept up on me; take your time and play with the water additions and it's a lot of fun. And a bargain.
SMWS 64.67, Mannochmore, Pleasing, teasing and comforting, 25 years old, 54.7% A+
5th February 1990, refill bourbon, 225 bottles
Nose - simultaneously sweet and creamy, and cereal savoury. Red wine soaked oak, onion tart, blood orange and roasted peach. Retronasally vanilla, like tic tacs are (but not minty).
Body - Balanced and lightly spiced, great soft toffee and fruit (cherry, orange, pear) and very ripe. Spicier with water but the fruit and vanilla ups its game too.
Finish - Long, ripe, toffeed and lingering black pepper and a touch of grapefruit bitterness. Very fruity at the end, but slightly offputting with the spice and bitterness. Delicious, though.
SMWS 121.83, Arran, A passion for puddings, 15 years old, 53.8% A⊕
2nd December 1999, refill bourbon, 273 bottles
Let's see if this agrees with my conjecture about young, more recent Arran.
Nose - Creamy, fruity (peach, apple), but breezily sweet (boiled sweets, lemon sherbet) and interestingly petrolic. Tomato and onion salad too, vinegar and oil dressing - happily not as unremittingly sweet as the name would suggest. Balanced, complex and interesting. Deep fruit and ripe cherries with water.
Body - Sweet but arresting - a great seasoning of cask and sulphur, salt and fruit over the Arran sweetshop, very well balanced. Great mouthfeel too. Awesome stuff.
Finish - Long, with meringue, bounty bar and finally a real tropical belt - mango, pineapple and custard. Absolutely delicious.
This is a big hit.
SMWS 1.189, Glenfarclas, High on the hills with a lonely goatherd…., 21 years old, 54.3% A+
24th May 1993, refill bourbon, 245 bottles
Nose - Gentle, insistent toffee, baked apple with raisin and sugar syrup, deep fried courgette flowers. Fruit n' fibre with lots of cold milk, hot radiator dust and felt tip pens (yes I know this sounds ridiculous, but when you’re digging for descriptors you take what you’re given). Now some tropical wax, but dusty and held back behind some general fruit and vegetables. It's a weird one. But enjoyable.
Body - Ripe, herbal and gently spiced, more caraway and some kiwi fruit. New plastic with water.
Finish - Light and relatively uneventful, but clean and balanced with coconut and milk chocolate. Sweet, slightly citrus and a touch of cut flowers.
Interesting, balanced and enjoyable but somehow not that compelling.
SMWS 2.92, Glenlivet, Coconut panna cotta, 13 years old, 60.7% A
16th April 2002, refill bourbon, 199 bottles
Nose - Light, young and confident and tons of coconut. Hard cereal, hard wood and lots of washing up liquid - makes your eyes water! It's a typical, young, bruiser of a society whisky - unripe apple and pear but compelling all the same.
Body - Sweet, bright and fruity - hard orchard fruit and quite hot. Softer but more petrolic, some vanilla and plasticised with water. Good though - but violent.
Finish - Sweet and rich, but fruity, quite hot and sour. At the end: tannic, woody - new blond oak, lots of wood sour. Very tart with water, with some bitter walnut membrane.
While this is a competent, interesting and complex young whisky, I'd struggle to see off 10cl of this let alone a bottle. Objectively it's decent though.
SMWS 50.69, Bladnoch, A celebration of life!, 25 years old, 56.5% A+
26th January 1990, refill bourbon, 91 bottles, 90 for the UK (I wonder who got the last bottle?)
Nose - Sweetly complex, quite dreamily put together - white, cut flowers, orange cream, peppermint, flint and dandelion stalks.
Body - Milk chocolate, Horlicks, toast with honey, then grapefruit - an interesting but not altogether satisfying development.
Finish - Quite long, creamily malty again, lime and tequila, more grapefruit. Finally some deep, ripe vanilla tones - like mango yoghurt.
The nose on this one promises something quite sublime, and while this is very good, it doesn't really hang together (at this price) in the delivery - the A+ is an A⊕ plus a minus (if you see what I mean).
SMWS 54.33, Aberlour, Holidays and honeymoons, 12 years old, 60.1% A
2nd October 2002, refill bourbon, 163 bottles
Body - Clean, sweetly creamy and fresh too - limoncello with rhubarb crumble and custard. Treads a fine line with its youth but just makes it. With water, slightly spicier, with more burnt toast.
Finish - Long, very tannic but not too hot, almost hoppy in its dank, citrus bitterness. But not unbalanced. Water does unhinge it at the end though, the tannins take over.
SMWS 7.121, Longmorn, Salt Water Taffy, 12 years old, 58.4% A
17th September 2002, refill bourbon, 205 bottles
Nose - Clean, young, earthy, balanced, confident. I love its earthy warmth, it's almost mezcal/vodka in its spirity honesty - there's a dirty edge too; sweaty burger stand. Maybe that's just the smell of me. I really hope this is great.
Body - Reminds me of the X4 Bruichladdich whiskies - almost but not quite brutal in the spirit but well integrated and clearly well made. Coffee and chocolate, slightly burnt.
Finish - Medium, with massive tannins again. Burnt peanuts, lime juice, too much lemon zest in a custard.
Another weirdly white whisky - clean and interesting but playing that game leaves nowhere to hide, and this has way too many tannins in the delivery to hold it.
SMWS 4.211, Highland Park, Sun, Sand, Surf and Serenity, 24 years old, 52.2% A⊕+
31st May 1991, refill bourbon, 208 bottles. This ones not in the outturn, just at the bar (previous European release apparently - EDIT:14.01.2016 this is slated for the Canadian February 2016 outturn and apparently the US too).
Nose - Thank heavens for Highland Park, signalling the transition into peat! Pancakes, maple syrup and bacon, quite sweet, "white wine" peat, but bright and ozoney (shellfish, sun baked beach and squeezed lemon). Clean, yellow cereal too, the faintest hint of floor polish, with sweet lemon sherbet and FCOG (frozen concentrated orange juice, trading places).
Body - A masterclass in balance through development. If it'd stop I could write something. The whole thing is brought together by light peat, which is of course HP's special move. Soft fruit, toffee and oak, then herbal (cut rosemary), sulphured toffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, then fried rosemary and long, waxy oak.
Finish - More orange juice, waxy cask, floor polish and tannins, red apple skin then more lemon sherbets (damn, get out of my tasting lemon sherbets!). At the end, sweet apple, lots of toffee. A long, fascinating ride. I didn't get round to adding water. Deeply satisfying.
BUY although I appreciate this is the one you'll least be able to, sorry about that.
SMWS 4.212, Highland Park, A dram from Treasure Island, 19 years old, 55.4% A
30th November 1995, refill bourbon, 258 bottles. This one is in the outturn.
Body - But there we go, very satisfying in the delivery - bright lemon peat and oak, drying sulphur, big raw malt (not new make, dusty crushed malted barley), fresh tobacco, grapefruit juice and musky wax.
Finish - Green papaya, black tea, Indian sweets and grapefruit. Tannins. Damn you tannins!
Not a patch on the 4.211, sorry again.
SMWS 53.226, Caol Ila, Teddy Boys at the beach, 15 years old, 63.5% A
16th March 2000, refill bourbon, 270 bottles
Nose - Light, young, cereal, almost pure ozone after the HPs. A touch of S&V… just lightly, pleasingly coastal and what I (again) assume jellied eel with white pepper and vinegar tastes like (but, to my shame, don't know). Fruitier with water. Honest (I mean the whisky is honest, but also I’m being honest with you).
Body - Rich, competent and very bread and butter, toast and honey. Ripe plum and olives. With water, Sauternes, sweet and dirty. The peat is pure Islay, young and hard.
Finish - Toast and butter, coffee. It's a breakfast drink. Perhaps, even Nutella. The finish is long, hard and wood sour.
SMWS 3.248, Bowmore, Like a hot coal in the mouth, 17 years old, 57.7% A⊕
25th September 1997, refill sherry, 594 bottles. 17 years, refill sherry, Bowmore - those are the money numbers.
Nose - It is good to meet a sherry cask again. This is well poised on the nose, it dulls the devils cask sharpness but gives you some nuttiness. Hazelnut coffee, plum, sweet oak, furniture polish - very nutty indeed.
Body - Classic big Bowmore sherry cask: sulphur, gunpowder, fruit and nut bar, snuff and sawdust. Thick and intense.
Finish - Classic Bowmore again: sweet cask, dried fruit, ripe peat, xmas pudding, cherry tobacco and bitter tannins.
This is absolutely delicious, and balances the Bowmore sherry thing a lot better than the feis one IMHO.
SMWS 29.169, Laphroaig, Beach bonfires, creels and boats, 20 years old, 56.5% A⊕
4th April 1995, refill bourbon, 205 bottles
Body - Apple, sweet strawberry laces, old Islay barley. Maize snacks, beer batter and burnt toffee. The most perfect Islay peat. Soft, sweet, complex and an exciting punch in the face, you can't beat it.
Finish - Long and dusty, charred plum skin and marzipan. Lots of long, sweet fruit. More tannins!
This has been another truly epic session (you taste the whole outturn, how can it not be?), and this was a fitting ending. All is forgiven Laphroaig.
See you at The Whisky Show!