Thursday, 12 November 2015

SMWS November Outturn - 2015 Big List

This is the biggest SMWS outturn of all time and certainly the single biggest post I’ve ever done.  November carries a big list, and a little list – and as I said in the review of the little list, this is a volume outturn, with lots of young drammers to buy people for Christmas.  Single cask means lots of individual society bottlings and I have nearly tried them all for you! 

Generally, I was a bit wary of this outturn.  Honestly I was a bit scared of making this post, but also a bit worried it was all (to quote a friend) “refill bourbon firewater”.  That didn’t happen – there’s some fantastic whisky in here and I genuinely think this is a really well thought through volume outturn.  There’s only one “old and dignified”, there’s a variety of peaters and there’s an ocean of good drammers

To help you navigate the outturn (there’s 57 of them including the little list), what follows next is some visualisations to help identify outliers before the notes themselves. Nobody wants to read all the notes, so find something you’re interested in and search for the note after.  I’ve laid the notes out in numerical (distillery) order rather than the usual tasting order to help navigation but of course I didn’t taste this lot in one sitting anyway. 

Anyway, to business…. In summary here’s what I recommend. 

  • 29.173.  This Laphroaig is awesome. 
  • 1.198.  Great value for a big, complex, bourbon ‘farclas
  • 35.139.  Great value for this Japanese-like well matured Glen Moray
  • 4.214.  A great choice for a bottle to open and drink all of over a year
  • 5.46.  A “good” Auchentoshan and nails the funky orange thing
  • 44.67.  At the higher end, seriously seasonal and a lovely dram
  • 64.64.  Just a pleasure to drink
  • 3.249.  Return of the great society Bowmore
  • 36.92. One of the most drinkable society whiskies of all time
  • 42.16.  Ardbeg-like
  • B3.2.  The second Rocktown is great – missable but so collectable if you bought the first.

First, price against age. 


Society pricing is pretty straightforward.  Low hanging fruit seem to be 5.47, 55.32, 35.139, 1.198 and of course the grain.  B3.2, 50.71 and 37.67 are way above the line (closed or age outliers).

Word clouds for the notes – the official ones and mine, for fun really:

official notesmynotes



More seriously, price against score for all of them, larger bubbles means more age.


29s, 1.198, 4.214 stick out – as does 48.68, 39.111 and 35.139.

Focussing on the sweeter ones, 44.68, 9.101, 5.47 look good:


Looking at the smokers, these are quite diverse, with Laphroaig and Highland Park leading quality, and Bowmore doing quite badly.  But this is showing up the bluntness of my scoring system a bit.


What casks are in this outturn?  Mostly refill bourbon of course, the bottom right hand corner is the non-refill bourbon stuff.  Some of these are actually finishes.


Here’s the drammers – everything under £57, rated for price and score, size is age again.  28, 48, 100, 63 look good here.  But check for yourself (click on it).


I’m missing 6 (10.85, 30.87, 53.232, 80.7, G7.7) – these are late due to bottling issues but I hope to pick these up later.

Tasting notes

SMWS 1.198, Glenfarclas, Night Nurse in carpenter’s overalls, 21 years old, 55.2% A⊕+

23rd September 1993, 176 bottles, refill bourbon

1.198Nose - Raisins. Baked apple and quite overripe overall. Cooked banana with honey and spray cream, men's perfume and pain au raisin. Men eating breakfast before a meeting, I'd call it. But now I'm getting the carpentry - freshly planed planks, a little paint, sweet solvents. Maybe they're planning a new restaurant. With water, much more grown up, some sawdust and more new paint gives way to a light spirit sulphur. Delicious.

Body - Bobbing for apples, bitter (Turkish) green pickled chillies and pittas. I'm guessing it's a kebab shop. The tablecloth is new, but plastic covered. Seriously though, it's a ripe, intense but smoothly fruity delivery and that pickled chilli lead-in sets it apart and gives it structure. Not met any nurses yet though. Coffee and numbing oils with water.

Finish - Medium, balanced, fruity and structured. Not polite but not over the top. I love the green bitterness that comes through with water. And I love a sleeper hit like this - takes you on a journey and leaves you very satisfied.

Despite the fact I would have called it "Men eating breakfast in their new kebab shop" I think this is a complex, mature whisky with serious gravitas. It started off a bit Meh but it ended in Brilliant.


SMWS 3.249, Bowmore, Barnacles and bath bombs, 14 years old, 56.4% A⊕

8th May 2001, 252 bottles, refill bourbon

3.249Nose - You can't really argue with a nose like this. Fresh, lemon peat, a sea breeze (not the cocktail) and intense (but well judged) Fizzers sweetness. None of the brash, cloying sweetness of Tempest either, this is much more coastal, including the very best part about the coast, a chilled, mineral white wine with your mussels and winkles.

Body - I was holding my breath I have to admit… fortunately it's good news! It's herbal, balanced, numbingly fizzy and important. Seafood and cereal, still going with the coastal meal, beautifully balanced and played perfectly. Water gives us something like a clean Caol Ila.

Finish - Long, lemon juice and sweet like tablet. The citrus warms over time from lemon, through orange and leaving you with grapefruit bitterness and fresh, ozone peat.

Society Bowmore is an awesome thing and I'm glad to see a really good one.


SMWS 3.251, Bowmore, Engineer’s work-bench in a boatyard, 17 years old, 55.4% A+

25th September 1997, 553 bottles, refill sherry.

3.251Nose - Just delightful, and perfectly named. Oiled tools, shellac and Swarfega. Breakfast coffee and toast but a sense of a big, old, dirty warehouse full of big heavy casks. Coastal, fruity, refill sherry but a worrying sharp corner on some sour wood. Lovely with water; PX, gourmet burgers (i.e. mostly raw mince) and oak staves.

Body - Now we're talking. Big, lacquered wood and … but there's that worry corner again with a bright spike of aspirin. But… plums on toast, nutella.

Finish - Great sulphur, long sweet black wood, prunes and glace cherry, and lots of chocolatey toast. Big vanilla tart at the end, that's odd.

Great but incomplete.

SMWS 4.214, Highland Park, After hours, 19 years old, 54.4% A⊕+

30th November 1995, 235 bottles, refill bourbon

4.214Nose - Rich, warm and ripe, some toast, some rosemary, some gentle exhaust fumes a little funk and some deep (and buried) fruit. Good vanilla, like a milk tart, and a few raspberries. With water, that becomes a proper posh pudding - more fruit, some orange, lots of cream. Delicious.

Body - Lovely: wine, pleasantly sulphured and perfectly seasoned with some proper peat. This reminds me of a Compass box blend.

Finish - Quite long, good drying sherry tones, lots of dry fruit at the end. Tons of furniture polish, great tropical burps, well done there!

Lovely stuff, although not as instantly wonderful as other recent society HPs I think it's a real sleeper hit and would be an excellent choice for a bottle to live with for some time.  On that front, rather than a OMG at the bar, it’s a…


SMWS 5.46, Auchentoshan, Peachy and perky, 14 years old, 58.9% A⊕

11th October 2000, 224 bottles, refill bourbon

5.46Nose - Light, creamy and peachy. Definitely peaches, not sure how ripe they are, but the cream is practically butter. Barley twists, soft liquorice, chardonnay, perhaps a little rum and a some fresh sweat round out the summery fun. It seems I'm always tasting Auchentoshan out of season!

Body - Clean, lemon first, then more musky Seville orange and a chocolate orange tart. Parquet floor too, haven't had that in whisky for a while, opaquely lacquered through many years of repeat waxing. Bloody delicious too.

Finish - Long with the pastry and orange musk developing throughout the finish.

A seriously delicious, pastry and fruit funk led Auchentoshan which does so well what the Dalmore fails so badly at. These 5s are either badly disappointing or fabulous and this is the latter.


SMWS 7.125, Longmorn, Makes your heart sing, 11 years old, 58.8% A-

22nd September 2003, 209 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

7.125Nose - Sweet grapes, Sauternes and hard candy shell. Shushi rice. Good lacquered furniture. There is a real concentration of acrylic lacquer and sweet fruit that works very well and is very Longmorn and it's balanced by that entrancing musky white wine and penny toffee thing that works so well for good young whiskies.

Body - Unexpectedly bitter, floral (including eating the petals) but still with toffee, fruit and nut.

Finish - More bitter wood, incomplete. A little burnt toast. Meh. Quite hot with water although something intriguing retronasally. A lot of young wood, in general.

Maybe I've had one too many young Longmorns now. A great nose though.

SMWS 9.101, Glen Grant, A sweet treat, 11 years old, 61% A+

17th July 2003, 230 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

9.101Nose - Very Mediterranean; red wine, sweet black olives, cut green peppers and cucumber. Tobacco, oil paints and that bloody coffee machine at Greville Street. Some silly putty too, and granite. Complex and winey, particularly for 11, sweeter and muskier with water.

Body - Deep, dark and sweet, with enormous toffee fruit (baked plums and almond flakes) and a bit of sangria. Toast and coffee with water.

Finish - Long and winey, surprised this isn't one of the weird wine finishes.

Bruising and intense, waxed and fruity, this is what you sign up for when you want a Red dram at the bar. Neckable.


SMWS 13.47, Dalmore, It’s a knockout, 10 years old, 59.3% B+

12th May 2005, 199 bottles, refill bourbon

13.47Nose - Bright, fresh, watery, with hard young cereal, salted peanuts, sour tobacco and a musky, off note like hamster or damp felt. Still, fruity for that with nearly ripe conference pear and I'm reminded of a hotel, I think it's the tiny portions of thin marmalade.

Body - More nuts, quite hot and meaty and actually oddly sweet and savoury, like those French peanut flavoured crisps or even peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Almost hammy with water and unpleasantly bitter/hot, like fried chilli and garlic.

Finish - Quite long but oddly dirty, Dalmore isn't really a whisky that carries dirty well.

This isn't a whisky that worked, I'm surprised this made it through the panel. It's ordinary but weird and doesn't have the complexity and intense fruit to carry off the funk (like for example, Springbank does).

Having said all that, this is popular with everyone else who’s tried it.  Looking hard at this I think there’s a bit of this profile not working for me and me not caring if it does, and a little bit of others wanting this to be good because it’s a Dalmore (and an uncommon independent dram).  So – “your mileage may vary” but I think this is rubs.

SMWS 26.115, Clynelish, Pilates for the palate, 15 years old, 56.2% A+

6th April 2000, 241 bottles, refill bourbon

26.115Nose - Sweetly intense sour cereal, flowers (I don't know the names, some yellow ones?) plus lemon sherbet, anise and washing powder. Surprised this doesn't have a laundry in the title! All the breezy topping is backed by warm, soft toffee and a musky note - part new leather belt, part cookie dough. A bit more sweetshop with water though, and more gym than laundry.

Body - Sweet but very sharp and a little hot. Big numbing tannins develop…

Finish - followed by quite serious astringency and oak. There's a lot more fruit, with water, in the delivery and the emergency of some saccharine sweetness to balance the bitterness.

This is a robust but very competent whisky and its faults are in character. I quite like it, despite them…


SMWS 28.28, Tullibardine, Lay your head on my pillow, 10 years old, 60% A+

24th March 2005, 223 bottles, refill bourbon.

28.28Nose - Very sweet, offset by beautiful fresh, breezy fruit and new pine. That fresh ozone and fruit is lovely but that's more or less it. It's very strong though. With water, coca cola again, pine needles, fresh linen and a touch of hand soap. Loving the fresh nose.

Body - Quite a lot of spice at the start but it fades pretty quickly. Quite dark, lightly sulphured dark caramel and well browned tarte tatin. A big zesty blast up the back of the throat. With water, the sulphur caramel works very well, and it's thick in the mouth with good character.

Finish - Medium to long with good red wine tannins and a touch of paper towel. Green apple with water, pretty good.

Another good, honest, young drammer.


SMWS 29.173, Forget time and space, Laphroaig, 16 years old, 59.8% A⊕+'

1st July 1999, 250 bottles, refill bourbon

29.173Nose - Dustily sweet, I would have called this as older than 16. Sauternes, germolene, orange curd, stale bandages and coarse paté? There's a meatiness in with the sweetness, and of course that works with smoke. It's quite dreamy too - no punches land, although they're not exactly pulled. Very grapey. With water, fried noodles and chilli and a real white wine cask brightness.

Body - Fantastic depth, deep toffee and perfect spirit sulphur. I really couldn't have asked for more. White wine, sherry and exudes "mature".

Finish - Long and faggy, deep sweetness and so much sherry (I know it's not). Perfection.

Flipping heck… must stop drinking this…


SMWS 35.139, Glen Moray, Punchy spice explosion, 20 years old, 57.9% A⊕

11th November 1994, 239 bottles, 1st fill toasted oak hogshead

35.139Nose - Dark and winey, lots of first fill oak, quite Japanese actually. Burnt bananas, deep sweetness, sherry funk and toast with honey (and mashed bananas). As you approach it has a musky offnote that is replaced with fruity intensity. Very interesting, quite delicious (although very oaky) and quite exciting.

Body - Beautifully sweet and sherried with zesty but quite mucky sweetness behind it, almost caramel. Fireworks (gunpowder, wet cardboard and cheap sticks). Overripe apple, lots of vanilla pastry with water.

Finish - Medium, quite dirty but rather good, with big overripe fruit sweetness and forthright tannins. Much longer with water, and big oils too.

I would have called this as Japanese. Bright, deep, waxed, fruity and darkly coloured, big wood influence and it works.


SMWS 36.92, Benrinnes, High tea in a cottage garden, 13 years old, 55.5% A⊕

30th May 2002, 223 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

36.92Nose - Floral and arboreal. Green apples and summer trees. Apple crumble with custard, very sweet but balanced by sour apple and oils. Raspberry pound cake with sponge fingers (mainly butter). More complexity with water.

Body - Lovely baked fruit (apple, raspberry, plum), and in the same mouthful there's oak plank and cereal depth. More astringent Asian character with water, and some chilli heat in the late delivery.

Finish - Long, balanced fruit, sweet and wood, and very summery. This is as fun and as gluggable as any whisky I've had this year.

Fun, confident, fruity and balanced, exceedingly drinkable. Great stuff.


SMWS 37.67, Cragganmore, Tongue tingling treasure, 29 years old, 57.6% A⊕+

11th June 1986, 127 bottles, refill bourbon

37.67Nose - Big, ripe, banana led sherry and fruit. Oriental perfumes and incense with an odd backnote of a petshop (rabbit food and sawdust). Certainly jewelled though, with high quality cigar tobacco (unlit), cut grass and a sandalwood box rounding out the old, tropical cask. Opens up further with water, bringing tarte tatin, stewed plums, bright dried orange slices and just a touch of petrol station (petrol and air fresheners).

Body - Ah… beautiful. An enormous wave of waxed fruit, tannins, old wood and that old ground-in smoke, sugar and salt that you get at a BBQ competition. Laquered caramel and summer night air. More intensely waxed with water and retronasally candal wax and tropical fruit.

Finish - Long, numbing wood tannins and extremely persistent fruit and structural sweetness.

This is a big, complex and important whisky. One to savour on your own, it'd be wasted with your attention divided.


SMWS 39.111, Linkwood, Total shock!, 15 years old, 57.8% A⊕

1st June 2000, 257 bottles, refill bourbon

39.111Nose - Hard; coffee and wood splints, dark fruit liqueur and barley, hard toffees with raisin and nuts. So - hard but not, on balance, young. Good fruits, good balance. With water, more like a younger Linkwood, with cut plums and cereal. Still good though.

Body - Warm, very middy, fizzing on the tip of the tongue like cola. Quite a lovely rounded sweetness, I would have called this for refill bourbon. Even better with water, I'm still reminded of cola though.

Finish - Long, strangely ashen but that warm, sweet toffee rides the whole delivery through. A balanced and delicious delivery, great stuff.

This is a Total shock! in that I'd kind of given up, internally, on young society Linkwoods (just there's been, you know, a lot of them). And it's really good.


SMWS 39.115, Linkwood, Straight up-and-down, 10 years old, 58.2% A

20th July 2005, 245 bottles, refill bourbon.

39.115Nose - Fresh again but more rain with this one. Wet, cut grass, a touch of propane and a new gazebo. With time it's getting more of an inner city feel with light diesel fumes and Chinese restaurants (red pork and anise) but there's a deeper sweetness that's bringing it all together. More granite with water, and a recalcitrant cream sherry sweetness.

Body - Big with dusty wood, melon (but no funk) and gobstoppers. Toffee with water.

Finish - Bitter with caraway and strawberry laces.

A theoretically richer nose and delivery here but caught between young and steely and properly matured, so hard to recommend against its peers.

SMWS 41.68, Dailuaine, Liquified "Bounty bars", 11 years old, 61.6% A-

14th August 2003, 215 bottles, first fill bourbon

41.68Nose - As you approach this you're about to get big, deep sweetness but suddenly the top drops out of it and you get.. Bread dough, and fresh cut coconut (with the membrane, shell and hairs on the shell). Some freshly aired linen, a little wet rock and finally the promised sweetness does pop up briefly. Werther’s originals in the empty glass.  With water, some rather good waxes, better earth and herbal edges to the fruit and nut theme.  It's unexpectedly serious.

Body - It's big; bright, with a backnote of coconut and some long oily sweetness. It does have an air of coconut milk (which is of course extremely oily) and some big bitterness continues the shell theme. Water softens out the delivery but doesn't back it up with enough fruit, just a hollow sweetness and some younger hard cereal.

Finish - There's bright citrus and lime, with digging, and the finish is long and very sweet (proper bounty bar filling sweet).

This could have been an underground cracker, bringing hard, restrained earth and interesting coconut but it's not backed by enough overall fruit to make it totally work.

SMWS 42.16, “What it says on the tin”, Ledaig, 9 years old, 59.6% A⊕

8th November 2005, 267 bottles, refill bourbon.

42.16Nose - Unmistakable Ledaig; Ardbeg and cake. Mineral, lemon peat with pear and polenta cake. A delicious breath of peaty air, it reminds me heavily of Big Peat (must get round to that too). Slightly farmyardy but with a new plastic brightness too it, I could seriously settle into a bottle of this.

Body - Perfect. Vanilla, wet newspaper, intense lemon peat. Toast and blue cheese (only very light, it's spreadable probably) and bright oak. Winier with water with big, big tannins.

Finish - Long, lemon and lovely. Fruit, peat and bitter oak play across the whole delivery and last well over the horizon.

This is undeniably delicious, a big peaty hug. Pretty high on the cost per year index unfortunately but worth it.


SMWS 44.67, Craigellachie, Charming chalice of cha-cha-cha, 25 years old, 52.2% A⊕

13th August 1990, 305 bottles, refill bourbon

44.67Nose - I thought it was a silly name but it's quite a frivolous nose. Orange juice, candied orange, wax and party popper paper, fruit and nut bar and Turkish Delight (not so much the rose water, more the gelatine and chocolate thing). With water, orange jelly and a delightfully balanced sweetness. A fantastic, fresh, juicy nose with water.

Body - Zesty, christmassy with candles burning in christingles; oranges, cloves and polished pews. Very bright and delicious but with a slightly distracting "chewed orange zest" bitterness. That balances out better with water and gives marmalade and milk chocolate .

Finish - Long and numbing, lots of clove and citrus rind, descending into chewed wood. Good tropical burps though.

This is a beautiful, elegantly balanced, citrussy whisky with water, and wonderfully drinkable. The more time you spend with it the better it gets, and it leaves behind the same bright but bitter pith sensation in the sides of the cheeks that eating orange segments does. Pith, juice and chocolate in perfect balance. At over £100 that's a bit specialist but it's still recommended.


SMWS 46.35, Glenlossie, Confident, understated cask, 17 years old, 54.6% A+

28th January 1998, 251 bottles, refill bourbon

46.35Nose - Quite ordinary, this could be anything - and it does have elements of youth (spikey cereal, restrained sweetness, high strength) with time it does (true to the name) carry itself with a little more style. There's blue-ball liquorice allsort in here, fruit toffee, and a good old "whisky and cigar" note behind it.

Body - Sweet, very bright and dusty, warm toffee and chewed liquorice root. Toppy as hell but backed by some substance. More so with water, warmer cask and it tastes like the natural history museum (sorry about that, but I mean there's a combination of floor polish, ancient exhibits, old leather and "the public" that reminds me of that).

Finish - Long, numbingly sweet, with plenty of wood and sugar. A touch of warm chardonnay at the end.

This one kind of won me over, it's good. But it's another punch puller.

SMWS 48.68, Balmenach, Pizazz and Fizzoo, 12 years old, 59.5% A⊕

7th August 2003, 295 bottles, 1st fill bourbon.

48.68Nose - Richer, sweet pastry and boiled sweets. Actually, candy necklace and triple sec. Quite a lot of haribo now. Sweet stuff. With time, very clearly Portuguese tart, and Seville orange juice. Delicious.

Body - Delicious and intense, played with all the stops out. Orange juice, candied orange, with vanilla pastry and dandelion. More of everything with water, and again some tobacco.

Finish - Long with bright fruit, light sulphur, pine boards. Balancing citrus bitterness. Intensely so with water, straying into too much. Still a cracker though.


SMWS 50.71, Bladnoch, Alfresco brunch, 25 years old, 58.2% A⊕

26th January 1990, 165 bottles, refill bourbon

50.71Nose - Predictably excellent. Sauternes and candle wax, the toffee from a Twix and brighten up with a Cosmopolitan (the cocktail). Some mint sauce too (homemade stuff; mint leaves, sugar, vinegar), perhaps some mint toffee, with a good dirty backing of petrol and wet rosemary. Fruitier with water - more bloody oranges. Very Bladnoch, very good.

Body - Intense; spicy and quite herbal, sweet wax and Vaseline. Hair products; gel? Much softer and gently balanced with water with orange juice, toast, Nutella and marmalade.

Finish - Very long, lots of toast and perhaps even a slice of swiss cheese on top. Long with the elegant sulphur and oils and tannins.

Complex, fruity, balanced and interesting. This is a great, celebratory whisky and a good Xmas drinker.


SMWS 53.231, Caol Ila, Eat until I die, 19 years old, 59.3% A⊕

3rd September 1996, 245 bottles, refill bourbon

53.231Nose - Business-like: "I am a mature Islay malt". S&V too, but herbal with dried parsley, warm sorrel and smoky bacon crisps. There's some wine in this one too, musky and brassy but not too deep and quite faint. I must say this is one of the most restrained but heavily peated Caol Ila's I've nosed. There's a real Brettanomyces led element to it with water too. Horse blanket and the rest of the tack too.

Body - Soft; apricot jam and warm toffee, but <shouted> heavily peated. Buttered crumpets with honey but <shouted> heavily peated. Tannic! Chilli too.

Finish - Baked pears in red wine, milk chocolate and big tannins.

Another blockbuster Caol Ila, I think we're getting back on the horse with these now. This one doesn't really put a foot wrong.


SMWS 54.36, Aberlour, Pocket rocket, 9 years old, 59.7% A

20th October 2006, 246 bottles, refill bourbon.

54.36Nose - There are some great young whiskies in this outturn. This is wooden, mineral, fruity with ozone led pineapple and a freshly unboxed phone. Green grapes too. Bright and refreshing and it has the character of a good peated whisky without the peat - bracing, bright, but backed up and balanced. A bit changing room too (obviously a men's changing room, I'm not allowed in the other one) - shades of talc and Lynx oriental.

Body - Quite bracing with toppy young spirit, spice and hard cereal, but again backed up with some restrained sweetness and pine wood. Business-like but quite ordinary. A bit of green apple with water, and tannic wood.

Finish - Short-ish and quite lolly-stick.

An ordinary but competent young-gun. Move along.

SMWS 55.32, Royal Brackla, Sunshine and lemon fizz, 57.5% 7 years old A-

26th September 1997, 239 bottles, refill bourbon

55.32Nose - Elegant, interesting, ripe pear and very gentle lemon, like a slice in a glass of fizzy water. The sunshine is there in vanilla cream and a little E45 but it's early Autumn sun. Lemon and orchard fruit, elegant wax with gentle wood and earth. Overall it has a light, well presented demeanour - it's polite but nicely done.

Body - Creamy; vanilla and crisp caramel, pastry and a developing spice and wax that works very well. A lovely sulphured fruit toffee with water.

Finish - Medium long but an unhappy bitterness starts to dominate, with unripe cooking apples and chewed aspirin.

Promising but polite (no bad thing) with a real let down in the finish.

SMWS 63.33, Glentauchers, Rich, treacly, and sumptuous, 9 years old, 61.6% A⊕

29th June 2006, 661 bottles, 2nd fill sherry

63.33Nose - Dark and rich, sour and overripe. A real sherry bomb on the nose! Quite funky, but whenever that sour, young funk starts to worry me, it's rescued by beautiful toffee sweetness, sherry and balancing wood. This whisky pulls its punch just before going too far into sour or young. It's restrained and balanced. Even better with water, more fruit, and seriously delicious bright toffee.

Body - Definitely treacle, that's a first. Mint humbugs (more the toffee centre than the mint). Tobacco (numbing) and the most striking retronasal sherry sweetness I think I've ever had. Remarkable. Not over the moon about the treacle but again, it pulls that punch just before it goes too far. It's pretty delicious.

Finish - A big numbing waxy belt at the start of the finish. Very long and dark, intense sherry sweetness (really the fruity sweetness of the sherry rather than the rum and raisin side - refill sherry goodness) and independently drying (wood and tannins). Liquorice torpedoes with water.

This is simply fantastic. Not perfect but charming for it, and a big recommendation.


SMWS 64.64, Mannochmore, Mouth coating and moreish, 14 years old, 57.6% A⊕

5th March 2001, 231 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

Nose - Mincemeat tart (lots of candied peel), apple juice (from concentrate, too warm) and limoncello. After eight mints, Marlboro lights and toffee pennies. Lovely chocolate with time. All in good order.

Body - Beautiful, gentle orange juice and orange peel. Orange oils too, perfect balancing sulphur and light spices.

Finish - Very long, warm toffee and lots of old oak. Great balance throughout, the bitterness, citrus zest and soft bourbon cask works perfectly.

This is one of those whiskies I stop tasting and just start drinking. A great pleasure.


SMWS 66.76, Ardmore, Guilty pleasure, 10 years old, 61% B-

5th October 2004, 274 bottles, 1st fill white wine hogshead

66.76Nose - Sherried (nuttily), meaty and musky. Prunes and gammon, battered sausage and a pint of nut brown ale. Puff pastry and gravy. On the other hand, it's white pepper and bandages, slightly swimming pool and a bit fetid. I fear some sulphur but the nose works, just. Great with water - fruity and sweet, hot and deep.

Body - Deep, sweet and burning, like germolene is when you put it on a wound. And the sulphur is reasonably offensive, particularly retronasally. I'll let this breath for a little while… that made things significantly worse. There's great sweetness in here though. Boiled sweets and Asian fruit. It doesn't work though. With water, slightly better, hides the sulphur. More matches than cabbage.

Finish - Beef and ale pie. I'm breathing out boiled cabbage though.

SMWS 70.11, Balblair, Sweet, clean, juicy and moreish, 9 years old, 59.2% A-

19th May 2006, 244 bottles, Refill bourbon

70.11Nose - I certainly agree with the first three - winey too, with biscuits (custard creams?) and Foxes glacier fruits. Competent but it feels a bit one dimensional after a while though. Water brings a lot more depth and interest, perhaps some glazed rosemary too.

Body - Sweet with moreish biscuits and sour new cereal. Green apple and an unlit taper.

Finish - Long but unbalanced and sour, with some sugar not playing much of a role. Water does bring a promising tropical note of raspberry and magic balloons, but it's fleeting.

Quite a non-event.

SMWS 72.47, Miltonduff, "Burnt Spotted Dick", 10 years old, 59.7% A+

23rd September 2004, 251 bottles, 1st fill white wine hogshead

72.47Nose - Sweet hand cream and ham, young stuff but with a savour cask. A steamed pudding of some kind, I'd probably go for treacle pudding (known in my house as "big yellow pudding"). A two handed herbal and dark caramel nose thereafter. Herbal with cut flower stalks and wet sticks, the caramel is slightly burnt, doused with bourbon and very sweet with dried oranges slices mixed in. With water, more orange musk comes through.

Body - Delicious - I'd have said this was Oloroso definitely, rather than wine. Dark and nutty, dry but interesting. A great sulphur note too. With water, much more polite, the Oloroso is far more supporting to the general sweet and dry balance and there's a touch of marzipan.

Finish - Medium and nutty again, lots of dried apple slices and some toffee. Then for the very end, coffee, dark chocolate and Malboro light tobacco. I like it.

If you're looking for one of the weirder but good society casks for not much money, this is a good bet.


SMWS 85.32, Glen Elgin, Grannies behaving badly (and madly!), 9 years old, 60.6% A

22nd June 2006, 236 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

85.32Nose - Face cream and talc (definitely auto-suggestive on that one!). Ripe pears, pear drops, cut apple and very sweet. But it's undeniably young too. The first fill fills in the wrinkles a little but that fence panel, gooseberry, cut grass and clear cereal wants to get out. More toffee with water, lovely white chocolate and something dirty underneath.

Body - Sweet with slight spirit sulphur. Soap and wham bar. Great fruit with water, strawberry almost, but raspberry and ripe plum.

Finish - Very long with insistent but restrained tropical fruit, honey and white flowers. White chocolate too. Fresh and fruity.

An interesting nose on this but it needs water to bring out everything else. Then it's much more rounded and drinkable. I'm still a little underwhelmed though.

SMWS 93.66, Glen Scotia, Take two, 13 years old, 58.4% B+

30th April 2002, 230 bottles, refill bourbon.

93.66Nose - This is Glen Scotia? Sweet, bright, dusty, slightly lemon. Wooden pallets and yellow hay, boozey, neat orange barley squash. Water brings a deeper wax, but it's tough going.

Body - First impression is sweetened lemon water, but then depth and honey emerges, with orange juice and bitter oak. Toast with the honey with water, and a new pack of playing cards.

Finish - Long but empty bitterness. Later, some darker cask and coffee. Very hot. Much better with water - fudge fingers and latte instead.

Almost characterless for a 93, but obviously relatively competent.

SMWS 96.8, Glendronach, Relaxing in an Alpine meadow, 9 years old, 58.3% A

8th June 2006, 172 bottles, refill bourbon

96.8Nose - Gentle, waxy, floral… meh. Some men's deodorant. Actually I'm starting to appreciate it's gentle freshness now; fresh linen, rose petals, a big bottle of chilled water, slightly coastal. Lots of wet granite. Hmmm… this is really growing on me. Cheap vanilla ice cream with water, and liquorice torpedoes (mainly the shell).

Body - Very sweet; pear tarte tatin? Vanilla ice cream with lots of vanilla seeds in, close textured and buttery. Toppy and young but so bloody sweet and full it works.

Finish - Medium, good bitterness and quite malty. Wet and slightly algae laden, like sitting next to the Thames more than an Alpine meadow but rather good all the same.

This is good but struggles a bit. You wouldn't go badly buying the 8th ever SMWS Glendronach but drinkers should probably look elsewhere.

SMWS 100.12, Strathmill, Trip to a shopping mall, 10 years old, 58.7% A+

23rd Feburary 2005, 209 bottles, refill bourbon.

100.12Nose - Sweet, clean and ringing with fruity, floral brightness (it's a little like a good fruity new make, and I don't mean that as a criticism). A touch of old lady's perfume and a decorative oak barrel. I realise that all sounds rather young and boring but it's actually quite lovely, with perhaps a touch of talc covered travel sweet and perhaps starfruit (which looks good but doesn't taste of an awful lot, kind of a sweet gentle balance). With water, it opens up a little and the difference in character is marked - it really makes it. Now mineral, with elegant fruit and a little lip balm.

Body - Hot, restrained. Like a cup of tea - more structure than fruit. It has deeper toffee somewhere underneath and top dressing of sour sweets. With water, again transformed with tobacco and travel sweets.

Finish - Medium and straightforward. Sweet oak. No problems, no fireworks.

This is a really lovely little whisky - not setting the world alight but really drinkable with a good, restrained balance I appreciate.


SMWS 112.10, Loch Lomond, A comforting hug in a mug, 14 years old, 57.4% A+

27th September 2000, 147 bottles, refill bourbon

112.10Nose - Bright but sour, a slight hint of burnt matches (not sulphur, more the taper). Dusty, wax crayons, and carpet underlay. Stewed black cherries too (in that kind of cooked, sweet, sour non-descript way) and a hint of peat. It's quite a good nose, but quite a restrained one. Cleaner fruit with water and a more compelling, Arran like sweetness and some hot wax.

Body - Very (unexpectedly) sweet with black jacks and quite a lot of spice, sour wax and hot wood. Much better with water, softer, more complex with riper fruit and retronasal wax.

Finish - Medium, soapy and hot. More black cherries. More tannic with water.

A competent drammer that really opens up with water, a much more complex and inviting whisky.

SMWS 121.86, Arran, 55.5%, ‘Feeling Hot Hot Hot’, 15 years old, 55.5% A

2nd December 1999, 273 bottles, refill bourbon

121.86Nose - Ripe peach, apple and rhubarb crumble. Good fruit and toffee, some cereal sourness. Initially musky but cleans up quite nicely. Some lip gloss too. It's pretty lovely. With water, more ordinary Arran but with more intense tropical fruit.

Body - Sweet, bright and toppy, and a standard Arran arrival otherwise with refreshers in the sinuses. Very soft with water. Great wax retronasally though.

Finish - Medium with quite a lot of astringent sourness that offsets the sugar. Washes down to bitter, sadly.

This has big Arran greatness in it, but pulls its punches.

Alphabetically last but certainly not least…

SMWS B3.2, Rocktown, Ooey-gooey cinnamon bun, 3 years old, 55.3% A⊕

20th February 2012, 204 bottles, new charred oak barrel (well it can't be anything else). Really looking forward to this…

b3.2Nose - Big rum and raisin, but restrained bourbon character. Iced fingers (rather than cinnamon bun) and lacquered roast duck skin. There's something "dark London restaurant" about this too - sweet but dark women's perfume, meats fried in lots of butter and well prepared offal. Like the last one and the other Rocktowns I had at the SMWS tasting (must publish the notes for that) it's bourbon but not as simple as some of the stuff that made me move to Scotch. Red wine complexity, like a sweet but burnished wine might have (probably Tokaji but a bit of Amontillado in there too). With water, significantly more rounded, more like a sherried whisky. What a nose!

Body - Licked joss sticks, quite abrasive. Marzipan (very retronasal too). Cooked cherries too. Intense, fruity, very almondy and quite bruising, I probably should have had this later. With water, that sherried, braised red cherry is much more pronounced and the intensity, while I now miss it, is better balanced by the fruit and sugars. Sauternes and wet boiled sweets, bourbon soaked raisins.

Finish - Very long, balanced but intense, like smoking a cigar. This would be great with a cigar. Bracing charred wood sweetness and tannins, toffee apple and carrot cake (with the buttercream icing).

This is making me wish I was drinking rather than tasting. Delicious


If you’re still reading, you deserve one of the medal’s I want for writing it.  Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s have a drink (see you in December John).

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