A new bourbon distillery! Some sherry! On paper this is quite an interesting, solid outturn. But the Glen Elgin is a repeat from December and the Penderyn isn’t out until mid-January (I assume a bottling problem again?) and some of the younger stuff isn’t wonderful. So, despite another stella Bowmore and (yet) another fabulous Laphroaig, and those sherry casks being really rather good, this is the first noticably weak outturn I’ve seen from SMWS. That’s relative, obviously, to the usual greatness. But still…
SMWS 70.13, Neat heat, turning mellow and sweet, Balblair, 9 years old, 57.8% B+
19th May 2006, 198 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - A lovely balance of coastal oak, sweet spirit and apple cores. Some lime marmalade, rhubarb crumble. A really compelling, young nose - the wood character is very classy and rather good. With water, sweeter, chocolate and cut flowers.
Body - Sharp, fiery and very sweet. Intensely sweet in fact; gobstoppers and bonbons. Very spirity up front. Better with water but still lots of chilli heat, cinnamon fireball gobstoppers, liquorice perhaps.
Finish - Medium length, very hot with parallel sweetness but no midrange. Tannic with water - cloying behind it.
Love the nose on this, elegance and lots of spirit, but it falls apart in the delivery.
SMWS 48.71, An amazing technicolour Dram, Balmenach, 13 years old, 63.9% A-
7th May 2002, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon
Nose - Sweet, classy and bourbony - very sweet in fact. Oily (perhaps mint) toffee, a lovely herbal edge to it (cut wood, a little earth), some melting chocolate (thanks John). This smells WAY older than 13 though. Big, important and delicious.
Body - Soft toffee, sweet and oily - but simultaneously sharp, tannic and very oaked. Hard pears, strawberry laces, sawdust. With water, a touch of funk, some pipe tobacco, more toffee.
Finish - Sharp, lots of wood sours, unbalanced but very exciting. We're chewing staves at the end though, ouch.
Again, loved the nose on this but the delivery is young and brutal.
SMWS 46.36, Old Fashioned Manhattan, Glenlossie, 23 years old, 54.9% B⊕
16th September 1992, 252 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - Herbal depth, restrained sweetness, a little orange sour - musky marmalade? A pollen top note in there. Obviously old but with lacking the class that the others had. Some petrol, new plastic, perhaps mouthwash. Much better fruit and integration with water.
Body - Sweet, dusty, plywood and refreshers. Fizzing but soft, saccharine sweetness, and quite ordinary. More wood, more flowers, and milk tart with water.
Finish - Quite long but knocking down to sour tannins at the end and a ton of oak.
A strange whisky, swinging between old and dignified, and young and unbalanced. It's certainly drinkable but it's badly judged in the delivery. Not a fan.
SMWS 50.74, Lazing on a summer afternoon, Bladnoch, 25 years old, 53.3% A+
26th January 1990, 108 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - Initially young and sour, but with an older wax beneath. Coconut ice, fresh sweat, malted barley, hot radiator, ruby grapefruit and a touch of red wine cask. It's good but I wouldn't have called it as an old Bladnoch. A touch of damp newspaper with water, bigger fruit though.
Body - Sweet and sharp again, toast and honey, toffee musk. Deep, winey, wood dust and lovely wax with a good, restrained sulphur backing. Rather delicious but quite sharp. Much more fruit with water, lots more cardboard.
Finish - Medium to long, Cherry Tunes, extremely "boiled sweets" but with great structure and lots of red wine.
What is it with low outturn society Bladnochs? Clumsy with the casks?
This is nowhere near as important as some of the recent society 50s, it's a good dram - good depth, lots of structure, lots of interesting bits and peices in there - but not worth the price being asked.
SMWS 71.41, Curious and intriguing, Glenburgie, 17 years old, 57.2% A⊕
26th May 1998, 720 bottles, refill Gorda
Nose - Dry and nutty, quite cereal, with a fried raisins, sherry vinegar and demerara sugar dressing. Very cooked, restrained sweetness, a touch of sulphur and smoke. Charred sweetness but doused in vinegar - the sweet and sour balance is rather good though. Sweeter and fruitier with water. Caramel and dried orange.
Body - Very salty, nutty, fried and dressed with vinegar again. Pure refill Gorda though, this is very similar to the Gorda Springbank (27.107, To the Manor Born) but that's just showing how powerful these casks are. Very drying, lots of nuts, quite a lot of sulphur but it works.
Finish - Massive tannins (might be my palate today I'm starting to suspect). Quite hot with sulphur but that works well with the enormous wine.
This is a big, superdry, Gorda bomb. This has very little to do with Glenburgie, but the dry sherry and sulphur works really well, and if you're missing that old Springbank you should jump on this.
SMWS 73.71, A scene from Madeira, Aultmore, 14 years old, 55.5% A⊕
24th September 2001, 522 bottles, refill sherry
Nose - Deeply sweet with Brazil nuts and permanent markers. Christmas cake (including marzipan and royal icing), baked plums, cherry tobacco, fresh peaches. Very spirity but also very rich. Cherry imps and a touch of parmas in the empty glass. Delicious.
Body - Fizzing and powerful. Madeira wine even? Burnt newspaper and black pepper, very oily and mouthfilling. Great balance of sweet sherry, rich cake and toasty raisin.
Finish - Fizzing tannins. Quite long, a touch of sulphur, liquorice imps.
Big and balanced, lots of sweet sherry and structure, delicious. Sweeter than the Glenburgie certainly, and the winner so far.
B4.1, Comforting coconut, bountiful banana, FEW, 3 years old, 62.6% B+
11th May 2012, 114 bottles, new charred barrel
Body - Massive wood sours with icing sugar, lots of oak, bleh - quite nasty neat. With water, there's some tobacco and mango juice, that tropical element promised in the name comes through, the sourness now works a lot better, it is very sweet though.
Finish - Long and cloyingly sweet. Water tempers the wood.
I can’t recommend this. It's simplistic but works ok with water (a hint of greatness in that tropical note) - terrible without. You can read an interview with the distillery founder here.
SMWS 42.17, Beachcomber's dram, Ledaig, 9 years old, 60.9% A+
5th April 2006, 300 bottles, refill bourbon
Body - "Whisky from the old days, this takes me back 40 years" (John). Big, sweet coastal peat, big sour refreshers, lots of white wine. Challenging, not rough, John. Delicious though.
Finish - Medium, lemon peat, lots of dirty white grape.
This is fulfilling the role that the young peaty 10 usually does. Don't add water, it subtracts the point of this big, peaty bruiser.
SMWS 3.257, Jacobite trip to the kitchen, Bowmore, 14 years old, 56% A⊕
8th May 2001, 240 bottles, refill bourbon
Body - Grown up and exciting, like a night on the town with fags (tarry and intoxicating), girls (sweet, floral fizzers, and they're smoking fags), petrol (Ross will have driven us there), and music. There's burnt, damp newspaper and fried meats rounding off the evening.
Finish - Dusty and sweet, coal dust, a forerunner of the parma exotics that I love so much in Bowmore.
An evocative whisky. Sweet, entrancing and complete. This is what younger Bowmore should taste like. No water required.
SMWS 29.176, Splashing about in rockpools, Laphroaig, 16 years old, 58.5% A⊕
1st July 1999, 228 bottles, refill bourbon, previously a Danish release I believe.
Body - Quite intense; crackers and deep peat, really funky actually - pineapple and truffle honey. Beautiful, intense, sweet and fruity.
Finish - Long, beautifully balanced dusty Islay, complex and interesting.
Yet another smashing Laphroaig. Intense lemon peat, dusty oak and refreshers. Delicious. I’m really going to have to stop buying these unfortunately, I’m running out of space.
SMWS 10.87, Sea breezes over the vernal machair, Bunnahabhain, 10 years old, 61.9% A+
25th May 2003, 192 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - No peat… oops! Deodorant, oatmeal cookies, orange juice, slightly funky and rather lovely. There's a cured ham note in the nose too. Sorry 10, we should have had you earlier but I was distracted by the word "smoke" on the label, and by John, generally.
Body - Lemon drops, pastry, custard and big first fill bourbon tones (although it's refill). Big, sweet, meaty and satisfying.
Finish - Long and sweet. Tannic, lemon peat (now) and lots of oak. Good cask musk at the end.
A big, sweet, but lemon oriented dram, echoes of peat but more oaked than that.