Monday, 16 May 2016

Some Whisky Exchange exclusives

I was kind of saving this post to see what survives of my bank account after Campbeltown festival – maybe my enthusiasm would tip the balance between it being in stock or not on my return?  Too late now that Serge has published his notes.  I’ve no chance.  Some you just have to let go!

English Whisky, Classic, TWE, 53.4% A+

stgob.non19Nose - Rich and deep with travel sweets, burning propane and a touch of toothpaste. It's a really hard, almost brutal nose softened unexpectedly with toffee, tropical fruit, pulled pork and menthol, and it just shouts cask quality. There's a herbal note in here too, like flyspray (remember that?) and chalky bonbons. Very compelling, pretty tuff though. Soft and mintier with water, fresh flowers too.

Body - Hard again, floral, toffee pennies and blonde oak. Green apples. Much softer with water, a touch of rolling tobacco against the toffee.

Finish - Medium and quite restrained. Needs water… quite long, citronella, grapefruit zest. More toffee at the end.

A robust, complex young whisky with lots to offer. It stood out at the whisky show but I'm not sure I'd burn through a whole bottle very quickly.

Here’s the new pair, thanks to TWE for samples of these!

Aberlour 16 years old, TWE Exclusive, 53.5% A⊕+

First-fill sherry, Cask #4738

ablob.16yov2Nose - Intense but balanced super-sherry, Japanese levels of ooh. Sangria, wet tobacco, furniture polish (clearer than I've had for a while, even with that slightly sour edge from the solvent in the spray), candle wax balanced out by black pepper. A tiny spike of sulphur seasoning. Mango juice with water, more tobacco, more sulphur. Very classy and quite wonderful, fingers, toes and eyes crossed for the delivery…

Body - Ripe, bright fruit and dusty sherry cask. Balanced and fascinating, numbing and oily like cough candy is. Vanilla sponge, slightly caught, old icing.

Finish - Marker pens and Marlboro reds, long ripe blackberries. Very fruity. Black pepper and fag ash. Some sourness creeps in the finish with water but it opens the fruit out - the finish is very long.

A glorious, complex, slightly dirty but very well judged sherry monster. Very highly recommended.

Highland Park 1999, 16 years old, Gordon and MacPhail, TWE Exclusive, 56.6% A⊕+

First-fill bourbon barrel, Cask #4260

hlpg!m1999Nose - Elegant and old, with sour fruit and mint bonbons. Charred wood, fresh rain, more mango juice. It gets mintier the longer you spend with it. There's a wet wool, germolene and floor polish edge that makes it slightly more challenging than I was expecting. Orange juice with water, and a lot waxier, and old school highlighter pens (I hadn't realised they'd changed smell over the last 20 years until now).

Body - Oh man… unexpectedly rich, massively deep and well rounded, big toffee and supporting sulphur, soft liquorice and cherry pie. Dirty orange (grilled?), moving into grapefruit flesh. Even better with water, that sulphur integrates with the toffee, more orange juice, more grapefruit juice. Perfect.

Finish - Long, spicy and very sweet, very hot at the end, almost fried chillies. With water, burnt toast and almost charcoal.

Single cask HP can be amazing (not surprising the big blends are some of the best on the planet) and this is one of those. Very highly recommended.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A big flight of epic Tomatins

tomatin1988The new Tomatin bottle and packaging is pretty lovely, but it's been a while since we had anything super cool out of the distillery, like Contrast or Cuatro. I'm sure there'll be something along soon. Meanwhile, a pretty awesome flight has built up in my backlog, totally due to whisky friends like Stumbler and Veira.

I warn you though – look away if you’re not a fan of enthusiasm.  There’s some big old gear in here.

The Antiquary 35 years old, 46% A⊕+

Thanks to Stumbler for this gem!  A blended whisky.

antiquary-35-year-old-whiskyNose - Heavenly and robust? Blackberries and floor polish, tobacco and leather belt. It's a blend, so of course the whisky maker is able to balance this out and it really is both interesting and luxurious on the nose. And pretty old school too.

Body - Spiced, dark sherry, toasted wood, tannic with a touch of funk. Quite chewy, strawberry laces with a suggestion of black jacks. Very mouth filling actually, delicious.

Finish - Long and very tannic, blackberries again at the end but it's surprisingly astringent. On first sip this is a bit of a downer but of course it pulls you back in for more black fruit and that complex, mature nose. Almost like they planned it.

Absolutely delicious. The body is surprisingly charred wood and lands in dry tannins but that blackberry brings it all together in fruit and leads you back for another sip. It's just lovely, once in a while, to drink something designed rather than discovered. Cracking stuff.

Tomatin, Distillery only, Hand fill 12 year old bourbon cask #2592, 62.1% A+

Thanks to Matt who scored a bottle of this and the virgin oak at the distillery and split it with the team.

IMG_0754Nose - Young and fruity, hard wax and just a kiss of smoke? That wax strays into (thanks to that smoke) black cherry and almonds, and there's a touch of funk with window putty - something I often get in the (lightly peated) Highland Parks. Limoncello on exhale. Water and a little time gives big fruit and oily citrus, and a slightly Springbanky engine oil on steel quality. Pretty awesome.

Body - Spicy - well it's very strong too. Numbing oils, lemon and peat, that numbing's quite like the bark on some good BBQ; charred sugars and numbing tar. Much sweeter with water, slightly funkier. It's definitely young but it's a really good one.

Finish - Long and lightly tropical, preserved lemons. A touch of gunpowder with water, lemon sherbets, Sichuan peppercorns at the end.

These big, young bourbon single casks can be so delicious when writing notes, but absolute bruisers when you just want a dram. A fantastic cask but perhaps tasting rather than drinking whisky.

Tomatin 2003, for Bresser & Timmer, PX cask #35327, 58.5% A-

An official single cask bottling for Bresser & Timmer, a booze shop in the Netherlands from what I can tell. A bottle we split and shared.

20160418_150833Nose - Dry, nutty and a bit dirty. Candy cigarettes and instant coffee. That dirty, dry sherry does rather cover over the spirit and wood, but underneath there's quite a lot to look for… if I can just push aside the fag ends and mould…. Black cherry again? Candy floss and fruit toffee. Milliput. Dirtier with water, verging on Gorda filth.

Body - Dry, robust, nutty, definitely PX with charred raisins and lots of toffee. Sulphur and chocolate brazils. Softer with water, either I'm just getting used to it or the whisky is coming together.

Finish - Beef and prune tagine, all the way down. Actually, soft liquorice at the end, very distinctly. Astringent.

I have to admit I was pretty disappointed with this when I first cracked the bottle but it opened up with time and water helps too. It's complex, a little bit dirty (but perhaps not quite enough given the interference of the cask with a quality spirit) with lots of discover. I'm not sure I'd go back for a full bottle though.

Tomatin, Distillery only, Hand fill 10 year old virgin oak cask #61, 60% A⊕

20160418_151344Nose - Clear virgin oak, hard but ripe fruit like pear, cherry lip salve, surf board wax. There's a big hit of cherry imps in here to - sweet, hard and artificial (not that that's a problem, in the same way the urinal cake in the 36 (below) isn't). As I've said before, I love these charred or virgin oak Scotches because they scratch that cakey bourbon itch but carry the complexity and gravitas of Scotch too. Fruitier and almost coastal with water.

Body - Intense, black oak and Indian spices (turmeric, asafoetida), chewed menthol tobacco. Pilaf, with charred onions with water. That's not a fault, the sulphur works well with that intense cask. It's more and more drinkable as you settle into the glass.

Finish - Long and intense wood oils, black tea and walnut shells. A touch of Sudocrem with water and time, just slightly medicinal and creamy, and big hop bitterness, like a super-IBU IPA. Sulphured, dried mango slices at the end.

Tough but rewarding, this is the kind of robust, complex and fascinating Tomatin I wish SMWS would release every couple of months! It's been a while. Talking of which…

SMWS 11.16, Tomatin, Smoke in Speyside?, 62.6% A⊕

From my own collection, from auction, but Stumbler scoring that other old society Tomatin inspired me to buy it.

20160418_150416Nose - A bit like the handfill bourbon, but better (more rounded). Young and fruity but the toffee, smoke, funk thing is a bit further forward, better rounded and it's a touch more medicinal. Maybe it's time in glass that's done it? Hard, funky and a little bit odd, better in real life than on paper. More tropical with water, pineapple juice.

Body - Definitely, properly peated now. Sour but rich, charred peach and cashews. Almost bandagey. Seriously tasty.

Finish - Long, complex and very fruity, you can see why the Cu Bocans are so much fun to drink. Quite BBQ/Virgin oaky too, like pineapple glaze on ribs.

Anyone wanting to surprise and delight a blind tasting should pick up a bottle of this. Young and (frankly) heavily peated, with tropical notes throughout, nobody would suspect Tomatin, but the hard fruit was there all along…

Next, two Tomatins from Whisky Broker… from the same parcel, but bottled 9 months and 13 days apart.  And labelled using different label printers.  These are gone but he has a 21 year old on the site at the moment.

Tomatin 24 years old, Whisky Broker, 56.2% A+'

Refill sherry hogshead 18822, 18th October 1990 to 25th February 2015, 233 bottles.

20160503_162151Nose - Clear but austere, hard waxes and plastic fruit. Slightly metallic, a little young cereal, mint toffee and fresh cut flowers. Much better with water, more open but the kind of vanilla and cake I'd expect from a bourbon cask.

Body - Much sweeter and completer than the nose suggested, almost Glenrothes at the start with hot cereal and then some of that fruit and sulphur funk that the 70s stuff usually has. Even fruitier with water.

Finish - Long and deeply sweet, very rich and oily, not austere at all.

A hard, young nose but a big, rich and oily delivery with lots of structure that promises at something that could have been epic at 35.

Tomatin 25 years old, Whisky Broker, 53.6% A+

Refill sherry hogshead 18824, 18th October 1990 to 10th December 2015, 166 bottles.

20160503_162156Nose - Sweet, hard fruit, flinty cleaning fluid, refreshing juices though, freshly squeezed orange juice. Light toffee, more earthy though, like cold coffee. With time though, some more interesting oak sweetness starts to come through and a touch of Danish pastry. It makes more sense once you've tasted it.

Body - Sweet and hard again, like a gobstopper. Menthol tobacco. But with time, juicy fruit chewing gum and sandalwood. A touch of spirit sulphur with water, I'm really starting to enjoy it now.

Finish - Long, slightly flinty but that juicy fruit is really starting to show. Long tannins with water.

Compared to the 24, it's less fruity on the nose, a little harder. The 24 has more floral sweetness. The 24 is more intense on the delivery too but there's something a little more complete in the 25. There's not an enormous amount in it but I'd say the 24 is overall better but the 25 has a little more complexity and grace in the delivery.

Tomatin 25 years old, Official Bottling, 43% A⊕+

Reviewed before.

20160503_162253Nose - Now that's an old Tomatin. Hubba bubba and mangosteen, lovely ripe tropical fruits, cleaning products and crayons, quite sexy. I think this is what I said in my last notes though.

Body - Soft and dirty fruit, balanced structure though. A touch of licked pipe tobacco, and hint of sulphur. This is what's so awesome about these old official Tomatins, it's the lewd fruit and balanced wood structure.

Finish - Medium, slightly fetid wood, drying tannins at the end brings you in for more.

My opinion of this has definitely gone up over the last two years. Maybe that's because I haven't had a bottle of the 30 open in a while. Anyway, what a cracker.

Cadenhead Small Batch Tomatin 1978, 35 years old, 44.1% A⊕⊕

Reviewed before at the same link before, just having it again to compare with the 36 so I won’t write too much.  This is one of my favourite whiskies of all time.

20160503_162218Nose - Holy moly, that's properly old Tomatin. Just like the official 25, it's ploughing the bubblegum and sexy oak thing.

Body - It makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Deep, intense, perfectly balanced at the top end with ripe Asian fruit and lots of spirit sulphur which has intensified over the years against the wood.

Finish - Long. Perfectly balanced with an otherworldly intensity of fruit and sulphur. Still as epic as ever.

Tomatin 36 years old, 1977, Batch 1, 46% A⊕⊕

Thanks again to Stumbler for a sample of this, an official 36 year old. The main event in this flight, bourbon and oloroso casks, 800 bottles.

tomatin-36-year-old-1977-batch-whiskyNose - It is of course a fruit bomb. Complex, ripe fruit, Seville orange zest and besswax, but it also has that delightful, throat catching vanilla pastry, floral tone that reminds me of hubba bubba, cross channel ferries, the dearly departed OB 30yo and the Cadenheads 35yo. It's perfect.

Body - Fascinating. Spicy initially, apple wood and perfectly judged sulphur, tannic and well-structured but enormously luxurious. If you just start drinking it, the tannins start to build and your mouth becomes slightly overloaded with oak, but the sulphur pulls you through this. Water makes it juicier but more ordinary.

Finish - Apple Danish, urinal cake (piney), long, soft wood and tannins with loads of reverb. An Asian fruit, nuttiness at the end like lychee and Durian. Funky fruit dominates with water, and the finish is deafening and very long… after a few minutes I'm thinking of beer fermented with Brettanomyces.

This lives up to all its (sky high) expectations and is the epitome of 70s Tomatin. Fabulous.

Compared to the 35, the nose is more polite, less alien, but classier for it (honestly the 35 is just loopy). There's sherry in the OB too, which softens things further. But the 36 is just one of the most poised, well-constructed whiskies, totally drinkable whiskies I've ever tried.

More, please.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

SMWS May 2016 Outturn

A big outturn this month, and it was chaos in the bar tasting these with some missing and loads of extras – too many for me to get to all of them but I’ve got everything from the new outturn that I could.  There’s some fun to be had in here and importantly there’s quite a few interesting and reasonably priced ones to pick.  If you’re after some summer dramming you’re in luck.  But there’s not too much for the archivist.

26.117, Clynelish, Silky smooth sundowner, 14 years old, 56.8% A⊖

17th April 2001, 282 bottles, refill bourbon, finished in 2nd fill sauternes

20160428_175052Nose - Bright. Ozone and fruit toffee, modelling clay and bathroom spray. It's hard and young though, that finish has fattened out the nose with fruit oils and a light funk, but the hard refill bourbon lives on.

Body - That works though… the delivery has flowers, soap, rosewater and a little funk. Fruitier and rounder with water, with a cinnamon jawbreaker thing going on.

Finish - Long and zesty (grapefruit, preserved lemons), soapy but compelling. I really like the delivery. Hot at the back though.

A weird, unbalanced nose, disintegrated. An interesting and very drinkable delivery, but not a big hit overall.

39.123, Linkwood, A juicy jamoboree, 8 years old, 59.8% A

17th February 2007, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_180115Nose - Full fat after that lot… fruit polos and iron filings, a little grilled corn on the cob with butter… washing up liquid… but that fruit polos thing is quite nice. Danish pastry with water…

Body - Soft, sweet and delicious; lemon curd and foxes glacier fruits now. A really lovely drinker, all boiled sweets and fruit juice. But with water, the fruit disappears.

Finish - Long and fruity, blood orange … quite a lot of spice at the end.

Young and fun, delicious neat but doesn't hang together with water.

If you want a fun drammer for summer, BUY

SMWS 36.102, Benrinnes, After the rain, 12 years old, 57.7% A+

23rd April 2003, 228 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_181059Nose- Sweet, lightly petrolic and mineral. Washing up liquid, toffee pennies, petrichor… yeah very clearly after the rain! On hot summer tarmac. Perfumed and clean, lovely.

Body - Gentle and juicy, a good cereal backing, plastic and popping candy. Delicious.

Finish - More fruit juice, hard oak. Softer overall with water, and good structure and long tannins.

A solid drinker. Evocative and well named.  Recommended.


SMWS 9.106, Glen Grant, Fun without fireworks, 23 years old, 51.7% A

16th November 1992, 198 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_182810Nose - Zesty with fresh sweat and hand soap, birthday candles in buttercream icing. Liquorice imps. So perfumed it's practically Indian. Fuller and fruitier with water, more cereal too.

Body - Zesty again… Laminated cardboard, cut flowers. Toffee with water, charred newspaper, orange zest.

Finish - Long but restrained, toffee and cardboard again. Very long with water, more birthday cake…. Love that orange icing.

Looks good on paper but it was hard work - competent but not that interesting.

SMWS 7.131, Longmorn, Apples in the cellar, 12 years old, 58.3% A+

22nd September 2003, 186 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_185823Nose - Sweet, sour and bourbony, charred wood and candy cigarettes (quite austere) and fake apple (boiled sweets). Vanilla cream with water.

Body - Big and fruity, the full sweet shop, oily and not too young, posh lemonade, fence panel. More robust with water, lots of vanilla though.

Finish - Long, oily and delicious. Sherbet dib dabs, black pepper, cheap vanilla ice cream. Mint bonbons at the end.

A big, oily, sweetshop of a whisky. Delicious.


SMWS 123.16, Glengoyne, Madagascan white chocolate mice, 10 years old, 57.5% B+

4th May 2005, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_191232Nose - Wax and white chocolate, freshly cut courgette, oat cookies? With time some hand soap, chardonnay and icing. Subtle, clean, young. More interesting with water, only a little bit though.

Body - Wax and chocolate again, but spicy and zesty, with Sichuan peppercorns and pea pods. Good white wine and white flowers with water.

Finish - Medium, soapy, hard. Nougat at the end.

A quite ordinary whisky with some decent floral sweetness.

SMWS 73.75, Aultmore, Raspberry Atholl Brose, 17 years old, 56.1% B

29th May 1998, 294 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_192218Nose - Hard to pin this one down… raspberry jam on toast, more perfume, minted potatoes… it's hard work though. Cracked black pepper, Ryvita… hmm.

Body - Sharp and spicy, thin and dry, crusty bread. Slightly more interesting with water, a touch of Sauvignon Blanc? The centre of an aniseed ball.

Finish - Ginger nuts. Long but vodka like (dry, thin, spicy). This is more grain than malt.

Amazing that this is 17 years old, it must have been 5th fill.

SMWS 46.39, Glenlossie, Continental breakfast, 23 years old, 59.0% A+

2nd November 1992, 240 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_192222Nose - Cereal. Pretzel pieces. Crunchy nut cornflakes. Black pepper? Urinal cake? Interesting… behind that there's some really well hidden toffee and fruit, there's a good cask in there somewhere. Works a lot better with water, now its classy rather than just closed.

Body - Big and sharp and fruity, pine and orange juice. Ozone. Really classy with water, like a fino sherry.

Finish - Seville orange, orange oils, sanded rosewood. Very long with water, orange slices with cinnamon powder. Very classy. Nutty at the end.

A weirdly austere whisky that works so well with water.


SMWS 41.73, Dailuaine, One night in Bangkok, 11 years old, 58.9% A

11th May 2004, 198 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_194712Nose - Ripe and Asian, waxed fruit and mango squash. But don't get too excited, that's under a blanket of spirit …. A recently extinguished coconut candle,

Body - Soft and fruity, the mango squash to the fore. Liquorice torpedos. Cut flowers with water.

Finish - Short but fruity, clean. A ton of coconut… almost Malibu levels.

This is the young blockbuster you're looking for.  BUY

SMWS 30.91, Glenrothes, Deliciously dark and sweet, 18 years old, 58.7% A⊕

17th April 1997, 744 bottles, refill Gorda

20160428_195616Nose - Dry and dirty but actually the ozone makes it clean too. Walnuts and chocolate sponge (dry and dusty though) with chocolate icing. Sherry vinegar, very pronounced, proper salad dressing. Caught stew. No sulphur.

Body - Pure Gorda here but no sulphur still. Dry and sherried.. Actually here's some sulphur. God I love these Gorda casks. Starting to get some proper filth with water, but much more tannic.

Finish - Lemon shells in the roasting pan, long and dirty. Very meaty, gamey even.

This is so compelling. I'm a sucker for these Gorda casks though.


SMWS 66.83, Ardmore, A memory of summer, 14 years old, 54.7% B⊕

26th November 2001, 222 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160428_200600Nose - Like a modern Laphroaig (like Select cask). French cooked pastry and ordinary peat. Smoky bacon, but quite weak. A touch of plasticine. Some lolly stick. With water, granite.

Body - Like a mescal, actually that works quite well - green and agave. Fresh, clean, green apple and after eight mints.

Finish - Medium but here's some actual whisky flavours. Toffee and cask, still fresh though. Big tannins at the end.

One of the dullest noses I've smelled, but it'd be an epic mescal on the delivery. Extremely neckable, and I mean this when I say BUY

SMWS 3.260, Bowmore, Delicate perfumed sweetness, 15 years old, 55.3% A⊕

28th March 2000, 240 bottles, first fill bourbon. Didn’t get a photo!

Nose - Mulled wine, salt and vinegar chipsticks, blueberries. Love hearts and sugar syrup.

Body - Deep, soft, crushed barley, quite dreamy. Tinned pineapple.

Finish - Condensed milk, really creamy.

This is a beautiful whisky, it bears a passing resemblance to Bowmore but I would have called it as Caol Ila if it wasn't for the deep vanilla cream. Absolutely delicious, it's like a cream liqueur Bowmore.

I didn't try it with water.  Always a good sign.


SMWS 29.180, Laphroaig, An apothecary shop on the shore, 16 years old, 52.3% A⊕

1st July 1999, 264 bottles, refill bourbon

20160428_204045Nose - Lime cordial, bandages, cob nuts and clay. Proper sticky danish pastry, cinammon swirl nearly. This whisky has a very clear mission statement. Wax, blackboard and agave with water.

Body - Sweet but tart and fruity. Dirty bandages with water. Delicious.

Finish - Slightly dirty, warm white wine. Very long, with burnt bandages at the end.

A classic society Laphroaig, just excellent. Buy it. I can't, I've got decalitres of Laphroaig at home.