Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Cadenheads Small Batch–July 2016

These are notes from a preview tasting of the Cadenhead’s Small Batch outturn for July 2016.  The Small Batch range are small vattings of two or more casks – often only two.  This is perfect I think – two casks can fill in some gaps that might be present in a single cask without losing single-cask type interest or quirks.  These vattings are often quite old and very good. 

There’s also a couple of really big guns in here, a Tomatin 39 and Jura 30.  Sadly they were very limited in the UK and preallocated.  The last old Tomatin small batch was the 35 year old, one of my favourite whiskies of all time, so I was extremely keen to try this.

Auchentoshan 17 years old, 55.5% A⊕

20160629_202236Nose - Sweet, gentle and berried, very relaxed - white chocolate, vanilla ice cream and a gentle tobacco. Really creamy, really rich. Slightly more in distillery character with water.

Body - Creamy and a little bit of funk, a lot of ice cream and wood splints. More complex spices with water.

Finish - Medium, fresh and slightly hot. Long oils.

A lovely, clean, easy drinking Auchentoshan. Recommended.

Blair Athol 19 years old, 54.5% A+

20160629_202136Nose - Complex and berried, very clean with fresh mint leaves and perfume. Meatier with water.

Body - Quite herbal, quite meaty, very oily. Lamb fat and mint bonbons. Very complete and very herbal with water, with a slight (and welcome) sulphur backnote

Finish - Long and quite chalky. Astringent even. But there's a real stewed fruit depth in here with red chilli. Very compelling.

This is quite a weird one, but keeps you coming back for more.

Glen Spey 14 years old, 46% B+

20160629_202225Nose - Liquorice imps, more mint, marzipan on exhale. Rose hand-cream.

Body - Soft and creamy; Victoria sponge with strawberry jam.

Finish - Lightly spiced, quite long but quite one-dimensionally wooded

A competent drinker but lacking midrange.

Speyside 24 years old, 50.5% A⊕

20160629_202139Nose - Clean cask wax, mature barley, a classical nose. But a really deep sweetshop note, whistle pops and truffles.

Body - I would have called this for a mature Auchentoshan… there's funky fruit and real complete set of oils in this, apricot jam and sweet liquorice allsorts.

Finish - Medium, but with a lovely wood-fruit balance and complex balance right to the end.

Lovely stuff, really classy.

Glen Grant 23 years old, 53.1% A⊕+

20160629_202143Nose - Classier and more mature here, with crayons and a touch of poster paints. Weirdly, fried carrot and black pepper? I love the balance and midrange in this - musk and wax. Green apple, with time. It smells very, very expensive.

Body - Complex, old and very ripe. Extremely rich with roast chicken and lemon shells. More glazed with water, with a great sulphur back note.

Finish - Long and very ripe. Lemon bonbons. Really deep.

An awesome whisky,mature beyond it’s years.

Aberlour 25 years old, 51.4% A⊕+

20160629_185702Nose - Gentler but very classy again, wax and birthday candles, fresh soil and a ripe red wine behind it. I love the earthy background here.

Body - Really rich… stewed apple with raisins, royal icing, apple sorbet? Weirdly refreshing like an excellent Sauternes.

Finish - Tart tatin with vanilla ice cream. Long and beautiful, with gentle toffee, pepper and banana milkshake. Tropical burps and blood at the end.

This is superb. The Glen Grant is superb, classical and mature, but this is just my type of thing.  But Phil is still in love with the Glen Grant and by this point is chanting: Auchie Auchie Auchie! Grant Grant Grant!

Glendullan 19 years old, first fill bourbon, 53.45% A⊕+

20160629_190830Nose - Musky cask, boiled sweets, treacle tart. Cut plums, truffle honey and a touch of iron filings. Soap. Hot radiator with water. Very good.

Body - Wax and spice, a touch of cardboard.  Slight Oloroso sherry nuttiness and plum tannins at the side of the mouth. Oilier with water, lovely waxes.

Finish - Medium and winey with good oils. I'm reminded of a sherry laden salad dressing with fried garlic (not the sulphur, but the rich depth).

Another cracker.

Dailuaine 11 years old first fill sherry, 46% A⊕

20160629_202246Nose - Fresh Isle of Wight tomatoes, olive oil and rare beef. Reminds me of arriving at a black marbled, expensive restaurant for a meal of many courses. Savoury, mineral, very interesting.

Body - Crikey… beautifully sherried (despite being very pale) but lots of spirit character too - almonds, dates, emulsion paint. Even better with water, lovely balanced sherry.

Finish - Apple pie with raisins… orange zest and balanced tannins.

Fascinating. The salad and rare beef on the nose, and deceptive sherry on the delivery (really balanced too).

Tomatin 39 years old, 43.8% A⊕⊕

20160629_194354Nose - Glorious. Of course it's a fruit bomb - peaches and kiwi fruit, gentle structure… it's perfect.

Body - Deep and perfect - the fruit, the cask and the gentle petrolic structure of ‘70s Tomatin. A touch of juicy fruit chewing gum, strawberry laces at the back of the throat. Really beautiful with a drop of water, pure high class Chardonnay.

Finish - Old and gentle, perfectly poised. Very long, very drying at the end.

It's what you thought it would be like.

Jura 30 years old, 42.5% A⊕+’

Nose - Gentle but zesty and mineral. Such classy cask, with cologne, white pepper, candied orange and fresh emulsion paint.

Body - Orange juice. Mint bonbons. Fresh red apple. Perfect with just a gentle ghost of toffee and tobacco.

Finish - Long with fresh magazine and red apple skin. Perfectly balanced, toffee and tannins.

This is significantly better than I thought it would be, a really fantastic dram.


We also re-tried the Glenrothes 26 year old from last time (a lot better than I remember it) and the new batch of Longrow 18 (sherry and rum cask) which is totally fantastic too.  And Bret’s 80’s Springbank from Japan which is waxy as hell but a story for another time…

Some we missed (due to lack of samples) but will also be in the outturn are a North British 31, Caledonian 28. The outturn is out on Friday.  Cheers!


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Campbeltown Festival 2016 Day Three

Another dizzy, whispered full Scottish breakfast, and the final day of the Campbeltown Festival.  A shorter day that ends with us on the flight out of Campbeltown airport, but first there’s an unexpectedly large amount of unexpectedly epic whisky.

Glengyle (Kilkerran) Open Day

The third day is lightly attended due to people leaving for Feis Ile.  I haven’t been to Feis but I can’t say I’d rather be there, queueing for a bottle of Lagavulin I’ll never get round to opening, than in Glengyle distillery drinking 80’s Highland Park.


But first, one of the absolute highlights of the whole week.

Cadenhead's Warehouse Tasting

Before going to Glengyle, we have the Cadenhead’s tasting in one of the dunnage warehouses at Springbank.  Led by Mark Watt, General Manager at Cadenheads, at very early o’clock, we tasted some absolute gems right from the cask and listened (not for the first time this week) to Mark’s selection of jokes.  For example “I’m often asked what type of cask this whisky was from… <points at cask> it’s that one!”.


Glengoyne 2001, 15 years old, refill sherry butt, 59.7% A+

WP_20160520_10_25_05_RichN - Dry, dusty and dunnagey (but then that's where we are). Clean and hard oak. Some ozone, cranberries. B - Hard cereal and boiled sweets. There's a great, rich confidence about it, a cracking little cask. A bit tough for 10am though.

Arran 1996, 19 years old, 44.2% A⊕

20160612_113512The earliest Arran cask Cadenheads have. Andy Bell, the sales manager for Arran was there for the afternoon tasting and he told us in the early days (having just built the distillery) they didn't want to spend big money on good casks so it's rare to find an Arran this good, this old.  I thought it was particularly compelling.  But then, tasting it in the warehouse is always a good sales technique… 

N - Extremely clean and gently fruity. Petrichor. B - Intensely floral, fruity with air freshener. F - Long and dusty, dry at the end. A fantastic cask - intensity, balance well beyond its years.

Caperdonich 1996, 20 years old, 48.9% A⊕+

3 years in sherry cask.

20160612_113550N - Deep fruit, charred bamboo, really sweet but well balanced. B - Deep toffee and fruit tart. F - Long, boiled sweets right to the end. Very, very good.

I do like a Caperdonich.

Auchentoshan 1999, Lafitte cask since 2009, 53.9% A⊕

20160612_123852N - Asian fruit, mushrooms, cashews. Meaty and dirty. B - Nutty and dark, filthy but beautiful. F - Long and nutty, cherry compote. Really well integrated and very drinkable.

Springbank May 9 1997, 19 years old, re-charred sherry butt, 58.8% A⊕⊕

20160612_113522N - Perfect, mature Springbank (it's all getting a bit much by this point clearly). B - Deep fruits, toffee and charred bananas, black forest gateau. F - Long and spicy, perfect refreshers, old school sherry. Fantastic.

This is an epic whisky, someone on the tasting bought 6 bottles.  I wish I had.  Proper notes here.

Bowmore 2000, 54.6% A⊕

N - Tropical fruit and cigar tobacco, dirty peat. B - Same as the noise. Refreshers and tannins, Sichuan peppercorns and marmite. F - Very dry. A fantastic, fruity, dry Bowmore.


Caol Ila 1984, 32 years old A⊕+

20160612_113536N - Incredible sweetshop, coastal, jewelled fruit. B - Tannins and perfect, tropical fruit.

Who can resist very old Caol Ila?

Not me.



Kilkerran WIP retrospective.

Springbank took a poll on Facebook and picked the most popular 6 WIP for this tasting .  This marks the end of the WIP range and the launch (in August) of the new Kilkerran 12 year old!

Glengyle is amazing.  The quality of whisky coming out of this distillery is incredible from a standing start, and they only distil 40,000 litres per year, the distillery is working for only one month per year.


6th place: WIP6 Bourbon, 2014. A⊕

Pink label as two of the sales team had baby girls that year.

N - Hard fruit, boiled sweets. Orange squash. B - Ripe, very sweet, great oak and a touch of tobacco. Nutty with water.

Really, really good, particularly with water.

5th place: WIP1 2009, 5 years old, sherry and bourbon casks. A+

White bottle, 12,000 bottles.

N - Hard and closed, some ozone, some lemon oils. B - Very warming and mature for the age, some fruit whistles, light acetone. F - Lovely oils on this one, great mouthfeel, some red wine. Surprisingly good for 5 years old.

WP_20160520_12_26_59_Rich (2)

4th place: WIP7 Sherry, 2015 A+

N - Indian spices and green apple. Sea water. B - Sweet and beautiful, a touch of sulphur, ripe pear. Some mint with water. F - Long and clean, fantastic stuff.

3rd place: WIP3 2011, sherry and bourbon casks. A⊕

9,000 bottles.

N- Almond cream, milk tart and mushrooms. B - Creamy and slightly petrolic, toast and pâté. Another robust but beautifully formed whisky.

2nd place: WIP4 2012, 8 years old, sherry and bourbon casks A⊕

Sherry and bourbon casks.

N - More complex, more tobacco. Pink wafers. Beautiful charred oak, toffee and plastic book coverings. F - Medium, quite fruity. Much smokier with water. Madeira cask and red wine tannins. Tropical burps (by this point). I’m surprised how good this is!

1st place: WIP7 Bourbon, 2015, 54.5%

N - Sweet, red wine, hazelnuts. B - Spicy and a little dirty.


And that was the last tasting for us.  We were booked into the Q&A session but the Cadenhead’s lucky dip bar was too compelling:  Pick three raffle tickets and get 1cl of random cask samples from under Mark Watt’s desk.  There was some epic stuff in there (some pictures after the split, below).  I was beyond making notes by that point.  Starting with a 1977 Convalmore, there was old Girvan, Tomatin, Highland Park…

What a fantastic three days.  Somewhat cold and wet at points, but some really fantastic whisky and being immersed in Springbank and Kilkerran, and Cadenheads – and Campbeltown in general – was just wonderful.  It seems to me that Springbank is just getting better, but Kilkerran is a real rising star, they have a future classic on their hands.  And they’re not even trying that hard!

Thanks to everyone who worked at the festival for making it great and thanks Cuan for coming along.  Our accommodation and flights are already booked for next year!


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Campbeltown Festival 2016 Day Two

WP_20160519_11_21_11_RichAfter yesterday’s fun and last night’s big dinner ending in a serious session with a bottle of Kilkerran 12 years old, we woke up for the Springbank open day a little bit worse for wear (although better than some others).  One full Scottish breakfast later, a quick trip to see the lovely people at Cadenhead’s in Campbeltown and we were in the queue for the festival bottles.

Day Two - Springbank Open Day

The festival bottles were as follows:

- Kilkerran 8 years old, first fill sherry cask

- Springbank 9 years old, refill Marsala cask

- Longrow 21 years old, refill bourbon


The weather was absolutely terrible, particularly shocking given the amazing sun that was had across the country in the previous few days.  Biting winds, driving rain, absolutely freezing…

Chatting to Mark Watt outside the distillery he mentioned a cask of 1977 Littlemill and a recharred sherry Springbank 19 year old would be being bottled as part of the celebrations.  It was only then that the enormity of what was about to happen dawned on me.  We had a packed schedule ahead of us!

Note that most tasting notes in this set are just micro-notes - short impressions. I was enjoying myself too much to write proper notes!

Springbank - How wood influences our spirit tasting

First tasting of the Springbank open day, and we had six whiskies to blind taste, and 6 liquids from the represented casks - Port, Marsala, Madeira, Oloroso sherry, South African Shiraz and Rum. As they were blind tasted, my guess is given then the result. I only had two swapped round, pretty close!

WP_20160519_11_37_23_Rich (2)

1. Guess - Springbank Rum

Nose - Clean, soapy and lightly minty, light waxes. Weirdly unbalanced, perhaps rum.

Body - Very sweet and quite young, a touch of banana. Quity soapy again.

Finish - Medium long, uneventful.

[Springbank, 19 years old, Rum cask]

2. Guess - Longrow SA Shiraz

Nose - Sweet but dirty. Toasted oak.

Body - Sweet but drying, dirty wine cask, quite sulphured.

Finish - Short, sweet and uncomplicated (maybe it was a bit early in the morning!)

[Longrow, 14 years old, Oloroso sherry butt]

3. Guess - Springbank Port

WP_20160519_12_21_59_RichNose - Minty , fresh, wet wood, a touch coastal. Minty is a dead giveaway for Port Springbank.

Body - Herbal (fresh mint leaves), sweet oak.

Finish - Clean and quite short

[Springbank 15 years old, Fresh Port cask]

4. Guess - Springbank Madeira

Nose - Sweet, clean, mint bonbons

Body - Darker and more petrolic

Finish - Short, clean.

[Springbank Society 2013 bottling, 15 years old, Madeira hogshead]

5. Guess - Springbank Marsala - Very good

Nose - Slightly dirtier, riper

Body - Darker and more petrolic

Finish - A little longer, more sulphur

[Springbank Festival 2016 Bottling, 9 years old, refill Marsala], full notes here.

6. Guess - Springbank Oloroso

Nose - Sweet and classy, great wax and floor polish

Body - Very sweet and nutty

Finish- Beautiful and clean with a little brazil nut

[New Longrow Red, August 2016, SA Malbec cask], full notes here.

The last two were particularly good.

Kilkerran "mini masterclass"


A quick tasting with a trio of Kilkerrans, including the festival bottling and the Gaja Barolo that Belgium got when we got the Calvados cask.

Kilkerran 9 years old, Calvados single cask

Reviewed properly before.

N - Lovely hard wax and apples. B - Sweet and brutal, black pepper. An awesome drammer, robust and confident.

Kilkerran 8 years old, Oloroso sherry hogshead first fill, Festival bottling 2016, 350 bottles, 56.4% A+

N - Immediate hard, young sherry. Chocolate covered toffee. B - Roasted coffee with Mexican hot chocolate and wood splints. A touch of sulphur funk. F - Long and rude, young and confident as usual. Long instant-coffee at the end with sharp red fruit.

Full notes here.


Kilkerran 8 years old, Gaja Barolo (Belgium and NZ), 276 bottles, A⊕'

N - Quite closed, a little cold perhaps (at this point we were freezing cold and wet, the weather was terrible). With time, nail polish and red fruit. Classic Kilkerran sour, hard fruit. B - Blackcurrant chews, beautiful. F - Long and fruity, very good.

Springbank Masterclass

A fair few whiskies I’ve had before on this tasting but a first chance to taste the festival Longrow 21.


Hazelburn "tasting room" cask, Solera cask (10-14 years old) A+

This is the living cask at the Cadenheads shop in Campbeltown.

N - Sweet sherry and a touch of cardboard. Some waxed red fruit, waxier with water. B - Sweet, hot and slightly sulphured, ripe and toasty (toast, honey and sulphur). F - Hot sulphur. Quite satisfying, long and peppered with red wine.

Hazelburn, leaky society bottling A+'

Reviewed before, but interesting to taste it next to the living cask.

N - Darker and winier, good cherry complexity. B - Ripe and lots of peat. Red cherry. Wood char. F - Long and juicy, a touch of sulphur.

Longrow 21 years old, Festival 2016 bottling

N - Light, peppery, light waxes. Orchard, burnt candles. B - Pepper and white wine, beautiful waxes. F - Elegant and spicy cereal.

I'm wasn’t passing judgement on this until I could taste it in a relaxed environment, I learnt that lesson with various Springbank 21s at whisky festivals! Full notes here.

Springbank Warehouse Tasting

A fantastic warehouse tasting in one of the dunnage warehouses at Springbank distillery. One of the highlights of the trip, nothing beats tasting whisky straight from the cask in the warehouse.

WP_20160519_14_49_32_Rich (2)

Hazelburn 1997, 19 years old, A⊕+

WP_20160519_14_49_42_Rich (2)The oldest cask of Hazelburn in the warehouses.

N - Sweet, hard oak, vanilla, bread. B - Deep, very rich, slightly dirty, lots of vanilla sponge cake. F - Long, very fruity, quite tropical even with pineapple and mango

Kilkerran, 12 years old, Cask #6, Fresh Port A⊕+

WP_20160519_14_49_58_RichThe remnants of the sixth cask of Kilkerran, part of the 6 bottle set that was released of early Kilkerran casks. This was so good it caused someone we were chatting to to go and buy one of the remaining sets for a four figure sum. He was in shock when we met him afterwards! 

N - Deep, mellow, classy blackcurrant and pineapple. B - Beautiful ozone and sea-side notes, intense but elegant. F - Long, lots of blackcurrant.

The next Springbank 21 year old vatting, 48% A⊕+

WP_20160519_14_50_23_Rich (2)This was one of the vatting casks for the January 2017 release of Springbank 21. All of the various casks of 20 year Springbank are mixed together and racked to a set of refill sherry butts for one year to take on a little colour. It's going to be a good one. This might be the Springbank 21 I buy!  But there’s a release before then (in August I think) which will be special as it’s single casks – different casks for each country.

N - Sweet and perfect, dusty sweets, refreshers - beautiful. B - Deep, floral and slightly alien.

WP_20160519_15_01_28_Rich (2)We then tried the new Longrow Red Malbec again, but from the cask. Still cracking. It's 11 years in bourbon casks then into Malbec for one year. Next year they'll be trying Chardonnay casks for a Longrow White.

Springbank 22 years old, refill Chateau Lafite finish, 48% A⊕⊕

WP_20160519_15_13_27_RichThis was going to be the festival bottling this year but they had the sale of a cask of Longrow 21 year old cancelled and bottled that as it was rarer.

N - Sweet but dry, gloriously dusty. B - Perfect fruit, slightly sour. F - Very tannic, beautiful.

Cadenheads Masterclass

The last tasting of a very long day, this culminated in the sale of one of the whiskies - a cask of 1977 Littlemill which had been rolled into the maltings for the tasting and we bottled and bought there and then. Cuan tried to get his bottle filled so full that the cork wouldn't go on properly and it broke the capping machine, spraying 77 Littlemill everywhere. It's a cracking dram.


Miltonduff 21 years old, Lafite since 2009, 51.5% A+

From the recent outturn?

N - Dark wine but quite soapy. B - Fresh wine, oak, soap, rich and fruity. F - Long and biscuity, quite dry. A competent, well matured but quite ordinary whisky.

Cadenheads blended whisky, 43 years old, cask sample from one of the marrying casks at 45.2% A⊕

An upcoming very old blended whisky from Cadenheads, this will be popular.  If my notes can be read (tricky) this is 4 casks blended, some understrong 1972, one 1973 (Glenlivet and Glenfarclas I think) and a cask of Invergorden. It's marrying in 2x sherry and 2x port casks. This sample is from the sherry cask. It'll sell for about £125 a bottle.

N - Massive. Winey and musky like burnt honey. B - Big, ripe and fruity with old wine. Extremely good. Soft and old with some gentle fruit.

Glenkinchie 28 years old, 53.3% A⊕

From the recent outturn.

N - Dry, bright and coastal, lemon and cardboard. A day at the beach. It's lovely. B - Ripe and darkly jewelled. F - Beautiful and balanced, loads of fruit.

Littlemill 1977 cask sample, 39 years old A⊕+

20160612_113603WP_20160519_17_02_39_RichN - Bright and tropical. Pineapple, dark cereal, permanent markers, beautiful. B - Oaked chardonnay, apricot jam. F - Medium, tropical, very well balanced.

Pulteney 25 years old, 50.5% A⊕+

From the recent outturn.  This one’s sold out though.   Here’s Jason on this one.

N - Bright and beautiful tropical fruit. Good, hot radiator. Fabulous fruit on the nose. B - Fake fruit, great balance. F - Medium, quite hot at the end, then cereal.

Caol Ila 20 years, 57.7% A+

As just pimped that morning by Cadenhead's greatest salesman, Serge of Whiskyfun.

N - Coal and ash, toffee, charred pear and crackling. Honey on buttered bread. Beautiful. B - Sweet and biscuity, baked apples. F - Very long and twiggy. A great Caol Ila but not the second coming. The previous 25 year old was better.

We ended the evening at the dance (with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers) on the malt floor, drinking rehydrating pints of ale and a final dram of Springbank 15.


It was a pretty epic day.  We completely missed the open day bar, which sounded great, due to a gapless programme of tastings.  Next year I might drop a couple of those in order to catch breath, actually do a distillery tour and spend some time at the bar… but not many.  I wouldn’t drop the warehouse tour or the Cadenheads masterclass.

WP_20160519_23_21_29_Rich (2)

So with our feet firmly on the accelerator we crashed into our hotel (via the above bar), expecting an easier time of it at Glengyle open day.  Although there is that 10am Cadenheads warehouse tasting…

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Campbeltown Festival 2016 Day One

WP_20160518_11_07_03_RichIt might be time for me to put my hand up and admit that Springbank is my favourite distillery. I lump Hazelburn, Longrow and Glengyle (Kilkerran) into that but mainly it's Springbank. When asked what my favourite whisky is, my stock answer is that the reason I love whisky so much is the infinite variety - how can you pick a favourite from them? But there's something "all whisky" about Springbank, the perfect seasoning of peat, the thick, oily, complete spirit profile, the honesty of production ("we don't change anything, we just do it how we've always done it"). Not to mention the other stuff - family owned, limited production, a focus on the community. It's a proper craft distillery. Oh and they own Cadenhead’s.

WP_20160518_11_06_23_Rich (3)So making the trip to Campbeltown Festival was a proper pilgrimage. It’s spread over three days; the Wednesday is Glen Scotia open day, Thursday Springbank and Friday Glengyle. I went with my adventuring buddy Cuan (who took all these photos because his phone is capable of taking photos) and we had a very busy three days, starting very early on the Wednesday, excited and a little bit nervous, and glossy eyed with joy and quite drunk by Friday afternoon.

WP_20160518_09_15_20_Rich (2)We booked into every tasted we could fit in. On Thursday there was an alternative (an apparently rather good bar) at Springbank, which I’d make time for next time, but I think if you went without a relatively full set of booked tastings you’d have a lot less fun.


Day one - Glen Scotia Open Day

WP_20160518_07_57_32_Rich (2)So on day one we arrived at 8am via a tiny little prop jet plane, the short hop from Glasgow to Campbeltown. This is an event in itself and quite exciting to see the pilot operating the controls a few seats in front of you. Somehow it almost felt safer travelling at such a reduced speed.

The first day may be Glen Scotia open day, but the focus was still Springbank for us.  The day started with the Springbank Society tasting (at the distillery) and ended with the Kilkerran launch dinner.

Note that most tasting notes in this set are just micro-notes - short impressions. I was enjoying myself too much to write proper notes!

Springbank society tasting 2016

WP_20160518_11_30_48_Rich (2)This annual Springbank society tasting blind tastes a number of casks to pick one to be bottled as the next society tasting. That leaky hazelburn was last year's pick, but the cask was nearly empty when they came to bottle it and they had to pick the runner up. This year I really loved 2nd place, but kept thinking back to what came first, so I'm actually quite pleased that the winner was what it was.

Anyway, these were all tasted blind and we were told at the end what they were. So my guesses are inline with the results given after each whisky.

1. 8/10 A⊕

Nose - Citrus, agave, quite mescally with peat, and a lovely toffee richness behind it. Ozone and oiled wood, a beautiful summer dram. Even better with water, more smoke, more tobacco, more engine oil.

Body - Soft, clean, very refreshing. Good ripe apple and smoke catching at the back of the throat.

Finish - Fruit polos. Very tart, white wine. More fruit and a touch of funk with water.

Austere and very well made. Young but excellent, particularly with water. Dangerously drinkable. Big fan.

The intense sweetness makes me think it's a Hazelburn, but that peat means it should be Springbank, refill bourbon.

[Springbank refill bourbon, 18 years old, 50.42%]


2. 7/10 A+

Nose - Deeper but sharper, coal smoke and peaches. A bit more closed than the last one. Less complex and rich. With time that coal is more pronounced. A little seaside funk with water.

Body - Sweet, young, fruity… quite intense… sour young cereal but balanced with a touch of wax and wine. A sour, almost rotten note with water.

Finish - Long and vanilla cream. Black pepper.

Good, intense sweetness, fruity and funky, slightly rotten.

Definitely Springbank.

[Longrow 11 years old, first fill port cask #177, 60.08%]

3. 9/10 A⊕+

Nose - Deeper and older, charred raisins, engine oil and hot rubber. Quite christmassy… might just be that we're sitting in the distillery near the peat fire! Cigarette smoke with water. Refill sherry Springbank 18?

Body - Red wine, then nutty Oloroso sherry, clean and clear. Loads of fruit, fresh port and a touch of sulphur (dirty peat). It's fabulous.

Finish - Long, fruity and dirty. Tannic. Dirtier with water.

A perfect, classically sherried Springbank, tones of Guns on the Grouse Moor, long and dirty finish. Awesome.

[Longrow, 14 years old, first fill Oloroso sherry cask #515, 54.15%]

4. 8/10 A⊕

Nose – The oldest yet. Ripe but restrained, caramelised bananas and toast with honey. Last night's charred oak logs. More mescal smoke with water.

Body - Intense, sweet and incredibly toffeed. Grilled pineapples. Pineapple cubes with water.

Finish - A long development through grapefruit and biscuity tannins. Intense but young. Aniseed. Tropical burps. A touch of sulphur at the end.

Maybe it's a sweet wine cask? That would explain the intense sweetness, interesting development and sulphur at the end. Guess Springbank 21, Sauternes finish.

[Springbank 15 years old, first fill Jamaican rum cask #763, 52.05%]

We scored each and these were totalled to give the following results. Funnily enough they were rated in tasting order. 

4th: 1 - [Springbank refill bourbon, 18 years old, 50.42%]

3rd: 2 - [Longrow 11 years old, first fill port cask #177, 60.08%]

2nd: 3 - [Longrow, 14 years old, first fill Oloroso sherry cask #515, 54.15%]

1st: 4 - [Springbank 15 years old, first fill Jamaican rum cask #763, 52.05%]

The winner will be 16 years old when bottled later this year, and it'll be about 200 bottles.  Look forward to it!

Glen Scotia warehouse tasting

After that we went over to Glen Scotia for a warehouse tasting. The dunnage warehouses were mostly empty, and very tall.

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Glen Scotia 2009, bourbon cask, 20ppm, 62.4% A-

WP_20160518_13_03_37_RichN - sweet and dusty, refreshers and clean oak. Very ozoney/clean, with modelling clay. Young cereal, lovel wax.

B - Sharp, good cereal peat, then toasted. Really good for a 9 year old.

Glen Scotia 2001, bourbon cask A⊕

WP_20160518_13_24_45_RichN - Sweetshop. Opal fruits and fruit polos. Acrylic.

B - Very sweet, waxy fruit, tannins and oils.

F - Wax and a little roast apricot

Glen Scotia 1999, sherry hogshead, C⊕+

WP_20160518_13_09_40_RichWeirdest whisky I’ve had in a while.  A fabulous nose, tasted awful, although I was quite enjoying how weird it was.  Cuan chucked his on the floor in disgust (unheard of).

N - Ridiculous. Intensely jewelled, brighter sweetshop. I would have called this for 40, pure carpentry.

B - A car crash. Vanish and banana chews, rotten fruit and salted caramel. Fenugreek.

F - Long and horrible. Foam bananas, black pepper, artificial. Better with water.

WP_20160518_13_09_44_Rich (2)Glen Scotia 2004, heavily peated, 32ppm A

N - Young and sulphured, toast and apricot jam, quite closed. Fresher with water.

B - Lightly peated, post oak and pepper. Plum tart.

F - Fizzing tannins, salted caramels but quite ordinary.

Kilkerran dinner

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The Kilkerran dinner was on the evening of the first day and started with a tasting of three different casks. We voted for the winner which was bottled while we ate and handed to us on the way out.

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The food was excellent, the wine was really great too, and there were bottles of Kilkerran 12 year old on the table (we nailed two on our table but that was because some warehouse staff nicked most of one… to be honest I was quite grateful for that the next morning!). It was a bit of an extravagance to go to it, but one I will hopefully repeat next year. Highly recommended.

Kilkerran Madeira cask 2004, 55.5% A+

WP_20160518_19_05_37_Rich (2)N - Big, sweet and waxy. B - Chewy, acidic, wham bars. Very thick. F - Long and dry. Toffee apples. Sweet and tart. Waxy lacquer.

Kilkerran Fino cask 2004, 54.9% A⊕

WP_20160518_19_05_48_Rich (2)In refill bourbon since 2014.

N - Cleaner, less brutal. Apples and perfume, clean toffee, red wine. B - Tobacco and tropical fruit, lots of spice, lots of toffee, creme caramel. Intensley sweet. F- Cinammon fireballs, lots of fun, toothpase after a while. Classier than the Madeira.

Kilkerran rum cask 2004, 54.9% A

WP_20160518_19_33_22_RichN - Herbal, clay, marmalade, cereal, cut grass. B - Spicy, intense oils, deep toffee tobacco. F - Long and dry, lovely rich toffee fruit. But a little mixed overall, unbalanced.

We picked the Madeira cask - pretty good, really thick and oily (very opaque too).

Kilkerran 12 years old, vatting sample, 50% A⊕

So this is a sample from the vatting of the new not-work-in-progress, come-of-age Kilkerran 12 year old. This will apparently be sold at a similar price point to the current WIPs, and at 50% is remarkable. Sadly I think it will debut at 46% but I'm sure that’ll be fine. I took a 3cl sample from the Kilkerran tasting on day 3 to bring home, so I have full notes for this one, written on a clean palate (this is a repeat from yesterday’s post but I wanted to end on a high!).

WP_20160518_19_53_24_RichNose - Winey cereal with sour waxes and boiled sweets. Pipe tobacco and blackcurrant. Slightly dirty and quite complex. Really rich though, and perfectly peated. I believe they just re-run the Springbank formula at Glengyle so it's not surprise that this has classic Springbank balance. Sweeter and zestier with water.

Body - Fruity Springbank oils, lemon drops and white wine tannins. Fruity and very confident with pipe tobacco (smoked this time) and very heavily peated too. Spicier with water, with lemon and black pepper

Finish - Long, limoncello. Young cereal. Very well balanced and well integrated. Seriously delicious too.

Reflecting on Kilkerran last night at home, while sipping on the WIP bourbon, it struck me that what this whisky has in spades is confidence.  Lucky to have been born as the next in line to the throne and now coming of age, it’s starting to show the benefits of its upbringing. Kilkerran is going places.

They might need to up production from one month a year though.