Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Cadenheads July 2016 Authentic Collection

The July outturn is out today, just ahead of the release of Kilkerran 12 (August 12th)!  The Authentic Collection (normal bottles with green, white, red labels depending on the cask) is an outturn of single casks, released for the UK.  The Small Batch series (square bottles, black or gold labels) is 1-3 casks of whisky blended, which are released worldwide.


As before, it’s not all here – there’s a Cooley too which should be good, an old Aultmore (ditto), and a 27 year old Cameronbridge. 

I apologise if it seems I’ve picked the expensive ones as favourites.  To be honest I tasted them all without being told the prices (of course I know what costs more in general) and as I’ve said before, I just say it how I find it!

Royal Lochnagar, 17 years old, 56.8% A-

IMG_20160727_161404Nose - Gentle, fresh and appley. Hard candy shells feel young at first, but tobacco and cask musk add complexity. Candy cigarettes and a slightly herbal meatiness come with time. Fresher again with water, almost hand-soap.

Body - Sharp, sweet, quite spicy but an undercurrent of toffee rounds it out. Mukhwas with water.

Finish - Long and hot, rice paper and spiced pear.

A lovely, fresh, classy nose and it's a spicy, spikey whisky with deeply sweet undercurrents, lacking midrange overall.

Mannochomore, 19 years old, 54.7% A+

IMG_20160727_162306Nose - Seriously rich and cakey compared to the Lochnagar. Apple pie, with vanilla ice cream, fantastic minerality (wet rock, liquorice) balancing it out, but the overall feel is young again. Once your mouth is filled with vanilla cream (rather than Royal Lochnagar, i.e. after tasting) it starts to make more sense - that sense of richness works with the vibrant nose.

Body - Sweeter, lots of chocolate, faintly medicinal, hints of complex maturity, sour plums. Better with water, the short pastry is back, with anise biscuits and a flash of spice.

Finish - Pure vanilla whipped cream in the finish, rich and clarty, completely mouth filling.

A complex, slightly challenging and confusing, but ultimately rewarding whisky. Everything is right on paper but it somehow needed translating.

Tobermory, 21 years old, 53.8% A⊕

IMG_20160727_163313Nose - Complex and elegant. Restrained chocolate (nutty and austere like Mexican chocolate, but without the spice), trimmed hedges (wet cut wood, leaves and rain) and fresh cut red cherries.  Fresh cut red cherries don't really smell of "cherries", they smell of sugary fresh juice, ozone and very faint cherry stone and skin, and that's what I mean. More mineral with water, more wood and ozone. There's big toffee cask in here too but it's restrained and balanced. This is a refreshing nose and speaks of quality. Fingers, eyes and toes crossed…

Body - Big, meaty toffee wood, much bigger than the nose suggested. Coffee and Mexican chocolate again, toast and butter. Roasted plums and marzipan with water, seriously rich with toasted woods.

Finish - Long, with toffee and rosemary, grapefruit bitterness.

A bit of a rollercoaster this one, and hard work at times, but very satisfying.

Glen Spey, 21 years old, 54.2% A+

IMG_20160727_164451Nose - Fruitier and slightly sour, a vague feeling of pickled green chillies and hard green apples. Black jacks and bacon sandwiches. Orange juice with time.

Body - Big and bouncy. Slightly rum-like with Lucozade, cider and sweet vanilla wood. Again it feels very young but very confident and the maturity is waiting in the wings with toasted wood and a hint of sulphur.

Finish - Medium and very tannic, fresh bourbon cask, very drinkable.

This drinks like a 9 year old you can't believe is so young, if you see what I mean. The youth in the finish is (like the Lochnagar) belied by supporting notes of maturity. This is the kind of whisky I'd come back to time and again, and indeed I finished my sample before I could get water to it. Recommended.

Glen Garioch, 26 years old, 44.4% A⊕+

IMG_20160727_165358Nose - It's a big, sweet, cask heavy-hitter. Big marmalade notes but with deep, ancient cask wax. Orange ice-cream, whistle pops and a faint plastic book coverings nose over something approaching coastal (fresh oyster shells perhaps?)

Body - Holy moly, old beyond its years. Very juicy, lots of fruit, lots of old wood, very masculine. Scented candles (rose?)

Finish - Long and tannic, grapefruit all the way down - juice then zest then chewed oak. Cigarettes at the end, touching on cigars.

I would have guessed this as a 40 year old something - bourbon cask Glenfarclas probably. Cigars, marmalade, polished old wood and scented candles. It's perfect for Christmas.

Glentauchers, 26 years old, 48.2% A⊕+

1989-July 2016, bourbon barrel, 108 bottles.

IMG_20160727_170138Nose - More structure, more fruit, slightly younger than the Glen Garioch but on the same tracks. Big, old fruit and wax cask, with orange sorbet and beeswax.

Body - Beautiful old whisky again, 40 year old stuff. Deeper and less frivolous than the Glen Garioch, richer but more toppy, loads of chocolate toffee and just a hint of the vegetal on exhale. Even fruitier with water.

Finish - Long and ripe, rich chocolate all the way with red berries and privet hedge.

Another big one, really beautiful to drink. The Glen Garioch is noticeably more coastal and "refill" in comparison, but classier for it. This Glentauchers is massive though, and beautifully mature. They're both old and important in their own way so I can't call it between them, but if you're after slightly more restrained and balanced, it's the Glen Garioch. If you want a big old blockbuster, the Glentauchers. Both are highly recommended.

That's a lot to live up to.

Bruichladdich, 27 years old, 50.2% A⊕

IMG_20160727_171200Nose - Gentle refill laddie; chocolate and cranberries, candles and ripe pears. Herbal (cut flowers and earth) and coastal, in that understated way Bruichladdich is when it's "vanilla". I like it. I'm trying to subtract the previous two whiskies though. Bigger with water.

Body - Melon and banana foam sweets, beautifully gentle with understated fruits and a serious sweetness. Much more comprehensible with water, the sweetness blends better with fruit and fizz.

Finish - Intensely sweet and tending towards fizzing, tending towards old Islay. Petrichor with water. Very long and refreshing.

This is what proper (mature, refill bourbon) whisky tastes like. Recommended.

OK that really was a lot to live up to. Good luck Glenturret!

Glenturret, 28 years old, 44% B+

IMG_20160727_172159Nose - Younger but covered in melted/set candle wax. Maybe even sealing wax. More apples in the form of calvados, with the dibdab from the sherbet and a milky cup of tea.

Body - Most unexpected. It's like weak hot chocolate. It's like expensive old whisky wicked onto blotting paper and chewed. There's fruit fighting to get out (foxes glacier friut sweets) but it's hiding behind this weird cardboard tone.

Finish - That cardboardy note continues into the finish, with cheap coffee and caraway.

Unsatisfying - but it's a tough crowd at the moment.

Caol Ila, 36 years old, 53.3% A⊕+'

IMG_20160727_202638Nose - Hello old Caol Ila…. Dusty refreshers, whistle pops, coffee, ripe peaches, grilled pineapple with agave nectar and emulsion paint. The wood is ancient and sun bleached, it's very far from what most people would recognise as whisky.

Body - Dreamy. Painted in salted chocolate and coffee this time, with hot jacuzzi cover and summer in the woods. Powder paints and refreshers, dusty tannins. Slightly medicinal with water, with iced ring biscuits and battenburg cake.

Finish - Dusty, old, slightly hot with cracked paint on windowsills and window putty. Very, very tannic and drying, as old Caol Ila usually is. Long and balanced, and challenging but dreamy.

A classic, what everyone wants from an old Caol Ila. Is it noticeably older than the previous 30, 31, 32s? Not really, but it's a different cask, and what I wanted it to be, and most importantly, fantastic to drink.  Cheers!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Cadenheads Catch-up

Here’s some random bottles I didn’t manage to try at the time and subsequently got hold of – some I ran bottle shares on, some were run by others.  Well, Darren.  Thanks Darren!

When I made these notes, the Glenkinchie was still in stock.  Unfortunately it’s gone now.  Same with the Teaninich but with that one, that’s my fault.  I’m very impressed with the solera blend, it’s fantastic quality for the money and would be a brilliant every day drinker.

Cadenheads Strathclyde, Small Batch, 25 years old, 57.8% A+'

20160503_163039Nose - Sweet and volatile, green apples, cheap apple juice and boiled sweets. Very juicy, very relaxing – pretty chilled out in general! Ozone and ice cream at the beach, hand soap and granite. Classic hard grain. Rather lovely with water, softening out the hard spirit and bringing it together with the cream.

Body - Good toffee and hard grain balance, unripe apple and later in the delivery, extremely sweet with cheap vanilla ice cream. There's a dark cider note in here too. More apple juice with water.

Finish - Medium and clean, backs down from cloying but that vanilla cream runs right to the end with rhubarb and custard boiled sweets.

Cadenheads Strathclyde, Small Batch, 26 years old, 57.9% A+

1989-2015, 168 bottles, bourbon barrel.  This is still in stock.

20160503_163042Nose - Practically identical to the 25 year old with perhaps a touch more plastic book covering. Less pleasant (more cloying I guess, more artificial) but only nosed directly side by side. There's very little in it. Slightly better than the 25 with water, although that clotted cream note I couldn't place without water is more pronounced.

Body - More volatile but just as creamy as the 25, a touch more spice. Richer and fuller (closer to a malt) than the 25, tannic apple juice in the late delivery.

Finish - Longer and more assertively woody, good peppery notes at the end. Softer and fruitier with water.

There's almost nothing between these two drams and both are excellent grains, perfect summer drinking. Extremely drinkable with water too.

Cadenheads 12 year old blend, 46% sherry cask A+

"This blended whisky is matured in a sherry solera system whereby we will only ever bottle half of the batting before topping up the casks. The whisky is bottled at 46% and contains 65% Malt whisky and 35% Grain whisky. Although the bottling will change slightly with each bottling the aim is to retain a solid sherry influence in the blend."

WMCadenhead 12 sherrywood -750x1000Nose - This has a character that reminds me of the early days of discovering whisky. A sour berry cask led sweetness, waxy with plummy cereal. Young, dusty but delicious refill sherry. For the price, that is pretty impressive.  No hint of grain on the nose… actually with time I'm getting dusty chocolate and much more sherry. I don't know… this smells pretty smashing. A more mature nose with water.

Body - Much more in keeping with its price point. Immediate icing sugar, harder cereals, an obvious sweetness… but underneath a gentle sulphur and fresh, wet wood. Light orchard fruit with water but hardly there. Drowns easily.

Finish - A touch of coffee chocolate, cherry compote. Long with a lasting sweetness, and at the end the grain shows a bit.

Cracking at twice the price. Crushable.  Highly recommended if you want a £33 whisky and want it to be great.

Cadenheads Allt-a-Bhainne, Authentic Collection, 23 years old, 50% A+

1992-April 2016, bourbon barrel.

Allt A Bhainne 23 50 174 bottles -750x1000Nose - Sweet but fresh; chilled but very ripe green apple. Perhaps it’s iced apple Danish pastries?  With time, a really quite naughty, funky fecundity (slightly dank, musky and sulphurous, with on-the-turn white flowers). That is a seriously compelling and interesting nose but I fear too much sugar in the delivery…

Body - … narrowly avoided. Fresh, refill bourbon at the front, intense (first fill) sweetness at the back. Tobacco, roasted plum and floral honey. With water, cut orange on the nose, sweeter and more one-dimensional on the delivery.

Finish - Bitter, yellow wood, coffee beans and black cherries.

A conflicted dram. A fantastic nose, just the right side of too sweet initially but tiring after a while.

Cadenheads Glenkinchie, Authentic Collection, 28 years old, 53.5% A⊕+'

1987-April 2016

13239136_1016530835110190_5351309454114456471_nNose - Gentle, but dusty. Honeycomb and pollen, floor polish and crayons. There's a deep seated sweetness backing this, and with digging a herbal, almost earthy note - perhaps cut flower stalks too. Very distinct jelly babies with time, intensely sweet and fruity. A very classy lowlander, so much variety but not overdoing it.

Body - Heavenly. More fruity, lowland, lightly funky sweetness, tannins and tobacco, massive cask influence. Mature like a 30+ year old Tomatin but slightly more restrained.

Finish - Very long with more jelly babies and restrained spice, gentle funk and bags of fruit (orange, mango).

Just fantastic. Drinks like a 38 year old. Nearly an A⊕⊕.

Cadenheads Teaninich, Authentic Collection, 22 years old, 51.9% A⊕+

1993-April 2016, sherry cask

Teaninich 22 51.9 258 bottles -750x1000Nose - Cut oranges, dried orange slices, dried flowers (potpourri), a younger wood note (almost bourbon like) with deodorant. It's compelling but a little O.T.T. perhaps. With time and water, you get used to it - there's cherry/almond funk with the orange, and the bourbon is long gone. The empty glass evokes very clearly pata negra pork chops I once BBQed on holiday in Spain, basted with fresh orange juice using a rosemary brush. That alone makes it a keeper.

Body - Chocolate orange, and now a simply divine chocolate, sangria, cask, nut, chilli and sulphur rollercoaster.

Finish - Long and intense, toffee, nuts and sulphur back up this beautiful orange liqueur.

If the Amrut Naarangi had tasted like this there would have been a stampede. I just bought the last bottle, sorry.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Douglas Laing Backlog

A serious backlog.  Some samples, a tweet tasting, some bottleshares.  The quiet quality coming out of Douglas Laing is very impressive. 

First a catch up on the Remarkable Regional Malts drammers, then some young but confident Provenance fun, finally the Old Particular blockbusters.

The Epicurean, Lowland malt, 46.2% A+

the-epicurean-whiskyNose - This smells suspiciously like young Auchentoshan! I am a big Auchentoshan fan. Gentle, floral wax, barley sugar, royal icing, and young, slightly sour, but competent cask. Gentle not-quite-ripe mango, and laminated cardboard.

Body - Pretty delicious. Soft, sour toffee, mouthfilling oils, raspberry jam. Some tobacco with water.

Finish - Medium and quite intense on the young cask (plywood, bitter tannins, lots of oil, slightly fizzing) - plenty of first fill bourbon cask in here (or maybe it's just Auchentoshantastic).

Refreshing summer dramming… a really returnable nose, really enticing and even more so with water. Big, structured sweetness on the delivery. An excellent blended malt. Recommended.

Scallywag, Speyside malt, 46% A

Reviewed before but that was the first batch, I’m sure this must be a later one.

scallywag-whiskyNose - Restrained sweetness and gently waxed, with that trademark Douglas Laing sour complexity. I'm much better attuned to the young Speyside character than I was when I first tried this whisky; ripe pears and soft Glenrothes bring together the gentle sweetness. With time, there's a quite compelling mineral edge to it.

Body - Slightly spicy (young sherried Macallan), unripe green apple, lemon sherbets. It's an Edrington special.

Finish - Sharp, young sherried malt. Quite short with fennel seeds and a rounding toffee.

This works well but reminds me of how much I struggled with the batch 1 bottle I had.

Scallywag Cask Strength, Batch #2, 54.1% A+

scallywag-cask-strength-whiskyNose - More intensely Glenrothes and better for it. More perfume (both men's and women's), more glacé cherries. It has the midrange knocked back into it, definitely preferred, £10 well spent. Big vanilla tones with water, like essence of milk tart.

Body - Night and day better, it's amazing the difference a few percent makes (I suppose it's a different batch though). Intense orange oils, penny toffees, a big sherry backbone here. Properly delicious. Flaws open up with water (lack of midrange, shortness on delivery). Maybe I'm just too used to cask strength single cask.

Finish - Long and tannic, almost cloying at the back of the tongue. Love hearts at the end.

This definitely works well, recommended over the regular strength.

Now some of the Provenance series.  The first few notes were from a tweet tasting (#TasteTheRegion) I can’t believe I haven’t written up yet.  They all seem to still be in stock though.  Then some other, more recent ones.

Douglas Laing Provenance, Macduff 8 years old, 46% A

Refill hogshead 10986

macduff-8-year-old-2007-cask-10986-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Fresh, white winey, light malic sourness - next to that a really fruity sweetness, quite perfumed and floral. Lots of orange ice cream, powdered ginger. A lovely, confident, fruity nose with lots of richness. Good stuff. With water, sweeter, slightly richer, less perfumed.

Body - Quite sharp, hot, sour, but with corn, hot sugar syrup and a touch of ginger again. Fuller initially with water, slightly fruitier, but then a touch of cardboard and more spice.

Finish - Quite short, red pepper. Chilli pepper with water.

A really solid drammer, it'd be a good Autumn drink I think.

Douglas Laing Provenance, Mortlach 8 years old, 46% A⊕'

Refill hogshead 11075.  At £45 and still in stock I’d call this a no brainer (I bought one ages ago).

mortlach-8-year-old-2008-cask-11075-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Complex, fresh orchard fruit, delightful cask wax, extremely juicy. Hints of acrylic paint and petrichor, and a touch of paraffin (hot earth, window putty - it's like an old greenhouse). Fruitier and waxier with water. It's a beautiful thing.

Body - Beautifully deep and sweet, quite a lot of hot radiator and spice in there too. Orange zest. Very ripe, fruity - fruit pastilles and neat orange squash. I must be too used to cask strength as I can't get used to 46% whisky with water, but it does develop a slightly more cereal and grown up delivery.

Finish - Slightly sharp and biscuity. Medium but smashable. Lush.

This is seriously good for the age, well recommended.

Douglas Laing Provenance, Benrinnes 11 years old, 46% A+'

benrinnes-11-year-old-2004-cask-10717-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Muddier and much less exciting on the nose at first, less fruit, more cereal and a touch of sulphur. But with time, a lovely fruit note battles through; orange and tart tatin, with cherry lip salve and colouring pencils. Grows on you. Even more orange juice with water.

Body - Rich and oily, slightly hot at the side of the palate with fresh cherry tobacco. Almost chewy with lots of orange zest. Ginger snaps, beef stew and carrots. Wow that really has grown on me. Toastier and slightly spicy with water, with hotter waxes.

Finish - Long and tannic, really quite dry. Good though. Tropical burps although that could have been the Mortlach, this was a fast tasting.

Douglas Laing Provenance, Bunnahabhain 8 years old, 46% A⊕

bunnahabhain-8-year-old-2007-cask-10966-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Sweet, soft toffee, slightly salty and very satisfying. Not unlike a salted caramel. There's something coastal in here but only by association, like chips fried in beef dripping with salt and vinegar. Lovely to nose an unpeated young bunna and this is a good one. Riper with water and very bunna, very old bunna. Lovely.

Body - Ripe peaches, cardboard, honey, burnt toast, sechuan peppercorns and black pepper. Waxy and slightly meaty but that cardboard note is a little offputting. More intense with water - spicier, more black pepper.

Finish - Very drying indeed, almost metallic.

Douglas Laing Provenance, Glenallachie 7 years old, 46% A+

glenallachie-11-years-old-2000-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Sweet, ripe and deep. Crayons and stewed tomatoes. Orange icing. A lovely custard creams biscuit note. Deeper toffee sweetness with water, very nice.

Body - Ripe and intensely fruity, like orange candy whistles. Cardboard and orange again? Fried chilli pepper.

Finish - Toasty and tannic, a touch of hot sulphur, quite long. Better with water, the sweetness from the nose comes out.

Douglas Laing Provenance, Dailuaine, 7 years old, 46% A⊕

Cask 10960, sherry butt. There are some cracking Provenance bottlings.

dailuaine-7-year-old-2008-cask-10960-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - The epitome of young, complex, waxy, malt cask. This is the kind of nose you'd look back on with rose tinted spectacles if they weren't still churning them out all day every day. Chalky, earthy with letter sealing wax and well iced cupcakes. Floury textured pears, and a touch of liquorice root. These young DLaing casks are often like this – ballsy but fab. I want to believe this is Clynelish weirdly. Slightly better and more mature with water.

Body - Rich, complete… chocolate covered salted caramel, more ripe pear, sesame snaps. There's definitely a coastal or slightly peated note here, perhaps it's been stored next to their collection of Port Ellen casks.

Finish - Raw cereal, numbing and oily. Charred at the end.

What a lovely, honest, drinkable whisky with loads of character and structure. Highly recommended.  Just like that Mortlach earlier, that was amazing.

Douglas Laing Old Particular, Glenburgie 18 years old, 48.4% B⊕'

Refill sherry cask 10873, June 1997-August 2015, 744 bottles.

glenburgie-18-year-old-1997-cask-10873-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Sour coconut ice, sulphured refill sherry cask. Meaty and vinegared, with a real undercurrent of wax, bon bons and complex, sweet sherry. It's a conflicted nose - but somehow I'm expecting greatness on the delivery.

Body - That bizarre sweet and sour continues into the delivery, this is the kind of thing Springbank gets away with on account of its awesome spirit… but it's not totally pleasant here. Red wine vinegar and chewed crayons. Take a big swig of it and it's apple Danish pastries.

Finish - More old red wine, Australian (hot and strong), pâté on toast. Tannic with spray deodorant with water.

Despite those weird notes I'm finding myself very drawn to another sip of this and it's all gone. Weird whisky, but compelling.

Douglas Laing Old Particular, Aberlour, 21 years old, 51.5% B⊕

September 1992-August 2014, refill hogshead 10436. High hopes.

aberlour-21-year-old-1992-cask-10436-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - More sugar-works. Royal icing and fresh HQ cask. A steadying note of white wine and seaside rock, ozone and mint work so well. A still winter night.

Body - Intense, dirty sugar, with apple chews and wax behind it. Buttercream icing. Dear lord this is one of the sweetest whiskies I've ever tasted.

Finish - Long and intensely, cloyingly sweet. Fudge. Strawberries covered in icing sugar.

I thought we were onto something with the nose (I was looking for stock). But it crashed and burned in the delivery. Too sweet for me.

Douglas Laing Old Particular, Craigellachie, 20 years old, 51.5% A⊕

September 1995-December 2015, 314 bottles, sherry butt 10962.

craigellachie-20-year-old-1995-cask-10962-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Sweet still but balanced and structured. I don't think we'll have the same problems with this as the last two. Toasted marshmallows, Hovis biscuits, lighter fluid and chocolate. Total crayons. I love it.

Body - Complete. Cherry compote, sherry vinegar, orange matchmakers.

Finish - Medium, slightly spikey, classic sherry. Then oranges all the way down - kumquat, blood orange, fresh orange juice.

Despite being somewhat hard to drink, it's technically fabulous. It's the Glenburgie inverted. I wish I'd saved enough to mix the two.

Douglas Laing Old Particular, Bunnahabhain, 14 years old, for Green Welly, 48.4% A⊕+

150 bottles, sherry cask.

May16-Bunnahabhain-GWS-OPNose - Sweet, dark, oily and somehow fresh. It's that Islay dustiness. Why am I smelling hop oils? This has that fantastic "light seasoning" of peat that Highland Park does - as with hops, sometimes less is more and this is making me think of a significantly older Islay whisky.

Body - Seaside rock, mint toffee and white chocolate. Very clear Vimto. God this is good to drink.

Finish - Persistent tannins against the blackcurrant. Numbing and very drinkable. Chalky at the end.

This makes me feel younger and the whisky older. That's the best combination.

They know how to pick them at Green Welly!

Douglas Laing Old Particular, Port Charlotte, Port Hogshead, 10 years old, 48.4% A-

October 2005 - February 2016

Apr16-Bruichladdich-10OPNose - Smells like a young SMWS Ledaig. Crushed shells, ozone, malt vinegar. Perhaps a bit darker. Cherry chocolate, coffee. Back to the seaside, wet granite, chalk and rain. A back note of cabbage.

Body - The initial delivery is super-smooth; sweet, clean, chalky fruit, boiled sweets and midget gems. The tannins build a the back of your tongue.

Finish - Toffee and licked charred wood, but always velvety. The cabbage raises its head again but it's fleeting.

Like a late-twenties Bowmore, this has that velvet, alien, svelte arrival, but it doesn't have the complexity or maturity to back it up. And the cabbage is a concern.

Another good year so far at Douglas Laing – thanks!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Rummaging in Phil’s Party Sack

The legend of Phil Storry recently turned 40, and marked the occasion by hosting a birthday tasting at the SMWS rooms in London (a venue he spends almost every waking hour that isn’t spent earning money to spend in SMWS).  He was good enough to invite me to it and give me three months’ notice, which is sufficient to allow me to attend at the weekend.  There was intense snacking, some truly wonderful society drams including the only society Brora I’ve ever tried, and significant mocking of my (frankly, totally straightforward and comprehensible) 27 point scoring system in which 90% of the marks are awarded an A with various modifiers.  After the tasting Phil sent us all home with party bags.  Totally epic party bags.  This is therefore one of those blog posts which are full of whisky neither of us can buy, in which everything is excellent.

To take the edge off that I’ve further modified my scoring system just this once.

P - Phil
B - Just OK
C - Faulty
D - Rarely used but = disgusting

Modifiers are (for one night only)

- = Bit less than
+ = Bit more than, or with some good features
⊕ = Another bit more than, or with some very good features (I think of this as "augmented plus" or "circle plus")
⊕+ = Lots more than
' - slightly better than the similarly scored item in this tasting
$ - Chutzpah
µ - Unputdownable
Ð - Thank god for malted barley
Ø - Oddly dirty
ß - Wax monster
Ö - Olives
Æ - Baffling complexity
Ý - Perfectly balanced
æ - Like landing in a pile of duvets
† - Unputdownable
‰ - Over the hill
€ - Surprisingly good

I wanted to use the falcon’s head hieroglyph too but it won’t render on my phone so I’m not convinced it’s going to on yours. 

The Clan Denny Girvan, 40 years old, 43.7% P⊕⊕ßÆæ

Distilled 1965, refill hogshead HH2238

DSC_0077Nose - Deep, rich complexity, very warm, great toffee sweetness and baked apples, tons of dark wax. Sauternes and antique furniture, carrots on exhale (that surprised me). What a fabulous nose, you can see why Phil's so into grains.

Body - Incredibly soft and balanced, barley sugar and Ovaltine, the grain is unmistakable but it's so well integrated with the cask that it's lost the "hard" edge, it's more like apple juice and Chardonnay. Fantastic.

Finish - Very long and very grown up, lovely wine tannins. A hint of sulphur, some leather, some canvas at the end.

This is one of the best grains I've ever tasted (another was a very old Girvan with Phil too, funnily enough). These reviews are supposed to be frivolous but this whisky demands attention!

The Clan Denny Garnheath, 40 years old, 47.9% P⊕+$

Distilled 1968, refill hogshead HH5538

DSC_0078Nose - Harder but no less important, fresher, brighter but well matured cask wax is the dominant note here and I wouldn't have called this for a grain on the nose. As hard as the other Garnheath's I've had but much more midrange in this one. More Chardonnay, a little cheap vanilla ice cream, some black pepper, even a little biltong.

Body - Beautifully floral with Whistle Pops but hard grain and oak backing it up. More white wine and a touch of petrol. Extremely drinkable.

Finish - Wax and black pepper on the tip of the tongue. Lots of toffee pennies at the end.

Tougher than the Girvan but extremely drinkable and while the Girvan was like a 40 year old malt, this is the kind of grain I usually go for. Lovely stuff.

Tamdhu, MacPhail's Collection, probably 40 years old, 43% P⊕+'ØÐ݆


DSC_0079Nose - Now we're talking. At first (well, compared to those grains at least), funky almost to the point of cheesy, but the fruit behind it makes it sing (blood orange, grapefruit) with pastry and expensive vanilla ice cream. The funk takes a back seat to the fruit in the end. Glorious.

Body - Heavenly. Soft, creamy, ancient cask and loads of fruit, totally balanced by orange zest and lightly effervescent.

Finish - Long with orange waxes, complex and very well balanced.

Certainly the best Tamdhu I've tasted, this is what you hope for when you pick up one of those perfume bottles. Just divine to drink, and perfectly judged.

The Whisky Fair Glenglassaugh, 46.7% P⊕⊕Æ$ÝÖ

November 1965 to August 2006, Fino sherry butt.

DSC_0080Nose - More heaven. I love Fino sherry whisky (and Fino sherry). There's a freshly poured apple juice (tannic and malic) note up front, hints of tobacco, even cordite in here. It's so fresh and alive, but very mature with it.

Body - Slightly speechless. Freshly squeezed oranges, warm wine, light spice, a touch of salt, a licked penny. It goes so well with that nose though, such a great counterpoint to the freshness on the nose. There's something to do with Chinatown here, I can't put my finger on it… and then it starts to pass into coastal deliciousness…

Finish - Salt water, fried whitebait, back to the white wine. No better place to be than by the beach eating seafood and drinking white wine. Right at the end; ryvita and marmalade.

This is the first whisky this yellow/green that I've given top marks to. Epic…

Old Malt Cask Glen Garioch, 25 years old, 50% P⊕+'†€

May 1986 to November 2011, refill hogshead DL7866

DSC_0081Nose - Warmer, softer… hard to live up to Glenglassaugher. Let's give it time… it has that old Glen Garioch thing of being waxy and fruity while tickling the tops of your sinuses with malty malt dust and old oak. Now, dusty refreshers and more interesting fruit - red apple, pineapple skin, brazil nuts?

Body - This shouts old OB Glen Garioch to me. Warm wax, pineapple, haribo, black pepper.

Finish - Wax and cinnamon jawbreakers. Long, fruity and slightly plastic, with mango and banana.

I've a complex relationship with Glen Garioch (basically, when it's good it's amazing but I won't take the chance), and this is a very, very good one.

Lochside, TWE single blend, 46 years old, 42.1% P⊕+‰Ð

1964 to 2011, 139 bottles.

DSC_0082Nose - Varnish, more apple, old oak, very old cask (the deeply sweet, slightly lewd black fruit I associate with ancient Bunnahabhain). Cigar tobacco, wet marble, putty rubber and elastic bands. Red apple and magic balloons. Phil likes his apples. This feels generic after the complexity and confidence of this vertical but I did come back to it on a fresh palate and it's pretty glorious.

Body - Orange juice and zest. Orange barley squash. Balsa wood. It's a little over the hill in the delivery compared to the nose.

Finish - Crayon and heavy waxes at the side of the tongue. The backtaste from a hoppy IPA. Slightly sour and numbing, like oily Sechuan peppercorns.

Complex and fabulous on the nose, it doesn't live up to the hype on the delivery but then that's sometimes the way with very old whisky.

Obviously P = A and when have you ever seen the “per thousand” symbol (‰)  used?

Cheers P.

Friday, 1 July 2016

SMWS July 2016 Outturn

20160627_204350A canonical outturn this month, with a wealth of great younger drammers, a couple of big heavy hitters (the grain is my pick again this month, there’s also the very old Glenrothes (30.90) which I reviewed accidentally last month) and a lot of peat.  There’s an extra Laphroaig in the bar too (I’ve not tried it but people seem to like it)… there are quite a lot of outturn-less drams in the bar at the moment. 

There’s also a massive amount of first fill bourbon this month! I’ve never seen so many, or written “refill bourbon” so few times.  Plenty of rain, orange, grapefruit and nougat too.


SMWS 85.39, Glen Elgin, Soft fruit nougat, 8 years old, 61.1% A+

25th October 2007, 180 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160627_172858Nose – A typical young Glen Elgin blockbuster. Sweet, warm but bright, a lovely balance of obvious first fill bourbon cask and more mature, restraining herbal notes. Pineapple with basil and black pepper, backed up by Haribos. Ripe and balanced and not over the top like last month's (very fun) Glen Elgin, with a great touch of cask wax. A touch of modelling clay with water. Lovely.

Body - Soft yet spicy. Hot radiator warmth and chill heat. Green apple chews and butterscotch. Sharper with water, almost grapefruit zest.

Finish - Bitter tannins, slightly lactic with warm white wine. White flowers and nougat at the end.

Society Glen Elgins are usually great and this is particularly good, especially on the nose. The delivery is young and fiery as you'd expect, but very competent. This'd be a good drammer.


SMWS 64.77, Mannochmore, Sweet and astringent balance, 9 years old, 57.5% A+'

25th October 2006, 180 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160627_172904Nose - A notch more gentle than the Glen Elgin and classy. Rain, marshmallow, light swimming pool, even washing up liquid. Candy cigarettes, freshly planed oak. It reminds me of hot afternoons in an SMWS bar. Fruitier with water, freshly squeezed orange juice and a hint of pipe tobacco.

Body - Sweet, soft, oily toffee, bright citrus pith and a faint hint of funk. Warm beeswax, like the centre of a locket. Liquorice allsorts with water, quite spicy.

Finish - Long with warm chardonnay and balancing wood tannins. Astringent like chewed liquorice root and orange pith.

Another cracker at the young end of the outturn, this bodes very well. An evocative nose and a well accomplished delivery. This is exactly the kind of whisky that makes SMWS a great place to be a member of.


SMWS 7.134, Longmorn, Comfy slippers o'clock, 11 years old, 60.6% A

7th September 2004, 174 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160627_172909Nose - Freshly floral, breezy fruit. Orange juice and lychees, pop tarts and macarons. With time, a deep floral sweetness matched by something very Chinese supermarket, like yellow bean sauce and battered peanuts. More fresh rain.

Body - Unexpectedly medicinal - hospitals, saline solution, iodine. A touch of summer beach too - salt water and vanilla ice cream cones. More white wine with water.

Finish - Bitter, practically fizzing with grapefruit zest and pips. Toffee underneath this, Sichuan peppercorns rubbed into your gums.

A lovely, summery, breezy nose. A little too harsh in the delivery for me.

SMWS 41.74, Dailuaine, All the fun of the fair, 12 years old, 59.6% A⊕

14th August 2003, 114 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160627_172914Nose - Acrylics… glue and window putty. Toast and marmalade, fresh lilies and wham bar. Perhaps a little toffee wafer. It's very restrained. Water improves matters - a touch of white chocolate and a little bit more forthcoming with the malt depth and nougat (stewed tea at the back of the throat).

Body - An extremely considered arrival. By which I mean it starts very slowly, building up through warm cask, toffee, hot wood and flowers. Each layer builds slowly, passing eventually into more oaked chardonnay and liquorice torpedoes.

Finish - The development eases down just as gently; cigarette tobacco and wasabi peas then palate cleansing tannins. Very long with water.

Classy stuff, a lot more serious than the name suggests. Lots of fun to drink though.



SMWS 36.106, Benrinnes, Fresh as a spring breeze, 13 years old, 55.3% A+

14th August 2002, 210 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160627_183855Nose - Fresh, summery and juicy. Ripe greengage, blood orange juice, furniture polish and buttered toast. Waxed wood, warm cereal and minted potatoes. A touch of sweat. More dusty cask (hot summer) with water.

Body - Clean, soft and toffeed. A really rich, almost clarty sweetness to it but it's not overdone. Hot red wine - sangria though, rather than mulled wine. Zestier with water.

Finish - Long and fruity. A backnote of sulphur. Very drying. Rice paper covered nougat, particularly nutty with water.

An enjoyable dram, a fun nose but tiring on the palate.

SMWS 35.148, Glen Moray, Around the world, 14 years old, 58.3% A

11th December 2001, 198 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160627_183858Nose - Drier and more angular than the Benrinnes. Weird to get an ordinary Glen Moray cask! A touch of tippex thinners, a little double cream, perhaps marker pens, and some fresh paint. Reminds me of a distillery office, like "people get to work here?!". Cheap ice cream dominates with water.

Body - Big, sweet but balanced. Orange ice cream in a frozen orange shell, Edinburgh rock. Big Sauvignon astringency on the roof of the mouth.

Finish - Long and yet more orange zest. Sawdust and extra strong mints. Ice cream wafers with water.

Another ordinary one.

G1.14, North British, Banana walnut cornbread, 37 years old, 54.1% A⊕+

31st August 1978, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

20160627_183900Nose - Extremely gentle. Green-bottled white wine, light ice cream, fresh acrylic paint, an understated sweetness and unripe green grapes. Definitely should have had this first. That intensely green note is standing up for itself though, it's almost mezcal like in its agaveness, although obviously no smoke. Chewed pencils. Even better with water.

Body - Another amazing old grain, so many recently! The perfect balance of cereal, fruit, sweet wine and tannins, bound together by hard yellow grain and fruit polos. And just fantastically drinkable. Again, even better with water - it opens up; more fruit, richer.

Finish - Long and increasingly drying, but balanced, fresh and delicious, a bit like how white wine seems to be so much more refreshing and exciting in a posh restaurant.

Perhaps the most refreshing and balanced grain I've had for a while (although there's been quite a lot of fantastic ones recently). An extremely lovely development and a very long finish, all matched by a really classy nose with none of the overly-drying or hard yellow grain character of younger grains. Highly recommended


SMWS 9.105, Glen Grant, Soft, easy, sweet and attractive, 25 years old, 52.2% A+

29th August 1990, 150 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

20160627_183904Nose - And then you nose a malt whisky again and remember why you buy so much of it! Effortlessly mature, high virtuosity in this nose. Finger of fudge, lime jelly and crunchy bar at the front, wet granite and star fruit at the back. Chocolate milkshake rounds it out. More tobacco, somehow colder with water. Better though.

Body - Mature with complex cask musk and waxes, but fresh with crushed malted Maris Otter and cold Ovaltine. An unexpected jump in maturity with water, suddenly very glazed.

Finish - Port cask, citrus pith… but then, very short and very tannic. Some tropicality comes through but it's unexpectedly ordinary. Much better with water… the tropical fruit jumps right through detectability and the overall feel is better. It's sourer too, which helps.

If the finish lived up to the nose and arrival we'd be laughing here but it struggles near the end. Nevertheless this is a very compelling whisky.


SMWS 4.220, Highland Park, Pizza on the beach, 15 years old, 60.3% B+

24th August 2000, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

20160627_194127Nose - Intensely sweet, slightly sweaty, UHU glue and candied orange slices. It takes some digging to find the smoke, but it's charred meat with very clear coca cola, fruit salad chews and fruit polos. Washing up liquid again. It's a bit obvious for a HP, uncommonly sweet. A lot better with water, honey on waffles, a bit better balanced. Still nothing to write home about.

Body - More to form with the delivery. Toast, charred bananas, hot sulphur… blue-ball liquorice allsorts with water and cigar tobacco.

Finish - Long and a little cloying. A back note of sulphur. Spicy with water, finally some pizza (black olives).

This doesn't quite work. Too obvious, too sweet, too clumsy.

SMWS 42.22, Brave the elements, Ledaig, 9 years old, 59.3% A+

5th October 2006, 210 bottles, refill bourbon

20160627_194123Nose - Classic hard and sour Ledaig. Coastal on inhale (a stony beach, charred driftwood, hot dogs, salty lips), tropical (mango) on exhale. Less hotdog, more burger, and a touch of granite with water. Hard to argue with, if simplistic.

Body - Robust. Sauternes, gunpowder, lemon sherbets, germolene and cherryade. Fizzing peat.

Finish - Long with lemon sorbet and the stick from a dib dabs. Acrylic varnish at the end. More intense with water, that orange ice cream in a frozen orange shell is back, with bathroom spray.

Always fun to drink, if hard to place in a flight. This is another robust and confident Ledaig. Probably less accomplished than some we've had recently but still a solid stood-at-the-bar choice.


SMWS 3.276, Bowmore, Oysters in a thyme mignonette, 17 years old, 57.4% A⊕+

25th September 1998, 114 bottles, refill bourbon. I'm not sure if this will be available to buy on the site but it's available at the bar.

20160627_194120Nose - The balance of the mid-teens refill bourbon Bowmore… sweet and considered, hot chocolate with dunked biscuits, dusted with beautiful dried thyme. This one reminds me of a hot, drunken evening in Whitstable. It's the vinegar on the beef-fat chips, and posher meals by the beach.

Body - That thyme is there again in the arrival and the delivery is very gentle. The biscuits are back, with grapefruit segments and felt tip pens. Charred lemons and shortbread.

Finish - Very drying, quite long, I'm thinking whitebait rather than oysters though.

Really compelling.


SMWS 29.182, Laphroaig, Burnt buttered bannock bread, 16 years old, 57.8% A+

1st July 1999, 222 bottles, refill bourbon

20160627_204354Nose - Malt loaf on inhale, lamb fat on exhale. Match sticks and glacé cherries, mint bonbons and a light char like smouldering splints. Gentle though…

Body - Much more classic Laphroaig in the initial delivery, astringent and tannic, lemon sorbet again but with a real sweet depth behind it. But I'm getting more of the Lore style char later in the delivery. A touch of sulphur with water but it's spicier.

Finish - Long and deep, quite spicy. Green papaya salad. Tannic at the end with old bandages and stale germolene.

It's good but we had a lot better about this time last year (29.161)

SMWS 53.236, Caol Ila, Culinary cannonballs, 16 years old, 64.1% A⊕

18th November 1999, 282 bottles, refill bourbon

20160627_204357Nose - Much more interesting. Deeper, more glazed with fountain pen ink and fried whitebait. A really lovely, toppy wine note to this. Water brings more fruit and a really tasty complexity - an art room with blotting paper and poster paints.

Body - Toasty and fruity, lots of sweet cereal - sweet popcorn and Ribena. It gets better and better with water, more fruit, better balance. As I've said before, they should try diluting these before selling them.

Finish - Long and very drying… not sure there's anything left of my palate now.

It's been too long Caol Ila!