A 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
Nose – 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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.
Nose - 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.
SMWS 29.182, Laphroaig, Burnt buttered bannock bread, 16 years old, 57.8% A+
1st July 1999, 222 bottles, refill bourbon
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
Nose - 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!