I’ve said before that outturns that don’t seem that interesting on paper (at first glance) usually end up most interesting, and this is one of those. I was a bit worried that I’d end up with a full sheet of BUYs in here! I’ll get in trouble for these scores – it’s not appreciated when everything is recommended because most people are reading this to get an idea of what to buy without being able to taste them so I can understand that. So I’ll cut to the chase, here’s my recommendations:
- First off – standing at the bar? Try the Linkwood, Balmenach and Glen Grant, maybe the Glen Moray, then the Laphroaig.
- Jaded long-term SMWS drinkers looking for something good value but different should buy the Balmenach, 48.76. It’s challenging, very interesting and under £50.
- Less jaded members of the above demographic should buy the Glen Grant, 9.109. It’s full flavoured, balanced and delicious.
- Want to spend under £100 and get something high quality and classical? Buy the Cragganmore,37.78 – tropical fruit, wax, wood – very mature for the price.
- The grain, Cambus, G8.6 is good and cheaper (but younger) than previous weeks. Still quite pricey for a 26 year old Cambus but lovely to drink.
- At the top end, the Glen Moray and Longmorn are both incredibly good. The Longmorn is the big old blockbuster of the outturn and pulls it off perfectly. The Glen Moray is my pick out of these as its greener, fresher but still fabulous.
- The cracking Laphroaig is well worth buying, same price as the Cragganmore – not quite as good I don’t think in absolute terms, but it has some TCP and it’s a Laphroaig so that will qualify it into most people’s shopping baskets.
- The 20 year old Bowmore is the star of the outturn, £100 for nigh-on 26 year old Bowmore profile.
So you can see there’s a lot to choose from and of course I recommend you read the words too to see if it sounds like the kind of thing you want to drink. This has been the longest period you can have between outturns, and good things come to those who wait…
SMWS 85.38, Glen Elgin, Hazelnut iced coffee, 8 years old, 60.5% A+
25th October 2007, 144 bottles, first fill bourbon
Nose - Fresh, jewelled and spirity. Spearmint chews, wet rocks and drumsticks (the sweet) on exhale. The wood is the really competent part of this nose though; Sandalwood box and smouldering splints. Sweeter fruits and sponge cake with water… although this dusty, hot radiator thing is developing with time.
Body - Sharp and rather hot (with alcohol) in the initial delivery, green apple and gooseberry. Behind this, intense sweetness and baked apple. A much better experience with water (stone fruit and toffee), although still very sharp and sour, however with time the fruit and structure really develops, I like this.
Finish - Long and sharp, wood-led which balances the experience. Better again with water, sour fruit still but with mango and almonds.
This is a warming, complex drammer, perfect for a balmy summer evening, and best of all it really develops in the glass.
SMWS 48.76, Balmenach, The freshness of citrus!, 11 years old, 57.6% A+'
29th March 2005, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon
Nose - A lovely, gentle, lemon meringue pie… but also a ghost of the real intensity of brand new homebrew that you've ridiculously hopped with Simcoe (it's like a dank, almost rotten sharp fruit). Not that it's out of place, it's just a taste association. It's a bright, considered, well matured nose… even more so with water; deeper fruits and wood.
Body - More Asian than lemon meringue on the delivery, with hoi-sin sauce and pickled lemons, and more of that hot, hoppy wort. It's a little young and sharp around the edges but very rewarding.
Finish - Medium with, again, great cask sweetness and back to the lemon meringue. A touch of tobacco with water, and freshly cut pine. Bitterness is high though.
A slightly challenging but absolutely delicious young whisky, again. Those looking for something slightly out of the ordinary but high quality could do worse than this.
SMWS 9.109, Glen Grant, Zingy blackcurrant cheesecake, 12 years old, 59.3% A⊕
17th June 2003, 90 bottles, first fill bourbon
Nose - Deeper wood and fruit, like a good Highland Park. Christmas pudding (smelled, not tasted) and a polished school hall (lacquer, wood, dust and sweat - although maybe that's just me, it's pretty hot today). There's a lovely wineyness to this and after you've tasted it, enormous black cherry. More of that Highland Park light peat with water.
Body - Definitely getting the cheesecake, black cherry cheesecake I'd’ve said though. The fruit (sour, sweet, juicy) hits you right at the front, and it's backed by wood tannins and an almost medicinal sharpness.
Finish - Long and fruity, finally the Vimto comes… a nice oiliness on the tip of the tongue but quite bitter.
Love the black cherry in this, great interest and balance too. Again, the youth comes through in a slightly harsh bitterness that suggests this might have been totally epic in another dozen years, but this is still highly recommended.
SMWS 37.78, Cragganmore, Perfumed elegance, 17 years old, 48.2% A⊕
11th February 1999, 90 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - This outturn is a real journey so far! Big fruity wax, roasted peaches, raspberry pound cake and fresh cut flowers. Beautiful. There's an Auchentoshan-like fruit/funk/wax thing being hinted at too.
Body - Deep and perfect fruit, but quite gentle with oaked Chardonnay and vanilla cream. Classical with water - you're definitely drinking Scotch but it's mature and almost not single-cask in its delivery.
Finish - Long and soft, more tropical with banana and mango smoothy.
A lovely whisky, properly matured but structured and totally drinkable.
SMWS G8.6, Cambus, Jazzed up banana split, 26 years old, 59.7% A⊕
12th June 1989, 258 bottles, refill bourbon
Body - Lovely on the delivery… dried banana, banana with vanilla cream and chocolate sauce, a hint of caraway.
Finish - Sweet and biscuity, crystal malt and aniseed, a very light hint of sulphur. Big mukhwas and very tannic at the end.
SMWS 77.44, Glen Ord, Cheerful childhood memories, 15 years old, 58.8% A'
3rd April 2001, 240 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes
Nose - Dusty, sweet, sour, definitely more ordinary than the whiskies so far… yet still, it's has a slightly austere charm - cut flowers and earth, cajeta and boiled sweets. It's growing on me…
Body - Lemon sherbets (as usual with Glen Ord), lemon sorbet, lemon curd, mango sauce. That makes it sound a lot more intense and rich than it is, because there's a sharp youth and bitterness around the edges that takes away from the fun (and it's harsher with water).
Finish - Medium, sweet/sharp pineapple and dried mango slices. Very light pipe tobacco at the end.
Better than I thought it was going to be. A bit clumsy but very drinkable.
SMWS 64.74, Mannochmore, What afternoons are made for!, 15 years old, 57.6% A
5th March 2001, 228 bottles, first fill bourbon
Nose - Sharp apple, rain, fruit salad chews. Candle wax on inhale, fried crab shells on exhale, evaporated milk on malted milk biscuits. It's sweet but I'm reminded slightly of a cabin on a cross channel ferry - all handsoap and linen.
Body - Sharp and malty, tannic with grapefruit and roasted lemons. More fruit salad chews.
Finish - Lemon and granite, chewed liquorice root, coffee beans. Vanilla burps.
It's delicious, but in this outturn that bitterness and wood character marks it down.
SMWS 55.39, Royal Brackla, No pussycat, 18 years old, 56.5% A+
26th September 1997, 276 bottles, first fill bourbon then 2nd fill Sauternes
Nose - Ripe pear and iced rings, pure refill bourbon. This has the hallmarks of a boring whisky that needed saving. A metal file, smelled Sichuan peppercorns. There's tinned pineapple juice in the background, it's faint though.
Body - Much more interesting on the delivery, that wine finish has upped the game with slightly rotten fruit, roasted pineapple and black pepper. Very good.
Finish - Long and tannic, cracked black pepper and soap. It's practically peated, by association with the pepper.
This isn't brilliant but it is compelling, and the more I tasted it the more I enjoyed it. Maybe I'm just thirsty today.
SMWS 39.128, Linkwood, Back to primary school, 9 years old, 60.3% A+'
17th February 2007, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon
Body - Big, sweet and fruity, but biscuity with vanilla and raspberry jam. Stewed tea and panna cotta. Neat orange barley sugar squash. Menthol with water.
Finish - Medium long, oils and fruits galore. A really competent delivery right to the end - obvious first fill sweetness for sure, but well played.
I tasted this out of order (I forgot it) and almost didn't bother (who needs primary school Linkwood when you're about to try a 25 year old Bladnoch?) but I'm glad I did. Highly recommended.
SMWS 50.78, Bladnoch, Ready…steady…bake!, 25 years old, 60.2% A⊕'
26th January 1990, 168 bottles, refill bourbon
Body - Mint toffee, more caramel shortbread, green apple chews, candy cigarettes and caraway. Light sulphur and Sauternes with water.
Finish - Very long with great oils and wood tannins. Lip salve. Finally, milky tea.
Another fantastic Bladnoch.
SMWS 35.145, Glen Moray, Lost in the dessert, 24 years old, 57.6% A⊕+
25th October 1991, 228 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon
Nose - After all that luxury and intrigue, back to refill bourbon punishment. Hard wood and unripe apple, cold tarmac and beer. Very green with time - cut runner beans and tequila. Actually this holds its own intrigue, with kola kubes against fresh turf and light vanilla sulphur. Fresh rain and cigar tobacco with water. Lovely.
Body - Very clever. Hang on a sec…
Fresh and zesty, big vanilla cask, green beans and clean, precise spirit. More drumsticks, liquorice allsorts (the white foam sandwich one), vanilla cream and very cold white wine. It's beautifully refreshing. Spicier with water, but fuller.
Finish - New make, high quality frozen vodka, musky honey, funny feet ice lollies and cut grass.
An unexpected pleasure. Maybe it's just the intensity of the flight but this is a breath of fresh air.
SMWS 7.130, Longmorn, Musky, floral, sweet perfumes, 25 years old, 55.1% A⊕+
15th June 1990, 240 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - Musky, dusty and hot. Acrylic paints, liquorice torpedoes, grilled orange halves and cake. It's floral like a new bunch of flowers on a hot summer day, it's sweet and oaky like a warm Chardonnay.
Body - Crikey. Big, winey and meaty, stewed apricot tart with marzipan, hot dusty sulphur. Macaron and very ripe mango. Nectarines with water. Epic.
Finish - Long and peachy. Powdered cinnamon on grapefruit. Perfect poise to the end.
Really, really good, and a world away from the Glen Moray*.
*although I just, just prefer the 35, even though I don't on paper. Actually they're very different.
SMWS 29.188, Laphroaig, Cowboy beans, 17 years old, 53.9% A⊕+
13th May 1998, 246 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - One of the sweet, coastal Laphs… all crushed shells and perfume and malted barley. There's a small, white cubed sweet - is it in the liquorice allsorts? I need to buy some of these and see if they live up to my memories of them. Deep in here there is the memory of the medicinal Laphroaig, hallelujah… but it's faint. Is it just that I've lost the ability to smell TCP? I might start dabbing it on my wrists* before drinking Laphroaig.
Body - Beautiful cereal, deep and charred. More soap, definitely bandages, fizzing germolene. Apple juice and cigarettes. Absolutely delicious.
Finish - Long with warm hotel apple juice, very complete in the mouth. Malic acid, very old TCP and wet oak take us to the end.
One of the best society Laphroaigs I've had in the last year, really tropical and a very compelling whisky overall.
* obviously I’m telling a lie here. I did this ages ago and can confirm that it works really well. Not something I’d do before entering a whisky bar though. That’s worse than entering a whisky bar wearing perfume!
BUY BUY – great name, cracking Laphroaig
SMWS 3.278, Bowmore, Dirty martinis in the boat shed, 20 years old, 52.2% A⊕+'
27th March 1996, 252 bottles, refill bourbon
Body - Bingo. Thick mango juice, salty parmas, big cigars minus the tar, chalk and permanent markers. Alka-seltzer and marshmallows.
Finish - Long, lovely alien fruit, totally complete… it's the youngest Islay I've had that nails this profile.
BUY BUY BUY
Did you know that turpentine is distilled pine resin? I’m surprised we don’t experience it more in whisky.