Monday, 31 October 2016

Another pair of Laphroaigs

I reckon we can squeeze in some more pairs before November although I’ve run out of SMWS pairs – so here’s another couple of random Laphroaigs. 

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016, Madeira cask, 51.6% A+

Laphroaig-Cairdeas-Madeira-Cask-2016_Forbes-2016_01Nose - Talcum powder and pencil shavings (with their erasers), highly mineral. There is a pink hue to the whisky and label which makes me want to add cranberries to the nose but they're not really there. Unripe pear and swimming pool on the cold side, but wet oak, marmalade and the merest hint of sulphur on the warm. Slightly sexier with water. Smells smashable, let's see…

Body - Toast and toffee, charcoal and balsa wood. Jam of indeterminate fruit. Chocolate toffee.

Finish - The peat has a very short half-life but the fruit really lingers. Finally the wine cask is here, with sweet, jammy red fruits and a touch of rosemary. Better integration with water and a small amount of bandage, but I prefer the excitement it has without.

This definitely suffers from the same gentleness that most recent OB Laphroaigs have but the higher ABV and wine cask do play a part in making it a great drammer. I will very much enjoy not paying much attention to drinking my bottle of this.

Laphroaig Masterpieces, 1996, 20 years old, PX Cask, 50.6% A⊕+

This is the Laphroaig from the whisky show this year that everyone was flipping out over at maltstock.  My notes on the day just read “doesn’t have much to do with Laphroaig” and I thought if I published just that there would be fussing.  So I have signed up to a bottleshare on this one and hence, here’s some detailed notes.

lrgsdl1996v2Nose - Sherried. Really deep red berries, lacquered and highly structured. Significant digging to find peat, let alone Laphroaig, but this is beautifully PXed with candied orange, tomato consommé, cocoa powder and yoghurt covered raisins, a little like a similarly aged PX Glendronach would be. It is lush. No Laphraoig though. Water does help here, bringing some retronasal charcoal and with time and sipping, fag ends and beautifully sulphured charred oak.

Body - Quite a strange (although very compelling) development. Sweet, deep sherry first, then red wine cask, then bitter at the side of the mouth with redcurrant jelly. Christmas and pomanders. Less good with water on the delivery.

Finish - Very long and a little bitter, cocoa powder and poster paints. There is a really, really wonderful HQ cask thing in the finish, that reminds me again of drinking Glendronach. It is seriously delicious, zesty and quite bitter behind that massive sugar rush. Again, water allows some Islay to poke through the cask in the form of

A fantastic whisky that has almost nothing to do with the distillery in which it was made and almost everything to do with the world class cask in which it was matured.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

SMWS Pairs–Two random Laphroaigs


So the first weekly outturn in November has already landed, bringing some excellent looking drams that have already sold out.  I haven’t been able to get to them in time to publish before they came out but I will catch up.  In the meantime I have unfinished business at the bar.   So… rounding off this run of pairs before November hits, is a pair of mature Laphroaigs that have nothing in common except that they’re only available on the bar.

Laphroaig is one of my favourite distilleries when it does the right thing (by which I mean intense, medicinal peat against complex, sweet depth), and one of my biggest disappointments when it’s “lite”. 

These two are well worth your time.  The first would be a great one stood at the bar to reward your Christmas shopping.  The second might come home with you after.

SMWS 29.199, Laphroaig, Eureka Moment, 16 years old, 58.6% A+

1st July 1999, 204 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0286Nose - Young Islay (think 9yo peated Bunnahabhain), tinged with green medicine. Clear candi rocks, wet marble, your hands had TCP on them yesterday and you've washed them five times since. Rain water on your car, liquorice root.

Body - Sweet, hot and sour, and only then, Laphroaig. Mint polos. And then, something altogether meatier and more important - chalky bonbons, numbing Sechaun peppercorns, bandages… but it's fleeting. And slightly addictive… activated charcoal and bunsen burners with water.

Finish - Medium short with hairspray and liquorice imps. Lemon at the end.

Definitely one to try at the bar, in fact I insist. Deliciously confusing.

SMWS 29.196, Laphroaig, A Mermaid's Tale, 21 years old, 59% A⊕

4th April 1995, 192 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0285Nose – Sandalwood joss sticks – maybe a little bit stale. Sweet, deep bourbon cask (dessert wine, vanilla, raspberry). Refreshers, but only starting to become old. It's a sweet, delicate and enticing nose, although it's outshone by the delivery…

Body - Fabulous, with an unusual and arresting refreshers and chilli combination. Red bricks, green apple boiled sweets and condensed milk. Fruitier but less interesting with water.

Finish - Long and fizzing with oak, lemon, green apple and smoked mackerel. Big refreshers with water.

A complex and delicious whisky that would fly off the shelves for £600 as an OB. IBs have it harder, and I still have 23 year old open society Laphroaig to drink (see here, reviewed coincidentally as a pair from more than a year ago).  However, assuming you don’t:


Thursday, 27 October 2016

SMWS Pairs–Two 24 year old Longmorns

IMG_0284Same day, same cask type, same run of the still no doubt although a few cask numbers apart (the society casks are numbered in the order they’re selected for bottling by the tasting panel, not the order in which they’re bought, distilled or anything else).

Old society Longmorns are legendary. 24 isn't massively old, but these two are belters.

SMWS 7.150, Longmorn, In Perfect Harmony, 24 years old, 51.1% A⊕

10th April 1992, 198 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0282Nose - There's special in here. Dark, ripe, thick but restrained fruit - treacle tart? Very gentle orange curd, furniture polish and big, clarty pastry (although this whisky is elegant above all else).

Body - Waxy old cask, very sweet at the tip of the tongue but good balance across the rest. A touch of red wine tannin, petrol and Asian fruit in front of just a load of mature cask (oil, star fruit, raisins). Water brings cigarette tobacco but unbalances this elegant whisky which was previously "in perfect harmony"

Finish - Long and slightly hot and sour. Mukhwas.

A lovely, balanced, elegant whisky. It needs you to take your time with it though.


SMWS 7.146, Longmorn, Orange Velvet, 24 years old, 54.3% A⊕+

10th April 1992, 246 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0283Nose - Fatter and fruitier, less elegant but more insistent than the 150. Starfruit and kumquats, candied orange and a much more three dimensional cask influence. A small cardboard misstep takes the edge off. Water brings hot chocolate and tobacco.

Body - So gentle, so much fruit - it's like making your own marmalade, it's incredible how orangey the stuff is when you've just been slicing and juicing the oranges. So I think Seville orange is probably a good call here, with salt, cracked black pepper and fennel tops. A little sulphur, a little joss stick with water. It's lovely.

Finish - Long and quite hot, the green tropicality continues. Water brings tannic toffee and stewed tea, which excites you for another sip.

A highly accomplished whisky, intense fruit and wood in balance yet it doesn't really pull any punches - worth a trip through anyone's glass and a good combination of tasting interest and proper drammability. Get one.


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

SMWS Pairs–Two 26 year old Linkwoods

IMG_0294A couple of years ago, round about the time of 39.92 – Dessert wine and smoking jacket I used to buy practically every 39 that came out.  There were some beautiful whiskies that epitomised the single cask excitement the society turned out, and I loved the tropical character of the old ones.  Recently we’ve seemed to mainly have younger 39s and while they can of course be good, it’s less exciting  to see on an outturn, for me anyway.  I do prefer older whisky.

So these two bar-only drams (Greville Street at least) were very interesting to me, and with a name like Summer Dream quite promising too…

BTW they’re telling me these whiskies are bar only and I’m telling you what they said.  For all I know they’re in the February 2017 outturn and nobody at the bar has realised.  They seemed surprised when they arrived!

SMWS 39.130, Linkwood, Zing like the ping of a musical string, 26 years old, 51.5% A-

30th April 1990, 234 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0296Nose - Zesty - fresh cut grapefruit with brown sugar, lemon juice in apple pie, meringue and something more savoury - the pastry and swede in a late night Cornish pastry at LBG station. But this whisky is primarily about lemon wood and fruit toffee. Fruitier with water and some kind of light peating in here somehow?

Body - Old cask struggles to see past the lemon but there's a compelling tobacco and slight funk which makes things more interesting. In fact the initial delivery on this is really interesting, with lovely balance of wood and fruit, but spice takes over a little early. Much better with water - oil paints and blood orange.

Finish - Medium with big oils and roasted plums. Quite hot and spicy. Wood varnish with water, and lots of lingering toffee at the end.

Very interesting this one with balanced woods and lacquers with the fruit, but not entirely drammable due to a slightly harsh character in the delivery. One for the bar, definitely.

SMWS 39.134, Linkwood, Summer dream, 26 years old, 45.2% A⊕+

16th October 1989, 146 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0295Nose - A bit older and a lot weaker (and fewer bottles from the cask), this is gentler and much more Linkwood than the previous one. That intense tropicality with a balancing wood, that's like 70s Tomatin but turned down from 11 to 7. So - ripe mango, bounty bars and dank hops. It's as good on the nose as that sounds on paper!

Body - And it doesn't let you down on the delivery. Coconut, refreshers, charred pineapple, linseed oil and patchouli joss sticks. Extremely good.

Finish - Long and tannic, this old Tomatin territory and therefore an instant recommendation. Cheap vanilla ice cream at the end, everyone likes that!

Complex and ticking every box, this is a cracking dram.


Friday, 21 October 2016

SMWS Pairs–Two older Glen Morays

IMG_0293We’ve had some really epic society Glen Moray recently, like August’s 35.145 – Lost in the dessert: fresh and very complicated with one of those rollercoaster deliveries.  Or September’s 35.165 – Variety – the spice of life: first-fill chenin blanc cask, funky, meaty, rye and brett, but not overpowered or unbalanced.  Speaking to Iain Allen of Glen Moray at the whisky show recently, he was telling me how annoying it was having all these interestingly casked whiskies in the warehouse that they’d want to use in something but couldn’t because they always turned out to belong to SMWS.  At least now they’re in the central SMWS warehouses and not under their noses the whole time!

Anyway here’s another slightly tenuous link for a pair although they have more in common character-wise than yesterday’s pair distilled on the same day – and again only available on the bar.  And they are both rather good…

SMWS 35.171, Glen Moray, Lucky lemon lickers, 24 years old, 56.2% A⊕

25th October 1991, 222 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

IMG_0291Nose - The epitome of classy Scotch. Mature cask, limoncello becoming lemon bonbons and a balanced sweet minerality like wet marble. Somehow I'm reminded of rice cooked in pandan leaf, and the sweet, well integrated and complex cask influence really makes me smile – a whisky that reminds me of early whisky discoveries. With time, a little chocolate covered toffee comes through. With water, toast and kit-kats.

Body - More roasted lemon in the delivery, a touch of heat to it (it is 56% though) with hot toast and honey. It's almost like hot lemon and honey, clearly this would prevent sore throats, although it would be a terrible waste to drink this on a malfunctioning palate. Seriously delicious. A lot gentler with water.

Finish - Medium with balanced wood bitterness and more heat softened citrus. A really gentle, mature finish, although a tad bitter at the end with water. Lovely stuff though.

What a fantastic whisky - fruit and wood in balance, complex notes of chocolate and toffee behind this and gently mature.


SMWS 35.170, Glen Moray, A dram for an Arabian Prince, 30 years old, 46.4% A⊕

19th July 1986, 249 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0292Nose - Wearing its age well, this has fresh fruit (red apple this time) and toffee in spades like the 171, but backed up by a big, waxy, musky and floral cask. Surprisingly balanced too, this is the kind of nose you get on one of those really old blends. With time, orange jelly and Ovaltine, and a touch of men's perfume.

Body - Incredibly gentle - warm hot chocolate, candy cigarettes and chocolate bonbons. A lovely, elegant balance of perfume, chocolate and cask structure.

Finish - Very long, with ripe green apple and midget gems. Love hearts at the very end. Water unbalances the delivery but brings more chocolate in the finish, I'd leave it out.

An incredibly delicate and well put together whisky, quite impressively balanced for a single cask. Take your time with this one.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

SMWS Pairs–21 yo Glen Morays

IMG_0290Two weird casks, filled on the same day, presumably they are from the same parcel and batch from the still. I am usually a huge fan of these mature, US style cask Scotches.

So… two 21 year old toasted oak hogshead Glen Morays, these are only available on the bar in Greville Street.

SMWS 35.162, Glen Moray, Romantic inspiration, 21 years old, 54.5% A

17th November 1994, 234 bottles, 1st fill toasted oak hogshead

IMG_0289Nose - A big, full on bourbon nose with cherry compote, varnished wood and strawberry laces. Intensely sweet and heavy on the vanilla without the crushing oak that a cask strength bourbon of this character would have - in other words it's still Scotch, with its cold climate complexity. Even better with water, more beer, more ozone, weirdly - it works well with the thick fruit.

Body - Having gushed like that though… the delivery doesn't quite step up to that billing. There's a thinner character in the delivery that makes that bombastic red fruit and vanilla more like ordinary wood and cigarettes. Water doesn't help much either.

Finish - Long and sweetly rich, with salted caramel and fruit toffees. Very long - thick oils last right to the end.

Often it's hard to deliver on the promise the nose sets, and it’s a dangerous game to play with the crazy casks. Worth a dram though, certainly.

SMWS 35.163, Glen Moray, A playful wrestling match, 21 years old, 56.4% A⊖

17th November 1994, 276 bottles, 1st fill toasted oak hogshead

IMG_0288Nose - A very different character to this cask - green where the last one was red. Much more restrained too with chocolate and pipe tobacco, unripe apple and guava. There's something like a hotel lobby - recently laid carpets and old cigarette smoke. This is a much more ordinary nose than the last one, although good.

Body - And a much more considered delivery too, with chalky bonbons, Ricola lozenges and a touch of neat Vimto.

Finish - Long but hot and offputtingly tannic at the side of the mouth. Coconut burps!

Very different to the last cask, the nose on this is more restrained and very competent, however the delivery is quite ordinary and the whole thing falls apart with water - bitter, wet wood, only some of the fruit survives.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

SMWS Pairs–10yo wine casks

I’ve got a few pairs to post, that are mostly outturn-less and on the bar at Greville Street.  If the impending November outturn isn’t scary enough they’ve sent London a whole load of unannounced random things from other countries!  They fall nicely into pairs on the whole but there’s a white wine cask Ledaig I had to try which didn’t have a friend, so I’ve somewhat awkwardly forced it into bed with Corn N’ Oil.

SMWS 35.150, Glen Moray, Corn N' Oil, 10 years old, 60.8% A+

17th June 2005, 276 bottles, 1st fill Moscatel hogshead. Holy moly look at the colour on that. Corn N' Oil is apparently a cocktail made with dark rum and sugar syrup.

IMG_0114Nose - Not dirty, but very dark, practically dank - herbal too, peppery. Gastrique and seared foie gras, fresh rolling tobacco and sawdust. With time there's a hint of sherry cask funk, but it's hidden behind dusty raisins and herbal seared meats. More sexy (funkier offal) with water, roasted apples too. Really interesting.

Body - I'm still sat in that posh restaurant, I think it's a peppered rib eye now though, with a reduced red wine sauce. That nutty wine cask is much less sloppy that the rest of the years' Gordas (for example). In fact both the nose and delivery are very precise - black pepper, engine oil and retronasal pomander and candied peel. Fruitier and less demanding with water, but still quite challenging.

Finish - Long with orange juice then grapefruit zest. Yet more pepper (pre-ground though) with Sichuan peppercorns right at the end.

Very compelling, although relatively strict neat. Much more drinkable with water and quite Japanese overall. You should take a dram of this before they run out.


SMWS 42.26, Ledaig, 'Chim, chim, cher-ee', 10 years old, 60.5% A⊕

8th November 2005, 282 bottles, 2nd fill white wine hogshead

IMG_0298Nose - It looks like a glass of white wine. It smells like a cross between young Ledaig and Chardonnay. It's nuttier than that though, and fighting to get out from behind the usual sea shells, vinegar and coastal peat is a richness and balanced funk I would associate with Ardbeg.

More farmyard and owl-shit with water.

Body - Fresh initially - beautifully sweet and vinous, with ripe pears and Fizzers. Building Ledaig musk and farmyardy tones, charred bay leaves. Cut mango with water.

Finish - Spicy, herbal, peppery and very long. Chilli powder against lots of toffee. That almost infinite peat finish builds to such a heat that another sip is irresistible. If you can resist, orange wax and orange icing develop.

Resistance is futile.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

SMWS October 2016 Catchup

Here’s some of the 4 that got away.  The final one (the crazy-cask Glen Moray) I hope to review tomorrow in a pair with another random white wine cask from the London bar.  [EDIT: here]


SMWS 46.40, Glenlossie, Sweet, fruity and aromatic, 23 years old, 54.5% A⊕

17th November 1992, 264 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0109Nose - Very sweet and fruity indeed, and more solventy than aromatic. Immediately I'm hit with marker pens and tippex thinners but that rapidly develops into Orangeade, musk and zesty cask notes. There's a background meatiness, and an almost burnt sugar thing going on here too. Much more fruit with water, and a deeper maturity from the cask.

Body - Beer, cloudy lemonade, roasted lemon shells and toffee pennies - quite a crowded but very pleasant arrival. Water separates things out a bit and the whole whisky starts to make proper sense, with lots more orange, floral notes and more masculine musk and spice.

Finish - Long and nutty, orange zest and juice developing into fruit cake and royal icing. That orange and nut thing is really lovely.

I have something of a bias against Glenlossie (which is of course what the numbering system is meant to remove) but this really is quite lovely. Beautiful fruit, lots of complex musk and wood tones and lovely to drink too. Recommended.


SMWS 3.269, Bowmore, Smoked slippers at the beach, 19 years old, 57.9% A+

27th March 1996, 252 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0125Nose - Dusty dark chocolate, the fading lemon peat of young Islay and the approaching orange and chocolate wax and dust of mature Islay - Bowmore on the turn. A touch of refreshers, but more travel sweets. Younger but less intense with water.

Body - First the fruit - orange sweets (orange fruit polos perhaps), neat orange barley squash. Then a slow, building explosion of peat, a bit like a cinnamon jawbreaker. Delicious with water, the fruit intensifies and steps up with the peat. Feels more like a first fill bourbon.

Finish - Long and cinnamon hot, with lemon herbal tea and warm Chardonnay at the end.

A really interesting Bowmore this, right on the cusp of venerable and I'm not used to trying it at this age in bourbon. The overall feel is of tantalising maturity but with a real punch of peat to it.


SMWS 53.238, Caol Ila, A wee two-faced devil, 15 years old, 57% A

7th December 2000, 234 bottles, refill bourbon


Nose - A classic mid-teens society Caol Ila, with salt and vinegar crisps, lemon juice over crushed shells and caramel. Subtle mineral and metallic tones work well with the austere but chewy oak. There's a touch of the white wine cask in here too. Classic stood-at-the-bar stuff.

Body - Zesty, slightly bitter, rolling peat. A touch of earth, split dandelion stalks (you know how they smell) and a little gunpowder retronasally. Spicier with water.

Finish - More Walkers S&V. Quite short, but longer with water and slightly more bitter.

A competent but uneventful drammer, good background drinking for a conversation.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Douglas Laing, Single Minded, Speyside

Single Minded is Douglas Laing’s range of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, packaged in a premium gift carton with colour banding differentiating the various Whisky regions of Scotland.

Douglas Laing Single Minded, Speyside, 15 years old, 46% A

Jul16-SingleMinded-15Nose - Fresh but just shy of zesty, more waxy, sweet and a bit meaty - crayons sticking out of a birthday cake. There's a lovely, rounded fruit here though, with something meaty sitting on top of this… not sure. Iced buns too (dried fruit, icing and a touch of cinnamon). Robust, but a bit thin perhaps, although not young at all.

Body - The same good balance of fruit, meat and a touch of warm white wine.

Finish - Long, tannic, good wood and a touch of joss stick. Ripe pear and black pepper crisps at the end.

This has a really appealing character. Honest, competent, balanced, robust but unpeated. White wine and a touch of funk on the nose, lots of body. Highly recommended as a drinker.

Douglas Laing Single Minded, Speyside, 24 years old, 46% A+

speyside-24-year-old-single-minded-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Ripe with red berries, plum jam and sticky tobacco. Mineral like a chilled white wine, but hot and tannic like a red, this is a well-structured, mature but soft whisky on the nose.

Body - Berries, more wine and salt and black pepper crisps. Redcurrants is it? Slightly almondy but not cherries. A touch of cardboard.

Finish - It really sings in the finish. Big sherry notes with mincemeat tart and candied orange peel, and the black wine from the South West of France. Very long and packed full of jam.

At first this didn't appeal but again, the honest structure and fruit really grew on me and I just started loving it.

Both cracking whiskies and pretty different although perhaps they're the same distillery but sherry and bourbon casks.

Macallan is a good distillery.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Glenfiddich Experimental Series 1&2

Lovely new packaging for Glenfiddich and all whisky nerds like a series (although I’m tired of trilogies).  We sourced these through a bottle share (hence the proper notes) and the rest were at the whisky show (hence the micro notes).  The 30 was my dream dram on the first day and the others were at the Glenfiddich masterclass - which was good fun and it was great to get a proper drink on the 26 finally.

Anyway the headline is with these two, that they’re cracking drinkers and nicely priced.  Both recommended.

Glenfiddich Experimental Series #01, IPA Cask Finish, 43% A-

glenfiddich-experimental-series-ipa-cask-finish-whiskyNose - It smells like classic, great Glenfiddich. The nose is way out of its price band. A good balance between sweet depth, sour fruit, tobacco and acrylic paints. A gentle, understated fruit with crayons and buttercream icing. Proper delicious on the nose.

Body - Comparatively ordinary on the delivery, although well done. Dry and tannic with soft toffee and lightly floral. There's a feeling of tobacco water to this - perhaps licked perfume?

Finish - But the finish brings back that deep, grown-up Glenfiddich sweetness, and brings you back for that wonderful old nose. Peppery wet wood

A big crystal tumbler and a roaring log fire and the kids long asleep would be a great accompaniment to this. The low strength and corresponding lack of body wouldn't be a problem then and you could just bath in the nose and the finish.

And no it doesn’t taste or smell of IPA or hops.

Glenfiddich Experimental Series #02, Project XX, 47% A+

glenfiddich-experimental-series-project-xx-whiskyNose - Zestier and sharper on the nose than the IPA, still with that lovely green apple and toffee balance. The wax is a touch muskier, the tobacco less, the fruit more intense. It's a little less classy on the nose but it's still a beautiful thing.

Body - Much better on the delivery than the IPA, orange juice and green papaya, very astringent with hints of peat.

Finish - Long with wet woods and lots of tobacco - when did Glenfiddich have so much tobacco? Mango burps.

A complex and delicious Glenfiddich that narrowly avoids being confused or confusing. Well drinkable. Well done team!

Glenfiddich 30 years old, 43% A⊕+

IMG_0173Nose - Austere wood, slight caramel, clean cigar tobacco. Lightly herbal (fresh cut celery), floral with women's perfume and a little leather belt. Toffee malt (stood at the malt mill).

Body - Expansive old Glenfiddich, white wine, black pepper, salted caramel, caraway and roasted plums.

Finish - Very long, with red wine tannins and black pepper.

Like licking the end of a good cigar before you light it, complex and very grown up.

Glenfiddich Excellence, 26 years old, 43% A⊕+

American oak, 1-4 fills bourbon casks.

IMG_0194Nose - Gentle. Cut pear, clean wood and apple juice.

Body - Gloriously complete. Dusty toffee and wood, beautiful fruit (banana and apple).

Finish - Very long but complex, thick oils in the mouth are just beautiful.

Gentle elegance on this one.

Glenfiddich 1975, ex bourbon cask, then sherry for 8 years. 49% A⊕

An experiment.

IMG_0195Nose - Nutted, lacquered woods. Orange zest, orange juice and school halls.

Body - Big polish and oranges, intense oils. Beautiful structure but a real bomb.

Finish - Long, zest again, marker pens.

A lovely drinker but too much wood overall.

Glenfiddich 1990, Sherry cask, European oak barrel A-

IMG_0195Nose - Massive oak and sherry, like a Glendronach. Acrylic varnish, pastic packaging.

Body - Enormous sherry and spice, so much wood…

Finish - Long plastic.

I’m not sure if they have these whiskies the wrong way round.  Anyway, this needs to be blended into something amazing!  And I’m sure it will.

I need to come back to the core range Glenfiddichs.  I’m sure I’m missing something…

Thursday, 6 October 2016

SMWS October 2016 Outturn

An awkward outturn, one that took a few attempts to get in the can for you, and one that precedes the terrifying November outturn!  There is some gold in here though, my favourites being the Auchentoshan and Benrinnes.


Sadly part of the awkwardness of this one is that I didn’t get hold of four of the whiskies, one of them being potentially the most interesting. 

  • 3.269, 19yo, Refill hogshead, Smoked slippers at the beach
  • 35.150, 10yo, 1st fill Moscatel hogshead, Corn N’ Oil
  • 46.40, 23yo, Refill hogshead, Sweet, fruity and aromatic
  • 53.238, 15yo, Refill hogshead, A wee two-faced devil

    I’m sure you can guess which I’m most interested in.  I’ll circle back for these before November hopefully. [EDIT: 35.150 here, the rest here]

    Also, 4.222 and 9.111 in one outturn, that appeals to the coincidentalist in me.

    SMWS 73.77, Aultmore, Bach in a briary bower, 13 years old, 60.6% B+

    4th September 2002, 288 bottles, refill bourbon

    IMG_0104Nose - Fresh; metal and sweet melon, reminds me of lemon meringue pie with icing sugar meringue and a little backing of lemon curd. Very Spring-like (pity it's Autumn, although this probably passed the panel in Spring). More meringue with water, more sweetness, and some very welcome, balancing cask musk.

    Body - Hot, zesty and cereal led with cut plums and a little bit of chewed fennel seeds. This needs water, which brings light peach and the sugary musk of dried mango slices.

    Finish - Medium to short, peppery. Cinnamon with water.

    A fresh, young drammer. One for the bar.

    SMWS 5.52, Auchentoshan, Fluffy Fruity Profiteroles, 15 years old, 54.5% A⊕

    11th October 2000, 53 bottles, refill bourbon

    IMG_0122Nose - Another slightly dirty (crotchy) Auchentoshan, with burnt toast, tobacco, lemon bonbons, chilled Chardonnay with pudding and buckets of classic Auchentoshan toffee. Maybe it's more farmyardy than crotchy, but I'm quite into either. Almost pudding wine with water, lovely stuff.

    Body - Very sweet, lemon and orange juice, peach stones and travel sweets. More complex fruits with water, and Drumsticks.

    Finish - A long exploration of the various shades of toffee and farmyard, ending in cracked black pepper and side-of-the-mouth sweetness, like a sucked Refresher (I have had that old Bowmore note in previous - but older – Auchentoshans (the BBR one here), maybe this is where it comes from?).

    Another weird and complicated whisky from one of my favourite distilleries (because it produces whisky like this).

    BUY although you'll have to be quick with only 53 bottles out of the cask

    SMWS 48.83, Balmenach, “… and the living’s easy”, 13 years old, 56.1% A-

    25th November 2002, 120 bottles, first fill bourbon

    IMG_0108Nose - Vanilla pastry, wet oak and soil, like standing in the cask filling area of a distillery. Gentle with a touch of burnt caramel and crystallised ginger. Good cask sweetness on exhale. More toasted with water.

    Body - Sweet and deep, some of that Auchentoshan funk is either still on my palate or in this whisky but there's real depth of flavour here (presumably from the first fill) as well as cut flowers and big pastry notes. That young zest dominates a little with water,

    Finish - Long and sweet with grapefruit zest and orange curd.

    Lots of fun to be had with this dram, that FF cask bringing lots of vanilla and fruit. This would be an excellent dram for the bar too!


    SMWS 121.94, Arran, Dried-Cherry Lattice Pie, 16 years old, 54.8% B+

    20th April 2000, 264 bottles, refill bourbon

    IMG_0130Nose - Another cereal led, flinty refill. Atypically this is all hard wood, liquorice and lacquer. If there's cherries in here, they're fresh cut although… with a bit of patience red fruit does start to develop as well as the more typical Arran toffee sweetness. Austere though, I was looking forward to getting some water in this, which did bring more fruit although mainly more bourbon cask.

    Body - Sharp and fruity, quite young but with good thick toffee behind it and a little bit of bread and butter. Much better with water, chocolate toffee and white pepper.

    Finish - Hot and peppery again.

    Too much chilli, not enough fruit for me, although there are some flashes of interest if you dig.

    SMWS 37.82, Curious complexity, Cragganmore, 13 years old, 58.9% A+

    1st October 2002, 210 bottles, refill bourbon

    IMG_0112Nose - Deep perfume, floral notes and felt backed leather. There's Ovaltine behind the sweetshop, and it becomes more masculine as it spends time in the glass. Lime and grapefruit with water.

    Body - Spiced Ovaltine in the delivery, maybe Mexican hot chocolate? Fizzingly hot with alcohol but very delicious with grapefruit zest over the chocolate. Fizzing grapefruit and an appealing cask maturity with water.

    Finish - Tannic but balanced sweet and sour, grapefruit juice at the end.

    Very compelling this one, fresh and zesty and a great sipper with lots to discover.


    SMWS 64.80, Mannochmore, Fruit punch explosion, 9 years old, 58.2% B

    25th October 2006, 210 bottles, first fill bourbon

    IMG_0107Nose - Young and confident, the fruit here is apple sweets and tropical with big hits of coconut suntan oil and mango puree. The young, flinty spirit wants to take over but the tropical first fill cask makes the experience three dimensional.

    Body - Softer than expected, more mango (squash and ripe fruit) but also a lot less interesting than I'd hoped. The young spirit dominates the cask with water although give is some time and the fruit comes back.

    Finish - Mango and red chilli, malboro light tobacco at the end, especially with water. The final, lingering notes are of pure coconut, which hints at how epic this whisky might/should have been!

    A slightly brash whisky in which the cask and spirit are in competition. Maybe with another decade in cask they might have made friends?

    SMWS 41.82, Dailuaine, Lively and Entertaining, 11 years old, 60.1% A+

    4th March 2005, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon

    IMG_0110Nose - Society 41s, always reliable - great casks. Fresh wood but with fruit depth and floral top notes. Orange juice, a little mango, a little cocoa powder. And lots of cut flower stalks. Fruitier with water. Very high quality.

    Body - No disappointments on the delivery either. Accepting that this is only 11, there's lovely fruits with orange jelly and chocolate covered caramel, a touch of fresh soil and hard oak.

    Finish - Good bitterness, Grapefruit zest and salt. Gentler with water but no let-up in balance.

    A cracking little Dailuaine, recommended.


    SMWS 36.110, Benrinnes, Lip-smacking, gum-smacking, gob-smacking, 13 years old, 51.7% A⊕

    14th August 2002, 102 bottles, first fill bourbon

    IMG_0113Nose - Beautifully fruity, really sweet and juicy compared to the rather more aggressive Dailuaine. How to describe the nostalgia inducing fruit and balance of this nose? Reminds me of discovering how good Arran was… orange pomander, a hint of sandalwood, fruity car freshener, and warming cask toffee. Just lovely.

    Body - Even better than promised by the nose, with coffee and oak chips, good quality rolling tobacco, Sichuan peppercorns and bitter lemon. Softer with water but that quality cask fruit comes through even more.

    Finish - Medium and hints of bitterness, but then big fruit toffees at the end and the return of that fantastic cask. Toffee pennies long after the last sip.

    Really drinkable and lots of fruit to discover, and great balance too. Mature beyond its years, highly recommended.


    SMWS 9.111, Glen Grant, Vigorous and Sophisticated, 20 years old, 61.3% A-

    23rd April 1996, 186 bottles, refill bourbon

    IMG_0118Nose - More intense cask sourness than the previous lot, darker maturity - stewed plums, a touch of tannic red wine, banana Nesquik milkshake (faintly - if you've had it recently it is extremely pungent) and an elegant balancing wood. This is Sophisticated (and very good), I'm expecting the delivery to be Vigorous.

    Body - And it is. Up the sinuses with menthol and big, bitter wood notes. That banana and lovely soft wood rides behind that. That's quite a compelling experience but makes it appear to be a much younger whisky. Needs water, which softens the sinus ripping menthol and certainly brings it back to its age, but the peppermint that remains is a little incongruous with the nose.

    Finish - Long and bitter - herbal with old dried oregano and good wood. The bitterness is quite intense with water, turning into almond and almond shells.

    There's a lot to love about this whisky, but I'd struggle to get round to it if I owned a bottle due to that bitterness. One for the bar.

    SMWS 7.136, Longmorn, Cowgirl barmaid does massage, 25 years old, 59.2% B⊕

    15th June 1990, 138 bottles, refill bourbon

    IMG_0121Nose - I don't get the Cowgirl but I get the massage oils, very clearly. A lovely old school Longmorn this, reminds me of one of the first I had from the society. Big, old bourbon cask, tinned pineapple, perfume. Even classier with water.

    Body - Ach… zestier and harsher than the nose, with liquorice allsorts and licked cigar. Much too harsh, I was hoping for the return of the big old society Longmorn! A lot better with water but the burnt chilli pepper is still there.

    Finish - Long and herbally astringent. Mouth puckeringly bitter at the end. Hints of the mature fruit cask survive with tropical burps.

    What a fantastic nose, I was all over this. But the delivery is broken.

    SMWS 39.135, Linkwood, Magical and Heavenly, 26 years old, 58.8% A+

    30th April 1990, 186 bottles, refill bourbon

    IMG_0111Nose - That distillery, that age, that name - expectations are sky high. There's a dark, stewed complexity in the nose here, with overripe fruit and black tea, leather and travel sweets. Chocolate and chewed malts. Swarthy, almost, but complex and intriguing. Lots of tropical fruit with water, pineapple, kumquat. Nosing this on a tweet tasting for 15 minutes would be agony, fortunately this isn't a tweet tasting.

    Body - Again, zestier and spicier than anticipated but not harsh, with chocolate, metal and pear. Lightly sweet tropical fruit with water and a touch of musk. Lovely.

    Finish - Grapefruit bitterness (I don't think this is my palate, I think it's coincidentally echoing the Longmorn) and mango. Again, better with water.

    I liked this a lot but I want it to be more arresting given the name. This next one better live up to expectations…

    SMWS 4.222, Highland Park, Ginger and honey sweet tea, 16 years old, 56.2% A⊕

    15th October 1999, 204 bottles, first fill bourbon

    IMG_0123Nose - Sweet and classically (gently) peated, austere and mineral up top but well-judged tobacco, strawberry jam and pear cider behind that. Waxes take some digging, as does the usual HP poster paint/acrylic, but it's a complete and balanced thing. As usual. More floor polish, more citrus, more toffee with water.

    Body - The balance. Astringent at first but slowly overtaken by tobacco, then toast, then grapefruit. Much/even better with water, lots more wax and citrus zest.

    Finish - Long and fruit toffee led. Retronasally this is perfect - cask sweetness in the nose, peat on the tongue.

    Classic society HP.


    SMWS 93.69, Glen Scotia, Props for a Hammer film, 14 years old, 59.5% A-

    30th April 2002, 564 bottles, 2nd fill Oloroso butt

    IMG_0128Nose - Sweet but restrained sherry, a lovely balance of sweet grape, nutty Oloroso and mineral peat. Charred peaches and coconut, whisky soaked raisins, rose water and a very light sulphur. Bags of ripe fruit with water, Coca-Cola even.

    Body - Sweet figs, cobnuts, melon chewed from right near the skin. Fresh on inhale, a bit dirty from the wine on exhale. It reminds me of London somehow - perfume, other people's cocktails and cigarette smoke.

    Finish - Fresh and sweet but simultaneously quite dirty, with a quite significant sulphur knocking on the door of cabbage (but not quite). That's much reduced with water, hidden behind boiled sweets.

    This does so much right on paper but there isn't quite the body in the spirit here to stand up to the sugar-and-sulphur of the sherry cask. And there is that cabbage - if you're sulphur sensitive then you will be unhappy with this.

    At this point we’d normally be having Caol Ila and Bowmore, instead we proceed, for now, directly to the young peated Bunnahabhain.

    SMWS 10.98, Bunnahabhain, Super smoky Firestarter, 8 years old, 60.4% A⊕

    7th February 2008, 168 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

    IMG_0117Nose - Crushed shells, white pepper, ozone and cold metal, old oak chunks, unlit cigars. There's a sweet lemonade backnote to this that lifts it, otherwise we're talking classic young peated bunna with all the confident character and balance that that follows.

    Body - Zesty white pepper, fantastic toffee musk and lots of lemon zest. Delicious. Even better with water, cloudy lemonade and retronasal cigarette smoke (and the satisfying pain that brings).

    Finish - Medium with Sichuan peppercorns drifting through lemon bonbons into lemon zest.

    This is seriously delicious although I have to question £59 for 8 year old Bunnahabhain. Still, ignoring the age, the liquid is worth it:


  • Wednesday, 5 October 2016

    New Compass Box–3yo Deluxe and Spice Tree Extravaganza

    New CB whiskies always attract excitement.  Expert blending, lots of Clynelish and Caol Ila, great designs and concepts – you can’t go wrong.

    The new 3yo Deluxe and Spice Tree Extravaganza are here, but at the whisky show last weekend I also got to taste the Whisky de Table that Compass Box made for LMDW as part of their 60th anniversary – “a Scotch whisky that could be shared and enjoyed like a traditional Vin de Table.  Something unpretentious, with a drinkability that calls you back to the glass for more”.  It’s almost new make, but good stuff, and (like the 3 year old) it has the first of the whisky that Compass Box  bought as new make, and matured themselves in their own casks.  So expect more of that in the future.  It must be pretty cool working for Compass Box!

    Compass Box Whisky de Table, 40% B

    IMG_0258Presumably this is all 3 years old:

    48.1% Clynelish

    21.4% Linkwood

    20.6% Benrinnes

    9.9% Caol Ila.  I couldn’t detect any peat in this whisky but I assume it is peated Caol Ila used here.

    IMG_0259Nose - Sweet with crayons and lightly agave. A touch of warm Sauvignon Blanc and talcum powder.

    Body - Clean, weak, fresh and very drinkable.

    Finish - Short and malty with a touch of tequila about it.

    Fresh and drinkable, this'd be dangerous if you did have it at the dinner table.

    Compass Box Spice Tree Extravaganza, 46% A⊕

    32.6% Glen Ord, 1st fill sherry

    17.2% Benrinnes, 1st fill sherry

    2.6% Allt-a-Bhainne, refill bourbon

    27.7% Highland malt blend, medium toast hybrid cask

    4.3% Highland malt blend, refill hybrid cask

    15.6% Highland malt blend, heavy toast hybrid cask

    I know the ages on the above (and the below 3 year old) because I asked and they told me, but they don’t want them publicised.

    Compass-Box-Spice-TreeNose - Red berries, peach, gentle cask toffee and fruit pastilles. Gentle and balanced, that super cask thing gives a reassuring background maturity which is so well blended with the rest (although clearly it's not all old), the Benrinnes in here I think gives the gentle, slightly tropical fruit (although it’s actually quite young, the Glen Ord is the oldest whisky in here).

    Body - Sweet then immediately bright (lemon juice, reduced sugar and vinegar) and glue (a touch of Pritt Stick and UHU), then much more mellow with sherry and floral tones and wax dominating. Very warm, a little spice.

    Finish - Very long, sherried to the end with big tannins (stewed tea) and long burnt sugar and red apple. Citrus tannins with water.

    An extremely accomplished whisky. A real ride with different flavours opening and closing, but perfectly judged throughout. Lovely stuff.

    Compass Box 3 Year Old Deluxe, 49.2% A⊕'

    0.4% Clynelish. First Fill bourbon

    90.3% Clynelish. Refill bourbon

    9.3% Talisker. First fill sherry

    Compass-Box-3-Year-Old-DeluxeNose - It's so lovely to nose and taste Compass Box blends after wall to wall cask strength. The same poise but fresher, slightly more purpose to it with more lemon and more library wood polish. That peat is practically undetectable at first but eventually serves the same purpose as it does in old Highland Park.

    Body - Perfect again, slightly spicier with more intense wood lacquer, beeswax and limoncello - and the peat from the Talisker is very prominent now. Vanilla cake behind this but it's never allowed to dominate.

    Finish - Long and very fruity, orange and grapefruit juice, lemon zest and baked apple at the end.

    Fresh yet mature, bags of citrus on top of wax and a touch of chili, this is a another delicious whisky.

    So which is better? The 3 is clearly the bigger whisky, but expensive for [redacted] year old Clynelish. The Spice Tree is better priced but overwhelmed by the 3 in comparison side by side. Both excellent examples of blending magic.  My money is on the Spice Tree though, I buy Compass Box whisky for drinking, not collecting and I wouldn’t drink it at that price.

    Don't forget the flaming heart and enlightenment are both still available and both phenomenal (I bought multiples of those two!).

    Thanks CB for the samples and the general awesomeness.