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.
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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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: