Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Two Christmas Crackers

IMG_0340Another pair.  A couple of rarely spotted, well matured, intensely coloured whiskies from two excellent independent bottlers.  I meant to post this before the November outturns but it got lost in the excitement!  I was reminded because there was an online tasting tonight of old Douglas Laing grains, not including the Carsebridge but interesting stuff which I should have been on but couldn’t attend at the last minute.  I’ll write notes for those soon though.

Note these bottles were both fresh open (only a couple of days) and whisky this colour often benefits from air and time. 

Douglas Laing Old Particular, Carsebridge, 33 years old, 44.9% A+

December 1982-September 2016, refill hogshead DL11339. Clearly a refill sherry hogshead, it's the colour of Vimto.

IMG_0342Nose - You don't get many ancient sherry cask grains, so when one comes along (like the 48 year old Whisky Agency Girvan) it's worth pouncing on it. This is a slightly shy dance between sherry (Christmas pudding mixture, wood varnish, ripe banana and toffee sauce), grain (apple and oak), and cask (milk tart, wax and orange), in much the same way Fig rolls are. Fig rolls are awesome aren't they? Think how you'd like a very old grain in sherry to be played out - it's like that here. Now, I don't know if this was 30 years in refill bourbon and then finished, and to be honest I suspect it was something like that from the nose because of the amount of yellow in here against the red, but I like it.

Body - More fig rolls, cocoa powder, red chilli and endless pastry. Some of the grain character makes itself known through lemon and wood splints mid-way through the delivery, but it's soon overcome by Mexican chocolate and yoghurt covered raisins. Weaker, more separated with water.

Finish - Medium, lip-smackingly tasty, big stewed tea tannins, sawdust.

This is an exceedingly drinkable whisky, although it's all over the shop in terms of character and probably has nothing to do with Carsebridge (not that I’ve had much) or perhaps even grain whisky. Essentially it's a very nice, well matured whisky cocktail.

Whisky Broker Glenrothes, 19 years old, 53.5% A⊕

28th April 1997, bottled 17th October 2016, Sherry Butt 7157, 643 bottles. I don’t think this one is finished.

IMG_0341Nose - Funkier fruit here, riper. When I first nosed this on opening the bottle I thought I couldn't detect any Glenrothes but now it's starting to remind me of that tasting in the dunnage warehouse. I still think Glenrothes is best drunk very old in bourbon but this is quite classical. Black jacks, toffee, a little charcoal and strawberry laces. This is the kind of single cask nose that's fascinating and delicious but really, badly wants to be blended into something utterly majestic (single malt, but with other balancing casks).

Body - Hot red berries, sangria perhaps? Very sweet up front - all travel sweets and foxes glacier fruit. A light hand with the sulphur, nuts and raisins later. Red chilli takes the edge off the luxury a touch, but the tannins help. More strawberry with water, a bit more cask.

Finish - Long and spicy. Chargrilled chicken with flaked red pepper, lemon juice and sherry vinegar.

On reflection, this is classic big sherry Glenrothes. That doesn't mean it's as good as big old Glendronach, but it's pretty crushable.

Monday, 28 November 2016

SMWS November 2016 Outturn 3/4

IMG_0560Saving the best until last*, November 3 is a simply fantastic outturn full of successful finishes and some really serious old Scotch.  I far preferred this November’s to last November’s outturn, with four outturns weekly, there was structure and a sense of occasion to each.  Much more digestible. 

Finally getting the whole thing in the can (microseconds ahead of December), I have been reflecting how good the whole thing was.  Genuinely.  I’m quite impressed with these wacky finishes – some miss the mark but some are really fantastic, with really interesting and drinkable results.  There’s still a lot of big old stuff here too.  Here’s my favourites from the whole outturn:

And below, from this outturn

  • 5.51, Auchentoshan, Sunshine in a glass, 17 years old
  • 48.80, Balmenach, Satisfying and comforting, 14 years old
  • 63.36, Glentauchers, A Caribbean dream, 26 years old
  • 50.90, Bladnoch, Apple-Calvados Fruitcake, 26 years old
  • 76.129, Mortlach, A real Peach, 28 years old
  • 59.54, Teaninich, Elegant, classy and simply beautiful, 32 years old
  • 10.96, Bunnahabhain, A beachcomber’s bounty, 9 years old

As you can see, a very lot of very good whisky.

* I did anyway, unintentionally.


SMWS G7.11, Girvan, Simple pleasure, 15 years old, 59.6% A⊕

27th September 2000, 168 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0569Nose - Big and sweet, beautiful grain (much older) at first, then malty, dusty sweet cask and new leather belt, with a distinct blue cheese note on exhale. Back to the grain, there's white grapes, royal icing, Chardonnay and ice cubes. Great with water too, a little window putty and fruitier. Really lovely, fingers crossed.

Body - Beautifully perfumed, a great balance of sweet white fruit and oak, bitter dried orange zest and a slightly astringent toasted coriander seeds. Orange juice and oak with water.

Finish - Long but quite hot, with stewed tea tannins (but not dark) at the side of the tongue and licked splints. Slightly woodier with water, slightly bitterer. I prefer it neat.

What a fantastic grain, particularly for this age but either way. Another cracking grain in November, highly recommended.


SMWS 5.51, Auchentoshan, Sunshine in a glass, 17 years old, 52.7% A+'

24th June 1999, 210 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0570Nose - Goodness me, Auchentoshan is absolute filth. Silly putty, cherry flavoured erasers, whistle pops and candy cigarettes. Mineral and metallic too. Right up my alley. More fruit, more funk with water.

Body - More austere than expected, but very rich and almost greasy, with green apple sweets and orange curd. Still, it's fruity and vibrant at the same time (as always) - cold cloudy lemonade. Definitely less good with water, as 5's often are, more beery, more bitter.

Finish - Lemon hibiscus saison (I've just brewed one) and cherry lip salve. Great oils through the long finish. Clearer fruit with water, and a bit longer too, but less luxurious.

Another funky, deliciously fruity Auchentoshan. What a distillery.


SMWS 48.80, Balmenach, Satisfying and comforting, 14 years old, 58% A+'

1st November 2001, 144 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0566Nose - Back down to earth now, with a malty, chocolate and coffee bean driven nose. Sweet, rich and bright, with kola kubes, lynx deodorant (or is that me?) and dried malt extract. Very satisfying on the nose. More blonde wood and more lemon with water.

Body - The initial delivery is incredibly rich, like letting a chocolate button melt on the tip of your tongue. Then slightly fizzing with red apple sweets and a little tobacco (tar on the lips). Delicious though.

Finish - Very long and oily, long, ripe oils and sweetshop intensity throughout, and ending with balancing wood and charred lemon shell.

One of the most satisfying whiskies I've ever tasted, the only reason I won’t buy it is because I wouldn't be able to stop chugging it.


SMWS 64.86, Mannochmore, You really should try this, 12 years old, 59.8% A+

26th May 2004, 228 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0565Nose - Just a little bit more restrained than that (turned out to be) blockbuster Balmenach. Waxier, with chalky bonbons, a little hard candy shell and marshmallow. And a slightly disappointing herbal youth - long grass and shellac. Slightly medicinal with water.

Body - A sweet and sour rollercoaster, alternating over the delivery and developing into more hard icing and a little liquorice. Pretty delicious though. Even better with water (as was the nose) with the rollercoaster becoming more integrated, and the herbal notes less jarring.

Finish - Medium, with intense sweetness playing off against floral notes and emulsion paints. A little bit of coffee at the end. It feels slightly peated with water, it's certainly sharper and more tannic at the end. Tropical burps too.

A robust and delicious drammer I'd be raving about a bit harder if it wasn't for the amount of excellence before it (and we haven't even got to the big stuff). Still recommended though.


SMWS 63.36, Glentauchers, A Caribbean dream, 26 years old, 51.8% A⊕'

19th December 1989, 180 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0571Nose - Blustering old Scotch, like the nose on a £250 blended whisky in a posh bottle. Sweetly tropical (mango) but pulling its punch with ozone, white wine and hard icing. Give it time… there's star fruit, the blue-balled liquorice allsort and oak panelling. It's a restrained old thing (although fruitier with water). Looking forward to tasting it.

Body - Aha… that all makes sense. Big old fruit, it's massively tropical at its own, gentle, pace. Very sweet and slightly alien, balanced by hard oak and coffee. I'm reminded of weird 70s Tomatin, but part of that is because I really want to be able to drink that so much, all the time.

Finish - Medium to long with well thought through oak tannins and a touch of burnt toast. Liquorice at the end.

Old Glentauchers is glorious and this is fascinating as well. Once I started comparing it to old Tomatin, it started to let me down, but in its own right it's fantastic stuff. Just shy of the double plus, and anyway fans of bell curves will want me to leave room for the Mortach, Teaninich and Bladnoch before coming down really hard on the virgin oak finishes.


SMWS 50.90, Bladnoch, Apple-Calvados Fruitcake, 26 years old, 60.5% A⊕+

15th May 1990, 150 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0564Nose - Ripe, UHU glue and apple driven, with biscuity sweet and short pastry, orange wax, neat squash and mini milks! Seriously tasty (nosey?). With time, lemon minerality plays off against tart tatin.

Body - There's a beautiful balance here that's so fleeting it's hard to capture. Cut flowers, hot wort, sesame snaps, hot dogs and instant coffee all feature. I couldn't tell you any more than that though. OK, salted caramel with water.

Finish - Long with deep seated sweetness; toffee pennies and chocolate malt. Tropical at the end, with ripe pineapple and apple pie (with cinnamon and pastry). Really dry though, which brings you back in. Chocolate buttons, again, with water… right at the very end, after about 90 seconds.

The very definition of complex. Top of the class again Bladnoch.


SMWS 76.129, Mortlach, A real Peach, 28 years old, 55.4% A⊕+'

22nd September 1987, 246 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0561Nose - It took me a lot of distracted sniffing to realise what this was reminding me of and why it was so different to the 50 – it’s Brettanomyces. More straw, more felt, more rotten fruit but still, this is up there in terms of big cask, fruit and solvent. Peaches in secondary. Perfumed, delicate but robust, and very mature. This is a restrained, fascinating bruiser. Even better with water; dessert wine and satsuma peel, a touch of petrol.

Body - More fecundity, more rotten balance. Caramel glaze (slightly caught), tahini and sliced green apple.

Finish - Medium with port tannins and musky truffle honey. Seriously, meatily delicious. What is going on with this outturn!? Better again with water.

Pushing all the right buttons this one (although it took me a little while to swing round to it); fruity, balance, funk, intensity and integration. And perfectly matured. What a whisky. And I haven't even got to the 32 year old yet!


SMWS 59.54, Teaninich, Elegant, classy and simply beautiful, 32 years old, 50.5% A⊕⊕

8th November 1983, 186 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0573Nose - Wholly living up to the name, this has intensity and balance like a multi-grand old OB. Sweetshop glaze with cigarette tobacco, lemon sherbets and dried orange slices. It screams age, but isn't blustery and it doesn't have that hole in it that the blend mentioned earlier would have. This is old school - the kind of thing you'd smell in the lab at a a major whisky producer when they were trying to impress you with something completely unobtainable.

Body - Sweet, soft, balanced and toasted. Soft fruit toffee, old oak, chocolate cigarettes (remember those? I hadn't until now) and blackcurrant chocolate liqueur.

Finish - Very, very long with constant fruit toffee. Purple. Perfect.

Make no mistake, this is the kind of whisky you get in the Diageo special releases, and wish you had £550 to spend on it. I didn't get to put water in, I probably wouldn't have preferred it anyway.


SMWS 41.83, Dailuaine, 'Sherry, Sherry Baby', 9 years old, 58.7% A+'

14th July 2006, 546 bottles, 1st fill Oloroso butt

IMG_0574Nose - Really unfair to do this after the 59, but here goes. Nutty but bracing; sherry vinegar and prunes darken things up with marker pens and emulsion paint. More baked fruit on pastry with water. Another delicious nose, this really does hold its own against the majesty of the Teaninich.

Body - Dark, slight dirty and tannic, but no real sulphur here. Baked apple and ripe (slightly too soft) Victoria plum, with roasting coffee beans and a touch of chilli (that's probably the sulphur).

Finish - Long and hot, DIY shop (solvents, paint) next to the bakers. More of that saison from earlier.

A really delicious whisky, the Oloroso is nutty, rich and chewy, almost a red wine cask. Well recommended, and it even stood up to the Teaninich.


SMWS 121.95, Arran, Toddy for the mind and body, 16 years old, 54.3% A+

1st January 2000 (I've got a bottle of that millennium Arran somewhere, working on NYD is a bit harsh!), 258 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead. "After fourteen years in bourbon, we transferred this to a second-fill Sauternes hogshead."

IMG_0572Nose - Ripe and fruity, compellingly sweet but a slightly guilty pleasure, like hubba bubba. Tropical, dusty, more funky balance with water.

Body - Even more simple - finally the weight of excellence in this outturn is beginning to take its toll. But give it time and the vanilla and fruit icing starts to make more sense. This is seriously sweet though. Better with water, more balanced.

Finish - Long, big and clarty, full of vanilla like one of those massively layered cakes you can only get a really thin slice of because it's so tall.

A delicious thing to drink. If I had to criticise it (and it'd make a change from gushing), this isn't very Arran - it could be anything. But I'd happily drink a lot of it. I did try it in the bar the other day (a proper measure) and liked it then, but not as much as the 4.221 or 37.81 I had.


SMWS 35.159, Glen Moray, Waves of intensity, 21 years old, 55.5% A+

11th November 1994, 270 bottles, 1st fill toasted oak hogshead

IMG_0568Nose - Ripe, and almost ordinary on this list - just a bourbon? Yellow oak and hard cherry, pipe tobacco and the "wasp tunnel" (a raspberry cage in summer). Cheap Neapolitan ice cream (it has all three components very clearly). Waxy with time. Damn, this is delicious too. Fruitier with water, black forest gateaux.

Body - Chocolate milk, then hot chocolate, then chocolate cherries, then pipe tobacco. Ripe plums, hot off the tree, and more apple pie.

Finish - That intense clove/chocolate thing I once had in Morocco, with sour plums, fresh cut ginger and chewed pencils. Lots of icing sugar and vanilla at the end.

Pity they used "BFG" already in November, this is black cherry, chocolate and cake all over. Another entirely delicious whisky and very drinkable.


SMWS 28.31, Tullibardine, Anything but Airy-Fairy!, 9 years old, 60% A+

14th September 2006, 466 bottles, Virgin oak butt, heavy toast medium char. "Nine years in a 2nd fill Oloroso sherry butt, finished in a virgin oak butt with a heavy toast and a medium char." Should be a massive bruiser!

IMG_0575Nose - Sweet and sour, cereal and purple raspberry sweets. The virgin oak really works well on the nose here with the intense sugars, meaty sherry vinegar and royal icing. It sounds more bruising than it is though, that purple fruit means it's quite sweet and enticing, and waxy after you've tasted it.

Body - Sweet and sour again on the delivery. Quite apparent youth in the initial delivery, but with milk chocolate, oak planks, red wine and a nutty sherry backing. Very tasty. Sweeter orange toffee with water.

Finish - Very long and quite hot, with red chilli, liquorice and blood orange at the end.

A very, very successful finish on this young sherried whisky. Well recommended, particularly just before heading into the peaters at the bar.


SMWS 44.74, Craigellachie, Bridge of spice, 13 years old, 59.4% A-

6th November 2002, 270 bottles, Virgin oak hogshead, heavy toast/medium char. Previously ex-bourbon. Excellent effort on the name.

IMG_0567Nose - Bright and ozoney at first, with hand soap, cold apples and candy cigarettes. Then on exhale, there's clarty vanilla and butter, and younger notes (new fence panel and cereal) - the virgin oak is detracting from the maturity.

Body - Sweet, painfully young in the initial delivery but then a really thick sweetness with breakfast orange juice and fruit salad chews. A touch of hot, musky orange too - chocolate orange perhaps. Less of the painful youth with water, but

Finish - Sweet and fruity, mouth coating oils, quite long. Cinnamon fireballs with water.

Not quite keeping up with this cohort but very drinkable and really interesting in its own way - I like the integration of the virgin oak finish with the orange and intense sugar from the spirit and bourbon cask.

SMWS 66.91, Ardmore, Mechanic’s workshop by the sea, 13 years old, 57.4% A+'

9th October 2002, 198 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

IMG_0563Nose - Bright, waxy and sweetly coastal, with a gentle peat funk behind it that makes me think of very high quality Islay rather than Ardmore. Sherbet dibdabs, lemon curd and fizzy sour gummy sweets in front of that beautiful cask. Thick vanilla cream with water.

Body - Creamy, waxy and very fruity, with peaches, bananas and fizzers. This could be an Auchentoshan blended with a Laphroaig (don't try that at home). A touch of instant coffee, lots of milk chocolate and grapefruit zest with water.

Finish - Long, quite spicy. Here the fruit sadly evaporates, leaving candles, drying wood and dried orange peel.

Another fantastic whisky, I rarely find the 66s to be this good. A really appealing character and very drinkable too.


SMWS 10.96, Bunnahabhain, A beachcomber’s bounty, 9 years old, 61.5% A⊕

1st December 2006, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0562Nose - Sweet and coastal as expected, but delightfully darkly sour as not. Hard oak blocks, new leatherette and Pizza Hut "ground beef". Apple and hard waxes (cold candles), rolling tobacco and liquorice Rizlas. Even better with water, with oily, cold mechanic's garage and sudden tropical fruit. Really promising.

Body - Beautifully, and intensely sweet with green apple and grape skin. Sweet liquorice root, absinthe.

Finish - Long and green, liquorice allsorts galore. Absolutely delicious and totally unexpected.

What a phenomenally delicious whisky.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Cadenheads November 2016 Authentic Collection

A small outturn, a Christmas present!

I thought this was coming out on Friday but apparently it’s Thursday (today) so here goes…everything is going online at 12:30pm 24/11/2016, so you should be able to get any of these if you’re quick.

Hazelburn 2007, 8 years old, 54% A+

162 bottles.  Recharred bourbon barrel, possibly Springbank?

IMG_0607Nose - Light, fruity, good dusty cask. A lovely, clean, ripe apple and tobacco nose. Beautifully fruity, delicate and really mature for the age.

Body - Young but bright and robust, light peat hit to it but quite hot.

Finish - Medium, green apple and salted caramel.

A really lovely, clean, elegant nose, with a confident delivery. Delicious.

Clynelish 1990, 26 years old, 45.3% A+

258 bottles, bourbon barrel

IMG_0613Nose - Sweetly waxed, cut peaches and cherry lip salve. Classy.

Body - Big, big wax, mango dried and peach gummy sweets.

Finish - Candle wax and buttercream icing.

Extremely sweet this one, cake and vanilla icing, loads of peach.

Ord 1996, 20 years old, 54.3% A⊕

252 bottles.  Lafitte since 2009

IMG_0611Nose - Fresh red wine cask, light hazelnuts, quite meaty - lamb and mint sauce? Red apple skin and crackling.

Body - Spicy, with reduced red wine sauce, fennel tops and olives. A beautiful musk with water, absolutely cracking.

Finish - Very nutty with burnt toast and cherry jam.

A deeply satisfying, well judged red wine cask

Mortlach 1998, 27 years old, 52.6% A⊕

498 bottles.  Sherry wood

IMG_0614Nose - Deeply classy, bright fruit and big cask. Grapes, men's perfume, chocolate but an undercurrent of ripe, red fruit; raspberry, cut cherries and then fresh flowers and Pritt Stick. Classical - like a very old OB might nose. More tobacco with water.

Body - Gentle refill sherry here, quite austere. Slightly spicy, quite dry but with a beautiful light peat and dry wax cask. Even waxier with water, with cigarette tobacco and black pepper.

Finish - Long and bright, tannic and dry, very compelling. Even longer with water, with dried cherries and wood chips.

Really very classy indeed.

Springbank 2002, 14 years old, 47.7% A⊕+

168 bottles, bourbon barrel.

IMG_0609Nose - Here we go. White fruit and peat, marshmallow and women's perfume. Beautiful casking here again, cigar and menthol tobacco. Complex, bright, deep but with floral funk.

Body - Perfect… quite biscuity but bright, slightly funky wood and cookie dough.

Finish - Medium, very sweet, dessert wine, but beautiful balance.

Aboslutely delicious again, and unputdownable.

Glen Scotia 2000, 16 years old, 57.8% A+

612 bottles, first fill sherry.

IMG_0610Nose - Sweet and quite odd, table polish, refreshers and rotting fruit. Sweet, funky and slightly fizzing. Quite arresting, quite interesting though, fingers crossed…

Body - Goodness me… very dirty, in a lightly restrained way. Baked apple with cineammon sticks, strawberry laces and quite hot sulphur.

Finish - Really playing very dangerous games with the sulphur on this one, hot and drying but not overdone, just.

Hot and funky, compelling but weird.

Bowmore 13 years old, 56.7% A⊕

Nose - Sweet, gentle and insistent, with orange zest, fizzers and liquorice root and cut flower stalks.

Body - Sweet at first, then gentle and warming. Fizzy Haribos and herbal cigarettes. Complex and gently arresting.

Finish - Long and tannic, woodsy notes balance out the fizzing peat and sweetness. Tobacco at the end.

Really, really drinkable, grown up with tobacco and growing warmth. Highly recommended.

Ardbeg 1993, 23 years old, 47.7% A⊕+

210 bottles, bourbon hogshead.

IMG_0615Nose - Complex and old, gentle Islay on inhale, bandages on exhale. Really dirty… yet gentle. I'm confused. Beedis, liquorice allsorts, wet wood. Reminds me of posh BBQed food - slightly acrid but lots of airy complexity.

Body - Wax and liquorice, a building fruity funk, red cherries and rolling tobacco. So much wax! Very mature.

Finish - Long with ripe pear and lots of fruit to the end, white peach and star fruit.

Another very classy whisky. Fascinating development and dangerously drammable.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Cadenheads October 2016 Authentic Collection

This was released way back in the last week of October, and my late notes are another victim of my hectic November.  But I was able to make them more complete than normal (for Cadenheads) as a result.  I’m getting this out just ahead of the November outturn (which is small but perfectly formed with a Hazelburn and Springbank to match the fabulous Longrow here).  There’s some fantastic other bottles in October though, a big sherry Glenfarclas, a cracking red wine cask and a very special teenage Laphroaig. 

Cambus 28 years old, 46.6% B+

1988, 216 bottles, ex-bourbon

cambusNose - Typical Cadenhead's grain - lots of classy wood. Gentle but masculine sweetness (leather, sandalwood, coffee being made next door), slightly dusty, a touch of ozone and thick orange peel. Behind that, milk tart, sponge cake (but only faintly). After sipping, waxier. After water, harder waxes, classroom chalk and unchewed black jacks.

Body - Fresh but dry and green - so olives and Fino. Actually this is most reminiscent of a gin martini, but with that much more interesting nose. Olive oil and lemon wax. Too faint with water - the cakes disappear and the martini is quite austere.

Finish - Medium and cakey, but clean and mineral. Quite dry and herbal, gin again. Fizzingly tannic at the sides of the tongue with water.

I could easily dram this easy drinking and austere grain all night, but I probably wouldn't end up paying much attention.

Tomintoul 10 years old, 56.9% B⊕

2006, 258 bottles, ex-bourbon

tomintoulNose - Of course this is richer and oilier than the grain, which always comes as a relief no matter how much I enjoy the grains. Birthday candles (which always seem to go with the buttercream icing), sweet, dusty cask and cut oranges. Slightly hollow; great top dressing and bass but not enough midrange, like an old but overpriced big commercial blend would be. Better with water, that midrange fills in a bit, now it feels like an older Arran on the nose.

Body - Big and robust, quite young and sour though, sharp fruit, black pepper and a little red chilli. Lemon curd behind that, and hot buttered toast.

Finish - Long with thick citrus notes and spicy cask. With water, longer and more herbal - bay, cut flowers, black pepper.

A good nose on this but an ordinary delivery.

Littlemill 24 years old, 52.2% B+

1992, ex-bourbon

littlemillNose - Roasted coconut, foam bananas, cut flowers and green apple peelings. I'm tempted to go for wagon wheels. Quite restrained. Better with water, Fimo and rose petals.

Body - Waxy - crayons and sharpened colouring pencils. A flash of warm, baked apples and raisins, warm Sauvignon blanc. Pencil cases with water.

Finish - Long and peppery, unripe and austere. Hazelnuts at the end. Faintly tropical with water.

An honest whisky, but not one I'd turn to often. There's nothing wrong with it but frankly I prefer the Tomintoul.

Loch Lomond (Inchmurrin), 19 years old, 49.5% A+

1996, 318 bottles, ex-bourbon

lochlomondNose - Noses like a red wine cask. Ripe, red apple, wood polish, blood orange peel and fence panels. There's something deeply delicious about the nose, but that might just be that the previous whiskies were so austere. Just a slight hint of something funky - cigar tobacco and earth. Waxier with time, school hall levels…

Body - Toffee, chewed pencils, apple and potato peelings. Toast and just a touch of truffle honey. Just on the delicious side of cardboardy.

Finish - Long but tannic, cold red wine. Green Sichuan peppercorns without the lemon. Charred newspaper at the end.

A lovely nose on this, like a good red wine cask, great fruit and structure. A very drinkable delivery, but lacking a little luxury.

Longmorn, 26 years old, 55.3% A⊕

1990, 162 bottles, ex-bourbon

longmornNose - Very mature and very refill. Waxy cask, slightly petrolic, cut ruby grapefruit and wood polish, the very definition of classy. I wouldn't have been surprised to find this nose on a multi-grand old Japanese malt. Even better with water, more orange and more old lacquered wood.

Body - Rich, wide and mouth filling, with charred pastry and lightly peated (it seems). Orange, vanilla, tobacco and toffee play out the delivery. Muskier with water.

Finish - Very long, with roasted oranges and French cooked pastry. A slightly floral, rotten note takes the edge off late in the finish, a little swimming pool retronasally at the end. More tannic with water but still just as fun.

A luxurious, delicious and slightly challenging whisky. You'd pay attention while dramming this one.

Bunnahabhain, 26 years old, 45.9% A⊕'

1989, 246 bottles, ex-bourbon

bunnaNose - Displaying the beginnings of that deep, toffee, alien sweetness that 26 year old Bunna has, this is sweet, complex, floral and confident. And beginning to be a bit weird too, with hops, laundry liquid and lemon sherbets. More tropical fruit with water.

Body - Complex, coastal (slightly salty) and most definitely peated. Peppery, slightly dirty peat at that. Palm oil and pine nuts. Funkier, more oily wood with water, more tannic too.

Finish - Cigarette tobacco and burnt toast. Great oils and a real, classic old bunna finish here. With time, pineapple (near the skin) and ripe mango.

Much more important than the Longmorn and old beyond its years (more like 36), highly recommended.

Glenfarclas, 26 years old, 50.8% A⊕+

1990, ex-sherry

GlenfarclasNose - Wow… big and old like a “family cask”, sweetly winey with overripe apple like a batch X PX Glendronach. Leather, felt, baked apple and fruit salad chews, bright and delicious, I could smell this all night. Even better with water, with red cherries and sugar crusted shortbread.

Body - A delicious sherry bomb, loads of demerara rum and practically cookie dough in its sweetness. Tart tatin, dank cigars.

Finish - Medium, the sweetness is saved somewhat by a complex maturity with Asian fruit and aniseed. So much fruit!

An unexpectedly full on big old sherry bomb, and perfectly done. A guilty pleasure, a little, but a good substitute for one of those older, very expensive OBs and highly recommended.

Strathmill, 20 years old, 52.7% A⊕

1995, Chateaux Lafitte since 2009

strathmillNose - Cadenhead's like a long wine finish, at least 6 years. This is a meaty one, stewed red wine and beef, carrots and bay. It's deeply satisfying on the nose, with chocolate covered marzipan, coffee beans and Simnel cake. And of course a truckload of oranges. More tobacco with water.

Body - Hot, dank, meaty and nutty red wine cask. More nutty and sweetly sexy than your average Society gorda, and really juicy too. Blood orange marmalade, sweet chilli sauce and sesame snaps.

Finish - Long and sweet, Foxes glacier fruit (the orange ones of course).

Deeply, deeply delicious. Wow. Good casking! I really regret not picking up a bottle of this.

Longrow, 14 years old, 49.3% A⊕+

2002, ex-bourbon

longrowNose - Clean and clear. Balanced cereal, honey, sea shells and burning driftwood, and really, really refreshing. Waxed wood. With time and sipping, this becomes much more interesting, real old Islay funk and fruit. Fabulous.

Body - Complete and complex, pineapple, marzipan and glace cherries. Don't add water.

Finish - Long with enormous fruit in the finish; pineapple jelly, lemon tart, then lime jelly and just loads of jelly. Then cake.

Noses and drinks like a mid-30s Islay OB, it's that "complete". There's no way I would have called this for Campbeltown let alone 14, but I know I really, really like it.

Caol Ila, 15 years old, 53% A⊕

2000, ex-bourbon

caolilaNose - Bright and solventy, a remarkable purity for mid-teens Caol Ila. The S&V is tempered by window putty and Sauternes, fried rosemary and wet marble. I like it. After sipping the nose improves further, with chocolate brazil nuts and coffee beans.

Body - Rich and exceptionally delicious, it's the slight funk that does it, the hint of frying oil against the intense citric acid S&V crisps. Lightly tropical too.

Finish – Medium, with crisps. Mouth-watering tannins. Cake. At the end this just feels like a long afternoon in a distillery.

Fantastic stuff for a 15, highly recommended. I've got way too much Caol Ila to entertain buying a bottle of this but if you haven't, and you can find this, dive in.

Laphroaig, 18 years old, 55.9% A⊕+

1998, 204 bottles, ex-bourbon

IMG_0623Nose - Sweetly coastal, slightly rotten like an old mussel shell on the beach, slightly oversweet like a browning windfall apple. Mineral alongside this, with lemon sweets and cold marble. I keep coming back to that overripe apple, fascinating, because it matches the Islay peat perfectly (like Kilchoman has) but it's a lot softer. An undercurrent to this (like trying to catch something out of the corner of your eye) is lightly fetid hospitals - bandages and laundry. Actually it’s the minerality that's tying this all together. Slightly meatier, more toast with water.

Body – “Lite” but complete, soft but brightly fizzing and citrus. Charred oak logs and sesame snaps with olives and satsumas. A really rounded delivery with an ever-present medicinal tannin behind it. Even better with water, like one of the Elements Lp's; very sweet with fetid germolene and lemon pepper.  Exciting like a tequila and a slice of lime, but complex and grown up too.

Finish - Extremely long, almost never-ending with sherbet lemon and fizzers.

An unannounced intensity on this one, arresting and delicious, and utterly unputdownable.

I should have November’s outturn notes by Friday morning in time for it to go live on the site..

Sunday, 20 November 2016

SMWS November 2016 Outturn 1/4

This was the first outturn in November and went live October 28th.  Unfortunately I was away that week and I wasn’t able to come in to write notes, so my month of being on the back-foot began. 

Better late than never anyway, I hope that this is useful to you at the bar (buying bottles or drams) or later when considering auction bids*.  For me it’s as useful as it always is, a written record of what I’ve tasted.  Also I couldn’t resist adding a couple of these to my collection (7.152 and 35.168). 

* actually because the whole outturn went “live” again last Friday some of these are back in stock on the website.


SMWS G8.7, Cambus, Caribbean banana fritters, 27 years old, 59.7% A⊕+

12th June 1989, 240 bottles, 2nd fill sauternes hogshead. "After 25 years in an ex-bourbon refill hogshead, we transferred this whisky directly into a Sauternes cask for the remainder of its maturation"

IMG_0430Nose - Parallel tracks of sweet, hard grain, and buttery croissant. The initial impression is of a really classy, intensely casked grain - sweet, but balanced with floral notes and the titular fried bananas. Oddly there's a note of ground, cooked beef (as you would for a cottage pie with leftovers) - one of those that you can't stop once you’ve smelled it. White chocolate on exhale. God it's good though. Even better with water, that meaty note blends better with the wood and vanilla, with chocolate tart at the end of the Sunday lunch.

Body - Intense wood, intense vanilla, very much like a bourbon. Banana milkshake, coconut ice cream, but milky hot chocolate with water. There's a touch of cat piss too, and something slightly fetid.

Finish - A wooden rollercoaster, that Sauternes cask is massively sweet in the finish, with an almost medicinal amount of wood. Bitter, almost cigar tobacco at the end, and numbing with water.

A big, bruiser of a grain, with a quite aggressive cask but very drinkable and that nose is just so mature and delicious.


SMWS 64.83, Mannochmore, Pink gin and green Chartreuse, 13 years old, 61.4% B

11th June 2003, 192 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

IMG_0463Nose - Initial impression is one of an OB - robust, well presented, balanced but quite young. Cadbury's chocolate, splints in the science classrooom, fresh potting compost and a really interesting sweetness and funk, like lime curd and Haribo… or something. Very interesting - quite a hot radiator note with time which makes it seem a little older. More complex, better integrated with water, and a good toffee sweetness with a touch of refreshers with lots of water.

Body - Sweet but sharp, big tannic oils and sour plums. Baked apples, perhaps a few raisins. More liquorice, less fun with water. Quite ordinary.

Finish - Short with liquorice root and bitter lime peel. Charred lemon shell with water.

A decent, interesting nose which develops nicely with water. An ordinary delivery that worsens with water.

SMWS 7.152, Longmorn, ‘Deeply absorbed but at ease’, 12 years old, 59.7% A⊕'

22nd September 2003, 162 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

IMG_0464Nose - On inhale, it's all classy OB Glenlivet, with dusty, yellow wood, cigarette tobacco and a honeyed backing. Damn there really is something totally classic in here - gentle toffee and leather. Light bonfires on exhale (not that it's peated). I would have had this down as a much, much older, weaker ABV OB. That really works for me. Give it time and water and it's even better, cigars now with beautifully integrated cask musk.

Body - I'm so pleased to report that it's just as classy on the delivery, with baked apple and fresh pear, warm white wine and oak chips. Refreshing, just, but loads of depth and well restrained.

Finish - Medium with black tea and toffee pennies (first input from the fresh bourbon cask). Sweeter but weaker with water. That charred wood is still lurking, not sure what that's all about.

A seriously delicious, classical drammer. Highly recommended


SMWS 7.153, Longmorn, Tea for Two, 11 years old, 60.5% A⊕

7th September 2004, 222 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

IMG_0465Nose - Slightly woodsier than the 152, more brown than yellow wood, but still fresh and vibrant with roasted apples and candy cigarettes. Lemon tart - vanilla, slightly citrus but quite rich, and good pastry. More fruit and pastry with water.

Body - Much, much less restrained, sharp and sour, much younger in the delivery - licked perfume, green apples, grapefruit. It is most definitely delicious, but it just isn't as elegant (by some distance) in the delivery. I can't stop sipping this though. Better with water, more glazed.

Finish - Long and quite bitter, but there's this really beautiful deep fruity cask behind there trying to get out (actually come to think of it there was a flash of it on first taste). More tobacco at the end (like your mouth a minute after a puff on a cigar).

A fruity, seriously delicious whisky that is unfortunately being shown up by its more elegant friend. I reckon Phil could make up a smutty joke about that but I'll have to defer to him…



SMWS 48.75, Balmenach, Strawberry Balsamic Tiramisu, 11 years old, 57.9% B⊕

29th March 2005, 210 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

IMG_0460Nose - Deeply sweet and fruity for a "young and spritely", with good structure (ozone, hard wood) backing up the fruit (marmalade, roasted plums). Mr. Whippy with strawberry sauce and chocolate flakes (that's a bit of a stretch - maybe if they made them slightly mocha). A lovely, sweet nose, perhaps even better with water.

Body - The initial delivery is juicy, rich, sweet and very fruity - absolutely delicious. The latter half is a bit a bit young and sharp, unripe pears and kiwi. Weirdly sour-er with water, like white tequila.

Finish - The youth shows through here, medium, young and spritely but there's still some richness and good tropical burps are keeping me going (obviously I can’t be sure if this whisky is the one providing them).

A solid whisky - fabulous nose and a decent delivery.

SMWS 41.80, Dailuaine, Classic – barley meets oak, 9 years old, 58.2% A-

14th July 2006, 540 bottles, 1st fill Oloroso butt

IMG_0466Nose - Young and sour, and slightly meaty, like distant fried burgers. This reminds me of a certain disappointing sherried vatted malt from a reputable independent bottler. Time to start digging… hard pear, raisins soaked in bourbon, peeled apple. All a bit obvious really. Better with water, more fruit.

Body - As expected… sour wood… but actually that does develop very nicely - marker pens, scented erasers, a striking sugar and cask balance. And then there's this neat Ribena fruit musk. Slightly medicinal with water.

Finish - Long, really long with really delicious, strawberry sweetness. And just a hand on the structural tiller from some sulphur.

I was really looking forward to being indignant about how rubbishly young this cask was but in the end, it was really interesting. I love the massive fruit and balancing wood in the delivery here. The nose under-promises, the palate over-delivers. Good advice, I think you'll agree.

BUY but only for the jaded

SMWS 39.137, Linkwood, Apple-Sour Cream Crumb Pie, 26 years old, 59.1% A⊕

30th April 1990, 210 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0467Nose - Tropical wax, slightly restrained. Toffee apples this time, maybe apple and blackcurrant crumble, if that's what a Crumb Pie is. The more time I spend with my nose in this glass, the better it becomes - it's definitely apple and blackcurrant pie, bramleys and custard. But that orchard fruit is balanced out by lovely, classic refill cask. What a surprise, the 26 year old Linkwood cask smells nice! It's better with water too, deeper everything - cask, fruit, oils.

Body - Very dry, apple wood and a grown-up sweetness, like slightly caught caramel. A touch of cut flower stalks, a little coffee. Sandalwood box with water, and a rebellious funk.

Finish - Long and numbing, licked wood and sawdust, quite an element of virgin oak about this one. Very long actually, wood oils and retronasal fruit. Cigar with water.

Cracking. Crushable, interesting, complex.


SMWS 9.112, Glen Grant, Aniseed Balls Tea, 20 years old, 61% A+

23rd April 1996, 216 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0468Nose - Honest, this one, but with the kind of vanishingly light chocolate, coffee and fence panel I would have associated with a very refill sherry cask. Slightly soapy, I kind of get the aniseed balls thing – there’s a little black grain in the middle of aniseed balls… it's like that on the nose. Fresh, mineral, ozone, and stewed black tea. Really light though. Better with water, a fruity funk, a touch of travel sweets, some crayons.

Body - Again, I would have said very refill sherry. There's a lot of sugar here but it's just behind the wood - and it's wood like you'd get on an old grain, i.e. tired cask but lots of years. Better with water again, apricot tart and marzipan.

Finish - Long, hard with deep pastry sweetness. The finish of a very young first fill bourbon. Much more complexity with water, and now really long. Lingers in the mouth with its oils like a mescal (not that there's any smoke). I should start this review again…

A+ is an average score, including it neat - good stuff in general but I would keep it at the bar.

SMWS 50.85, Bladnoch, Conversations with my son, 25 years old, 60.4% A⊕+

15th May 1990, 144 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0469Nose - The world is awash with 25 year old Bladnoch, and it's classic laundry and apple stuff, with crisp bar towels and apples sweets, Edinburgh rock and hard, green, refrigerated apples. A freshly opened packet of camel lights. It's really classy, what a distillery. More intense with water (darker sugar).

Body - Another one that skirts across young and old… man! there is a really intensely, gloriously old streak of old library and mature cask in here, but the initial delivery is punchy with cheap Chardonnay and rolling tobacco. Intense oils on the tongue and a freshly sliced apple. There's 30+ year old fruit in here with water, what a whisky.

Finish - Long and full of toffeed fruit, burnt toast and honey and those oddly unpleasant strawberry tube sweets (in a good way). Very, very long with water, tannins and tea, birthday candles and buttercream icing.

A big, important, fruity and delicious whisky that keeps on giving minutes after sipping.


SMWS 35.168, Glen Moray, Essence of BFG, 15 years old, 60.4% A⊕

17th May 2001, 594 bottles, Virgin oak butt, heavy toast medium char.  I presume this is a finish, a short one, and originally from a sherry butt.


Nose - Cigar tobacco, canned black cherry (that's the BFG in the title), polished parquet flooring (school hall) and meringue topping. It's quite abrupt though, fennel seeds close the door. Really groovy with water; bong water and blueberries.

Body - This whisky was definitely in a sherry butt originally, it's pure Amontillado in the delivery, with almonds and ham and fennel seeds, delicious drinking though (in that Gorda way I like and many don't) with quite insistent (but good) sulphur. The fruit and funk really sing with water though; dry, weird and beautiful.

Finish - Long and meaty with lots of ham and membrillo. Toffee pennies and kebabs (meat, pickled chilli) round it out. Oh - pencil cases at the very end!

I really, really enjoyed this, but I can see that you would have to be a sulphur skater to do so.



SMWS 36.115, Benrinnes, Let’s get the party started, 13 years old, 57% A⊕

23rd April 2003, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0461Nose - Ah… great, fresh, chalky society cask, clean and young but cask led with waxy fruits, polished leather and new cigars - just a hint of ground coffee beans behind it. Just delicious. More buttery with water, more feminine too.

Body - More deliciousness. Creamy, buttery and perfectly fruited, with unripe green apple, cut raisins and orange pith, all balanced by peppery wood. Even better with water, riper apple and a lovely retronasal complexity (waxes, cleaning products, new carpet).

Finish - Pure limoncello for a moment, then a long hot finish, with more black pepper and stewed tea. Even better with water. Toffee pennies and wax at the end.

This is seriously good. A fantastically balanced and confident whisky, lots of complex fruit, very grown up.


SMWS 46.44, Glenlossie, Life is but a dream, 23 years old, 53% B-

16th September 1992, 266 bottles, Virgin oak butt, heavy toast medium char.

IMG_0471Nose - Sweet, lovely old whisky, then Pritt stick and card. Every time - sweet fruit, envelopes. There's more to it, it's a bit otherworldly - but every time I get something sweet, I get some dissonant wood note that blocks it. Probably the least integrated nose I've ever smelled. That alone makes it fascinating.

Body - The insanity continues. Whose idea was this, it should have been in November 2! Sawdust and sanded varnish, bitter with chewed coffee beans and burnt toast, charred sausage. Young, peated whisky with water.

Finish - Long with instant gravy and stale coffee. Kalamata olives perhaps.

Let's say no more about it.

SMWS 3.290, Bowmore, In a shaman’s teepee, 17 years old, 58.6% A+

25th September 1998, 150 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0473Nose - Gentle - talcum powder and chalky bonbons. Seriously clean, all fresh towels and hand soap, the peat is buttery and slightly solventy, and there's ozone, wood fires and cleaning products. It reminds me of an evening on holiday somewhere hot.

Body - Complicated. Sweet, apple sweets, then more chalk and joss sticks, treacle tart and charcoal. Star fruit with water - tropical, young peat.

Finish - Really long, really complex. Quite hot. Christmas cake - especially the icing.


SMWS 29.198, Laphroaig, Seaside surprises, 16 years old, 59.3% A⊕+

1st July 1999, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0475Nose - Musky; warm white wine, warm oak. Liquorice torpedoes and fur coat (yes I know that is ridiculous, but think how it smells when you stick your nose in and inhale). Really very personal, including the bandages. Amazingly, it's even better and even more musky with water.

Body - Deliciously complete and ripe, nutty (whole almonds in the shell) and fruity (roasted apples and cut peaches). More bandages and oak. Cloudy lemonade with water.

Finish - Charred, slightly rotten lemon shells and roasted chicken carcass. Numbing Sichuan peppercorns and heaven facing chillies. Juicy though.

This is a big one.


SMWS 10.100, Bunnahabhain, Pirate ships are burning, 9 years old, 61.6%

1st December 2006, 264 bottles, refill bourbon.  These young peaters are always simple compared to an older Laphroaig, but good for it. Ideally you'd taste them with the other younger drams but you can hardly follow this with 23 year old Glenlossie.

IMG_0474Nose - Pastry sweet, but coastal with charred wood. Slightly fetid, like yesterday's bonfire after it rained overnight, but a fresh, grapey sweetness is a lovely offset to that. A little bit beery. More "fried" with water, and some Kalamata olives.

Body - Sweet TCP, old plasters and milky tea. A really attractive delivery - malty sweetness, lemon and coastal, charred wood in great balance. Very, very drinkable. Even more mouthfilling with water.

Finish - Quite short, clean like a chilled white wine. Lots of tannins.

Sweet but robust, great balance and perfectly integrated. Simple SMWS perfection, get a dram if you still can.