Friday, 4 November 2016

SMWS November 2016 Outturn 2/4

IMG_0431Here goes November.  Last year in November we got a normal outturn then a week or so later, the “big list”.  This year, we get an outturn a week.  That means 5 outturns in a row, one a week right up until (and including) December’s outturn. 

I missed the first week unfortunately (I think I’ve only been a few days once late before in the last couple of years), but rather than be a week behind all month I’ve decided to defer that one (which I’ll catch up) and get this out just before the 2nd one lands. 

So anyway, cask night, most of the drams in this outturn are finished in weird shit and those that haven’t are just odd, mainly.  Easily the oddest outturn I've had the honour of tasting.  Although there are a handful of normal whiskies and a few sublime ones.  But this should have been the halloween outturn.

SMWS 85.40, Glen Elgin, Fresh, crisp and mouth-watering, 9 years old, 59.9% B⊕

22nd June 2006, 234 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0432Nose - A delightfully intense, perfumed nose, with a fresh bunch of flowers, lemon bonbons and granite. Sweet and oaked like a glass of chilled Sauternes, with peeled green apples and crushed curly leaf parsley. Autumnal. There's a real Chinese restaurant note with water - star anise, pork fat.

Body - Fiery and oily, enormous liquorice, aniseeds and licked acrylic paints. Orange oil in a little dropper bottle. A touch of lavender joss stick with water.

Finish - Short, dry and intense, like one of those very dry, tannic rums, with liquorice imps and limoncello on the tip of the tongue.

I *love* the nose but it's brutal in the delivery - dry, numbing and liquorice fuelled, like a cask strength rum.

SMWS 39.132, Linkwood, Flowers pressed in wood, 15 years old, 58.6% A-

1st June 2000, 264 bottles, Virgin oak butt, heavy toast medium char. "After fifteen years in a bourbon hogshead, we transferred this whisky to a virgin oak butt."

IMG_0434Nose - Peppery, dry, slightly red American rye whisky - it reminds me of that stuff that's smoked over apple wood chips. A one dimensionality you get with super young American whisky aged in teeny barrels. Behind this, there is some Scotch, with a deeper toffee and fruit peeking behind the wood (and actually blending in quite well with a little digging).  And a herbal, earthy character that's probably as much to do with the original whisky as the finishing cask. And with time it really is quite fascinating on the nose - a bright complexity is developing once the initial wood subsides. Maybe my nose is being lacquered by wood oils but water brings out the herbal notes, and sesame snaps.

Body - Very distinctly one of those craft American whiskies; sharp, sour, peppery, balsa wood and black pepper crisps. Coconut shells with water.

Finish - Long and lip smackingly virgin oaked. That finishing cask is a bruiser! Crushing wood sour sits on the palate like a licked joss stick, like a mouthful of Marlboro light tobacco, like a chewed flower stalk. Yet somehow it's so hard to stop sipping it…

A ferocious whisky, presumably a very boring Linkwood before it was finished in that Virgin oak butt. The result is very compelling and quite challenging but well worth trying. I wouldn't go for a bottle though.

SMWS 72.49, Miltonduff, Totally scrummy!, 11 years old, 60.7% A⊖⊖

23rd September 2004, 264 bottles, 1st fill white wine hogshead. No finish mentioned.

IMG_0433Nose - Confusing but enticing. Coffee, brazil nuts in chocolate, liquorice allsorts… melon? Handsoap? Oddly mature tropical notes and sweetshop, with lemon wax and window putty. Then with time, loads of coconut - bounty bar - definitely that until Darren said Picnic bars (which we both love). Even better with water, more complex fruit and better integrated floral tones.

Body - Lulls you into a false sense of security at first, with sweet wine and cut plums but then develops into massively, face meltingly sharp, sour wine and sour plums. Was this white wine OK? Tobacco in the late delivery and young bourbon notes with water but thankfully it brings the lovely finish on sooner and isn't making my mouth pucker so much.

Finish - Long and ironically, full of toffee and chocolate - the nose returns, with delicious cask musk and yoghurt covered raisins.

I'm not sure I've had a whisky that was so delicious in the nose and finish, but so flawed in the delivery. I'm not sure that was a great wine cask. Nobody else is getting the intensely sour thing here so it might just be I'm over sensitive to it… but I can only report what I find.

Struggling to mark this, I had it in the C/Ds but really it’s a good whisky with a gigantic flaw.  So I’ve invented a new score for it.  IMG_0435

SMWS 35.161, Glen Moray, Try the wine!, 24 years old, 57.2% A

25th October 1991, 240 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

IMG_0438Nose - Sweet and deep, but earthy and herbal, like Sambuca is (but this doesn’t smell of Sambuca). That ozoney, earthy note is good against the sweet toffee, but there's a touch of lemongrass and bandages which makes it a little more grown-up. Fizzers with time, more so with water.

Body - Sweet, intensely rich but sour plums again (although not off like the Miltonduff, that was a very different whisky). Quite young in character, weirdly, although very drinkable - perhaps it's the old spirit in the bare cask that does it. A touch of parmas with water, reminiscent of an old Bowmore

Finish - An interesting charred note, maybe BBQed spring onions, very sweet in the finish. Beery with water, cocoa powder at the end.

I can get behind this although it's not up to some of recent Morays, another confused whisky.

SMWS 30.92, Glenrothes, Brighten up your day!, 24 years old, 46.7% A⊕

21st February 1992, 192 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon barrel

IMG_0437Nose - Preserved lemons, tropical wax, gooseberry compote, orange zest, mango on exhale. Lemon tart (curd, pastry), lemon meringue pie? (marshmallow). Tempting to get into the laundry side of things too here, bar towels dried on the line on a cold day. There's something really compelling here, in much the same way it's easy to drink too much chilled Chardonnay.

Body - White chocolate peanuts, caraway, dried mango slices and so much wood oil. Seriously delicious, old bourbon Glenrothes is so good. Richer, more toasted with water.

Finish - Long and elegant, the wood, cask and fruit are well matched, more dried mango, a touch of funk and apple at the end… actually dried flowers at the very end. Extremely drinkable.

An honest and delicious drinker, this is a whisky you'd easily deal with multiple bottles of. Like the first ray of sanity at a 3 day long rave.


SMWS 95.21, Auchroisk, Fruity, sweet delights, 18 years old, 53.5% A⊕

13th August 1997, 276 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead. "After 17 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, we transferred this whisky directly into a Sauternes cask for the remainder of its maturation."

IMG_0436Nose - Chalky, almost waxy, grapey. It couldn't be further from the other weirdness in this outturn! Green grapes, hot pop tarts, Pimientos de Padrón, Caramac (thanks Darren). Quite warm, musky but simultaneously fresh and delicious. Even better with water, there's Iberico ham to go with the peppers.

Body - More white wine (it tastes of white wine rather than being some kind of freaky white wine cask), with toast, fried green peppers again and lots of warming spice - cinnamon powder and ginger. Very Christmassy. More grown up with water, there's a sweet tobacco and truffle note - very chewy.

Finish - Medium long, simultaneously astringent and fruity, lots of cinnamon powder, with marzipan (Darren gets Stollen) and chalky bonbons. Dried apricots at the end.

This probably also qualifies as sane in this outturn, lovely fruit here, particularly that stone fruit (practically tropical) and an excellent delivery with all that Christmas spice.  A good one for the holiday. Plus we don't get many 95s.



SMWS 84.21, Glendullan, Satisfyingly sweet, silky and smooth, 14 years old, 55.6% B-

4th October 2001, 186 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead. "After 13 years in an ex-bourbon barrel, we transferred this whisky directly into a Sauternes cask for the remainder of its maturation."

IMG_0441Nose - First fill bourbon stuff, but chalkier and waxier. Quite mineral too, like wet, cold metal. Ordinary (but lovely) like the Glenrothes, malty like the centre of a malteser. It's a warm, sweet and fluffy nose, like an Easter egg with a little chick on top.

Body - A very pleasing development - flowers, lemon, licked metal ruler. Too much metal with water, ouch.

Finish - Long, slightly funky, mediumly interesting. It has that bitterness that not-hot-enough red chilli peppers have. Hugely unbalanced with water, quite unpleasant.

Another confused and confusing whisky. Good at first, although quite boring, and then quite unpleasant with water.

SMWS 37.81, Cragganmore, Orange Turmeric Margarita, 13 years old, 56.6% A⊕+

1st October 2002, 270 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead. "After 12 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, we transferred this whisky directly into a Sauternes cask for the remainder of its maturation."

IMG_0442Nose - Night and day. Where has this peat come from? The first fill occupant of the Sauternes hogshead? Very highland park, with toffee, ozone, rich peat seasoning and orange oils. Other than that, love hearts, sherbet dibdabs, that kind of thing, and with time the turmeric - earthy and yellow. Although we're getting Sauternes fatigue now…

Body - But that really cuts through the fatigue - arrestingly sweet and balanced by women's perfume, kumquats, ozone and candy cigarettes. Waxes galore too. Really reminds me of a night out in Soho, reminds me of being a 20-something in Soho!

Finish - Long, very fruity with pure orange wax. There's a slight funky lime tone in here, I guess that's the Margarita. Complex, funky wine at the end, bitter grapefruit peel and so much fruit.

A total triumph. Sometimes finishes really nail it.


SMWS 9.110, Glen Grant, Sense of Sophistication, 20 years old, 60.8% A+

23rd April 1996, 150 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0443Nose - Good old dependable Glen Grant. This is one of those big, old noses, a bit like the Douglas Laing 30 year old it's deep, very old and important. Victoria sponge, school halls, intensely sweet and mature but simultaneously restrained. More hot chocolate with the end of the strawberry (with the leaves) and hedge trimmings.

Body - That maturity doesn't quite carry through – one sense of sophistication only? Nevertheless, big Mexican chocolate, sucked caraway seeds, buttercream icing and candy cigarettes. And actual cigarettes too. Arresting - and there's a real acidity here, like a Sauvignon Blanc.

Finish - Artificial sweetener on the finish, Aspartame. Tannic, drying. But behind that… there's that depth, there's the maturity.

What a strange whisky, billed as ordinary and nosing immense, a very strange development and very drying at the end. One for the bar, at the least, borderline buy.


SMWS 4.221, Highland Park, Light, luscious and lovely, 16 years old, 55.9% A⊕+

15th October 1999, 156 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_0448Nose - Glazed pastries, big cask! Beautiful pudding wine, musky, waxy cask, beeswax and honey on toast. The complexity that that light peat brings is so wonderful. And so much fruit with chocolate - posh covered candied fruit. Pure chocolate with water.

Body - One of those rollercoaster HPs on the delivery - this is unstoppable. Toffee, then Swedish whisky, then red apple, then 40 year old Highland Park, then sour young bourbon, then lemon zest, absolutely delicious. Less good with water, too much bitter lemon zest.

Finish - Very long - pastry, pipe tobacco, dried fruit, those big old matches, that Swedish chocolate hundreds and thousands.

Old and dignified or young, zesty and fascinating? Extremely good.


SMWS 121.93, Arran, Caramelised onions, 16 years old, 54.6% B-

20th April 2000, 192 bottles, 2nd fill Oloroso butt (only 192 bottles? Ah - "After 14 years in a refill hogshead, we transferred this whisky directly into a sherry butt for the remainder of its maturation." - must have been a lot of headspace for those 2 years!)

IMG_0440Nose - I can see the onions - it's more charred and fried than (thankfully) sulphured, on the nose at least. Hot dogs with onions and ketchup perhaps (light smoke, vinegar). Quite an engaging nose, savoury and attractive, with interesting dusty sweets around the edges and salted caramel No hint of Arran of course. Cardboardy with water.

Body - That hot dog vibe continues but develops into salted caramel and fruit toffee. Quite bitter and hollow, and quite sulphur-hot (although definitely not cabbagey) with time. Chewed pencil ends with water.

Finish - Peated? There was either something in here before, I'm guessing one of those Bowmores, that's bringing the hot dog (like old Lagavulin), or it's sulphur.

Misjudged, but at least there’s no cabbage or obviously wrong sulphur (as feared).

SMWS 3.271, Bowmore, The perfect cure, 17 years old, 57.9% A⊕

25th September 1998, 150 bottles, refill bourbon.

IMG_0445Nose - Textbook society Bowmore. Light and bright, beautiful dusty peat, a touch of lemon, a lot of shells, slight funk. Mostly this is bright, refill bourbon Bowmore - all gunpowder, ozone and Islay. You know what I mean. More of the palate’s (see below) fruit and funk with water.

Body - Pancakes, honey, bandages, musky honey and fried green peppers. Very grubby given how clean and wholesome the nose is - and there's an edge like a very high spec tequila in here too - agave, green, zesty but complex. Even better with water.

Finish - Quite dirty, reasonably medicinal with tropical funk burps and cloudy lemonade at the end. Extraordinarily drying too.

What a fantastic whisky. Fruit, funk, tannins and peat. Very, very highly recommended.


SMWS 42.29, Ledaig, Marvellous maritime margaritas, 9 years old, 57.3% A+

5th October 2006, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0447Nose - Everyone loves margaritas - lime and agave. Ledaig contributes big, ozone minerality, smoking fags on a cold walk home. Reminds me of university - cold stone staircases, kebabs, smoke and new paint. A really evocative nose, festivals and youth, even better with water (sweeter).

Body - 9 year old Ledaig never disappoints. It's complete. On top of the usual fun it's fresh bandage and poster paint, hot dogs in bun and balsa wood. Less three dimensional with water although the finish benefits.

Finish - Long with bitter lemon, over stewed tea and fudge bars. Fetid bandages at the end.

9 year old Ledaig - why bother reviewing it? Just buy and drink it, wherever sold.


SMWS 29.200, Laphroaig, Smoked Salmon Candy, 18 years old, 53.4% A⊕

29th April 1998, 150 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_0446Nose - Definitively sweet, lacquered peat. Old dusty Islay, dusted, fried salmon skin (only 'cos the name) and chalk. More old Bowmore than Laph though, that dusty minerality makes it beautiful rather than any medicinal fecundity. Silly words aside, this smells fabulous. More love hearts with water, but previous sipping has filled my sinuses with old Sudocrem.

Body - Beaches and bandages, that is most definitely Laphroaig. Gooseberry compote on toast, peel green grapes and sea water. Quite a gentle whisky for all that.

Finish - Long with dried out TCP bottles. Dirty, dirty stuff.

This is really good, but it's punishing. One for the bar.

Hopefully I should be able to get Nov 1 out next, before it’s all sold out, then we can crack on with 3.  Cheers!


  1. Hi Ben, very interested to stumble across your blog, having just joined SMWS and being bewildered by the choice available!

    I was looking for some reviews to give me a different perspective on a bottle I bought blind (perhaps a beginner mistake) recently, a 35.168. It has me totally confused! It might be in the week you missed and plan to catch-up on. I will keep an eye out to see if you review it, but will be back here regularly for your comments on future out-turns as well.

    Perhaps see you in the Greville St. bar some time. Duncan.

    1. 35.168 was in Nov 1, and it'll be on the site early next week. I really, really love it but it is a challenging one! Not one for a first society bottle.
      I would recommend 7.152, there are 8 bottles online now (they were sold out before)

      or this magnificent 37

    2. Hi Ben, thanks for your suggestions. I went with the 37.81 on the strength of your review. Also picked up the 29.190, though unfortunately as a gift for someone else rather than for myself! I'll try to make sure I'm around when it's opened...

      I look forward to your write-up of the 35.168, as I need some help working it out. All I'm getting is polish and wood, wood, wood.

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