Saving 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:
- 39.134, Linkwood, Summer dream, 26 years old
- 7.146, Longmorn, Orange Velvet, 24 years old
- 7.152, Longmorn, ‘Deeply absorbed but at ease’, 12 years old
- 50.85, Bladnoch, Conversations with my son, 25 years old
- 35.168, Glen Moray, Essence of BFG, 15 years old
- 37.81, Cragganmore, Orange Turmeric Margarita, 13 years old
- 4.221, Highland Park, Light, luscious and lovely, 16 years old
- G4.9, A blast from the past, Cameronbridge, 36 years old
- 44.73, Craigellachie, Long live the difference, 25 years old
- 29.190, Laphroaig, Divine dark temptation, 17 years old
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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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."
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
Nose - 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!
Nose - 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.
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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.