Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Douglas Laing Syndicate 58/6, 12 years old

A blend from Douglas Laing which I’ve not actually heard of before and is seriously cheap at Master of Malt at the moment.  It has some slightly incomprehensible story attached to it about 1958 and a solera, but this is extremely decent for the money and would look (and feel) good being poured into a cut glass tumbler.

Syndicate 58/6, 12 years old, blended whisky, 40% B+

syndicate-58-6-12-year-old-whiskyNose - Sweet and slightly sour, slighty musky. The light acrylic paint style of sherry, a touch of window putty, candles and a little cherry. Quite mineral, a touch of rain. All nicely balanced.

Body - Icing sugar, slightly hot, slightly tannic. There's that putty and cherry whistle pops again from the nose. Reminds me of a NAS sherry Glenrothes.

Finish - Short to medium, very grain led in the finish, but that's no bad thing (as you no doubt like grain whisky). Royal icing at the end.

A good chugger, one that won't get in the way of a good conversation. Those drams need a good nose, a clean delivery and then to get out of the way for another sip!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Octomore OBA

Octomore Black Arts, released to an unsuspecting audience and as with the other laddie Black Arts, no description of casking.  In some cute 50cl Octomore bottles, this was a bit of a server crasher.

Octomore OBA, 59.7% A+

octomore obaNose - Big and sweet and rich, huge Sauternes, wine cask and sherry influence, but lots of magic balloons, fruit toffee and minerality. Definitely some virgin oak in here (even if those other guesses were wrong) which goes so well with Octomore. Coffee and matches. On exhale there's something artificial and plasticky, plastic library book covering perhaps. Winier with water, with cherry tunes. This is a fantastic, and very interesting nose.

Body - Orange juice and cream, something slightly fetid too - perhaps fermented. Then Advocaat with a back note of cabbage and iron filings.

Finish - Long and very dry, very tannic indeed, with jalapenos and hot sulphur adding to the tannins. Blood oranges and instant coffee granules. Very distinct refreshers accompanied by quite a serious cabbage note with water.

A real clash of casks this, and it does work really well but tips the cabbage scale for me. The nose is fantastic, and the delivery with water is particularly good. But the cabbage… fortunately this means you might not have the same problem as me with this (due to sulphur tolerance and detection levels varying between people).

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Cadenhead’s Summer 2017 #2 Authentic Collection

Cadenhead’s second summer outturn, this isn’t as blockbustery at first glance as some others (although if you look at the ages, it really is) but we are coming off the back of the Banff, Campbeltown festival and the rest of the 175th anniversary stuff.  However this is one of the most gushing outturn reviews I think I’ve ever written.  I make no apologies for lots of high scores; remember selection bias, remember no bell curves, and I just say it as I find it.

What really stands out here then, what should/could you buy?

  • If there’s any left, everyone should buy the Paul John.  First Cadenhead’s PJ or Indian whisky and definitely the best Indian whisky I’ve tried.
  • Fans of mature Glen Garioch, definitely get that. 
  • Everyone is a fan of mature Bunnahabhain, and this one is particularly good.  If you can swing the cost, this is highly recommended.

Despite being late with these, everything I have been able to taste here is still in stock, except the Mortlach.  Everything is some variant of excellent.

Cameronbridge 1984, 33 years old, 48.7% A⊕+

Bourbon barrel, 186 bottles

FullSizeRender (2)Nose - White, creamy, a little sharp (like blackcurrant compote), lots of fruit and some real age in the woods - dusty, slightly tropical, almost charred. There's a really complete, intense maturity to the nose. I wouldn't have guessed a grain, absolutely beautiful (not that I don’t like grains).

Body - Pure white chocolate at first, then some intense grain flavours - yellow oak, bitter wood tannins and butterscotch, developing into Werther’s originals. There is that medicinal note with time, a little Sudocrem.

Finish - Very long and full of vanilla cream, quite an intense bitterness but played against a resilient, oily sweetness. The spirit here is extremely high quality, what a whisky.

A fantastic grain, and the nose is particularly good. The slightly hard edged wood in the delivery, typical of a grain and not unwelcome, makes me wonder if this might have been better put to use as the backbone in a truly amazing blended whisky. Don't add water though, that wrecks it.

Glen Garioch 1991, 25 years old, 47% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles. I've got a good feeling about this.

glengNose - Intense and complex, there is a real malt backbone in this. Travel sweets, milk poured on instant coffee granules, blood orange, orange wax and hot sawdust on exhale. Malt and oak. And is it just slightly peated? More tropical with water. This is the kind of intensity I'd expect from a very highly priced OB Glen Garioch.

Body - Rich, mocha coffee and slightly fizzing with gunpowder and hazelnut membranes. Flashes of breakfast grapefruit, and tropical fruit squash.

Finish - Long, a little musky and waxy, bitter citrus builds to the end, where the wood takes over. Fruitier with water. There is peat, earthy and Ardmorey at the end here, I'm reasonably sure of it (although I do sometimes second guess myself).

This is a proper GG, absolutely delicious. The only thing holding it back are some concerns as to the utter fabulousness of the delivery, which is a little fizzy. But it's right on character as for the distillery and if you like GG you should snap this up.

Dalmore 1992, 25 years old, 59% A⊕'

Bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles

FullSizeRender (1)Nose - More intensity! Now with wood glue, recently glossed woodwork and an interesting, enriching and quite subtle funk. A fruit salad - orange segments, slightly soggy banana slices (that was always the best bit) and a mix of fruit juices. There's a wax and wood that lifts it above the Glen Garioch.

Body - Deep and fruity, toffee, beeswax, cloves and burning straw.

Finish - Long, deeply fruited (blood orange and beefsteak tomatoes), with tomato leaves and chewed stalks (something like cherry stalks, which of course don’t taste of cherries). At the end, twisted orange peel.

An extremely intense and very rewarding whisky. This is quite first fill with that intensity but the fruit (mainly orange) and herbal woods are balancing, as is that burnt note, and the whisky is very well matured. Delicious. My only gripe is that it may be too intense.

Bunnahabhain 1989 27 years old, 41.9% A⊕+

Bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles

IMG_1569Nose - I'm afraid this flight is in danger of becoming a bit gushing and samey! Tropical, in that slightly alien but beautifully balanced way old Bunnahabhain is. This is into fruit salad chews, Trebor softmints (I need to clarify in my own mind which is which, but I think this is spearmint rather than peppermint), menthol tobacco, leather jacket and cut hedge. And a little blue cheese.

Body - Complex, with fruit sour, some numbing oil, a rather fatty smokiness (ham?) and again that soft, slightly ammoniac cheese.

Finish - Rich and creamy, slightly dirty, still ploughing the cheese, are we sure this is only 27 (and at 41.9%, only caught in time)?

Old Bunnahabhain has that otherworldly tendency to be both fruit bomb and utterly weird, and sometimes it doesn't quite come together. Not the case here, there's something very right about this one - fruity, meaty, dirty, cheesey, balanced and very drinkable.

Glentauchers 1989, 27 years old, 51.2% A⊕+

Fully matured in a small bourbon barrel, 120 bottles. <braces self> can't remember Glentauchers this old ever being anything but amazing.

FullSizeRenderNose - Here we are again, slightly sourer I suppose, a little older on the oak furniture with overripe fruit and old varnish, but this feels even older than the Bunna. It's the full carpenter’s workshop here though, glues, cut oak and linseed, the fruit is waxy, elegant and a little restrained, but this is rich, old tropical Scotch.

Body - What am I supposed to do about this outturn?! Buy it all? Rich, oily, toffee pennies and mango sorbet. White chocolate mousse and drumstick chew-lollies. More peppery and slightly funkier with water.

Finish - Long, of course, with rich toffee and woods and a [splitting hairs] overripe note that is perhaps a little too sweet.

Another blockbuster old Glentauchers, tropical old Scotch with poise, if perhaps a little too much sugar.

Mortlach 2003, 13 years old, 55.1% A⊕+

Bourbon cask, sherry hogshead finish since December 2014, sold out.

IMG_1565Nose - Sherry (nutty) yes, but with sour blackberries, red wine reduction and quite meaty. It has that sour, toppy, spirity note that young sherry finishes seem to, and is slightly mineral with cracked pepper. Even bloody fruitier with water, raspberries?

Body - Rich and complete, black malt, black currants and a rich cereal complexity. There's something narcotic in here, hash and cherry pipe tobacco?

Finish - Blackcurrants all the way, black jacks and bresaola. Softer and fruitier with water, definitely fruit salad chews now.

Well, that was a masterpiece. That's exactly how you finish a whisky.

Speyburn 2001, 16 years old, 53.3% A+

Sherry butt, 438 bottles

IMG_1566Nose - Darker. Finally a step down from very amazing, although not too far yet. Caught pulled pork, with Kipling white icing and vanilla ice cream, and a little smacked (and marinated) cucumber. A lovely first fill bourbon feeling with water, still as meaty though, it's making me quite hungry.

Body - Rich and worty, soft liquorice and a little oversweetened. Some sulphur.

Finish - Medium, tannic and blackened, flirting with cabbage (and definitely on that pork note). Fruitier with water, definitely more interesting.

Nothing like the majesty that's come before it, so a tough act to follow, but I like the meaty notes and the honest (if very refill) sherry cask.

Glenrothes 1997, 19 years old, 58.7% A⊕+

Sherry butt, 528 bottles. Not quite sure why I left this until "last"

IMG_1568Nose - Proper dank, dirty leaf hops, pickled onions in dark malt vinegar and soft hash. I can't get over this pickled onion thing, it's not like it's unpleasant, but it is quite punchy. Fruitier after sipping, with something posh-restauranty, like rare venison and port sauce, cranberry jelly, wrapped in cabbage.

Body - Yikes. Blackcurrants, as clear as day, once you peek behind the vinegar. There's cabbage in with the blackcurrants and hops but it's not unwelcome. Because of the fruit.

Finish - This is like a weird sweet from a foreign country "taste these Durian boiled sweets from Cambodia!" (I've never actually tasted Durian). A long finish, thick with oils and sulphur.

Dirty, fruity, challenging but a bit of a guilty pleasure. There are, surprisingly, some hints of Glenrothes in here (the big soft sherry bombs they release, they do have a DNA), but the rest of it is pure porn. This was either going to be an A⊕+ or a C⊕. That means it works for me and (given everyone has different tolerance levels and interest in sulphur) likely to be sketchy for some people.

Palate rest and refresh. Any sulphur in the following whisky is to be treated with suspicion.

Paul John 2011, 5 years old, 57.4% A⊕+

Goa bourbon oak cask, 360 bottles. I think this was decanted into bottles and then re-poured into the original cask when it came to Campbeltown to finish. Really looking forward to this.

PAUL JOHN 5 57.4 VOL 360 BOTTLES -750x1000Nose - Lovely dusty, old hot wood, there's more hops in here! Punchy new world ones, citra and simcoe, and an almost chalky sweetness. Kiwi fruit and sandalwood joss sticks. Beautiful and delicate, I would have guessed a first fill Scotch though.

Body - And now I would guess a very old Islay; beautiful refreshers and a beautiful cask, this is chalky and complex with cherry jam, vanilla cream and real balance and complexity.

Finish - Long and very sweet, balanced by fruit, chalk and fizzers.

I'm getting sulphur in here but I'm ignoring it (see the above Glenrothes) but yes this is pretty spectacular.  I suspect Shilton has sent one of his very best casks as the first one (definitely the best PJ I’ve tried). More are coming!  Get this now, before it’s gone.

Cognac, Petite Champagne from Distillerie Charpentier 30 55.3%

"Barrel", 252 bottles.  I don’t think I give non-whiskies a score.

cognacNose - Laquered, and I am obviously no expert (in fact, I am but an innocent here) but this very much reminds me of the nose on some of the totally ancient Calvados I have lined up to review. Dark apple juice, acrylic varnish painted over recently sanded pine, burning electrical insulation and that intense wooded sweetness that you get in crazily aged French spirits. Weirder with water, obvious wood glue but more herbal and quite musky. Plus cherry tomatoes (I'm not making this up).

Body - Dreamily and softly wooded, with squidgy pipe tobacco and chocolate brownies. It actually has that cherry pipe tobacco later too, and cigarette tar on the lips.

Finish - Long and yes it's intense but there is a very professional fruiting that isn't just "old wood" but great spirit and luck too. Slightly Indian spicing with water (coincidence!) and more of that tomato.

Yeah this is excellent. Fair play Serge.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Peated Glenfiddichs

Having briefly been on the Glenfiddich Christmas card list, there was a period where I tried a few properly matured Glenfiddichs and really fell in love with what the distillery can do.  Obviously it’s not available from the indies so it’s an unrequited love for the main part, but I’m always on the lookout for something that scratches that itch.  I thought the Experimental XX one was good for that, and I really loved the Original for the same reason, but I’m always on the hunt.

A couple of peated ones though?  Could be good!

Glenfiddich Vintage Cask, 40% A+

glenfiddich-vintage-cask-whiskyNose - A knife edge balance of leather, polished oak desk, that indescribable Glenfiddich something (it's earthy, fruity, slightly waxy and slightly other-worldly) and the slightly unwelcome and strange inclusion of peat. I must say though, that this is a proper Glenfiddich nose despite that.

Body - Very odd to be drinking whisky at only 40%, but it actually does play well with Glenfiddich's style. Gentle and slightly cardboardy but backed with baked apple, thick oils and that pepper peat.

Finish - Medium to long, real poise and style throughout the development. Lots of body due to the heavy oils. Lots of pepper "after" the main finish, and slightly beery (with toffee sauce). Maybe this is quite a long finish after all.

I like this a (very) lot but I don't welcome the peat in here.

Glenfiddich Spirit Of Speyside Festival 2017, 1st fill sherry Butt (peated), 59% A⊕

Enormous thanks to Whisky Rover for the dram of this he saved me (on begging) from his trip to the Speyside Festival.  I believe they threw the cork away on this one, sometimes the best way to get to really send off a unique bottle!

glenfiddich_speyside_festivalNose - More robust in every way, there's a real intensity of the wood in the nose, with the Glenfiddich spirit and peat poking out occasionally. There's fresh chocolate, petals and earth, and a dirty, almost overripe note to the peat. Fruitier and a lot more mature with water - toffee, whipped vanilla cream, scented erasers and crayons.

Body - Long and gentle with cream and at first, then big, peppery and almost a menthol peat later. Then flashes of cut pine boards and bitter orange zest. The peat is floral, with a little toothpaste and there is this weirdly midrangy wood in here, like splints or fence panel but not quite.

Finish - Very long, with big mouth numbing oils and clove. An almost Octomore funk at the end. The whole thing is even dirtier with water.

A remarkable, totally delicious and intense whisky slightly let down by some odd behaviour in the delivery. You'd smash the bottle of this pretty quickly I reckon, a great cork chucker.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Hazelburn Oloroso, 13 years old

I first tasted this at the Whisky Show last year (there’s another bunch of notes that’ll never get written up and published!) and my first reaction was “this is peated”.  Grant told me that it had been matured in ex-Springbank casks, hence the peat levels in here, but there seems to be a lot of it about (I thought the Hazelburn I tasted at the Society tasting in Campbeltown was definitely a Kilkerran, for example). 

Hazelburn 13 years old, sherrywood, 47.1% A⊕

hazelburn-13-year-old-whiskyNose - Winey but a little sweet, slightly mineral, some sweat, big ripe fruit, an unmistakable Springbank tang of peat and engine oil. This is a Springbank, with added putty. I love the red wine, wax and mineral balance here. More towards white wine with water, with Mr. Kipling pastry cases and white icing.

Body - Tannins, chalk, earth, Springbank oils. Ripe and bruising, super sweet, tannic, blackcurrant fizzers and lots of red wine cask. A touch of sulphur heat from the Oloroso. Simpler with water.

Finish - Very long, with pith and pips and bitter peat. Good oils at the end, very returnable to. Weak and hollow with water at the end though.

This is a really expressive, balanced, interesting and delicious Springbank. They just wrote it wrong on the label.

Friday, 7 July 2017

SMWS July 2017 Outturn

My prayers have been answered! Loads of classic young society refill bourbon. The perfect antidote to last month although all this new French oak is a bit hard going (although you don’t need to obsessively taste them all every month I guess).  There are a few I’m missing here, including an Ardmore MIA, and I think a Glenlivet that was misplaced at the bar, plus these others that just didn’t arrive to London in time:

SMWS 71.44, Glenburgie, Cumin on a cricket bat, 10 years old

SMWS 66.104, Ardmore, Home sweet home, 8 years old VO

SMWS G15.1, Rhosdhu (?), Lead us to temptation, 9 years old

SMWS 2.99, Glenlivet, Joyful rambling, 10 years old

Even the bar didn’t have a list for the outturn, so it was hard to be complete about it, I found out the full list yesterday on FlipSnack.  Note the “new” distillery G15, I’ve only got a tweet to go on for that, nobody I know knows anything anymore! 

Anyyway I’m just pleased to have got to this outturn on time for a change.


My picks for this month are the Cragganmore, Balmenach, Glendronach and Arran.  In particular the Balmenach for just being good, an the Arran for being a little unhinged. 


SMWS 28.34, Tullibardine, Alluring and amusing, 9 years old, 60.8% A-

7th June 2007, 191 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

IMG_2374Nose - Clay and acrylic at the front here, potpourri with a distinctly mineral note and something new, like unboxing a piece of electronic equipment. Fruits are restrained; unripe pear, a touch of apple tart. Very perfumed after sipping, and richer with water.

Body - Dependable; candy cigarettes, chalk, more apple tart with a little custard. A little herbal - strawberry chewed off the stalk and leaf (what's that bit of a strawberry called?), sweeter and richer with water but the minerality keeps it honest.

Finish - Long and spirit driven, clean with a really long fruit note to the end.

A solid, young whisky, well presented. A little uneventful perhaps.

SMWS 37.93, Cragganmore, Airy angel fairy cup-cakes, 14 years old, 58.2% A+

1st October 2002, 266 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2375Nose - A lot sweeter than the 28, sweet, fruity and shiny like the glaze on a krispy kreme donut. Quite intense and exciting actually (quite Christmassy), with candied orange slices, lit candles, Christmas cake (caught raisins and marzipan) and liquorice allsorts.

Body - Intense orange, like that orange powder Americans make up into drinks, and mandarin peel. Sponge cake behind this with buttercream icing. A bit more grown up with water (Pret carrot cake).

Finish - Long and hot, some toast behind all that fruit. Water brings intense, numbing orange oils, verging on minty.

An intensely fruity and delicious young whisky, well recommended.


SMWS 6.24, Macduff, Herby Mint Julep, 8 years old, 59.9% A⊖

20th February, 223 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2376Nose - Dialled back down again but still plenty of fruit, with stone fruit (peaches), almond hand soap* and something herby - possibly not mint here, more like hairy sage on the bush. Better with water, it's softer with fresh cut herbs and vegetables, slightly earthy.

Body - Considered, gentle but quite soft and rich. Creamier with water, with a burnt note that catches at the back of the mouth, like asafoetida can.

Finish - Short and slightly fizzing (that's probably the ABV). Water makes it hotter and brings an unwelcome bitter note.

Love the nose on this, it really grew on me - classy and interesting but not over the top. Too much heat and bitterness in the delivery.

* have to be careful I'm not just smelling my hands

SMWS 48.90, Balmenach, Cedar, sandalwood and rose, 11 years old, 57.1% A+'

29th March 2005, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon

IMG_2377Nose - Mineral - broken rocks in rain. A posh red wine swirled in a big glass, a sandalwood box (very clearly, maybe joss sticks too) and coconut cookies. Milk chocolate with time. More floral with water.

Body - Bright rose in the delivery, rose water rather than Turkish delight, absolutely delicious to drink, big tannins balancing the extravagance. Sweeter with water.

Finish - Nutty and slightly fetid (peachy and lowlandy), with the rose carried along by toasted, glazed sesame seeds and a rich, fruity wood. Old school burps (if that's a thing!).

This is the kind of whisky that brings you back to discovering young society drammers. Less intense than the Cragganmore and better rounded and balanced. Lovely stuff, and well recommended.



SMWS 96.10, Glendronach, Lively as a squirrel, 9 years old, 59.2% A+

20th June 2007, 185 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2379Nose - Rich but zesty, I always did like the concept of refill bourbon Glendronach. There's a real get out and do something bracing element to the nose with surf wax and ozone, fruit and sherbet. More carrot cake!

Body - Rich, a little cake, a little toast, with more orange waxes and orange zest (I'll go for Sevilles this time). It is quite toppy though, over the cake and sweets, a touch of gunpowder taking the edge off the richness (although… must remember it’s only 9)! More complex with water.

Finish - Medium, with orange cake and satsuma peel (dried and cooked with).

Another delicious orange bomb! And fun to drink, a good summer sipper. I think I prefer the Cragganmore although they are quite similar.


SMWS 85.47, Glen Elgin, Tropical cream tea, 9 years old, 61.2% A+'

25th October 2007, 240 bottles, 1st fill bourbon. The name is very promising.

IMG_2380Nose - Very interesting. How to quickly put this into words before it passes! Gloss paint first, then acrylic, some kind of white Asian fruit, peach jelly sweets and royal icing. "Eat" Victoria sponge slices.

Body - Rich, creamy, balanced sweetness and tropical fruit. Definitely getting the name in the delivery. A really satisfying delivery, with flashes of mini marshmallows and background minerality.

Finish - Drying with chalky mint bonbons. Liquorice imps at the end, almost salty.

Another really delicious, young whisky, very well put together. Despite the first fill this isn't unbalanced. Another delicious drammer.


SMWS 73.87, Aultmore, Dare you enter?, 14 years old, 59.5% A

26th September 2002, 558 bottles, 1st fill Spanish oak PX butt (previously matured in an ex-Oloroso sherry butt)

IMG_2381Nose - Dusty chocolate and what I believe is Kendal mint cake, there is a lot of minty wood here and evidently some buggering about with recharred or virgin wood. Propolis, cloves and smouldering oak chunks. Not exactly double sherried! With time (and after sipping), even richer with a lot of vanilla sponge and lemon curd. Lemon sherbets with water, and a suddenly compelling mature cask note.

Body - Rich, sweet and sharp, absolutely virgin oaked with bright yellow notes of grapefruit, melon rind and lemon pepper. Matchsticks with water.

Finish - Quite long and rich, with Turkish Delight and more melon.

Very interesting and drinkable, but either this was mis-labelled or this is very far from sherried.  I suspect it had a trip through a different cask prior to the Oloroso and PX.

SMWS 121.99, Arran, Masala Chai black tea, 17 years old, 53.2% A⊕

1st January 2000, 234 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes

IMG_2382Nose - Deep and rich, almost chocolate cake on inhale. Much more "sherried" than the Aultmore, with notes of wood glue, lemon drizzle cake and just a lovely lick of truffle. There is something Chinese here too, like soy sauce hitting a hot wok full of pork slices. More of that pork with water (and yes I know Chai is Indian and not Chinese).

Body - A complex and well executed combination - wine cask, liquorice, chocolate and cream. A hint of something fetid, which is slightly more pronounced with water.

Finish - Long and rich, full of toffee, cake and chocolate icing. Practically chewable with water with lots of coconut at the end.

Delicious and intense, very thick and creamy with a well-judged but subtle wine finish (I'd like to know what they had in the cask previously). I wish we could have a non-messed-with Arran again but this is a big hit.



SMWS 4.230, Highland Park, Sweet and salty, smoke and ash, 12 years old, 65.2%(!) A-

31st May 2004, 588 bottles, refill sherry

IMG_2385Nose - Rich - coffee and trademark (well, to me) window putty with chocolate chip cookies, linseed oil, cut hedge and the stick from a joss stick. More herbal than rich with time.

Body - Surprisingly gentle given its tender years and violent strength, with Nutella on toast, clove chocolate and burning bandages. Rather a lot of water brings out an Islay peat, with toasted cereal like a young Bunnahabhain.

Finish - Long and tannic, very dry, slightly sour with cut dandelion stalks.

A decent dram, but last month's Ardmore did it better.

So that’s it for the peaters this month, and no Islay!  Now to the brutal oakers.

SMWS 35.187, Glen Moray, Gentle confidence, 9 years old, 61.6% A

6th April 2007, 277 bottles, 1st fill French oak

IMG_2388Nose - Lovely colour on these ex-brandy/calvados/whatever they were casks, almost like flat Irn-Bru. Buttercups and bitter dandelions again here, old burnt oak with an interesting sweetness, like neat squash or orange limoncello. There's also this really interesting masculine but feminine perfume (CK One on a brown leather jacket, and chocolate ice cream). Very intriguing.

Body - Rich chocolate, then stale hazelnuts, then intense toffee and oils. That strangely hollow woodiness is there, gentle ex-bourbon does quite a lot for a cask I think, which is missing here. Water makes it more peppery with fried bread, and lots of orange peel.

Finish - Kind of short but there is an intensity that carries on - just wood though, perhaps a little celery, weirdly.

A confusing, palate destroying but ultimately quite drammable whisky. One for the bar.

SMWS 70.21, Balblair, Rosehip & hibiscus infusion, 14 years old, 60% B+

11th May 2007, 239 bottles, 1st fill French oak

IMG_2386Nose - A deep brown colour on this one. Coffee, slightly medicinal (E45 cream) and very virgin oak (compared to the Glen Moray at least). Red berries (oh - rosehip I guess) and cola. There is something richer behind this with water - these woody casks often have something lovely to give with digging.

Body - Victoria sponge cake (icing sugar on top), with poached pears and more E45. Orange glaze for meat. I detect no hibiscus. Bitter and saccharine with water.

Finish - Long and wooded, that slightly creamy funk is pulling it back from just being VO.

An interesting diversion but brutalised by the cask.

SMWS 55.45, Royal Brackla, Dreamy dandelion fuzz, 16 years old, 56.7% A+'

26th September 2000, 285 bottles, 1st fill French oak

IMG_2387Nose - More icing, more orange. Orange icing. Cinnamon swirl with orange in the icing. Men's deodorant (it's not Lynx Africa but that's the level we're on).

Body - Really creamy and mouthfilling, with reduced red wine and chocolate sauce with a lovely little kick of funk.

Finish - Chocolate icing, then coffee and a citrus pith and membrane. I'm undecided which citrus, so it's probably grapefruit.

This is one of the good ones, extremely rich and creamy with an balancing citrus character, very hard to stop sipping it. Pretty delicious, bar and bottle I'd say.


SMWS 44.82, Craigellachie, A sweet and special character, 13 years old, 56.7% A'

27th June 2003, 193 bottles, VO

IMG_2391Nose - Red wine cask at first, toffee, blackcurrant jam and a little petrol… maybe a little oil too. Hoisin sauce and mirror cake glaze. There is an undeniably delicious black fruit sweetness on here. Richer with water, espresso and cross channel ferry.

Body - Ouch… the wood. But there's then burning splints, ants (you know what an ant colony smells like, I don't mean I've eaten ants, although I have eaten grasshoppers), blackcurrant throat lozenges and chocolate/coffee/VO stuff. Much better with water, plus the crystals at the bottom of a bottle of big red wine.

Finish - Bitter and wooden, aspirin and lots more blackcurrants. There's an intense richness underneath too, a little water helps. Neat Ribena at the end.

This just gets richer and richer. These woody casks are intense! I'm really enjoying it but I would struggle with a bottle. Go for it at the bar (or split a bottle with friends!)

SMWS 76.133, Mortlach, Indulge yourself, 14 years old, 57.5% A⊖

1st October 2002, 293 bottles, VO

IMG_2390Nose - Highly perfumed but a lot more "regular", this might not have taken quite so much from the VO. Dried wood sap though, with crayons, cheap orangeade, buttercream again and white flowers. This is much more astringent than the Craigellachie, although it's growing on me. More cake with water.

Body - Wedding cake icing, with grilled orange slices and lemon sorbet.

Finish - Medium with numbing Sichuan peppercorns and lemon water.

Interesting and worth a taste but a bit all over the shop.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Paul John Cask 1906

I don’t review much Indian whisky at all, I have a few on the in-tray but don’t seem to get to them.  I had a chance encounter with Shilton downstairs in Cadenhead’s a year and a bit ago where I tried a few Paul Johns ahead of the release of their “Bold” bottling, and of course Cadenhead’s just released a Paul John as part of their Authentic Collection outturn last week (which I should get to try soon), so this seems a good time to pick this bottle share out.

Paul John Cask 1906, 59.5% A+

paul-john-single-cask-cask-1906-whiskyNose - Sweet, sharp and dusty, with refreshing fruit - orange squash, pineapple rings and a little red apple skin. There's an oaky, bourbony sweetness underneath this - big cask and complexity. It has something I can't put my finger on, it might be that it's not Scottish or American… the wood is undeniably bourbony but it's more perfumed, with a different type of lemon and mango in the tropicality. Fruitier and creamier with water. I like it.

Body - Hot, thick with toffee and spiced red apple, creamy and boozy like Irish coffee. Much better with water, it's so creamy and fruity it reminds me more of Amarula.

Finish - Medium to long with chocolate toffees and black pepper. Reminds me of some recent single cask rums with water.

This is tasty stuff, more complex than I first thought and has a lovely, creamy tropicality.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Official Kilkerrans

I often describe Kilkerran as confident, which (as a whisky) it is.  But then you would be too if you were being made by Springbank employees a few metres down the road from Springbank.

I continue to love Kilkerran.

Kilkerran 8 years old, cask strength, 56.2% A+

kilkerran-8-year-old-whiskyNose - Light and restrained neat, gently charred with bubble mixture and freshly dug soil (perhaps, peat). A touch of raspberry pound cake, but highly mineral. It's fruitier with water.

Body - Ripe but light, grilled peaches, slightly floral. I've had this without paying attention and it didn't really register, but taking my time with it, it's a really interesting and considered whisky. Take it faster and it just tastes peaty and burnt. Much creamier with water, with tropical fruit retronasally.

Finish - Burnt and cakey, with chewed soil and strawberry laces. It's slightly dirty and peppery with water, with an appealing wax at the end.

A solid, honest cask strength drammer from Kilkerran with plenty of confidence and character.

Kilkerran 12 years old, 46%, Batches 1&2 A⊕

I reviewed the 12 year old as a 50% vatting sample here last year but not actually got to the official 12 until now.  I've had these bottles, one from each of the first two batches, open for a while to allow them both to breath. That's as scientific as I'm going to get. For all I know these are the same original vatting and any differences are due to bottling gaps and time I have them open, but I do like a side by side.

kilkerran-12-year-old-whiskyNose - B1 is big and surprisingly good, I am repeatedly surprised by the nose on this. Sweet but dry and complex, slightly winey and dusty with a nice clay hit. B2 is more restrained, very slightly more ozoney, sour and watery but perhaps a little more mature.

Body - B1 is dusty and sweet, with a really lovely acrylic fudginess and ripe stone fruit - really gentle and delicious. B2 has dusty chocolate, and a little more peat, a little funk and a slightly floral note.

Finish - Very long, peach and vanilla cream. B2 is a little more peppery and more tannic.

I definitely prefer, by a small margin, batch 1. There's a really ripe complexity to it. Batch 2 is just that little bit more peated, hot and peppery, although there is a touch more maturity in the nose.

Monday, 3 July 2017

SMWS May 2017 Outturn 3/2

Yes, that’s right, post three of two about last month’s outturn!

These two were even later than I was so I wasn’t able to taste them back then, but was able to get to them more recently.  They are officially from May.

Thanks Phil for the pics.

SMWS 50.93, Bladnoch, Hansel and Gretel and the Savoy, 26 years old, 53.6% A⊕+

26th January 1990, 66 bottles, refill bourbon

33823296773_2bfff7cb9b_nNose - Big. Old to the point of cheesey, of slightly rotten wood, but in an excellent way. Wood glue and fresh cut oak planks, some well-cooked chicken livers but a little freshness too, cold apple sauce? Mintier with water.

Body - Pure apple pie in the delivery, with a very strong sense of sugar dusted pastry, although no cinnamon. Sweeter toffees with water and a touch more wood.

Finish - Surprisingly short and fresh and fruity. Reasonably old school with that though, with a clean departure that tips its hat to the cask and leaves you with cooked apples and wanting more.

An absolutely delicious, and very well delivered whisky. Intense and interesting in the nose, clean, fruity and delicious in the delivery, I could drink this all night. Highly recommended.


SMWS 29.216, Laphroaig, Moonlight night at the beach, 20 years old, 51.9% A⊕

26th November 1996, 293 bottles, Nineteen years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, finished in a virgin oak hogshead with a heavy toast and a medium char.

34802246126_1a0219e39e_nNose - I was really worried for the poor Laphroaig but that VO finish seems to be meshing quite nicely with the intense, medicinal Laphroaig peating. There's robust TCP here, gloss paint and liquorice root. Parma violets with time and water.

Body - Yellow, like that Cairdeas was. Melon rinds, bong water and white wine, with perfect integration of a quite dirty peating.

Finish - Long and peppery, lemon toffee and menthol cigarettes.

Seriously excellent, this is one of the VO finishes that really pulls it off.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Compass Box–The Double Single 2017

There’s always something so intrinsically right about Compassbox blends.

Compass Box, The Double Single, 46% A⊕

72% Glen Elgin, re-charred ex-bourbon hogsheads

28% Girvan, re-charred ex-bourbon barrels

compass-box-the-double-single-whiskyNose - Classy wood, varnish and toffee apples here, with (as expected) great balance. Up front there's a really decadent, rich but dusty cask with orange segments, then there's a much more restrained but very mature note. There's a little bit of travel sweets, a touch of burnt wood and bandages (although I can detect no obvious or clumsy re-charred\virgin oak notes in this) and chocolate buttons. It seems a lot more mature than the components are (you can check on their website), this is reminiscent of the kind of nose you'd get on a big old Teaninich or something.

Body - Rather elegant; restrained chocolate and toffee, dusty woods and a light spicing. Retronasally dusty and fruity, this is very gluggable.  Loving that rich orange note up front.

Finish - Medium with apple wood again, strawberry laces and a touch of orange peel at the end.

A superbly drinkable blend, absolutely delicious – a really special dusty wood on the nose with lots of fruit, delicate, restrained and balanced but with lots of depth, exactly the kind of whisky I'm into at the moment.  Well worth the outlay.

Monday, 26 June 2017

SMWS June 2017 Outturn

Late, late, late again and no excuse this time except work and family.  Also, quite a hard outturn, with lots of challenged drams in it and then oddly, some fabulous Islay stuff.  Weirdly, most of this is still available though, as late as I am, so not too much harm done (although I’m sad to have missed the Bowmore). 

Quickly now, buy the Laphroaig and then come back for the rest.


SMWS 63.37, Glentauchers, Coconut-cherry-chocolate chip ice cream, 9 years old, 60% A-

6th December 2007, 220 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2231Nose - Proper honest gear here, a good opener (on the nose at least). Highly mineral with a warm white wine backing, this is waxy (I would have gone with cherry lip salve) but I get the cheap Neapolitan ice cream thing here too, plus that kind of pliable and backed-by-buttercream icing you get on a shop bought birthday cake. Even better with water, fruit and wax more integrated and the ozone on exhale. Cracking.

Body - Quite sharp - zesty but sharp like a chewed lemon wedge with a pip in. Hot chocolate and dried apricots. Creamier with water.

Finish - Medium but quite bitter and a little blooded, there is a slightly dirty note in here I would describe as preserved lemons if I was being charitable, probably old charred lemons if not. Sweeter with water. Aspirin at the end.

This would be a good glugger if the end of the development wasn't quite so bitter. I do love the nose though, good and honest.

SMWS 70.19, Balblair, Vanilla ice-lollies in a sauna, 10 years old, 52.9% B

19th May 2006, 87 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2223Nose - Fresh and cold, lightly floral with lolly sticks, wet rocks and white vanilla cream (particularly on exhale). I tried really hard not to just come back to vanilla ice-lollies but that's what it smells like! It's a little clumsy though, to be honest - simplistic vanilla and putty. Better; cut plums and icing, with water.

Body - Hot, cakey and a little spicy, with (sorry) frost blown ice cubes and burnt chillies. Better integrated with water.

Finish - Long, peppery and drying, with flashes of green apple. Interesting herbal notes at the very back.

Quite an ordinary whisky, and my hopes weren't that high.

SMWS 54.49, Aberlour, First day of cricket season, 11 years old, 54.5% A

20th October 2005, 93 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2228Nose - Less honest perhaps than the 63, but proper old school, this has far more intensity. Red apple flesh, fountain pen ink, Danish pastries and granite. With time, the fruit is softer (peach and orange). Even classier with water.

Body - Soft waxes, with chalk and more granite, this has grapefruit bitterness and numbs the lips. There's a fence-panel hollow woodiness in this but it's compelling despite that.

Finish - Medium with aniseeds and cherry whistle pops. Lots of latent vanilla with water.

Young, interesting and drammable, with another fantastic nose, this would be a good one for the bar.

SMWS 73.84, Aultmore, Tug of war in a meadow, 15 years old, 57.4% A-

24th September 2001, 572 bottles, refill sherry

IMG_2232Nose - Slightly charred, dusty chocolate, maybe Mexican chocolate before being grated into hot water (it has that bright spicing - cinnamon and fennel). There's also a oversweetened sourness here that smacks of a virgin oak experiment. Behind these two rather obvious notes (and especially after sipping) there's something more interesting; pear, candle wax, peach perhaps.

Body - Red cherries, red chillies, obvious virgin oak cask here but backed by something richer - fruit cake and (as will become a theme) an Auchentoshan fruit funk. More chocolate cake with water.

Finish - Spicy and numbing, cherry lipsalve and garibaldi biscuits. Quite long and rich in the end.

An enormously confusing whisky, but (as they often are) quite interesting and returnable-to in the delivery, I particularly like the awkward fruit and robust woods. Ultimately though, undetectably sherried, much more VO and so I wonder if this has been subject to more experimental cask abuse.

SMWS 112.14, Inchmurrin, Funky, feisty and youthful, 8 years old, 60.5% C+

20th February 2008, 270 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon, sold out

IMG_2219Nose - It is indeed rather obviously funky on the nose, cakey and peachy with lychees and buttercream. There's that underlying silly putty tone in the funk which reminds me of Auchentoshan. Quite exciting.

Body - Extremely spicy this, like rolling tobacco tar, almost like the lit end on the tip of your tongue. The funky fruit plays out behind this raw, chilli heat. Much better with water, we're down to the level of chilli chocolates or chilli sweets, but now it's too bitter.

Finish - Burning spice, fizzing and palate destroying, like raw heavily peated spirit.

Ouch. I enjoyed the nose but this delivery is way too hot.

SMWS 5.56, Auchentoshan, Apples and pears on the bough, 16 years old, 54.8% B⊕

11th October 2000, 142 bottles, After 15 years in ex-bourbon wood we transferred this to a first-fill Spanish oak Oloroso hogshead

IMG_2220Nose - OK, actually Auchentoshan. There's more dried mango in the nose than the fake ones before, with peach and marzipan tart and a really delicate, fruity sweetness. With time, very distinct dried fruit and mixed spice. With water, oversmoked pork. Delicious.

Body - Arrestingly different, recognisably Auchentoshan but an unexpected fizzing gunpowder and medicinal note grabs you from the start. Disappointing with water.

Finish - Down through cigarette and coffee and into licked perfume and Germolene. Hot again but I suspect my palate is a little hurt from the Inchmurrin. Bitter at the end.

A truly bizarre whisky, with a finish that is slightly beyond my love of the Auchentoshan character. I command you to try it at the bar, and challenge you to make it through a bottle at home.  I’d try a dram at the bar again.

SMWS 39.143, Linkwood, Dark, spicy and rich, 16 years old, 57.1% A

1st June 2000, 261 bottles. After spending 16 years in an ex-bourbon barrel it was transferred to a 1st fill charred ex-red wine hogshead.

IMG_2230Nose - Liquorice allsorts, red wine in last night's glass (probably auto-suggested by the cask sentence I've just written), wine gums and something green, like strawberry stalks and leaves. This is rich though, vanilla sponge and wine gums with digging, and marker pens and classier fruits with water.

Body - These charred wine hogsheads are all quite similar in the delivery, the hard, sour, numbing tannins of VO tempered by rich, soft red fruits. Much better with water, more cake at the front, classier by far.

Finish - Flashes of wine, crushed by bitter wood and aspirin. Once the whisky leaves your tongue the soft fruit is obliterated. At the end, gummy sweets and some Linkwood behind this but I would have preferred to taste the original refill bourbon.

Another great nose, dodgy casking, but this one comes through pretty well. Worth a shot at the bar but a tiring finish means I'd struggle with a bottle.

SMWS 36.132, Benrinnes, A warm treat, 16 years old, 58% A-

31st May 2000, 275 bottles, Virgin oak hogshead HTMC

IMG_2221Nose - Darker and more warmly spiced than expected, this has fresh acrylic paint, cinnamon swirls, freshly cut oak and something fresher (cucumber?). Rich, exciting vanilla with time. Much better, with sweetshop and waxed fruits with water - transformed - bandages and really classy woods.

Body - Spicy, dirty, burnt - cloves, toasted raisins on a hot cross bun, chocolate sauce with venison. Fruitier and slightly funky with water.

Finish - Roasted and burnt, like espresso coffee and black malt. Tarry smoke, like coughing on a cigarette.

One of the stranger VO cask I've tasted, maybe this was charred a bit more heavily than normal. A very challenging dram neat, I think water brings out the underlying whisky. Worth a punt at the bar.

SMWS 30.97, Glenrothes, Dancing on a volcano, 9 years old, 64.7% A-

6th June 2007, 627 bottles, 1st fill sherry butt Spanish oak

IMG_2225Nose - Rich, ripe and slightly sour, with great sherry depth (almost liquorice) and a touch of petrol. A lot more cask complexity with water, with hoisin sauce and linseed oil.

Body - Slightly spicy, with chocolate cake and nutty Oloroso. It has a weirdly dusty, bretty edge, but a really compelling fruit and nut bar sweetness.

Finish - Long and hot. Splints and liquorice imps. Much more typical with water, I'm regretting spending so long with my tiny sample neat.

An interesting, robust heavily sherried (but not overdone) whisky, but almost nothing to do with Glenrothes.

SMWS 4.225, Highland Park, A crunchy brunch, 15 years old, 60.6% A

20th August 2001, 580 bottles, refill sherry butt, sold out

IMG_2229Nose - Zesty, young, full of acrylic paint and wine cask. Peated barley, chewed, with overstewed tea and roasted plum skins. That acrylic paint turns into typical window putty with time. After sipping, the waxes in the nose come through and make more sense.

Body - Burnt toast, charred pepper and garlic, but not sulphured and not a problem. It's citric and peated like a 10 year old bunna though. Richer with more cereal, with water.

Finish - Long with grapefruit zest and cloudy lemonade. Heavily peated.

Tasty (well, more nosey) stuff but expectations are higher for a 15 year old refill sherry HP.

SMWS 4.226, Highland Park, Smoked plum lemonade, 12 years old, 64.5% A'

31st May 2004, 627 bottles, refill sherry puncheon, sold out

IMG_2227Nose - Gentler than the 225, slightly richer with dusty almond sweets and honey. A really lovely, gentle filth with time, proper HP.

Body - Much richer than the 225, honey again, but the peating is still robust. A delicious, balanced peat/wax/fruit sweets thing mid-development. Sawdust, green apple and Refreshers.

Finish - Long but bitter, liquorice root and strawberry laces. A hint of chocolate and sulphur at the end.

This is a balanced, interesting, drinkable whisky, and well worth a dram.

SMWS 66.103, Ardmore, A thing of rough beauty, 9 years old, 60.4% A+

15th May 2007, 208 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2224Nose - Dark but freshly peated, night time whisky. Blackberries, vanilla sponge, ozone and a fat cigar. Robust and trustworthy. Water makes it orangier, slightly funkier.

Body - Richly sweet at first (blackcurrant jam) then burning electrical insulation and bandages - funky and just straying into dirty. Slightly classier and a little softer with water, with wort from an IPA and orange squash.

Finish - Sweet fruits and fizzing peat, quite long and very interesting, significantly better than all these finishes. The dirt is back at the end. Long, very drying, very tannic and very compelling.

A breath of fresh (if funky) air in this outturn, the quality is obvious.


SMWS 3.301, Bowmore, Sweet smoky melody, 18 years old, 57.1% A⊕

25th September 1998, 121 bottles, refill bourbon, sold out

IMG_2226Nose - That is beautiful - elegant peating and a very intense blackcurrant note. Perhaps breakfast pancakes with butter and blackcurrant jam. There's more here though, shellfish (mussels) with white wine, charred peach, smouldering rosemary and Victoria sponge. And a little petrol. And something sweet but smoky, like burning cherry pipe tobacco (but not that).

Body - Hotter, more burnt than I was expecting but delicious for it - one of the more charred cereal Bowmores (we sure this isn't refill sherry?). Even peatier with water.

Finish - A very long finish full of woodsy herbs and hot minty peat. Very rich and sweet with a slight petrol funk. Delicious.

This is proper. I would have been all over this if I'd've been tasting the outturn ahead of time.


SMWS 29.218, Laphroaig, Charred fruit on an open fire, 18 years old, 58.1% A⊕+

13th May 1998, 288 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2222Nose - Really deep and sweet, cut purple plums and pastry, but with a weird petrol station, cardboard and hot radiator thing going on. Now I'm sure this one must be refill sherry, it reminds me of those epic Signatory bottles (maybe it was all in the Laph rather than the sherry!). Quite evocative with water, like discovering indie Laphroaigs.

Body - That cardboard is back but with white bread, toffee, intensely peated cereal and aspirin. There's fruit too, behind some quite serious peat and chilli spicing; fruit toffee, marmalade on toast. Better integration of the peat with water, seriously delicious.

Finish - Long and hot, extra strong mints and burning spice (but in a good Laphroaig way). Fisherman's friends and sugared pastries at the end.

A big, big Laphroaig, absolutely delicious.


SMWS 29.211, Laphroaig, Jazzy jousting hastlitude, 21 years old, 51.6% A⊕

4th April 1995, 228 bottles, after 20 years in ex-bourbon oak we transferred this to a 1st fill American oak PX hogshead, sold out

IMG_2233Nose - Gentle sherry stuff after the 218, nevertheless this is also rather special - ripe cut plums, the icing from Mr. Kipling's chocolate cupcakes, a little magic balloon, but with that special something Laphroaig has when it hits sherry - it's a grown up funk… all Haribo wrapped in bandages. The nose alone was worth the price.

Body - Sweet and mellow, gentle fruit and nut bar, restrained sherry and behind this, classy but intense peat. It is mellow though, despite that.

Finish - Long with medicinal, cereal Laphroaig poking out from behind the jam. A great balance of peat, fruit, tannins and pepper.

This is also delicious. The nose is phenomenal and old school, and it's quite pleasant for that to be combined with a quite mellow delivery. Despite the day-making nose, I still prefer the *in stock* 218 though.


SMWS 10.113, Bunnahabhain, The crowd pleaser, 10 years old, 59% A+

20th December 2005, 186 bottles, peated, 2nd fill bourbon, sold out

IMG_2234Nose - Classic 10yo peated bunna, this is intensely sweet but balanced by a severe peating - coastal but full of bandages and charred wood, with Germolene and charred rosemary. Warmer with water, and a distinct note of Brettanomyces.

Body - Perfect Islay - dusty and chalky, medicinal and then sweet, this has quite a fetid feel to it; a washed up mermaid's purse, mezcal and red wine. Definitely Refreshers with time.

Finish - Medium, fizzing, zesty. Hotter with water.

This is excellent, heavily peated young Bunna often is. This is a particularly heavily peated one and was a great choice for Feis Ile.

BUY - but don't go crazy due to the picture, there have been plenty of great society 10s before and there will be plenty after.