Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cadenhead’s October 2017 Authentic Collection outturn

I’m pretty sure this is the biggest ever Cadenhead’s outturn, 24 casks and all big gear, to top off a massive year.  I somehow missed sampling the Glenfarclas (and hope to get to it shortly) and never get the chance on the grains but there is some superb whisky in here.  A massive outturn but also another outturn (presumably the final one!) coming next in December, with some really specially looking whiskies from Bunnahabhain, Glengoyne, Mannochmore, Old Pulteney and Strathmill.

To summarise this outturn though, my top picks are the Benrinnes, Glentauchers, Bruichladdich, Glenburgie and Tormore.  Next up would be the Aultmore, Tullibarine,  Glenallachie and Highland Park. 

Honestly, who doesn’t love Cadenhead’s?

Benrinnes 20 years old, 55.5% A⊕'

IMG_2321Nose - Heavenly. Dusty, thick with toffee and fruit, a really fresh but mature nose. Chalky bonbons, birthday candles, and lemon buttercream icing. Very special. Water brings a little more lemon into the fruit, and a touch of washing up liquid or shower gel - still fantastic though.

Body - Waxy again but a touch hot with toffee and flashes of acrylic paint. Somewhere between red chilli and black pepper - maybe cinnamon with time? Even fruitier with water, toffee pennies and UHT mango juice.

Finish - Medium with lots of oils. Quite woodsy at the end, slightly fencey.

A seriously fruity but balanced and structured Benrinnes, highly recommended.

Strathisla 20 years old, 55.8% A+'

IMG_2338Nose - Much more masculine than the Benrinnes, more leather and musk, more vanilla too, and it's a lot gentler. This one's all strawberry tart with French cooked pastry, and it's becoming more feminine with time - perfume, strawberry syrup… I can't get away from those French strawberry tarts. Four in a plastic box from the hypermarket. Lots of wood with time, it's beautifully poised. Water brings a touch of Sudocrem.

Body - Creamy and fruity up front, then peppery and astringent. Softer with water, cream and wood.

Finish - Hot and drying, a very long finish with chewed pencil and caraway.

Another fantastic dram. A really luxurious, complex and highly matured nose but too much heat on the delivery takes it down a notch.

Aultmore 20 years old, 53.9% A⊕

IMG_2320Nose - A robust balance between soft fruit and minerality, and real depth behind that headline. Old candle wax, royal icing, ripe peaches and hard cold pears. Austerity juxtaposed with luxury. More luxurious with water - better on paper, but I preferred the character neat.

Body - Cream, ripe pear, dusty heat and quite a lot of cinnamon (maybe it's my palate today?). A lovely even hand with the green fruit though, very considered. The dust settles a little with water.

Finish - Medium to long, fizzing with popping candy and warm spices. Tropical burps.

A really rich, and properly delicious whisky. Again, that heat on the delivery brings it down a little but the delivery is so absorbing that you can forgive it. And the nose, and balance is so spot on it just nudges the Strathisla (although my first thought was that it'd be just behind it).

Glentauchers 26 years old, 51.6% A⊕

IMG_2332Nose - Glorious… hang on. Green apple on exhale. On inhale there's real gravitas, bright depth, balance and yet quite a lot of wood. There's something of the feel of a Diageo Special Release here, but then it feels almost like there's some virgin oak in here too. Apple with old, dark varnish, then linseed oil on newly sanded oak, then cider, then Cognac.

Body - Definitely some kind of Calvados thing going on, bright and extremely sweet with rich toffee, Port and baked apples with raisin.

Finish - Long - a masterclass in soft fruit toffee and wood, definitely feels like a recharred cask or virgin oak in this one's history.

Robust, complicated and fascinating. This would be a perfect whisky to end a tasting on. Recommended.

Speyside 21 years old, 61.7% A

IMG_2337Nose - Fizzing in front of the sherry, sherbet lemons with cucumber skin and cut flower stalks. Waxy, slightly dirty, but feels younger than the others.

Body - Nutty, gentle, beery, reminds me strongly of Mexican puffed pork crackling and Mr. Kipling chocolate cupcakes. Water makes it even nuttier, with very clear candy cigarettes.

Finish - Long with vanilla sponge, sesame snaps, black peppercorns and cut green peppers. More savoury burps now. Quite spicy at the end.

Rich, ripe, nutty and ever so faintly dirty.

Miltonduff 11 years old, 56.4% A-

IMG_2335Nose - Sweet, mineral, cracked coconut and moisturiser. A faint hint of curry leaf and orange peel. It's clean, simple and fresh, and sort of summery like sun tan cream. A lot fruitier with water, more Christmassy oranges and cheap orange juice.

Body - Balanced sweetness, chalky, then hot and citrusy with orange juice and red chilli. Quite a hollow wood to it. The flaws are exposed with water, it's thinner overall with a stronger emphasis on the red chilli.

Finish - Long and drying, orange oils and more coconut. Quite spirity up the sinuses.

A good drammer, nothing too exciting but clean and drinkable with a fresh, citrusy character and a lovely nose.

Dailuaine 13 years old, 57.7% A'

IMG_2326Nose - Interestingly this - a bright, confident, mature complexity (wax, fruit, refreshers) sort of disappears into washing up liquid. On each sniff. The overall effect is oddly restrained, although quite enjoyable. Better with water, much more depth and even some hot radiator.

Body - Lovely fruit now, green apple, orange, but a big, rich character behind it, their spirit is just so wonderful. Vanilla cream, a lick of cinnamon fireball. Ripe pear and Mexican chocolate with water.

Finish - Long and hot, with grilled orange slices with cinnamon sticks and very drying indeed.

This turned out to be extremely delicious, a real focus whisky. Recommended.

Bruichladdich 26 years old, 51.8% A⊕

IMG_2324Nose - Warm, comforting, but not too cosy. This has restrained fruit with flashes of vinegar, on top of warm marmalade, sherbet lemons and wood polish. Super gentle. Some cigarette tobacco with water.

Body - Rather large but so gentle, the delivery is ripe, soft, mineral, full of warm soft stone fruit, red wine tannins, varnish and waxes. Slightly peppery with water, and a sudden burst of fruit and distillery visitors-centre (fresh mash and wash, more varnish and new carpets).

Finish - Medium to long and lovely for it, a slow fade out of fruit toffee, slightly charred hard woods and faint tobacco at the end. Some sulphur in the fruity, cereal burps.

Just divine. If I could score a bottle of this (which I don't think I can) I will just open it and get stuck in.

Auchentoshan 18 years old, rum cask, 55% A

IMG_2318Nose - Fresh, bright with menthol, peppery with bits of caraway stuck it in. Milk bottle sweets and a real underlying waxiness. A touch of newly painted wall - it's oddly masculine.

Body - Sweet and creamy, there's echoes of that totally unmistakable Auchentoshan character but the wood and menthol is dominating. It is an extremely gentle whisky though, not in the same way that the Bruichladdich was (gentle but gigantic), this is more restrained and feminine (even though the nose is masculine).

Finish - White wine, a touch of sulphur, lots of cream and soft ripe pear.

This is a delicious, balanced and gentle whisky with a little Auchentoshan character, and very drinkable. It's not, however, what I wanted it to be - which was a big, funky, weird lowlander I could tell my kids about when they grow up.

Tullibardine 24 years old, 45.5% A⊕

IMG_2341Nose - Fence posts, gunpowder, and a fantastic backbone of well matured Scotch sitting in a fantastic cask. Balanced mineral and waxes, pineapple chunks with apricot and body lotion. A very complete and inviting nose.

Body - Dry and confident, a lick of sulphur and lots of chalk, even some pork fat. One of the most balanced deliveries of the outturn, and a lovely fruit character on subsequent sips. This isn't going to last long enough to add water.

Finish - Medium with chilled Chardonnay and fresh green pear slices. Soft, sweet wood at the end, and some soft toffee.

A surprise hit, this is a dry, almost grumpy whisky that belies confident fruit, balance and a slightly challenging savoury edge.

Glen Spey 21 years old, 57.7% B⊕

IMG_2328Nose - Lots of acrylic paint here, pineapple juice and grenadine against cigarette smoke and a new shed. I'm not quite sure what kind of scene that starts to conjure up, glad I don't have to name it. Interesting and compelling though, the wax is very grown up and so is the coffee but…. it all hangs on the delivery.

Body - Promising at first, bright fresh wood and fruit, but then the corners come in and it feels younger than it should. The wood feels recharred. Better with water, fruitier and more menthol, richer and more tannic.

Finish - Arresting and very drying, lots of wood and orange pith. Quite bitter with water.

Interesting but snatches defeat from the jaws of victory (good nose though).

Glenallachie 24 years old, 54.2% A⊕

IMG_2329Nose - Brown sugar, reduced red wine, a little coffee - a bourbon cask though. There's an almost sherry richness, a touch of sulphur, maraschino cherries and dark chocolate too. Maybe black forest cherries. Muskier with water, leather jacket, travel sweets and almond chocolate. High hopes…

Body - Black fruit, drying waxes, hot chocolate and black forest gateau. Absolutely delicious.

Finish - Long with soft black fruit and leatherette. Soft tannins at the end, some toast.

Goodness me, a real fruit punch of a whisky, deliciously balanced too though with real structure. Totally unexpected.

Blair Athol 29 years old, 51.8% A⊕+

IMG_2322Nose - Ah.. Enormous as expected. Bright, deep, lacquered and full of tropicality - mango, coconut and sesame snaps. It has that yellow fruit and wood I love, and that understated varnish that matches the age statement. Proper gravitas, and you can't beat coconut in whisky.

Body - A perfect, soft delivery full of soft woods, rich cereal - it's slightly otherworldly. Chalky sweets and red wine. Marshmallow and candy cigarette.

Finish - Long with a touch of spirit sulphur, fruit and funk, maybe some liquorice imps at the very end.

Utterly drinkable. A big whisky too. Highly recommended.

Bowmore 14 years old, 56.2% A

IMG_2323Nose - Clean, cereal led with a lot of toffee sweetness behind it and good, if slightly potatoey depth. A good waxy cask backing to the peat, which is fresh and citrussy.

Body - Balanced, slightly floral, a touch of wax, good green fruit (star fruit?) and quite a lot of salt and vinegar crisp (maybe "Discos", maybe "Square crisps"). Fruitier with water.

Finish - Medium to long with insistent white pepper and charred barley.

A delicious, clean young Bowmore, if slightly ordinary in this pack.

Teaninich 11 years old, 55.3% A

IMG_2339Nose - Toasted cereal and grain spirit, burnt orange oil, surfboard wax and hints of French demi-glace and roasted chicken skin. Makes you pay attention. Even more grown up with water, and especially time - a really confident young spirit with warm balance from the cask.

Body - Hot and chalky, lots of alcohol burn here with green apple skin and splints. Peppered apple chews? Creamier with water, some vanilla and more wood, perhaps a touch of fizzers.

Finish - Medium with lasting oils and a zesty fruitiness developing later. Oddly astringent with water.

A cracking whisky, a touch too much fire in the delivery perhaps but good waxes and complexity in the nose.

Auchroisk 29 years old, 44.6% A+'

IMG_2319Nose - Gentle but with gravitas - lots of varnish and old wood, charred with instant coffee and perfectly played tropical fruit (Kia Ora, but muted - soaked into your sleeve). Gentle waxes. Very well balanced.

Body - Rich and peppery, some cake and some cut old oak furniture. Slightly spicy - chilli powder set in hard caramel.

Finish - Long, quite hot, lots of splints and baked apple.

A really important old whisky, perfect balance on the nose but I would have preferred more fruit on the delivery. Also the low ABV doesn't do it many favours, but that's a bit down to my palate.

Bunnahabhain 22 years old, 50.4% A+'

IMG_2325Nose - Beautifully fruity with an insistent cigar tobacco behind it. Bright and very classically wooded, this has Indian spices, buttercream icing and birthday candles. Whiteboard markers and cut rosemary stalks. Christmassy and beautiful.

Body - Balanced on orchard fruit, toffee and wood, quite drying oils in front of some serious sugar and an almost wine cask note (and icing sugar).

Finish - Medium with cider ice lollies and really long lasting sugars.

Very sweet indeed this but the nose is just heavenly, the kind of whisky that takes you back.

Fettercairn 24 years old, 51.5% A'

IMG_2327Nose - Quite alarming, although in a good way. Bright with new carpets and cut limes, fruit salad chews and teenage deodorant. And imperial stout. Classier with water, more black jacks than fruit salads, then some washing up liquid.

Body - Savoury and cereal led, more imperial stout, lots of deep roasted barley balanced by lactose, and a big hit of bitterness and black jacks.

Finish - Medium to short - the charred barley bitterness quite subtle at the end.

Weird at first, becomes classier with time and water but loses its edge.

Ord 13 years old, 60.3% A-

IMG_2336Nose - Fizzing with citrus and bright wax, this is backed by twin beams of mature oak and lemon sherbets. It's verging on lemsip. But that waxy wood is just lovely, particularly for the age. Hot lemsip with water.

Body - Ripe, rich, perfectly balanced - that lemon sherbet sweetshop thing works perfectly, it's like a distilled jar of sweets (the fizzing woods balance it out, with a tiny touch of funk). Hotter with water, a surprising inclusion of red chilli unfortunately, plus flower stalks and black pepper.

Finish - Long but hot, more slightly funky sweetshop notes with added toffee pennies and chewed matchsticks.

This was on course for a big mark but the chilli heat built during tasting.

Glenburgie 25 years old, 54.6% A⊕

IMG_2330Nose - Beautifully waxy at first, then cough candy with ripe, cut peach, strawberry laces and a little milky coffee. Even better with water, that fruit and cream thing is perfect.

Body - Gentle and perfectly poised, with light green apple, Werther’s originals and light funk again.

Finish - Long and full of that hard toffee, sour green apple and warm white wine. Mocha notes again at the end, and some Refreshers.

When they search through the strata of my whisky collection after I'm gone, they're going to refer to 2017 as the Glenburgie year. Highly recommended.

Tormore 33 years old, 51.7% A⊕+

IMG_2340Nose - Dark, waxy and a little dank, this has overripe Asian fruits, gunpowder, a sticky box of cigars, game fried in butter and toffee apples. As you can tell, there's a lot of depth here. Develops further with water, more chocolate, obvious mature cask and very distinct flashes of corn tortilla.

Body - Slightly spicy, this is all rich hot chocolate and big woods, there's a clear bourbon character in here behind cream, fecundity and ripe orchard fruits.

Finish - Medium to long, surprisingly gentle with lightly peppered cigar casings and cedar. Lots of fruit toffee at the end, and Foxes glacier fruits with water. Absolutely delicious.

Complex and confident, but full of luxury. This is a triumph.

Highland Park 28 years old, 45.8% A⊕

IMG_2333Nose - Wax, wine, alcopops? Refreshers and royal icing, in fact the rest of the Christmas cake is underneath it, with a dark, blackcurrant travel sweet weirdness.

Body - Alien peat, a welcome return - fresh and fruity though with real punch pulling balance. Mouth-watering tannins, coffee chocolate cake and chocolate icing, iron filings and a little new leatherette.

Finish - Short and fruity, back to the boiled sweets and toffee, with lots of vanilla sponge and buttercream.

Another creamy, gentle, well balanced ancient Scotch. Yum.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Gauldrons

At last!  The missing region from Douglas Laing.  And obviously the home of Springbank (big heart).  Lots of chat online about this basically being Glen Scotia as Springbank don’t give out to indies any more but who knows, there’s been plenty of Douglas Laing casks in the past and of course Big Peat has PE in it. 

The Gauldrons, Campbeltown Blended Scotch Whisky, 46.2% A+

the-gauldrons-whiskyNose - Sweet tea, cardamom, significant waxes and a slightly overripe aspect. It is very far from the classic Springbank profile although there's a dusty peat that reminds me a little of older Longrow - waxy, dusty and slightly medicinal. I'm not sure that's a very Glen Scotia thing?

Body - UHT milk, peppery chocolate cake and Mexican hot chocolate (lots of cinnamon). Good tannins behind this, a touch of cigar tobacco and Lotus Biscoff spread.

Finish - Medium to long with building cinnamon jawbreakers and chocolate truffles. Ginger snaps at the end.

I really like this - chewy, lots of ginger biscuits and big tannins bring you back for another sip. I'd never place it in Campbeltown but the branding and flavour profile fits together very nicely.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

SMWS November 2017 outturn–small list

Almost two decades ago I tried to give up smoking using Nicorette patches.  They gave you a wall chart and you stuck a little sticker on every day you didn’t smoke a fag.  This chaining motivates you to keep on going.  The big problem is if you do relapse – and miss a sticker – that crutch is taken from you right when you need it the most*.

Here’s the November 2017 small list, there are 45 more or so coming next week and there’s some epic stuff in there!  Sorry this one is late, hope you got what you wanted. Get used to it being late as I will be missing the November big list entirely – the first outturn I’ve missed in over three years. Phil will be able to sort you out I expect, at least with some of it.

I was going to put the 53 and 37 in their own post as they were released between October and November and so I hadn’t tried them until now.  But why bother if I’m going to miss an outturn? So they’re just in among this lot.


There’s one serious stand out here.  I’ve just bought two bottles of it, considering a third.

SMWS 54.53, Aberlour, Classic honey and oak, 10 years old, 60.7% A-

12th October 2006, 195 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3402Nose - A mineral, slightly chalky sweetness. Really cold and fresh with waxed woods, proper autumn stuff. A touch of shoe polish, and a little baked apple behind the wax. Good balance and restraint. Fruitier with water, greener apple and added gloss paint and Danish pastry.

Body - Sharp and hard, with a slightly obvious sweetness behind it. Some peppery wood, some candy cigarette. Actual tobacco with water, more wood and a touch of petrol. Definitely better.

Finish - Long with cloying boiled sweets and a lightly fizzing like sherbet lemons at the end. Drying with water.

A robust whisky for winter Autumn afternoons, I really enjoy the nose but it's a little one dimensional on the delivery.


SMWS 41.98, Dailuaine, La Dolce Vita, 11 years old, 59.2% A-

23rd March 2006, 204 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3400Nose - Dependable Dailuaine. The usual elegance - hard toffee with sawdust, polished wood, gentle, expensive perfume and warm, ripe orchard fruit. Very sweet and special with water, slightly medicinal like a big, woodsy rum and also very reminiscent of smelling a really foamy glass of cloudy lemonade.

Body - Warm, ripe stone fruit, then a bit hit of chilli spice and bracingly sweet. Chocolate cake with water.

Finish – Serious chocolate cake richness, with chewed pencil, buttercream icing and a little cracked black pepper. Very long with water, extremely rich.

This started up all elegance and ended up with chocolate cake, absolutely delicious although if you're going to do that I think even Dailuaine needs a few more years on it.

SMWS 9.131, Glen Grant, A cheery treat, 11 years old, 55.1% A⊕

15th September 2005, 162 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3411Nose - Serious wax, again, for such youth, but gentle and slightly louche. Fresh towels and slightly musky (hair wax and old tobacco). It's a lovely thing. After sipping, I'm overwhelmed by sesame on the nose. A surprising belt of cherry sweets with water.

Body - Beautiful again, really considered with Mexican chocolate, almonds and cold glass. Even better with water, tannins, wax and fruit in perfect balance.

Finish - Sesame snaps, Hershey's chocolate and fence panels. Quite salty. Very dry with water.

Absolutely delicious, a masterclass in how young refill bourbon can be just as good as old and expensive.


SMWS 100.17, Strathmill, Fresh as a glacial facial, 12 years old, 57.8% A

23rd February 2005, 157 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3403Nose - Beautiful and clean again, touch of chalky, minty bonbons and ripe with pear and Sangria. There's a real depth here, with liquorice allsorts’ centres, strawberry laces and a touch of cigar tobacco. More boiled sweets with water, more complicated tobacco leaf and fruit.

Body - Liquorice torpedoes, really thick and milky. Thinner and more tannic with water, it has a peppery, toffee character which is structural and drinkable but slightly hollow.

Finish - Quite a lot of heat in the finish, chilli toffee and hot, cinnamon chocolate. Big cereal tannins at the end brings you back for another.

Very tasty, the sort of cinnamon fireball character is good although not quite what I'm after. However this is very nicely put together.


SMWS 36.138, Benrinnes, Fruit baskets in a painted room, 19 years old, 56.1% A⊕+

15th August 1997, 174 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3401Nose - Bright but rich, solventy but with tropical fruit juice and old school permanent markers (in the 80s they were superb). Real age on this nose though, Benrinnes is a byword for tropical and this is definitely that, plus sauna wood and buffed leather.

Body - And it doesn't disappoint - it would be exaggerating to suggest this was 70s Tomatin level awesome, but it is a pretty good stand-in. It has that robust, almost peppery, almost overripe weirdness to it that goes with the tropical fruit like the smell of Durian and hoisin sauce goes with an Asian supermarket. It tastes even older with water, it has fusty old anise baked into a sweet bread

Finish - Highly polished, dark antique French polish, bone dry and full of old tropicality. Drier and shorter with water, like 40 year old whisky is sometimes.

How is this only 19? A frankly fantastic whisky and an absolute bargain, amazingly it is extremely still in stock too.  51 left!


SMWS 1.204, Glenfarclas, Blackberry lemon pavlova, 20 years old, 53.5% C⊕

5th March 1997, 233 bottles, 18 years in ex-bourbon hogshead, then into first-fill American oak PX hogshead

IMG_3405Nose - Sweet, then structure, and then cakey… but with iron filings and fresh acrylic paint (maybe new carpet too). There's sherry in here somewhere but it's confused.

Body - What…? HP sauce, cigar tobacco, very clearly chipotle chillis and ancho - what did that PX cask have in it before, chipotle chilli sauce? Better with water, but still very weird.

Finish - Long, savoury, spicy. Very bready, very peppery, a very compelling wood, cereal and sour thing raging underneath that awkward sherry finish.

This is a flawed whisky with a hopeful two year finish in PX to cover it up. It kind of works (it's certainly interesting), you should try it at the bar, but you don't need a bottle.

SMWS 39.151, Linkwood, A blue lady and a Seraph's smile, 19 years old, 58.4% B+

27th October 1997, 592 bottles, ex-oloroso butt, then into 1st fill sherry butt. Why finish a sherry butt in a sherry butt? I need to know what it was like before!

IMG_3408Nose - Sweet, restrained, quite hard and metallic. But rich PX underneath, I guess the original sherry was very refill - this is not necessarily bad news though. Deodorant and candy necklace? With time, whiteboard markers and smouldering splints. And something medicinal, like something from the dentist's tray of stuff you can't quite see because you’re laying on your back. And wax. Fruitier with water, with men's Sure deodorant - rather good really, and the wax is more dominant.

Body - Blackcurrant chews, coal, smoking wood, tar, dank sherry cask basically. Much softer and riper with water, suddenly almost over the hill.

Finish - Tannic, soft and ripe. Lots of blackberries at the end.

Another awkward finish, again it's totally drinkable and interesting and this time, not flawed, but it's not quite there.

SMWS 35.189, Glen Moray, Spiced fruit on a treacle tart, 15 years old, 57.7% A-

27th November 2001, 246 bottles, 14 years in first-fill bourbon, then into first-fill American oak PX hogshead. Some big colour on these PX casks.

IMG_3404Nose - Similar to before, the PX is quite a blanket and I'll need to dig. Red cherries and hard wood, kind of VO. Raspberry jam in a big rich sponge cake, buttercream icing. Yet there's proper depth here, a much more successful finish I suspect.

Body - Hard and very wood driven. Last month there was a labelling error on the 35 - port instead of new wood French oak - I wouldn't be hugely surprised to find this has had some new oak in its history but I believe the PX. This has incredible richness but the wood sour is just as big, with leatherette, licked perfume and cherry sweets.

Finish - Long and very hard with lots of wood. That's the kind of tasting note my work colleagues enjoying mocking me for, so I am pleased to be able to supply it again here.

There is a really good whisky in here (particularly the nose) but the delivery has a little too much new wood in it for me. Still - it's full of fruit (particularly cherry) and very intense and quite delicious. Definitely one for the bar, probably a bottle if you are into such intensity at home. It is very, very sweet and rich.

SMWS 37.97, Cragganmore, Old and delightful, yet firm, 32 years old, 49.6%A⊕

24th April 1985, 168 bottles, first fill PX hogshead

IMG_3399Nose - Immediately it's that black vinegar, bright, deep overripe fruit thing, with very dark wood, a touch of coffee, wet joss stick and something from art lessons - plasticine? Pipe cleaners? Cigars and nuts on exhale.

Body - Very gentle, very old. Lots of soft stone fruit with blackcurrant jam on toast, a little silly putty and big, old oak.

Finish - Long and richly wooded with varnished Refreshers. Straying into cheesy with licked joss sticks and black pepper.

This is exactly as it says on the label - very mature, classic old Scotch with lots of structure and just enough challenge in the sour woods.


SMWS 72.51, Miltonduff, Pepper-crusted charred roast beef, 12 years old, 60% B⊕+

23rd September 2004, 252 bottles, 11 years in first fill white wine hogshead, then into virgin oak hogshead HTMC. Hopes are very high.

IMG_3406Nose - I would have loved to have tried this before the VO but I'm still keen from the white wine primary - this has all you'd want on the nose, dank, sulphurous (but well done) with roast beef, earth, plaster of paris and royal icing. It lives or dies by the delivery though.

Body - Nutty, dirty, full of sulphur but just pulling it right. Pistachios, drains, standing water and overripe fruit. More tobacco with water, but amazingly it's even dirtier.

Finish - Petrol and pistachio with Vimto. Hazelnuts and a litter tray with water.

Weird, wonderful and naughty.

BUY but goodness me only if you like it funky. I'm considering it.

SMWS 4.237, Highland Park, Essence of Orkney, 26 years old, 51.9% A+

31st May 1991, 233 bottles, 24 years in refill bourbon, then into first-fill American oak PX hogshead

IMG_3409Nose - There's that toffee, sweet but dry, coastal but sherried complexity that everyone falls in love with first with HP. Back to the chalk of the first dram, and floral too - elegance plus peat and sherry makes gravitas.

Body - Gentle, dry then surprisingly charred and fizzing, almost parmas - black pepper and chewing the end of a pencil that has an eraser on it - slightly metallic. More cereal led with water, still robustly peppery though.

Finish - Coffee and fizzers. Chewed flower stalks with water. The charred, wet oak comes back at the end.

A rich, complex and beautiful nose. This should have been more luxurious though, given the age and the nose. There's a "burning boat on the beach" thing that I really like in the delivery but this should have been more.

SMWS 10.134, Bunnahabhain, Cleaner than a ship's whistle, 9 years old, 60% A+

7th February 2008, 240 bottles, refill bourbon.

IMG_3412Nose - A particularly good chalk and sweetshop note here, above the usual coastal, sandy fun. The peat is ever so slightly young Laphroaig, slightly bandage, but the refreshers and beachgrass is really evocative. Waxier, caskier with water.

Body - Cough! Robustly peated with a real sweetshop intensity, right up to liquorice imps. Water brings Chinese jelly sweets and cinnamon stick.

Finish - Long and full of dark liquorice and parkin. Rolling tobacco on the tongue, black sesame. It's really thick, much blacker than recent 10s.

This is a crazed bottle of whisky, very challenging and absolutely mesmerising.


SMWS 29.232, Laphroaig, Seaside sweet shop on fire, 18 years old, 59.1% A+'

11th November 1998, 240 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3410Nose - Much higher spec, sweet and clean with gentle cereal, refreshers and an almost milky character. Creamy sweets I guess, like milk bottles and pepto bismol. It feels very… correct.

Body - Surprisingly intense, fizzing and woodsy on the tip of the tongue with Sudocrem and talcum powder. Lots of cream, big, bitter wood and a full bong full of bong water.

Finish - Proper deodorant here, sprayed in the mouth. Dark and slightly disturbing with water, the wood, char and Victorian hospital is very dominant. Chloraseptic by the end.

An evasive whisky with a surprising amount of wood for a Laph. It draws you in on the nose each time, and knocks you out with the smoke and wood. I adore the refreshers in the nose.


SMWS 53.241, Caol Ila, Dense smoke over a tarry deck, 6 years old, xx? B+

27th April 2011, xx bottles, refill bourbon

24cc8588fcf0d961Nose - Crushed marble and salt and vinegar crisps. Sour cooking apples off the tree, then the crumble. Good sweetness here too, slightly floral with men's deodorant. Seems legit.

Body - Tar, ropes, phenols.

Finish - Long and bitter, under-ripe green apples. Something beery in the end here.

Time for a beer.

* this is how I stopped.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

SMWS October 2017 outturn

Late notes, great outturn.  Nine young whiskies here!  A significant proportion of the outturn is young and believe it or not the outturn is really good for it, only the Glendullan is a misfire.  And no virgin oak and no wine casks* – just one refill sherry butt for the (excellent) Highland Park.  All highly irregular and all the better for it.

There’s also an old Bladnoch in the new black and copper label.  This is from the same distillation date as all the others we’ve had and rather good.  Additionally (released yesterday) another in premium packaging, a 32 year old Cragganmore finished for a year in first fill PX.  I’ve not tried that or the two vaults bottles.

My picks from this outturn are the Linkwood, the Glentauchers, and particularly the Glenrothes. But there’s a lot to choose.

Brace yourself for November and December. 

* [EDIT: There was an error with the originally published information about 35.192, which is actually not ex-fresh port barrique, it’s full term first fill French oak barrique]

SMWS 29.229, Laphroaig, Harmonious balance, 55.2%

13th May 1998, 234 bottles, refill bourbon.  This one is a no show due to labelling error:

SMWS 41.99, Dailuaine, A breath of fresh air, 10 years old, 58.1% A+

17th February 2007, 199 bottles, refill bourbon

cddd65f8d8015effNose - Fresh but well matured, sawdust on hot crayon with a really classy sweetness - whistle pops and kola kubes. This is very good spirit in a cracking cask. Balanced, fresh but cask led. More fruit with water, but still robust, and that slightly crushed boiled sweet and wax is very special. A lovely nose.

Body - Lots of hot boiled sweets, a fair whack of chilli heat in the delivery, cigarette tobacco and fruit salad chews. With water, much sweeter with juicier fruits and yoghurt covered raisins, the wood is better balanced.

Finish - Long and quite cloying, popping candy and numbing liquorice. A more considered finish with water, longer and gentler with retronasal pineapple.

Lush and structured again from Dailuaine, particularly good on the nose - really classy and well considered, while still young and confident.


SMWS 71.48, Glenburgie, Follow the yellow brick road, 10 years old, 60.7% A+

22nd February 2007, 204 bottles, refill bourbon

b3441fb4e5eba369Nose - Deeper and slightly danker than the Dailuaine, probably sweeter and a little bit richer. More crayon, a touch of red wine cask, a damp cigar butt, and smelling a newly opened jar of lemon curd. There's something of a cross channel ferry in here too, quite dirty (but not sulphured), although all that's forgotten after sipping…

Body - Surprisingly fizzy, more lemon curd with French cooked pastry and rhubarb & custard sweets. A touch of Pritt Stick and cardboard? The more I sip this the gentler and lovelier it gets. Yellower and yellower with water, quite delicious but slightly unhinged.

Finish - Medium to long with more pastry - a touch of quiche now? Lemon sherbets and set egg, the sherbets win, with an insistent fizzing sweetness and haunting lemon wood at the very end. More bitter with water, as they often are, but that citrus sweetness brings you back for another.

Another delicious drinking whisky, a great choice for the bar but the Dailuaine would have better longevity at home.

SMWS 28.35, Tullibardine, A song of spring and summer, 9 years old, 60.3% A⊖

7th June 2007, 204 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

f92f3f9f12122c09Nose - Back with the wax, this again has a real depth and confidence you wouldn't expect at this age. Actually there's a proper fruity complexity too - fruit salads and pacer mints, with cheap hot chocolate powder and a new wooden ruler. There's something weird going on in here…hmm.  Still, it's even better with water, fruit, cask, chocolate and wood in good harmony, slightly nutty and musky too.

Body - Deep, lacquered and fruity with Mexican hot chocolate. Waxier and fruitier with water and it delays the upcoming flaw a little…

Finish - Medium and strikingly hot, with cinnamon fireball jawbreakers, palate wrecking sawdust and aniseed. Water tones things down a little and the lingering impression is now one of wood tannins and tropical waxes.

Flawed but sometimes it's these flaws that make the whisky. Definitely one for the bar, I would water it before sipping it if I had it again. Interesting and quite delicious in its own way, but only for one. Fantastic nose, either way.

SMWS 39.148, Linkwood, Mysteriously, marvellously multifaceted, 9 years old, 62.3% A+'

14th May 2008, 234 bottles, refill bourbon. I just killed an excellent 9yo society Linkwood from 2013 at home, let's see if this lives up?

a1eb610a1bd678beNose - There's that deep fruit, the fresh cask and the ripe, toffeed tropicality I expect from Linkwood, there was a time where I'd buy them every month. Fresh but hints of warm spice too, maybe it's leftover cinnamon from the Tullibardine but I don't think so, the balancing savoury spice is slightly more Indian and very well integrated. Classier with water.

Body – Pretty much bang on. There's fire here, and it threatens cardboard but the tropical fruit saves it. The fruit and cask integration just deepens with water, and brings whiteboard markers, a touch of fennel and splints/bunsen burner. It is absolutely delicious (if young and taking no prisoners).

Finish - Very long with a gentle fade out, pineapple juice and ripe cut mango. Slightly tannic in the same way limes are. By the end, buckets of tropical fruit, summer in a glass.

Highly recommended this, robust but very, very well made and clearly a fantastic cask. I hope they put something great in it after. A good one for prolonged periods of contemplation. But put your phone down!


SMWS 63.41, Glentauchers, Sluicy juicy and sweet, 9 years old, 61% A⊕

6th December 2007, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

16fcc86bfa43bb4fNose - Jeez these young casks from very dependable distilleries! Really creamy this one, with milk bottle sweets, coffee chocolates and toffee apples.

Body - What are those toffee chocolate things that burst open in your mouth? Cadbury eclairs I think, it's very hard trying to place all these things when you haven't had them for nearly 30 years. A really gentle delivery on this beautiful whisky though, luxurious fruits and lots of milk chocolate.

Finish - Long with perfumed fruit toffee and chocolate liqueurs. A little licked tobacco and some roast chicken skin.

Just a ridiculously good whisky for 9 years old - well recommended.


SMWS 84.23, Glendullan, Liquorice and peppermint concoction, 9 years old, 57.9% B

19th March 2008, 269 bottles, refill bourbon.  The name alone is a red flag.

c9e3ce8e87c6be23Nose - Thank goodness for that, a whisky that smells its age! Chalk and softmints, with green apple and cut runner beans. It's a green whisky, and quite a closed, new one too - slightly musky but very shy.

Body - White chocolate, then milk chocolate with cranberries and chilli. Blonde wood, hints of virgin oak (hang on, there's none in this outturn? And no French oak either!). This reminds me of Scallywag minus the sherry or something. More ordinary with water.

Finish - Medium short with cheap chocolate and fountain pen ink.

The definition of ordinary.

SMWS 72.54, Miltonduff, Margaritas in a car wash, 9 years old, 60% A+

14th February 2008, 222 bottles, refill bourbon. Really excited to try this as the name in the printed material is simply "Margaritas" and of course that's the only cocktail worth drinking ("Margharitas" on the website!). Maybe it breached Scotch Cocktail Association regulations.

25f208cd821d6a60Nose - I'm trying really hard and I'm getting lime tannins/wood as above, and I think I'm getting chapulines, which is a bit autosuggestive. With time definitely the lime, perhaps blue corn tortillas, quite a lot of buttercream icing and honestly a big hit of agave. How do you get all that out of a Miltonduff? Anyway - lime, masa, coriander and sawdust. Approved.

Body - Juicy, balanced sweetness, quite the sweetshop in here actually with a gentle wood musk and drying oils at the side of the mouth. Milk chocolate and milk foam.

Finish - Long but gentle, lots of lime and quite a big hit of red chilli. Gentler and milkier with water.

This is a tannin infused, challenging but delicious whisky. Definitely one for the bar, but a bottle for your consideration also, if that sounds like your sort of thing.


SMWS 35.192, Glen Moray, Full of vim and vigour, 10 years old, 61.5% A-

6th April 2007, 276 bottles, first fill port barrique (no mention of finishes). I've no idea what to think here, but it's a Glen Moray so it could easily be full term port.

[EDIT: This is labelled incorrectly and is actually first fill French oak barrique (new wood).  I haven’t edited the notes which are blind to this fact.]

55b5de9fb522fc61Nose - Hard with dark berries, virgin wood and black pepper buttercream (could that work on brisket?). Certainly a serious wine cask influence on the nose but it's not overly nutty and there's no sulphur. Very rich with water, lots of fruit toffee and a humidor, but the wine steps back a little.

Body - Ripe and delicious, there's proper cigar and whisky here, plus cashews, milk tart and cheap banana milkshake. Spicy though. Rich, pastry and tannins with water, and a little gunpowder.

Finish - Milky and pastry-y. Big hot tannins, just wood at the end.

A white whisky - creamy - but in a new oak cask. Quite subtle with the wine, I'm sure this is a short finish in the port cask and a young "could have been great" 35 behind it. There's lots to get into here, but it's not quite setting the world on fire. Worth a dram at the bar.

SMWS 64.95, Mannochmore, Jasmine candles and Moscow mules, 10 years old, 58.6% A+

25th October 2006, 234 bottles, first fill bourbon

249e501c829d813dNose - Perfumed - men's perfume though, and a real old school sweetshop note to it. An intense fruitiness that's also musky… kind of vegetal, puts me in mind of fruity high alpha hops. Intense and delicious. With time, the structure becomes more predominant, an excellent cask. Muskier and more masculine with water, with burnt caramel over fruit.

Body - Very sweet, very juicy - boiled sweets and musky, strawberry laces. Strawberries and whipped cream. A little more bitter, sharper, with more peppery wood as it develops in the glass. Slightly hollow with water, although there's more of a waxiness in the fruit.

Finish - Chalky and full of vanilla. Very creamy near the end, this is almost a cocktail in its own right, although it settles into numbing wood and peppercorns.

A complex whisky in the end. At first big fruit and excitement, then it settled down into something more grown up. Nice one.


SMWS 100.13, Strathmill, Feel-good fruit fancy, 12 years old, 59.3% A+

23rd February 2005, 209 bottles, refill bourbon

e1ec436d6ab50e83Nose - Fruit salad chews with a lick of unlit cigar tobacco and liquorice allsorts (here, as usual, it's the inner white foam bits or that blue hundreds and thousands one I'm thinking of). That balance of ripe fruit, musky tobacco and wood is spot on - getting on for old furniture vibes, which is impressive for a 12 year old Strathmill (yet another good one?). Slightly overripe (in a great way) with water, papaya on the turn, crushed peanuts with fish sauce, red soft liquorice.

Body - Same as the nose - balanced fruit and musk. A touch of gunpowder, lots of pineapple and a touch of black jacks (chewed in their wrapper?). Much better integration though with water, great structure and balance.

Finish - It's numbing and fizzing in the end though (at 60%), with wet wood, leather belt.

A really well matured, complex and rewarding (to drink) whisky.


SMWS 36.136, Benrinnes, Fruity tan spangle, 15 years old, 57.6% A+'

30th May 2002, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

2cd291cf0bff4253Nose - Simpler fruit than the Strathmill, but dustier, more wax, slightly medicinal and a touch of fennel. Chalky and waxy, fresh but grown up. Interesting and rather lovely. Even better with water, that medicinal quality is still there but it's more glazed, more important.

Body - Spice and fruit… then toffee and pepper. An odd sweet/savoury thing going on but lots of leather and liquorice. More peppery with water.

Finish - Toffee through to the end, with liquorice rizlas (which honestly haven't begun to cross my mind for over 20 years). Less exciting on the finish with water, oils and wax to the rescue.

Another cracker, great restraint and balance again, extremely drinkable, nearly didn't get to add water.


SMWS 9.128, Glen Grant, Scented candles on a fruit cake, 24 years old, 51.3% A⊕

16th November 1992, 172 bottles, refill bourbon

047b9f7b500401d1Nose - Pineapple upside down cake and muffins, sweet, soft, blueberry, long life muffins in a little plastic bag. Interesting to smell a long matured whisky after a bunch of really high spec younger ones, it's hard to put your finger on what's different and you do have to concentrate. This has an intensity of fruit - peach, plum and mango, and lit sandalwood joss sticks. Quite warm radiator too. Consider me interested.

Body - A delivery with gravitas, I'm not sure I can do this in 1cl. Peppery, lots of wood, big old cask though, nearly over the hill (almost too much wood). Clove and caraway too, with salted caramel and biting cigar smoke at the back of the throat - verging on peated. Definitely smoky with water.

Finish - Long and intense, real fireworks and lots of tannin, glaze and wood oils. Toffee pennies and chewing gum at the end. Bitter like burnt onions with water, odd echoes of chewed plastic.

This is a rollercoaster - all over the shop with some quite austere notes that vie with the fruit and old wood, but there's also a rich seam of luxury in this whisky and it ties it together.


SMWS 30.98, Glenrothes, Bring on the dancers, 25 years old, 46% A⊕+’

21st February 1992, 168 bottles, refill bourbon. This is the one I was looking forward to the most, it’s been quite the year for 25 year old bourbon Glenrothes..

7edb3c1fc1be3615Nose - Like most mature Glenrothes, this seems to be gentle, but complex and insistent. There's some real maturity in the wood here, slightly hidden behind orange curd and… actually it's not that hidden is it. Orange segments (nearly tangerine), hard, dark, lacquered oak, banana and sandalwood. It's proper fruity, like a silly old Diageo special release. If this was a Diageo special release, and it was £300, you'd be considering buying it at the moment (if that was the kind of thing you'd stretch to).

Body - <adds to basket>

Dusty, tropical, dank with roasted berries, plums and marzipan. Lots of old wood – although this isn't the American oak 30 year old Glenrothes I lust after, it's much more European with lots of dark vanilla. Pretty perfect though.

Finish - Short but creamy and full of pastry. The wood dominates a little here, but you can forgive a finish this short and woody for such luxurious fireworks in the delivery.

If this was bake-off I'd be shaking your hand.


SMWS 50.95, Bladnoch, Magical moments, 27 years old, 59.8% A⊕+

26th January 1990, 144 bottles, refill bourbon. I got a bit blasé about (excellent) 25 year old Bladnoch a couple of years ago (all the society ones were from this parcel) but I'm excited to try it at 27 in its posh bottle.

952590d5dccc3535Nose - It's still keeping it classy and old school, with crunchy pear and blue cheese salad, walnuts, wood glue, celery and a little Marlboro light tobacco. Even better with water, the sweet wood glue and fruit integrate better and it seems even more mysterious and austere.

Body - Dark and toasted, the age is really starting to show here, I might have been tempted to leave this another couple of years to make it truly magnificent. Wood spice, raspberry and burnt caramel, lemon shells and charred pork crackling with water.

Finish - Actually I think this has been pulled at the perfect time, any more wood and we'd be too far gone. A very long finish, with cigar tobacco and charred oak chunks. Lots of lingering lemon sherbet, and big, sour old wood.

A delicious, very complex and quite challenging whisky. A real thinker, and having personally had many casks from this parcel, this is a stand out.


But the Glenrothes is better.

SMWS 4.234, Highland Park, Sundowner dram, 15 years old, 59.7% A⊕

20th August 2001, 572 bottles, refill sherry butt

ab8c9316e18fd2a6Nose - Sweet but acrylic, slightly clarty and sporting a little funk from the sherry butt. A balance between sweat/musk, wine, fruit and that sweet and sour thing I've had from quite a lot of teenage HP recently. But that nutty sherry cask is rather lovely, and it has something of that special HP that I've been pining for for a while. There's also a proper bright, glazed quality here. Coffee and new furniture with water. Very appealing.

Body - Big, bright but very rich. Almost Islay in its peatedness. Flashes of sulphur and cashew nuts, great wood. Better with water, it just is.

Finish - Long and drying, lots of red wine tannins. It's long but that balance is superb; sugar, wood, vinegar, smoke. Mouth puckeringly tannic at the end. Rich and dirty with water, a touch of Asian supermarket.

This is a big whisky, the peat is quite intense and so is the funk.  Yum.


SMWS 66.106, Ardmore, Manly contentment, 8 years old, 61.2% A

23rd July 2008, 196 bottles, refill bourbon

efb788edf81a5860Nose - Ardmore never changes! Winey, dark, compelling peat, lots of damp cereal and rich sponge cake. Iron filings and an Autumn bonfire. It's a sticky chocolate cupcake on Islay, you know you want it.

Body - Perfectly judged. Wet fireplace though, you'll be tasting this for days. A chocolately peater, and really delicious.

Finish - Apart from the fireplace this is quite brief, with black pepper toffee and chewed pencil.

A really fecund nose, an absolutely delicious initial delivery, and even at 61.2% I didn't get round to adding water. Yum. Bottle and bar.


SMWS 10.120, Bunnahabhain, 'Winding-down', 9 years old, 60.5% A

7th February 2008, 192 bottles, refill bourbon

e5243268d1e39f27Nose - Sweet, sour and lacquered on inhale, lots of cereal on exhale, it's acrylic too though, with fat crayons and wood varnish. White wine, cigarettes and Chardonnay cask… hot radiator and white chocolate. Delicious as always. Better with water with sweetshop fruit, more medicinal but the malt has caught.

Body - Rich cereal, shreddies and candy cigarettes. Burnt rosemary. Cigarette tar with water, really heavily peated.

Finish - Medium with burning, sandy peat. Really seafoody with water and time,

These excellent, young Bunnas are delicious but a little hard to tell them apart sometimes. If you miss this month’s, get it next month.