Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Single Malts of Scotland, February 2017

It’s been a very long time since I was involved in a SMOS outturn, nearly three years ago and that was at a stood up, festival style tasting.  There are some lovely whiskies in here, my picks are the Glenburgie and Glenrothes, and would have been the Glen Moray but that’s been, gone and sold out a while ago.

Miltonduff 1999, 17 years old, 54.8% A

Cask #5012, refill hogshead (bourbon assumed)

mtdsdl1999Nose - Gentle, zesty, a little chalky with coffee undertones (maybe even talcum powder). Lightly waxy (birthday candles), cut oranges and posh apple juice. Chalky/waxy is more dominant than the citrus but this is beautifully fresh. Gentler fruit with water, a little milk chocolate.

Body - Lime curd and lemonade. Quite zippy neat, gunpowder or iron filings. Lemon zest with water, and lemon bonbons later on.

Finish - Medium to long, with satsuma skins and lots of oils (incense oils with water). Some bitterness with water and deodorant, black pepper at the end. Tropical burps.

A bright, zesty, quite hot but delicious whisky with lots of lemon. Good for bracing weather.

Glen Moray 2007, 8 years old, 59.1% A+

Cask #5134, first fill bourbon

gmysdl2007Nose - Sweet and simple with green apple, sawdust, vanilla cream icing, a very gentle cask musk and a little earth. Cleaner and colder fruit with water, dunnagey.

Body - Delicious - ripe orchard fruit balanced by zesty spirit. Slightly woodier with water. Extremely drinkable.

Finish - Short but fruity, with peppery chalky notes and a touch of musk at the end. Flapjacks with water.

This is a real cracker (I am growing ever fonder of Glen Moray). You could spend all evening with this. Recommended.

Glenburgie 1998, 17 years old, 54.1% A⊕

Cask #9914, "hogshead" presumed refill bourbon, 275 bottles

gbgsdl1998Nose - It wants to be clean and fruity and big but it's a little more restrained and interesting than that. Very sweet at first with tart tatin, but then kind of herbal and earthy like a new bag of potting compost. Mexican hot chocolate holds things back with its hollow complexity. So sort of like an earth filled pastry with olives and apple slices. And deodorant. I like it!

Body - Sweet, but zesty, but slightly spicy and sour - kind of a Thai curry thing going on, curry leaves, fish sauce and lots of red chilli, and meaty with coconut milk. Wow, that's delicious. Slightly less interesting with water but a more drawn out development

Finish - Long with that sour fish sauce running through it, and lots of toffee. Really umami. Salty on the tip of the tongue and more coconut at the end.

Slightly palate crushing this one, but phenomenally rich and tasty. I am such a sucker for complex and slightly funky Asian flavours in Scotch and this is seriously pushing my buttons.

Benrinnes 1995, 20 years old, 51.1% A+

Cask #9057, "hogshead" presumed refill bourbon, 281 bottles

brnsdl1995Nose - Sweet, toffeed with a milky, floral character. Baileys, Tippex and dried mango slices here, and a little milk tart. Seems tasty but a little simple. Cleaner and slightly more citrusy, and a little ozone with water.

Body - Aha much more interesting on the delivery, that musky, tropical richness I was hoping for with flecks of sulphur, spice and a rich backing of cream, cask and Wham bars. A little less good with water, that creamy, oily complexity was important.

Finish - Long and complete, the creamy note taking over from the fruit with the cask backing it all the way. Those milk bottle sweets at the end. Slight astringency with water, like liquorice root, but somehow much fruitier too. Tropical burps (of course!)

Super delicious this, all I could do to stop myself just drinking it.

Bruichladdich 1992, 23 years old, 55.4% A+

Cask #3839, "hogshead" presumed refill bourbon, 237 bottles

brusdl1992Nose - Unexpectedly coastal and slightly peated, this noses quite like a gentle (but young) Bruichladdich. More interesting with time and after sipping, pastry and wood glue. Restrained sweetness, cut flower stalks, toffee pennies and granite, this is quite a hard-nosed whisky from a relatively inactive cask.

Body - But the delivery starts to promise really great things, I'm not sure this should have been pulled quite so “young”! Rich pastry, a dusting of refreshers, great cask and a sour, almost overripe fruit. Retronasally tropical with petrol and cough candy. Surprisingly minty with water, not sure where that came from.

Finish - The finish is classic mature refill Bruichladdich, tannic but sweet on the tip of the tongue, approaching fizzers with apples at the end. And mint bonbons.

Interesting, delicious in the delivery, and quite arresting, but not something I'd want a whole bottle of.

Glenrothes 1989, 26 years old, 53.8% A⊕'

Cask #8172, refill "hogshead" presumed bourbon, 241 bottles

grssdl1989v2Nose - Flinty, creamy cereal (pinhead porridge with cream and whisky, my favourite holiday hotel breakfast), this is as honest and flawless as I'd expect, with each box ticked in a gentle and considered manner. Balanced, a little fizz, a gentle tropical Scotch, but very polite. Classier with water, the wood, the polish and the fruit step up another level.

Body - Green apple, apple pie, toffee and oils. There's something like chocolate liqueurs here - that weakly fruity and obviously boozy centre that coats your tongue - and coffee and cask round it out. Delicious, and very Glenrothes.

Finish - Very long, with tannins and ripe cut pear. Cleaner and more orchardy with water.

This is as good as I'd hoped. Highly recommended.

Tormore 1988, 28 years old, 63.3% A⊕

Cask #0602, bourbon barrel presumed refill, 165 bottles

torsdl1988v2Nose – Waxy and chocolatey, more damn apples, slightly more tropical than the Glenrothes, with a lovely hazelnut cask backing that hints at coastal, hints at peat but just feels like elegant, mature, waxy Scotch.  It's lovely. 63.3% is very high for 28 and so hopes are high for water - which makes it fruitier and richer, but still elegant with more walnuts than hazelnuts.

Body - Nuts and apples, sour, rich, berries, herbal and tannic like a red wine cask. Slightly musky, spicy ethanol. A lot richer, a lot cakier with water, banana and walnut loaf.

Finish - Very long and very tasty, liquorice torpedoes and Sichuan peppercorns, quite meaty and lots of nuts and chocolate at the end. That walnut loaf is right through the end of it with water.

What a rich and delicious whisky.

Bunnahabhain, 28 years old, 46.8% A⊕+

Cask #100229, presumed refill bourbon, 344 bottles

bunsdl1988v1Nose - Classic 28 year old Bunnahabhain, hard oak but big fruit, not quite hubba bubba (it's the 38 year old stuff where it gets really meta). Marmalade and Malboro lights.

Body - Soft but sour, like the afterglow of a big lambic beer, this brings the Asian funk of the Glenburgie but it's clearly older - older fruit, slightly lactic, really mouthfilling. Older, some sulphur, some tobacco with water.

Finish - Long with fruit tarts, fruit toffees and fruit chocolate. And Nutella.

You can't beat mature Bunnahabhain. There seems to be an endless supply of it with the indies, but this is a good one. Robust against the fruit, old but with real flavour, like I like them.

Ledaig 2004, 12 years old, 58.1% A+

Cask #1030, "hogshead" presumed refill bourbon, 327 bottles.  Lower the Ledaig trap!

ldgsdl2004Nose - Clean, cold and as sweet as a winter sunset on a beach in Kent. Cold white wine, salt and vinegar monster munch (which I don't think exist although may have once) and wet slate tiles. Sweeter and even more corny with water.

Body - Hot dogs, toast and charred peaches with lime, Chapulines and Cajeta. Actually the nose is quite goaty now you come to mention it…

Finish - Competition BBQ rub, really sweet with soft brown sugar and mace. Oily.

This is a superbly tasty Ledaig, not just a young bruiser but well matured and a great cask pick, the kind of thing that would be (rightly) gone by 9:30am at SMWS. Yet here it sits, still in stock…

Highly recommended.

Ledaig 2005, 11 years old, 56.8% A⊕

Cask #900161, sherry butt, 564 bottles. "The third cask we have released from a parcel of sherry butts we have been nurturing for some years" - hopes are high.

ldgsdl2005v1Nose - Sweetly charred, gastrique and black cherries, cigar tobacco and blackcurrant jam. The fruit is so soft and succulent, the peat is so robust and in your face… but the blackcurrant jam and travel sweets makes it all better. More intense with water, liquorice imps and burning hashish.

Body - Ah… oddly young and slightly virgin oakey in the delivery, I am surprised at that. But it has that intense cigar tar and burnt coffee thing that makes me think of Octomore, and big, fruity tannins.

Finish - Pure sweet shop, haribo and big blue chewy dolphin sweets. Cola bottles and pineapple cubes.

This is a really intense whisky, much more of an Octomore than a Ledaig. So much tar and fruit, it's perhaps even more intense, and the kind of thing that would knock you sideways at a whisky festival.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Laddie MP Brunello “in depth”

I taste a lot of flights, a lot of outturns, where I am comparing many different (usually cask strength) whiskies from different distilleries in one sitting.  The trick there is to consume as little as possible whisky, the maximum being 1cl, bigger outturns are one sip neat, one sip with water.  This allows me to assess and make notes for a whole outturn (over the course of a few hours with lots of water) without becoming drunk and unable to smell and taste properly.  I do enjoy it, it appeals to the archivist in me (hence this blog) but it’s not exactly “drinking” or a fun night out, when I’m with people and doing it I kind of have to stop talking and concentrate.  It isn’t very sociable.

So I was very interesting in taking part in this tasting.  Longrow Ed has been doing an in-depth tasting of bottles for a while now, where he and two friends test a whole bottle “to destruction” over the course of a whole evening.  The exact opposite of my usual approach.  Each person tastes 225ml of the bottle over the course of 5 drams (4 * 50ml + 25ml) and a few hours and makes whatever notes they like.  You get to see how it develops over time and can spot the exact point at which your palate expires!  Mine was during the 4th for sure. 

This time it was a Micro Provenance Bruichladdich, finished in Brunello wine cask, bottled for Belgium and bought at auction by Ed.  A beautiful thing.



Bruichladdich Micro Provenance, 1992, 18 years old, 51.2% A⊕

IMG_1282Original cask bourbon, Quercus Alba, filled 12.02.92 at 63.6%

Moved to Brunello wine cask on 17.01.07

Bottled 21.09.10 for Belgium, 288 bottles

My score (A⊕) remained the same throughout the night, so I won’t report it each dram (although I did record it)

Dram 1 (left to breath for 30 minutes)

IMG_1284Nose - Sharp red wood, cherry wood, some joss sticks, A lovely balance of wood (astringent, confident, fruit wood). Quite earthy, herbal - bamboo? There's a slightly young note in this dram. With water, slightly more mineral, the young note subsides. Really delicious.

Body - Quite sharp, lots of varnish, surprisingly warm and soft with it though. Warmed cherry jam. Beautifully rich but highly wooded and really delicious. Then lots of red wine, slightly spicy, some refreshers. Really opening up with the wine with water - gentle red wine, light spice and black pepper.

Finish - Lovely sweet cereal. Reasonably short but there's a lingering liquorice and fizzing refreshers.

Dram 2

IMG_1283Nose - Slightly fruitier here, perhaps even more wood. But that wine and refreshers is beautiful.

Body - Sweeter and better rounded now, more of the refreshers. Quite a lot of tannins. But glazed… boiled sweets, toffee apple. The red wine is present but very well integrated; aniseed gobstoppers and cherries. A wonderful balance between wood, wine and sweetshop.

Finish - Really balanced sweetness.

This is a really beautiful, complex, drinkable, confident whisky.   Interesting how the hard edges are worn off with my palate coated in this whisky, and the wine and fruit come through more.

Dram 3

IMG_1285Pine needles, walnut skin bitterness. Excellent tannins.

More nutty now with hard toffee, mouth filling, slightly chalky, and finally some chocolate. Just absolutely delicious.

Dram 4

IMG_1286Coffee and chocolate. Slightly biscuity now, oat cakes? More cherry jam, buttercream icing and vanilla.

Dram 5

A lot more tannic. My palate is gone now though.

As you can imagine there was a lot more talking and a lot less writing notes by the end, which is a great way to taste a whisky – appreciate it as a taster first and then a drinker.  It’s also quite liberating to not be left with a bottle at the end!

The next time I’ll do it will be with a Longrow in Chardonnay cask, can’t wait.

Thanks Ed!

Cadenheads March 2017 Authentic Collection

More of the monthly outturns at Cadenheads for the 175th anniversary, this time a concerted effort to actually have any stock available and not have it all sell out immediately!  It’s actually worked, with lots of this still available.

These bottles all have the 175th anniversary packaging,with a tartan box and copper swing tag – this packaging will only be used this year so handy for dating bottles in the future. 

Picks for me that have sold out – the Pulteney and the Dufftown (of course).  Still in stock the Glen Moray and an absolutely epic red wine cask Glendullan.

Pulteney 2006, 11 years old, 56.1% A+'

294 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1447Nose - Clean, fresh, a little salty with a slightly sour note (flat cloudy cider perhaps) but there's a lovely green apple cask note here too. Chalky bonbons, cold red wine and strawberry laces. And a touch of acetone. This is a lovely, clean nose, like a deep breath in the mountains somewhere cold when you're used to living in suburbia. Creamier - more fruit and more chocolate - with water, it really opens up.

Body - Clean, but with posh milk chocolate, salted caramels and ripe, cut pears. A really creamy delivery with a zesty, almost tequila-y top note punching you in the sinuses. Fruitier with water, like Amarula.

Finish - Long - toffee and nut chocolates (snickers bar maybe), Ovaltine and perhaps black jacks. A lovely, woodsey, slightly bitter complexity with water. Something slightly formic at the end, like eating ants.

Quite a special whisky this one, this would be good for an in-depth whisky tasting. Delicious, complex and well balanced.

Glen Spey 2001, 15 years old, 56.4% A

288 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1442Nose - Mineral, slightly lactic, preserved lemons and cut flowers. Lemon meringue pie actually, with fizzy vitamin C tablets. Fresh but dusty. Slightly cakier with water, fruitier.

Body - Sweet and mineral again, a really bracing but tasty delivery with licked metal and full of apple pie. Toppy and slightly sour (cooking apples) but that fizzing richness backs it up. Much sweeter with water, even brighter, a much more robust whisky.

Finish - Short and sweet, boiled sweets and bio oil. Longer with water, gunpowder and cardboard behind the apple pie.

A great, young, zesty drammer ideal for hiking or hot summer days.

Glengoyne 1996, 20 years old, 54% B+

234 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1448Nose - Meatier and sweeter that the Glen Spey (initially) with toast, stewed apples, cut mango and a little bit of Nesquik. Perhaps a touch of fountain pen ink if you approach it gingerly… much better with water, good cask wax, a little pineapple and milk chocolate.

Body - A rich, milky delivery, more of that cardboard though and an astringent note like apple pips. Creamier with water.

Finish - Medium, zesty (fizzing at the side of the tongue) but a little ordinary. Chocolate milk with water.

Tasty and very drinkable but a little ordinary. A great nose promises more than the whisky delivers, although that is improved with water.

Glenlossie 1993, 23 years old, 53% A+

216 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1444Nose - Night and day to the Glengoyne, this is much more mature and full on the nose. Ripe apple, raisin, foam bananas, orange zest, floor polish and double cream. Orange juice and old red wine with water. Really promising…

Body - Waxy and oddly fruited, like chewing on plastic book covering. A really creamy sweetness behind this (like whipped cream and passion fruit). A touch of tobacco on second sip. More chocolate and paper with water, very distinct Sichuan peppercorns.

Finish - Quite long but the fruit falls away quite quickly, leaving wood bitterness, lemon peel and a little wax.

A cracking whisky, that tropical, citrus fruit with the very mature nose and the numbing peppercorns makes it extremely drinkable, although the whole thing doesn't quite blow me away - I think the delivery lacks the richness to make this really come together.

Tullibardine 1993, 23 years old, 47.1% B

270 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1450Nose - Apples, leather bound furniture, Hershey's chocolate and almond wood polish. It's quite astringent though, you have to fight for the excellent depth and chocolate.

Body - Chalk, light wax and retronasal sulphur. Menthol cigarettes and perhaps a little mint aero bar. More mint toffee with water.

Finish - Quite short, cappuccino with chocolate powder, then Pacers (a long gone minty chew sweet) and walnut oil. Even stronger Pacers with water.

Quite an unsatisfactory whisky, to be honest. Nothing "wrong" with it per se, but I don't find it that interesting.

Strathmill 1993, 24 years old, 49.3% A+

156 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1451Nose - Overripe apples, slightly funky and mucky (thank goodness), with peaches and petrol and a balancing sweet acidity. But warm and waxy too. Ripe pears and chocolate with water. This could go anywhere next…

Body - Creamy, rich and lots of citrus zest, with cigarette tobacco, cocoa powder and coconut macarons.

Finish - Medium, very creamy and chocolatey. Grapefruit zest at the end with a touch of charred meat.

A rich but rather elegant whisky, with a good balance of fruit and oils across the nose and delivery

Glen Moray 1991, 25 years old, 51.4% A⊕

246 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1445Nose - Orange wax and vanilla sponge open this one, maybe it's beeswax and orange curd actually. There's a rich, Christmassy feel to this, candied peel and custard, pine needles. Chocolate cover marzipan with water, and an even better cask musk.

Body - Big, bright and rich, a complex cask influence of (I assume) refill bourbon over a long maturation. Gentle cigar tobacco and royal icing. Extremely tasty, hard to stop sipping, even better with water…

Finish - Long and full of orange oils, persistent tannins. Tea bags at the end, in fact.

I'm struggling to remember a Glen Moray I didn't like. This one is no exception.

Inchgower 1989, 27 years old, 53.2% A+

234 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1449Nose - Salt and slightly coastal chalk here, sawdust and white chocolate. Hot crayons and petals. Charred wood. Water and time brings Chardonnay and hop pellets.

Body - Lightly peated, lots of toffee and a chewed tea bag, and biltong, oddly. There's a fruit, or a jam here - tempted to say marmalade (and it has that fruity warmth) but perhaps apricot? Really delicious. More tannins with water, more biltong, even more delicious.

Finish - Café latte, black pepper steak, lots of varnished wood at the end, cigarillos.

Delicious and considered, but not too challenging. A great drinker.

Dufftown 1978, 38 years old, 44.6% A⊕+

180 bottles, bourbon hogshead. Predictably, this one has sold out.

IMG_1446Nose - Classy and considered; toffee, deep wax, ancient, alien fruit (but not in your face) and Grand Marnier against school hall polish and crushed grass/dandelion stalks. Even more wax and fruit with water.

Body - Big, creamy and important, a fantastic cask here well forgotten at the back of that warehouse! Hot chocolate, dandelion flowers, mango and a touch of blue goat's cheese. Again, every better with a drop of water - it's brighter and more intense, more ripe, fresh fruit skin than baked fruit.

Finish - Very long, slightly spicy and very rich. Well balanced tropical, deep wood at the end with fruit toffee. More tannins with water.

This is a deeply delicious "big old whisky" and was worth every penny to those that picked one up (and it was freely available on the website earlier in the week). I highly recommend you open your bottle of it.

Glendullan 1996, 20 years old, 52.4% A⊕+

252 bottles, bourbon hogshead, then in Chateau Laffite wine cask since 2009.  Amazingly this is still in stock at time of writing (I might pick up another).

IMG_1443Nose - Rich but slightly harder than expected (although I should have had it before the 38 year old Dufftown), red cherries and red wine stew, cherry wood chunks and "berry" fruit tea. Tempted to bung in pipe tobacco but maybe that's down to the cherry association. More wood, more cleaning products with water.

Body - Wow - that is a serious red wine finish; rich, nutty, obviously bags of red cherries, chocolate and a really gripping… just one second. The fruit here is enormous, like Ribena (or maybe Vimto), but with stewed tea and tobacco. A little sulphur with water.  Seriously delicious.

Finish - Really long and really delicious, these red wine casks are really doing it for me recently. Cloves, neat orange squash and incense oil at the end but the whole thing is just balanced and delicious throughout. Flashes of sulphur help too.

Another absolute blockbuster red wine cask finish. Highly recommended.

Bowmore 2002, 14 years old, 53.7% A-

276 bottles, bourbon hogshead

IMG_1441Nose - Lemon biscuits, sand, it's a bit hard to land back in lemons after the last two but there's also charred driftwood, pastry and fried rosemary. Grapier with water, a touch of plastic and chocolate hundreds and thousands with water.

Body - A gentle, complete delivery, introduced with peat and chocolate and ending with white wine and toffee. More herbal with water.

Finish - Long with tobacco, iron filings and black pepper crisps.

Classic young Bowmore, which I'm quite tired of now - I've had too many. Tasty stuff, but unremarkable.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Two very different Glenlivets

These are very far apart, an engineered official NAS that I expected to like less than I did, and a very old single independent cask that I expected to like more!  Both enriching in their own different ways!

Glenlivet Cipher, 48% A

the-glenlivet-cipher-whiskyNose - A gentle but considered nose. There's a lot going on here, and it's well done - a big cask musk, ripe pear, heather honey and… wax and red wine, strawberry laces and even a touch of bandage. Don't expect a bland, characterless NAS whisky, this has beautiful warmth, depth and balance.

Body - Peppery with beeswax, not as fruity as the nose would suggest, not as full either, but there's good dry wood and tannins and a flinty bonbons and a touch of fried red chilli.

Finish - Medium but quite sharp with toffee and young first fill bourbon.

A really lovely nose on this, less complex on the delivery but a good drinker.

Cadenheads Glenlivet, 42 years old, 40.2% A⊕

glenlivet-42-year-old-1973-small-batch-wm-cadenhead-whiskyNose - Gentle (well it is nearly not whisky), slightly sour, blackboards and beeswax, and buckets of old, tropical Scotch. A little bit naughty, like coconutty suntan cream with Chardonnay, plus bakewell slices and a little petrol and plastic book coverings. Retronasal Haribo.

Body - Very low ABV this. Old national trust library, with blue cheese on toast, brick coloured red wine, briefly licked cigar tobacco and milliput. It's like diluted old Tomatin, with stilton and cigars.

Finish - Very, very long, with orange squash, white truffle, blood orange zest and glace cherries. Gently tannic after the (literally) minutes it takes the finish to run through, more of that stilton rarebit.

Just saved from destruction by last minute bottling, this is a fascinating curio that requires constant attention, it's just so gentle. That said, I absolutely love the nose, an infinite finish, not overwooded… if only it was higher ABV it might have been sublime. A word of warning, approach this whisky very carefully. It does not follow others well and requires an intact palate to appreciate it, the fruit is very fragile indeed.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Glenmorangie Bacalta

This is the eighth in the Private Edition series.  Some funny business with the casks here – this has been in ex-bourbon of some kind and then finished in casks which have been especially “sun baked” in the rafters of vineyards while full of Malmsey Madeira wine.  Then heavily charred (or heavily charred beforehand) with the Glenmorangie finished in them. 

I must say this is extremely drinkable.  I was a bit nonplussed when I opened the bottle but the more I’ve lived with it the more I’ve come to enjoy it.  A very well constructed whisky.

Glenmorangie Bacalta, 46% A

glenmorangie-bacalta-private-edition-whiskyNose - Newly opened it's ripe, berried, quite balanced in its sweetness. With time, a lot cakier. Definitely a wine cask here, well restrained. Roasted plums, vanilla cream. There's a very gentle cask here with honeyed danish pastries and sawdust that's rather nice. I get the sun baked thing, it’s almost musky with water. It's too cold to really feel that though I need to return to this bottle in August.

Body - Warm and creamy, soft roasted plums again, with a developing toffee fruit. The wine is very faint to be honest. Really rich, creamy and cakey with time, peaches and apple Danish pastry. Everything is turned down a notch with water except the peaches.

Finish - Biscuity. An echo of just crushed malted barley. Barley sugar, even a little cough candy.

A rich, sweet whisky, very gentle and certainly very drinkable (the longer I've had the bottle the more drinkable I've found it). The wine finish is there, I cannot flaw the integration, and I could chug through this all evening. It is the very definition of an A score for me. Still available and recommended.  Good stuff.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

SMWS March 2017 Outturn

First things first.  This is an excellent outturn (and a big one).  A blockbuster sherried Soctia, a haunting old Jura and a whole slew of younger bourbon whiskies that are all full of character and class.  There’s the now expected bunch of Virgin Oak finishes that I find tiring but some of these are, despite that, great and my picks from this outturn include one (37.86, Cragganmore, Juicy and delightful).  Virgin oak, like sulphur, is a dangerous game but when it pays off it really does


New bottle design.

This outturn is the first with the new bottle labels, capsules and corks.  Of course we saw some of the new bottles (without labels) last month, but this outturn has some (not all) in new bottles.  The label is taller than it used to be and the texture of it is matt, rough paper where the old one was shiny smooth plastic. The writing for the date and cask is so small it’s almost illegible.  The print does rub off and the labels, being paper, stain easier (although the old plastic ones could lose their print if they got very wet).  The cork has a new plastic upper with a new design on it (more baroque), and there is a coloured stripe in different positions on each bottle that denotes the flavour profile.  I like this, the flash of colour gives some depth to the name of the bottle (look at the Glen Scotia), and makes each bottle a little less austere.  The colour extends to the capsule but that gets thrown away when you open it.


Overall I think the new bottles are excellent.  I must admit, I find having so many identical bottles quite boring and this is just enough interest, change and differentiation between the bottles to get over that, without making them too flamboyant.


SMWS 41.93, Dailuaine, Little house on the prairie, 10 years old, 59.3% A+

23rd March 2006, 204 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1402Nose - Immediately interesting with bright, appley malt and a good balance of youthful sugars and perfume. But there is a slightly strange solventy, lactic note to it and a touch of Cheerios. Quite a confusing nose but Dailuaine's spirit is undeniably excellent. Earthy, even dunnagey with a touch of water, like a freezing cold warehouse tour.

Body - Hot, spicy and intensely sweet, quite new makey in its perfumed brightness but there's wax and orange zest behind that. More complete with water, the malt spirit and cask come together with sweet toffee, coffee and a little marmalade.

Finish - Quite long, very sweet with chewed aspirin. Hard woods with water, black pepper.

A confident whisky, bright, hard and lovely to drink and quite memorable for all its youth and refill-ness. Recommended.


SMWS 70.15, Balblair, Tasty and mouth-puckering, 11 years old, 57.6% A+'

11th May 2005, 198 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon.

IMG_1404Nose - Fascinating, a great deal of distillery character and a lovely cask in one so young. Balancing the sugars with biscuity malt, ripe nectarine skin, toffee, faint cigar tobacco and a little satsuma. A lovely nose, really elegant and interesting. Slightly fruitier with water, but younger seeming, the hard oak of a very refill grain.

Body - Sweet and delicious, following up those orange notes in the nose with bitter orange and orange chews. There is young spirit here but it's very well played again. More delicious with water - brings out the tasty oranges and zest.

Finish - Deep and sweet but sharp and almost sour from the spirit. Very long with lots of orange at the end. Cakier with water, quite oily, and quite peppery at the end.

You'd be very pleased if you picked up a bottle of this 11 year old in the Balblair distillery shop. Lots of character, a sympathetic cask, and delicious fruit.


SMWS 36.125, Benrinnes, Curiosity dram, 12 years old, 59.8% A⊕'

17th June 2004, 168 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

IMG_1403Nose - Coffee, chocolate spread on pancakes, slightly biscuity, I'm thinking of this Breton crispy biscuit/tuile thing ("Crepe Dentelles"). Then there's that tropical wax I was expecting - dried mango slices, tobacco. Effortlessly fruity but… curiously biscuity. Slightly harder with water, back with the chocolate.

Body - Very impressive, the fruit of a much older whisky. Perfectly ripe peach, more mango, perhaps water melon. Intensely sweet but totally balanced by sharp spirit and wood. And there's a ripe, waxed character to this that underlines the tropicality. That biscuitiness returns with water and it's even sweeter.

Finish - Medium, orange oils at the end. Like biting into a slice of ripe mango. Numbing with Sechuan peppercorns with water but so much oil - the oils persist for minutes.

Completely delicious - tropical fruits, oils, orange, and not overdone - it's nearly a cocktail but much more grown up. One of the best judged (young) first fill bourbon casks I've had. Highly recommended.


SMWS 48.84, Balmenach, Seize the moment, 12 years old, 57.7% A⊕

8th March 2004, 216 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

IMG_1405Nose - Lighter, more restrained, more clay-led in comparison to the Benrinnes, this is wax and milk chocolate and toffee pennies. Thick skinned lemons, lemon sorbet and rain on the car for a very early start. Fruitier with water, and just a hint of charcoal.

Body - Thick and sweet with yet more oranges, very creamy - clotted cream and cut plums. Sweeter with water, but also sharper - gooseberry fool?

Finish - Long and nearly cloying, full fat milk and Cadbury's chocolate with baked plums and marzipan (probably by association).

This is another lovely, very drinkable whisky. Sweet, fruity but balanced.


SMWS G4.11, Cameronbridge, A happy gathering, 37 years old, 50.0% A⊕

28th May 1979, 210 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1419Nose - Lightly sweet, the solventy grain hidden behind the weight of so many years. It's reminiscent of a Bladnoch, baked apple and pastry, and new bed sheets. Very gentle, very relaxing, with vague citrus (orange peel, lime juice) and buttercream icing. Royal icing with water.

Body - This is as sweet as the first fillers previously tasted but the very refill cask and the very many years give you a pillowy landing into the sugar. Apple juice, desiccated coconut (bounty bars), coconut cookies. Balanced, and frighteningly drinkable.

Finish - Long and surprisingly tannic, the oak becoming fruity - this is a blast of summer for a cold February day (Chardonnay, strawberry jam, buttered scones). Slightly hollower with water, it was perfect without, but that brings ripe green apple and a touch of tobacco.

A totally crushable 37 year old grain whisky. Absolutely delicious but doesn’t shout “grain”..


SMWS 35.183, Glen Moray, A polar bear's birthday cake, 14 years old, 57.4% A+

11th December 2001, 186 bottles, 1st fill bourbon

IMG_1423Nose - Rich with dried fruits, red wine, and lots of good waxy cask (remember when you first smelled a really good, unpeated bourbon cask? It's like your first cigarette, which this also smells a little of). Window putty, men's perfume, some tropical fruit which I can't quite place and vanilla cream. More of that lovely cask with water.

Body - Sharp (with the alcohol) but rich, creamy and biscuity. Toothpaste late in the delivery, hot mint. I can see why this is a polar bear's cake!

Finish - Quite long, chalky mint bon-bons and bitter woods at the end.

Another delicious whisky but that "hot mint" thing really builds into the finish and knocks it down a few for me, although the next sniff before a sip and you're back into it.

SMWS 9.115, Glen Grant, Real finesse, 20 years old, 60.5% A⊕

23rd April 1996, 240 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1425Nose - A lovely old waxy cask here again, but it has red wine cask, rather than red wine, and so much clay/putty/acrylic. Orange sorbet, melon, cut grass with water. A perfect age on this one.

Body - Bright and hot, orange curd and grapefruit juice. Much gentler with water, more orange squash.

Finish - Coffee, a little dirt, cocoa powder later. Tannic with water, more oils, and some calvados and apple pips right at the end.

Absolutely delicious this - a great dram for a proper conversation at the bar. Bit ordinary (perhaps) for a whole bottle but you'd see it off pretty quickly if you were chucking the cork away with some mates (actually I'd definitely recommend that).

SMWS 112.13, Inchmurrin, A labyrinth of flavour, 9 years old, 57.3% A+

21st May 2007, 264 bottles, 2nd fill Madeira hogshead (no mention of previous casks)

IMG_1427Nose - Rich but young wine cask, unmistakably Madeira (vanilla, rich cake and sherry), really chalky in inhale, sour and solventy on exhale. Cigar boxes, fresh cut flowers and black cherry. A lovely touch of sulphur and wax with water.

Body - A little bit of icing sugar, a little bit of cigarette papers, but good sherry, fruit and balancing wood sours (although perhaps thin, balsa wood). Plywood and fennel fronds with water.

Finish - Medium to short, refreshers, cumin seeds and licked oak. Much longer with water and a really compelling, mouthfilling biscuity richness.

This is a gentle, balanced whisky with a really considered wine cask influence and good woods. It is not a sherry bomb by any stretch.



SMWS 93.70, Glen Scotia, Old cars and cigars, 17 years old, 53.4% A⊕'

30th June 1999, 234 bottles, finished in 1st fill Spanish oak Oloroso* hogshead

*It says Oloroso on the papers I have, not on the label. Previously from a bourbon hogshead.

IMG_1416Nose - It really does smell like a classic car that's been smoked in. Distressed brown leather, old cigar tobacco. But that was a fleeting first impression, as what's taking over now is an absolutely arresting women's perfume - a really sweet, floral, expensive and quite sexy one. Then again, there's sweet, toffeed malt, like sticky, spilt wort, with fig rolls and mixed spice (from a raw Christmas pudding batter). A touch of soft liquorice and raw gingerbread dough with water. A phenomenal nose.

Body - It's a big one. Definitely an Oloroso cask this, big dark fruits and hazelnuts, fruit and nut bar, sour with a touch of Gastrique and red cherries. Lacks a little midrange with water.

Finish - More fruit, a flash of sulphur (very good), sweetshop fruits and the Oloroso nuts to the end.

This is pretty epic. A very well judged finish, nothing overdone and completely enticing on the nose. Very highly recommended.


SMWS 31.34, Jura, Muted Hebridean smoke, 28 years old, 48.3% A⊕

27th September 1988, 192 bottles, 1st fill charred ex-red wine hogshead

It says "previously in a hogshead" and "1st fill hogshead/ex-red wine" on the label. So I am assuming this is refill bourbon finished in 1st fill charred ex-red wine.

IMG_1418Nose - Mineral sharp, almost salt and vinegar, with Marlboro light tobacco, Mezcal and more of that old leather from the Scotia - this time it's with old men rather than rich women. That Mezcal though, it's unmistakable, and I fear the virgin oak - how re-charred was the cask? There is a reluctant sweetness here too, a malt and cask that's on the other side of the Mezcal - chocolate biscuits and pipe tobacco.

Body - Remarkable. What an interesting, strange, gentle and exciting whisky! Red berries, cherry tobacco, crayons and orange oils. Lapsang souchong tea, a twisted, flamed orange peel.

Finish - Long and very drying. Lots of fruit, finally, in the finish here, and some red wine character (berries, spice).

Another whisky in this outturn that wears its very sweet nature very well. Quite a journey this one, an unexpectedly complicated one. But very delicious, yet again. The nose on this is particularly compelling, over time. Haunting.


SMWS 44.76, Craigellachie, Laid-back indulgence, 14 years old, 57.5% A+

6th November 2002, 240 bottles, finished in virgin oak hogshead (previously ex-bourbon)

IMG_1417Nose - Hard and burnt compared to the Jura - but what am I supposed to do with these potentially palate wrecking VO finishes? Café latte, hazelnut praline, poster paints and French cooked pastry. Now this seems rich, relaxed and deep, like a good (but sweet) rum. Lots of chocolate with water.

Body - That burnt toffee note again, honey roasted peanuts, vanilla pods in sugar and something musky, like truffled honey. It is quite… obvious though. More delicious with water, it's like a big bite of a French tart - very brown pastry, custard and oddly tasteless strawberries on top.

Finish - Bananas, caramel and cream. Long and aggressively woody (like a grain, again) with water, but that is balanced by this patisserie.

Extremely drinkable, this would be an excellent choice at the bar because of the intense fruit, balanced by wood. But it'd be too much over the course of a bottle.


SMWS 66.96, Ardmore, Sets embers glowing inside, 8 years old, 60.5% A+

23rd July 2008, 210 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1422Nose - Ripe peat, toppy and solventy with acetone, TCP, crisp green apples and hot electrical insulation. A squeezed lemon and an opened (but long dormant) sourdough starter. It is very green. A little more ordinary, although still delicious with water.

Body - Dusty, creamy, soft, with coffee and tobacco backing it up.

Finish - Smoking a cigarette and drinking a white Russian. Very long. Mexican chocolate made with black pepper and water… with water.

This is the kind of classic Society drammer that you have for the road, perfect bar and bottle.


SMWS 37.86, Cragganmore, Juicy and delightful, 16 years old, 57.3% A+'

22nd August 2000, 270 bottles, VO finish, "previously in a hogshead"

IMG_1426Nose - Definitely juicy, perfumed and casky. Talcum powder, incense cones, hard plums and rain. Apple wood, probably - the VOness is quite subtle but unmistakable once you've found it. The original cask reasserts itself with water (vanilla, wax and musk) but that yellow fruit from the delivery is still deliciously present.

Body - Pine; toilet cleaner, pine nuts, lemons and grapefruit. And a touch of pineapple, but loads of grapefruit. Richer and a little more complex with water, but it's so damn yellow. The character is like a tequila with a lime in it, followed by a swig of sol. That really works.

Finish - Lemon pith and zest, Sechuan peppercorns, party rings. More oils, more integration with water. Very tannic at the end with that grapefruit really singing.

When virgin oak finishes absolutely nail it. Luck or judgement? I've no idea, if I'd've done it it'd be the former but this is undeniably fantastic. Highly recommended for those who have so far stayed clear of them.


SMWS 1.203, Glenfarclas, Promotes optimism, 19 years old, 53.4% A

5th March 1997, 192 bottles, VO finish, "previously in ex-bourbon wood"

IMG_1421Nose - Leather, red wine, red berries, chocolate peanuts and pop tarts. Again, the original cask coming through with water - vanilla and honey, but dustier and whiter.

Body - Very much like an old, watered bourbon, it feels about 36% rather than 53%. Rocky roads and toothpaste again. Oddly, richer and more of the VO with water, cakier.

Finish - Long but gentle, with coffee, sherry cask, love hearts and soap. Coffee cake with water. Pancakes at the end.

Delicious, well matured and very well rounded. But no cajones.


SMWS 26.118, Clynelish, Happiness is a warm hug!, 16 years old, 52.4% A

6th April 2000, 180 bottles, finished in a virgin oak hogshead (previously ex-bourbon)

IMG_1433Nose - Extremely rich again (these VO casks are wood monsters), the spirit struggles to break through. I can, with effort, find that chalky bonbon minerality, and wax from the bourbon cask, a little ground sea shell from the spirit. Battered round the head by chocolate cake. It's tasty though. Victoria sponge with water - dusted with cream and strawberry jam.

Body - Initially, spicy red VO, then balanced chocolate, wood and wax. It's verging on bourbon levels of dark sweetness. Water makes this intensely sweet with a touch of tobacco, wood becomes more prominent.

Finish - Long and fruity, extremely sweet - more chocolate cake. Dolly mixture with water.

This is undeniably delicious to drink, although a bit soulless.

SMWS 46.51, Glenlossie, A tapestry of flavour, 23 years old, 54.4% B

17th November 1992, 258 bottles, finished in virgin oak hogshead (previously "in a hogshead")

IMG_1432Nose - Ripe, warm, waxy and fruity. Very waxy in fact, parquet floors and crayons. Earthy - soil, cut flower stems, more coffee and chocolate. Fruitier with water, strawberry laces, orange and lemon slices in water.

Body - Rich, so incredibly sweet. Cookie dough. It's like a chocolate milkshake with water.

Finish - Long and cloying, I can't get past the cookie dough. Maybe coffee with cream. Tropical burps though, I wonder what this poor Glenlossie was like before it got oaked?

Too, too much. Sweetened, oak flavoured malt spirit.

SMWS 29.209, Laphroaig, More reviving than smelling salts, 19 years old, 50.1% A+

26th November 1996, 258 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_1431Nose - Sweet, sharp, salt and vinegar crisps, slightly dirty peat here, hallelujah. Lemonade, lemon biscuits, and a cold Saison. This is a refreshing, coastal nose and has something that reminds me of a school chemistry lab to it. Ice pops with water.

Body - Certainly a breath of fresh air after those VO casks, nevertheless the impression is one of dirty peat, fresh, cold fruit (apple, pear, peach) and a little bit of bandage.

Finish - Medium and really sweet, but Islay always is. Red sauce from an ice cream cone, and cheap ice cream.

Delicious as always, unremarkable though in the long line of excellent society Laphroaigs.

SMWS 10.108, Bunnahabhain, Yin and Yang, 9 years old, 60.4% A-

1st December 2006, 282 bottles, VO finish previous ex-bourbon

IMG_1424Nose - Sharp, winey, papery and medicinal like a Laphroaig. Chewed pencils, plasticine and fisherman's friends. White wine and parsley with time. Old school permanent markers with water.

Body - Rich and ripe, like an apple pie washed down with a pint of ale (and a dash of Nandos sauce). Cakey peat, later. Water brings Tiger Balm, absolutely unmistakable and completely unrecoverable from.

Finish - Long and seafoody - oat cakes, mackerel pate and toast points. Still lost in Tiger Balm with water.

I can see the name once the water was added. It was quite good before that, palate wrecking after. Certainly a new experience for me!