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
Nose - 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.
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
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)
Nose - 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.
Nose - 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.
BUY BUY BUY
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.
Nose - 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)
Nose - 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
Nose - 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"
Nose - 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"
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)
Nose - 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")
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
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!