Sunday, 23 April 2017

Some younger Bruichladdich

Three young-ish laddies here, two are even official bottlings!  These reinforce that careful casking is more important than colour – it’s all part of the blend.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008, 50% A+

bruichladdich-bere-barley-2008-whiskyNose - Light and bright, orange and mango juice, a little grapefruit zest, cherry lip salve for the wax. Hand soap. I do love these bright, fresh, young whiskies at this time of the year. This one is particularly "honest", lovely. More fruit boiled sweets and wax with water.

Body - Balanced young first fill bourbon (cake, wax) with pepper spirit and hard fruit - green apple, apple boiled sweets and maybe mint Pacers. Cut grass, pruned tree. Hotter with water.

Finish - Mr Kipling Bakewell tart. A long finish, quite spicy but very rich. More lemon with water - cut and squeezed.

I was quite excited to try this one - I love the barley specific whiskies as they tend to have more care taken over the selection of casks, quite apart from the controversial matter of whether the barley variety makes a difference. And this was everything I wanted it to be - that Bruichladdich confidence and quality of production, and a really honest drinking whisky.

Other whiskies I'm aware of that use this variety of barley are the Arran Bere Barley and of course the recent Springbank 11 year old local barley

Thanks Mark for the sample of this.

Bruichladdich, The Laddie Ten, second limited edition, 50% A+'

18,000 bottles, first fill bourbon, sherry and French wine casks

bruichladdich-10-year-old-the-laddie-ten-second-limited-edition-whiskyNose - Deeper and cakier than the Bere barley, but then there is the high degree of engineering in the casks with this one. Buttercream icing, blood and blood oranges, a touch of window putty. Then red wine cask is noticeable and well integrated, in fact it was one of the first things I noticed with this bottle - it's a drying, berried tannin with the buttercream richness. Even better integration with water, more fruit, slightly dustier.

Body - Soft, riper and much more luxurious than the Bere Barley, hot red wine (like an Australian Shiraz) and more sponge cake. Toffee pennies and a little crushed charcoal. Weaker with water, more obvious wood.

Finish - Very long and hot, tannic and peppery, with red fruit throughout.

Another excellent, honest drammer, which is exactly why (nearly) everyone loves Bruichladdich so much. Excellent production and a very clever piece of blending make this young whisky clearly greater than the sum of its parts. Highly recommended.

Bruichladdich, Old Particular, 11 years old, 48.4% B⊕

June 2005-November 2016, PX sherry hogshead, 185 bottles

bruichladdich-11-year-old-2005-cask-11509-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Dried fruits, slightly sour, quite winey with lemon juice (maybe a gastrique, it's got that reduced sherry vinegar note), ozone and glace cherries. Hot, hoppy wort and malt loaf with butter. Toothsome, juicy, fruity, Christmassy stuff. After sipping, a little more robust, like the unpeated style Caol Ila is secretly really peaty. Hangover peat. With water, much fruitier with orange peel and mango squash, but also beef jus. Having said that it's much more bourbon cask (I wonder if this was only finished in PX?).

Body - Sweet, but spicy with chewed paper and charred wood. Fruit polos on the tip of the tongue. Too weak with water, like flat cola.

Finish - Old Holborn rolling tobacco and charred dried raisins, black pepper at the side of the mouth.

An interesting but too young laddie, finished into a great nose and colour but without the depth to back it up.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Recent TBWC drams

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – not a bottler I spend an awful lot of time with (although that may hopefully change a little now that my friend Dave Worthington is a brand ambassador). 

Most of these were part of a tweet tasting I was signed up to but couldn’t take part in due to not being connected with the samples in time, so all this is a little bit late, but at least it formed the backbone of a good flight!

TBWC Loch Lomond single grain whisky, 19 years old, Batch 3, 49.7% A+

267 bottles.  Batch 1 reviewed here.

loch-lomond-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Sweet, slightly solventy (a touch of pritt stick too) but oddly classy - there's a cold, ozoney austerity to it, balanced by ripe green apple and varnish from the cask. There's something bready in here too, like a slightly undercooked loaf made with barley flour (I had that toasted for breakfast, before you ask).

Body - Newspaper, then cherry sweets, wood glue and talcum powder. There's a really deep sweetness lurking here, most ungrainlike.

Finish - Very short, yellow wood, citrus pith bitterness. A ghost of lemon at the end.

A strange but quite compelling whisky, really drinkable. I think this would have excited me more if I'd actually tasted it in the first throws of Spring rather than the inevitable "return to Winter after Easter", but this is much more than a "young" grain.

TBWC Blended Whisky #2, 18 years old, Batch 1 (Majestic only), 46.5% A-

It was a bit confusing seeing the different labels on this to Batch 2 and only one available on Majestic.  Dave filled me in on the difference between the two batches of blended whisky #2.

Batch #1 was an exclusive release for Majestic Wine Stores. Just 961 bottles were filled, and distributed across the 200+ stores nationwide.The label states the seven whiskies in the make up; four malts, three grains. There was a competition to win a bottle of our Macallan 29 Year Old if you could guess all of the distilleries.

Batch #2 was our own release of the similar style of blend. It could well be the very same blend but I've not been told this. Our release is a limited run of 1132 bottles.

The four malts in Batch 1 (and I assume similar malts are in Batch 2) are: Highland Park, Glenrothes, Tamdhu and Bunnahabhain. The three grains being Strathclyde, North British and Invergordon.

majesticNose - Soft, gentle, warm grain and cut oak, green apple, a very little flat cola and light floral perfume. The smell of hard but posh milk chocolates. A pleasing but soft wax.

Body - Interestingly balanced, quite dry and wooded, dandelion stalks and saccharin. Lolly sticks. There's a slight peat note behind this. Sourer with water.

Finish - Very drying, more artificial sweetener and chalky bonbons.

Honestly I'm not used to tasting blended whisky (rarely even vatted single malt), so I'm not really calibrated for adulterated grains. Quite interesting/honest on the nose with good wax, pretty drammable but a bit young in the delivery.

TBWC Blended Whisky #3, 23 years old, Batch 1, 48.2% A+

1132 bottles.

blended-whisky-3-23-year-old-that-boutique-y-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Sweet first fill bourbon here, orange zest and blood orange juice, honey glaze and wood glue… hot gluegun perhaps. There's something a little coastal underneath, maybe some fried patron peppers. The overwhelming impression is warm/hot though, airplane orange juice and toffee. It gets meatier with time. Christmassy with water.

Body - Sweet, spiced, lightly peated, probably some more of that Highland Park in there (a good call to have some peat, but like #2 the integration is a bit tricky). More peated and spicy with water, a touch more artificial sweetener.

Finish - ah, OK that is genuinely one of the longest finishes, as per the label. Starts fruity, becomes peppery and lacquered and ends fizzing and tannic (Sichuan peppercorns) with a lot of wood. There's something winey in here too.

A remarkable whisky, I suspect there is some quite big gear in here, and it has an extremely long finish. Not really my thing though (integration, balance aren't right) but it certainly makes a statement.

Thanks to Jon Webb for samples of these two blends.

TBWC Glenrothes, 25 years old, Batch 3, 49.7% A⊕

139 bottles

glenrothes-25-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Sweet, but darkly so - elements of warm white wine and sangria here, dates in chocolate and barley sugar. Old bourbon Glenrothes sometimes has this Chinese supermarket thing going on and this has it too, although faintly (it's the Durian, char sui buns and packets of incense). An old school, very high quality nose.

Body - Custard creams, dried malt extract, fresh mint leaves and orange skin. Less intense, a little more orangey with water.

Finish - Long and ripe, with lemon curd, lots of freshly crushed malted barley (I'll just have a quick taste of this carapils).

I'm just loving old Glenrothes at the moment, this is a good one.

TBWC Secret Distillery #2, 15 years old, Batch 2, 51% A

124 bottles, Glenmorangie, a rose tinted hue/spectacles on the label presumably means port cask?

secret-distillery-2-15-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Light and flinty, behind that there's vanilla sponge and liquorice torpedoes. Candy cigarettes, cinnamon swirl and satsumas. Young but competent; sweet, candy and light on the cask. Richer with water, a touch more malt.  With time, marijuana.

Body - More newspaper, malt loaf and seaside rock, it is like a boiled sweet with a dusting of black pepper and retronasal popping candy. A little more cask, more cake with water.

Finish - Quite long, quite drying, with lemon buttercream icing and chewed petals.

It's ok, a classy nose and a perfectly well balanced delivery. It's very drinkable and undeniably well made (the nose is particularly good). But a little boring overall to be honest, and feels young.

TBWC Mortlach, 18 years old, Batch 3, 48.9% A+

363 bottles

mortlach-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Ripe, lacquered, red fruits and dusty cask. It's fresh and fruity, then there's lipstick, then sawdust. Then chocolate, then leather jackets. Somehow this reminds me of a rehearsal studio, it's the sawdust and a kind of old cigarette smoke (and booze) in it. Fruitier with water, and a little more perfumed. I love it when whisky makes me feel younger…

Body - Soft, with white wine, peaches, chalk and candle wax. A touch of petrol, retronasally.

Finish - Buttercream, strawberry laces and extremely oily. Medium with a touch of cracked black pepper on repeated sips and chewed orange skin with water at the end.

An interesting and quite intense whisky. I was quite excited by the nose but the delivery, while delicious, isn't quite as remarkable. I think the strength is a little low.

TBWC Irish Single Malt #1, 24 years old, Batch 1, 46.8% B⊕

264 bottles

irish-single-malt-1-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskeyNose - Old cask, fresh and herbal spirit, with new carpets, freshly cut cucumber and a lovely, deep but elegant (restrained) toffee. With time, that new carpet becomes something more like leatherette and there's a hint of marzipan. Better with water, the fruit is more pronounced, the cask better integrated.

Body - Peppery, with more of that cucumber skin and unripe mango. Slightly funky (although there is a really fabulous fruit cask struggling to get out under the funky cucumber). There is a very evocative “bit pulled off a pork shoulder at a BBQ competition” here (swiney rather than smokey) which very few of you will have experienced and I probably shouldn’t have mentioned.  Fruitier with water and a nice cup of tea.

Finish - Medium, quite savoury against the fruit, quite drying. New teabags and stale Sichuan peppercorns.

A bit odd. An extremely promising (like a 40 year old fino cask) but punch-pulling nose. Restrained fruit, a touch of funk, odd tropicality, slightly chemical overall.

TBWC Springbank, 21 years old, Batch 3, 48.2% A⊕+

415 bottles

springbank-21-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whiskyNose - Dark and vinous, the kind of spirit that you get from under the counter at a festival or at the bottom of a cask in a warehouse. Coffee, reduced red wine, cherry chocolate, and undeniable Springbank sherry* cask. It's like a darker, drier Springbank 15, it has a lot of the class of 21 year old Springbank but isn't so restrained.

Body - Balanced sweet intensity, sawdust and cherry cola. It's sweet, sharp and Springbanky but not quite so classy as the nose promises.

Finish - Long with engine oil and freshly laid asphalt. Chopped parsley and panko. Tropical peat burps.

A ripe, intense, complicated and extremely delicious whisky that is quintessentially Springbank and like a 15 turned up to 11. 

* I believe this is a port cask, but this is what it smells like to me.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Cadenhead’s April 2017, Small Batch release 17

Sorry this is a bit late.  Life got in the way, and then I was distracted by a last minute rush for the SMWS outturn and lots of work travel.  And then I confess I may have held this back to make sure I snagged a bottle of the Blair Athol…

Having said that, most of this is still in stock.  The Knockdhu is a solid choice at the younger end.  At the top end, the Glentauchers is phenomenal.  Unfortunately the “holy trinity” – Mortlach, Glen Keith and Caol Ila – sold out immediately.  These are all excellent and apart from the tasting sample I had, I went in on a bottle share of these three organised by Whisky Rover which I have been enjoying.  Of the three, the Mortlach is almost finished and the Caol Ila and Glen Keith are near the top. 

Everyone loves the Small Batch – the square bottles are cooler (and pack even more efficiently than hexagonal close packing) and the vatting of more than one cask often makes for a better rounded whisky.

Macduff 10 years old, 2006, 46% B+

2x bourbon hogsheads

IMG_0731Nose - Boiled sweets and a little bit of petrol, lovely orchard fruit though - green apple and red apple skin. Honest cask here, good balance of vigour, wood and spirit, with warm white wine and window putty. Hot radiator and more clay with water.

Body - Balanced and savoury, like warm sake or tequila. Toffee, wood, white toast. Pouring cream with water.

Finish - Short and clean, light sawdust and fizzing sweets at the side of the tongue. A lot longer with water.

A clean, honest drinker. I'd happily do damage to a bottle of this with friends over an evening.

Knockdhu 10 years old, 2006, 56.5% A+'

3x bourbon hogsheads

IMG_0736Nose - At first this has a sweet, cereal funk I would have associated with young sherry casks. But that then softens and deepens into something more fruity, chocolatey and interesting. I'm weirdly reminded of Douglas Laing's Scallywag - hershey's chocolate and curly wurlys. But there's a cut oak cask thing behind that, and a lot more fruit with water.

Body - Rich, complex and very fruity, with sweetshop and sulphur, this is remarkable for 10. Vanilla cream, purple icing and dried raspberries. Absolutely delicious with water.

Finish - Long with cherry chocolate brownies and bounty bars at the end. Really classy tannins with water.

This is a fantastic whisky, my concerns on the nose disappeared entirely with time and water. Highly recommended.

Dailuiane 21 years old, 1996, 46% A-

2x bourbon hogsheads

IMG_0731Nose - Deep with the fruit toffee (in shiny blue wrappers), this has thick cream, cigar tobacco, foundation and a tan leather jacket. Complex and grown-up. Fresher with water, and a little more cask.

Body - Continues in that vein, quite savoury but with dark chocolate and coffee. Water unsettles it.

Finish - Long and drying, with unripe pear, sawdust and flashes of fruit. Descends into bitter, fizzing wood at the end. There's something perfume-y here too, like rose and patchouli.

An interesting diversion, but not interesting enough to stand out in this crowd.

Strathmill 24 years old, 1992, 45.9% A⊖

1 hogshead and 2 bourbon barrels

IMG_0737Nose - Big papaya and cask at first, but there's some punch-pulling here - secondary cardboard and bandages. Why is the ABV so low? And why is this so tantalisingly awesome but not quite there? There's big, Glenfarclas levels of furniture polish in here somewhere…

Body - The same as the nose, this promises so much but doesn't quite get there. Even retronasally it has echoes of great things. I just think the ABV is criminally low here.

Finish - Short, faint tropical fruit and apples, good musk and cask are winking at me. I'm not going to add water…

Despite personally crying out for drinking strength whisky a lot of the time, this one is a crime. Just because it could have been so amazing.

Fettercairn 28 years old, 1988, 55.4% A+'

3x bourbon hogsheads

IMG_0734Nose - Chocolate and leather and oddly similar to the Knockdhu. Red fruit and icing, but waxier and more polished.

Body - Spicy at first, but rich and tannic. Cherry chocolate, a touch of sulphur.

Finish - Very long, fruity and lovely wax. The cherry and chocolate is almost infinite.

An absolutely delicious whisky (and a phenomenal nose in particular), but I would rather buy the Knockdhu.

Blair Athol 28 years old, 1988, 53.6% A⊕+''

2x bourbon hogsheads

IMG_0733Nose - Big, deep and polished. Ripe, red fruit, strawberry laces, fruit toffee and very old cask. Really robust, chocolatey and waxy with water.

Body - Rich, ripe and highly waxed. Elements of stir fry. Weirdly reminiscent of Springbank 15, but a lot older. Quite Japanese with water.

Finish - Flashes of chocolate and coffee, but big old cask otherwise. Burnt engine oil and grapefruit zest at the end. Extremely drying.

Utterly divine. One of the most obviously amazing whiskies I've had this year. Highly recommended.

I put in the extra single quote in the score just to amuse you (and to show it’s a little bit better than the Glentauchers).

Glentauchers 26 years old, 1990, 52.6% A⊕+'

3x bourbon hogsheads

IMG_0735Nose - Elegant old bourbon cask here, really classy. Balancing fruit, coffee, cigar boxes and deodorant this is a complex and well-constructed nose.

Body - But the delivery is heavenly. Passionfruit and cream, white Burgundy and proper old wax and tannins, this is a phenomenal delivery. The wind's knocked out of its sails with water though, the wood's unbalanced.

Finish - Long and slightly spicy, numbing wood oils balance the fruit toffee.

Yeah this is as good as you thought it was going to be (i.e. very). I wish I'd done this before the fireworks of the Blair Athol though. And of course there is a limit to how much whisky I can buy.

Mortlach 30 years old, 1987, 48.2% A⊕+

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_0741Nose - Big, deep, minty and waxed. Darkly tropical, with old, blacken vanish, whipped cream and white gloss paint. Very, very confident, robust but somehow elegant. More minty with water, but the nose now makes me think of very, very expensive OBs in wooden boxes.

Body - Surprisingly bright with the old wood (almost over-wooded), lots of mint toffee (almost after eights) with blood orange wax and juice at the back end of the delivery.

Finish - Long and rich, with more orange wax and linseed oil. It's cigar tar after a while in the finish.

This is a big, well-aged whisky that's a real pleasure to drink. Ed says it isn't very Mortlach. I'm no expert in that but it reminds me pretty well of the recent old Mortlach's I've loved from Cadenheads, only it's got more wood on it. Phenomenal with a drop of water, this is a real pleasure.

Glen Keith 43 years old, 1973, 43.2% A⊕+

Bourbon hogshead

IMG_0739Nose - Old, broken furniture (dusty, school stuff, as well as the antique type), candied peel and plenty of library. And tropical fruit - you can go either way here too, kia-ora or crazy US hops. This also has the fruit and dank balance like the best 70s gear usually does. Beautiful.

Body - Soft, complex, slightly dirty and the whole sweetshop (mainly blackcurrant chews and strawberry laces). The top and tail of cigar tobacco, perhaps it's more liquorice than tobacco…

Finish - Medium, enormous fruit and wood. More liquorice.

Big, old and blustering. This is verging on over the hill, but the fruit and tannins save it - caught just in time I'd say. The nose is out of this world though.

Caol Ila 33 years old, 1983, 50.2% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead.

IMG_0738Nose - Alien and dreamy as ever, with contrasting complexity; fizzers, gastrique, new magazine, reduced red wine glaze and old calvados. Some petrol with time, more orchard fruit and cask with water.

Body - Green apple, mezcal, refreshers on the tip of the tongue and tickling tannins at the base. Very satisfying. Softer and weaker with water.

Finish - Sweet, dusty and hot cinnamon, there's something else warm and sweet at the back here, like Vimto and cocoa powder. This definitely retains more peat than some of the old Caol Ilas I've had.

Another cracker. They always are. I think I have more Caol Ila than any other distillery apart from Springbank, and a significant proportion of that is Cadenheads over 30.

Finally, here’s a couple of bonus drams.  The latest “protest” bottle (always a cheaper blend), the Spirit of Freedom 62.  This time it represents the 62% of Scottish people who voted to stay in the EU, and contains whisky from 62 distilleries.  Then the Cadenhead’s Islay 9 year old, which is another no-name cask of whisky, following the excellent 7 year old.

Spirit of Freedom 62, 43% B-

SoF62Nose - Sweet, clean and grainy - very young, with a touch of chocolate and cask, this smells like a distillery. It couldn't be more "honest". A little candle wax with time.

Body - So light it's practically not there, this is basically new make grain spirit with a little apple and plenty of oils.

Finish - It evaporates cleanly, like a low strength vodka does.

Not an awful lot to report here, this is perfectly fine to drink but not something to concentrate on!

William Cadenhead Islay 9 years old, 175th Anniversary, 59.3% A+

William Islay 9 59.3 Vol -750x1000Nose - Sweet and bright, chipsticks and acrylic paint, modelling putty, coffee beans. Cloudy cider. Bright and clean, it initially smelled like a Diageo SR 12 year old Lagavulin but my suspicion is that it's more likely Bunnahbhain pulled before its regulation bottling age of 10. Move vinegar with water, but also diesel engine.

Body - Spicy and sweet, plenty of gunpowder/iron filings against that rather meaty, cereal peat. Fruitier with water, slightly musky.

Finish - Medium, barley sugar and crunchy brown sugar on crumble. Very sweet. Pure apple juice at the end.

A superb young Islay - meaty, peated, fresh and cereal led with lots of complexity.

Next month brings some interesting casks from the Authentic Collection, including a Bladnoch that’s not 25 (it’s 26), a 31 year old sherry Glen Grant, a Glenfarclas 28, a young, sherried Ledaig and a 38 year old Miltonduff.  And a 31 year old from the Potter’s distillery in Canada.

Friday, 7 April 2017

SMWS April 2017 Outturn

Looks like we’re finding our groove with the VO and finishes now, only a couple of VO finishes and quite a lot of excellent casking here.
The new labelling and bottles are still causing chaos.  Those of us who ordered last month’s Glen Scotia only just had it delivered, and this outturn hit the bar at the very last minute.  There are some missing too:
  • SMWS 5.54, Auchentoshan, Toute fruity booty, 16 years old, 2nd fill Sauternes – pending, should be in soon
  • SMWS 7.168, Longmorn, Zingy yet relaxing, 24 years old, refill bourbon – labelling error
  • An Inchmurrin, 16 years old, refill bourbon – should be in the end of April
Anyway lots here, my picks are the Bunnahabhain, VO Linkwood, Glen Scotia again (although it’s very different to last month’s), the Glen Ord and probably the Benrinnes if you don’t have one already.  Enjoy!
SMWS 36.127, Benrinnes, Killer bee rum punch, 12 years old, 60% A+
17th June 2004, 1st fill bourbon, 180 bottles
IMG_1618Nose - Perfumed and wooded, a little bit androgynous but quite beautiful (like CK one). Fresh cut, hot oak planks, baked peaches, warm vanilla, roasted preserved lemons, honey and granite. This is, as ever with Benrinnes, pure summer in a glass. Gooseberry fool with water, but that hot sawdust is really special. Smells like Greville Street in summer.
Body - Sweet peaches, thick cream, cherry compote, lots of vanilla. More sharply wooded with water, loses some of that summer luxury.
Finish - Medium long, quite hot with strawberry leaves and chewed pencil ends.

Thoroughly delicious, a proper drammer and essential bar drinking.
SMWS 70.16, Balblair, Mellow drama, 11 years old, 56.5% A+
11th May 2005, it says custom virgin oak barrel on the bottle and refill bourbon in the literature, so I dunno, 198 bottles
IMG_1620Nose - Melon, pineapple, more cut oak and retronasal pine/urinal cake*. Talking of cake - lemon drizzle cake with those fizzy lemon slices on top, the whole thing held together by this really classy cask and mocha maturity. I suspect this may indeed be some kind of custom barrel, otherwise it was a very interesting refill bourbon barrel. There's just the most lovely balance between cask and vibrant lemon. Cakier and even more lovely with water.
Body - Liquorice and candied lemon again, cloudy lemonade, some quite hot, young cereal and pritt stick behind that. Much softer and better integrated with water, the bitterness is balanced by a new wax.
Finish - Liquorice allsorts, more pineapple and liquorice root at the end. Really quite spicy, in the same way that liquorice or cigarette tar can be "spicy", but that does become slightly monochrome and tiring after a while.

A really fascinating nose and a vibrant, spicy but slightly simplistic delivery.
* this is never a negative tasting note although it sounds like it is
SMWS 71.43, Glenburgie, Sweet and spicy with a savoury kick, 9 years old, 65% B
6th June 2007, refill sherry butt, 618 bottles
IMG_1619Nose - Clean at first, toffee and coffee, cold Coca Cola, then some UHU glue and acrylic paint. Quite a restrained nose, almost medicinal, but it has a formidable ABV. It takes quite a lot of water before we see some changes; more chocolate, more sweetshop. It's showing its youth.
Body - Sweet and bright, like the icing on a Mr. Kipling chocolate cupcake (I can't find them on the internet, perhaps they stopped making them), with candied peel and drumsticks. Water starts to reveal some nutty sherry, but it's still very closed.
Finish - Long and vanilla'd, but quite one-dimensional.

Quite an ordinary whisky, full term maturation (I assume) in a big old sherry butt hasn't done it the favours it could have.
SMWS 37.85, Cragganmore, Eastern Promise, 14 years old, 56.8% A⊕
1st October 2002, Refill bourbon, 234 bottles
IMG_1615Nose - Is that Turkish Delight? Beautifully floral with restrained sweetness, really high quality spirit (as expected) and cask on the nose, quite old school with floor cleaner, candy cigarettes and dried rose petals. There's something that makes me think of dimly lit member's clubs, the kind you access through an unmarked door and have slightly exotic cocktails in. I think it's the perfume in the toilets, the polish on the tables, rather than the cocktails themselves. An exotic, evocative and very high quality nose. Tropical with water, melon, grapefruit, mango. Fingers crossed…
Body - Young and robust, very sweet, lemon waxes and quite hot.  The roses are well represented, as is that mineral, chalky texture I was reaching for earlier. Beautiful spring into summer drinking. Softer with water, but more wood and more lemon.
Finish - Medium to short, cracked black pepper. Lemon zest and candle wax at the end.

This is precisely the kind of young bourbon cask SMWS built its reputation on (and Cragganmore come to that). An unexpectedly delightful nose, and a proper drinker. I'm slightly surprised it isn't first fill though.
SMWS 35.184, Glen Moray, Twists and turns, 20 years old, 58.1% B+
12th November 1996, 1st fill bourbon, 222 bottles
IMG_1621Nose - Quite ripe, a little restrained. Baked apples, newly dried gloss paint and something like coffee (maybe a chocolate truffle). Then some warm white wine, coconut mousse, and back with the fruit (fresh green grapes). Later, bubble mixture. Much brighter fruit with water, better cask and that bubble mixture has turned to glazed, tropical fruit.
Body - Sweet, bright, very distinct bubble mixture now with pineapple rings and grapefruit skin. Better again with water, the initial delivery has more fruit, the back end has more cask and coffee.
Finish - Twists awkwardly into woodsy bitterness. Slightly aspirin like in the end, although there's an undercurrent of toffee and cake.

A confused whisky.
SMWS 77.43, Glen Ord, Japanese omlettes with Dunkelweizen, 14 years old, 56.3% A⊕'
3rd April 2001, 2nd fill Oloroso butt, 234 bottles. "After thirteen years in a hogshead, we transferred this to a second-fill Oloroso butt"
IMG_1616Nose - Gentle - chocolate cake, vanilla, oak. Coca cola… were chocolate candy cigarettes a thing? Hershey's chocolate perhaps. There's a burnt quality behind this, if you told me this was distilled from wash made with chocolate malt I'd believe you. Plus there's preserved lemons and refreshers. It's quite rich though, with a touch of minerality behind that charred barley. More sweetshop with water, lemon fruit polos and more cask. Lovely.
Body - Yum… a first flash of practically gorda sherry, then deep sweetness - fruit polos and vanilla buttercream. A touch of sulphur with water and lemon tannins.
Finish - Meaty with chocolate coffee brownies and mini-eggs.

The brief dip in Oloroso has given this typically zesty Glen Ord a real depth and interest (and crucially, a little sulphur), even if the integration is a little bit off. A seriously delicious whisky.
SMWS G8.8, Cambus, Botanic gardens and a sawmill, 26 years old, 56.7% A+
18th June 1990, refill bourbon, 222 bottles
IMG_1623Nose - Dusty, zesty, fizzing lemon and soft toffee - fruit toffee particularly on exhale. The whole sherbet dibdab experience. The grain is barely there, very deeply fruited and sweet, although you'll find it with digging. This works really well. Even better with water, more fruit but the grain comes out a bit more.
Body - Soft, sweet, then very solventy and bright, with fresh pear, then pear drops and freshly whipped cream.
Finish - Short and clean, like a very old grain in very refill bourbon, finally. There's no doubt this is a grain by the end.

A great journey - the beautiful fruit at the front, and the smooth transition through tannins to hard grain by the end. This is extremely drinkable but very robust, don't do this one at the start of a session (as I, accidentally, haven't).
SMWS 50.92, Bladnoch, Sipping sherry in the potting shed, 26 years old, 53.1% B+
26th January 1990, 1st fill ex-red wine hogshead, 90 bottles. Got to ask, why did they (I assume) finish a 26 year old Bladnoch in 1st fill red wine?
IMG_1624Nose - Sweet and cold, like rain, on inhale, musty wet dish cloths on exhale. This reminds me enormously of taking shelter from the rain in the café on the corner in Whitstable. Instant coffee and strong tea by association no doubt, there's also some straight red wine, lip gloss and fairy liquid. It's oddly compelling, evocative but not particularly promising.
Body - Much better on the delivery, there's a great balance of fruit and tannins (Ribena), with strawberry laces and wood glue. Better again with water - richer.
Finish - Long and balanced sweetness; sweet, strong tea (I guess I'm still in the café rather than the potting shed).

A strange whisky this. I always assume weird finishes on old whiskies are covering something up. I suspect this was an austere Bladnoch before, it's still quite eclectic with the finish, and very interesting, just not particularly wonderful to drink.
SMWS 93.74, Glen Scotia, A class apart, 15 years old, 55.4% A+'
16th February 2001, refill bourbon, 276 bottles
IMG_1625Nose - Meaty, savoury, very distinctly Asian - soy sauce and pickled ginger, stir fried chilli noodles late at night. A rich, cakey peat. Quite funky with water.
Body - Stranger still, absolutely a stir fry now with raw Toban Djian, black beans and the stick from the sherbet dibdab. Extremely compelling though, there's a really fat sweetness behind it (as in many Chinese dishes) that works so well with that smoke and umami.
Finish - Long and meatily, but carefully peated, lots more soy sauce.

This would be superb by a firepit on a summers evening. A fascinating and highly drinkable whisky.
SMWS 9.117, Glen Grant, Comfort and contentment, 21 years old, 55.3% A-
25th April 1995, 1st fill PX hogshead, 264 bottles. Another suspicious old finish.
IMG_1630Nose - Floral and toffee, mineral, a touch of bitter orange zest**, cherry chocolate, lipstick. Chocolate cake and bandages with time. Café Latte with water, although there's boiled sweets and much better cask.
Body - Rather obviously sugary, cherry jam and royal icing, cheap chocolate icing again (like the Glenburgie). There's something much more important underneath, the pre-finish Glen Grant perhaps, I can just about taste the cask. Fizzing with water.
Finish - Long with lemonade and caraway. Pencil leads at the end.

There is something really very special in here but the finish is a bit clumsy. Another year on the PX maybe?
** I recently zested, juiced and froze a box of bitter oranges to keep for brewing purposes which is why this note keeps coming up.
SMWS 10.106, Bunnahabhain, Salted lemon sherbet, 10 years old, 60.1% A⊕'
6th October 2006, refill bourbon, 198 bottles.  Unpeated.
IMG_1613Nose - Unexpectedly deep and vanilla'd. I was expected sea shells. Ripe peach, plum and vanilla tart, a touch of hoisin sauce and a real waxiness. A fantastic cask, this has characteristics of a far older whisky.
Body - Creamy but zesty, very distinct love hearts and drumsticks. Slightly musky. Chewed oak behind that.
Finish - Long and peppery. There's that very distinct Chinese meal thing in here again - this time hoisin, shredded spring onions, plus star anise and cinnamon. Liquorice imps with water, clear as day. Really delicious.

The unexpected star in the outturn, very highly recommended. A fantastic, mature nose and delivery that really backs it up.

SMWS 73.82, Aultmore, Tap-dancer with a Tootsie Roll, 14 years old, 55.3% A⊖
23rd September 2002, custom virgin oak barrel, 210 bottles. "Previously in ex-bourbon wood"
IMG_1628Nose - Interesting… coconut and coffee (again!), cold, wet marble and cake. Talcum powder? What fruit there is was baked onto filo pastry with marzipan - peaches I'd say. Some small funk with water.
Body - Creamy, milk chocolate, then the virgin oak hammer - lemon, spray sports deodorant, oak. Much better with water; lemon cake and dolly mixture, very tannic.
Finish - Medium with lemon cake and more deodorant. Much fruitier with water, the lemon is really rather intense. Vanilla sponge at the end.

A rather extreme whisky that doesn't work at all neat, but comes together quite well with water.
SMWS 39.140, Linkwood, An intriguing fusion, 27 years old, 49.3% A⊕+
16th October 1989, virgin oak hogshead, 222 bottles (why are there so many 222 bottles this month?). Roll the VO dice again!
IMG_1629Nose - Aptly named. Melon perfume, big tropical fruit, cigars, leather belt, cardamom, beard oil and sherry cask. Very masculine, slightly camp. An absolutely fantastic nose, vibrant yellow fruit against the old Linkwood. Even better with water.
Body - Soft, but big, old and complete. Why was this in virgin oak and what affect did it have? Is it “refill” virgin oak? Tannins and tropical fruit galore, absolutely delicious.
Finish - Old and robust. Cut, ripe melon and pineapple at the end. Lots of structure.

A completely unexpected pleasure, probably the best virgin oak finish I've had. I suspect this was rather awesome before the finish, which has brought on the excellent bright, yellow notes. Well integrated too.
SMWS 66.99, Ardmore, Pine smoked salmon and burning heather, 8 years old, 60% B-
23rd July 2008, custom virgin oak barrel, 216 bottles
IMG_1626Nose - Meaty peat again, I would have guessed a red wine cask by the nose. Deep fried fish and a bonfire, there's a burning rosemary on the BBQ thing (guess that's the heather). It's really BBQy - burning sugar and paprika on pork skin. It's got that bitter coffee grounds peat thing going on that Ardmore often has, accentuated by the virgin oak.
Body - Sharp, young, bitter, lots of oak.
Finish - Like bits of ground coffee and Marlboro light tobacco on your tongue. Something interesting right at the end (pear and ripe peach) but it's buried.

Probably not the best time to try this one, after the Linkwood - but it was VO and peated so what could I do?
Either way, not a great experience.
SMWS 3.248, Bowmore, Like a hot coal in the mouth, 17 years old, 57.7% A⊕
This was in the October 2015 outturn already (very good though).
SMWS 29.181, Laphroaig, Salty sweet peat smoke, 20 years old, 57.6% A⊕
4th April 1995, refill bourbon, 204 bottles
Looks like this has also done the rounds before (bottled 2 years ago)
IMG_1614Nose - Sweet and alluring, this has seasidey peat, slightly funky and quite rich, against vanilla custard, rosemary and seaweed. There's definitely a touch of Mr. Whippy and Portuguese tarts to the nose, but what backs it up is very grown up indeed. With time (or water) it's pure sweetshop - fruit polos and toffee pennies.
Body - Creamy with cough candy and rich, earthy peat. A little refreshers with time, and fizzing coffee beans. Peatier with water.
Finish - Life affirmingly, bracingly rich peat with a bag of sweets (pineapple cubes). Very long. I can see why the tasting panel latched onto sweet peat. Slightly spicy at the end, like cinnamon jawbreakers. Fruity, minty burps with the aftertaste of TCP.

A delicious, robust and quite important feeling Laph, very hot and peaty, quite palate crushing, but plays it well. Highly recommended at the bar and if (by some miracle) you haven't already had dozens of big, society Laphroaigs this would work well as a bottle.
Happy Easter.