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
SMWS 36.127, Benrinnes, Killer bee rum punch, 12 years old, 60% A+
17th June 2004, 1st fill bourbon, 180 bottles
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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"
Nose - 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
Nose - 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?
Nose - 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
Nose - 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.
Nose - 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.
Nose - 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"
Nose - 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!
Nose - 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
Nose - 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)
Nose - 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.