More label chaos at SMWS, I’m guessing that without the clout of LVMH behind them they’re doing these by hand. The result in May was two outturns, a “preview” of six bottles on first Friday and the rest (rather a lot) the week after. The first Friday lot only hit the bar about 9:30pm on Thursday and I just couldn’t get to it in time, and my life wouldn’t allow me to get to the rest until a lot later. Hence we are starting to think about June now and I’ve not even made notes for all of May!
So I’ve prioritised the bottles that are still in stock (at time of writing at least) here for notes, I still have quite a lot of the outturn left to taste. There were 6+16=22 in the May outturn, plus there’s an extra 6 on the bar, making 28 in May. I can’t do a November scale outturn every month!
Definitely a mixed bag so far this month. My absolute favourites were the Scotia again, and the Glenlivet but there are some other crackers in here. I am dutifully tasting all the virgin oak finishes because there is the odd really great one, but on the whole I find them too obvious, not very Scotch. I don’t look forward to them for the same reason I don’t really drink much bourbon, it’s not the style I’m into, but obviously other people will have different preferences.
This was released on first Friday, a reduced outturn of 6 bottles.
One of these got away from me due to my late attack:
SMWS 36.130, Benrinnes, Summer wedding happiness, 12 years old, 59.3%.
You can read about it on Phillip Storry's website. Oh the ignominy, and I'm using his site to get the details*! The completist in me is sobbing…
* and to be clear, not reading his reviews in case I get auto suggested
SMWS 48.89, Balmenach, Sweetie bags in a slate quarry, 11 years old, 57.9% B⊕
29th March 2005, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon
Nose - Unexpected. There's a distinct acetic note, some Belgian beers are famous for it but I've never found it this obvious in the nose in a whisky before. Getting past this and the gastrique, this is floral on top with reduced red wine, vanilla sponge, blackboard/chalk and Turkish Delight underneath. Interesting but too clumsy for me so far, although better integrated with water.
Body - Absolutely a bag of sweets, old fashioned sweets in a paper bag. Also there's a funny, funky Auchentoshan that pushes my buttons (all acrylic and peaches), that works with the floral and vanilla - absolutely delicious, and even funkier/funner with water.
Finish - But oddly bitter and biting in the finish, too new wood and too much pepper. The floral/sweet funk is raging behind that - very long and numbing, like a mouthful of cheap perfume.
Weird this, clumsy at the front, harsh at the back and absolutely delicious in the middle. Was this 11 years in the first fill bourbon or have we been experimenting with the casks again?
SMWS 84.22, Glendullan, Refreshing and bright, 8 years old, 57.2% A
19th March 2008, 243 bottles, 2nd fill white wine hogshead
Nose - Young, sweet, wax. I had feared a big wine influence here but 2nd fill (I'm not sure how long the finish was for but they seem to generally be under a year – although for example, the Glenrothes, 30.95 below is an exception) and with such young spirit perhaps there's not much influence. With time, floral and freshly cut pine boards. There is something clean and new here, but also reassuring, homely and satisfying, like new pine furniture in a clean and tidy room.
Body - Quite mouth puckeringly floral and sour here, citric rather than acetic, with twisted lemon peel, lemon bonbons, chewed Rennies and cocoa powder. Bitterer with water.
Finish - Long, with lots more yellow, but bitter and wooden.
While there is a general lack of excellence in this one, there's something compelling about it (it's in the need to have another sip to replace the fruit the finish doesn't have), and it has a lovely, calming nose.
SMWS 35.185, Glen Moray, Frightfully delightful, 22 years old, 57.5% A+'
17th November 1994, 242 bottles, first fill toasted oak hogshead
Nose - The colour on this and the first smell are all high impact bourbon. Rich and decadent, there's cherry compote, brown leather jacket, chocolate icing, candle wax and window putty here. Even better with water, loads of waxes and tropical fruit. Underneath the finishing cask, there's a massive scaffold of well matured Glen Moray propping up all these follies.
Body - Again a real Scotch/American blend, lots of red fruit with chocolate cupcakes and enormous tannins backed up by coffee. Quite harsh neat but water brings a much richer, chocolatier delivery.
Finish - Very long, intense sugars balanced by stone fruit, particularly peach. Wood sours and quite spicy, zesty tannins until it plays out with lemon pith.
This is very good drinking, a bit obvious but this time it doesn't matter. Worth at least a dram at the bar and if you like BTAC but can never get it, this'd scratch an itch.
SMWS 37.90, Cragganmore, The path less trodden, 12 years old, 57.5% B+
3rd November 2004, 278 bottles, virgin oak hogshead
Body - MDF, fried onions with mustard seeds and turmeric. A touch of banana in the custard, but I keep being drawn back to the smoky curry.
Finish - Long with orange peel, bay leaves and orange jelly. That orangey sweetness makes the virgin oak make sense.
The virgin oak hammer has shattered whatever this Cragganmore would have been, although what's left is worth trying.
SMWS 66.101, Ardmore, Flirting with flavour, 9 years old, 60.1% A⊕
15th May 2007, 270 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose – From the first smell, this is obviously a cracking young peater. Quite earthy peat, with slightly burnt sourdough crust, a touch of liquorice imps and also an unexpected handful of midget gems.
Body - Rich, ripe and dusty, intense peat and charcoal dust, really savoury with burnt, black malt and fried panko. Absolutely delicious.
Finish - Long and zesty, fizzing with fecund peat. Mouthfilling, medicinal and sweet/sour. Cigar tobacco and exhaust fumes at the end, reminds me of a hot evening in America, but with more liquorice. There's an afternote of formaldehyde here too, but in a good way.
This 9 year old Ardmore stands up to much older Laphroaig, a real cracker. Get in there!
Main outturn (in stock)
SMWS 9.122, Glen Grant, Daisy chain, 12 years old, 55.4% A+
2nd March 2004, 261 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - I couldn't wait to go for this, who knew I'd miss young society refill bourbon so badly? This one is hard and slightly waxy, like a greased marble. There's a touch of vanilla cream and then it's white flowers all the way - that balance of floral and rich is lovely. An early summer air to this, including rain. More into icing sugar with water, there's a hint of Chinese supermarket behind it.
Body - There was a hint of chocolate and coffee in the nose which I passed over because I got distracted by summer rain, but it's big in the delivery. Cut hedge, liquorice cigarette papers and chocolate cigarettes (the chocolate in those things was worse than Hershey's but you got to pretend you were smoking). Swimming pool with water, and the austerity sweets continue, with something like seaside rock.
Finish - Long but quite young and hot, there's chewed caraway seeds and lots of tannins.
A proper, honest drinker, ideally suited to this time of year. A bit no-nonsense perhaps but I like it.
SMWS 2.98, Glenlivet, Frothy cappuccino, 13 years old, 58.2% A⊕
25th November 2003, 166 bottles, first fill bourbon. If my notes are right (or if I'm searching them right at least) we haven't had a Glenlivet since October 2015.
Nose - Immediately I'm impressed. It's gentle, of course, with polite cask (and cold sealing wax*), freshly picked dandelions, fresh laundry and a handful of pineapple cubes. There's something nagging at me which I can't place here, it might be "overpriced but good NAS OB Glenlivet" but it's been a while. Fruitier with water.
Body - Classy. Gentle fruit salad chews (same acidity) and again that herbal note - is it oregano? Makes me think it's from the garden but we only ever have oregano dry and it isn't rosemary.
Finish - Medium to long. A steadying burn and a touch of spirit sulphur balance all the fruit and beautiful cask. That and the fruit acids bring you back for another sip.
I'm a big fan of this, I love its polite excellence.
* my Grandmother used to have a stick of this in her writing desk, I actually used to play with it out of desperation, imagining I could burn it and seal a letter. Kids are so spoilt these days!
SMWS 39.142, Linkwood, Who's for dessert?, 26 years old, 50.3% A+
30th April 1990, 222 bottles, first fill French oak hogshead (but 26 years in refill bourbon first)
Nose - A big, lacquered, Cognac nose here, formic and sweet, with dessert wine, a hint of warm honey and a lot of Christmas (holly, wooden beams, pine needles and a flaming xmas pudding). Behind this, a sweetshop (I mean the shop, not a load of sweets this time), and a touch of Germolene. More boiled sweets and women's perfume with water. I like this a lot, but I fear for the delivery.
Body - At first, the finish and the original cask fight. It's sour and woody up top but you can feel the original cask below. After a couple of sips they start to work better together, there's vanilla cream, coffee and cheap chocolate ice cream. A touch of funk with water, Neapolitan ice cream perhaps.
Finish - Mostly the original cask with supporting sugars from the finish, this is long, ripe and fruity, lots of ripe green apple and beeswax. Tropical burps (of course, thanks Linkwood). Delicious.
A confusing but ultimately very interesting and delicious whisky. A successful finish but it would be tiring after a chunk of a bottle, so a good dram for the bar.
SMWS G9.2, Loch Lomond, Chocolate mice and cinnamon spice, 16 years old, 62.4% A
25th July 2000, 261 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon
Body - Classic hard grain, sweet but very drying with orange waxes and lots of blonde oak. Riper with water.
Finish - Quite hot, quite malty, hints of richness but that punch is pulled. Orange ice cream with water, and sesame snaps at the end.
A competent drammer.
SMWS 112.16, Inchmurrin, Shape-shifter, 10 years old, 60.5% A-
28th April 2006, 225 bottles, first fill bourbon
Body - Spicy, zesty, burnt malt powder and lemon zest. More expressive with water, cut lemon slices and salt.
Finish - Numbing citrus and sour, even Sichuan peppercorns. Very long and drying.
Young, hard and unforgiving.
SMWS 46.52, Glenlossie, A storm in a barrel, 14 years old, 59.6% A+
31st May 2002, 462 bottles, refill sherry butt
Nose - Also hard but this has slightly more meat on the bones. Old wood varnish and liqueur chocolates, cut oranges.. Actually maybe that's Chocolate Orange. New sawdust, cut shelves again. There's something really down to earth and high quality about the wood used here.
Body - Intense and sour, pure orange oils and posh chocolates. It's shocking at first but repeated sips acclimatise you to the citrus. Richer with water, more orange tart than oils.
Finish - Long and oil driven, like the delivery. Intense varnish and orange oils right to the end.
An intense and oily whisky, this would be the perfect base for a cocktail (and I mean that respectfully, as in “it would make the cocktail”, not that “it'd need using up”). Worth a shot at the bar, but tiring for a bottle.
SMWS 30.95, Glenrothes, Opera in sequins, 26 years old, 54.3% A⊕'
24th September 1990, 179 bottles, 2nd fill toasted oak hogshead - previously 25 years in ex-bourbon. Why take a 25 year old Glenrothes and give it a long finish in toasted oak?
Nose - Fortunately this is immediately recognisable and definitely still a refill bourbon Glenrothes. That gentle, fruit-filled complexity, kind of apple, banana and waxes, a touch of buttercream icing. More apple with water.
Body - Full, ripe Speyside, then sweet and toppy with orange buttercream icing and a developing spice and pink wafer biscuits. Richer, more complexity, more class with water.
Finish - Tannins. Posh black tea and ice cream cones. Very long, plays out on Chardonnay.
Challenging, interesting, and very well pulled off. A superb whisky.
SMWS 10.115, Bunnahabhain, Free the imagination, 10 years old, 62% B+
6th October 2006, 202 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - Very subtle, with silly putty, peeled pear skin, rose flowers and a little cooking polenta (perhaps some red wine stewed sloshed round it after). I told you it was subtle, richer with water though.
Body - Rice paper, honey, orange juice and crayons. Chocolate covered almonds with water.
Finish - Developing bitterness, sweet oily wood.
Competent and very drinkable, but non-fascinating.
SMWS 93.76, Glen Scotia, Beurre blanc and blue steak, 11 years old, 61% A⊕+
21st March 2006, 218 bottles, recharred barrel
Nose - You can really smell the Campbeltown in this! That restrained sweetness, slightly plastic where peat, malt, water and weather have made something much than the sum of the parts. Swarthy, perfumed, old wood and leather, with wax and star fruit. Phenomenal.
Body - Why are society Glen Scotias so good at the moment? Sweet, dusty and fizzy, lemon sherbets and old beeswax, this is gloriously intense.
Finish - Long and fizzing, a sudden flash of seafood; crab and lobster picked out with lemon slices and sea air.
Certainly the most evocative of the outturn, an enormous whisky that you will wish you'd bought two of shortly after opening the first.
SMWS 44.79, Craigellachie, Pandora's box, 13 years old, 57.4% A+
27th June 2003, 210 bottles, virgin oak hogshead - previously 13 years in a Oloroso butt
Nose - Wood, fireworks (literally not figuratively) and clean babies. As VO goes, this is a sour, floral one, with an undeniable balance and intensity on the nose. Like lemon drizzle cake rather than the full buttercream icing that bourbon would be.
Body - Sweet, clean and challenging with liquorice root, chewed flowers (petals and stalks) and what I have just decided I can refer to as "museum perfume" (they do smell of something specific). Gunpowder again. It's actually quite delicious.
Finish - Hand soap. Gentler on the perfume, more tannins with water.
As much as I didn't want to like this, the VO does do a good line in making you want another sip and this finish has worked extremely well. If you were going to buy something this toppy in the outturn, you could do worse than this.
BUY - if you want something a bit different
SMWS 35.186, Glen Moray, Pimms, punch and pavlova, 10 years old, 58.6% A-
20th January 2006, 172 bottles, virgin oak hogshead - previously 10 years in a first fill barrel, presumably bourbon
Nose - Wax again, this time it's school halls with the associated musk and chalk. I'm thinking big, thick slices of acrylic paint this time, the VO is a bit more obvious too. Fruitier with water, a touch of Sudocrem.
Body - Whiteboard markers, dessert wine splashed on oak chunks (much more grown up then). Big, hollow spikes of black pepper. That hard VO is quite brutal, although much improved with water.
Finish – Blackberries, mouth-watering citrus zest and alka-seltzer.
The great leveller strikes again. Not as good as the Craigellachie.
I’ll get to the rest of them in due course…