Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Compass Box–The Double Single 2017

There’s always something so intrinsically right about Compassbox blends.

Compass Box, The Double Single, 46% A⊕

72% Glen Elgin, re-charred ex-bourbon hogsheads

28% Girvan, re-charred ex-bourbon barrels

compass-box-the-double-single-whiskyNose - Classy wood, varnish and toffee apples here, with (as expected) great balance. Up front there's a really decadent, rich but dusty cask with orange segments, then there's a much more restrained but very mature note. There's a little bit of travel sweets, a touch of burnt wood and bandages (although I can detect no obvious or clumsy re-charred\virgin oak notes in this) and chocolate buttons. It seems a lot more mature than the components are (you can check on their website), this is reminiscent of the kind of nose you'd get on a big old Teaninich or something.

Body - Rather elegant; restrained chocolate and toffee, dusty woods and a light spicing. Retronasally dusty and fruity, this is very gluggable.  Loving that rich orange note up front.

Finish - Medium with apple wood again, strawberry laces and a touch of orange peel at the end.

A superbly drinkable blend, absolutely delicious – a really special dusty wood on the nose with lots of fruit, delicate, restrained and balanced but with lots of depth, exactly the kind of whisky I'm into at the moment.  Well worth the outlay.

Monday, 26 June 2017

SMWS June 2017 Outturn

Late, late, late again and no excuse this time except work and family.  Also, quite a hard outturn, with lots of challenged drams in it and then oddly, some fabulous Islay stuff.  Weirdly, most of this is still available though, as late as I am, so not too much harm done (although I’m sad to have missed the Bowmore). 

Quickly now, buy the Laphroaig and then come back for the rest.


SMWS 63.37, Glentauchers, Coconut-cherry-chocolate chip ice cream, 9 years old, 60% A-

6th December 2007, 220 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2231Nose - Proper honest gear here, a good opener (on the nose at least). Highly mineral with a warm white wine backing, this is waxy (I would have gone with cherry lip salve) but I get the cheap Neapolitan ice cream thing here too, plus that kind of pliable and backed-by-buttercream icing you get on a shop bought birthday cake. Even better with water, fruit and wax more integrated and the ozone on exhale. Cracking.

Body - Quite sharp - zesty but sharp like a chewed lemon wedge with a pip in. Hot chocolate and dried apricots. Creamier with water.

Finish - Medium but quite bitter and a little blooded, there is a slightly dirty note in here I would describe as preserved lemons if I was being charitable, probably old charred lemons if not. Sweeter with water. Aspirin at the end.

This would be a good glugger if the end of the development wasn't quite so bitter. I do love the nose though, good and honest.

SMWS 70.19, Balblair, Vanilla ice-lollies in a sauna, 10 years old, 52.9% B

19th May 2006, 87 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2223Nose - Fresh and cold, lightly floral with lolly sticks, wet rocks and white vanilla cream (particularly on exhale). I tried really hard not to just come back to vanilla ice-lollies but that's what it smells like! It's a little clumsy though, to be honest - simplistic vanilla and putty. Better; cut plums and icing, with water.

Body - Hot, cakey and a little spicy, with (sorry) frost blown ice cubes and burnt chillies. Better integrated with water.

Finish - Long, peppery and drying, with flashes of green apple. Interesting herbal notes at the very back.

Quite an ordinary whisky, and my hopes weren't that high.

SMWS 54.49, Aberlour, First day of cricket season, 11 years old, 54.5% A

20th October 2005, 93 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2228Nose - Less honest perhaps than the 63, but proper old school, this has far more intensity. Red apple flesh, fountain pen ink, Danish pastries and granite. With time, the fruit is softer (peach and orange). Even classier with water.

Body - Soft waxes, with chalk and more granite, this has grapefruit bitterness and numbs the lips. There's a fence-panel hollow woodiness in this but it's compelling despite that.

Finish - Medium with aniseeds and cherry whistle pops. Lots of latent vanilla with water.

Young, interesting and drammable, with another fantastic nose, this would be a good one for the bar.

SMWS 73.84, Aultmore, Tug of war in a meadow, 15 years old, 57.4% A-

24th September 2001, 572 bottles, refill sherry

IMG_2232Nose - Slightly charred, dusty chocolate, maybe Mexican chocolate before being grated into hot water (it has that bright spicing - cinnamon and fennel). There's also a oversweetened sourness here that smacks of a virgin oak experiment. Behind these two rather obvious notes (and especially after sipping) there's something more interesting; pear, candle wax, peach perhaps.

Body - Red cherries, red chillies, obvious virgin oak cask here but backed by something richer - fruit cake and (as will become a theme) an Auchentoshan fruit funk. More chocolate cake with water.

Finish - Spicy and numbing, cherry lipsalve and garibaldi biscuits. Quite long and rich in the end.

An enormously confusing whisky, but (as they often are) quite interesting and returnable-to in the delivery, I particularly like the awkward fruit and robust woods. Ultimately though, undetectably sherried, much more VO and so I wonder if this has been subject to more experimental cask abuse.

SMWS 112.14, Inchmurrin, Funky, feisty and youthful, 8 years old, 60.5% C+

20th February 2008, 270 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon, sold out

IMG_2219Nose - It is indeed rather obviously funky on the nose, cakey and peachy with lychees and buttercream. There's that underlying silly putty tone in the funk which reminds me of Auchentoshan. Quite exciting.

Body - Extremely spicy this, like rolling tobacco tar, almost like the lit end on the tip of your tongue. The funky fruit plays out behind this raw, chilli heat. Much better with water, we're down to the level of chilli chocolates or chilli sweets, but now it's too bitter.

Finish - Burning spice, fizzing and palate destroying, like raw heavily peated spirit.

Ouch. I enjoyed the nose but this delivery is way too hot.

SMWS 5.56, Auchentoshan, Apples and pears on the bough, 16 years old, 54.8% B⊕

11th October 2000, 142 bottles, After 15 years in ex-bourbon wood we transferred this to a first-fill Spanish oak Oloroso hogshead

IMG_2220Nose - OK, actually Auchentoshan. There's more dried mango in the nose than the fake ones before, with peach and marzipan tart and a really delicate, fruity sweetness. With time, very distinct dried fruit and mixed spice. With water, oversmoked pork. Delicious.

Body - Arrestingly different, recognisably Auchentoshan but an unexpected fizzing gunpowder and medicinal note grabs you from the start. Disappointing with water.

Finish - Down through cigarette and coffee and into licked perfume and Germolene. Hot again but I suspect my palate is a little hurt from the Inchmurrin. Bitter at the end.

A truly bizarre whisky, with a finish that is slightly beyond my love of the Auchentoshan character. I command you to try it at the bar, and challenge you to make it through a bottle at home.  I’d try a dram at the bar again.

SMWS 39.143, Linkwood, Dark, spicy and rich, 16 years old, 57.1% A

1st June 2000, 261 bottles. After spending 16 years in an ex-bourbon barrel it was transferred to a 1st fill charred ex-red wine hogshead.

IMG_2230Nose - Liquorice allsorts, red wine in last night's glass (probably auto-suggested by the cask sentence I've just written), wine gums and something green, like strawberry stalks and leaves. This is rich though, vanilla sponge and wine gums with digging, and marker pens and classier fruits with water.

Body - These charred wine hogsheads are all quite similar in the delivery, the hard, sour, numbing tannins of VO tempered by rich, soft red fruits. Much better with water, more cake at the front, classier by far.

Finish - Flashes of wine, crushed by bitter wood and aspirin. Once the whisky leaves your tongue the soft fruit is obliterated. At the end, gummy sweets and some Linkwood behind this but I would have preferred to taste the original refill bourbon.

Another great nose, dodgy casking, but this one comes through pretty well. Worth a shot at the bar but a tiring finish means I'd struggle with a bottle.

SMWS 36.132, Benrinnes, A warm treat, 16 years old, 58% A-

31st May 2000, 275 bottles, Virgin oak hogshead HTMC

IMG_2221Nose - Darker and more warmly spiced than expected, this has fresh acrylic paint, cinnamon swirls, freshly cut oak and something fresher (cucumber?). Rich, exciting vanilla with time. Much better, with sweetshop and waxed fruits with water - transformed - bandages and really classy woods.

Body - Spicy, dirty, burnt - cloves, toasted raisins on a hot cross bun, chocolate sauce with venison. Fruitier and slightly funky with water.

Finish - Roasted and burnt, like espresso coffee and black malt. Tarry smoke, like coughing on a cigarette.

One of the stranger VO cask I've tasted, maybe this was charred a bit more heavily than normal. A very challenging dram neat, I think water brings out the underlying whisky. Worth a punt at the bar.

SMWS 30.97, Glenrothes, Dancing on a volcano, 9 years old, 64.7% A-

6th June 2007, 627 bottles, 1st fill sherry butt Spanish oak

IMG_2225Nose - Rich, ripe and slightly sour, with great sherry depth (almost liquorice) and a touch of petrol. A lot more cask complexity with water, with hoisin sauce and linseed oil.

Body - Slightly spicy, with chocolate cake and nutty Oloroso. It has a weirdly dusty, bretty edge, but a really compelling fruit and nut bar sweetness.

Finish - Long and hot. Splints and liquorice imps. Much more typical with water, I'm regretting spending so long with my tiny sample neat.

An interesting, robust heavily sherried (but not overdone) whisky, but almost nothing to do with Glenrothes.

SMWS 4.225, Highland Park, A crunchy brunch, 15 years old, 60.6% A

20th August 2001, 580 bottles, refill sherry butt, sold out

IMG_2229Nose - Zesty, young, full of acrylic paint and wine cask. Peated barley, chewed, with overstewed tea and roasted plum skins. That acrylic paint turns into typical window putty with time. After sipping, the waxes in the nose come through and make more sense.

Body - Burnt toast, charred pepper and garlic, but not sulphured and not a problem. It's citric and peated like a 10 year old bunna though. Richer with more cereal, with water.

Finish - Long with grapefruit zest and cloudy lemonade. Heavily peated.

Tasty (well, more nosey) stuff but expectations are higher for a 15 year old refill sherry HP.

SMWS 4.226, Highland Park, Smoked plum lemonade, 12 years old, 64.5% A'

31st May 2004, 627 bottles, refill sherry puncheon, sold out

IMG_2227Nose - Gentler than the 225, slightly richer with dusty almond sweets and honey. A really lovely, gentle filth with time, proper HP.

Body - Much richer than the 225, honey again, but the peating is still robust. A delicious, balanced peat/wax/fruit sweets thing mid-development. Sawdust, green apple and Refreshers.

Finish - Long but bitter, liquorice root and strawberry laces. A hint of chocolate and sulphur at the end.

This is a balanced, interesting, drinkable whisky, and well worth a dram.

SMWS 66.103, Ardmore, A thing of rough beauty, 9 years old, 60.4% A+

15th May 2007, 208 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2224Nose - Dark but freshly peated, night time whisky. Blackberries, vanilla sponge, ozone and a fat cigar. Robust and trustworthy. Water makes it orangier, slightly funkier.

Body - Richly sweet at first (blackcurrant jam) then burning electrical insulation and bandages - funky and just straying into dirty. Slightly classier and a little softer with water, with wort from an IPA and orange squash.

Finish - Sweet fruits and fizzing peat, quite long and very interesting, significantly better than all these finishes. The dirt is back at the end. Long, very drying, very tannic and very compelling.

A breath of fresh (if funky) air in this outturn, the quality is obvious.


SMWS 3.301, Bowmore, Sweet smoky melody, 18 years old, 57.1% A⊕

25th September 1998, 121 bottles, refill bourbon, sold out

IMG_2226Nose - That is beautiful - elegant peating and a very intense blackcurrant note. Perhaps breakfast pancakes with butter and blackcurrant jam. There's more here though, shellfish (mussels) with white wine, charred peach, smouldering rosemary and Victoria sponge. And a little petrol. And something sweet but smoky, like burning cherry pipe tobacco (but not that).

Body - Hotter, more burnt than I was expecting but delicious for it - one of the more charred cereal Bowmores (we sure this isn't refill sherry?). Even peatier with water.

Finish - A very long finish full of woodsy herbs and hot minty peat. Very rich and sweet with a slight petrol funk. Delicious.

This is proper. I would have been all over this if I'd've been tasting the outturn ahead of time.


SMWS 29.218, Laphroaig, Charred fruit on an open fire, 18 years old, 58.1% A⊕+

13th May 1998, 288 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2222Nose - Really deep and sweet, cut purple plums and pastry, but with a weird petrol station, cardboard and hot radiator thing going on. Now I'm sure this one must be refill sherry, it reminds me of those epic Signatory bottles (maybe it was all in the Laph rather than the sherry!). Quite evocative with water, like discovering indie Laphroaigs.

Body - That cardboard is back but with white bread, toffee, intensely peated cereal and aspirin. There's fruit too, behind some quite serious peat and chilli spicing; fruit toffee, marmalade on toast. Better integration of the peat with water, seriously delicious.

Finish - Long and hot, extra strong mints and burning spice (but in a good Laphroaig way). Fisherman's friends and sugared pastries at the end.

A big, big Laphroaig, absolutely delicious.


SMWS 29.211, Laphroaig, Jazzy jousting hastlitude, 21 years old, 51.6% A⊕

4th April 1995, 228 bottles, after 20 years in ex-bourbon oak we transferred this to a 1st fill American oak PX hogshead, sold out

IMG_2233Nose - Gentle sherry stuff after the 218, nevertheless this is also rather special - ripe cut plums, the icing from Mr. Kipling's chocolate cupcakes, a little magic balloon, but with that special something Laphroaig has when it hits sherry - it's a grown up funk… all Haribo wrapped in bandages. The nose alone was worth the price.

Body - Sweet and mellow, gentle fruit and nut bar, restrained sherry and behind this, classy but intense peat. It is mellow though, despite that.

Finish - Long with medicinal, cereal Laphroaig poking out from behind the jam. A great balance of peat, fruit, tannins and pepper.

This is also delicious. The nose is phenomenal and old school, and it's quite pleasant for that to be combined with a quite mellow delivery. Despite the day-making nose, I still prefer the *in stock* 218 though.


SMWS 10.113, Bunnahabhain, The crowd pleaser, 10 years old, 59% A+

20th December 2005, 186 bottles, peated, 2nd fill bourbon, sold out

IMG_2234Nose - Classic 10yo peated bunna, this is intensely sweet but balanced by a severe peating - coastal but full of bandages and charred wood, with Germolene and charred rosemary. Warmer with water, and a distinct note of Brettanomyces.

Body - Perfect Islay - dusty and chalky, medicinal and then sweet, this has quite a fetid feel to it; a washed up mermaid's purse, mezcal and red wine. Definitely Refreshers with time.

Finish - Medium, fizzing, zesty. Hotter with water.

This is excellent, heavily peated young Bunna often is. This is a particularly heavily peated one and was a great choice for Feis Ile.

BUY - but don't go crazy due to the picture, there have been plenty of great society 10s before and there will be plenty after.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Campbeltown Festival 2017

My second visit to Campbeltown for the excellent festival, which is 50% Springbank and 50% Cadenhead’s.  Last year I wrote up the whole thing over three days (day one, day two, day three) with a lot of dialog about the overall experience but I’ve chilled out a bit this year and my notes just focus on the whisky, really. Besides, Frank has already written way more about it than I was going to, I would advise you take a look at his write-up, which starts here.


Suffice to say the festival was excellent again this year, and unlike last year the weather was amazing too!  I packed everything from shorts to thinsulate gloves. Last year’s highlights were probably both warehouse tours, particularly the Cadenhead’s tour, and the Cadenhead’s pop-up bar, but this year the 175th anniversary tasting was the real highlight.

These were the events we went to:

Wednesday 24th May 2017:

11:30am: Springbank Society Tasting

7pm: The Springbank Distillery Dinner

Thursday 25th May 2017:

11:30am: The ‘uber-geek’ Tasting

1:30pm: Springbank Masterclass: New and forthcoming releases

3:30pm: Cadenhead Masterclass: Current bottlings and future releases

4:30pm: Springbank Warehouse Tasting

Friday 26th May 2017:

10:15am: Cadenhead Warehouse Tasting

1:45pm: Cadenhead 175th Anniversary Tasting

7pm: Cadenhead 175th Anniversary Dinner

My tasting notes are very short, and of course it’s hard to really make proper notes in a festival atmosphere where you have potentially been sipping whisky since 10:15am and lunch was a BBQed lamb burger.  As some of these bottles came home with me I have been able to make better, more complete notes for those whiskies (interesting to compare these with the quick notes I made at the time).  So I’ve added those notes first, then there are notes for each of the tastings we went to.  Enjoy!


Springbank 15 years old, Open day 2017, Rum cask, 50% A⊕

IMG_2309Nose - Sweet, dark, plastic chairs and a BBQ restaurant. The fruit is intense - blood oranges and ripe cut mango, but balanced with great body, dusty and slightly medicinal with Vaseline and a touch of cigarette smoke. Fruitier and more obviously Springbank with water.

Body - Quite brightly peated, with charred wood and fizzing fruits. Some of the complexity and gravitas of the 21 with water.

Finish - Long and fizzing, orange wax and vanilla pastry. Finally the rum is very obvious, dry and tannic, slightly funky.

This is a lot better rounded and delicious than I remember at the tasting. They should stick some of these in the OB 15, it's cracking stuff.

Kilkerran 11 years old, triple distilled, Open day 2017, 60.3% A+

I did try a triple distilled cask at the Springbank open day bar (which was excellent), but this is the first released triple distilled bottle I believe.

IMG_2307Nose - Waxy and restrained with hard green apple and a deep toffee underneath. New carpet underlay and lino, chipped marble and cold earth. This clearly needs water, which brings a great balance of fruit (riper green apple mainly), milk tart, vanilla sponge and almond paste. It's also significantly more floral.

Body - Sweet but rock hard, pastry and waxes underneath. Dustier and finally some peat and Campbeltown with water.

Finish - Long and fruity, pancakes and warmed honey. There is a very long tail on this, ironically soft and fruity. Chewed Sichuan peppercorns (not the really numbing ones) with water.

A much more restrained Kilkerran once the hard alcohol has had time and water. There is serious spirit underneath this though and at 15, 17, 20 these triples might be really significant.

Kilkerran Warehouse tour cask, 11 years old, full term in a rum barrel, 57.7% A+'

5/5/2006 – May 2017.  The first ever indie (Cadenheads) cask of Kilkerran, although there is a “cage bottle” of Kilkerran in the display cabinet at the Ardshiel hotel. 

IMG_2306Nose - That's much more like it, coastal and colossal, sharp, rich young Kilkerran and a good cask. Charred pineapple, strawberry laces and talcum powder, and the showers at a posh gym.

Body - Ripe and vanilla'd with French cooked pastry and big, drying tannins. Really rich, reminds me of a 10 year old peated Bunna with its intense sweetness. More cigarettes and bong water with water.

Finish - Medium to long with fisherman's friends and a slight funk.

Richer gear than the triple, but extremely accomplished and very drinkable. Kilkerran is whisky made for drinking (as it all is of course, but this really is). I've really enjoyed all these rum casks from the festival.

Springbank 21 years old, 2017 batch, 46% A⊕+'

This is, probably maybe, the batch we tasted in the Springbank warehouse tour last year!  Not a festival release, just the 2017 release but we did have it at this year’s (and last year’s!) festival, plus I love it, so…

IMG_2308Nose - The magical thing about old Springbank is the very thing that makes it impossible to really enjoy in a festival atmosphere, unless of course it's just been valinched out of a cask. There is great restraint, and a very gentle, professional air to this, but the excellence of the 15 year old is beautifully polished down here with fruit, oil, peat, wood and warehouse all in perfect, dampened harmony. It's a glazed, sweetshop fruit, blackcurrant and cherry, but fresh and oily like a ride on a cold day on an old motorbike. And red wine cask, blackcurrant jam on vanilla pancakes and ozone.

Body - Gentle again, slightly mineral, with Vimto and restrained Springbank tannins. A touch of pink peppercorns, burnt toast and Seville orange.

Finish - Very long indeed, fruit right to the finish. Coffee chocolates and drying wood at the end, this pulls you in for another sip.

Springbank peaking at 15 means the 21 is ethereal, like Bowmore is at 26. But this vatting is perfectly judged for drinking, I have burned through the 10cl share I have and a bottle wouldn't last long. A life affirming whisky.

Springbank 21 years old, Open day 2017, 46% A⊕

First fill port hogshead, 252 bottles, December 1995 to May 2017

IMG_2305Nose - Sweeter, much more forthright than the OB 21, blackcurrant jam again but bright, mineral and perfumed. Very floral and but also quite masculine - men's deodorant and talcum powder. With time that blackcurrant is more like travel sweets, and there's really old wood behind this. After sipping, there’s better balance and more intense fruit and wood.

Body - Younger at first, sharp and slightly hot with intense black fruit and sugar but it develops into a more dusty, older fruit (the dust on the travel sweets) and retronasal petrol.

Finish - Long and really softly vanilla'd, with ice lolly sticks and orange peel at the end.

This is a uncharacteristically fruited 21 year old Springbank, intense but complex and interesting. That sharpness and youth in the initial delivery takes it off A⊕+, plus I am less into these kinds of fireworks at the moment.

Springbank recharred sherry butt, 20 years old, bottling hall dinner 2017, 59.9% A+

IMG_2311Nose - Harsher, obviously new/recharred wood, with gloss paint and marker pens. Yet more black fruits here, plus twisted orange peel and in-flight orange juice. Takes a little while to acclimatise to this because the wood is so bright, but the Springbank oils are underneath with fresh, pungent honey musk and Ribena. Dustier, fruitier with water, more wood and more Springbank.

Body - Soft fruits but big hot spice behind it, charred red chilli and burnt toast. Significantly fruitier with water, much juicier and lots of cigarette tobacco.

Finish - Very long and quite hot, black pepper and charred red pepper skin. Numbing tannins.

The intensity on this one is quite challenging to be honest, we had a bottle of it on our table and we struggled to finish it whereas the port cask got hoovered up. However this has lots to give as a tasting whisky.


Society tasting, 24.05.2017 11:30

IMG_2002The annual Springbank Society tasting.  This is free to members of the society (if you can get a ticket!) and used to result in selection of the next society cask.  However the society is now, very sadly, too large (no thanks to bloggers) and members get angry when they can’t have their bottle because there’s not enough in a hogshead, so the society bottlings will from now on be vattings of many casks.  Therefore they decided instead to do a blind tasting of a few casks and ask us to guess the cask, brand and age.


I think it would have been better to do some trial vattings and let us taste samples of them and continue picking the next society bottle, that was pretty special last year. Not that we picked the one I wanted!

Dram 1 n- sweet, plasticky, floral with some putty. Young but confident. b- Hot, liquorice imps, acrylic paint, tobacco. Fruitier, and light peat with water. f- Long, with tobacco and slightly medicinal. A+

Guessed Springbank, 10 year old, bourbon. Was Springbank, 9, rum cask, local barley.

Dram 2 n- burnt wood, menthol, bandages. b- Oily and dry, peppery. f- Long with black pepper A+

Guessed Kilkerran (I was 100% sure of this), 9 years old, rum cask. Was Hazelburn (!), 16 years old, refill bourbon.  I haven’t been finding Hazelburn very gentle or unpeated recently!


Dram 3 n- Dusty, wet wood, fizzers. b- Medicinal, peach and orange. f- Dirty peat, really special.

Guessed Longrow (100% sure), 2nd fill sherry, 16 years old. Was Longrow, first fill sherry, 14 years old.

Dram 4 n- light, fresh paint, cooking apples. b- Strawberry and Asian fruit, a little filth. f- Very long and sweet.

Guessed Hazelburn, Calvados, 14 years old. Was Kilkerran, 10 years old, Marsala.


Springbank Dinner, Springbank Bottling Hall, 24.05.2017 19:00

IMG_2008As with last year, the dinner on the first night was excellent fun.  It starts with a tasting of three casks, we vote on the winner and it’s bottled and handed to you on the way out.  We had bottles of the winner on the table over dinner, and in the end they brought us a bottle of second place and came round with a valinch of third place!

I voted for the 2nd (port cask) but once people knew the age and saw the colour of the 3rd, the writing was on the wall.

Dram 1 - Springbank 17 years old, refill sherry, 51.2% A+

n- Mineral, lip salve, dark fruit. b- Very sweet, beautiful tobacco, floral. f- Medium to long, tarmac, bitter lemon. Sweet but classic, core Springbank.

IMG_2014Dram 2 - Springbank fresh port cask, 15 years old, 49.7% A⊕

N - sweet, more 1 dimensional fruit and icing sugar. B - intense gummy sweets, real icing sugar with the fruits. F - Long and fizzing, zesty and delicious, blackcurrant lozenges.

Dram 3 - Springbank recharred butt, 20 years old, 59.9% A+

This is the sister cask to last years' 19yo recharred sherry cask that we had in the warehouse tour (full notes at the top of this post).

n- Bramble and blackcurrant perfume. Chocolate orange. b- Spicy, pepper, fruit underneath. Loads of cigarette tar. F - Tar, cigars, very long and drying.



Springbank Uber Geek tasting, warehouse 10, 25.05.2017 11:30

We’ll see about uber geek, Frank and I were both, independently thinking on the way into this.  I am already familiar with α-amylase and β-amylase from my adventures in homebrewing but we were both impressed with the kilning profiles, particularly for Longrow which reminded me very much of low and slow BBQ.


Dram 1 - Hazelburn 16 years old, concerto barley, 4/5/01, first fill port, 42.4% A+

Apparently port and rum barrels seem to lose ABV faster than others

N - Sweet, mineral and slightly minty, liquorice torpedoes, roast plums. Cakier with water, orange drizzle cake. B - Wine cask, cigar tobacco, beautifully fruity. F - Long with a touch of blood.

Dram 2 - Springbank 14 years old, 2/5/03, first fill Guyana demerara rum barrel, 59.5% A

N - Very yellow, varnish and a little funk and cough candy. More wine-like with water, men's perfume. B - Intense, pepper and plastic. Very spicy with lots of rum funk. Sweeter, gentler, although still intense with water. F - Very long and loads of black pepper. Hot at the end. An interesting and funky whisky but way too bitter and hot at the end.

Dram 3 - Kilkerran 10 years old, 19/9/2006, first fill Calvados cask, 58.1% A+

IMG_2025N - Young with stewed tea, rich wood, vanilla sponge and hard green apple. B - Sweet cereal, young malt, candy cigarettes, apple chews. F - Cigarette tobacco and toast. A classy KK - confident and bright in its youth.

Dram 4 - Longrow 9 years old, 13/11/2007, first fill Sauternes, 58.3% A⊕

N - Really beautifully mature, fruity and dusty. B - Pure vanilla cream, mango, caraway, grapefruit peel and flesh. F - Medium with charcoal.

And finally a random extra. Is this the same cask as the one in the warehouse tasting last year? Seems to add up.

Dram 5 - Auchentoshan 18 years old, 1999 Lafite cask since 2009, 52.5% A⊕

IMG_2027N - Funk, peaches, ice lollies, haribo. Pure summer holidays. Dirtier with water. B - Pure red wine cask; hazelnuts, peach jelly sweets, strawberry laces. F - The fruit is short, but the rest is long with stewed tea, splints and bubblegum.

As tasty as it was last year! 

Springbank masterclass, 25.05.2017 13:30


Hazelburn 2004, 13 years old, Oloroso cask A⊕

This was the official release from a couple of months ago, I have an open bottle of this I need to publish notes from – soon!  If I can catch up on the monthlies…

N - Dusty, floral with retronasal vinegar, great waxes. B - Chalky, perfumed, earth and peppery peat. F - Medium, with strawberries and balanced vanilla sponge.

Springbank openday 2017 bottling, 2001 rum cask A+

Properly reviewed at the top of the post.

N - Sweet, plastic, green apple and bandages - obviously a rum cask. Lovely charred wood, and more waxy with water. A beautiful nose. B- Light with limoncello, beeswax, peppered sausage. Slightly more artificial sweetener with water. F - Tannic, drying, medicinal. Big rum influence.


Springbank society bottling, 9 year old Sauternes casks, 57.1% A+

1128 bottles, the first vatted society bottle I believe.

N - Dry, fruit sweets, cigar tobacco and flapjack. Really classy, wine and barley, deep sweetness. B - Extremely rich but with good balance, Danish pastry and pop tarts. Touch of sulphur with water. F - Medium, very soft, creamy with raspberry jam. Delicious. Great richness, depth and sweetness, and just pulled from the brink in terms of balance.

Springbank 1996, 21 years old (2017 release). 3,800 bottles. 47% A⊕

Properly reviewed at the top of the post.

N - Beautifully balanced fruit, charred wood, really creamy with fruit back notes. B - Really gentle apples, wood, leather and ozone. Very elegant, really beautiful. F - Long and well balanced, gun oil and a little bit of sulphur. Gentle but slightly spicy. A real drinker, absolutely delicious.

Springbank 1996, 21 years old, Port cask for the 2017 open day. A⊕

First fill port HHD, 252 bottles.  Properly reviewed at the top of the post.

IMG_2032N - Coffee and chocolate cake, blood orange juice and pineapples. Even better with water, more fruit and chocolate. B - Clean but fruit driven, with cola bottles and sherbet dibdabs. F - Very long, loads of plum and orchard fruit right to the end with strawberry tart and raspberry sauce.

Very good but not quite enough Springbank character.

Longrow 18 years old, 2017 release A⊕

N - Gunpowder and charcoal, great maturity. B - A little filth, fizzy, lots of fruit. F - Long and balanced. Delicious.

Cadenheads masterclass 25.05.2017 15:30

The first three I’ve reviewed before so I didn’t make notes for them at the festival, but they were:

Glen Elgin 21 years old, 54.7%, Knockdhu 10 years old, 56.5%, Fettercairn 28 years old, 55.4%

Cameronbridge 33 years old, 53.4% A

N - hard, blonde oak, wood glue and leatherette. B - Clean, chocolate chip tracker bars, twix, dried bananas lol. F - Short, varnish, wood tannin at the end. Ordinary grain, a decent drinker.

Littlemill 26 years old, 53.1% A⊕

Another bottle from the great Cadenheads Littlemill lake.  This was bottled and sold at the tasting.

N - Balsa, wood glue and blackcurrants. Dry vanilla sponge and buttercream icing. Really rich and creamy, fruitier with water. B - Lots of cream, wood glue, black pepper. Beautiful wood, wax and vanilla. Cut grass and acrylic paint. F - Blackcurrant sorbet, slightly bourbon-y. Super creamy this, a floral lowlander.

Laphroaig 1991, 25 years old, 49% A+

First fill recharred sherry for the last 3 years. 

N - Holy shit. Marker pens, blackberries, cut hedges, deep and old alien Islay (although less fizzers). B - Wet wood, burnt toast and honey, slightly virgin oak. F - Medium with charred plums. Weirdly virgin oak in the finish. This has a phenomenal nose but a bit intense in the delivery. Mark asked if this should have more time in the cask - I think it needs to go in a different cask for another 5 years or it'll end up black and overcooked like the Springbank dinner bottle. Maybe into that port cask the open day bottling came out of?

Springbank warehouse tasting 25.05.2017 16:30

Everyone loves tasting whisky out of the cask in a dunnage warehouse.


Hazelburn 1998, FF bourbon cask A⊕

N - Beautiful depth, tropical fruit, very balanced for so long in FF bourbon. B - Spiky but lovely fruit. F - Quite a lot of wood, melba toast and honey.

Really delicious. FF bourbon HB is awesome.

Springbank 21 years old, A⊕+

IMG_2034Next year's Springbank 21 year old, bourbon and rum casks this time. This is being vatted in neutral casks at the moment and this is what we tasted.

N - Gunpowder and overripe fruit, intense depth of fruit, sawdust and roasted plums. B - Classy SB 21 with gun oil, marzipan and pastry case. F - Very long with vanilla and tannins.

Kilkerran 2004 port cask, re-racked in 2014. A+

This is the same cask we tried last year, the cask hasn't been moved! I remember being particularly impressed with this one last year.

N - Dark, black fruit. B - Blackcurrant jam and pepper. F - Red wine cask, lots of pepper.

Kilkerran 2004 rum cask A⊕

N - Loads more honey, literally opening a hive. B - Beautifully balanced.

Longrow Red Pinot Noir casks, refilled with Longrow, 11 years old A⊕+

IMG_2043So this is double/refill Longrow red. Racked as 9 years old in 2015. If this is next year's Longrow red I want a case.

N - Super dusty, red berries and bitumen. Strawberry pop tarts, hot malt. B - Beautifully fruity and floral. F - Cigarette tar, aniseed, very, very long.

Springbank 25 years old, next release

N - Deeper, blacker and fruitier. At this point my note taking was cancelled by a nice fellow called Dave who had just discovered we shared a deep history in British metal and both knew all the lyrics for Sabbat's "History of a time to come" (1987)


Cadenhead's Warehouse Tasting, Warehouse #9, 26.05.2017 10:15

As a highlight of last year’s festival, expectations were sky high for this.  Nothing like a big load of drams at 10:15am.


Linkwood, 1987, bourbon cask, 29 years old, 46.5% A⊕

N - Floral, great richness (malt and oak), very balanced. Truffle honey. B- Ripe figs, honey and pastry. F - Long and fizzing, peach fuzz and refreshers. Really delicious but still complex.

Kilkerran 11 years old, full maturation in rum, 57.7%

Proper review at the top of this post.


N- Sweet lemon, citrus cleaner, coastal but very fresh with cigarette tobacco. Young but confident. B - Very punchy, more cleaning products, peppery with new plastic. Richer vanilla with water. F - Long and very spicy.

Glen Scotia 16 years old, full maturation in Oloroso sherry butt, 56.7% A-

N - Dark and fetid, baked apples and prunes. Burnt matches but not overdone, lightly sherried. Beautiful fruit with water. B - Dirty wine cask, fizzers, walnuts. Deep lacquer and sweets. F - Long and very tannic. A flash of cabbage at the end.

Highland Park 29 years old, bourbon cask, 51.5% A⊕

N - Deep, lacquered wood, but fresh with laundry and pears. B - Beautifully honeyed, quite a lot of wood, cigarette tobacco. Apple sweets with water. F - Very long with peach and flapjack, a little cigarette tar.

Springbank 16 years old, NZ cask (bourbon cask, previously from Lammerlaw), 51% A⊕

N - Fresh and coastal, good malt sweetness. B - Very rich and fruit driven, with orange peel but definitely Springbank. F - Very long, creamy. Extraordinarily satisfying. Extremely drinkable, really clean and fruit driven.

Lagavulin 9 years old ("Islay malt"), 59.5% A+

This is a sister cask to the WMCadenhead 9 year old Islay malt.

N - Dirty lemon, wet charred wood, red berries, burning splints on exhale. B - Intense, clean with green apple and joss sticks. Even better with water, more cereal and new make. F - Long and beautifully fruited.

IMG_2167Another great warehouse tasting.  The other timeslot had a slightly different set of casks, including a 24 year old Glen Grant, 27 year old Glentauchers and a 36 year old Blend.  This was an old sherried cask bought pre-blended from Edrington containing Macallan and others, and is the sister cask used for the 36 year old sherried creations (that has some added old Invergordon I believe). I love the creations and this cask isn’t quite as good, but I got one as a curio more than anything, how strange to be buying mature blended casks from Edrington!

Cadenhead's 175th anniversary tasting, 26.05.2017 13:45


1971 Hielanman spirit drink, 45 years old, 38.8% A⊖

Glenfarclas, of course.  A very old cask that had dropped under 40% (surely this would have been better in a 45 year old blend!)

N - Intensely varnished, berried with hot buttered crumpet. B - Spicy pomander, perfume, lots of wood. F - Long but overwooded, fence panels. Fantastic nose, over the hill otherwise.


1991 Littlemill 26 years old, 52.6% A+

This is the littlemill from the small batch 175th anniversary set released globally rather than the one bottled at the festival (see above notes for the Cadenhead’s masterclass).

N - Biscuit and fruit, old cereal, talcum powder and old ladies perfume. A real waxy depth with wood glue. Better woods with water. B - Blackcurrant cordial, custard doughnuts, red chilli with water. F - Creamy with icing sugar and oak at the end.


1991 Rosebank, 26 years old, 50.3% A⊕+

I’ve always quietly thought that Rosebank was a bit overrated but this one is fantastic

N - Gentle, floral, dusty radiator and candle wax. Totally beautiful. B - Really gentle fruit, oils and travel sweets. F - Long, slightly spicy with tons of refreshers. Really compelling. The best Rosebank I've had.

1976 Banff, 40 years old, 51.2% A⊕⊕

IMG_2067N - Incredible depth with well-balanced red fruit, wood and wax. Intense but perfect tropical old Scotch. B - Intense, old dunnage, quite fetid with bong water, melon and grapefruit segments. F- Long with overripe Asian fruits and really quite peppery. A really classy and old school Scotch full of sweetshops and dunnage funk.

IMG_20631977 Convalmore, 40 years old, 56.8% A⊕+

N - Winier, with Mexican hot chocolate and cinnamon swirls. Creamier chocolate with water. B - Beautifully sweet, bright travel sweets and foxes glacier mints. F - Long with cut lemon and lemon sorbet. A perfect drinker. Intense maturity but balanced and with bright citrus freshness.

1977 Caperdonich, 39 years old, sherry butt, 50.4% A⊕+

N - Dark, old sherry cask, ripe and intensely wooded. Reminds me of old Glenfarclas family casks. B - Beautifully balanced sherry bomb, really easy drinking and not overdone. F - Long and fizzing, fabulous. Perfectly judged.

1996 Heaven Hill, 20 years old (in dunnage in Scotland for 17 years after America, shipped in original cask), 50.8% A-

N - Woody, with reclaimed old oak floorboards. Vanilla cream with time. B - Sweet and old and a shitload of wood. F - Virgin oak. This is fine, great for bourbon, not my kind of thing.


1993 Ardbeg, 23 years old, 52.4% A+

This one was valinched out of the cask by a now broken looking Mark Watt and bottled for the crowd.

N - Complete, coastal but with real class. Iron filings, vanilla custard, football stickers. B - Old plasters, crushed granite. F - Long with lots of gunpowder.

A fantastic tasting and a great end to the festival.