My prayers have been answered! Loads of classic young society refill bourbon. The perfect antidote to last month although all this new French oak is a bit hard going (although you don’t need to obsessively taste them all every month I guess). There are a few I’m missing here, including an Ardmore MIA, and I think a Glenlivet that was misplaced at the bar, plus these others that just didn’t arrive to London in time:
SMWS 71.44, Glenburgie, Cumin on a cricket bat, 10 years old
SMWS 66.104, Ardmore, Home sweet home, 8 years old VO
SMWS G15.1, Rhosdhu (?), Lead us to temptation, 9 years old
SMWS 2.99, Glenlivet, Joyful rambling, 10 years old
Even the bar didn’t have a list for the outturn, so it was hard to be complete about it, I found out the full list yesterday on FlipSnack. Note the “new” distillery G15, I’ve only got a tweet to go on for that, nobody I know knows anything anymore!
Anyyway I’m just pleased to have got to this outturn on time for a change.
My picks for this month are the Cragganmore, Balmenach, Glendronach and Arran. In particular the Balmenach for just being good, an the Arran for being a little unhinged.
SMWS 28.34, Tullibardine, Alluring and amusing, 9 years old, 60.8% A-
7th June 2007, 191 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon
Nose - Clay and acrylic at the front here, potpourri with a distinctly mineral note and something new, like unboxing a piece of electronic equipment. Fruits are restrained; unripe pear, a touch of apple tart. Very perfumed after sipping, and richer with water.
Body - Dependable; candy cigarettes, chalk, more apple tart with a little custard. A little herbal - strawberry chewed off the stalk and leaf (what's that bit of a strawberry called?), sweeter and richer with water but the minerality keeps it honest.
Finish - Long and spirit driven, clean with a really long fruit note to the end.
A solid, young whisky, well presented. A little uneventful perhaps.
SMWS 37.93, Cragganmore, Airy angel fairy cup-cakes, 14 years old, 58.2% A+
1st October 2002, 266 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - A lot sweeter than the 28, sweet, fruity and shiny like the glaze on a krispy kreme donut. Quite intense and exciting actually (quite Christmassy), with candied orange slices, lit candles, Christmas cake (caught raisins and marzipan) and liquorice allsorts.
Body - Intense orange, like that orange powder Americans make up into drinks, and mandarin peel. Sponge cake behind this with buttercream icing. A bit more grown up with water (Pret carrot cake).
Finish - Long and hot, some toast behind all that fruit. Water brings intense, numbing orange oils, verging on minty.
An intensely fruity and delicious young whisky, well recommended.
SMWS 6.24, Macduff, Herby Mint Julep, 8 years old, 59.9% A⊖
20th February, 223 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - Dialled back down again but still plenty of fruit, with stone fruit (peaches), almond hand soap* and something herby - possibly not mint here, more like hairy sage on the bush. Better with water, it's softer with fresh cut herbs and vegetables, slightly earthy.
Body - Considered, gentle but quite soft and rich. Creamier with water, with a burnt note that catches at the back of the mouth, like asafoetida can.
Finish - Short and slightly fizzing (that's probably the ABV). Water makes it hotter and brings an unwelcome bitter note.
Love the nose on this, it really grew on me - classy and interesting but not over the top. Too much heat and bitterness in the delivery.
* have to be careful I'm not just smelling my hands
SMWS 48.90, Balmenach, Cedar, sandalwood and rose, 11 years old, 57.1% A+'
29th March 2005, 192 bottles, first fill bourbon
Nose - Mineral - broken rocks in rain. A posh red wine swirled in a big glass, a sandalwood box (very clearly, maybe joss sticks too) and coconut cookies. Milk chocolate with time. More floral with water.
Body - Bright rose in the delivery, rose water rather than Turkish delight, absolutely delicious to drink, big tannins balancing the extravagance. Sweeter with water.
Finish - Nutty and slightly fetid (peachy and lowlandy), with the rose carried along by toasted, glazed sesame seeds and a rich, fruity wood. Old school burps (if that's a thing!).
This is the kind of whisky that brings you back to discovering young society drammers. Less intense than the Cragganmore and better rounded and balanced. Lovely stuff, and well recommended.
SMWS 96.10, Glendronach, Lively as a squirrel, 9 years old, 59.2% A+
20th June 2007, 185 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - Rich but zesty, I always did like the concept of refill bourbon Glendronach. There's a real get out and do something bracing element to the nose with surf wax and ozone, fruit and sherbet. More carrot cake!
Body - Rich, a little cake, a little toast, with more orange waxes and orange zest (I'll go for Sevilles this time). It is quite toppy though, over the cake and sweets, a touch of gunpowder taking the edge off the richness (although… must remember it’s only 9)! More complex with water.
Finish - Medium, with orange cake and satsuma peel (dried and cooked with).
Another delicious orange bomb! And fun to drink, a good summer sipper. I think I prefer the Cragganmore although they are quite similar.
SMWS 85.47, Glen Elgin, Tropical cream tea, 9 years old, 61.2% A+'
25th October 2007, 240 bottles, 1st fill bourbon. The name is very promising.
Nose - Very interesting. How to quickly put this into words before it passes! Gloss paint first, then acrylic, some kind of white Asian fruit, peach jelly sweets and royal icing. "Eat" Victoria sponge slices.
Body - Rich, creamy, balanced sweetness and tropical fruit. Definitely getting the name in the delivery. A really satisfying delivery, with flashes of mini marshmallows and background minerality.
Finish - Drying with chalky mint bonbons. Liquorice imps at the end, almost salty.
Another really delicious, young whisky, very well put together. Despite the first fill this isn't unbalanced. Another delicious drammer.
SMWS 73.87, Aultmore, Dare you enter?, 14 years old, 59.5% A
26th September 2002, 558 bottles, 1st fill Spanish oak PX butt (previously matured in an ex-Oloroso sherry butt)
Nose - Dusty chocolate and what I believe is Kendal mint cake, there is a lot of minty wood here and evidently some buggering about with recharred or virgin wood. Propolis, cloves and smouldering oak chunks. Not exactly double sherried! With time (and after sipping), even richer with a lot of vanilla sponge and lemon curd. Lemon sherbets with water, and a suddenly compelling mature cask note.
Body - Rich, sweet and sharp, absolutely virgin oaked with bright yellow notes of grapefruit, melon rind and lemon pepper. Matchsticks with water.
Finish - Quite long and rich, with Turkish Delight and more melon.
Very interesting and drinkable, but either this was mis-labelled or this is very far from sherried. I suspect it had a trip through a different cask prior to the Oloroso and PX.
SMWS 121.99, Arran, Masala Chai black tea, 17 years old, 53.2% A⊕
1st January 2000, 234 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes
Nose - Deep and rich, almost chocolate cake on inhale. Much more "sherried" than the Aultmore, with notes of wood glue, lemon drizzle cake and just a lovely lick of truffle. There is something Chinese here too, like soy sauce hitting a hot wok full of pork slices. More of that pork with water (and yes I know Chai is Indian and not Chinese).
Body - A complex and well executed combination - wine cask, liquorice, chocolate and cream. A hint of something fetid, which is slightly more pronounced with water.
Finish - Long and rich, full of toffee, cake and chocolate icing. Practically chewable with water with lots of coconut at the end.
Delicious and intense, very thick and creamy with a well-judged but subtle wine finish (I'd like to know what they had in the cask previously). I wish we could have a non-messed-with Arran again but this is a big hit.
SMWS 4.230, Highland Park, Sweet and salty, smoke and ash, 12 years old, 65.2%(!) A-
31st May 2004, 588 bottles, refill sherry
Body - Surprisingly gentle given its tender years and violent strength, with Nutella on toast, clove chocolate and burning bandages. Rather a lot of water brings out an Islay peat, with toasted cereal like a young Bunnahabhain.
Finish - Long and tannic, very dry, slightly sour with cut dandelion stalks.
A decent dram, but last month's Ardmore did it better.
So that’s it for the peaters this month, and no Islay! Now to the brutal oakers.
SMWS 35.187, Glen Moray, Gentle confidence, 9 years old, 61.6% A
6th April 2007, 277 bottles, 1st fill French oak
Nose - Lovely colour on these ex-brandy/calvados/whatever they were casks, almost like flat Irn-Bru. Buttercups and bitter dandelions again here, old burnt oak with an interesting sweetness, like neat squash or orange limoncello. There's also this really interesting masculine but feminine perfume (CK One on a brown leather jacket, and chocolate ice cream). Very intriguing.
Body - Rich chocolate, then stale hazelnuts, then intense toffee and oils. That strangely hollow woodiness is there, gentle ex-bourbon does quite a lot for a cask I think, which is missing here. Water makes it more peppery with fried bread, and lots of orange peel.
Finish - Kind of short but there is an intensity that carries on - just wood though, perhaps a little celery, weirdly.
A confusing, palate destroying but ultimately quite drammable whisky. One for the bar.
SMWS 70.21, Balblair, Rosehip & hibiscus infusion, 14 years old, 60% B+
11th May 2007, 239 bottles, 1st fill French oak
Nose - A deep brown colour on this one. Coffee, slightly medicinal (E45 cream) and very virgin oak (compared to the Glen Moray at least). Red berries (oh - rosehip I guess) and cola. There is something richer behind this with water - these woody casks often have something lovely to give with digging.
Body - Victoria sponge cake (icing sugar on top), with poached pears and more E45. Orange glaze for meat. I detect no hibiscus. Bitter and saccharine with water.
Finish - Long and wooded, that slightly creamy funk is pulling it back from just being VO.
An interesting diversion but brutalised by the cask.
SMWS 55.45, Royal Brackla, Dreamy dandelion fuzz, 16 years old, 56.7% A+'
26th September 2000, 285 bottles, 1st fill French oak
Body - Really creamy and mouthfilling, with reduced red wine and chocolate sauce with a lovely little kick of funk.
Finish - Chocolate icing, then coffee and a citrus pith and membrane. I'm undecided which citrus, so it's probably grapefruit.
This is one of the good ones, extremely rich and creamy with an balancing citrus character, very hard to stop sipping it. Pretty delicious, bar and bottle I'd say.
SMWS 44.82, Craigellachie, A sweet and special character, 13 years old, 56.7% A'
27th June 2003, 193 bottles, VO
Nose - Red wine cask at first, toffee, blackcurrant jam and a little petrol… maybe a little oil too. Hoisin sauce and mirror cake glaze. There is an undeniably delicious black fruit sweetness on here. Richer with water, espresso and cross channel ferry.
Body - Ouch… the wood. But there's then burning splints, ants (you know what an ant colony smells like, I don't mean I've eaten ants, although I have eaten grasshoppers), blackcurrant throat lozenges and chocolate/coffee/VO stuff. Much better with water, plus the crystals at the bottom of a bottle of big red wine.
Finish - Bitter and wooden, aspirin and lots more blackcurrants. There's an intense richness underneath too, a little water helps. Neat Ribena at the end.
This just gets richer and richer. These woody casks are intense! I'm really enjoying it but I would struggle with a bottle. Go for it at the bar (or split a bottle with friends!)
SMWS 76.133, Mortlach, Indulge yourself, 14 years old, 57.5% A⊖
1st October 2002, 293 bottles, VO
Nose - Highly perfumed but a lot more "regular", this might not have taken quite so much from the VO. Dried wood sap though, with crayons, cheap orangeade, buttercream again and white flowers. This is much more astringent than the Craigellachie, although it's growing on me. More cake with water.
Body - Wedding cake icing, with grilled orange slices and lemon sorbet.
Finish - Medium with numbing Sichuan peppercorns and lemon water.
Interesting and worth a taste but a bit all over the shop.