Thursday, 28 September 2017

SMWS September 2017 outturn

So many bumps in the road getting to this post – this is by far the latest I’ve been with an outturn!  Normal service may resume at some point but I suspect it might be next year.  I’m going to be late with October now and November and December is going to be a massive car crash (they are going to be enormous), so I’ll do my best.

There’s plenty of stuff I could say at this point, there’s been lots of controversy since I last wrote about SMWS, but I will leave that for another time or when I have that whisky to try, or probably not at all.  This blog is about whisky, not history or corporate politics. 


SMWS 10.124, Bunnahabhain, 'Riding the wave', 9 years old, 61.4%

7th February 2008, 226 bottles, refill bourbon

SMWS Exotic Cargo, Vatted Malt, 10 years old, Batch 1, 50% A-

1st fill Spanish oak ex-sherry hogsheads, 1937 bottles. A clear bottle, amazing how refreshing that is to see!

IMG_3003Nose - Blackforest cherries, hard chocolate icing and blackcurrant jam. It is tempting to write off the slightly hard wood and obvious first-fillery as "young sherry bomb" but there's honestly more here, which is exactly what I thought when I first tried it - there's more complexity, I would assume because of the vatting. Acrylic paint, shower gel, foam sweets.

Body - Much younger here though, sour and acrylic, the cherries come back in the late delivery and a quite interesting waxiness develops with a simplistic sweetness. Drier with water, with very definite strawberry laces.

Finish - Long, quite hot with candle wax and cracked black pepper. Quite drying in character, the sugar is possibly masking an underlying hint of sulphur (which works for me).

This is no sell out, it's an accomplished vatted malt with real drinkability. I probably wouldn't turn to it that often as I'm much more into the refill bourbons at the moment, but if Wemyss released this everyone would be going crazy for it.


SMWS 71.46, Glenburgie, Youthful cockiness, 9 years old, 60.1% B⊕

30th January 2008, 237 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3010Nose - Immediately fresh and fruity (raspberry, apple), but then quite a spirity, estery note. Muted waxes and woods, but very polite. Generally this is very agreeable, doing no harm and allowing you to concentrate on your conversation. More complex with water, with lemon bonbons and some moisturising cream.

Body - Waxy, unripe red apple and a touch of coffee. Showing its strength, a good young drammer, water brings yoghurt covered raisins and pine boards.

Finish - Medium to short with good oils. Matchsticks and chocolate at the end.

Solid stuff. When you're sitting on a load of open bottles in their late teens or over, it's good to remember how much you like more raw whisky. Also a good opener at the bar.


SMWS 72.53, Miltonduff, Light-winged dryad of the trees, 9 years old, 59.4% B+

14th February 2008, 207 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3005Nose - Creamier, warmer fruit. A strawberry fool, a touch of sandalwood box, good cereal. This is going to be a good outturn for young drammers. Lemon yoghurt? That lemon really comes into its own with water; lemon cake, battenburg, better wood.

Body - Hot and hard, candy shell behind that - it is extremely sweet - royal icing and marzipan. Fizzing and tannic. More complete with water, better oils.

Finish - Medium with a slightly meaty edge, I want to call out the fruit cake but I think I'm just remembering the icing. A little chilli chocolate at the end.

Creamier and richer than the 71, but it worked better to be young there. Worth a dram at the bar probably.

SMWS 112.18, Inchmurrin, Culinary trip around Britain, 9 years old, 60% B+

20th February 2008, 311 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

IMG_3002Nose - Interesting esters in a drammer this young - blackcurrants and orange. Cereal and sour, a touch of musk. Plum crumble with custard. Waxier, more complete with water.

Body - Quite big and delicious, an unwelcome flash of chilli heat (although it is 60%), banana foam sweets. It's quite compelling. More bananas and more fruit with water, lots more wood structure.

Finish - Medium, hot, this lacks midrange halfway through the finish but then a big blackcurrant sugar hit makes up for it. Longer with water but hollower wood.

Young, but not as confident as others, this is interesting, quite delicious and slightly confusing to drink. One for the bar, you'd tire of a bottle.

SMWS 9.129, Glen Grant, Green earl grey, 13 years old, 55.8% B

2nd March 2004, 192 bottles, refill bourbon.  I had to nick this photo off Phil, cheers Phil.

36609407080_c0d7c9b0db_kNose - Light, white and waxy. Very, very young on the nose, new lino and a touch of fly spray. Digging gets you some kind of incidental wax, maybe lip salve, maybe just Vaseline. Better with water, more fruit, more wax.

Body - Gentle, a little caught malt (boiling DME), quite spicy. Green apple and plywood.

Finish - Long and very tannic, uneventfully spicy.

Uneventful if inoffensive. This should have been carefully blended away into some vatted malt. Gentle Cargo Batch 1.

SMWS 63.39, Glentauchers, Poached pear tart, 9 years old, 61.1% C⊕

6th December 2007, 226 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3008Nose - Rich at first, then really spirity and full of waxy esters - I totally get the pear drops and vanilla pastry. This is bright, confident, full of fruit and backed by strong bourbon cask (surprised this is refill). Lipstick, plastic and bubble gum. Remarkable.

Body - Deep, rich, then unexpectedly and brightly hot and intense, full of sugar and just… pear drops (just as sweet and hot). A touch of almond with water.

Finish - Long and hot, the pear drops are both intense on the palate and strong on the burps. Quite bitter and tannic behind this.

I do like this, and quite a lot (certainly "curious") but I think the amount of ethyl acetate in this spirit should be considered a flaw from fermentation. Nevertheless, you've got to try a dram.

SMWS 70.22, Balblair, Malaga raisin ice cream, 11 years old, 55.9% A+'

19th May 2006, 194 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3013Nose - Sweet and waxy, restrained sugar shell, tannic wood and lovely fruit - if it's raisin it's whisky soaked raisins, or fig rolls. A really perfumed nose too, vanilla air freshener, and a balancing minerality. The fruit, perfume and wax works very well.

Body - Creamy and delicious, great balance of oil, vanilla cream, wood and fruit. A touch of liquorice. Woodier with water, with a little plastic book covering.

Finish - Oily vanilla ice cream in the finish, green apple chews and a touch more tropicality. Loses some of that creaminess with water, better neat.

This is a little cracker, believe it or not I have actually had a full dram of this in the bar this month at Yves recommendation, and very much enjoyed it then too (and I think, its friend, 70.21).


SMWS 100.14, Strathmill, Boozy basil blueberry, 12 years old, 59.4% A-

23rd February 2005, 181 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3012Nose - Unexpectedly mature. Fruit, balance, good wood, surprisingly classy? I'm serious, there is something big here (can't believe I'm saying this) in the fruit, the cask - there's fizzing orange Vitamin C tablets, Sauternes, toffee apples.

Body - Damn, too hot, raw varnish. Although behind that that beautiful cask is still there - tart tatin and Cajeta. You get over that heat in subsequent sips, but water brings a sharper, hotter wood. A real shame.

Finish - Long, peppery, echoes of leather high backed chair and numbing oils.

This is exactly what the society is all about, weird casks. That heat is such a shame, this'd knock it out of the park otherwise. Definitely one not to be missed at the bar.

SMWS 64.94, Mannochmore, Calming and charming, 11 years old, 55.3% B⊖

25th October 2005, 215 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3015Nose - Glazed red fruit, quite hard though, sharp and woodsy. Slightly charred too.

Body - Rich and cereal led, hot with endless white pepper, it feels distinctly peated. Baked apples and very hard pears. More pear drops with water.

Finish - Long and tannic but hollow with fence panels.

Palate challenging stuff, and not that much fun to drink.

SMWS 73.91, Aultmore, Easy-going, chewy and gooey, 14 years old, 55.4% B-

23rd September 2002, 218 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3017Nose - Sweet and malty – maltesers - but a punch puller. There’s chocolate covered raisins and an underlying beautiful cask here too with green apple chews, liquorice allsorts and cold red wine. Better with water, a little colder, a little fruitier.

Body - Spicy, hard woods, slightly medicinal, unmistakable black jacks (they taste less and less of aniseed I think).

Finish - Long with moderate spice and half-hearted woods. A touch of musk at the end.

Very run of the mill. I wouldn't have passed this on the panel.

SMWS 46.53, Glenlossie, Chocolates and flowers, 19 years old, 55.7% A⊕

18th September 1997, 274 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3018Nose - Slightly hard and unforgiving but there's depth here. A classy, hot radiator feel with old hardwoods, leather and that peculiar waxy freshness you get in a distillery visitor centre. Quite masculine, despite the name, although I do get the floral chocolate notes too, but only now you mention it. Lots of orange with water.

Body - Slightly sharp, slightly fizzing, some sour malt, cheap chocolate. Or… lemon bonbons, orange chocolate matchmakers and nectarine. Sweeter, fruitier with water, very good.

Finish - Long with a good challenge to it - lots of bitter orange and boiled sweets. Tropical burp and refreshers at the end. Very long with water, juicy fruit.

This grew and grew on me, the slightly hot orange notes build as you sip it and its structure brings you back for more. Recommended.


SMWS 5.58, Auchentoshan, Contrapuntal harmony, 16 years old, 55.7% A⊕

11th October 2000, 227 bottles, 16 years in ex bourbon then finished in 1st fill charred red wine hogshead

IMG_3016Nose - Big and acrylic, Pritt stick and UHU with warm, Indian spices. Cinnamon sticks, cloves, very distinct HP sauce. How strange! There's Auchentoshan behind this, banging on the windows asking to get out. And it's brought together in the most masculine way.

Body - The Auchentoshan does come out in the delivery, pulling liquorice, burnt beef and red wine reduction with it. And it is extremely delicious. Even better with water.

Finish - Very long and very odd, this is almost whisky with Jamaican rum. After all that beef there's pot noodles, black pepper and rubber.

I would have sworn this was a rum. Is that what Auchentoshan and charred red wine cask makes? This is one of the craziest things I've drunk in my life. I might buy two, one to drink (which will take me a decade), and the other to frame so I can point at it and say "did you ever try this? It was mental"


SMWS 7.173, Longmorn, Salted dark chocolate, 26 years old, 55.7% A+

15th June 1990, 211 bottles, 26 years in ex bourbon then finished in a 1st fill French oak hogshead

IMG_3006Nose - Gentle, sweet and dark. Gastrique, then that new oak takes over, you have to really dig past it to find the toffee fruit and wet cigar tobacco. And it does work, if you give it time - SMWS is producing some finishes that really make you re-evaluate, if you can pick the right ones. The tobacco is key here. Fruitier with water though.

Body - Rich, very wooded - proper bannisters, parquet! Orange zest and courgette flowers later.

Finish - An incredible and unexpected depth in the finish, old wood and red apple, big cask oils.

This is a whisky with a real Virgin Oak feel to it that (as some of them do) comes back to amaze you. I'm still against virgin oak, but I continue to admit when they really work, and that's the case here.

Weird stuff.


SMWS 39.147, Linkwood, Cozy in the cottage kitchen, 27 years old, 58.4% A⊕+

30th April 1980, 185 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3014Nose - Bright and old, layers of varnish with baked plums, damp tobacco leaf and wet wood. A touch of balsamic vinegar with cut peppers and red onion. If I'm in this cottage kitchen I reckon I'm sipping chilled Sauternes too. Fingers crossed…

Body - Dark, almost dank, dirty wood and pastry with caramel and hops pulled out of boiling wort. Lovely, overripe fruit in burnt caramel and.. lots of wood.

Finish - Very long, extremely oily, very drying with enormous old woods. Very reminiscent of the finish on a Stagg actually, but not at all brutal.

A superb old Linkwood. The empty glass smells like something you'd get poured under the counter at a whisky festival. I must get that 40 year old Balvenie out…


SMWS 37.91, Cragganmore, Big boozy trifle, 15 years old, 56% A+

15th May 2001, 264 bottles, 15 years in ex bourbon then finished in 1st fill French oak hogshead

IMG_3009Nose - Deodorant and hard, charred wood.  Musky with good berries (raspberries, blackcurrant)… actually it is almost swarthy. Deeply sweet, a touch of sweat and brown leather jacket, and the smoke from yesterday's bonfire. Lemon bonbons with water.

Body - Raspberry jam at first, then a well-played virgin oak kick, fizzing and lemony (cloudy lemonade actually), slightly medicinal (with Pastis). There are waxes and fruits underneath. Fruitier with water.

Finish - Fizzing with charred wood, lemon curd and flaked almonds.

A big, sweet, fizzing, oaky dram. This is delicious, but quite far from classic Scotch. Still, well worth a dram and bottle.


SMWS 55.47, Royal Brackla, Barrique fantastique, 16 years old, 57.3% A-

26th September 2000, 245 bottles, 16 years in ex bourbon then finished in a red wine barrique (printed material inaccurately refers to Port cask)

IMG_3011Nose - Plain wood, poster paints, birthday candles, dry chocolate cake. Restrained, a little hollow, but there is a pleasing austerity to it in a way - cut hedges and earth. There'd better be fireworks in the delivery.

Body – No there isn’t, but there is some interest with Rennies, red chilli, the odd flash of sulphur and Sichuan peppercorns. A touch of nutty, savoury wine cask with water, but it's more wood than wine.

Finish - Very long but hollow again, the wood goes on for a while but it's chalky rather than fruity, lots of wood sour, with royal icing and more fizzing lemon.

Weird this, the name is practically false advertising - port or red wine, it barely registers (maybe that flash of sulphur in the delivery). But there are some things to get into here nevertheless - there's a restrained maturity, and the wine cask seasoning being subtle was probably the right decision.

SMWS 4.236, Highland Park, Island holiday snapshot, 14 years old, 55.9% A+

5th September 2002, 279 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_2999Nose - Hard acrylic, barley sugar and perfume. Bidis, E45 cream and TCP. There's a no nonsense, windswept feel to this one, I could properly zone out with a glass of this.

Body - Absolutely delicious, ripe but white, fizzing and exciting, but nothing out of place - not too peated or hard here. Tannins and oils back up that authority.

Finish - Chalky mint bonbons, a wet ashtray, liquorice imps. Very long, but you need another sip.

An enormously enjoyable and drinkable HP. This wouldn't last long if you had a bottle.


SMWS 29.228, Laphroaig, Cooking with driftwood, 20 years old, 50.9% A⊕+

26th November 1996, 245 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3007Nose - Somewhere in-between old "OMG" Laphroaig and new "meh" Laphroaig, I'd predict (I was wrong by the way). There's a really beautiful initial hit of Laph sweet, white wine peat. Cereal and white currants, men's perfume and just a ghost of bandage and germolene. The more I settle in, the more I like it, I'm pining for a comfortable chair on a beach at night right now. Umeboshi with water.

Body - Ripe, creamy, beautiful. This is so gentle, but that phenolic cream works so well. There's even a touch of dirty ashtray! Really delicious.

Finish - Definitely TCP now, slightly tropical in the fruits, good dusty refreshers though, this could be on a 30 year old. Very drying at the end, the refreshers and ancient peat are quite palate wrecking. Must have another sip…

I didn't want to like this for some reason, I think I'm pining for old style Laphroaig and I never get it (I "visited" my closed bottle of 29.134 the other day to check it was still safe). And even still, this impressed. Highly recommended.


Let’s bury this one at the end, as it wasn’t really in the outturn but I don’t want to give it its own post.

SMWS 133.1, Westland (US single malt), Speakeasy sneaky peeky, 5 years old, 57% C+

3rd October 2011, 207 bottles, virgin oak heavy char

IMG_3004Nose - Sour, lots of varnish, very sappy. But also really dark and waxy, lots of red chewy sweets, felt lined box and a little hoisin sauce. It's a really compelling nose.

Body - More varnish, blueberries, a cardboardy flavour like dry chocolate cake.  There’s flashes of fruit in there, but you have to go digging.

Finish - That underwhelming fruit continues, but a short finish with hollow woods.  It’s actually slightly unpleasant at the end.

Decent nose, and a very disappointing delivery.

One more cheeky one, this rum I missed in the last outturn.

SMWS R9.2, Panama Rum, Paddington bear's first sip, 12 years old, 62%

29th February 2004, 243 bottles, refill barrel

IMG_3001Nose - Jelly sweets, sherry vinegar, soft brown sugar and baked apples with raisin. Milk chocolate covered peanuts. Water brings out the fruit and oak better, a lovely sweet spirit that could easily be a malt.

Body - Very sweet with only a little of that rum weirdness to it at first, very thick too - chocolate sauce and struck flint. More fruit again with water, with water chestnut and almonds.

Finish - Flashes of tobacco, burnt sugar and licked Sudocrem. Hot black pepper and liquorice at the end.

Another delicious rum, I'm really getting into these.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Diageo Special Releases 2017

The Special Releases launch spells back to school and the run up to whisky Christmas.  This time I knew they’d kick us out on the dot and I had a game plan, a timed one – less chat, more tasting! 

These releases are fantastic to try because it’s like tasting an indie but with the scale and warehouse access of the distillery – and the batches are big, but not too big.  Lots of gravitas, no sharp edges.  The Diageo specials tend to be either luxury whiskies (and presented as such) or real pieces of history (Port Ellen and Brora, half century old Port Dundas).  Which means not much of it is destined to be opened, so it’s great to be able to taste them (and good that Diageo are confident enough of the whisky to show them off).  It also means that discussions of value for money aren’t really relevant here… if you have to ask the price… well they’re all out of my budget anyway.

Obviously the exceptions to that are the Lagavulin 12 and Caol Ila unpeated.  I’m pleased to report that the Laga is particularly good this year, a must buy even at the price it’s at.  At the bottom end (comparatively) of the spectrum is the Glen Elgin, which I have a particular soft spot for in this release (although it wasn’t that popular among other people I spoke to).  Then the Blair Athol and the Port Dundas.  Obviously the Brora and PE are fantastic.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Glen Elgin 1998, 18 years old, 54.8% A⊕

glen-elgin-18-year-old-1998-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - A lovely, restrained yet expressive nose, full of apple, wet hard oak, and a fresh minerality. Is there a touch of red wine cask in here? Good waxes.

Body - Fizzing, flinty oak, peppery but rich. A good blend of depth and youth. Lemon shells.

Finish - Long with green apple and black pepper. Fruity boiled sweets.

Robust but beautifully balanced, really classy. I particularly loved the nose. I even came back to this one at the end (I was busted for trying it twice too!) because it seemed possible I just liked it because it was first, but it was even better 11th.

Teaninich 1999, 17 years old, 55.9% A+

teaninich-17-year-old-1999-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - Sweeter, riper, more lewd. Black cherry lip salve and fruit salad chews. Despite that, it's still balanced, with a whiff of distillery tour. Perfumed.

Body - Sweet at first, then a big hit of cereal and wood; a wooden pencil case, ground black pepper and big tannins.

Finish - Long and rich, hobnobs with milky coffee. Drying with chalky oils.

A grown up whisky, with a lovely, elegant fruity character, particularly in the nose. But quite robust in the delivery. Delicious for it.

Brora 1982, 34 years old, 51.9% A⊕+'

brora-34-year-old-1982-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - So much quieter than last year's extra-terrestrial fireworks! Floral (pot pourri) with liquorice root and toilet freshener. Slightly meaty (crusted lamb and crushed coriander seeds), and a touch of gunpowder. Much sweeter and fruitier after sipping. Real gravitas.

Body - There's the dusty, alien peat, fizzing with lemon drops, lavender and air freshener. Deep casks, waxy toffee depths, but under a quite significant wood bitterness.

Finish - Long and quite drying, cough candy. Beautiful cask tannins, lots of oil at the end.

A big whisky after that gentle intro. Not quite what I was expecting, but who knows what's left in the warehouses? Perhaps nothing left "to style". Still, absolutely delicious, a real drinker.

Convalmore 1984, 32 years old 48.2% A+

convalmore-32-year-old-1984-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - More restraint! Holding back a waxy cask monster. Refreshers, fried courgette flowers, wet rosewood (a fretboard), even the flight case. Freshly picked spiky courgettes.

Body - Waxy, chalky bonbons, lots of cask oil here. Unripe pear. There's a rich, zesty, waxy balance that's really compelling.

Finish - Very long and waxy - licked patchouli oil. Lots of wood at the end.

I love the delivery here, a great progression into a really long finish. But ultimately not quite my style - too much wood and not balanced by enough luxury and fruit.

Collectivum XXVIII, blended malt, 57.3% A-

collectivum-xxviii-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - Sweet and sour, faint lemon peat with wine cask and a recently cut hedge. Give it time though and the peat assumes it's seasoning note in the blend, and the casks begin to shine. Waxed with orchard fruit and a touch of Sudocrem.

Body - Ripe with nutty wine tones and red berries. A robust peat comes through in the delivery, and it clashes a little.

Finish - Medium to long, surprise oranges in the finish.

A fascinating nose here but a bit of a cacophony in the delivery. It also, unfortunately, reminds me of the whisky I made when I mixed all the dregs from tasting the SMWS November 2015 outturn together. Tough brief though!

Blair Athol 1993, 23 years old, 58.4% A⊕

blair-athol-23-year-old-1993-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - Flinty sherry - like you get on a young refill sherry cask. Hard red berries, with royal icing. There is an unexpected youth up front but it's backed by a much deeper, fruitier spirit. The cask is very subtle on the nose though. Dustier and more complete after sipping. Orange wood.

Body - Ripe, big berry notes, really orange and red. A beautiful mouthfeel here, great balance of orange flesh, zest and tannins. Perfect - classical and robust.

Finish - Orange zest, holly wreath, then powdered orange drink (I've remembered what it's called! TANG). Orange ice cream at the end.

Challenging, and grown up, with an incredible delivery. Delicious, rich and ripe after that restrained nose.

Port Dundas 1964, 52 years old, 44.6% A⊕+

This was the talk of the tasting.

2017-SR-Port-Dundas-52-Cutout-BB-70clNose - Washing up liquid, magic balloons, a whole pack of new plastic book coverings. Apple chews, cheap vanilla ice cream and fruit and nut bar. I realise that reads like a canonical list of good grain notes, but it really presented well!

Body - Rich, ripe with UHU glue and more expensive vanilla ice cream. Grape jelly, a touch of spice, vaguely medicinal, slightly earthy.

Finish - More ice cream, more perfume in the finish though. Rich and peppery.

As remarkable as you'd expect. Although the nose is particularly spectacular.

Port Ellen 1979, 37 years old, 51% A⊕+

port-ellen-37-year-old-1979-17th-release-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - Dusty, coastal, with preserved lemons, samphire and fried mussels. Honestly. Meaty and complex under this, with an insistent minerality, a liquorice torpedo and some boot polish. A new library (week old gloss paint, new carpet and varnished wood).

Body - Dry, dusty but bursting with herbal fruit - lavender, refreshers and quince. Extremely satisfying in the initial delivery, robustly peated later. Big.

Finish - Long and typically dank and drying (it is 37 after all). Lots of sugar at the end, with grainy, yellow wood.

Another particularly stellar delivery, and a phenomenal nose. The peat is something of a side act here, it hasn't all quite aged out. Nevertheless this is a fantastic whisky.

Lagavulin 12 years old, 56.5% A⊕

lagavulin-12-year-old-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - Mineral, classical, pure essence of Islay. So, so flinty and coastal, evocative and complex with echoes of much older whisky in it.

Body - Very sweet but balanced by loads of tobacco - cigars and cigarettes. Rich and ripe cereal, lemon tart, a beguiling maturity way beyond 12. This has something special in it (and it's not just the leftover Port Ellen).

Finish - Medium to short, balanced woods.

Phenomenal this year, a must buy.  This is the one to get.

Caol Ila Unpeated, 18 years old, 59.8% A-

caol-ila-18-year-old-unpeated-special-release-2017-whiskyNose - Fresh with chalky bonbons, candy shells, hard vanilla. Honest but complex, a very high quality nose.

Body - Sweet and honest, that exhause pipe/cross channel feeling of unpeated whisky in a peated distillery.

Finish - Zesty and sweet with liquorice torpedoes and barley sugar.

Some flashes of real excellence here but also some really ordinary bits. This is why I still have unfinished bottles of previous years unpeated on my shelves. A mixed bag.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Whisky Agency Glenrothes, 20 years old

As Sjoerd said, there’s been some fantastic 1997 sherried Glenrothes recently.  There was the Whisky Broker sherry bomb, and the Cadenhead’s one, both of which I loved because they retained the distillery character while being interesting, funky and total bombs.  Then this one comes with Whisky Agency and Whisky Exchange on the label.  A lot less funk but absolutely delicious, this drinks like a big 18 Macallan – pure sherry Speyside.  Fantastic stuff.

This sold out quickly (brand and colour) but I believe it may come back soon.

The Whisky Agency Glenrothes, 20 years old, 51.3% A⊕+

A joint bottling with The Whisky Exchange, 1997-2017, ex-sherry butt

IMG_3065Nose - This is what sherry bombs are supposed to smell like (forget A'Bunadh). Incredibly ripe, loads of depth and no missteps. There's chocolate covered raisins and not quite rotten fruit, roast beef (the scrunchy bits that have caught on the pan), lipstick (the smell of how it tastes) and behind this, the completely not-lost Speyside spirit. There's crayons, small amounts of petrol… and it's so wonderful to smell a proper bomb that can back it up with wood, fruit and balance.  Power and control.

Body - Rich, slightly sharp, green apples and a little acetone. Sweet, sharp wood oils, reduced balsamic vinegar. French polish. Sweeter and creamier with water, a touch of gunpowder.

Finish - Long and woodsy, more apple - baked with raisins. Slightly spicy at the end. Tastier, more delicious with water, the wood oils echo round the mouth.

This is proper. An outstanding cask that I'm sure I'm sure Edrington would liked to have bottled themselves (it would certainly fit in the vintage range).

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Cadenhead’s Autumn 2017 Authentic Collection

The year is drawing on, I know a lot of wallets will be looking forward to the end of the 175th anniversary year at Cadenhead’s but I’ve just realised how much we’ll miss it when it’s ended!

Quite a lot of this still in stock. 

Tomintoul 2006, 11 years old, 57.2% A+

tomintoulNose - Sweet, great wood, classy. Chalk and cherry whistlepops, with deodorant and a posh hotel (new carpet, flowers). The sweetness is evocative; ice cream and sweetshop, lots of vanilla and an insistent creaminess like rhubarb and custard boiled sweets. A really beautiful nose. Practically Christmassy with water, holly leaves and royal icing.

Body - More sweetshop, quite hard wood behind all that cream with lots of numbing and mineral notes up the sinuses. Chipped marble and caramel, with a little charred chilli. Slightly more ordinary with water.

Finish - Medium, lots of sweet oils - orange oil, foxes glacier fruits. Cut branches with water.

This is a cracking whisky, lots of interest and drinkability - sweet and fruity on the nose, not too austere but classy in the delivery and a good long term drinker. Highly recommended, particularly for the nose which wouldn't be out of place on a much more expensive whisky.

Ord 1996, 21 years old, 55.7% A⊕

ordNose - Ripe and dusty, weirdly this reminds me heavily of those weird soda stream concentrates from the 80s. Generally fruity (somewhere between strawberry and orange), deeply sweet and slightly acrylic on exhale. Waxy woods. Really mature.

Body – Sweet, almost peated in its depth with charred wood, clotted cream and something almost rotten (moss, meat, blue cheese). Cigar tobacco on the tongue.

Finish - Medium with dried fruit and more cheese. Lots of cigar at the end.

Just phenomenal this, such maturity at 21. A warning though that I took these notes from probably the smallest sample I've ever tasted, probably 2-3ml, so no chance to try it with water. But I am heavily tempted to buy one even on that basis.

Auchentoshan 1992, 25 years old, 44.8% A+

auchentoshanNose - Sweet, floral, delicately perfumed, very light on the funk and oils, still very white. Marshmallows, slightly medicinal (somewhere between Sudocrem and Germolene) and foam Haribos. There's something like new carpet in here too.

Body - Extremely delicate again, gentle sweetness, more marshmallow and candy cigarettes.

Finish - Long with a savoury edge, like a sweet brie on oatcake. The woods slowly fade in at the end.

An extraordinarily subtle and delicate whisky, that should undoubtedly be drunk in large quantities in a dark room. One for periods of deep contemplation!

Aberfeldy 1996, 21 years old, 54.6% A-

aberfeldyNose - New paint, old curtains and wax, echoes of peat. There's a fetid quality that reminds me of the dunnage at Campbeltown, but there's also fresh red apple and a flinty quality. And behind all that, a beer festival in a windy warehouse (malt, hops, cold air and distant hot dogs). Fruitier with water, more sweetshop.

Body - Fruity at first, then a big belt of tannins and astringent wood, tobacco and some rotten apple. Jelly sweets then matchsticks. More paint with water.

Finish - Long and fizzing, slightly dirty. Great tannins at the end though.

Striking fruit, but slightly troubled in the delivery.

Glenburgie 1993, 24 years old, 53% A⊕+

Refill claret since 2008 – a 9 year finish!

glenburgieNose - Fence, plaster of paris and Special K. Restrained sweetness but a really savoury maltiness; cherry pie with caramelised brown sugar. There's a real maturity to the nose here though; balanced, elegant. Even better with water, perhaps a little coffee, toffee and a touch more fruit.

Body - Malty again, very cereal led, feels like a 70s 10 year old Bruichladdich or something, waxy and chalky and full of angular malt. Restrained sweetness and lots of salt. Chalkier and dustier with water.

Finish - Long and full of oils, the fruit is held under by the oils. Important, salty casks. Quite a lot of bitterness but it's in keeping with this robust but honest old Scotch. Longer and dustier with water.

An absolutely fantastic whisky, so much poise - perfect balance.  The star of the show.

Glenturrent 1987, 29 years old, 42.1% A-

glenturretNose - Wax and slightly sour fruit at first, sweetening with time. Hot tub (sauna wood and a little swimming pool chlorine), and an unforgiving orchard fruit, I'm going with quince. There's a real sweetness under here though.

Body - Oddly savoury, curry leaves and turmeric, asophetida and wet wood. Where's the sweetness gone? Coffee grounds and then an amazing underlying cask. This comes out more with water (more Hershey's chocolate than curry), it's still quite challenging though.

Finish - Black pepper and cigarette paper glue, my mouth is properly numbed by this. Wetter and thinner with water.

Hide and seek with an excellent cask and fruit, some challenging but complex flavours in the development. Really interesting (particularly so on the nose) but a little weird for my palate.

Ben Nevis 1998, 18 years old, 50.2% A⊕

Belize dark rum cask since September 2015 (2 years)

bennevisNose - Just on the point between sweetshop, wood, fruit and wax, a finish of this precision on the nose gives me very high hopes for the delivery. The sweetshop is warm, wet Haribo (found down the seats in the back of my car), the fruit green apple on a hot summer day. It is a truly lovely thing.

Body - Dusty and alien like an old Islay or an 18-21 year old Springbank or Longrow. Chalky and oily, perfect balance but really quite charred. Was this previously in a Springbank ex-rum cask? It's picked up a lot of Campbeltown either way. Even better with water - Marlboros and white foam sweets.

Finish - Long and oily, liquorice root and allsorts at the end. Very numbing, significantly peated. Quite bitter at the end though.

Either the rum is playing tricks with me or something else has had a trip through this cask at some point. This didn't have the weird funk I was hoping for but that peated finish is very well judged.

Glen Scotia 1992, 25 years old, 44% A⊖

glenscotiaNose - Waxy. New wellies, cut red cherry and a waxed jacket. Slightly musky with lipsalve and a touch of cardboard. Slightly medicinal. Unpeated.

Body - Dry and a touch overwooded - chewed liquorice root with hazelnuts and chalky bonbons.

Finish - Long and very drying, with wet wood, buttercream icing and twisted orange zest. Leatherette at the end and a lingering sweet woodiness.

Not as majestic as I was expecting unfortunately, I think this was picked a little too late.

Bonus dram from the excellent creations range…

Creations 1992, Light, creamy vanilla, Batch 2, 23 years old, 51.6% A+

creationsNose - As the name says, with wooden splints, strawberry jelly and new swimming hats (it's not specific to the hat, it's that kind of silicone covering though). I'd say it's fruitier than the name suggests though with good warm cask notes. There's something very right about this nose.

Body - Definitely creamy, again the wood is the standout note here with vanilla behind it. A touch of orange too.

Finish - Slightly hot with flat pack furniture and chewed orange peel. Lots of tannins at the end.

That late citrus feel to it is the making of this whisky. It's really crushable - a very well put together blend.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Douglas Laing Summer 2017

Douglas Laing are still knocking good stuff out, I see the Old Particular outturns come and go but I can’t do much about them with so many other whiskies I have to buy that I am able to taste before doing so… but I know there’s some gems in there.  These remarkable regional malts are quite a good option for NAS drinkers, expressions of a style.  I’ve liked some more than others but they are generally a good bet, and some have been phenomenal.

Apologies to Douglas Laing who sent me some of these ages ago to taste, which I duly did and then forgot to publish the notes!  They’re all still in stock anyway.

Timorous Beastie 18 years old, 46.8% A-


timorous-beastie-18-year-old-whiskyNose - Quite robust in its highland way, with green apple, crayons and radiator dust. I love that combination of orchard fruit, waxy spirit, ozone and varnished woods. There's a touch of petrol here to add some grown up complexity.

Body - But the delivery is a little disappointing at first - slightly bitter, a little hollow, although that does develop into a more peppery toffee with some of the fruit returning later on. I think this is perhaps just a little austere even for me.

Finish - Medium to short with chalk and oils at the end. Slightly fizzing with big tannins at the back of the throat.

Loved the nose on this but the delivery didn't quite do it. A little austere, perhaps a little awkward too.

Rock Oyster 18 years old, 46.8% A+'

Islands.  There’s a new Rock Oyster sherry edition out now too.

rock-oyster-18-year-old-whiskyNose - Quite vegetal, slightly dirty, very evocative of rock pools funnily enough, slightly funky and green with algae and ozone. It has a kind of waxy lowlandy feel to it too. And unrelated, cracked black pepper crisps.

Body - Really gentle and creamy this, with that peppery almost peat from the Jura providing the bass notes.

Finish - Long, and peppery again, and now apple chews provide the bass notes with dried flowers and a touch of new bandage.

This one is full where the beastie is hollow, although both have a lovely restraint. I'm a fan of this one.

Rock Oyster Cask Strength, 57.4% A⊖

rock-oyster-cask-strength-whiskyNose - Sweet and chalky, very coastal though, almost Islay. Quite swarthy - leather and sweat, wet rocks, salt water. Slightly richer and subtly floral with water.

Body - Sweet but very malty, fizzing lemon - quite hot, lots of youth here. Cracked black pepper, lemony Sichuan peppercorns later on, although a really lovely sweetness and some good casks. Much better with water, there's peach and orange, big bitter tannins though.

Finish - Numbing and oily. Quite biscuity. Red chilli with water.

The higher strength exposes the youth here a little, these are better presented at drinking strength I think? Anyway it's still good juice, bit spicy for me perhaps.

Scallywag 13 years old, 46% A+


scallywag-13-year-old-whiskyNose - Ripe, red and berried. This is the kind of nose that made old Glendronach so well loved - lots of sherry but lots of quality. Lip salve, Vimto and black jacks complete the luxury. Fingers crossed…

Body - … not quite. Good body here with quite a sour sherry development, redcurrant jelly and good tannins. But there is a lack of depth and luxury that takes it down a couple of notches, and a simplicity in the sherry that gives the age away a little.

Finish - fizzing and slightly bitter with chewed orange pith and Sechuan peppercorns and leatherette.

This is a good drinker but not quite would I'd hoped it would be given the nose.

Provenance Feis Ile 2017, Caol Ila 6 years old, 50.6% A-

caol-ila-6-year-old-2010-feis-ile-2017-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - It could only be CI or young Bunna. Sweet, slightly dank, cereal and crushed shells but meaty… actually a big hit of slightly fetid bandage puts it elsewhere in Islay. Digestive biscuits dipped in milky, instant coffee. Ketchup. I give up. Simpler and more approachable with water - green apple and leather.

Body - Rich and remarkable, very sweet, very definitely Tunnock's Milk Chocolate Caramel Wafers. Slightly burnt with water, but there's flashes of cherry.

Finish - Long with that chocolate toffee and a slightly peppery edge - and some dried, old Marlboro light tobacco.

Lots to taste here, lots to write about but the delivery is so robust it's quite tiring to drink. Good “tasting” whisky (would be a great end to a tasting) but you'd struggle with a bottle.

Douglas Laing, Consortium of cards #1, Laphroaig 18 years old, 50% A⊕

laphroaig-18-year-old-1998-old-particular-consortium-of-cards-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Sweet and mature Scotch at first, then mineral and funky later, lightly medicinal. This has that intensely sweet backing to brighter, more mineral peat and wood that makes mature Islay what it is. Slightly rotten apples and cigars. Definitely more medicinal with water.

Body - Intense in many ways and very good - hard to keep up with it. Ripe and very fruity at first, a little Germolene, cigarette tobacco, orange sorbet.

Finish - Long with lots of fruit juice - neat orange barley squash, orange zest and honey. A little aniseed at the end.

This is particularly good - the initial delivery is just fantastic, really rich, ripe and complete.