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!
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
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.
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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
Nose - 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.
SMWS 39.147, Linkwood, Cozy in the cottage kitchen, 27 years old, 58.4% A⊕+
30th April 1980, 185 bottles, refill bourbon
Nose - 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
Nose - 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)
Nose - 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
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
Nose - 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
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
Nose - 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.