Thursday, 19 October 2017

SMWS October 2017 outturn

Late notes, great outturn.  Nine young whiskies here!  A significant proportion of the outturn is young and believe it or not the outturn is really good for it, only the Glendullan is a misfire.  And no virgin oak and no wine casks* – just one refill sherry butt for the (excellent) Highland Park.  All highly irregular and all the better for it.

There’s also an old Bladnoch in the new black and copper label.  This is from the same distillation date as all the others we’ve had and rather good.  Additionally (released yesterday) another in premium packaging, a 32 year old Cragganmore finished for a year in first fill PX.  I’ve not tried that or the two vaults bottles.

My picks from this outturn are the Linkwood, the Glentauchers, and particularly the Glenrothes. But there’s a lot to choose.

Brace yourself for November and December. 

* [EDIT: There was an error with the originally published information about 35.192, which is actually not ex-fresh port barrique, it’s full term first fill French oak barrique]

SMWS 29.229, Laphroaig, Harmonious balance, 55.2%

13th May 1998, 234 bottles, refill bourbon.  This one is a no show due to labelling error:

SMWS 41.99, Dailuaine, A breath of fresh air, 10 years old, 58.1% A+

17th February 2007, 199 bottles, refill bourbon

cddd65f8d8015effNose - Fresh but well matured, sawdust on hot crayon with a really classy sweetness - whistle pops and kola kubes. This is very good spirit in a cracking cask. Balanced, fresh but cask led. More fruit with water, but still robust, and that slightly crushed boiled sweet and wax is very special. A lovely nose.

Body - Lots of hot boiled sweets, a fair whack of chilli heat in the delivery, cigarette tobacco and fruit salad chews. With water, much sweeter with juicier fruits and yoghurt covered raisins, the wood is better balanced.

Finish - Long and quite cloying, popping candy and numbing liquorice. A more considered finish with water, longer and gentler with retronasal pineapple.

Lush and structured again from Dailuaine, particularly good on the nose - really classy and well considered, while still young and confident.


SMWS 71.48, Glenburgie, Follow the yellow brick road, 10 years old, 60.7% A+

22nd February 2007, 204 bottles, refill bourbon

b3441fb4e5eba369Nose - Deeper and slightly danker than the Dailuaine, probably sweeter and a little bit richer. More crayon, a touch of red wine cask, a damp cigar butt, and smelling a newly opened jar of lemon curd. There's something of a cross channel ferry in here too, quite dirty (but not sulphured), although all that's forgotten after sipping…

Body - Surprisingly fizzy, more lemon curd with French cooked pastry and rhubarb & custard sweets. A touch of Pritt Stick and cardboard? The more I sip this the gentler and lovelier it gets. Yellower and yellower with water, quite delicious but slightly unhinged.

Finish - Medium to long with more pastry - a touch of quiche now? Lemon sherbets and set egg, the sherbets win, with an insistent fizzing sweetness and haunting lemon wood at the very end. More bitter with water, as they often are, but that citrus sweetness brings you back for another.

Another delicious drinking whisky, a great choice for the bar but the Dailuaine would have better longevity at home.

SMWS 28.35, Tullibardine, A song of spring and summer, 9 years old, 60.3% A⊖

7th June 2007, 204 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

f92f3f9f12122c09Nose - Back with the wax, this again has a real depth and confidence you wouldn't expect at this age. Actually there's a proper fruity complexity too - fruit salads and pacer mints, with cheap hot chocolate powder and a new wooden ruler. There's something weird going on in here…hmm.  Still, it's even better with water, fruit, cask, chocolate and wood in good harmony, slightly nutty and musky too.

Body - Deep, lacquered and fruity with Mexican hot chocolate. Waxier and fruitier with water and it delays the upcoming flaw a little…

Finish - Medium and strikingly hot, with cinnamon fireball jawbreakers, palate wrecking sawdust and aniseed. Water tones things down a little and the lingering impression is now one of wood tannins and tropical waxes.

Flawed but sometimes it's these flaws that make the whisky. Definitely one for the bar, I would water it before sipping it if I had it again. Interesting and quite delicious in its own way, but only for one. Fantastic nose, either way.

SMWS 39.148, Linkwood, Mysteriously, marvellously multifaceted, 9 years old, 62.3% A+'

14th May 2008, 234 bottles, refill bourbon. I just killed an excellent 9yo society Linkwood from 2013 at home, let's see if this lives up?

a1eb610a1bd678beNose - There's that deep fruit, the fresh cask and the ripe, toffeed tropicality I expect from Linkwood, there was a time where I'd buy them every month. Fresh but hints of warm spice too, maybe it's leftover cinnamon from the Tullibardine but I don't think so, the balancing savoury spice is slightly more Indian and very well integrated. Classier with water.

Body – Pretty much bang on. There's fire here, and it threatens cardboard but the tropical fruit saves it. The fruit and cask integration just deepens with water, and brings whiteboard markers, a touch of fennel and splints/bunsen burner. It is absolutely delicious (if young and taking no prisoners).

Finish - Very long with a gentle fade out, pineapple juice and ripe cut mango. Slightly tannic in the same way limes are. By the end, buckets of tropical fruit, summer in a glass.

Highly recommended this, robust but very, very well made and clearly a fantastic cask. I hope they put something great in it after. A good one for prolonged periods of contemplation. But put your phone down!


SMWS 63.41, Glentauchers, Sluicy juicy and sweet, 9 years old, 61% A⊕

6th December 2007, 228 bottles, refill bourbon

16fcc86bfa43bb4fNose - Jeez these young casks from very dependable distilleries! Really creamy this one, with milk bottle sweets, coffee chocolates and toffee apples.

Body - What are those toffee chocolate things that burst open in your mouth? Cadbury eclairs I think, it's very hard trying to place all these things when you haven't had them for nearly 30 years. A really gentle delivery on this beautiful whisky though, luxurious fruits and lots of milk chocolate.

Finish - Long with perfumed fruit toffee and chocolate liqueurs. A little licked tobacco and some roast chicken skin.

Just a ridiculously good whisky for 9 years old - well recommended.


SMWS 84.23, Glendullan, Liquorice and peppermint concoction, 9 years old, 57.9% B

19th March 2008, 269 bottles, refill bourbon.  The name alone is a red flag.

c9e3ce8e87c6be23Nose - Thank goodness for that, a whisky that smells its age! Chalk and softmints, with green apple and cut runner beans. It's a green whisky, and quite a closed, new one too - slightly musky but very shy.

Body - White chocolate, then milk chocolate with cranberries and chilli. Blonde wood, hints of virgin oak (hang on, there's none in this outturn? And no French oak either!). This reminds me of Scallywag minus the sherry or something. More ordinary with water.

Finish - Medium short with cheap chocolate and fountain pen ink.

The definition of ordinary.

SMWS 72.54, Miltonduff, Margaritas in a car wash, 9 years old, 60% A+

14th February 2008, 222 bottles, refill bourbon. Really excited to try this as the name in the printed material is simply "Margaritas" and of course that's the only cocktail worth drinking ("Margharitas" on the website!). Maybe it breached Scotch Cocktail Association regulations.

25f208cd821d6a60Nose - I'm trying really hard and I'm getting lime tannins/wood as above, and I think I'm getting chapulines, which is a bit autosuggestive. With time definitely the lime, perhaps blue corn tortillas, quite a lot of buttercream icing and honestly a big hit of agave. How do you get all that out of a Miltonduff? Anyway - lime, masa, coriander and sawdust. Approved.

Body - Juicy, balanced sweetness, quite the sweetshop in here actually with a gentle wood musk and drying oils at the side of the mouth. Milk chocolate and milk foam.

Finish - Long but gentle, lots of lime and quite a big hit of red chilli. Gentler and milkier with water.

This is a tannin infused, challenging but delicious whisky. Definitely one for the bar, but a bottle for your consideration also, if that sounds like your sort of thing.


SMWS 35.192, Glen Moray, Full of vim and vigour, 10 years old, 61.5% A-

6th April 2007, 276 bottles, first fill port barrique (no mention of finishes). I've no idea what to think here, but it's a Glen Moray so it could easily be full term port.

[EDIT: This is labelled incorrectly and is actually first fill French oak barrique (new wood).  I haven’t edited the notes which are blind to this fact.]

55b5de9fb522fc61Nose - Hard with dark berries, virgin wood and black pepper buttercream (could that work on brisket?). Certainly a serious wine cask influence on the nose but it's not overly nutty and there's no sulphur. Very rich with water, lots of fruit toffee and a humidor, but the wine steps back a little.

Body - Ripe and delicious, there's proper cigar and whisky here, plus cashews, milk tart and cheap banana milkshake. Spicy though. Rich, pastry and tannins with water, and a little gunpowder.

Finish - Milky and pastry-y. Big hot tannins, just wood at the end.

A white whisky - creamy - but in a new oak cask. Quite subtle with the wine, I'm sure this is a short finish in the port cask and a young "could have been great" 35 behind it. There's lots to get into here, but it's not quite setting the world on fire. Worth a dram at the bar.

SMWS 64.95, Mannochmore, Jasmine candles and Moscow mules, 10 years old, 58.6% A+

25th October 2006, 234 bottles, first fill bourbon

249e501c829d813dNose - Perfumed - men's perfume though, and a real old school sweetshop note to it. An intense fruitiness that's also musky… kind of vegetal, puts me in mind of fruity high alpha hops. Intense and delicious. With time, the structure becomes more predominant, an excellent cask. Muskier and more masculine with water, with burnt caramel over fruit.

Body - Very sweet, very juicy - boiled sweets and musky, strawberry laces. Strawberries and whipped cream. A little more bitter, sharper, with more peppery wood as it develops in the glass. Slightly hollow with water, although there's more of a waxiness in the fruit.

Finish - Chalky and full of vanilla. Very creamy near the end, this is almost a cocktail in its own right, although it settles into numbing wood and peppercorns.

A complex whisky in the end. At first big fruit and excitement, then it settled down into something more grown up. Nice one.


SMWS 100.13, Strathmill, Feel-good fruit fancy, 12 years old, 59.3% A+

23rd February 2005, 209 bottles, refill bourbon

e1ec436d6ab50e83Nose - Fruit salad chews with a lick of unlit cigar tobacco and liquorice allsorts (here, as usual, it's the inner white foam bits or that blue hundreds and thousands one I'm thinking of). That balance of ripe fruit, musky tobacco and wood is spot on - getting on for old furniture vibes, which is impressive for a 12 year old Strathmill (yet another good one?). Slightly overripe (in a great way) with water, papaya on the turn, crushed peanuts with fish sauce, red soft liquorice.

Body - Same as the nose - balanced fruit and musk. A touch of gunpowder, lots of pineapple and a touch of black jacks (chewed in their wrapper?). Much better integration though with water, great structure and balance.

Finish - It's numbing and fizzing in the end though (at 60%), with wet wood, leather belt.

A really well matured, complex and rewarding (to drink) whisky.


SMWS 36.136, Benrinnes, Fruity tan spangle, 15 years old, 57.6% A+'

30th May 2002, 216 bottles, first fill bourbon

2cd291cf0bff4253Nose - Simpler fruit than the Strathmill, but dustier, more wax, slightly medicinal and a touch of fennel. Chalky and waxy, fresh but grown up. Interesting and rather lovely. Even better with water, that medicinal quality is still there but it's more glazed, more important.

Body - Spice and fruit… then toffee and pepper. An odd sweet/savoury thing going on but lots of leather and liquorice. More peppery with water.

Finish - Toffee through to the end, with liquorice rizlas (which honestly haven't begun to cross my mind for over 20 years). Less exciting on the finish with water, oils and wax to the rescue.

Another cracker, great restraint and balance again, extremely drinkable, nearly didn't get to add water.


SMWS 9.128, Glen Grant, Scented candles on a fruit cake, 24 years old, 51.3% A⊕

16th November 1992, 172 bottles, refill bourbon

047b9f7b500401d1Nose - Pineapple upside down cake and muffins, sweet, soft, blueberry, long life muffins in a little plastic bag. Interesting to smell a long matured whisky after a bunch of really high spec younger ones, it's hard to put your finger on what's different and you do have to concentrate. This has an intensity of fruit - peach, plum and mango, and lit sandalwood joss sticks. Quite warm radiator too. Consider me interested.

Body - A delivery with gravitas, I'm not sure I can do this in 1cl. Peppery, lots of wood, big old cask though, nearly over the hill (almost too much wood). Clove and caraway too, with salted caramel and biting cigar smoke at the back of the throat - verging on peated. Definitely smoky with water.

Finish - Long and intense, real fireworks and lots of tannin, glaze and wood oils. Toffee pennies and chewing gum at the end. Bitter like burnt onions with water, odd echoes of chewed plastic.

This is a rollercoaster - all over the shop with some quite austere notes that vie with the fruit and old wood, but there's also a rich seam of luxury in this whisky and it ties it together.


SMWS 30.98, Glenrothes, Bring on the dancers, 25 years old, 46% A⊕+’

21st February 1992, 168 bottles, refill bourbon. This is the one I was looking forward to the most, it’s been quite the year for 25 year old bourbon Glenrothes..

7edb3c1fc1be3615Nose - Like most mature Glenrothes, this seems to be gentle, but complex and insistent. There's some real maturity in the wood here, slightly hidden behind orange curd and… actually it's not that hidden is it. Orange segments (nearly tangerine), hard, dark, lacquered oak, banana and sandalwood. It's proper fruity, like a silly old Diageo special release. If this was a Diageo special release, and it was £300, you'd be considering buying it at the moment (if that was the kind of thing you'd stretch to).

Body - <adds to basket>

Dusty, tropical, dank with roasted berries, plums and marzipan. Lots of old wood – although this isn't the American oak 30 year old Glenrothes I lust after, it's much more European with lots of dark vanilla. Pretty perfect though.

Finish - Short but creamy and full of pastry. The wood dominates a little here, but you can forgive a finish this short and woody for such luxurious fireworks in the delivery.

If this was bake-off I'd be shaking your hand.


SMWS 50.95, Bladnoch, Magical moments, 27 years old, 59.8% A⊕+

26th January 1990, 144 bottles, refill bourbon. I got a bit blasé about (excellent) 25 year old Bladnoch a couple of years ago (all the society ones were from this parcel) but I'm excited to try it at 27 in its posh bottle.

952590d5dccc3535Nose - It's still keeping it classy and old school, with crunchy pear and blue cheese salad, walnuts, wood glue, celery and a little Marlboro light tobacco. Even better with water, the sweet wood glue and fruit integrate better and it seems even more mysterious and austere.

Body - Dark and toasted, the age is really starting to show here, I might have been tempted to leave this another couple of years to make it truly magnificent. Wood spice, raspberry and burnt caramel, lemon shells and charred pork crackling with water.

Finish - Actually I think this has been pulled at the perfect time, any more wood and we'd be too far gone. A very long finish, with cigar tobacco and charred oak chunks. Lots of lingering lemon sherbet, and big, sour old wood.

A delicious, very complex and quite challenging whisky. A real thinker, and having personally had many casks from this parcel, this is a stand out.


But the Glenrothes is better.

SMWS 4.234, Highland Park, Sundowner dram, 15 years old, 59.7% A⊕

20th August 2001, 572 bottles, refill sherry butt

ab8c9316e18fd2a6Nose - Sweet but acrylic, slightly clarty and sporting a little funk from the sherry butt. A balance between sweat/musk, wine, fruit and that sweet and sour thing I've had from quite a lot of teenage HP recently. But that nutty sherry cask is rather lovely, and it has something of that special HP that I've been pining for for a while. There's also a proper bright, glazed quality here. Coffee and new furniture with water. Very appealing.

Body - Big, bright but very rich. Almost Islay in its peatedness. Flashes of sulphur and cashew nuts, great wood. Better with water, it just is.

Finish - Long and drying, lots of red wine tannins. It's long but that balance is superb; sugar, wood, vinegar, smoke. Mouth puckeringly tannic at the end. Rich and dirty with water, a touch of Asian supermarket.

This is a big whisky, the peat is quite intense and so is the funk.  Yum.


SMWS 66.106, Ardmore, Manly contentment, 8 years old, 61.2% A

23rd July 2008, 196 bottles, refill bourbon

efb788edf81a5860Nose - Ardmore never changes! Winey, dark, compelling peat, lots of damp cereal and rich sponge cake. Iron filings and an Autumn bonfire. It's a sticky chocolate cupcake on Islay, you know you want it.

Body - Perfectly judged. Wet fireplace though, you'll be tasting this for days. A chocolately peater, and really delicious.

Finish - Apart from the fireplace this is quite brief, with black pepper toffee and chewed pencil.

A really fecund nose, an absolutely delicious initial delivery, and even at 61.2% I didn't get round to adding water. Yum. Bottle and bar.


SMWS 10.120, Bunnahabhain, 'Winding-down', 9 years old, 60.5% A

7th February 2008, 192 bottles, refill bourbon

e5243268d1e39f27Nose - Sweet, sour and lacquered on inhale, lots of cereal on exhale, it's acrylic too though, with fat crayons and wood varnish. White wine, cigarettes and Chardonnay cask… hot radiator and white chocolate. Delicious as always. Better with water with sweetshop fruit, more medicinal but the malt has caught.

Body - Rich cereal, shreddies and candy cigarettes. Burnt rosemary. Cigarette tar with water, really heavily peated.

Finish - Medium with burning, sandy peat. Really seafoody with water and time,

These excellent, young Bunnas are delicious but a little hard to tell them apart sometimes. If you miss this month’s, get it next month.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

SMWS 134–new Paul Johns

It’s all change at SMWS, tomorrow morning we get the first Indian whisky and it’s going to be sold by ballot.  Here’s an independent opinion on the whisky!

SMWS 134.1, Paul John, Exotic rainforest fruits, 6 years old, 57.9% A+'

28th February 2010, 174 bottles, refill bourbon

4561bf24dbfb0d5aNose - Deep and slightly dank, coffee and condensed milk with cigarette tobacco, red wine and a huge amount of wax. Lots of fruit - almost juicy fruit chewing gum - although still structurally sound. With time, the marzipan I was expecting. Lovely. Even better with water, intense fruit, 30 year old Scotch levels of tropical fruit but balanced by warm spice and wood. These PJs have this lovely Scotchy structure with the tropical fruit that makes them smell so much older than they are.

Body - Sweet but then instantly tobacco, toffee and… polystyrene cement and airfix transfers. Chewed liquorice root. Rich and clean fruit with water, vanilla sponge too.

Finish - Hot with more liquorice and lots of cereal, bourbony, woodsy tannins. It's like a Scotch/American clanger, with the bourbon in the sweet side.

Goodness me that nose is lovely, it's easy to fall in love with these PJs from the nose alone, but the delivery has just a little too much wood for me neat. Anyway, yum.


SMWS 134.2, Paul John, Lip-smacking and cockle-warming, 6 years old, 58% A-

31st March 2010, 168 bottles, refill bourbon

c8fe7d2d7ba1af65Nose - More varnish here, more spirity and more estery, with greener fruit and more wax. White flowers, cut dandelion stalks and a touch of wood glue. After sipping that changes, with chocolate covered toffee and used tea bags. Unexpectedly waxy with water, much older and some of the majesty of the .1.

Body - Sweet and glazed, simple sugars and charred wood, with wet, ruined cigarettes. Better with water again, the wood's still wet but it plays better against the sweetness.

Finish - Short and simple, slightly charred wood and caramel. Gone almost immediately except for a big bite of vanilla sponge. Much longer with water, the wood asserts again, with fresh, green apple to the end.

A good drinker and again, a good nose but it can't quite bridge me over to Scotch like the .1 does.