Thursday, 23 November 2017

SMWS Black Friday offers

Just a quick note to say there are black Friday and cyber Monday offers at SMWS.
Black Friday is reduced membership fees, Cyber Monday gives you 15% off across the site (using the code CYBER15) - end date for this has been extended to Wednesday

Offer details: 15% off site-wide*
Code: CYBER15
Terms and Conditions: *Excludes bottles which are part of The Vaults Collection (24.129, 25.70 and 29.234)
Start Date: 7.00am – 27.11.17
End Date: 23.59pm – 29.11.17

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Whisky Show 2017 "art of" bottlings

The show bottlings for the 2017 whisky show had success written all over them from the start.  TWE selection, fantastic artwork, a great theme, great value.  The stand at the show was the one I directed everyone to when they asked what’s good – that and the Signatory one next to it. 

I tasted the Glenrothes and Springbank early on on the Saturday and was blown away by the Glenrothes in particular.  The Springbank lived up to expectations.  The rest were bottles I didn’t pay much attention to at the time – they were good but it’s a whisky festival, it’s not the best place to focus.  Fortunately, our Darren was good enough to buy the whole set on the spot and split all the bottles with our club, and so I bring you these notes.  I hope you can see that I’m just as gushing when I pay for samples as when they’re provided free of charge!  haha.

Anyway, this is my shelf at home – that’s how good they are.  They are mostly still in stock.


Miltonduff 17 years old, art of whisky fermenting, 54.5% A+

miltonduffNose - Clean, but ripe fruit (galia melon), cough candy and crushed candle wax. It is exceptionally fresh, green and Spring-like, with a delicate, bright wood to it. Lovely. Colder with water, a little apple mint and a lot more minerality.

Body - Clean and delicious, fizzing with sherbet and toffee but almost chewy. Sourer with water, more fizzing but more toffee.

Finish - Very long with Smucker's goober grape (swirled peanut butter and grape jelly) plus slightly charred wood. More ordinary with water, although more charred.

A delight, particularly neat. And a real drinker. 

Glentauchers 19 years old, art of whisky bottling, 53.5% A⊕'

glentauchersNose - Waxier and darker, this has fountain pen ink, blackberries, and a gentle but reassuring cask musk. With time that black fruit develops - a touch of Ribena, some purple Refreshers (do they taste different? Maybe it's parma violets) and some poster paint. Extremely classy and a little bit sexy.

Body - Rich and fruity, blackcurrant mirror-glaze tart with a French cooked pastry and those weird orange Revels.

Finish - Very long, mouth coating and ripe, fizzing wood and spikes of sour fruit. Finally, vanilla sponge with icing. Everything is a little bit muted with water, better experienced neat.

Absolutely fantastic - really complex, loads of fruit, well structured. Highly recommended.

Balblair 19 years old, art of whisky mashing, 55.59% A⊕'

balblairNose - Slightly meaty, a little menthol, a lot of treacle tart but mostly this beautifully elegant wood and fruit character. Also, newly laid asphalt, candy cigarettes, ozone and a touch of fresh towels. Complicated and excellent. More lemon or orange curd with water.

Body - More of that menthol, with a slightly citrus character, which seems young at first but with wood and toffee, develops into a really floral, woodsy elegance - more limoncello than lemons. Extremely drinkable, very Balblair indeed.

Finish - Long and full of numbing, slightly clarty oils. Echoes of eucalyptus oil and cut oak planks.

This is absolutely superb also, a big whisky but really crushable. It's more restrained than the Glentauchers but a little bit more rewarding in some ways for it. Also highly recommended, and will happily scratch a HQ Balblair itch if you have one.

Glenrothes 27 years old, art of whisky aging, 51.1% A⊕+

glenrothesNose - Big, bright, but classical and balanced. Perfect old bourbon Glenrothes. Musky cask, a touch of char, a lot of green apple, some spent fireworks and even a little bandage. But it's the delivery I remember curling my toes at the whisky show.

Body - Enormous - intensely fruited, lots of big, deep toffee and cigarettes, hints of sulphur with gentle, but mature wood. Scotch.

Finish - Long with numbing oils, soft toffee pennies, baked apples and cigar tobacco. The lingering feeling is one of warm, relaxed luxury. Afterwards you're left with a real glow.

I bought two of these. Just love it.  It’s a perfect expression of Speyside.

Clynelish 21 years old, art of whisky distilling, 56.1% A+'

[sold out]

clynelishNose - Mineral, wax, restrained peat, and a little bit of changing room action - towels, talcum powder, feet, slightly off-date fungicidal cream and “men together”. Also though, well cared for leather, softmints and potting compost.

Body - A really wide and all-encompassing arrival with chocolate covered raisins, hard pears, Mr.Kipling French Fancies and salted caramel.

Finish - Long but slightly bitter, with Sichuan peppercorns, toast and honey, and charred oak chunks.

A phenomenal nose, a delicious delivery but not up there with the unpeated ones so far.

Springbank 24 years old, art of whisky, 51.7% A⊕+

[sold out]

springbankNose - Immediately this is the kind of sexy stuff that makes old Springbank so enticing - dusty, seductive, fizzy, ghostly peat perfectly blended with old wood, bright but winey, lots of baked pineapple and bounty bars but dry as a bone.

Body - Tobacco, wet wood, dried banana and orange peel. Arresting and very drinkable. Some coffee with water.

Finish - Long with more lemon zest peat and struck flints. Longer with water, with more refreshing fruits.

This is exactly what you would hope for - a big old Springbank but with the corners not yet blended out. Delicious, complex, it transports you directly to Campbeltown.

Caol Ila 7 years old, art of whisky malting, 45.8% A⊕

caolilaNose - Remember how good young Caol Ila can be? Just like Ledaig, this makes you double take. Acrylic paint with wet yeast, fresh bandages and Germolene. Both the Germolene and the yeast get right up in your sinuses in a kind of oily way, just like this does. Ultra-HQ.

Body - Clean and fruity, with very distinct, freshly crushed* malted barley and faint extra strong mints (if you see what I mean, it's not extra strong but it's that character of mint). Gentle at first, the pepperyness builds.

Finish - Long and honest, with white pepper (slightly funky), preserved lemons and hot spring rolls.

Surprisingly gentle, and extremely good. This is going to break my embargo on buying yet more Caol Ila.

* I say this as a man who owns a malt mill

Monday, 20 November 2017

A private bottling of Springbank, 25 years old

This is a cask sample I was sent for to get an opinion (as an obvious Springbank fan).  I’m hoping it gets bottled as is, as we will lose these casks at some point – I don’t think Springbank have sold private casks for a while!  I’m publishing these notes with the permission of the owner of the cask.  I’ll be buying it if it gets released.


Springbank, private cask, 25 years old? A⊕

Nose - Fresh citrus, floral (fresh cut flowers), a little lemon wax, yesterday's gloss paint and light funk. Coffee, lilies and sherry vinegar. Water turns the lemon into lemsip and Refreshers.

Body - Sweet but balanced with dry, fizzing cough candy, chewed Seville orange peel, black pepper and sawdust; ethereal peat. Sweeter with water, with a touch of old lady's perfume and Sichuan peppercorns. There's a real buttercream icing delivery here that fills out the citrus fruit and makes the nose feel older.

Finish - Long and hot, lemon sherbets at the end with charred toast and lots of citrus oil. Slightly sour hard oak with water, the lemon sherbets are more intense.

A robustly peated old Springbank with fresh citrus fruit, a compelling floral character, and spicy, resinous, ethereal peat. Very moreish, clearly a proper old school refill bourbon.  Quite haunting, particularly in the nose.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Springbank Single Casks

A couple of cracking single cask UK releases* which have been hard to pin down.  The sherry cask is yet to show at a few places (including TWE I think) but has gone very quickly elsewhere. 

[* EDIT: oops – except the 14 year old isn’t single cask, it’s 9,000 bottles and not just UK only]

These two follow the Edinburgh single cask that was rum a rum cask, reviewed here.

Springbank 14 years old, August 2017 bourbon cask, 55.8% A⊕

IMG_3564Nose - Clean and fresh for a 14 year old, it doesn't have that bruising oiliness that can be quite tiring up to 12 in Springbank, and the peat seems very gentle behind lemon and pastry. Slightly medicinal perhaps, and the pastry is a little caught. Fruitier with water, slightly dirtier too.

Body - Bright, much more peat and the onset of the dusty deliciousness of the 18. Quite a lot of lemon sherbet, almost Sichuan peppercorns, a lot less gentle than I was expecting from the nose. Some "Tang" orange powder and a little gunpowder even. Peatier still with water.

Finish - Long and fizzing, a little popping candy and chilli caramel at the end.

I'm sorry to report that this is really good, hope you got one. It's a great age for Springbank, just on the cusp between fire and elegance, a remarkable nose and it's great to try a really cracking bourbon cask as an OB.

Springbank 13 years old, October 2017 fresh sherry butt, 56.1% A⊕+

IMG_3565Nose - Dark but enormous, lots of black fruit with blackcurrant jam, blackberries, instant coffee granules and a touch of travel sweets. A little more savoury with water, the almonds come out more and so does the old, slightly alien peat.

Body – Big on the delivery too - great balance between fruit, and dry and nutty sherry cask, with perfectly judged wood oils, verging on oil paints. Fruitier again with water but less intense.

Finish - Long and still full of fruit, travel sweets and some petrol. At the end the fruit is gigantic.

This is like the 15 year old turned up to 11, beautifully balanced and a massive fruit bomb - deliciously sherried without overpowering the spirit. Very highly recommended.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cadenhead’s October 2017 Authentic Collection outturn

I’m pretty sure this is the biggest ever Cadenhead’s outturn, 24 casks and all big gear, to top off a massive year.  I somehow missed sampling the Glenfarclas (and hope to get to it shortly*) and never get the chance on the grains but there is some superb whisky in here.  A massive outturn but also another outturn (presumably the final one!) coming next in December, with some really specially looking whiskies from Bunnahabhain, Glengoyne, Mannochmore, Old Pulteney and Strathmill.

To summarise this outturn though, my top picks are the Benrinnes, Glentauchers, Bruichladdich, Glenburgie and Tormore.  Next up would be the Aultmore, Tullibarine,  Glenallachie and Highland Park. 

Honestly, who doesn’t love Cadenhead’s?

[*EDIT – I did get hold of a sample of the Glenfarclas, wrote it up and forgot about it.  Notes are at the bottom now]

Benrinnes 20 years old, 55.5% A⊕'

IMG_2321Nose - Heavenly. Dusty, thick with toffee and fruit, a really fresh but mature nose. Chalky bonbons, birthday candles, and lemon buttercream icing. Very special. Water brings a little more lemon into the fruit, and a touch of washing up liquid or shower gel - still fantastic though.

Body - Waxy again but a touch hot with toffee and flashes of acrylic paint. Somewhere between red chilli and black pepper - maybe cinnamon with time? Even fruitier with water, toffee pennies and UHT mango juice.

Finish - Medium with lots of oils. Quite woodsy at the end, slightly fencey.

A seriously fruity but balanced and structured Benrinnes, highly recommended.

Strathisla 20 years old, 55.8% A+'

IMG_2338Nose - Much more masculine than the Benrinnes, more leather and musk, more vanilla too, and it's a lot gentler. This one's all strawberry tart with French cooked pastry, and it's becoming more feminine with time - perfume, strawberry syrup… I can't get away from those French strawberry tarts. Four in a plastic box from the hypermarket. Lots of wood with time, it's beautifully poised. Water brings a touch of Sudocrem.

Body - Creamy and fruity up front, then peppery and astringent. Softer with water, cream and wood.

Finish - Hot and drying, a very long finish with chewed pencil and caraway.

Another fantastic dram. A really luxurious, complex and highly matured nose but too much heat on the delivery takes it down a notch.

Aultmore 20 years old, 53.9% A⊕

IMG_2320Nose - A robust balance between soft fruit and minerality, and real depth behind that headline. Old candle wax, royal icing, ripe peaches and hard cold pears. Austerity juxtaposed with luxury. More luxurious with water - better on paper, but I preferred the character neat.

Body - Cream, ripe pear, dusty heat and quite a lot of cinnamon (maybe it's my palate today?). A lovely even hand with the green fruit though, very considered. The dust settles a little with water.

Finish - Medium to long, fizzing with popping candy and warm spices. Tropical burps.

A really rich, and properly delicious whisky. Again, that heat on the delivery brings it down a little but the delivery is so absorbing that you can forgive it. And the nose, and balance is so spot on it just nudges the Strathisla (although my first thought was that it'd be just behind it).

Glentauchers 26 years old, 51.6% A⊕

IMG_2332Nose - Glorious… hang on. Green apple on exhale. On inhale there's real gravitas, bright depth, balance and yet quite a lot of wood. There's something of the feel of a Diageo Special Release here, but then it feels almost like there's some virgin oak in here too. Apple with old, dark varnish, then linseed oil on newly sanded oak, then cider, then Cognac.

Body - Definitely some kind of Calvados thing going on, bright and extremely sweet with rich toffee, Port and baked apples with raisin.

Finish - Long - a masterclass in soft fruit toffee and wood, definitely feels like a recharred cask or virgin oak in this one's history.

Robust, complicated and fascinating. This would be a perfect whisky to end a tasting on. Recommended.

Speyside 21 years old, 61.7% A

IMG_2337Nose - Fizzing in front of the sherry, sherbet lemons with cucumber skin and cut flower stalks. Waxy, slightly dirty, but feels younger than the others.

Body - Nutty, gentle, beery, reminds me strongly of Mexican puffed pork crackling and Mr. Kipling chocolate cupcakes. Water makes it even nuttier, with very clear candy cigarettes.

Finish - Long with vanilla sponge, sesame snaps, black peppercorns and cut green peppers. More savoury burps now. Quite spicy at the end.

Rich, ripe, nutty and ever so faintly dirty.

Miltonduff 11 years old, 56.4% A-

IMG_2335Nose - Sweet, mineral, cracked coconut and moisturiser. A faint hint of curry leaf and orange peel. It's clean, simple and fresh, and sort of summery like sun tan cream. A lot fruitier with water, more Christmassy oranges and cheap orange juice.

Body - Balanced sweetness, chalky, then hot and citrusy with orange juice and red chilli. Quite a hollow wood to it. The flaws are exposed with water, it's thinner overall with a stronger emphasis on the red chilli.

Finish - Long and drying, orange oils and more coconut. Quite spirity up the sinuses.

A good drammer, nothing too exciting but clean and drinkable with a fresh, citrusy character and a lovely nose.

Dailuaine 13 years old, 57.7% A'

IMG_2326Nose - Interestingly this - a bright, confident, mature complexity (wax, fruit, refreshers) sort of disappears into washing up liquid. On each sniff. The overall effect is oddly restrained, although quite enjoyable. Better with water, much more depth and even some hot radiator.

Body - Lovely fruit now, green apple, orange, but a big, rich character behind it, their spirit is just so wonderful. Vanilla cream, a lick of cinnamon fireball. Ripe pear and Mexican chocolate with water.

Finish - Long and hot, with grilled orange slices with cinnamon sticks and very drying indeed.

This turned out to be extremely delicious, a real focus whisky. Recommended.

Bruichladdich 26 years old, 51.8% A⊕

IMG_2324Nose - Warm, comforting, but not too cosy. This has restrained fruit with flashes of vinegar, on top of warm marmalade, sherbet lemons and wood polish. Super gentle. Some cigarette tobacco with water.

Body - Rather large but so gentle, the delivery is ripe, soft, mineral, full of warm soft stone fruit, red wine tannins, varnish and waxes. Slightly peppery with water, and a sudden burst of fruit and distillery visitors-centre (fresh mash and wash, more varnish and new carpets).

Finish - Medium to long and lovely for it, a slow fade out of fruit toffee, slightly charred hard woods and faint tobacco at the end. Some sulphur in the fruity, cereal burps.

Just divine. If I could score a bottle of this (which I don't think I can) I will just open it and get stuck in.

Auchentoshan 18 years old, rum cask, 55% A

IMG_2318Nose - Fresh, bright with menthol, peppery with bits of caraway stuck it in. Milk bottle sweets and a real underlying waxiness. A touch of newly painted wall - it's oddly masculine.

Body - Sweet and creamy, there's echoes of that totally unmistakable Auchentoshan character but the wood and menthol is dominating. It is an extremely gentle whisky though, not in the same way that the Bruichladdich was (gentle but gigantic), this is more restrained and feminine (even though the nose is masculine).

Finish - White wine, a touch of sulphur, lots of cream and soft ripe pear.

This is a delicious, balanced and gentle whisky with a little Auchentoshan character, and very drinkable. It's not, however, what I wanted it to be - which was a big, funky, weird lowlander I could tell my kids about when they grow up.

Tullibardine 24 years old, 45.5% A⊕

IMG_2341Nose - Fence posts, gunpowder, and a fantastic backbone of well matured Scotch sitting in a fantastic cask. Balanced mineral and waxes, pineapple chunks with apricot and body lotion. A very complete and inviting nose.

Body - Dry and confident, a lick of sulphur and lots of chalk, even some pork fat. One of the most balanced deliveries of the outturn, and a lovely fruit character on subsequent sips. This isn't going to last long enough to add water.

Finish - Medium with chilled Chardonnay and fresh green pear slices. Soft, sweet wood at the end, and some soft toffee.

A surprise hit, this is a dry, almost grumpy whisky that belies confident fruit, balance and a slightly challenging savoury edge.

Glen Spey 21 years old, 57.7% B⊕

IMG_2328Nose - Lots of acrylic paint here, pineapple juice and grenadine against cigarette smoke and a new shed. I'm not quite sure what kind of scene that starts to conjure up, glad I don't have to name it. Interesting and compelling though, the wax is very grown up and so is the coffee but…. it all hangs on the delivery.

Body - Promising at first, bright fresh wood and fruit, but then the corners come in and it feels younger than it should. The wood feels recharred. Better with water, fruitier and more menthol, richer and more tannic.

Finish - Arresting and very drying, lots of wood and orange pith. Quite bitter with water.

Interesting but snatches defeat from the jaws of victory (good nose though).

Glenallachie 24 years old, 54.2% A⊕

IMG_2329Nose - Brown sugar, reduced red wine, a little coffee - a bourbon cask though. There's an almost sherry richness, a touch of sulphur, maraschino cherries and dark chocolate too. Maybe black forest cherries. Muskier with water, leather jacket, travel sweets and almond chocolate. High hopes…

Body - Black fruit, drying waxes, hot chocolate and black forest gateau. Absolutely delicious.

Finish - Long with soft black fruit and leatherette. Soft tannins at the end, some toast.

Goodness me, a real fruit punch of a whisky, deliciously balanced too though with real structure. Totally unexpected.

Blair Athol 29 years old, 51.8% A⊕+

IMG_2322Nose - Ah.. Enormous as expected. Bright, deep, lacquered and full of tropicality - mango, coconut and sesame snaps. It has that yellow fruit and wood I love, and that understated varnish that matches the age statement. Proper gravitas, and you can't beat coconut in whisky.

Body - A perfect, soft delivery full of soft woods, rich cereal - it's slightly otherworldly. Chalky sweets and red wine. Marshmallow and candy cigarette.

Finish - Long with a touch of spirit sulphur, fruit and funk, maybe some liquorice imps at the very end.

Utterly drinkable. A big whisky too. Highly recommended.

Bowmore 14 years old, 56.2% A

IMG_2323Nose - Clean, cereal led with a lot of toffee sweetness behind it and good, if slightly potatoey depth. A good waxy cask backing to the peat, which is fresh and citrussy.

Body - Balanced, slightly floral, a touch of wax, good green fruit (star fruit?) and quite a lot of salt and vinegar crisp (maybe "Discos", maybe "Square crisps"). Fruitier with water.

Finish - Medium to long with insistent white pepper and charred barley.

A delicious, clean young Bowmore, if slightly ordinary in this pack.

Teaninich 11 years old, 55.3% A

IMG_2339Nose - Toasted cereal and grain spirit, burnt orange oil, surfboard wax and hints of French demi-glace and roasted chicken skin. Makes you pay attention. Even more grown up with water, and especially time - a really confident young spirit with warm balance from the cask.

Body - Hot and chalky, lots of alcohol burn here with green apple skin and splints. Peppered apple chews? Creamier with water, some vanilla and more wood, perhaps a touch of fizzers.

Finish - Medium with lasting oils and a zesty fruitiness developing later. Oddly astringent with water.

A cracking whisky, a touch too much fire in the delivery perhaps but good waxes and complexity in the nose.

Auchroisk 29 years old, 44.6% A+'

IMG_2319Nose - Gentle but with gravitas - lots of varnish and old wood, charred with instant coffee and perfectly played tropical fruit (Kia Ora, but muted - soaked into your sleeve). Gentle waxes. Very well balanced.

Body - Rich and peppery, some cake and some cut old oak furniture. Slightly spicy - chilli powder set in hard caramel.

Finish - Long, quite hot, lots of splints and baked apple.

A really important old whisky, perfect balance on the nose but I would have preferred more fruit on the delivery. Also the low ABV doesn't do it many favours, but that's a bit down to my palate.

Bunnahabhain 22 years old, 50.4% A+'

IMG_2325Nose - Beautifully fruity with an insistent cigar tobacco behind it. Bright and very classically wooded, this has Indian spices, buttercream icing and birthday candles. Whiteboard markers and cut rosemary stalks. Christmassy and beautiful.

Body - Balanced on orchard fruit, toffee and wood, quite drying oils in front of some serious sugar and an almost wine cask note (and icing sugar).

Finish - Medium with cider ice lollies and really long lasting sugars.

Very sweet indeed this but the nose is just heavenly, the kind of whisky that takes you back.

Fettercairn 24 years old, 51.5% A'

IMG_2327Nose - Quite alarming, although in a good way. Bright with new carpets and cut limes, fruit salad chews and teenage deodorant. And imperial stout. Classier with water, more black jacks than fruit salads, then some washing up liquid.

Body - Savoury and cereal led, more imperial stout, lots of deep roasted barley balanced by lactose, and a big hit of bitterness and black jacks.

Finish - Medium to short - the charred barley bitterness quite subtle at the end.

Weird at first, becomes classier with time and water but loses its edge.

Ord 13 years old, 60.3% A-

IMG_2336Nose - Fizzing with citrus and bright wax, this is backed by twin beams of mature oak and lemon sherbets. It's verging on lemsip. But that waxy wood is just lovely, particularly for the age. Hot lemsip with water.

Body - Ripe, rich, perfectly balanced - that lemon sherbet sweetshop thing works perfectly, it's like a distilled jar of sweets (the fizzing woods balance it out, with a tiny touch of funk). Hotter with water, a surprising inclusion of red chilli unfortunately, plus flower stalks and black pepper.

Finish - Long but hot, more slightly funky sweetshop notes with added toffee pennies and chewed matchsticks.

This was on course for a big mark but the chilli heat built during tasting.

Glenburgie 25 years old, 54.6% A⊕

IMG_2330Nose - Beautifully waxy at first, then cough candy with ripe, cut peach, strawberry laces and a little milky coffee. Even better with water, that fruit and cream thing is perfect.

Body - Gentle and perfectly poised, with light green apple, Werther’s originals and light funk again.

Finish - Long and full of that hard toffee, sour green apple and warm white wine. Mocha notes again at the end, and some Refreshers.

When they search through the strata of my whisky collection after I'm gone, they're going to refer to 2017 as the Glenburgie year. Highly recommended.

Tormore 33 years old, 51.7% A⊕+

IMG_2340Nose - Dark, waxy and a little dank, this has overripe Asian fruits, gunpowder, a sticky box of cigars, game fried in butter and toffee apples. As you can tell, there's a lot of depth here. Develops further with water, more chocolate, obvious mature cask and very distinct flashes of corn tortilla.

Body - Slightly spicy, this is all rich hot chocolate and big woods, there's a clear bourbon character in here behind cream, fecundity and ripe orchard fruits.

Finish - Medium to long, surprisingly gentle with lightly peppered cigar casings and cedar. Lots of fruit toffee at the end, and Foxes glacier fruits with water. Absolutely delicious.

Complex and confident, but full of luxury. This is a triumph.

Highland Park 28 years old, 45.8% A⊕

IMG_2333Nose - Wax, wine, alcopops? Refreshers and royal icing, in fact the rest of the Christmas cake is underneath it, with a dark, blackcurrant travel sweet weirdness.

Body - Alien peat, a welcome return - fresh and fruity though with real punch pulling balance. Mouth-watering tannins, coffee chocolate cake and chocolate icing, iron filings and a little new leatherette.

Finish - Short and fruity, back to the boiled sweets and toffee, with lots of vanilla sponge and buttercream.

Another creamy, gentle, well balanced ancient Scotch. Yum.

Glenfarclas 27 years old, 51.9% A⊕+

IMG_2331Nose - Chalky at first, then that immense, lacquered sweetness - proper maturity and a good refill cask. It's an old drinks cabinet full of foundation and lip gloss. Structural and sexy, with strawberry, sawdust, crayons and furniture wax polish. I keep moving between wood and incredible fruit, but with time there's a herbal quality too, like crushed dock leaves. A touch of pain au raisin with water.

Body - Dry, slightly peppery with chalky bonbons and an immense sweetness balanced by that peppery wood. Very mouthfilling though, you know how hundred year old oak floorboards tastes slightly fruity as you saw them?

Finish - Dried orange slices, orange oils, candy cigarettes and peppered toffee. Slightly burnt with water.

An absolutely fantastic whisky, one that I didn't taste until too late - there have been too many this year to catch them all though.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Gauldrons

At last!  The missing region from Douglas Laing.  And obviously the home of Springbank (big heart).  Lots of chat online about this basically being Glen Scotia as Springbank don’t give out to indies any more but who knows, there’s been plenty of Douglas Laing casks in the past and of course Big Peat has PE in it. 

The Gauldrons, Campbeltown Blended Scotch Whisky, 46.2% A+

the-gauldrons-whiskyNose - Sweet tea, cardamom, significant waxes and a slightly overripe aspect. It is very far from the classic Springbank profile although there's a dusty peat that reminds me a little of older Longrow - waxy, dusty and slightly medicinal. I'm not sure that's a very Glen Scotia thing?

Body - UHT milk, peppery chocolate cake and Mexican hot chocolate (lots of cinnamon). Good tannins behind this, a touch of cigar tobacco and Lotus Biscoff spread.

Finish - Medium to long with building cinnamon jawbreakers and chocolate truffles. Ginger snaps at the end.

I really like this - chewy, lots of ginger biscuits and big tannins bring you back for another sip. I'd never place it in Campbeltown but the branding and flavour profile fits together very nicely.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

SMWS November 2017 outturn–small list

Almost two decades ago I tried to give up smoking using Nicorette patches.  They gave you a wall chart and you stuck a little sticker on every day you didn’t smoke a fag.  This chaining motivates you to keep on going.  The big problem is if you do relapse – and miss a sticker – that crutch is taken from you right when you need it the most*.

Here’s the November 2017 small list, there are 45 more or so coming next week and there’s some epic stuff in there!  Sorry this one is late, hope you got what you wanted. Get used to it being late as I will be missing the November big list entirely – the first outturn I’ve missed in over three years. Phil will be able to sort you out I expect, at least with some of it.

I was going to put the 53 and 37 in their own post as they were released between October and November and so I hadn’t tried them until now.  But why bother if I’m going to miss an outturn? So they’re just in among this lot.


There’s one serious stand out here.  I’ve just bought two bottles of it, considering a third.

SMWS 54.53, Aberlour, Classic honey and oak, 10 years old, 60.7% A-

12th October 2006, 195 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3402Nose - A mineral, slightly chalky sweetness. Really cold and fresh with waxed woods, proper autumn stuff. A touch of shoe polish, and a little baked apple behind the wax. Good balance and restraint. Fruitier with water, greener apple and added gloss paint and Danish pastry.

Body - Sharp and hard, with a slightly obvious sweetness behind it. Some peppery wood, some candy cigarette. Actual tobacco with water, more wood and a touch of petrol. Definitely better.

Finish - Long with cloying boiled sweets and a lightly fizzing like sherbet lemons at the end. Drying with water.

A robust whisky for winter Autumn afternoons, I really enjoy the nose but it's a little one dimensional on the delivery.


SMWS 41.98, Dailuaine, La Dolce Vita, 11 years old, 59.2% A-

23rd March 2006, 204 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3400Nose - Dependable Dailuaine. The usual elegance - hard toffee with sawdust, polished wood, gentle, expensive perfume and warm, ripe orchard fruit. Very sweet and special with water, slightly medicinal like a big, woodsy rum and also very reminiscent of smelling a really foamy glass of cloudy lemonade.

Body - Warm, ripe stone fruit, then a bit hit of chilli spice and bracingly sweet. Chocolate cake with water.

Finish – Serious chocolate cake richness, with chewed pencil, buttercream icing and a little cracked black pepper. Very long with water, extremely rich.

This started up all elegance and ended up with chocolate cake, absolutely delicious although if you're going to do that I think even Dailuaine needs a few more years on it.

SMWS 9.131, Glen Grant, A cheery treat, 11 years old, 55.1% A⊕

15th September 2005, 162 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3411Nose - Serious wax, again, for such youth, but gentle and slightly louche. Fresh towels and slightly musky (hair wax and old tobacco). It's a lovely thing. After sipping, I'm overwhelmed by sesame on the nose. A surprising belt of cherry sweets with water.

Body - Beautiful again, really considered with Mexican chocolate, almonds and cold glass. Even better with water, tannins, wax and fruit in perfect balance.

Finish - Sesame snaps, Hershey's chocolate and fence panels. Quite salty. Very dry with water.

Absolutely delicious, a masterclass in how young refill bourbon can be just as good as old and expensive.


SMWS 100.17, Strathmill, Fresh as a glacial facial, 12 years old, 57.8% A

23rd February 2005, 157 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3403Nose - Beautiful and clean again, touch of chalky, minty bonbons and ripe with pear and Sangria. There's a real depth here, with liquorice allsorts’ centres, strawberry laces and a touch of cigar tobacco. More boiled sweets with water, more complicated tobacco leaf and fruit.

Body - Liquorice torpedoes, really thick and milky. Thinner and more tannic with water, it has a peppery, toffee character which is structural and drinkable but slightly hollow.

Finish - Quite a lot of heat in the finish, chilli toffee and hot, cinnamon chocolate. Big cereal tannins at the end brings you back for another.

Very tasty, the sort of cinnamon fireball character is good although not quite what I'm after. However this is very nicely put together.


SMWS 36.138, Benrinnes, Fruit baskets in a painted room, 19 years old, 56.1% A⊕+

15th August 1997, 174 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3401Nose - Bright but rich, solventy but with tropical fruit juice and old school permanent markers (in the 80s they were superb). Real age on this nose though, Benrinnes is a byword for tropical and this is definitely that, plus sauna wood and buffed leather.

Body - And it doesn't disappoint - it would be exaggerating to suggest this was 70s Tomatin level awesome, but it is a pretty good stand-in. It has that robust, almost peppery, almost overripe weirdness to it that goes with the tropical fruit like the smell of Durian and hoisin sauce goes with an Asian supermarket. It tastes even older with water, it has fusty old anise baked into a sweet bread

Finish - Highly polished, dark antique French polish, bone dry and full of old tropicality. Drier and shorter with water, like 40 year old whisky is sometimes.

How is this only 19? A frankly fantastic whisky and an absolute bargain, amazingly it is extremely still in stock too.  51 left!


SMWS 1.204, Glenfarclas, Blackberry lemon pavlova, 20 years old, 53.5% C⊕

5th March 1997, 233 bottles, 18 years in ex-bourbon hogshead, then into first-fill American oak PX hogshead

IMG_3405Nose - Sweet, then structure, and then cakey… but with iron filings and fresh acrylic paint (maybe new carpet too). There's sherry in here somewhere but it's confused.

Body - What…? HP sauce, cigar tobacco, very clearly chipotle chillis and ancho - what did that PX cask have in it before, chipotle chilli sauce? Better with water, but still very weird.

Finish - Long, savoury, spicy. Very bready, very peppery, a very compelling wood, cereal and sour thing raging underneath that awkward sherry finish.

This is a flawed whisky with a hopeful two year finish in PX to cover it up. It kind of works (it's certainly interesting), you should try it at the bar, but you don't need a bottle.

SMWS 39.151, Linkwood, A blue lady and a Seraph's smile, 19 years old, 58.4% B+

27th October 1997, 592 bottles, ex-oloroso butt, then into 1st fill sherry butt. Why finish a sherry butt in a sherry butt? I need to know what it was like before!

IMG_3408Nose - Sweet, restrained, quite hard and metallic. But rich PX underneath, I guess the original sherry was very refill - this is not necessarily bad news though. Deodorant and candy necklace? With time, whiteboard markers and smouldering splints. And something medicinal, like something from the dentist's tray of stuff you can't quite see because you’re laying on your back. And wax. Fruitier with water, with men's Sure deodorant - rather good really, and the wax is more dominant.

Body - Blackcurrant chews, coal, smoking wood, tar, dank sherry cask basically. Much softer and riper with water, suddenly almost over the hill.

Finish - Tannic, soft and ripe. Lots of blackberries at the end.

Another awkward finish, again it's totally drinkable and interesting and this time, not flawed, but it's not quite there.

SMWS 35.189, Glen Moray, Spiced fruit on a treacle tart, 15 years old, 57.7% A-

27th November 2001, 246 bottles, 14 years in first-fill bourbon, then into first-fill American oak PX hogshead. Some big colour on these PX casks.

IMG_3404Nose - Similar to before, the PX is quite a blanket and I'll need to dig. Red cherries and hard wood, kind of VO. Raspberry jam in a big rich sponge cake, buttercream icing. Yet there's proper depth here, a much more successful finish I suspect.

Body - Hard and very wood driven. Last month there was a labelling error on the 35 - port instead of new wood French oak - I wouldn't be hugely surprised to find this has had some new oak in its history but I believe the PX. This has incredible richness but the wood sour is just as big, with leatherette, licked perfume and cherry sweets.

Finish - Long and very hard with lots of wood. That's the kind of tasting note my work colleagues enjoying mocking me for, so I am pleased to be able to supply it again here.

There is a really good whisky in here (particularly the nose) but the delivery has a little too much new wood in it for me. Still - it's full of fruit (particularly cherry) and very intense and quite delicious. Definitely one for the bar, probably a bottle if you are into such intensity at home. It is very, very sweet and rich.

SMWS 37.97, Cragganmore, Old and delightful, yet firm, 32 years old, 49.6%A⊕

24th April 1985, 168 bottles, first fill PX hogshead

IMG_3399Nose - Immediately it's that black vinegar, bright, deep overripe fruit thing, with very dark wood, a touch of coffee, wet joss stick and something from art lessons - plasticine? Pipe cleaners? Cigars and nuts on exhale.

Body - Very gentle, very old. Lots of soft stone fruit with blackcurrant jam on toast, a little silly putty and big, old oak.

Finish - Long and richly wooded with varnished Refreshers. Straying into cheesy with licked joss sticks and black pepper.

This is exactly as it says on the label - very mature, classic old Scotch with lots of structure and just enough challenge in the sour woods.


SMWS 72.51, Miltonduff, Pepper-crusted charred roast beef, 12 years old, 60% B⊕+

23rd September 2004, 252 bottles, 11 years in first fill white wine hogshead, then into virgin oak hogshead HTMC. Hopes are very high.

IMG_3406Nose - I would have loved to have tried this before the VO but I'm still keen from the white wine primary - this has all you'd want on the nose, dank, sulphurous (but well done) with roast beef, earth, plaster of paris and royal icing. It lives or dies by the delivery though.

Body - Nutty, dirty, full of sulphur but just pulling it right. Pistachios, drains, standing water and overripe fruit. More tobacco with water, but amazingly it's even dirtier.

Finish - Petrol and pistachio with Vimto. Hazelnuts and a litter tray with water.

Weird, wonderful and naughty.

BUY but goodness me only if you like it funky. I'm considering it.

SMWS 4.237, Highland Park, Essence of Orkney, 26 years old, 51.9% A+

31st May 1991, 233 bottles, 24 years in refill bourbon, then into first-fill American oak PX hogshead

IMG_3409Nose - There's that toffee, sweet but dry, coastal but sherried complexity that everyone falls in love with first with HP. Back to the chalk of the first dram, and floral too - elegance plus peat and sherry makes gravitas.

Body - Gentle, dry then surprisingly charred and fizzing, almost parmas - black pepper and chewing the end of a pencil that has an eraser on it - slightly metallic. More cereal led with water, still robustly peppery though.

Finish - Coffee and fizzers. Chewed flower stalks with water. The charred, wet oak comes back at the end.

A rich, complex and beautiful nose. This should have been more luxurious though, given the age and the nose. There's a "burning boat on the beach" thing that I really like in the delivery but this should have been more.

SMWS 10.134, Bunnahabhain, Cleaner than a ship's whistle, 9 years old, 60% A+

7th February 2008, 240 bottles, refill bourbon.

IMG_3412Nose - A particularly good chalk and sweetshop note here, above the usual coastal, sandy fun. The peat is ever so slightly young Laphroaig, slightly bandage, but the refreshers and beachgrass is really evocative. Waxier, caskier with water.

Body - Cough! Robustly peated with a real sweetshop intensity, right up to liquorice imps. Water brings Chinese jelly sweets and cinnamon stick.

Finish - Long and full of dark liquorice and parkin. Rolling tobacco on the tongue, black sesame. It's really thick, much blacker than recent 10s.

This is a crazed bottle of whisky, very challenging and absolutely mesmerising.


SMWS 29.232, Laphroaig, Seaside sweet shop on fire, 18 years old, 59.1% A+'

11th November 1998, 240 bottles, refill bourbon

IMG_3410Nose - Much higher spec, sweet and clean with gentle cereal, refreshers and an almost milky character. Creamy sweets I guess, like milk bottles and pepto bismol. It feels very… correct.

Body - Surprisingly intense, fizzing and woodsy on the tip of the tongue with Sudocrem and talcum powder. Lots of cream, big, bitter wood and a full bong full of bong water.

Finish - Proper deodorant here, sprayed in the mouth. Dark and slightly disturbing with water, the wood, char and Victorian hospital is very dominant. Chloraseptic by the end.

An evasive whisky with a surprising amount of wood for a Laph. It draws you in on the nose each time, and knocks you out with the smoke and wood. I adore the refreshers in the nose.


SMWS 53.241, Caol Ila, Dense smoke over a tarry deck, 6 years old, xx? B+

27th April 2011, xx bottles, refill bourbon

24cc8588fcf0d961Nose - Crushed marble and salt and vinegar crisps. Sour cooking apples off the tree, then the crumble. Good sweetness here too, slightly floral with men's deodorant. Seems legit.

Body - Tar, ropes, phenols.

Finish - Long and bitter, under-ripe green apples. Something beery in the end here.

Time for a beer.

* this is how I stopped.