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⊕'
Nose - 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+'
Nose - 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⊕
Nose - 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⊕
Nose - 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
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-
Nose - 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'
Nose - 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⊕
Nose - 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
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⊕
Nose - 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⊕
Nose - 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⊕
Nose - 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⊕+
Nose - 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
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
Nose - 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+'
Nose - 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+'
Nose - 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'
Nose - 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-
Nose - 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⊕
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⊕+
Nose - 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⊕
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⊕+
Nose - 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.