Oops – I thought the last outturn was the last of 2017. I honestly couldn’t comprehend having any more Cadenhead’s. But I did actually know about this one, I’d seen the list, I’d just blocked it out! It’s been a busy time.
The Nevis. The Linkwood.
Nose - A lovely chalky and lightly sweet character on the nose, with a touch of laundered towel on hot radiator. This has some of that excitement of a dram at the end of a distillery tour, and a little travel sweets. Lemon sherbets after sipping. Even better with water, it reminds me more of a new library - new varnished wood, plastic book coverings and new carpets.
Body - Sharp and sweet, with gooseberry fool, preserved lemons and white chocolate. Creamy and rich but that lemon leaves it feeling quite young, and slightly hot. A lot sweeter with water, some refreshers, but still lacking that midrange.
Finish - Long and hot with roasted lemon shells and caught raisins. Fruitier with water, peaches and orange peel twists.
A good drammer but young and without the confidence and integration to make that properly work.
Nose - Sweeter, fuller, a tiny touch of funk, some modelling clay and a little coffee. This is grown up in a different way to the Glen Spey, there's a deep stone fruit and waxiness behind the clay and sugar. An exciting and compelling nose. Even better with water, it gets darker, fruitier and the sulphur becomes more toasted, more serious.
Body - Deep and dank, coffee again then very distinct red boiled sweets and a lovely touch of sulphur. I am surprised this is a bourbon cask. As it develops a touch of bitterness comes through but take it slowly, concentrating on the nose, and stick with the fruit, sweetshop and waxes (milky coffee with water).
Finish - Medium with fruit polos and pink peppercorns. A little charred oak at the end.
Delicious and exciting, but in the end perhaps a little delicate? The nose is especially good though.
Body - Soft, fruity, a touch of fizz but really rich, one of those intensely oily, fruity and satisfying deliveries that are so relaxing to drink. It is also immensely sweet, more so with water.
Finish - Long, with more fizzy boiled sweets, Foxes glacier mints, red currants and a little stewed tea.
The sugar builds and builds with this one, it is almost unbearable after a while. Which is a shame as it's absolutely delicious at first.
Nose - Very fresh and summery, melon with raisins and vanilla custard, almost French strawberry tarts actually. The wood is gentle, high quality, and lightly waxed. Melon going on mango, with time. All still green, though, with sawdust and lime curd. More tropicality with water, great balance.
Body - Deep and tropical, balanced and confident, this has lime juice and oils on your hands after making a margarita, and a rich tannin at the side of the mouth.
Finish - Kind of short (in a very mature way) but lightly fizzing all the way down, like a big fruit bomb Scotch (although a lot more restrained than that).
I can't quite believe this is 57%, it feels like 42%, but somehow it's all even better with water - more cream, more tropical fruit, more structure, more lime. Very delicious and drinkable, perhaps just a little bit pedestrian for all that (it's not a '76 Tomatin, despite my gushing), but nevertheless an excellent whisky and is highly recommended.
Nose - Slightly sweet and sour, with sawdust, red wine reduction, drilled out bricks and art room clay. I tried this at Darrenmas and was underwhelmed as I often am with Glen Grant, although in a saner environment I do admire the deep wax, but this is very refill sherry.
Body - Much better than I remember actually; ripe fruits, mint leaves, fizzing orange powder, earth. But that mint and sharp, flinty refill sherry butt is what's bothering me. Fruitier and more toffeed with water, a touch of coffee wood and cereal.
Finish - Long and pointedly sweet, mint bonbons and icing sugar.
This just doesn't hang together for me, sharp refill sherry and quite thin and icing sugary, although the nose grew on me with time.
Glentauchers 41 years old (1976), 42% A⊕+
Body - Immense depth, with fruit toffee, coconut, wet oak and a slightly rotten, slightly sour fecundity. Sesame snaps and Thai coconut soup.
Finish - Coffee beans, glazed fruit, very long but alien fruit all the way. That fruit is just balancing out the wood, only just. Obviously no water added.
Meeting an old master. This has been a great year for Glentauchers at Cadenhead’s and elsewhere, and this is a great end to it. Old, practically doddering, this has been plucked at the very last moment and is utterly delicious. To be enjoyed by the cut crystal tumbler-full.
Mortlach 14 years old, Guyanese rum since October 2014, 55% A+'
Nose - Robust - toffee pennies, hard, charred oak, cut grass and a lot of caramel. The rum is an insistent backnote here, with real burnt sugar and crushed flowers. It's compelling. Dustier but fruitier with water.
Body - Dirty, dusty, very dry with black pepper biltong and nutty wine cask… and a touch of banana Nesquik.
Finish - The rum kicks in at the end, with petrol, bitter woods (perhaps chewed aspirin) and more black pepper. After the dram, it feels like you have been drinking rum, not whisky. A big, yellow cask.
That big, rich Mortlach spirit works brilliantly against the rum cask, the effect is as compelling as it is challenging. Recommended.
Nose - Funk, fruit and toffee. Stewed raspberries, with membrillo, Ribena and Campari. There's some funk, and a moist cigar too. Some Ben Nevis’s are sublime – all barely restrained filth and fruit - and some are very ordinary. This one is in the first camp, and I'm always on the lookout for them.
Body - Soft, ripe fruit, burnt marshmallow and sulphur. As rich and warm as the Linkwood, not really tropical but dirty, creamy and full of just on the turn orchard fruit.
Finish - Long with blue cheese and peppery oatcakes.
Two big thumbs up. This would go very, very well after the port. I didn't get round to adding water. Merry xmas.
Auchroisk 16 years old, Lafitte cask since 2009, 54.4% A⊖
Body - Buttercream icing with strawberry, strawberry jam and then a big whack of nutty red wine cask. Flashes of sulphur. The savoury wine cask is absolutely delicious.
Finish - The nuttiness is almost at bong-water levels by the end, and we're firmly in Victoria sponge territory with the jam. It's all beef at the end.
Quite an extreme wine cask to end the year on, which veers into cabbage at points. The Glengoyne from last month was a lot better presented. This one is just too hardcore.
Nose - Big and fruity, dusty and full of age, this has sweet and sour sherry on top of cereal, with blackcurrants (and blackberries), Parma ham and gunpowder. Dustier, more compelling with water, some proper age on it once the funk recedes.
Body - Sweet sherry, refreshers, lots of sulphur, a little cabbage but pulled back into boiled sweets and Christmas cake icing with marzipan. Dirty – and living dangerously. Chalkier with water, very distinct cabbage.
Finish - Long and winey, lots of sulphur, but a really beautiful cask fruit with it.
There's an incredibly beautiful whisky here trying to escape a nasty, dirty cask, and not succeeding. When you play the game of sulphur you either win, or you die.