Thursday, 20 September 2018

Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard

A new addition to the core range for Compass Box and a lovely drammer.

Compass Box The Spaniard, 43% A+

Compass-Box-The-SpaniardNose - Rich and sweet at first, then lots of wine - sweet and sour - some pineapple. Musky and soft toffee underneath that, and a candy necklace. As always, a beautiful nose from CB.

Body - Slightly gunpowdery, licks of a red wine cask - nutty but no sulphur. Reminds me in some ways of the Macallan 12 sherry oak, which I tasted at the start of this session (but not this post). Lots of depth to this, but also quite waxy, quite painty, quite burnt.

Finish - Medium but highly tannic, burnt toast with fizzers and a little bit of cigarette smoke. Black pepper and red wine at the end.

Compass Box blended malts are a great opposite to single cask/cask strength and this is a proper drinker. I wouldn't have too many problems seeing one of these bottles off in half a year or so (that's good going) although it could do with 3% more ABV.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Compass Box Flaming Heart 2018 edition

The 2016 version of this was just brilliant, I have squirrelled away a few bottles for the whiskypocalypse, so I have eagerly cracked a bottle of the 2018 version. 

Compass Box Flaming Heart 2018 edition, 48.9% A⊕+

compass-box-flaming-heart-2018-edition-whiskyNose - Ripe, fruity, waxy, grown up - spent gunpowder peat, caught caramel, a little blown electrical components, some furniture polish and chocolate mousse. Baked fruits, boiled sweets and apple pie. All of that beautifully balanced, it's brilliant.

Body - Earthy and spicy from the designer woods, rich and waxy with plum crumble (a little caught), some sweet and sour peat at the end of the arrival - like the nose, the delivery is a journey.

Finish - Sweet and fruity, then into perfumed, waxy peat. Medium length and very graceful at the end.

A superb drinking whisky, perfectly balanced and extremely moreish. Rich, waxy and fruity with quite robust peat, the lick of sherry cask is very welcome. Another success.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Aldi Irish 26 years old

Read all about it here, this was sold at some ludicrous price like £40, then actually discounted later on. Thanks so much to the ever awesome Jon for sending me a dram of this.

Aldi, Irish 26 years old A⊕

Nose - Dark fruit and fizzy sweets; a little bit of musk at first then a surprisingly nice complexity - cask and Refreshers. The fruit is sort of blackcurrant travel sweets, icing sugar and that almost petrol structure. Very promising.

Body - Orange chews and blackcurrant jam under buttercream icing. A luxurious, fruity arrival.

Finish - Quite long with the cream and fruit well balanced.

To be this well balanced and structured despite the fruit, sugar and age is quite a feat. Very impressed. They should have given this to the whisky agency to bottle for £260 a bottle.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

More Springbank Officials

As this is my favourite distillery, I am delighted to post this wrap up of nearly all the 2018 official releases so far (I’m just missing the 12CS - the Longrow 18, Springbank 21 are here with the HB Oloroso, and that amazing re-charred HB and Chardonnay Longrow are here).  These below are still available, except I think the (not core) Longrow Oloroso which has finished showing in the UK.

Hazelburn 10 years old, 46% A+

August 2018 batch. Triple distilled, "unpeated", and bourbon casks.

fullsizeoutput_4de-750x1000Nose - The purest expression of Hazelburn (aside from remembering the R&K); the slightly off-sweet waxy oils, the sweetshop cask, a sherbet dib-dab dibber. Floral (air freshener and pot pourri), a tiny amount of cherry pipe tobacco, maybe some liquorice Rizlas.

Body - Wax crayon and buttercream icing after a toot on that cherry roll-up. The engine oils make this dry when the notes read as sweet. Quite a lot of peat builds up with repeated sips.

Finish - Sweet, floral, a little burnt and quite short, liquorice imps and coffee granules are left at the end.

I wonder if it's the equipment that has all the peat in it, or if it's in the casks? Either way, this is a very compelling drinker and an absolute steal - as a more "pure" or austere version of Springbank it's extremely balanced and very well put together.

Springbank 10 years old, 46% A

August 2018 batch. 2.5x distilled, peated, sherry and bourbon casks.

SPRINGBANK%2010%2046%20-750x1000Nose - More three-dimensional than the Hazelburn, but then this is less distilled, has more cask variety and non-incidental peat! A very confident nose, with linseed oil, Campari, singed rosemary, vanilla cream and candle wax (big ones, not birthday ones). Water makes it sweeter, with a touch of superglue and clay.

Body – Off-dry with metal filings, engine oil (properly) and quite burnt. Dank and dusty, although the dustiness does have a hollow side to it here, particularly with the low ABV.

Finish - Charred wood, licked joss sticks and cigar tar.

The nose is just stunning in this batch, but the peat is really quite high in the delivery and it seems a little aggressive.

Springbank 15 years old, 46% A⊕

August 2018 batch. Sherry casks.

SPR%2015%2046%20VOL%20-750x1000Nose - The sweet spot for Springbank, it comes alive with currants, toasted almonds, sweet fruit cake, gastrique, blackcurrant jam, new carpet tiles and new library. Medicinal too; fresh bandage and Sudocrem.

Body - The peat in the 10 is turned down a couple of notches and the sherry cask fills in the gaps perfectly, adding chocolate icing, more blackcurrant jam, sulphur and walnuts. There's an almost red wine cask feel to this as you keep drinking, cloves and leather start to develop (a character that is explored more fully with Longrow).

Finish – Long, with new lino, fondant icing and vanilla ice cream. Nutty and oily at the end, the sherry cask and the Campbeltown dry the mouth out and make you sip again - one of the most compelling whisky experiences there is.

It's my favourite drinking whisky, those that you can just pour yourself into. I should make a list of those, and this will be #1.

Springbank 18 years old, 46% A⊕+

August 2018 batch, bourbon casks.

springbank-18-year-old-whiskyNose - Cleaner (because of the bourbon) than the 15 and more elegant than the 10, this has the best of the Hazelburn 10 and the SB15. It's fresh and waxy, but deep and poised - "complete" is the first word than came to mind. So; waxy cask, gently "tropical" fruits like peach and ripe pear, with plastic book covering, polished leather, cut grass (and a big sod of earth) and whistle pops.

Body - Whistle pop first, again, then red apple, strawberry mivvi… and Marlboro reds, toast and honey, Christmas cake and acrylic paint. Peppery notes build with time, but the engine oils back them up.

Finish - Very long, peppery and perfectly balanced bitterness. Victoria plum jam at the end.

Campbeltown just matures whisky faster. While you can hardly miss in the Springbank warehouses, it's impressive that this blend of casks just hits the mark so perfectly. This is as complex and intense a whisky you could ask for but it's so perfectly drinkable. And we haven't even got to Longrow yet, where the fireworks are.

Longrow Classic/Peated, 46% A⊕

August 2018 batch, 2x distilled.

longrow-peated-whiskyNose - Sweet, sour, dusty, off-dry, but weirder. The heavier the peating, the fewer the distillations, the deeper it becomes. The peaches are there again, with baked red apples, Germolene and old school permanent markers, but as with Octomore the heavier peating somehow mellows the peat and makes it more alien.

Body - Clean, a little sweet, with baked bramley apples, raisin, coffee and anise.

Finish - Medium-short and very clean, with window putty, royal icing, aniseed and fizzing lemon sherbet at the end.

The dusty nose with this balance and complexity is something that you need to spend a lot of money to achieve on Islay and Longrow has always nailed it. When I first tasted Springbank, I had a dram of this and then bought a bottle and stashed it, thinking "you won't be able to get whisky at this price and quality for much longer" - and you still can.

Longrow 14 years old, sherry cask, 57.8% A+

9,000 bottles, 2018 official release, refill Oloroso. I've been looking forward to this, thanks Jon for sharing this with me!

longrow-14-year-old-sherry-cask-matured-whiskyNose - Deep, intense, with menthol and new fence panel. Reminds me a lot of the society Longrow Sauternes with added lavender and crushed marble. And with time it really deepens - leatherette, sriracha sauce and cut spring onions. Much more new paint with water.

Body - Dirty sherry, oily and ripe, restrained nut, sweet sulphur and then so much Campbeltown. It's an archetypical Springbank whisky turned up a couple of notches. Lots of liquorice with water, roots and imps, very tannic and black.

Finish - Sweetly jewelled, grapes and paint. Very long and acrylic, especially with water.

I imagine this is what Campbeltown whisky was like 50 years ago. I bet in 20 years' time a closed bottle of this is going to be incredible. It's a Campbeltown rollercoaster today, extremely challenging and rewarding… but an open bottle will last a long time!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

SMWS Peat Faerie

This is the second blended malt from SMWS, a blend of Islay and Speyside.

Just a note to say that there have been some good offers for joining recently.  The last one (bottle of A5.2 and membership for £99) was excellent and I bought a bottle of that after trying it in the bar a few weeks ago.  The current offer is for a tasting pack with some proper stuff in it (including a 20 year old Laphroaig) plus membership for £89.  You can buy that here or if you prefer get 20% off using my referral code here.

SMWS Peat Faerie, 10 years old, 50% A-

IMG_6308Nose - Light at first, balanced sweetness with a waxed, almost marble character. The peat is unobtrusive but present, burnt rather than medicinal with liquorice all-sort sugars and some burnt orange. There's a lovely warm Scotchiness to the nose which actually reminds me of the stairs up to the member's lounge in Greville street - that and oak under a soldering iron. Water brings grapefruit juice, floral hand soap.

Body - Maybe it's the just opened bottle but this does seem to clash at first - a lack of integration between the sugar and the peppery charred woods. Once it starts to build on the tongue that's less apparent, the fruit comes through more and the peat is more structural. The fruit is really lovely, almost dusty orange cake. There's an awkward bitterness throughout, though, which is much reduced with water (making it a more balanced whisky); Seville orange and grapefruit.

Finish - Bracing citrus balances the woodsy peat with quite a lot of astringency and grapefruit bitterness. Tobacco tar at the end with repeated sips and lots of black pepper.

This is a very drinkable whisky but for me the two components - Speyside and Islay – haven’t quite come together yet, with the peat clashing a bit with the really quite good Speyside. Water improves the delivery but doesn't rescue the finish. Maybe it would have rounded things out a bit at 46% and a bit longer marrying? Not that I'd know about such things, but it does seem to need something to bring the two halves together.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Benriach 10 years old

I first tried this at last year’s Whisky Show, and my comment to the long suffering person working the stand was “this is exactly the kind of whisky I like to drink”.  Abbey Whisky were kind enough to include a mini of it in a subsequent order with them so here’s notes in a normal environment.  They don’t stock the big bottle but you can get the mini here.

Benriach 10 years old, 43% A

benriach-10-year-old-whiskyNose - Boiled sweets, hard cask musk and warm citrus. It's a really warm, soft and inviting nose that's backed by great cask, which makes it seem a lot older than 10 but still fruity and fun. Good casks, the new bourbon casks knocking about a decade ago, so it seems?

Body - Warm and musky again, quite dry at the tip of the tongue if almost saccharine sweet at the back. Dried orange slices.

Finish - Medium to short, sugary with a little orange sherbet.

An extremely well put together whisky at under £40.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Octomore 08 series

The trick to appreciating Octomore is to not treat it like an end of the night drink but to have it at the start, and take your time with it.  It doesn’t go well on a tired palate and the effect isn’t as peaty as you are being led to believe.  The 09 series is about to land so high time to get to these notes. 

Octomore 08.1, 59.3% A⊕

Scottish barley, 167ppm, 8 years old. “Distilled in 2008 using 100% Scottish barley, from 2007 harvest. 100% matured in first fill American oak casks, including Buffalo Trace, Clermont Springs, Four Roses, Heaven Hill & Jack Daniels”

octomore-masterclass-08-1-8-year-old-whiskyNose - Chalky, with white wine, banana foam sweets - very sweet - and Crunchy bars and blackcurrant leaf. Quite delicately fruity under the gunpowder peat. Fruitier with water, more honey and a little more wood.

Body - Melon, blackcurrant travel sweets and white bread toast. Dirtier with water, charred barley, lemon meringue and a little rubber.

Finish - Medium long with fruit salad chews, lemon sherbets and quite a lot of pineapple.

A fruit bomb if you take your time with it. This is my favourite of the three (in the 7 series my favourite was the 7.4, virgin oak, and I’ve not tried 8.4).

Octomore 08.2, 58.4% A⊕

Scottish barley, 167ppm, 8 years old.  “All of the opulent spirit in Octomore 08.2 spent the first six years of its life in one of three different styles of wine cask. French Mourvedre – a red wine grape that has a reputation for producing intense red fruit, and strong, earthy, even gamey flavours. Austrian sweet wines – full bodied and charming with an ability to challenge convention with innovative techniques. French Sauternes – casks from the Graves section in Bordeaux that previously held some of the most revered and exclusive dessert wines the world has ever seen.”

I assume the spirit spent the last two years in refill bourbon.  I believe the Sauternes casks for Bruichladdich are always d’Yquem.

sept17-bruichladdichoctomore8_2_1Nose - Red fruit at first (Victoria sponge?), quite cakey with magic bubbles, pine sap and quite earthy - forest floor.

Body - Nutty and ripe - hazelnut praline, baked plums and caught crumble. Much drier than the 08.1, with pickled Chinese greens.

Finish - Long and peppery, leathery with popping candy and cigarette tar.

This is more complex than the 08.1, much more perfumed and dry but the .1 is more fun.

Octomore 08.3, 59.3% A

Islay barley, 309ppm.  “Octomore 08.3 was matured in 56% first fill Bourbon casks, the remaining in ex-Paulliac, Ventoux, Rhone and Burgundy casks”

octomore-masterclass-083-5-year-old-islay-barley-whiskyNose - Dry and dirty with toasted sesame, rye bread, washing up liquid and instant coffee granules. It's really deep though with chocolate cake, baked beetroot and wood glue. The high peating is quite weird and doesn't quite hang together like the first two do.

Body - Black pepper, gloss paint and royal icing. A little onion.

Finish - Medium - but I like the orange peel and mango juice at the end.

Held up side by side with the first two this doesn't have either the fun or complexity they do.

Monday, 20 August 2018

North Star Spirits–some recent bottles

A Glasgow based bottler making a name for itself with some excellent spirits.

Spica Edition 1, 20 years old, 45.2% A-

1000 bottles.

spica-20-year-old-1997-north-star-spirits-whiskyNose - Woodsy, waxy sherry with fountain pen ink and milliput epoxy clay. It's obviously very good but has this funky, wet, sour thing in there which makes me think there has been some understrength very, very old stuff put in here to blend away. It actually smells a bit like an high tech acrylic wall paint.

Body - Brown sugar, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Quite hot too; steak sauce and black pepper. That savoury meatiness is quite compelling.

Finish - Long with charred oak and black cherries. Cold wet tea bags at the end.

The nose on this is very special, but it's not backed up by the delivery, which is tasty enough but a bit weird. I would lay money on there being some much older whisky in here, but it says on the bottle it's distilled in 1997 so it can't be.

Vega 41 years old, 46.1% A⊕

November 1976. "A Speyside blended malt with a touch of Islay". 400 bottles, so I'm guessing (rather obviously, at least having tasting it) a cask each of Bunnahabhain and Glenfarclas.

vega-41-year-old-1976-north-star-spirits-whiskyNose - I haven't smelled something this deep, old and waxy for a long time, reminds me of the old ancient Bunnahabhains. The wood is stunning here; tropical oak, wood glue, mango and lychee, lolly sticks.

Body - Very ripe, with black varnished wood and soft liquorice.

Finish - Very long, quite bitter - high alpha hops and chewed liquorice root, Victoria plum and cherry tunes at the end.

This is a nicely put together blend and makes the most of its years, particularly on the nose.  Plenty of structure and fruit in the delivery.

Campbeltown 4 years old, 57% A+

April 2014. It says distilled at undisclosed Campbeltown distilleries, so it can't be just Glen Scotia. 726 bottles, so presumably three bourbon hogsheads.

campbeltown-4-year-old-2014-north-star-spirits-whiskyNose - Fresh, but oaty, with a subdued lemon peat and quite a herbal character. Lemsip, maybe. Some dusty, lightly waxy wood in here. Quite a closed nose.

Body - I was expecting a punch to the face with this for some reason but it is extremely soft and rounded in the arrival. Lots of character though, and there's definitely peat - young, citrussy and astringent but it lands in a pillow of soft fruit and buttercream icing.

Finish - Long and fizzing, this is young Campbeltown at the end - lemon sherbets, Kendal Mint Cake and bonbons.

This is a robust and extremely drinkable young peater. Another very well judged blend and excellent drinking.  And extremely well priced to boot.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Tomatin 15 Moscatel

A delicious teenage Tomatin with an unusually (outside of Cadenhead’s) long finish in Moscatel casks.  It seems a while since we had something like this out of Tomatin so I was very interested to try it.

Tomatin 15 years old, Moscatel wine finish, 46% A⊕

Distilled in 2003, moved to Moscatel barriques in 2013, finished for 5 years.

tomatin-15-year-old-moscatel-cask-finish-whiskyNose - Hot baked fruit (peach, some mango), slightly minty. A touch of overheating electrical insulation, new leather sofa, baklava pastry. That musky warm wood and baked fruit is very rich, complex and inviting.

Body - Baked plum and peach with a robust tannins; hard woods, stewed tea bags. A significant new oak note blends well with the fruit - the effect of active wine casks that haven't had a spirit in them before.

Finish - Long with peach chew sweets and candied peel. Well-structured to the end.

This is a very confident whisky, it reminds me of the Glenmorangie Bacalta (with the hot fruit and baked woods) but with lots more structure. The tannins in the end make it very drinkable too.

While we’re on the subject, I just noticed that the Tomatin Contrast is still in stock here, and is just brilliant – two half bottles each with some serious old stock in them.  You wouldn’t get them at that price if released in 2018.

Thanks to Tomatin for the sample.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Benriach batch 15 1991 burgundy

Notes for the big boy from the 15th single cask batch, plus a few extras I had lurking in my notebook.

Benriach 1991, 26 years old, 49.4% A⊕

Single cask batch 15

Full term maturation in Burgundy barrique, 19/08/1991, cask 6898, 270 bottles

IMG_6006Nose - Cherry jam, chocolate Mr Kipling cupcakes and lots of wood - hard oak sawdust and a little virgin oak cask. The plummy, jammy fruit around that is intense though, almost a Cherry Ripe bar - maybe a bag of strawberry laces on a hot car journey.

Body - Soft fruit; plum crumble and travel sweets. The intense fruit is never off balance, big wood and icing sugar round it out.

Finish - Very long, really rich right to the end - it's almost Vimto at the end. The nose seems slightly more almondy and a little petrolly after sipping.

A marvellous fruit bomb, none of the nuts and sulphur this could have had - this was a really sweet cask. And 26 years full term in a red wine cask I couldn't resist. Despite the wood, this is a very soft whisky though and is playing a rich, fruity game rather than being weird or tropical so this is probably a drinker rather than a "tasting" whisky.

Then there’s a few Benriachs sitting in my notes that for some reason I didn’t get round to publishing, so they may as well go here “for the archive”.  These notes are from 2.5 years ago, I should do an audit.

Cadenheads, Benriach-Glenlivet, Rum Cask, 22 years old, 52.9% A+

1992-January 2015, 216 bottles.  Apologies to Whiskyfun for nicking the photo it’s the only one I can find.  I recycled my bottle of it a long, long time ago.

Benriach-Glenlivet-22-yo-1992-CadenheadNose - Austere, ozoney and cereal. Oddly lacquered, but with real depth and clean, hard oak, washed cranberries and talcum powder. Unsweetened rum might season this whisky but it's bourbon cask that forms the backbone. A great "boring" whisky nose.

Body - Icing sugar and Mukhwas, very sweet (from the bourbon) but very dry (from the rum) and totally balanced with herbal liquorice and hard wood. Even sweeter with water. The overall impression (particularly with water) is one of competence and a rich body

Finish - Medium but elegant. Mainly sweet though.

This is classic, elegant Scotch. No fireworks but very well put together. When I first opened this bottle, the rum was right to the fore, and perhaps a little too much. These are the dying drams of the bottle and the Scotch has reasserted itself. But it’s the nose that really does it for me; restrained and much younger than 22, but beautiful wood, musky and sweet, drying rum and very confident. This was a good one…

Adelphi, BenRiach 23 Year Old 1990 (cask 10698), 52.9% A⊕

benriach-23-year-old-1990-cask-10698-adelphi-whiskyNose - Light, white wine and deep orange squash, practically kia-ora. Oddly reminiscent of sushi too… rice carbs and sweet vinegar. Very drinkable, very credible - exactly what you'd expect from an Adelphi bottling.

Body - There's something oddly "right" about the delivery here too, maybe I'm just in a good mood. Sweet, a touch of cardboard, bran flakes and cereal, sour plums. More cask wax with water.

Finish - Oranges all the way down. Orange juice, orange wax, orange peel at the end.

Just a beautiful drinking whisky, even better with water. Perfectly played fruit, sour, sweet, wood, tannins, bitterness right across the nose and delivery, and all held in check making it a total drammer. So much so I stopped making notes and started just drinking it. Delicious.

Benriach 18 years old, Dunder, 46% A+

Thanks to Yoav, MBNDavid and the Israel team for this sample!

benriach-18-year-old-dunder-whiskyNose - Beautifully deeply peated on the nose, quite rich, warm and slightly dirty. Classy oak, ozone and varnish, love hearts, chalk and (almost) raspberries. With water, even better, with Grenadine, a little mint and lovely cask tones.

Body - Soft and tobacco-ey but a bit one dimensional. I am smoking and eating a tart tatin. It's really sweet actually; liquorice torpedoes. Much more rounded with water.

Finish - Long, white wine and tannins. Lots of wood oils. Sweet pipe tobacco with water and lots shaved wood. Intense.

I really like this - very robust, quite sweet and dirty but really delicious, quite a funky rum cask.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Cadenhead's Authentic Collection Summer 2018

As expected, the Ardbeg and Kilkerran are excellent.  As remembered, the English Whisky peated is too.  Surprise hits are the Glen Moray and Cameronbridge.

Ord 2008, 10 years old, 58.3% A+

264 bottles

ORD%2010-750x1000Nose - Waxy and quite creamy, with cracked boiled sweets and ripe peach, plum and a little parkin on exhale. This is one of those "young in great wood" noses. Zestier, twisted citrus peel with water. It's fruity and sweet but with a lovely structure.

Body - Sweet, spikey with balanced richness. Slightly burnt toast with dark marmalade. Bitter with water, unbalances the intensity of the sweet fruit.

Finish - Medium to short, hot on the lips and fizzing on the tip of the tongue. Boiled sweets and woodsy at the end.

A lovely drinking, Spring into Summer whisky.

Linkwood 2006, 11 years old, 59.3% A-

294 bottles

LINKWOOD%2011%2059_3-750x1000Nose - As fresh and fruity as the Ord but more grown up, there's leather jacket and midget gems, rose petals and a little spearmint. Oddly masculine for all that, though.

Body - Very ripe and fruity, very sweet. Some unsettling new-make notes on top of that, acetone and liquorice, but it is very drinkable nonetheless.

Finish - Short-ish, although the liquorice lingers. Quite an afterglow of boiled sweets, hard malt, liquorice and some tar though.

An initially exciting whisky with flaws that build up over time.

Cameronbridge 1984, 34 years old, 50.3% A⊕'

180 bottles

CAMERONBRIDGE%2034-750x1000Nose - Beautifully sweet and ripe, full of fruit (orange, plum), petrichor and deep cask wax. Old, varnished woods, buttercream and cigar tobacco.

Body - Gentle and beautiful, apple pie (crusted brown sugar and French brown pastry), tobacco leaf and gentle rum notes.

Finish - The grain comes through in the finish, it's medium length with apple juice, blonde wood and caramelised sugar.

A world class nose and delicious drinking, this is a fantastic grain.

Glenrothes 2001, 16 years old, 52.6% A⊕

210 bottles

GLENROTHES%2016%2052_6-750x1000Nose - Deep and fruity, fruit salad chews with black jacks after. Ripe orange, warm toffee, and that appley note that yesterday's acrylic varnish has. Extremely reassuring.

Body - Rich fruit toffee, but still very gentle with coffee chocolates late in the delivery. Somewhat dusty and almost medicinal in the middle though, not as luxurious as the 20-somethings we've been spoiled by.

Finish - Long, sweet and oily, not quite clarty though. Those Éclair chocolate/toffee sweets at the end.

I'm such a fan of this distillery. Rich, rewarding, effortlessly fruity and sweet but not unbalanced.

Bladnoch 1992, 26 years old, 49.3% A⊕

246 bottles

BLADNOCH%2026%2049_3%20-750x1000Nose - Bright but breezy, it's always laundry with Bladnoch! It approaches you very sweet but pulls it at the last minute, it's kind of dry and fresh, not quite mineral, sort of nutty. Elegant on the nose, good waxes, leather and toffee… and apple pips, but we'll see in the delivery.

Body - Rich with a real backbone to it, numbing wood oils and a deep sweetness, but gentle and dry, balanced out by touches of Morello cherry jam.

Finish - Long with the wood oils, liquorice imps and a touch of calvados.

They're either elegant and special, or a bit boring, and this is a good one. A contemplating, tasting whisky rather than a glugger though.

Cognac Grosperrin, 32 years old, 52.8% A⊕+

384 bottles

COGNAC%2032-750x1000Nose - Dry, with dusty raisins, linseed oil, oil caraway seeds and dried orange slices. There's a deep sweetness underneath that but the dryness is practically medicinal. Satchel territory.

Body - Incredibly rich, tart tatin and intense, tar levels of wood extraction (not overdone though). That tart tatin, caramelised fruit and crumble thing is brilliant.

Finish - Burnt, brown apple slices, charred pork crackling and liquorice imps. It's extremely deep, full of apples, raspberry, farmyard hay and oak.

To be this dry on the nose, then intensely fruity and wooded on the delivery - brilliant. This is a massive spirit and a far cry from the ultra-balanced blended cognacs I have been getting into.

Ardbeg 1993, 24 years old, 54.6% A⊕+

138 bottles. 138! Across all Cadenhead's shops.

fullsizeoutput_479-750x1000Nose - Sweet, heavenly, dusty, Islay peat! Wood glue and sawdust, cold white wine and Refreshers. Fresh, white and dusty with marshmallows, buttercream icing and Foxes glacier fruits. A freshly opened pack of wound dressing, and an old, brown, hard leather jacket.

Body - Deep but bitter wooded, apple slices cut and browning, very sweet but excitingly wooded.

Finish - Very long, with cigarette tar, apple pips and stalk, polos and chalky bonbons.

This doesn't disappoint. I've found old Ardbeg is sometimes disappointingly light but this ticks all the right boxes (sorry).

Balmenach 2005, 13 years old, 53.5% A+

294 bottles

BALMENACH%20294%20BOTTLES%20-750x1000Nose - Fresh orange juice, very zesty and slightly punch-in-the-nose, but there's a sense of biting into an orange quarter here (pulp and pith and lots of juice). Fruitier but more burnt with water, seriously hot by the pool. It's a tannic and bright, hot Summer whisky.

Body - Sweet but hot and burnt, with cigar tobacco and liquorice Rizlas. Ripe and dark with water, the wood oils still dominate.

Finish - Long with dark toffee (caught) and liquorice imps.

This is an absolutely fantastic whisky; it's challenging and a bit palate crushing in some ways, but it's balanced, interesting and great to drink. It'd be great by the glass or at a tasting, be a bit tiring for a bottle.

Benrinnes 2004, 14 years old, 56.9% B+

294 bottles

BENRINNES%2014%2056_9%20-750x1000Nose - Almost minty fresh, with peach, wax and cold Chardonnay. Lemon peel and orange juice, and a little candied peel. Even more Summery with water, gin and orange juice.

Body - Very sweet but very hot, unexpectedly nutty and a little butyric. Fruity boiled sweets. Comes together much better with water, the fruit is intense.

Finish - Medium long with intense sugar, numbing oils and hard oak.

A typically tropical Benrinnes, but quite hot and spicy and a little too sweet.

Kilkerran 2007, 11 years old, 58.1% A⊕

564 bottles, sherry butt.  The first independent Kilkerran, outside of the warehouse tasting bottles.

KILKERRAN%2011-750x1000Nose - Sweet, sharp and dusty. Sawdust and splintered varnish, coal dust, mint leaves and blackcurrant ice cream. Deep and intensely fruited but with a lovely cakey richness to it.

Body - Blackcurrant chews, Corvonia chesty cough mixture and cherry tunes. Rich wine cask and Campbeltown peat now makes me think of cloves.

Finish - Medium to long, really rich - it's a proper sherry bomb. Cherries at the end with a little rosemary.

Dusty, red and fruity, very rich but balanced. Another reasonably young but intense wine cask from Campbeltown, a cracking drammer.

Glen Moray 1992, 25 years old, 52.5% A⊕+'

204 bottles.

GLENMORAY%2025%2052_5%20-750x1000Nose - Slightly sharp, dried coconut, ozone and bonbons. Some kind of punch with orange slices, mint leaves and pear (?) in it. It's fresh, fruity and lush.

Body - Soft, tropical, but beautifully structured - mineral and lightly wooded into tropical fruit, Refreshers, then sawdust.

Finish - Long with a slight char, burnt sesame seeds and a little hazelnut. That dusty sweetshop note continues right to the end.

Love the Refreshers in this fruity, Summery and beautifully structured whisky. An unexpected highlight of the outturn.

Glenfarclas 1988, 30 years old, 50.9% A⊕+

GLENFARCLAS%2030%2050_9%20-750x1000Nose - Slightly more savoury and meaty than the Glen Moray, although it has sponge cake, vanilla cream and some sherry vinegar. It is rich, deep and very well balanced.

Body - Jewelled, tropical but a little fizzing and tannic. There is something in this whisky I can't place, some food item.

Finish - Very long, good tannins and creamy with warm citrus to the end... woodsy at the very end.

A properly grown up whisky, wears its age very well.

English Whisky Company 2009, peated, 8 years old, 61.9% A+

228 bottles

ENGLISH%208%2061_9%20-750x1000Nose - Confidently peated, like a top quality but young (modern) Laphroaig (last time my notes said Caol Ila!). Good fizzing, flinty and cold.

Body - Ripe, clean and fizzing - cold pear and Refreshers. Lily petals.

Finish - Long and white, with lemon sorbet and candy cigarettes.

As brilliant a young peater as I remember it from the festival, they’ve struck gold with this cask. Well recommended.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Tomintoul Five Decades

Thanks to Stephen at Cadenhead’s for giving me the sample!

Tomintoul Five Decades, 50% A⊕

tomintoul-five-decades-50th-anniversary-whiskyNose - Sweet and sour, whistle pops and posh apple juice, beautifully fruited but quite arresting with that sour note and some cask wax. Not exactly what you'd expect from Tomintoul, much more challenging, but very good.

Body - Cleanly fruited again, satsumas and barley sugar. Maybe fruit polos. Sweet and deliciously fruity.

Finish - Long and gently tannic with splints, orange peel and a little liquorice imp.

This is an extremely crushable and delicious whisky, lots of fruit and sugar but very drinkable with a long, balanced, structured finish.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Two Croftengeas

Croftengea is the most heavily peated malt that’s made at Loch Lomond in their special stills with rectifying columns rather than lyne arms that definitely aren’t Lomond stills.  A bit of an oddity, so it was very interesting to see two different single casks released within weeks of each other.

The character of these is very distinctive, a sort of warm, herbal peat, quite intense and along the lines of an Octomore or wine cask Longrow to my taste. 

SMWS 122.21, What’s cooking?, 15 years old, Croftengea,  56.8% A⊕

16th April 2002, 2nd fill bourbon then ex-sherry, 220 bottles

IMG_5827Nose - Rich, off sweet, with clotted cream, leather jacket, warm white wine and Morello cherry jam. There is a weird, warm richness to these Croftengeas which is extremely reassuring.

Body - Blackberry fool, more cherry jam and warm, creamy peat. Peppered pork crackling and apple sauce.

Finish - Fizzing peat, black pepper with liquorice root at the end. Quite spicy after a few sips.

A wonderfully weird but lovely thing to drink.

TWE exclusive Croftengea, 9 years old, 54.8% A+

IMG_5826Nose - Brighter than the society cask but still has that apple note; fresh green apple and cheap apple juice. Weirdly there's a sweet, orange thing here too, like chicken tikka masala - turmeric, sugar, cloves and cinnamon. It's very herbal.

Body - Light and dry, quite dirty and almost struck-match (not that it's sulphury, it's more gunpowder). That dirty feeling was a bit of a turn off when the bottle was fresh open but things have improved over time. Repeated sips accentuate the sugar and fruit over the matches.

Finish - Long and farmyardy, with straw, dung, baked apples (raisins and custard). Lots of liquorice and black pepper at the end.

Spicier and dirtier than the society cask, and fascinating in its own way. Both of these casks are great buys, but the SMWS one I know I will finish first.

Just a note to say that when you mix them together it's a brilliant single malt. Highly recommend you make a 20cl bottle of this!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Vit’s Whiskies

These two whiskies have nothing in common except that Vit gave samples of them to me when we met at Campbeltown festival.  Thanks Vit!

Cadenhead's 175th, Burnside 28 years old, 47.3% A⊕+

132 bottles

burnsideNose - Immediate bright, a huge bubblegum nose full of sweetshop fruits - a tropical cask. Behind this an almost charred wort, burnt plastic in the distance, pink foam shrimp and spray paint. Pretty massive, very interesting.

Body - Soft but numbingly wooded, with liquorice torpedoes, cracked black pepper and neat Vimto. Marshmallow and Turkish Delight later.

Finish - Long but extremely soft and gentle, deliciously floral with more rose water and more pink shrimp. There's a bitter, astringent edge to the finish which is practically virgin oaky but it's held together with fruit and complexity.

What a wonderful but weird whisky, in some ways it's over-wooded, but then there's this incredibly floral and pink character to it. Absolutely fascinating and a wonderful thing to drink.

Ladyburn 27 years old, 50.4% A⊕

Rotation 4437

ladyburnNose - A weird combination of bright/sour that I would associate with new whisky and virgin oak (again) and an underlying orchard fruit, bound together by cask, liquorice and wax. The longer you smell it the creamier it becomes.

Body - Liquorice root, warm white wine, buttercream and deep waxy cask. It's bizarre, again - quite a pair of whiskies these - reminds me of an American rye whisky. There is an undeniable lowland character to this though, a few sips in and it starts to dominate.

Finish - Long and numbing, Nice biscuits and Jammy Dodgers. Lots of peppery fizz at the end, backed up by clotted cream and contrasting tannins.

Quite a rollercoaster, the character is decidedly odd for an old Scotch, but the more you dig the better it gets. The long lasting tannins are very moreish.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Campbeltown Festival 2018




Day 1, 23rd May

Springbank Society Tasting, 23.05.2018 11:00

Blind tasting, pick the best one to be bottled. Although at the end they admitted the chosen cask would be blended with two other casks!  So not sure what we really picked here.


1. n- Fresh, chalky wax, light mint. Slightly herbal, beautiful fresh vanilla. b- Clean, crushed barley and mineral. Ozone and slightly burnt sugar. f- Medium with royal icing and caraway. Clean and delicious drinker.

Guess 8yo Hazelburn, FB - A

2. n-Sweet and mineral, a little roast pork, some ghostly peat. Buttercream icing. b- Singed splints and a touch of gunpowder, fizzing refreshers. Quite light and slightly plastic. f- Long and hot with charred oak and pepper, very drying. Quite an austere whisky, a little hard going.

Guess 8yo Hazelburn, RB - B+

3. n- Fresh and complex, beautifully fruited and quite ancient peat. b- Clean fruit, a bit of dirty malt, quite cheesy, oddly rotten. Very hot with sulphur although not cabbagey. f- Long, fizzing and drying, quite a sulphur burnt note to it at the end. Challenging and quite hot but lots of fruit.

Guess 18yo Springbank, RS A⊖

4. n- Sweet, dirty like hot dogs and mustard, quite nutty like a wine cask with old library. Beautifully dusty. b- Nutty and dirty, definitely a refill wine cask. A touch of balsamic vinegar. Good menthol and a little clove. Old varnish. f- Very long, quite medicinal, flakes of coconut. Wonderfully weird and delicious, a particularly good nose.

Guess Springbank 12yo red wine cask - A⊕

5. n- Light, ethereal, good cask with melon, new inner tube and hints of germolene. b- Deliciously light and creamy with cloves, white gloss paint. f- Refreshers, cloves, lots of oils. Really complete, beautifully balanced.

Guess Longrow 18yo, FB - A⊕

6. n- Clean, bright, lemon fairy liquid - but no lack of depth. Lovely citrus woods, wood glue and lemon drizzle cake. b- Beautifully charred sugars and burnt hay, lemon shells. Very gentle and considered. f- Long and fresh, peppery with malt peat and sliced oranges. Delicious old Campbeltown

Guess Longrow 14yo, refill rum

I voted for #6.


IMG_5175Winner was number 4, my second choice.

  1. HB, Rum 12yo
  2. HB, Re-charred bourbon 10yo
  3. SB, Demerara rum, 14yo
  4. SB, Fresh port, 14yo
  5. LR, Fresh bourbon, 17yo
  6. LR, Re-charred sherry, 10yo

Springbank dinner, 19:00

As always three casks are rolled out, we taste them all and the winner is bottled for the attendees.  This year the focus was Longrow.


1. Longrow 2007 Sauternes, 57.8% A-

n- Balanced sugars and baked plums, brown sugar. Nose improves with time. b- Rich and very ripe, black grape skin, quite charred. f- Burnt caramel, charred oak, black pepper. Good but very sweet and tiring in the end.



2. Longrow 2004 rum, 54.7% A⊕

n- Clean but rummy, stewed apples, cigar tobacco and candy cigarettes. b- Beautifully fresh with green apple, cough candy and liquorice. f- Long and astringent, cloves and menthol again. Delicious and bracingly fresh, loads of character.

3. Longrow 2000, Oloroso, 47.5% A+

n- dark and brooding, dusty with crushed mineral, cask car, birthday candles and ripe red apples. b- Clean and lightly medicinal, almost refreshing with Swiss throat lozenges, blackberries and cut flower stalks. f- Bracingly bitter but peppery. A robust but charming component of standard LR18. Very good.

I voted for 2, the crowd, of course, picked 3.

Day 2, 24th May

Springbank Warehouse Tasting


Hazelburn 20 years old, 18th July 1997, 55.8% A⊕+

IMG_5203Oldest cask of HB, tasted the last two years

n- Deep, fruity cake, strawberries and cream, stewed raisins and apples. Incredibly fruity. b- perfectly balanced, light, fresh and fruity. Quite a lot of cereal and gunpowder too. f- Great structure, perfect woods, kola kubes and toast and honey.

Kilkerran 10 years fresh port, 4 years in bourbon, 14 years old, 53.4% A⊕

Originally part of the set of different casks, the remnants of which we've tasted the last two years at the festival also.

n- Fruit and nut chocolate bar, cut hedge, dusty woods and liquorice imps. b- toasty but very complex, more herbal with custard tarts and dandelion stalks. f- long and bracingly bitter, melon and dried fruit at the end.

Kilkerran 10 years rum cask, 4 years in bourbon. A⊕

IMG_5204Filled immediately after the port cask and part of that same set originally.

n- light but lots of wax, the same herbal freshness, dunnage. b- Deliciously creamy, vanilla icing and sweet pastry case. b- Rum tannins, cracked black pepper.

Springbank 23 years old, 50% A⊕+'

3 years in fresh sherry. Vatted for the cask strength but headed now for the 25 year old.

n- Deep and dirty, fresh oils and liquorice torpedoes. Dried orange and sangria. b- Dirty and sour, but extremely fresh with apple puree and oranges. Caramelised orange peel. f- delicious and complete, but really drying with loads of oranges at the end. A stunningly citrus, very dirty take on a big Springbank. Epic.

Longrow red 10 years old, 7 years in refill bourbon then in refill port. 59% A+

IMG_5205n- dry but creamy, fence panels, burnt toast with apricot jam. b- Sweet, blackcurrant, gunpowder. f- vanilla buttercream, loads of black pepper.

Springbank 25 years old, <50% A⊕+

Coming October.

n- Deep and dark with subdued blackcurrants, blackberry compote, rhubarb fool. b- perfect balance of dusty peat, orchard fruit, peppery wood and milk bottle sweets. f- perfectly poised. Perfect drinking whisky.

The Directors Cut tasting.

"The good the bad and the ugly" - Ranald Watson, Mark Watts, Findlay Ross.


Findlay Ross - top right. Hazelburn from the warehouse tasting, notes above.

Mark Watt - top middle.

Macallan 1989, 29 years old, 43% A⊕

n- Sweet, sugary with extreme fruit and dusty mangoes, warm cereal. Very old and very bourbon Mac. b- Creamy, waxy but very rich with orange oils and orange curd. Chalky. f- Long and drying with dried apricot and charred plum skins.

Just like that last SMWS Macallan - chalky, fruity and cereal, very delicious.

Ranald - top left.

Springbank refill Oloroso, 1990 Dec 20th, 27 years old, 45.7%

Oldest cask owned by the distillery although not the oldest stored there, there are a couple of 1989 casks.

n- Light and mineral, but creamy and ripe with baked apple and light engine oil. Musky and muscular, life affirming and delicious. b- Gentle gun oil and cracked black pepper, grilled pineapple and rosemary. f- Dry and oaked but fresh and tannic. Extremely long with wood and fruit.

A completely delicious, dry and elegant whisky. The nose has the sugar from the sherry cask, the delivery all dry and nutty. Very special. It is earmarked for a planned launch of a 30 year old Springbank in a couple of years.


Ranald 2, bottom left

Springbank 22nd July 1991, refill oloroso cask 232, 26 years old, 48.7% A⊕+'

n- Immense. Beautifully lacquered with acrylic paint, sealing wax and almonds. Old oak beams and leather jacket. Just a touch of stables/horse blanket. b- crisp and fruity but biscuity and floral. Liquorice roots and all-sorts. f- extremely long, with toffee and light engine oil.

Even more beautiful than the 27 year old, utterly delicious.

Mark Watt 2, bottom middle.

Cadenhead's Kilkerran 11 years old, full sherry butt, 26th April 2007 A+

First ever indie Kilkerran (except the warehouse casks we had last year). Just announced for "Summer batch 2"

n- Dark and nutty, earth and olives. b- oil paints and charcoal , blackberries. f- long with dark fruits.

Findlay bottom right

Longrow 1994, refill bourbon. Oldest Longrow owned by the distillery. A⊕+

n- Dry, dusty lavender, salty and highly medical. Refreshers and bidis. Hot salt. b- Bandages, cloves and aniseed. Ripe with lots of toffee. Complete. f- tabasco, cardamom and cloves,

Magical and extremely odd.

Springbank New and Forthcoming releases

Ronan Currie


1. Hazelburn open day 2018, 10 years old, Marsala cask 59.6% A+

n- Sweet black fruit, Vimto and newly planed oak. 'Fizzing'. b- Dark; sweet and fizzy, clean but hot. f- Blackcurrant jam, black tea, robustly fruited. Really drinkable.

2. Hazelburn oloroso - already tasted.

3. Springbank 21yo May 2018 - already tasted.

4. Springbank 12yo CS, 57.5% A+

This is a cask from the upcoming batch in August (following one will be in February 2019)

n- dirty and sulphurous, puddle water. Stewed fruits and brown sugar. b- Balanced but nutty and dirty. Sweet pudding. f- Medium with cherry compote. Very sweet, almost cloying.

The final vatting is 70% sherry 30% bourbon

5. Longrow 16 years old A⊕

Just released, but not at the time of tasting.

n-Sweet white wine and leatherette, crushed Alka-Seltzer and fizzers. b- alien, rotting apples, Haribo. f- More Alka, parma violets, mango. Meaty burps.

Delicious and weird.

6. Longrow open day, 15 years old refill port, 58.7% A+'

n- dirty red wine, bandages, blackberry tea. Fresh marijuana, blackcurrant fool. b- Dirty wine cask, really intensely fruited with cigar tobacco. Touch of sulphur. f- Medium, cake, chocolate frosting, petrol.


Day 3, 25th May

Friday 10:00am - Cadenhead's Warehouse Tour


Aultmore 21 years old, 53.2% A+

n- Bright lacquered fruits, sawdust, royal icing. b- Dirty and hot (but it is 10am), robust structure but lovely orange zest. f- Grapefruit peel and fizzing vitamin C tablets,

Really delicious citrus drinker.

Strathclyde 1989, 57.2% A+

n- Almond biscuit, beautifully warm woods, really balanced and very full. b- Fresh apple, toffee and cut oak planks. Hazelnuts. f- Short, fresh with numbing wood oils. A touch butyric (although, the hour). Peppery.

A delicious, robust but wonderfully fruited grain. I don't buy many grains but I did go for this one.


Highland Park 25yo, A⊕

n- Big, tropical and creamy. Very sweet but balanced and appealing. b- Quite hot just behind sweetshop fruits, bitter peat and robust woods. f- Oily, very drying, quite long and bitter.

Deliciously fruity but very robust. Tropical burps but who knows where they're from.

Paul John, 5 years in Goa, 1 in Campbeltown, 56.7% A+'

n- dried fruit cake with rum, sweet with sour wine and burning fence panel. b- Very sweet, sour and overripe. Gloss paint, a touch of horse manure. f- Very long and cakey. Surprisingly ripe and delicious drinking.

Springbank 14 years old, rum barrel, 57% A⊕

n- Musky, sweet, restrained, soft wax. TCP and earth. Better with water, deeper. b- Delicious Springbank oils, really dusty and bright. f- Long and utterly delicious, dusty, oily and drying at the end.

Caroni rum 19 years old, 66.5%

n- Glace cherry, dry but massively fruited. Petrol and sealing wax. b- Bright and really challenging with Swarfega, caraway and aniseed. f- Fruity, tropical, very bitter, very dirty.

Cadenhead's Masterclass, 13:15


Macduff 29 years old, refill sherry butt, 55.1% A⊕

This is from the June SB outturn

n- soft fruit, stewed strawberry, whipped cream. b- Orange slices, black pepper, iron filings. Grapefruit juice and stewed tea with water. f- Medium with hard oak and liquorice imps. Delicious but robust citrus pith.

North British 32 years old, refill sherry butt, 55.2% A

n- Warm with vanilla sponge, buttercream icing and a bright, green, confident wood. b- restrained sherry, a little raisin. Very sweet though and slightly rummy. f- Dry, quite bitter with lemon sherbets and liquorice imps.

Bright but warm easy drinking grain - a Summer crusher.


Glenturret 31 years old, 44.5% (yes this is cask strength) A⊕

This is from the June SB outturn, which I have just written up and I didn't like this whisky half as much!

n- Brightly sweet, lovely old cask with pink wafer biscuits, toffee apples, flat cola and old wood varnish. Pretty epic. b- reduced red wine, rum and raisin ice cream, floor polish. Great fruit structure balance. f- Milk chocolate and instant coffee. Really soft and gentle though, certainly not a sherry bomb. Really drinkable old Scotch.

English Whisky company, 8 years old, 61.9% A+

Also just announced for Summer batch 2. Peated.

n- Bright and young, like a young Caol Ila. Biscuity malt, quite hard oak, dirty cereal and black pepper. b- beautifully balanced orchard fruit and a quite intense peat. Royal icing and musky honey. f- Long, quite hot and heavily peated.

Another really excellent English Whisky, as HQ as a young CI but a more biscuity, phenolic character. The honey is really pronounced here.

Aberfeldy 22 years old, 55.2% A⊕

This one was Jenna's choice and available to buy by the bottle along with Cameron's choice below. Mark said good luck trying to flip an Aberfeldy but I've always liked them, I bought a couple.

n- Bright and deep lacquered fruit, coffee and very HQ cask. This is proper visitor's centre whisky. b- Perfectly creamy with Nice biscuits and Portuguese custard tarts. f- Long and perfectly balanced, fruity to the end.

Just a delicious drinking whisky, a cork chucker.

Bowmore 17 years old, 54.2% A⊕

Cameron's choice.

n- Much bigger, a dirty complexity in the nose, with cut flower stalks, pot pourri, pop tarts. Wonderful. b- Dusty, creamy and sweet, with carrot cake and blackcurrant jam. f- Long and brightly peated, charred lemon shells.

A really perfect nose and a little ordinary in the delivery.