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.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

1968 Islays, for Paul’s 50th

These whiskies were brought to me very kindly by my friend Darren, who attended the clearly amazing 50th birthday celebration and tour of his friend Paul Fournel.  They went to Islay with Paul’s dad and five friends and visited every distillery, opened the bottles below in their home distilleries, and drank them all!  All except the Caol Ila, which was donated to them by Dr. Billy Sinclair at Bunnahabhain distillery. 


Obviously this was a huge privilege to try these, it must have been amazing to see off the bottles!  Thanks so much to Paul and Darren, and happy birthday Paul.

Adelphi Bunnahabhain 1968, 41 years old, 41.2% A⊕+

41-year-old-1968-adelphi-whiskyNose - Intense and heavenly. My first impression was one approaching hubba bubba (hubba bunna? That does work actually), such is the fruity intensity and depth here. Then through bright plastic, magic bubbles, and up almost into Fairy Liquid. This is sewn together with a beautifully judged cask wax, lip salve and Summer perfume. New York cheese cake with lime later. Beautiful.

Body - Now in the delivery there's an ancient sherry cask, fruity and dusty, with last Christmas's hazelnuts, age blackened wood against bright Summer fruits - melon and orange segments, a little ripe pear. It has that really, really old Scotch wood thing that is right on the edge but this is perfectly balanced.

Finish - Medium with chilled, oaked Chardonnay - tannic but refreshing. Rich pastry, buttery at the end.

A superbly balanced ancient whisky, drinking extremely well and not a sherry bomb at all despite the colour.  It wears its age extremely well. What's amazing is how refreshing and spritely the fruits are, and how well the wood, sherry and structure runs through the whisky. I particularly like the melon.

Caol Ila 1968, 2nd fill sherry cask, private sample, unknown ABV. A⊕+

36993235_1754973834599216_6937621322738434048_nNose - Dirty and rustic, nutty sherry cask with bright cut peach and baked plums. Haribo and leather armchair. Maybe in the waiting room of a really nice office. Lipstick waxes, French-golden pastry and a little frangipane. With time, the wax starts to dominate, the sherry becomes more and more red-wine-cask.

Body - Between bright fruit and flypaper, cracked black pepper crisps and Kia-ora juice drink. Thick fruit juice and tannins.

Finish - Steak au poivre with apple sauce. Fence panels at the end.

I'm guessing this one has spent a while in an infrequently opened sample bottle, but there is majesty here and thick, tropical fruit juice.

Celtic Heartlands Bowmore 1968, 35 years old, 40.6% A⊕⊕

bowcel1968Nose - Slightly pornographic this one, hold on a second… fresh and floral, but dusty - somewhere between travel sweets and Refreshers - and with this light but otherworldly tropicality. There's fruit polos, ripe papaya, a new pack of plasters, love hearts and just a little swimming pool (maybe the changing rooms). The low ABV makes it all the more weird.

Body - Huge, ripe, fizzing wood, with sesame and lots of funk, slightly formic, reminds me of the 80s Bowmore I've had but no Parmas - it has the same fruit/puckeringly dry/alien remnants of peat thing going. It is unputdownable.

Finish - Insanely long, massively tropical with a huge (and balanced) astringency which is extremely arresting and compelling. Behind the papaya, touches of liquorice root and juniper.

An epic whisky. A perfect expression of very old Bowmore. It has so much fruit, in such a weirdly backhanded way. A real privilege to get to try this!

Hart Brothers, Laphroaig 1968, 26 years old, 43% A⊕⊕

lrghb_1968Nose - I was expecting medicine but the medicine is very distant, next door. This is in some ways similar to the Bowmore but this is sort of introverted where the Bowmore was outgoing; the tropicality is hiding slightly, a mango and banana smoothie with hand soap, buttercream and an old leather jacket. Actually… it's very reassuring.

Body - Ancient, peppery woods, there's an arrestingly sweet medicinal note now, cough candy and antiseptic cream. There's also a very compelling fruit next to the cough candy, with green apple and baked pears, liquorice torpedoes and lime marmalade.

Finish - Extremely long again, brightly sweet across the entire development with that slightly fetid old peat providing more structure. Soft waxes linger after the finish, the smell of bandages on your hands.

Very special again (of course), this is a fascinating whisky with real gravitas, but again utterly wonderful to drink. With hindsight this has more elegance than the Bowmore but is a little more challenging. I think this might haunt me even more than the Bowmore. The empty glass smells of BBQ, cigars and leather, gone but won’t be forgotten…

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Cadenhead’s Small Batch June 2018

Speyburn 9 years old, 55.6% A+

2x hogsheads, 540 bottles.

speyburnNose - Overripe fruit, wax, nutty (and not a little dirty) sherry cask with Refreshers (or maybe Fizzers) over new plastic book covering with green apple and oranges. Brilliant. Earthier with water, more plasticky.

Body - Bright, sweet and white, with a balancing minerality. Orange peel at the back of the delivery. Some liquorice root with water.

Finish - Very sweet, cloying almost with that same mineral, woodsy feel to it. Quite long.

A cracking whisky. Too sweet at first in the finish, but it grew on me.

Glenallachie 1992, 25 years old, 56% A+

2x hogsheads

glenallachieNose - Bright, fresh and full of green apple. There's a deep sweetness underneath it but the fruit is wonderful. Strawberry laces, custard creams… Maybe it's a French strawberry tart actually, it's a little more genuine. It has a lovely, almost triple distilled character.

Body - A slightly burnt sweetness, salted caramels and Oreo cookie (sweet and acrid at the same time). Cough candy. Intensely sweet but very compelling.

Finish - Quite long but drying and oily, particularly on the tip of the tongue, where it's like licking lipstick.

A whisky full of character and structure, perhaps a little sweet again for me but packed full of flavour.

Glenturret 1986, 31 years old, 44.5% A⊖

glenturretNose - Massive, old and minty with bright, almost cognac-like fruit and wax. Yesterday's gloss paint, extremely ripe but not recognisably Scotch to me. Well - there's flashes of it, but it's like it underwent some kind of scientific forced maturation (or was accidentally left in a tropical country for a few years).

Body - Sweet and cakey, chocolate sponge with cherry chocolate icing. A brief delivery before the finish.

Finish - Tannic with Battenberg cake… maybe Black Forest Gateaux. Very long but over the hill.

I had to double check my sample on this one, it doesn't fit with the whisky I tried at Campbeltown. But this is definitely from the bottle. This is, at first blush, very good, first blush being all I could manage I guess by day 3 of festival. But it doesn't hold up to close scrutiny, which makes me worried for the two bottles of Jenna's choice I bought!

The nose is genuinely good though, if unexpected.

Auchentoshan 1999, 19 years old, 52.9% A⊕

1x HHD, 1x Chateaux Lafite cask.

toshanNose - Restrained, waxy, peachy, vanilla'd sweetness, red and full of clay and lipstick, just as I'd hoped. Exotic building materials (think two-part epoxy, floor adhesive), glossy photo books. Tropical, but when you're somewhere genuinely tropical.  Not when you're in Scotland drinking tropical pop out of a can.

Body - Bright and fruity but nutty and satisfyingly dry, this is why I love the Auchentoshan Lafitte. Hazelnuts, birthday candles and Pacers.

Finish - Medium with cut nectarine and red apple, quite spicy (slightly unexpectedly) but then this coachload of pure Auchentoshan at the end.

Hooray! When expectations are perfectly met.

Caol Ila 1984, 34 years old, 57.6% A⊕+

How do they make them so strong so old?

caol ilaNose - Dry, dusty Islay perfection on the nose, with old dunnage, charred wood, polished bars with tacky instant coffee dried on them and baked plums with cumin. This smells like that most (to me).. (at the moment) evocative thing, the unobtainable malts you sometimes get out of unofficial bottles. It smells ancient, but it's 57.6%.

Body - Light but huge, like cheap vanilla ice cream melting over yesterday's charcoal. Effortlessly sweet and balanced, utterly drinkable.

Finish - Long and very ashen, peppery spices. A touch of plastic and swimming pool at the end, in a pleasant, fruity way. Green peppercorns at the end.

Very special indeed, you couldn't ask for a more characterful but ancient Islay. I had old Bunnas of this calibre up until a couple of years ago but you only seem to get it with Caol Ila now.

Fettercairn 2008, 9 years old, 57.8% A-

2x hogsheads, 564 bottles

fettercairnNose - Fresh, floral, waxy, casky. Fruit salad sweets with strawberry laces and lipstick, but backed off to that complex, grown up cask, and a touch of Sangria. Hot summer whisky.

Body - Baked apples and cigarettes, some caramel, chocolate digestives. That robust structure against the fresh bourbon cask is well balanced but the initial arrival is a little harsh (astringent, young).

Finish - Cigar tobacco and charred chocolate cookies.

A good drammer for a social gathering on a balcony in the height of Summer. The conversation would gloss over the slightly harsh arrival.

Benriach 2008, 10 years old, 58.9% A+

2x hogsheads, 564 bottles

benriachNose - Deep, sweet, but dusty and winey. New carpet and new paint on the walls, lots of polished furniture. A little juniper and just a touch of Campbeltown oil.

Body - Remarkable, this is full of Campbeltown funk and I would have said refill sherry cask if I didn't know better. Burnt candle wax and Germolene. Big, burnt, ripe fruits.

Finish - Long and hot, chemically hot. Burnt capacitors and bitter liquorice.

A completely unexpected direction from this one, it must have sat next to a Longrow for 10 years or something. Remarkable.

Auchroisk 2006, 12 years old, 46% B+

2x hogsheads, 690 bottles

auchroiskNose - Light, cold and crisp. Apple fritters and vanilla ice cream, a little cut hedge… maybe rosemary. It's very light though.

Body - Beautifully gentle, dusty, and off-dry in the delivery, that waxy Lovehearts note is very welcome and an echo of the 18 year old OB Springbank.

Finish - Short, with that waxy, dusty cask and a fizzing hint of apple chews. Some bitterness at the very end.

A light, fresh, dry whisky. I would probably reach for a young Cognac before this, but it has its place.

Cambus 1988, 29 years old, 45.4% A

Single cask

cambusNose - Very grown up this one, balanced and elegant with apple wood chunks, candy cigarettes, sawdust and candied angelica. Kola cubes (remember they don't taste of cola).

Body - Soft, delicate and creamy. Apple Danish (but crusted with sugar).

Finish - Icing sugar and cut wood again, quite bitter in a gentle way, quite short though.

If I was ever allowed to call a whisky "smooth" it would have to be this one. It's so smooth it's almost disappearing.

Creations 2007 10 years old, Light, Creamy, Vanilla Batch 4, Blended Grain, 59.2% A+

2:1 Girvan to Strathclyde, married in 2 bourbon barrels for 1 year.

creationsNose - Light and woody, with coffee granules and last year's "new" carpet. The fruit in here is a little strained, like canned cherry and cranberries, but that haberdashery note is what it's all about.

Body - Beautifully creamy, really rich and full bodied, most unexpected. This has the poise of a much older vatted grain, reminds me of a Compass Box special edition Hedonism. There's a wonderful creamy fruit, like a blackcurrant fool in here. Delicious.

Finish - Medium with burnt toast and lots of hard oak, the young grain returns.

A superb delivery on this blend. The top and tail match the age and the price but the delivery is just fantastic.

Loch Lomond 21 years old, 52.5% A⊕

2x bourbon barrels

loch lomondNose - More apples - apple and blackberry crumble with proper caramel seeping through the crumble, and some of that smoke from the distillery - who knows which of the peating levels this is. The waxy, peaty, caramel character reminds me a little of Highland Park.

Body - Sweet but supple, gets around its sweetness with wood and peat. Perfect drinking though, great distillery.

Finish - Long and fizzing, quite a lot of pepper and oak at the end, some hot dog.

Some holes in the middle of this but the whisky is very compelling and shows that really rich, creamy, intense but balanced peat that Croftengea has.

An Islay 2007, 9 years old, 54.9% A+

1 bourbon barrel, 1 sherry hogshead

an islaNose - Dark red. The sherry is perfectly balanced by the rest of it (Islay and bourbon), with hot coffee beans, sunflower seeds, clove chocolate and charred crustaceans. A really beautiful and expectation setting nose.

Body - Soft then big, insecty and weird. Like acrylic paint and medicine made from natural stuff. And the hot dogs I might still be tasting from the Loch Lomond. With time that sherry balance reasserts, and it becomes richer, chocolatier.

Finish - Long and bracingly peated, cranberries and dark chocolate. Ashtray at the end.

A proper, young, balanced-sherry whisky. Its quality reminds me of those TWE Ledaigs from 3 years ago, but the character is entirely different. I've heard it might not be Lagavulin, I would agree with that. I've heard it could be Ardbeg (feasible), but I would have guessed Bunnahabhain (although I am terrible at guess the distillery).

Sunday, 1 July 2018

2018 Springbank Duo

Following on from the recent trio (a special release Hazelburn Oloroso and the usual, yearly Springbank 21 and Longrow 18), a couple of official single casks.

Hazelburn 10 years old, 53.9% A⊕+

December 2007 to May 2018, 270 bottles.  Re-charred bourbon hogshead.

hazelburnNose - Deep and bright fruit, sweetshop levels. But tempered by barley, plasticky esters and Love Hearts. Soft liquorice and that unstoppable Campeltown "thing", the smell of Springbank (why and how?, it's got to be the peat - or is it the floor malting? Or the… dunno). Warm and compelling, smells about 35.

Body - More refreshers, peppered steak and candy cigarettes. Toast and a musky, black, chestnut honey. Bone dry, leather and just slightly dirty, wonderful.

Finish - Biltong, old varnish, liquorice imps and sweet pipe tobacco.

An extraordinarily drinkable and totally wonderful whisky.

Longrow 16 years old, 54.3% A⊕

October 2001 to May 2018, 360 bottles. 7 years in fresh bourbon barrel, then 9 years in fresh Chardonnay barrique.

longrowNose - Sweet and dirty/dusty/weird as the best Longrows are (most of them over 9 are anyway), with permanent markers, clove, sparklers, Refreshers, Kipling chocolate icing, dusted chocolate almonds and baked plums. Quite a rollercoaster, this is going to be sweet on the delivery…

Body - Nutty and dirty, then gunpowder and rotting apples (dry though), more almonds and a little hazelnut, flat cola, and old school Listerene. Winier with water, that fizzing medicinal note is pronounced.

Finish - Long and very dry with very sweet cloves again and lavender.

A bruisingly honest but remarkable whisky. As weird and wonderful as a late 80s Bowmore, unhinged but exciting and delicious.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Chorlton Whisky Summer 2018

On sale here

Miltonduff 9 years old, 58.3% B+

First fill barrel

miltonduff1Nose - Shiny glazed mineral, with iced rings and a some rolling tobacco. Lemon ice cream (soft) and some leather. It has a quite compelling wood to the nose, no nonsense and high quality. Brighter and riper with water.

Body - Definitely lemon ice cream, Christmas cake, an extremely sweet backing to the citrus. Some plastic book covering with water, mukhwas.

Finish - Short, hard and astringent, lemon sherbets and caramel. Much fruiter with water but this is where the summer fun ends to an extent.

A lovely nose and delivery to this summer drammer, a bit harsh at the end.

Linkwood 11 years old, 60.9% A


linkwoodNose - Light and professional, with fabric freshener, birthday candles and hand soap or moisturising cream - quite cold. French apple tart with water, boiled orange peel, a lot more wax; the beginnings of a lovely cask which develops and sweetens over time.

Body - Richer than the nose suggested, fizzing, some vanilla pastry, quite a lot of oil, with liquorice on repeated sips. Water opens it up, bringing baked apples and more orange zest, perhaps a little coriander.

Finish - Long, fizzing but not bitter, a little bit more liquorice and some hard oak. Softer with water, Sazerac.

Quite a hard, young whisky (in a bracingly Spring-like way) which opens up nicely with water. It grew on me.

Glentauchers 20 years old, 50.9% A⊕+

Refill barrel

glentauchers1Nose - Deep and beautifully fruited, with that sublime but understated complexity that old Glentauchers pulls off all the time. Green apple chews, warm sweet white wine from yesterday, lipstick. Perfect.

Body - Right on the knife edge of fruit and waxy, oily, nearly mineral cask. Oranges and unripe pears, fruit tea. Liquorice rizlas and chewed pencils, dry rolling tobacco and a little light engine oil.

Finish - Almost salty it's so dry. Quite spicy with pronounced wood at the end, bourbon fans would like this but that fruity Scotch side of the coin means it doesn't offend me as it otherwise would.

Utterly wonderful, the epitome of balance (and hence drinkability) and fruit in a whisky with big bags of tobacco too. Big props for being a whisky I didn't want to risk spoiling by adding water. Note that this isn't in your face, it isn't crushingly intense, it's just right.

Bealach Ruadh, 10 years old, 57.1% A-

Bourbon hogshead

bealach2Nose - Bright and dirty, gunpowder, iron filings and hot sand. Very sweet in front of the fried panko and crushed peanuts. Sweeter with water, more mineral.

Body - A gentle, white wine character in front of the nutty, coastal Caol Ila, slightly charred on the panko crumbs, charcoal even.

Finish - Dirty and coastal, a big bite out of the lip salve. Bitter peat at the end, burnt again. A little gentler with water, apple and swimming pool.

Robust and challenging although lures you in at first. Quite dirty, quite coastal, like crab in a Chinese restaurant.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Port Charlotte 10

New packaging for the Port Charlotte 10 years old Scottish Barley, which I just love.  Let’s not lie to ourselves and pretend we don’t like the bottle the whisky comes in, it’s all part of the joy.  This packaging is brilliant.

Now, I was actually (along with many others) sent a whole bottle of this to review, which I have been taking my time with and making the most of.  That doesn’t happen very often but I am not letting it influence my judgement.  I am letting the packaging influence it, but not the free whisky. 

Port Charlotte 10 years old, 50% A⊕

714495NVBNDNose - Balanced intensity. Medicinal, sharp (vinegar and cereal), sweet and dusty, an old, dirty cask. 50% is spot on. Lots of fruit too - raspberry in a sour beer, sweet teenager's perfume, baklava and incense. Complicated, challenging and really quite alien.

Body - Soft, cereal (barley) and cereal (granola). Hot lemon drink, aspirin and marmalade. Heavily peated, earth, fruit, sugar and cask well balanced. The overall feeling is one of warmth, comfort and age.  And salt and cracked black pepper kettle crisps.

Finish - Long peppery peat, with poppy seed bread and fizzing lemon sherbets. So soft at the end.

It's excellent. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection June 2018

Very late with the notes due to Campbeltown festival, everything that had stock at the end of day one is basically still in stock though.

Glenburgie 2004, 13 years old, 54.6% A⊕

Bourbon hogshead, 300 bottles

Glenburgie 13 54.6 VOL 300 bottles -750x1000Nose - Waxy and wooded - wood glue (maybe UHU), with bright, intense fruit (quite tropical, some orange zest and juice) and some dust. Very compelling, arresting even. There's a gunpowdery feeling after you've exhaled. Deeper fruit (soft mango), richer citrus with water.

Body - Sharp but serious, burnt orange caramel, bracingly bitter but tempered by Refreshers. That fruity bitterness is along the lines of a DIPA, the intensity of the sugar and overall profile carries the bitterness well. Sweeter and less bracing with water, seriously fruity and the bitterness is well balanced if still structural.

Finish - Bitter tannins but rich and biscuity, grapefruit zest and tropical juice at the end.

This is exactly the kind of young, bright, technically excellent but interesting whisky that launches long obsessions with independent single casks. This is seriously good, my opinion of Glenburgie continues to rise.

Benrinnes 1997, 20 years old, 55.5% A⊕'

Bourbon barrel, 168 bottles

Benrinnes 20 55.5 V 168 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Somewhere between ripe apple and apple chews, yet another tropically intense Benrinnes nose - good toffee depth behind this and that cigar box style of old cask. Fruit and warm, understated wood. Even fruitier with water.

Body - Beautifully fruited again, intense and surprising at first, sweetshop near the end of the delivery with blasts of aspirin and a touch of liquorice in the middle. More robust, oddly, with water, more drying.

Finish - Long and fizzing, twists of orange zest and Campari, wood and musk at the end. Water brings a little fresh mint leaf, chewed grass.

Another superb Benrinnes. Someone said to me (and it's non-sold-out status at time of writing confirms) that people don't generally go crazy for Benrinnes. I can't see why, it's up there with Linkwood for dependably excellent, tropical Scotch.

English Whisky Company 2010, 7 years old, 61.5% B-

Bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles

English 7 61.5 Vol 222 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Young and hard, wood glue like the Glenburgie but much less forgiving; unripe pear, porridge oats, Pritt Stick and a punch in the nose. There's wax and musk and a sort of cold fruit, maybe gooseberry fool, underneath but I think it needs water to get there. After sipping there's an instant coffee granules and starfruit feel to it - all very one dimensional and cold though. Much better with water - strawberry cheesecake, malted ice cream - but it still has that hard candy shell thing I associate with English whisky (Adnams – I do more often than not really enjoy English Whisky Company whisky).

Body - Much better than the nose, the fruit is still hard but it's sweeter and richer, the oats are extremely present. It's strange how different not-Scotch is, I'm always amazed at the contrast. Better with water, the fruit becomes somewhat roasted, there's a feeling of soft blue cheese and oatcakes, black pepper, slightly musky.

Finish - Short, cloying, awkward. Much better with water, I like the cheesy thing.

A young, challenging, awkward whisky.

Linkwood 1987, 30 years old, 57.2% B

Refill sherry cask, 480 bottles

Linkwood 30 57.2Vol 480 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Bright and surprisingly hard for the age and distillery, with hand soap, candy necklace and royal icing. Crushed ice. After sipping, the nuttiness continues in the nose with some crayon. It's very austere. Carrot cake with water, some swimming pool.

Body - Off-sweet, nutty (praline rather than peanuts), cracked, old wood varnish and whistle pops. Softer and sweeter with water, a little Wham bar even?

Finish - Quite hard, very light input from the cask - rolling tobacco and slightly burnt croissant. Black pepper crisps with water.

Having gushed about the Benrinnes, I'm surprised at what should have been a tropical masterpiece. Expectation management perhaps, but not a fan of this one. I'd much rather drink the Benrinnes.

Paul John 2011, 6 years old, 56.3% A+'

5 years in Goa, 1 year in Campbeltown. Refill bourbon barrel. They have to bottle them in India, shipped to Scotland and then disgorged into a cask there. Then rebottled after some time in the warehouse later. We had a cask at the warehouse tour at Campbeltown festival this year, which was fantastic.

Paul JohnNose - Brown sugar, hot malt extract, as sweet and dark and surprisingly complex as they always are (the three PJs from Cadenhead's I've had that is!). Damp cigar wrappers, damp cloths on a hot radiator, roasted plums, pomegranate molasses. But nutty, very masculine.

Body - More sherry cask than the Linkwood; deep burnt sugar and praline, pork crackling, soft liquorice, smoking a Marlboro light. Utterly delicious as always.

Finish - Slightly shorter and more one dimensional that the initial delivery suggested. A little clove chocolate though, bourbon soaked raisins. Still a rich and lip smacking experience, vanilla cream and icing.

Somewhere there's a cask that spent 5 years in Goa and is destined to have 15 years in Campbeltown, and that will be very, very special. For now these casks are brilliant drinkers.

Bowmore 2001, 17 years old, 53.8% B+

[sold out]

Bourbon hogshead.

bowmoreNose - A musky one at first, then fruit polos with French custard tart (maybe strawberry glazed), planed pine planks, cracked salt crust and ice cream wafers. More of that fruit with water, more cheap ice cream too, and a welcome medicinal note.

Body - Sweet but gentle and salty, like a cold seafood platter… and a Mr. Whippy. Then there's a big, tarry peat - I hesitate to go to rope as it's all a bit stereotypical but I can only say it how I find it! Softer and creamier with water.

Finish - Long and surprisingly dirty. Numbing wood, quite harsh by the end.

Having lived through endless months of mid-teens-refill-sherry Bowmore a few years ago (to the point of having to stop myself buying them), this is quite ordinary I'm afraid.  Unlike the…

Laphroaig 1998, 19 years old, 53.4% A⊕-

[sold out]

LaphNose - A fresh, fizzing, musky, estery one on the nose. Balanced sugars, some plastic, dirty medicinal (sort of TCP but more a cream, more bandage). Baked apple and dried orange slices, ozone. Almost in "old wound" territory, certainly some overheated electrics.

Body - Soft, creamy at first, then a really dirty TCP, quite rotten but bright with fruit (tropical squash) and fizzers/gunpowder.

Finish - Long and rich, more filth all the way through. Robust peat builds with each sip but the fruit and burning plastic rides it out. Tannic, black fruit at the end.

Dirty, dirty stuff, and extremely moreish. I didn't get to add water.

Cognac 45 years old, 60.8% A⊕

Single cask, 282 bottles

Gognac 45 60.8 Vol 282 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Sharp, slightly sour with magic balloons and green apple. Wood chips, cut grass and a little menthol cigarette. Smells a bit like cognac mixed with some crazy wooded rum - it's not elegant but it is full of character and HQ cask. More "cognac" with water, more sweetshop too.

Body - Varnish, waxed wood, charcoal and lolly stick. A new bag of damp compost. The dibber in a sherbet dibdab. Some good dryness with water, dustier.

Finish - Long and extremely oily, big fruits at the end. Rum and raisin, more menthol.

Scoring this "as a whisky" this is delicious, quite a bruiser and full of excellent wood and fruit character. 

Miltonduff 2008, 10 years old, 55.7% B-

Bourbon hogshead

[sold out]

miltonduffNose - Dry, biscuity (actually a bit like wood pellets), rich cereal and just a little dirty. Meaty but mineral, some iron, some pork. One of "those" bourbon casks that everyone thinks is really a sherry cask.

Body - Soft, balanced sugars, cakey and more of that sulphur from the nose. Sweet, hard candy shells on top.

Finish - Medium to short, quite bitter and hot, lonely wood at the end, perhaps with a little balsamic vinegar.

For some reason this reminds me of cat biscuits. If this was SMWS I would guess a 3 month PX finish. I'm not a huge fan although it does have some crowd pleasing charms. Probably fare quite well at a whisky festival.

Glenfarclas 2001, 16 years old, 54.1% A+

Bourbon hogshead, 252 bottles

Glenfarclas 16 54.1VOL 252 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Much more grown up, an elegant cask full of restrained wood and wax and fountain pen ink, plus fruit polos and a leather satchel. Beautiful.

Body - More of the same; restraint and wax, orchard fruit and more fruit polos, maybe a little cough candy. Softer, but more sweet shoppy with water.

Finish - Long and sourly astringent, with whiteboard markers and pear drops. Very long actually, building fruits, increasingly tropical.

A deliciously fruity and well-structured speysider that pushes the sugar just a little too far with water. Proper bourbon drammer though.

Strathmill 1992, 26 years old, 44.7% A

Bourbon barrel, 198 bottles

Strathmill 26 44.7Vol 198 bottles -750x1000Nose - Deep and earthy. There was a flash of gummy sweets and rich waxy cask but the earth took over almost immediately - loam, compost, some chews, cadbury snack! bars. Curly wurlys? The fruit comes back after a while, with some sawdust and gloss paint, but it's all a little clumsy.

Body - Loads more milk chocolate, biscuit and some pear. A great fruit to cake balance, chew sweets warm and soft out your pocket. Weaker with water, less interesting.

Finish - Medium to long, a little astringent, a little thin, an odd tinge of sulphur which might be from previous whiskies.

Macduff 1989, 29 years old, 55.1% A⊕

Refill sherry butt, 390 bottles

Macduff 29 55.1Vol 390 Bottles -750x1000Nose - Dark and dank, fly paper, men's perfume, brown leather jacket with chocolate cake and an espresso. Much more waxy cask with water, towards truffle and petrol, wonderful.

Body - Rich and cakey, and very "tasty" - it's meaty with baked/rotten apples and raisins.

Finish - Fizzing but very rich, backed by fence panel and liquorice imps.

This is a proper blustering old Scotch. Drops the ball on the luxury a little in the late delivery but the nose is proper.

Not Port Dundas 1988, 29 years old, 50.7% A⊕

Bit of a mix up with the samples here I think.

Nose - Bright and sweet, liquorice torpedoes, a really old (dusty) peat character- lemon curd or cheescake.

Body - Dry and dusty, big tannins, this has a distinct Campbeltown character to it.

Finish - Medium long with cigarettes and Mr. Kipling.

I reckon this is a late teen Longrow. Yum. I want a bottle!