Monday, 24 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 24 - 51.9, Bushmills, Sinful indulgence

SMWS Advent Day 24

SMWS 51.9, Bushmills, Sinful indulgence, 15 years old, 54.2% A⊕+

bushmillsNose - Floral and flinty ahead of the polished, Irish sweetness. A beautifully ripe, almost tropical fruit, ripe papaya and old school permanent markers. Classy stuff.

Body - Big, ripe, richly creamy with strawberries and gooseberry fool.  Toasted, tropical cask.

Finish - Medium, with prickly with Sichuan pepper and cough candy. Very oily though, extremely complete.

Absolutely superb stuff this, and all the better for me because I bought a bottle on Phil's recommendation (I think!) and haven't opened it yet. Even though I think I promised him I would.

Seven left in stock at time of writing.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 23 - 5.65, Auchentoshan, Cocktail Hour

SMWS Advent Day 23


SMWS 5.65, Auchentoshan, Cocktail Hour, 15 years old, 56.3% A+

16th January 2003, 202 bottles, first fill bourbon

auchentoshanNose - A bit like a warm Compass Box whisky, that gentle toasted oak, and then the weirdness from the triple distilled spirit - the peaches I want and expect from Auchentoshan, jelly sweet peach slices with double cream over strawberry jelly.

Body - Peaches again, very sweet cask but off dry spirit, preserved lemon and cracked black pepper. Wagon wheels (the weird chocolate and marshmallow). Acrylic paint and linseed oil.

Finish - Medium and hot, slightly Sichuanese. Oily at the end.

Weird and wonderful, I do miss getting to try society 5s.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 22 - 54.63, Aberlour, 2000: and some face odyssey

SMWS Advent Day 22

SMWS 54.63, Aberlour, 2000: and some face odyssey, 17 years old, 54.2% A-

10th February 2000, 210 bottles, 2nd fill bourbon

aberlourNose - Crackery. A little sesame and some sandalwood, fresh acrylic varnish and wood dust from sanding it. A bright, hard sweetness; simple boiled sweets crunched, and a creamy perfume.

Body - Full bodied in its second fill bourbonry, with clean apple wood, moisturising cream and the oiliness of double cream in the mouth.

Finish - Oddly short, cream and that crackery, peppery cereal at the end.

Good nose, and very drinkable, if a little ordinary.

Friday, 21 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 21 - Peat Faerie Batch 03, 10 years old

SMWS Advent Day 21

Peat Faerie Batch 03, 10 years old, 50% A+

PFNose - Sweet-sour-medicinal, quite spirity and plastic-glue-y. Good, rich malty sweetness underneath, some crushed shells and seaside, some cracked black pepper crisps.

Body - Balanced and quite accomplished compared to how I remember batch 1, some refreshers and even a little clove.

Finish - Long and dustily balanced between crushed boiled sweets, sawdust and liquorice imps. The dry edge really makes it, makes you want to come back and have another sip.

I remember batch one being a distinct disappointment in the delivery but this is much better. Maybe my dram of batch 1 suffered from being just open whereas this advent dram has been through all sorts of punishment to get to me.

Suffice to say, I like this a lot more than I was expecting to.

I think the 10 year old is sold out but the 7 year old Peat Faerie Jnr. (batch 4) is available.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 20 - 66.118, Ardmore, A drizzle of syrup on salted ribs

SMWS Advent Day 20

SMWS 66.118, Ardmore, A drizzle of syrup on salted ribs, 11 years old, 59.8% B+

6th March 2006, 304 bottles, refill bourbon

ardmoreNose - Meaty, cereal peat, kind of dusty with a burnt pastry feel to it. Cut quince (how can things smell hairy? They do), quiche (I guess that's just baked egg with the pastry), and a vaguely sour seafoody thing.

Body - Bright, hot and sour, the whisky equivalent of lime and fish sauce (though it doesn't taste of either). Sweet cask and quite young peated spirit.

Finish - Medium with green chilli and white pepper.

A by the numbers Ardmore. John McC always liked society 66s but I often found them unremarkable, and this is the same.  Not to say I haven’t had some absolute crackers though!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Cadenheads Authentic Collection, Winter 2018 Batch 1

I’ve written notes in December I’ve got a crick in my neck.  Thank goodness I’m not doing SMWS biglist anymore!

We tasted all of these when we went to Campbeltown in October and I remember being impressed by nearly all of it back then.  I put that down to being on-premise with them at the time, but the outturn still stands up on its own merits.  A superb outturn.

Tomatin 2008, 10 years old, 54.9% A

tomatinNose - Classic, young Tomatin profile, hard, green and fruity. Deeper, almost clarty first fill bourbon cask - felt box and candy cigarettes, and little musk to make it all a bit mysterious.

Body - Hard again, with something that I want to say is bloody scampi flavoured fries - but it's not fishy, it's something else. Probably malted barley in them (checks… no that can't be it, it's probably deep fried maize). There's a hot, peppery sweetness too.

Finish - Short and peppery, with soft fruit toffee and the afterglow of a bunch of Black Jacks.

Standard fare for a Tomatin.

Glenfarclas 2008, 10 years old, 58% A⊕

farclasNose - Fresh and full, with ripe green apple, perfume (that "modern" women's perfume that smells sort of like men's), freshly crushed malt and new carpet.

Body - Sharp then boiled sweets and more orchard fruit, with "green" applewood chunks and cough candy. More toffeed with water, even better.

Finish - Long and malic still, with rounded sweetness, wood sours and a very little cigarette tar on the lips.

This was one we tried in Campbeltown that really stood out. A really, really beautiful nose and then a robust, well structured, compelling drinker.

Miltonduff 2006, 12 years old, 54.8% A+'

miltonduffNose - Men's perfume this time, firmly so. And a dusty, medicinal quality, that kind of antifungal cream thing, where you smell it and you can taste it at the back of your tongue. That creaminess is verging on mango with time. Fruitier with water, a little more straight laced, but with a really wonderful gravitas, particularly considering the age.

Body - Very creamy, with a sour but creamy tropicality which is very compelling, like a salty mango lassi. A little fence-y with water.

Finish - Numbing and powdery again, not gunpowder, more like talcum powder. Long though, with peppery but tropical fruit.

This is a cracker too, a lovely mature character for the age and price and interesting to drink.

Glenburgie 2004, 14 years old, 53.6% A+

glenburgieNose - It's a hard, closed one at first, but approached gently there's a beguiling Chinese supermarket funk with a touch of coco butter and cut peach. Opens up quite a bit with water, more of the fruit and a lot more warmth.

Body - Hershey's chocolate, cardboard, but also coffee granules and baked plums. More compelling again with water, earthier but fruitier, a little more perfumed.

Finish - Medium and chocolatey, some Victoria plum jam (I'd say on toast but I'm being led).

A little bit hard work to unlock but worth it. I'd probably get the Miltonduff over this though.

Glenrothes 2001, 17 years old, 54% A+'

glenrothesNose - Brightly apple-y with wood glue and sharp perfume. Maybe unripe apple, or sour cider, and some gunpowder. Behind this, bright, warm fruit, new magazine and Speyside vanilla oak.

Body - Delicious apple again; apple pie with a crispy crust and probably too many Bramleys.

Finish - Long with hot, warm toffee, cinnamon for the apple pie and tuiles.

My hunt for the 30 year old bourbon cask Glenrothes continues and this is a good contender.

As Phil has inspired me I might actually open one that I've hoarded for Christmas.

Strathmill 1993, 25 years old, 51.9% A+

strathmillNose - Apple crumble now, with custard and cut rosemary. Maybe that'd work? Some clay, maybe plasticine, new trainers. Warm and competent. Somehow dirtier with water, and in a good way.

Body - A really complete delivery, liqueur chocolates, jelly fruits, then white wine and fruit polos. Creamier with water.

Finish - Medium-long, chewed orange peel and actually, mango peel. Oddly fence-y right at the end.

A warm, well rounded, if slightly timid whisky. I haven't had the Tomintoul yet though.

Bunnahabhain 1994, 23 years old, 54.8% A⊕

strathmillNose - Lovely depth on this one, I remember this from Campbeltown. Ripe, tropical cask, just a little odd with that really intense fruity weirdness that 28+ year old Bunnahabhain can have just starting to manifest. Wood glue and strawberry laces.

Body - Unexpected coffee, I don't remember that (although that is unsurprising considering the day we had), with papaya and rhubarb fool. Sesame snaps and candied peel, some Calpol.

Finish - Very long and creamy, with faint, but neat, Vimto. Bandages and liquorice, as it builds, at the end.

This is superb, and still in stock at time of writing for some reason. Well-aged, unpeated Islay and a complete, delicious and very drinkable whisky. I didn't want to add water and so didn't, which is always a good sign.

Pulteney 2006, 12 years old, 56.3% A+

pulteneyNose - Soft but black, oily with rusting scourers, thinly sliced Seville orange peel and liquorice allsorts. Toast and honey, liquorice torpedoes with water.

Body - Big but cold, salted liquorice imps and green apple slices. More apple pie with water, with a hot sweetness.

Finish - Creamy but with red spice, like chilli vanilla ice cream.

Good stuff but a bit all over the place, a whole bottle would be tiring.

Tomintoul 2006, 12 years old, 54.9% A⊕

tomintoulNose - I stand corrected, this is evidently a very large whisky, with a confident, dusty, grown up nose full of orchard fruit, sawdust and waxy, jelly snakes. The blue ones.

Body - Soft and sweet, then weirdly, muskily sweet with caught rhubarb juice and brown sugar.

Finish - Medium with cured oak planks on a hot summer day. Deliciously fruity with balanced sugar and acid.

A summery whisky for the end of the year. This is a lot better and significantly more robust than I was expecting. I (in theory) don't abide distillery prejudice, and I'm not sure what I've got against Tomintoul but it doesn't apply here.

Regions, countries, that's another matter.

Linkwood 1997, 21 years old, 55% A⊕'

linkwoodNose - Properly berried, Linkwood being up there with Benrinnes as a fruity gem. Membrillo, Pritt stick and lime marmalade. Hot radiator.

Body - Full and peppery, with chewed aspirin (to offset the banana antibiotics) and liquorice torpedoes. And what I imagine bubble tea tastes like.  I realise that's not very helpful…

Finish - Long with sour gobstoppers and chewed oak plank.

We had this at Darrenmas and it was superb then as now. It reads all over the place but it has "good bones" and works very well.

Ord 2006, 12 years old, 55.3% A+'

ordNose - Berries and boiled sweets, baked (slightly caught) plums, leather jacket and deodorant. It has a fruity, clarty, waxy warmth that is very comforting.

Body - Warm and sort of sherried, travel sweets and the smell of damp car-carpet, crushed charcoal.

Finish - Medium, warm white wine, soft liquorice.

This is extremely good (the nose particularly), only the lack of luxury in the delivery knocks it down from an A⊕.

Balmenach 2005, 13 years old, 55.2% A+

balmenachNose - Apple chews and strawberry laces, a background peat, crushed cold charcoal. Whistle pops and, honestly, instant noodles. It's as warm and complete as the bunna on the nose; classical.

Body - In some ways Balmenach is as distinctive as Springbank, there's a big orchard, charcoal and sour wood character. Maybe even a little bong water. The youth is here though, hard and sharp.

Finish - Medium, charred, toffee apples.

This is a gentle but interesting whisky - sweet and sour, light peat and slightly sharp oak.

Glen Spey 2001, 16 years old, 55.6% B+

glen speyNose - Waxy whistle pops, with plastic book covering, big women's magazines and Spring soil. Carrots and lemon. Maybe new potatoes if I'm being generous.

Body - Bright at first, then young and over wooded, with lemon cleaning spray and a sherbet dibber.

Finish - Short, with lemon curd and washing up liquid. More cardboardy with water, although a lot longer.

A Springtime whisky, and a first duff note in an otherwise almost perfect bourbon-cask outturn.

Speyside 1991, 27 years old, 48.8% A+

speysideNose - Deep; burnt fruit, petrol. Waxed jacket on a cold day (I've never personally owned a waxed jacket but have worn them a long time ago). It is a splendidly fruited, balanced, restrained wax though; austere yet luxurious, with blackened apples.

Body - Burnt wood and nut toffee, peppery (again) and a little bit hedgey. A deep, caramelised fruitiness to it though.

Finish - Short and sweet, liquorice comfits at the tip of the tongue, cold port at the sides.

A by the numbers old Scotch, love that black, liquoricey depth.

SMWS Advent Day 19 - A5.1, Chateau de Laubade, Fruit shop raid

SMWS Advent Day 19

SMWS A5.1, Chateau de Laubade, Fruit shop raid, 61.3% A⊕

29 years old, Armagnac barrel

a5.1Nose - Fresh but deep and brown. Vibrant tanned, varnished woods, with chocolate cake and lemon cleaning spray.

Body - Zippy and fizzing, sherbet lemons and a weirdly plasticky fruitiness (because it's Armagnac not whisky), with candied peel, jelly orange slices and Tang powder.

Finish - Long and still fizzing, lots of tannins and huge quantities of citrus fruits. Very long actually, and it tastes like eating an entire roll of wine gums.

This is a robust but thrilling spirit, and that finish is just wonderful.  It’s still available here.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 18 - 36.142, Benrinnes, For a dignified dad

SMWS Advent Day 18

SMWS 36.142, Benrinnes, For a dignified dad, 20 years old, 57% A⊕+

16th August 1997, 190 bottles, first fill bourbon

benrinnesSMWSNose - Ripe but flinty, lemon meringue pie and cloudy lemonade. It has a really compelling depth, and floral highlights completing the astringent white character.

Body - Beautifully sweet with green apple, more meringue, hard nut toffee and chocolate ice cream.

Finish - Still playing the hard-but-soft thing well, with baked pear, liquorice toffee and lime curd.

Richly satisfying but structural, with slightly other worldly floral notes - another fantastic Benrinnes.

Monday, 17 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 17 - 10.155, Bunnahabhain, Warms the heart

SMWS Advent Day 17

SMWS 10.155, Bunnahabhain, Warms the heart, 10 years old, 61.3% A⊖

3rd October 2007, 264 bottles, refill bourbon

bunnasmwsNose - A chocolatey one, as practically-identical young bunnas go. On the sweet side with a little too much cereal and not enough coast for me.

Body - A lovely depth in the delivery though, lemon sherbets and a touch of popping candy.

Finish - Short with white pepper and whipped cream.

A decent enough whisky; peppery with a nice level of sweetness, if a little clumsy.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 16 - 134.4, Paul John, Struts its stuff

SMWS Advent Day 16

SMWS 134.4, Paul John, Struts its stuff, 6 years old, 57% A⊖

30th November 2010, 165 bottles, refill bourbon

pjNose - Chocolate cake and fence panels, Pepsi-cola and polished oak. Balsa wood fresh out of a plastic package. Hot sawdust.

Body - Boiled sweets and licked acrylic, very astringent with UHU glue and washing powder.

Finish - Long but extremely sour, preserved lemons and flat cola.

The rich, heavily oaked Indian whisky I like is struggling past the massively astringent lemon and almost chewed aspirin. I'm surprised at PJ, maybe my palates not right today - this is why I don't write notes every day!

Saturday, 15 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 15 - 6.28, Macduff, Let's go on an adventure

SMWS Advent Day 15

SMWS 6.28, Macduff, Let's go on an adventure, 11 years old, 58.1% B

29th August 2006, 307 bottles, refill bourbon

macduffNose - Simple and sweet, with a lightly herbal, vegetal note - hedge and celery. There's also clotted cream, cold marble and a little kola kubes, and that kind of meaty cereal note from a whisky taken too soon.

Body - Nutty, astringent, sour and little bit of brett-y beer. Green apple at the sides of the mouth. A little coffee chocolate with water.

Finish- Medium and hot, with hazelnuts and a touch of caraway. Chilli heat with water.

This does have some depth, some interest but it barely moves the needle.

Friday, 14 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 14 - 28.39, Tullibardine, Vanilla poached peaches

SMWS Advent Day 14

SMWS 28.39, Tullibardine, Vanilla poached peaches, 60.9% B-

tullibardineNose - Waxy, glassy, cold, orchard fruit, cigarette tobacco. Then a deeper, more varnished sweetness, a little more acrylic.  Jelly (peach) slices (that may have been auto-suggested) and a little banana Nesquik. Fresher, colder, more citrus flesh with water.

Body - Creamy but powdery, iron fillings fool. A little gunpowder and some tart tatin, more acrylic. Angel delight now.

Finish - Red chilli and cracked black pepper. Very long and a little hot, with walnut flesh.

Interesting to try, but clumsy and too hot with very little actual enjoyment to carry it through.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 13 - 121.102, Arran, A fruity fruition

SMWS Advent Day 13

SMWS 121.102, Arran, A fruity fruition, 18 years old, 53.4% B+

20th April 2000, 287 bottles, after spending 17 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead this was transferred into a 1st fill red wine barrique for the remainder of its maturation.

arranNose - Red fruit, sour and woodsy. Soft liquorice and deep but peppery sugars. Candy floss? Sticky wort.

Body - Beery again, then red wine, fizzers and royal icing. Maybe some marzipan.

Finish - Medium with wham bars and some very stewed raspberry tea.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to be after its crushing in red wine cask. It's not an Arran, it's kind of soulless. I think the finish has made it feel young.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 12 - 42.37, Ledaig, Steamie Turkish bath

SMWS Advent Day 12

SMWS 42.37, Ledaig, Steamie Turkish bath, 10 years old, 62% A+

25th June 2008, 242 bottles, refill bourbon

ledaigNose - Mineral yet soft and floury, hot asphalt and lots of vanilla, with lemon curd and fresh towels. Actually now you mention it it is very sauna-wood, with a cracked, old varnish.

Body - The rich, sweet bourbon cask you were expecting, but it's also really sour and citrussy with cut hedge and orange shells.

Finish - Medium, cigarettes, a little musky, some marijuana.

This is why you join the SMWS, for weird, musky, challenging but really drink-y casks like this.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 11 - 122.25, Croftengea, Not for the faint-hearted

SMWS Advent Day 11

SMWS 122.25, Croftengea, Not for the faint-hearted, 7 years old, 57.9% A⊕

11th February 2011, refill bourbon, 291 bottles

CaptureNose - Sweetly crusted, like some kind of christmas thing covered in sugar. Dusty and brown too, like burnt pastry and a splint lighting a cigar. Coffee granules and Mexican chocolate. Fruitier with water, but with more burning electrical insulation.

Body - Sweet and rich again, coffee and musty, dusty fruit, very complete and full spectrum. Burnier with water, I preferred it without.

Finish - Medium to long, mango smoothie and bircher muesli. Black pepper and toast char with water.

Another cracking 122, long may this continue. This is of course a total bargain as well, this calendar is a good way to sell me whisky… hang on!

Cadenheads Authentic Collection, Winter 2018 Batch 2

Hectic and confusing in December for Cadenhead’s, I’m late with these and have decided to taste and post batch 2 before batch 1 in order to minimise the sold-out-ness.  It’ll be another week before I can get to batch 1 I think.

Some amazing stuff in here, including a Caol Ila that’s up with those ‘68 Islays.

Girvan 2006, 12 years old, 60.3% A+

girvanNose - Sweet, perfumed, restrained, slightly sour and with a really delicate and beautiful, musky, baked, travel-sweety fruit. Fruitier, and full of oranges with water.

Body - Hard boiled sweets, chilli pepper and freshly cut orange segments. Tang orange powder. Much richer and fruitier with water.

Finish - Long, hot and almost over-sweet, like a big mouthful of popping candy. Longer with water, less clumsy.

Water totally makes this. What a great cask used for this uncommonly young grain whisky.

Cambus 1988, 30 years old, 45.5% A⊕+

cambusNose - Wow - enormous presence to this, opening with old school tropical scotch cask, but one of those entrancing casks that combines weird, structural wood with the fruit.  This is oddly formic and has a little fountain pen ink and wood sour backing to that big, juicy mango, new carpet and fruit polos. Please, please be good on the delivery…

Body - … and it is - ripe and lacquered, gentle and rich with fruit and sugars - mango smoothie and Marlboro lights.

Finish - Fades out quite quickly via a touch of blue cheese and black pepper, but that's what happens with things get this blustery.

A superb whisky. Neither of these grains is particularly grainy, particularly this one which is classic old Scotch. Utterly delicious.

Glenrothes 2001, 17 years old, 53.2% A+

glenrothesNose - Toppy, a touch sour, with that deep Speyside fruit behind it and actually it's very Glenrothes in the middle. I'm struggling with that toppy sourness though, a young cereal feel. It's more grainy than the grains in a way.

Body - Citrus sour, with black pepper and orange peel. Time makes is even more orangey, from big oranges to mandarins - more perfuming, more alien.

Finish - Arrestingly fizzy with Sichuan peppercorns and some cardboard. That young note keeps nagging me but somehow I've tried the whole sample chasing oranges and not got to add water. The longer you keep at it, the waxier and fruitier it becomes.

Oddly compelling and like a Glenrothes in disguise. I had it down for a lower mark at first but it grew and grew on me, so definitely a "tasting" whisky to take your time with, or something to spend a whole evening with.

Hazelburn 2005, 13 years old, 54.6% A⊕

hzelburnNose - Unexpectedly bright and fresh, laundry on a cold day fresh. Then the Campbeltown oil and murk underneath, and the relaxed, slightly grown up fruit that brings with it. Sweet and dusty, fruity and funky, orange oils and handwash.

Body - Unmistakable old Campbeltown, then coffee and cardboard. Victoria plum and raisin, with Hershey's chocolate. Poached pears with flaked almonds.

Finish - Long and dusty with chocolate cake, hazelnuts and newspaper. Cherry chocolate appears at the very end.

This whisky is all over the place. It absolutely rocks and I could drink it all evening, it'd be a great whisky for an in-depth tasting, but I can't get my arms round it with 1cl. I know I like it though.

Burnside™ 1991, 26 years old, 46.7% A⊕

Burnside™ is of course Cadenhead's trademarked name for teaspooned Balvenie.

burnsideNose - A little sharp, butyric, some slightly burnt pastry, then some fruity depths - more bloody oranges, with fruit toffee, pencils, some bubble gum. Like most “Burnsides”, it is a weird one that makes you dig for your fruit.

Body - Soft, gently stated but old school, with strawberry laces, strawberry custard tarts and warming spices; very Christmassy.

Finish - Very long and richly creamy. This has been building over the course of the glass, and has become almost palate overwhelming.

Another one didn't fare well at first but really grew on me as I worked through it. It's also pure Speyside.

I am battling internally to name my second favourite whisky region and today it feels like it is Speyside.

Bunnahabhain 2009, 9 years old, 58.8% A-

bunnaNose - Toasted cereal, very sweet with charred fruit, like the burnt bit on a rhubarb crumble. Some crushed rock, hard and sweet.

Body - Full at first, then thins rapidly, all waves swept rocks and crushed ice.

Finish - Medium and peppery, cold and numbing with liquorice and burnt crackling.

Another good one, but they are much of a muchness these young peated bunnas. I don't need to buy or taste any more, and I'd rather drink young Caol Ila.

Longrow 2002, 15 years old, sherry cask, 51.4% A⊕

longrowNose - Red winey, Port even. Then that WTF fresh, dusty, breezy fruity Longrow-ness that has to be the maturation rather than the spirit. It's like snorting a crushed tube of Refreshers and fruit polos.

Body - Dirty, formic and tannic, then Pritt stick, damp cardboard and dark marmalade. Very well balanced, even with its intensity.

Finish - Clove and chilli chocolate, strawberry angel delight.

I would have picked this as a red wine or port cask, even Sauternes - good tannins here, not too crazy and typically clovey.

Inchgower 2009, 9 years old, 56.2% A+

INCH%209-750x1000Nose - Young but dusty with overripe, hairy peaches. Quite sour, quite weird, but there's a really lovely, rounded fruit in here too. Warm, soft fruit toffee. That Brett-y note over the top is compelling, yet it's not quite a durian/Chinese supermarket funk.

Body - Off sweet, dusty and sour again, with sesame snaps and coffee granules in a damp cup. Quite a cereal bitterness to it in a way, but not unbalanced.

Finish - Short and musky, not much fruit in the end just sweetness and body.

A weird and wonderful nose, delicious to drink but there's something missing…

Deanston 2008, 10 years old, 53.6% A+

deanstoneNose - More overripe fruit, a little more Chinese than the Inchgower. Star fruit, bramley apple and warm Sauvignon. Even better with water, better integrated but a little flintier.

Body - Zippy yet rich, with flamed orange zest and milk tart. Quite sherbety with water, grapefruit zest.

Finish - Custard and a touch of hubba bubba. Bitter and peppery with water, and a little chilli heat.

These younger casks are very well selected, the balance on them is excellent and the wood is clearly very high quality. Maturation in Campbeltown seems to help too. This is a good thinking whisky.

Benrinnes 2000, 18 years old, 58.5% A⊕+

benrinnesNose - Typical excellence from Benrinnes; warm, tropical, fully ripe, and lots of depth. There is a particularly beautiful wax to this one, lacquered and almost plastic next to the fruit salad chews. Liqueur chocolates and polished oak on blood orange, watermelon and papaya.

Body - Luxurious, with more wax and polish, whipped cream and a bracing citrus structure.

Finish - Creamy into the finish with soft blue cheese and slightly herbal. Very grown up indeed.

Another massive triumph of a Benrinnes. This is a big fruit bomb, with that lovely cheesey maturity and citrus structure making it all very drinkable.

Highland Park 1988, 30 years old, 49% A⊕+'

HPNose - Even riper than the Benrinnes, this is a ripe Winter (2) outturn! Refreshers and ghostly fruits though, sweet, cut orchard fruit and candy cigarettes.

Body - Enormously deep and waxy, with preserved lemons, felt box and lime curd. Retronasally hoppy with hot electrical insulation and chocolate covered brazil nuts.

Finish - Medium fruit, very long with a creamy and almost acrylic wax. A huge, tannic mouthfeel, with the peppery ghost peat returning at the end.

I knew this one was excellent because I tried it in Campbeltown. I've been looking forward to being reunited with it. It's another utterly crushable old Highland Park, full of complexity and dusty peat, but completely luxurious.

Caol Ila 1982, 36 years old, 54.4% A⊕⊕

caolilaNose - Holy shit; cream cheese, ghost funk, linseed oil, pork fat and chopped parsley, acrylic varnish and ozone. It's painting the inside of my sinuses with tropical oils and cigarette smoke.

Body - Utterly dreamy, one of those shut-you-up whiskies (which is tough if you're trying to write notes). New paint, cigarette smoke and tar, cheap cocktails? Reminds me of Soho when you could smoke in pubs. There's a huge, sour, acrylic paint note in here, and that kind of cold city pub filth... I love it.

Finish - Very, very long, with cut 100 year old oak planks, stewed tea, cough candy and candy cigarettes. If you keep sipping the finish keeps building.

There have been some (superb) old Caol Ilas recently that are still big on the peat, but that has faded with this one, leaving sweet luxury and the ghostly peat I love. The crazy nose, evocative delivery and infinite finish makes this one of the best whiskies I've tried in 2018. A real privilege.

Loch Lomond 2007, 11 years old, 55.9% A+

[sold out]

loch lomondNose - Unfair but necessary to taste this after the Caol Ila. Cold but fruity (I'll acclimatise in a minute), with Haribo and cut green apple, whiteboard marker, Christmas cake, beedis.

Body - Another cracking cask from an excellent distillery. Soft, white, delicately peated with charred raisins and caraway.

Finish - Medium to long, richly sweet and first fill-y, lots of wood oils and tannins. The peat is long forgotten because of the fruit toffee.

Like drinking red wine after a sip of Amarula. Delicious.

Monday, 10 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 10 - 2.110, Glenlivet, Caked in custard

SMWS Advent Day 10

SMWS 2.110, Glenlivet, Caked in custard, 13 years old, 57.3% B-

8th October 2004, refill bourbon, 194 bottles

IMG_0710Nose - Hard and flinty, crushed rock and a very sweet backing of crushed boiled sweets. A little fennel perhaps, some sawdust. Quite closed. Much better with water, some whistle pops but not really any actual fruit. There's a clarty, cake-y note to it.

Body - Custard creams and buttercream, liquorice imps and a very hard-nosed sweetness. Again, much better with water, some orange and peach, quite zesty actually but still very sweet.

Finish - Medium, sort of buttery and very young and sweet.

I'm surprised this got past the tasting panel. It's not that it's faulty, it's just very boring.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 9 - 53.265, Caol Ila, Peaty, briny goodness

SMWS Advent Day 9

SMWS 53.265, Caol Ila, Peaty, briny goodness, 11 years old, 58.2% A+

18th July 2006, refill bourbon, 327 bottles

53.265Nose - Sweet, sweet peat, permanent markers and something else from the office - perhaps tippex? Glue? Not sure. Cold, just crushed malted barley, damp wool and women's perfume. Actually that perfume is a really defining characteristic. Lovely, you can't beat young Caol Ila.

Body - Off-sweet in the delivery, dusty and a little burnt, numbing like pear drops - your ill-advised 8 pear drop in a row. Fruitier and peatier with water.

Finish - Medium short with black pepper charred steak, and lots of gunpowder at the end. Robustly peated.

This is a big old dirty refill bourbon and young caol ila, they are reliable and excellent.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 8 - 13.61, Dalmore, Gardener takes a break

SMWS Advent Day 8

SMWS 13.61, Dalmore, Gardener takes a break, 11 years old, 60% A-

21st September 2006, refill bourbon, 147 bottles

IMG_0683Nose - Weird. Biscuity, butyric, creamy and oddly "adult" - it's got pepto-bismol (that took some placing), laundry and custard creams. Germolene and the smell of an office smoking room (it's the sofas).

Body - Much better than I was expecting, this is soft, full of fruit fool and rich with boiled sweets and cut plums. Peppery excitement from a stray rolling tobacco strand in the mouth. More bitter with water, don't add it.

Finish - Long with another surprise - burning citrus- and at the end and some chilli heat.  Demands another sip, I need some more healing fruit fool!

A robust, challenging whisky - good for a dram but too much heat and weirdness otherwise.  This one is in stock.

Friday, 7 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 7 - G1.16, North British, Chardonnay wine gums

SMWS Advent Day 7

SMWS G1.16, North British, Chardonnay wine gums, 26 years old, 61.9% A⊕

23rd October 1991, 25 years in Oloroso butt then 2nd fill butt heavy toast medium char, 375 bottles

IMG_0682Nose - Rather glorious, this is one of those really important, winey, fruity grains that are still very obviously a grain. The kind of thing Compass Box used to knock out. Lots of instant coffee granules here too, with charred bananas and felt tip pens. Some shaved oak and swimming pool. A lot richer with water, toasted pastry and cream with that robust but exciting fruit.

Body - Soft, bright and winey again, quite sharp with the high ABV, with grapefruit peel and cigarette tobacco. Harsher with water but more fizzing citrus.

Finish - Short but creamy, pineapple slices on a French tart.

Really evocative, reminds me of hot summers in the Greville street bar. Haven't had a really cracking grain in ages.  This one is in stock.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 6 - 93.99, Glen Scotia, Drambletown Loch

Society Glen Scotias are the best Glen Scotias, for some reason. Certainly way better than the official output, they have that in common with Bowmore.

SMWS Advent Day 6

SMWS 93.99, Glen Scotia, Drambletown Loch, 15 years old, 55.3% A⊕

7th February 2003, refill bourbon

IMG_0677Nose - Dusty, dirty Campbeltown, with diesel fumes, struck flints and toffee apples. Cigarettes next door and women's perfume. Charred wood. It's glorious.

Body - Dusty, charred wood again, with liquorice imps and fruit toffee. Something like burnt pastry here, and a touch of the cross channel ferry. Fruitier with water, but a little more ordinary for it.

Finish - Long with sawdust, icing sugar and roasted plums. Longer and fencier with water.

A dirty, funky triumph.  Absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 5 - 9.156, Glen Grant, Brutus Magnificus

SMWS Advent Day 5

SMWS 9.156, Glen Grant, Brutus Magnificus, 22 years old, 57.8% A⊕+

22nd April 1996, 20 years in refill bourbon then 1st fill PX hogshead, 207 bottles

brutusNose - Ripe and complete, a lovely, black polished wood and great maturity, it smells a lot like the kind of super ancient thing you'd get from G&M for multi-thousands, the ones with the balancing spirit that hasn't been swamped by the cask. Some instant coffee and Hershey's chocolate, cherry tunes and beeswax. More fruit, more chocolate with water.

Body - A long development of ripe, red fruit and nutty woods. A very soft and considered delivery that has real luxury but lots of structure. Slightly more angular with water but retains that deep fruit.

Finish - Long, sweetly waxed with marmalade and whistle pops.

I love the sweet sour maturity on this one, a finish that has really worked, and a cracking whisky for the money. It's available to buy by the bottle and still in stock at time of writing, minus the bottle I just bought.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 4 - 84.28, Glendullan, Simple but far from dull

SMWS Advent Day 4

SMWS 84.28, Glendullan, Simple but far from dull, 9 years old, 58.9% A+

4th March 2009, refill bourbon

IMG_0673Nose - Fresh, waxy, spiritous but confident, with the smell of extra strong mints, some crayons and a little playdoh. Promising. A touch of swimming pool with water, a little burnt, but a real boiled sweet character too.

Body - Soft and waxy, chewed crayons now with fruit toffee, a little air freshener, fence panel, and some cherry jam. Fruitier with water and a little time, a robust but lovely delivery.

Finish - Medium, sweet and spirity, not new makey at all of course, but bright with citrus and vitality.

This is the kind of younger drammer I always like at the bar - the well-chosen refill bourbon casks – waxy and confident spirit, with a little bit of fruit.

Monday, 3 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 3 - 4.250, Highland Park, Celebrity yurt indulgence

SMWS Advent Day 3

SMWS 4.250, Highland Park, Celebrity yurt indulgence, 16 years old, 60.6% A

24th August 2001, refill butt, 559 bottles (plus these diddy ones presumably? Unless they're decanted after)

IMG_0665Nose - Modelling clay, raspberry jam and royal icing. Buttercream and crushed ice… and it took me ages to place this but it's the foyer in a cinema - sweet popcorn and coke machines. A flinty, cold peat too, but then this is very strong at 60%. New dug potatoes with water.

Body - Soft, white and sweet (softmints) and chewed liquorice root. A very warm white. Sweeter and finally some fruit with water, ripe cut plums. The lasting impression, though, is of cheap vanilla ice cream.

Finish - Long and peppery - white pepper, then black pepper crisps.

A sort of Summer to Winter whisky. Interesting and quite complex, but it would be tiring for more than this diddy bottle.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

SMWS Advent Day 2 - 35.223, Glen Moray, A Theta state of mind

Pricey stuff for day 2, I am expecting this calendar to have good stuff in it because it’s the first one but also a big bit in the middle full of 9 year old extreme casking. Looks like there’s a 31 year old extreme cask here too!

SMWS Advent Day 2

SMWS 35.223, Glen Moray, A Theta state of mind, 31 years old, 56.5% A⊖

8th October 1986, 1st fill Sauternes barrique after 29 years in refill bourbon

IMG_0663Nose - Sweet, red, berried, very red wine cask - very wine focussed. Lots of fruit, reminds me of that Benriach (Benriach batch 15 1991 burgundy) on the nose, but waxier. Fresh, sour, but confusingly young and sweet for the age. Lots of wax though, that might be left over from the original bourbon.

Body - Soft, cereal, then a big blast of nutty wine cask, wine gums and a little sulphur. It's mouth wateringly dry and tannic as well as being full of wine gums. Fruitier with water, with stewed black tea and midget gums.

Finish - Long and extremely sweet, black pepper and Haribos.

A confusing, intensely wooded whisky that has been broken by a clumsy cask but still has big flashes of loveliness. It's not a patch on the Benriach though.