The square bottles are my favourite.
2 barrels, 390 bottles
Nose - Obvious grain at first. Then fruit, a little austere but fresh and ripe. Gentle toffee, a cap from a cap gun, green apple and butter. It's very gentle but quite reassuring. Flintier with water, old ice cubes - maybe cider ice lollies.
Body - Wood, cream and more apple (apple pie now). Lots of oil. More astringent with water.
Finish - Short but chocolatey, woods and some tannins later but the fruit is quickly spent.
A decent drinker and a rather intriguing but comforting nose, but otherwise a little ordinary.
2 bourbon hogsheads, 450 bottles
Body - Clean and delicious, more tobacco plus licked cigarette papers and black pepper catching near the tonsils. Toasted marshmallow with water.
Finish - Long, quite spicy, black grape skins and cigar wrappers. Oilier with water, more fruit in the finish and reduced spice.
A robust, honest and delicious drammer. Ordinary but good for it (in contrast with the Strathclyde).
2 bourbon hogsheads, 783 bottles
Nose - Sweet and cold, icing sugar and crushed granite but with a little hint of Islay in it. Depth too; caramel, fig rolls and a slightly musky cask. Clean and straightforward, maybe a little flypaper.
Body - Dusty radiator, some travel sweets, more of that ethereal smoke but definitely lacking midrange in the delivery. Some kind of red fruit with time, but I'm searching.
Finish - Better in the finish, the cask fruit joins back in with an oily, peppery ending.
1 bourbon cask, 432 bottles
Nose - That's more like it, a lot more character here from ever-reliable Dailuaine - strawberry/custard tart with a glass of slightly sour Amontillado sherry and an old leather jacket. Burning coal in a cooperage.
Body - Sour but waxy, liquorice torpedoes and cheap chocolate but again, these 46%ers struggle with the delivery. The mouthfeel does build on the repeated sips though, there's more of that strawberry (dried strawberries I think, maybe strawberry Nesquik).
Finish - Medium and full of sawdust - big tannins at the side of the mouth.
A lot more going on in this one, good fruit and a good drammer, but fans of the square bottles should look elsewhere.
2 bourbon hogsheads, 450 bottles
Body - Herbal and complete, freshly picked bay leaves with a very pleasing, mouth filling malt character, slightly fizzing. Hard nut toffee.
Finish - Long and woodsy, a really compelling "have another sip" character - tannins and balance. Whiteboard markers and screen cleaner at the end. "In a good way".
Robust and delicious, what works here is the compelling, I can't put the glass down, delivery. I didn't get to add water.
Nose - Rich with red wine, toasted sourdough bread, cut grass and hard sugarwork. New carpet and a new visitor centre, waxy cask, charcoal (reassuring again). Warmer with water, I'm definitely in the visitor centre now, excited to try some of the whisky.
Body - Green and astringent, runner beans? Then a rich fruit, good cask and cut red cherry. Quite restrained though, with some minerality. Weaker with water, some cardboard. Damn, the ABV was low to start with though.
Finish - Medium to short, an oily, gentle landing.
Evocative on the nose, bit of a let-down after unfortunately.
2 hogsheads, 438 bottles
Body - Delicious and deep, restraint is a virtue here with good quality chocolate ice cream, crushed blackberries, clotted cream and hot wort.
Finish - Big and bitter (like that wort), quite long too with black cherries and even a little Ribena at the end.
This has quite a lot to give and would probably be an interesting whisky to live with over a whole bottle.
3 bourbon barrels, 408 bottles [sold out]
Body - Big, old, tropical and everything you'd want from a Benrinnes, I am amazed this is only 20 though. Extraordinarily ripe with fresh sawdust and salt and pepper. Even better with water, overripe guava and mango chunks with red chilli powder.
Finish - Long, well-structured with an insistent tropicality and an almost cheesy age to it.
An absolute blockbuster, I would have guessed it was distilled in the 70s.
Nose - Sweet, gentle, again a good wax cask here with cut flower stalks, new magazines and some lightly charred oak (dry, cold). This is elegant where the Benrinnes was blustering. Slightly richer, slightly more chocolatey with water.
Body - Perfectly delivered - soft, fruit toffee at first, felt lined box and a distant fire. Structural woods. Fruitier with water but there's a slightly unsettling bitterness to the wood.
Finish - Long, slightly fizzing with chocolate and fresh cut red chilli.
Another delicious old whisky - as you would expect from Linkwood (and Benrinnes) - more restrained than the Benrinnes and excellent for it.
228 bottles. Aultmore-Glenlivet, Braes of Glenlivet, Bruichladdich, Glen Grant-Glenlivet, Glenlivet (Minimore), Strathisla and Tamdhu. "This blended malt is from a single cask that was vetted together in 2006" - so it must be a bunch of cask ends or bottles, even, stuck in a single cask for 12 years! A very low ABV for a 26 year old, must be some water or something very old in there too.
Body - Actually I think this has just had a few litres of something very understrength and very old added to it. Lots of wax, dusty and slightly cheesy, this is almost peppery and full of understated tropicality.
Finish - Very long and biting at the sides of the mouth. There's a bigger finish than the body, and that's why I think it's been doctored with 30% ancient (forgotten) cask.
I'm probably wrong about all that old cask stuff, and just can't get on with the low ABV, but putting that aside this is superb. It's just too gentle for me. This would be an amazing base for one of your own blends.
3 butts, 1524 bottles [sold out but with that outturn there must be more somewhere]
Body - Sharp but very rich, quite hot but real depth of fruit and quite biting oak. Much more speyside with water, lots of chocolate still.
Finish - Long with fizzing black fruit, a touch of liquorice imp.
Super rich and almost chewy to drink, full of blackcurrant chews and oak. Delicious.
Ledaig 1997, 20 years old, 52.8% A+'
[didn't hit the shop]
Nose - Deep, slightly dirty, hind-brain-grabbing peat. Reminds me a bit of Big Peat through a soft filter. There's something in here funking it up though, something like cheesecake (with vanilla), bonfire night (gunpowder and wood smoke) and Hershey's chocolate. Reminds me somehow of a Sauternes cask finish.
Body - Dirty again, very ashen and quite numbing in the delivery. Lopped hedges, orange twists and red wine. More fruit juice with water. Delicious.
Finish - Medium with jelly sweets behind the acrid peat. Liquorice root.
A big, bruising peater, no let up for the 20 years here and no hint of refreshers or anything ghostly. But the presentation is perfect for that - young Ledaig is phenomenal and this is simply a more nuanced version of that.