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.

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.