Thursday, 18 July 2019

SMWS 37.119, Plum sauce rancio-fest

SMWS 37.119, Cragganmore, Plum sauce rancio-fest, 16 years old, 56.6% A+
11th June 2002, 1st fill PX hogshead (14 years in bourbon HH)

Nose - Deep, ripe and delicious; lots of soft caramel against old school sherry cask. There’s a deep Glendronach-y sherry bomb beauty here with a lovely balancing top spike of tropical scotch. Balanced but with a waxy richness.
Body - Soft and ripe again, then quite a hardwood-y, sweetshop sourness that gives it structure - bright boiled sweets and a little burnt orange marmalade.
Finish - Long and brightly sour, more cut orange peel and the first bites of liquorice imps.

An extremely well judged finishing here, that richness has worked very well with what was probably quite an astringent cask to start with.  That does leak a little in the final character of the whisky, but there’s loads of luxury, structure and complexity to get into.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Single Malts of Scotland, Imperials 21

These two beauties.  The German (I think) cask was on at the whisky show last year next to a 22 year old, and it stole the show for me.  No mean feat against a whole show’s worth of amazing stuff.  The UK cask is very much in the same vein.  SMOS have some amazing bottlings.
Now, I apologise profusely for taking so long to get these out.  This was stymied by Google trashing blogger integration with Open Live Writer, which I’ve now given up on them ever fixing.

Imperial 21, UK bottle, cask 2472, 50.5% A⊕+

Nose - It's just complete and classy. Dusty, planed oak and deep rich (but restrained) fruit. Expensive men's perfume with cloudy cider, cut apples and lemon joss sticks. It's lovely, dusty and masculine.
Body - Cigarette papers and dried rolling tobacco, fresh cut oak and blood orange segments.
Finish - Orange juice takes over in the finish, but the rolling, structural woods keep it propped up and bring you back for more. Citrus in Xmas pudding batter at the end.
This is pure Speyside, bourbon cask perfection. This is the kind of bottle I really covet; the old bourbon Glenrothes, the really remarkable Hazelburn, restrained but utterly compelling.

Imperial 21, German bottle?, cask 2473, 50.6% A⊕+

Nose - Classy is the word here too, wood glue and sawdust, long orchard fruit, also perfumed and delicately fruited. It's the balance of toppy floral fruit, musty but zesty cask, and deep richness that works.
Body - Restrained sugars, peppery tobacco and lemon sorbet, custard filled pastries, lolly sticks. A dry, tannic, but decadently rich bourbon cask, but with that really old school leathery, tropical feel.
Finish - Very long, with rich fruit toffee, stewed plums/tea and a little Pritt stick.
Another superb cask, which obviously stood out enough against significant competition (the rest of the SMOS stand for a start) at the Whisky Show last year for me to march over to the shop and buy it.

These are both superb - the UK bottle has a more expressive, varnished nose, but the German bottle is riper and just a touch more luxurious in the delivery.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Compass Box Affinity and No Name 2

Compass Box Affinity, 46% A+

Nose - Sweet, fruity and waxy… so far so good. High on the dusty cask, I can only detect any calvados by looking for it, actually the effect is that of a beautifully fruited Scotch. Wax candles, straying into crayons, with royal icing and vanilla.
Body - Thick and oily, slightly odd in that it’s quite peppery and new oaky rather than being appley- the waxy note comes across as more baked apples and pie crust now, if I’m being suggestible. As it builds though, that Scotch character I liked on the nose re-asserts and maybe I wasn’t just being suggestible with the baked apples.
Finish - Medium but some elements of the calvados now come through. Apple chews perhaps, vanilla custard, orange peel and liquorice.

There’s just that misstep in the initial delivery, but otherwise I really quite liked this. It doesn’t, however, really feel like a mix of whisky and calvados, more like just some peppery Scotch. But a good one!

Compass Box No Name, No.2, 48.9% A+

"If No Name was peat as thrash metal, No Name, No.2 is the progressive genre: still potent, yet cerebral too"

Nose - Sweet, white winey peat - that will be the 75.5% Caol Ila in it (9-10 years old I'd guess). Waxy and appley, with cherry compote and orange powder, whistle pops. Mouth watering fruits.
Body - Softer than I expected, with cough candy, dark orange marmalade and Pret carrot cake.
Finish - Medium with trebor soft mints. A little christmas cake at the end, some pine.

Chuggable; definitely rounds out the Caol Ila's sharper, coastal edges.

Cadenheads Summer batch 1 2019

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12yo (2006) 56.6%: HHD A-

Nose - Sweet and flinty, with sudocrem, or maybe milk tart.  Boiled sweets and a slightly salty, cold and coastal feel to it.  More creamy with a little wax, with water, soft fruits coming through. Less tough overall.
Body - Peppery, then creamy, then more flinty, hard boiled sweets.  Charred lemon shells and bandages later on.  The pastry for the milk tart with water.
Finish - Quite short in the fruit and cream, a hard, wet oak winning out later.  Much more rewarding with water,  the pepper becomes grapefruit tannins and citrus, better integration with the woods.

A hard but oddly refreshing whisky, needs some water to bring it out of its shell.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11yo (2007) 56.6%: HHD B+

Nose - A perfume bottle in a felt lined box. Gently floral, slightly exotic, very feminine* with added sandalwood and a newly opened magazine (cross between paper and plastic).  Actually, one with a perfume sample in it.  You get the idea.
Body - Soft and fruity, then bright, tannic citrus, charred and a little rotten, like black driftwood.  A background soft, salted caramel and a little frying oil.  More of the citrus zest with water, and a slightly Asian (food) edge with licked crayons and peanuts.
Finish - Long but bitter and tannic.  Slightly harsher and drier, with water.

A promising nose but a hard and clumsy delivery on this one.

Strathclyde 29yo (1989) 50.8%: Brl A+

Nose - Deep sugars, balanced fruit, slightly tropical but refreshing.  It flits between wood, fruit, grain and a brighter spearmint, with a backing of leather and musk. Complex, full spectrum yet restrained.
Body - It’s a soft but beautiful grain, all orchard fruit, leather and zesty woods. A little fungicidal cream too.
Finish - Green peppercorns in brine.  Bandages.  Big grain tannins at the end though, building and numbing.

A quite beguiling mixture of luxurious and fruity at the front, but hard and tannic at the back.  That means you need to take your time but it keeps you coming back.

Tomintoul-Glenlivet 12yo (2006) 54.3% A+’

Nose - Ripe.  Somewhere between orange and peach, with deodorant, lime marmalade (and butter, no toast) and plywood.  A little iron filings/swimming pool at the back of the sinuses, but the fruit wins out.
Body - A classy delivery; soft fruit, then magazine, then salt water and rich, ripe vanilla and pastry.  It is robust though, hard wood and citrus zest keep you on your toes.
Finish - Medium to long with balanced fruit toffee and pastry throughout.  Orange segments with juice down the chin.

A really classy, delicious drammer.  No fireworks for sure, just honest** drinking whisky. I could settle into a bottle of this (probably in the Spring though).

Macallan-Glenlivet 30yo (1989) 42.8%: Brl A⊕+

Nose - Beautifully tropical, with UHU glue, balanced but intense old cask, very clear and very buttery toast and honey, and softly layered woods and oils.  Orange curd and sesame toast.  Wonderful and gentle.
Body - Important.  Massive at first, then retreats into woods and black tea.  Then a vanilla cream and gentle fruit (it doesn’t taste of strawberry, but you know how strawberry tart is quite watery with low sweetness on the fruit side).  Then charred pastry, liquorice imps and hints of bidis.  The feeling at the sides of the tongue is oily and intensely fruited.
Finish - Long and more stewed tea.  Pontefract cake and some pear drops at the end.  Ghostly sugars.

This is a very special whisky, I’m very pleased that it isn’t as in your face as you’d expect and it is a drinking whisky.  Macallan is a luxury whisky for a reason, and there’s the Campbeltown maturation too.  But don’t expect a black sherry monster, it’s nothing like what Edrington would release.

Benrinnes 18yo (2000) 57.3% A⊕

Nose - Warm but minty and medicinal, bandages and mojitos. Leather belt with engine oil.  There’s probably some kind of military thing going on here but I don’t have the smell-memory.  It’s really warm and comforting too though, I can detect the juicy fruit I was expecting behind the other stuff, and the waxes build.
Body -  Big - alternating between big fruit, wood, instant coffee and new magazine though.  Hot chocolate.  Not one of the luxury fruit bombs but a ripe, spicy, woodsy and complex delivery.
Finish - Long and slightly sour.  Some red chilli behind the woods.   Tropical at the end, wood oils on the tip of the tongue.

A ripe and fulfilling experience.  Not what I was expecting but still big and full bodied, and wonderful drinking whisky. 

Pulteney 13yo (2006) 54.7%: HHD A

Nose - Slightly sour apple at first, a little salty of course, lots of soft toffee and milk bottle sweets.  Bright and rewarding.  Expectations set to high.
Body - Fruit toffee, sour, toppy, petrichor.  Especially on the tip of the tongue, practically ozone.  Very oily.
Finish - Milk chocolate chip cookies, raisins by association.  Cheap hot chocolate at the end, and a little Black Forest.

Great nose but a little challenging in the delivery.  Fascinating to drink but not a whole bottle.

Inchgower 10yo (2009) 56.6%: HHD A⊕

Nose - Fresh and mineral, ripe green apples - a really complex but beautiful grown up character - apple wood and cashew nuts.  Slightly charred but deeper with water, more shaved wood.
Body - Balanced sweetness - there's dark toffee with hazelnuts and a wham bar but hard wood oils.  Fruitier with water, foxes glacier fruits and a little of the mints.
Finish - Long with cracked black pepper, orange peel and popping candy at the end.

The depth and complexity on this 10 year old is superb, with lots of rich fruit and toffee notes balanced out by structural woods and oils.  Very well judged, just the kind of cask you could pour yourself into after a tough day.

Littlemill 27yo (1992) 49.8% A+

Nose - Deeply rich (caramel and old varnish), slightly winey and with balanced minerality and waxiness.  Fruity like a Fruit Salad chew in a hot pocket.  Really creamy.
Body - Soft and slightly cardbordy, with a gentle tropicality and a nice packet of fags.  Oily like an extra strong mint is.  Baked fruits.
Finish - Long and quite astringent, with more toffee (a touch of Werthers to it too). 

A delicious old whisky, with a lovely gentle, balanced and grown up quality to it - but as is sometimes the case with these old closed distilleries, it doesn't quite live up to the hype.

Paul John 7yo (2011) 55.4%: HHD A+

Nose - Big and sour, gastrique and tropical wood juice.  Red wine and sawdust.  Wham bars. Waxier with water.
Body - Rich, creamy, more sawdust and a little gunpowder.  Some Sichuan peppercorns and this really interesting, sparky, slightly medicinal sweetness - something in the preserved lemons and rosemary area.
Finish - Medium to long with lingering coffee, flat cola and sparklers.  Thyme with water, numbing clove oil.

Quite the bruiser this one, the fruit is down a little (it's not pretending to be a heavy but ancient Scotch) but it really works well.  I prefer the Scotchier ones of course.

Fettercairn 10yo (2009) 55.8%: Sherry HHD (since August 2017)  A⊕

Nose - Dank, dark sherry cask, as expected.  Irish coffee - maybe a little Baileys.  Wonderful structure though, cask wax, black fruit and vibrant spirit.  High hopes.
Body - Off sweet fruit, Morello cherries - it has that exact balance of musk, sweet red fruit and sourness that a ripe cherry has.  There's a big astringency here too, and some spearmint (perhaps left over from the Paul John). 
Finish - Slightly burnt pastry, meatier than the initial delivery with some pork fat and auto-suggested rosemary.  Very long and oily, almost engine oil.

What a full bodied, exciting and delicious drammer, highly recommended.  Damn thing's out of stock, there may be some back later.

Cradle Mountain from The Small Concern 23yo (1996) 53.2%: Ex Cabernet Sauvignon A⊕+

Nose - A serious colour on this.  Wow - intense, dark red fruit and waxes.  Bright sugars, some combination of petrol station, cola cubes and, like, raspberry slush puppy or something.   But there's this really beautifully elegant fruitiness tying it all together.  Remarkable.
Body - Softly sugared, intense cherry tunes, some echo of a urinal cake and hugely structural tannins.  Christmas, including a trip to the freezing cold toilets in a soho pub.
Finish - Medium, rich and ripe.  Those wine tannins are extremely compelling, as is the almost curry-like experience with the warm, weird spices - black cardamom and liquorice root.

A phenomenal experience, extremely intense and very un-whisky like in a lot of ways.  A transformational cask treatment. 

Loch Lomond 12yo (2007) 55.8%: HHD A+

Nose - Clean, lemony peat with coconut cake and crushed cashews.  That desiccated coconut is very clear.  Some medicinal cream, a little rosemary but that might just be in my palate now.
Body - Sweet and creamy, clean Kendal mint cake, a very clean whisky with some of that weird and unique peat from a Croftengea.
Finish - Medium, fizzing with lemony peat and sherbet. 

A cork chucker.

* When I say feminine, it smells like perfume that would be marketed as for women.  This is not a sexism in whisky issue.
** when isn’t whisky honest?  When it’s been through an increasingly desperate procession of 3 month maturations in different casks, including an unstated virgin oak and at least two different types of sherry.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Cadenheads Small Batch March 2019

Playing catch up.
And the good people who took over open live writer really need to update it, I can't handle this 1998 web experience much longer!

Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 1995 23 Years Old 50.6% A⊕

Nose - Dusty, icing sugar, marzipan and fruit cake - very clear with the sultanas and mixed spice.  Beautifully creamy and lightly medicinal.
Body - Gentle, complete, medicinal again with a little char.  Ripe mango flesh and apple pips.
Finish - Long, with fruit fool and charred oak at the end.

A perfectly luxurious but very gentle drammer, dusty and woodsy, confident but soft.
Glentauchers-Glenlivet 2007 11 Years Old 2007 57.9% A⊕

Nose - Felted, fecund, slightly musky actually.  Some pritt stick, carpet underlay and peach sweets.  Sponge cake and vanilla buttercream.  Just a little bit of lit sparklers.
Body - Talc, anti-fungal cream (in a good way), vanilla yoghurt.  The fruit is compelling - it’s like apple chews, ripe green apple flesh and from-concentrate orange juice.
Finish - Medium, lightly peppered.

Predictable excellence from Glentauchers again, this time a robust but balanced and very “returnable” young whisky.  Recommended.
Aultmore-Glenlivet 2006 12 Years Old 57.4% A+
Nose - More plasticky again, almost rum like at first but this fades.  Baked plum tart, dusty chocolate and something more refreshing, like breakfast apple juice.
Body - Soft, creamy, freshly fruited (fruit polos, apple flesh again). 
Finish - Medium, rhubarb fool and a little muesli. A little fresh set plaster, barley sugar.

An understated whisky but fresh and fruity, and not hard in any way.  A lovely whisky for a windy hillside.
Dailuaine-Glenlivet 2008 10 Years Old 59.8% A-

Nose - Cloudy apple juice with cut peach, urinal cake (in a good way!), peach stone and travel sweets.
Body - Classic young bourbon cask, some cigarette tobacco and a light funk.
Finish - A sourer, more bitter tone develops, with lemon peel and pips, and cough candy.

Complex and interesting sweet shop notes but falters in the delivery.
Royal Brackla 2006 12 Years Old 57.7% A+’

Nose - Refreshers, vanilla buttercream with cut raspberries and wood polish. 
Body - Soft but deep and dank, with sawdust, old varnish and numbing-sour wood oils.
Finish - Long and numbing on the tip of the tongue, with soft liquorice and wet wood.

A fantastic delivery on this one, much better than I was hoping for - that sour, slightly dirty wood oil and a long, tannic, liquorice delivery works very well.
Craigellachie - Glenlivet 2007 11 Years Old 54% A

Nose - Men’s perfume, leather jacket and dusty packet of sweets.  A touch of clove chocolate in here too, with something like foundation or lipstick.
Body - Soft and creamy, dusty chocolate and coffee granita behind it, slightly sour on the tip of the tongue.
Finish - Medium, very soft still and gently oiled across the whole palate.  Dusty chocolate again at the end, almost cocoa powder.  Some bitterness, grapefruit peel, at the very end.

This got more intriguing as it went on, but it’s a little wonky in the delivery.
Strathmill 1991 27 Years Old 51.2% A+

Nose - Weird, musky fruit, strawberry gel on crème patisserie, deodorant, sweat and lip gloss.
Body - Very deep, tropical spice and black varnish.  Something hospital in here, like the taste of iodine and black pepper.
Finish -  Short and peppery, very tannic and black, like stewed tea bags.

I was expecting more from a Strathmill of this age, nevertheless this is dark, complex and compelling.  The nose is particularly good, and on-expectation for the age.
Speyside distillery 1991 27 Years Old 48.6% A

Nose - Nutty; whole nut chocolate bar with salted caramel and blackberries.
Body - Mouthfilling black fruits, light pepper with a juicy, slightly sour, almost hopped character.
Finish - Bracingly bitter with dank fruits.  Toffee and tannins at the end.

Quite big despite the nutty start.  If a little forgettable.
Benrinnes 1995 23 Years Old 51.1% A⊕

Nose - Saving the fruit bomb for last, this promises good things with sour, intense but lightly tropical fruit, and that classic oily, dank but ripe old Scotch character that has me buying nearly every bottle Cadenhead’s release from this distillery.
Body - Soft, deep fruit, intensely tropical cask with toffee covered nuts, star fruit and dried cranberries.
Finish - Medium long with Cadburys eclairs and mango with cracked black pepper.

These casks rarely let me down, this is another cracker.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection April 2019

Attack of the high quality young bourbon casks.  All good, then brilliance from the Bladnoch, wine and sherry Glenrothes.
I'm still abandoned by my blog post tooling, which makes it very hard to update this site.

Glenrothes 1994, 24 years old, 47%: Fresh sherry since June 2015 A⊕

Nose - Sweet tobacco, fruit and nut bar, black cherry and black polished furniture. Slightly sour cherry compote, very waxed, slightly burnt.
Body - Deeply sweet with more waxed wood and leather, black forest gateaux and blackcurrant travel sweets.
Finish - Short but balanced, with a peppery, fencey wood at the end.

An extremely well judged sherry bomb, a great combination of deep, sweetshoppy sweetness and the chocolate, leather and waxy character. The sherry character reminds me of that really sherried old particular Clynelish - very moreish.

Dailuaine-Glenlivet 10yo (2008) 60.6%: HHD A+’

Nose - Bright and estery but creamy and full of floral waxes. The character is deeply fruity and sweet, with fruit polos and rhubarb fool. Leatherette or new carpet with water, and a deep, musky wood.
Body - Very zesty, fizzing - then back to earth with sponge cake and buttercream. A touch of white pepper. Creamier with water.
Finish - Quite hot and peppery, black pepper crisps at the end. Cardboard (just a little) with water.

A beautifully bold and well presented young bourbon cask in very good wood. Characterful and delicious drinking.

Teaninich 10yo (2008) 57.2%: HHD A+

Nose - Warm tangerine peel (drying on the radiator), orange icing on cupcakes. A little man musk, and a sweet, metallic character. Very fruity, and all that orange is making me think of Christmas.
Body - Balanced, and bold, softly spoken fruit and fizzers.
Finish - Long, drying, with fruit toffees and sesame snaps.

More grown up than the Dailuaine, and structural, although a little more austere for it.

Deanston 10yo (2008) 56.6%: HHD A-

Nose - Weird progression this - less fruit again but more wax and some varnish and acrylic tones. Something a little salty and seasidey here including the vanilla and the cone.
Body - Sweet at first then oddly burnt, even a little formic. Burnt caramel and warm red wine?
Finish - Medium and quite thin, but lingering peppery notes with soft toffee on the tip of the tongue.

Delicious and characterful if a little hard and musky in the delivery. That pepperyness is a little off putting.

Royal Brackla 10yo (2008) 56.3%: HHD A

Nose - More sweet, waxed, high quality young bourbon cask. Slightly deeper than the others, still with the same high level of wax and some wine again. Cut Florida oranges and the banana penicillin stuff on top.
Body - Soft and fruited, plenty of cardboard here though, although the Deanston is still peppering my palate. The orange is now candied, or dried, with some French cooked pastry.
Finish - Medium, with barley sugar. But retronasally it has bright, ripe orange.

Another cracking young bourbon cask, but others are better.

Glentauchers-Glenlivet 10yo (2009) 59.9%: HHD A+’ 

Nose - As above but with powdered coffee, freshly planed oak and candied peel. Maybe a little coconut. The waxes are there but more blended in, with green apple.
Body - burnt wine again, sweet jammy notes and rhubarb and custard sweets.
Finish - Long with liquorice allsorts, jam tarts and cut, blonde oak. Some blue cheese tones at the end (very welcome).

Up with the Dailuaine but again more robust and grown up. Probably the most accomplished of the young ones so far.

Dufftown-Glenlivet 11yo (2007) 54.5%: HHD A+

Nose - Some lower, deeper perfume in this one - behind all the orange, wax, boiled sweets and wood. Some kind of soil - like under a rock - and a touch of mineral, medicinal cream.
Body - Gentle pepper, more cream, milk tart and a lolly stick.
Finish - Long with ice pops on wood.

An understated but deeply delicious whisky, long on the tip of the tongue and full of oils.

Tormore 30yo (1988) 43.2%: HHD A

Nose - Deep but bright, with felt, lemon grass, blue cheese and emulsion paints. Anise biscuits and lemon icing. There’s a tropical depth in there too (as there should be) but it needs digging.
Body - Immediately fruity then suddenly pulled back to old school perfume, plywood and talcum powder.
Finish - Long and woodsy, with Fairy liquid, rice paper and dolly mixture. Tannic.

Hard work for a 30 year old.

Bladnoch 30yo (1989) 40.8%: Sherry HHD since June 15 A⊕+

Nose - Enormous after the previous lot! Deep and dirty, burnt, almost rotting tropical fruits. Old varnish on old, cut wood. Blustering, dirty old tropical scotch.
Body - Soft fruit with apple pips, liquorice root and baked apples.
Finish - Spicy wood oils, liquorice Rizlas and bidis. Reminds me of university

The nose on this is phenomenal; really old school, the kind of thing you’d get on a special distillery tour or as a dream dram at the whisky show. You can even, just about detect the Bladnoch behind the sherry cask. A very special whisky, and not what I was expecting at all.

Benrinnes 11yo (2007) 58.5%: Brl A+

Nose - I saved this until last, knowing what a fruit bomb Benrinnes can be… and it isn’t! Hard, planed oak, old flaking paint, then some kind of fruit fool - I want to say apple yoghurt although that isn’t really a thing.
Body - That’s more like it, creamy depths, slightly powdery/chalky and some petrichor - I suppose medicinally fruited.
Finish - Long with hop bitterness and phenols.

Despite my expectations this was rather good - more spirity and peppery than fruity but interesting and well structured. And it is a lovely nose after all that.

Fettercairn 10yo (2008) 56.6%: Red Wine - NZ Pinot Noir Cask since October ’17 A+

Nose - Dry chocolate sponge (cupcake matter), charred raisins, blackcurrants and coffee icing. Not overdone, not sweet or over wooded, very considered.
Body - Dry and nutty, no sulphur, maybe a touch of iron filings. Lots of tannins.
Finish - Like chewing a used tea bag, in a good way. Long and tannic with black tea and a strand of tobacco on the tongue.

A textbook Cadenhead’s wine cask. Don’t let us run out!

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Cadenhead's Spring 2019 Authentic Collection

I still can’t sensibly publish photos with this thing.  I suspect google may abandon altogether shortly.

Tomatin 9yo (2009) 60.1%: HHD B

Nose - Hard with cold pears, pear drops and vanilla buttercream. That cakiness develops into acrylic paint and strawberry jelly with cream. More fruit, more cream with water, finally some proper cask (shaved, slightly waxed).

Body - Rock hard, slightly burnt, with boiled sweets and yesterday's gloss paint. Much sweeter with water, still burnt and cereal.

Finish - Short with crushed ice, new plastic and a little chocolate muffin. Saccharin sweet with water.

A hard, young, tiring whisky. Maybe I shouldn't have started with it, I don't usually love young Tomatin though.

Balmenach-Glenlivet 14yo (2004) 54.9%: HHD A+

Nose - Much more like it, a deeper feel already, with sour fruit top notes, furniture polish - rose water spilled on a polished table (or maybe Turkish delight). A touch of leather with water.

Body - Ripe and perfumed, but with excellent fizzing wood contrast to the pink rose character. Softly sweet. Drier with water, even more balance.

Finish - Long and overripe again, tea tannins balance perfectly at the end, bringing you back for the next sip.

An extremely well judged whisky. Great structure, that lovely rose character and good fruit, perfume and wood balance.

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 16yo (2002) 55.2%: HHD A'

Nose - Boiled sweets, fruit polos? Torn laurel leaves, hot water crust, a little leatherette. Very gentle, quite wine-like though with a touch of the distillery visitors centre.

Body - Off dry, slightly burnt underneath, retronasal salted caramel. Very oiled, quite a classy balance of sugar, wax and cask.

Finish - Long and peppery, fruit oils are building though. Liquorice root at the end.

A subtle and undemanding whisky that builds complexity and black pepper and liquorice as you sip it. Quite rewarding, if unconventional.

Arran 22yo (1996) 49.6%: HHD A-

Nose - It's verging on "big" but the balance is there, it plays around with tropical. There's gentle fruit toffee, a lovely old bourbon cask, proper fruit polos now and a little banana Nesquik.

Body - Unexpected - coffee, cocoa powder, charcoal, sawdust, salted McCoys crisps. A much bigger wood influence than I was expecting and hoping for, much drier and it drowns out the fruit.

Finish - Medium, more Hershey's-like chocolate, with hazelnuts and roasted lemon shells at the end.

I was ready to raise my "important whisky" flag but this swerved it massively in the delivery. The fruit is struggling to emerge from all that wood unfortunately. A shame.

Glenallachie-Glenlivet 26yo (1992) 54.8%: HHD A⊕+

Nose - Another big nose, slightly sweaty this one but lots of baked citrus, some plum and hoppy beer. Deep orchard fruit too - ripe cut green apple and baked Bramleys.

Body - Beautifully soft with candy cigarettes, tropical cask (mango smoothie) and marijuana smoke.

Finish - Medium, creamy and well poised. Some hot chocolate at the end, with a slug of Amarula in it.

This is an important whisky.

Miltonduff 9yo (2009) 62.0%%: Brl (Jamaican Rum Cask since Oct '14) A+'

Nose - More beautiful fruit, with linseed oil, lots of candle wax and acrylic paints. Extremely oily in fact. The rum cask is rather obvious if you're looking for it (over a four year finish), but balances the spirit's fruit and the previous cask very nicely. The result is a big but balanced fruity and petrolly, characterful nose.

Body - Soft but sweet and sour with more wood oils, sherry vinegar and sherbet.

Finish - Short but oily, teases burnt plastic but the tannins and fruits work very well. Fly spray at the end.

I've just realised how young this is, it spent half its age in the rum cask - what a triumph this finish is.

Benriach-Glenlivet 10yo (2008) 56.0%: Madeira Cask (Dec '17) A+

Nose - A step down in intensity from the Miltonduff, I put this after it because of the wine. This has red berries, dried orange and rosemary, orange cream and sprayed furniture polish. It's quite christmassy but a little compressed.

Body - Expressive, oily and creamy. Cadbury's fruit and nut bars, boot polish. Flashes of tobacco.

Finish - Medium, with baked plums and frangipane. Great tannins too.

This turned out to be a soft, extremely toothsome and delicious whisky. Sort of chuggable actually.

Cooley 11yo (1992) 49.5%: Brl A⊕'

11 years old, as apparently you can only age Irish whisky in Ireland - and that's the age it came to Campbeltown.

Nose - Tobacco, then (and this time I'm really serious) the most intense fruit polos. It's so fruity, it's practically nail varnish on top of scented erasers. There's a formic, lacquered base to it though, like air fresheners over rotting fruit. There is, after sipping, an almost crotchy dirtiness to it too.

Body - So dark it's purple, a rotten peat with chocolate icing, blackcurrant starburst after some black jacks.

Finish - Medium to long, with hand soap and blackcurrant jam. Extremely ripe, then dusty chocolate at the end.

Ridiculous whisky, almost pornographic. My burps are now completely tropical.

Benrinnes 21yo (1997) 53.7%: Brl A⊕

I'm having to leave the Benrinnes to the end now as it keeps wrecking my palate\expectations with its tropical fruit and excellence.

Nose - Dusty, elegant cask, the kind of fruit driven, complex and balanced profile I'd expect. More damn fruit polos, posh unisex perfume, Seville orange ice cream.

Body - Ripe with rolling fruits and sugars, more ice cream, pronounced but correctly judged woods.

Finish - Peppery royal icing, liquorice imps and a little charred oak.

Another superb Benrinnes - it's actually a little less intense than some of the last few but restraint isn't a bad thing. The fruit is down a notch, the wood is up one.

Ardbeg 25yo (1993) 51.6%: HHD A+

Nose - Ghostly, dusty, sweet but breaded with sweet liquorice, blackcurrant tunes, E45 cream and mint matchmakers.

Body - Creamy but almost gone, dried sawdust and Vimto, a little cardboard. It really, really reminds me of cutting hedges, and burning them on a rainy day.

Finish - Peppered steak, maybe beef crisps. More mint chocolate, and hot wort.

I don't know why this feels so ancient, when its 51.6% and only 25 years old, but it does. The peat is 35+ year old Caol Ila level. I really like the bold, peppery character behind it, and this is very good (particularly the nose) but the delivery is a little too vegetal and damp to be luxurious. Having said that, to be that evocative is no mean feat and only the most haunting whiskies manage it.

Ardmore 8yo (2010) 54.2%: Sherry HHD (since Aug '17) A-

Nose - Ripe and waxed, with fountain pen ink and more chocolate cupcakes. Sandalwood.

Body - Sweet but sharp with chocolate milk and joss sticks. Lacking midrange.

Finish - Peppery with splints and cigar tobacco.

A little unfair to have this now but… a decent whisky if a little heavy on the sandalwood and chocolate.

The English Whisky Company 8yo (2010) 64.9%: HHD A+

Nose - Swimming pool, complex cask, sea shells and planed oak. The contrast between the sea and the oak is perfect.

Body - Reminds me of Kilchoman 100% Islay, with its cereal, lemon sherbet and nicely judged pastry peat.

Finish - Long with peppery peat, burnt wood.

By the numbers excellence from English Whisky, again.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Compass Box Stranger & Stranger

I’m still struggling to post to the platform I chose back in 2004!  But I’m still writing notes.

Compass Box, Stranger and Stranger, 46% A⊕+

Nose - Deep fruit and wax, slightly medicinal with a little bit of clove and antiseptic cream. The fruit is really very old - not totally tropical though, but loads of gravitas. Typically balanced and luxurious with that dusty alien note a little bit of weirdness to match the packaging.
Body - Soft and creamy, tiny licks of liquorice and charred sandalwood, lots of chocolate covered raisins and brazil nuts. Newly cut cedar wood.
Finish - Medium to short, Hershey's chocolate and a little PX sherry.

Dependably excellent, this is another superb bottling from Compass Box. I adore the balanced blend and whatever the wacky wood was that contributed 1%, it really lifts the overall whisky. Really luxurious and very interesting to drink.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Cadenheads January 2019

This has taken a while.  The tool I use to write these posts has stopped working, so I’m a bit stuffed for uploading images.  So I’m just posting this without images for now. 

I need to move to a different platform but I really have better things to do than a big website migration!  Anyway, I hope it’s of use.

Benriach-Glenlivet 10yo (2008) 57.6%: 2 x HHD A+

Nose - Young and orchardy, with new emulsion paint and a fruity, zesty, exciting character. Creamy and perfumed.

Body - Deeply sweet right at the front but then that quickly balances to a much more savoury character, like a pear and chorizo pastry. Some pear drops, actually.

Finish - More sweetshop, some cloudy apple juice. Short and peppery after that with a touch of chilli.

Youthful but balanced by quite an elegantly savoury character and good fruits in the delivery.

Bruichladdich 30yo (1988) 48.9%: HHD A⊕

Nose - Creamy and mineral, with a deep seated but very softly spoken cask; ghostly tropical fruits, cigarette smoke, whistle pops. Something sort of medicinal in the air too, a cross between fungicidal cream and kids toothpaste. Old school and understated.

Body - Charred oak, new balloons, liquorice imps and the sherbet dib-dab-dibber. Candy cigarettes.

Finish - Medium to long and more citrussy fizzing than fruity. Peppery tannins and wax at the end.

Very grown up, very refill bourbon. A classy sipper for the garden.

Benrinnes 18yo (2000) 57.5%: 4 x Brl A⊕

Nose - Bigger and even more old school than the laddie, with a more robust, and more complete character but it's definitely less refined. More cigarettes, more liquorice and a bright tropicality.

Body - Bright, lots of fruit, bitter wood though and something like a lemon curd. Pineapple cubes.

Finish - Very long with creamy fruits and mint bonbons. It reminds me of the syrup around glace cherries.

A big fruit bomb of a whisky, as expected. Very dependable distillery from Cadenhead's.

Bunnahabhain 9yo (2009) 58.9%: 2 x HHD B+

Nose - Lemon cheesecake, cough candy and those French coconut and meringue balls. Warm, baked complexity drives through the zesty youth.

Body - Sweetshoppy, yet a very pulled punch. Fizzing on the lips, cardboard, a little formic.

Finish - Long and intensely sweet on the tip of the tongue, if hollow elsewhere.

A potentially great balance of baked and citrus let down by it being a little bit of an anti-climax.

Cameronbridge 34yo (1984) 52.8%: Brl A⊕+

Nose - Bright, beautiful fruit, with real depth and an almost porky fat to it. Jewelled fruit syrup, complex and varnished woods. Somewhere between lipstick, Pringles and linseed oil.

Body - Fruit polos. Cigarette tobacco. There's a Chinese fruit/sugar/tannin/chilli thing going on here.

Finish - Long with an insistent fruit; gentle and creamy but quite alien.

Utterly delicious, weird and wonderful in that way the best grains sometimes are.

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 9yo (2009) 55.1%: 2 x HHD A⊕

Nose - Super confident this one; waxed paper and drumsticks (sweets), starburst sweets and rhubarb and custards.

Body - A wonderful off dry, burnt fruit delivery - quite unexpected from the nose and much more grown up than I was expecting.

Finish - Short and dusty, like a much older whisky. Oily at the end.

A complicated, burnt and dry-yet-fruity whisky. Challenging and still luxurious.

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 9yo (2009) 65.3%: 3 x HHD A+

Nose - Attack of the young fruity bourbon casks! Even sweeter and brighter than the others, like a jelly sweet in a hot toddler's hand. Cocktail territory.

Body - Oily boiled sweets, like a cherry tune but without the medicinality. Extremely drinkable.

Finish - Medium - the fruit is overblown and almost dirty now, but the peppery tannins make me want more.

Only vague hints at the age on this one, a robust and compelling drammer.

Ord 10yo (2008) 57.7%: 2 x HHD A+

Nose - Waxy, sweet sour, slightly burnt plastic and grapefruit segments. A little musky, cold cut oak. Strawberry laces.

Body - Dry with matchsticks (the wood, not the chocolate), refreshers and orange powder.

Finish - Long and sickly-citrus-sweet, lots of oils and hints of coffee granules.

Another excellent off-dry drammer. I love the hot citrus oils in this, and the nose is very grown up and elegant. Wonderful stuff.

Port Dundas 30yo (1988) 51.3%: HHD A-

Nose - Bright, clean, green apple. Fruit toffee, cold custard and just a little coffee. Something burnt in among the sugar.

Body - A creamy grain, with salted caramel and Horlicks ice cream (try it). Peppery.

Finish - Long and deep, intensely sweet and still a little charred; tart tatin and struck flints.

A big, creamy whisky, obviously grainy but lacking some luxury and integration (given the age).

Tomatin 10yo (2008) 55.5%: 3 x HHD A

Nose - Hard and young, lemon slices and cold apple, praline. Friable pastry, and just a tiny amount of crushed Fizzers. Maybe some ripe pear too.

Body - Much sweeter and cleaner than I was expecting, much fruitier and very delicious.

Finish - Medium, gently fruited with love hearts and lemonade.

A younger presentation but very interesting for it. A sweeping, peppery but sweet and refreshing delivery after the rather clumsy nose.

Tullibardine 25yo (1993) 43.2%: HHD B+

Nose - Fresh and fruity, then marzipan and Milliput. Sandy, clarty and slightly petrolly, this smells like almonds, shortbread and beaches. And flat cola.

Body - Green papaya, cream soda sweets and Mr. Kipling French Fancies.

Finish - Short and more of that fake vanilla cream, and some of yesterday's charred wood.

This is seriously odd, it doesn't really work for me.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Hazelburn 15 years old, Cognac Butt

End of 2018 release, a single cognac butt official release.  Darren had split a cage cognac HB he bought after Campbeltown festival 2017 (I think) which was legendary, so much so that I drank my share before I could write notes.   You sometimes do see cage previews of official releases as cage bottles at festival I think.

Anyway, this was only ever going to go one way.

Hazelburn 15 years old, Cognac Butt, official bottling, 53.9% A⊕

hazelburn-15-year-old-single-cask-whiskyNose - It has that super-ripe-almost-rotten-fruit vs burnt caramel thing first and foremost. An extremely enticing balance on that ethereal fruit and peat Hazelburn - bubble gum, burnt planks and silly putty. It's really fruity.

Body - Cigarette tobacco, strawberry Nesquik, black pepper and whistle pops. That black pepper and lowlander-Campbeltown-peat character work really well to balance out the weird fruit, and as a drink it is absolutely crushable.

Finish - Long and sweetshoppy, bourbon cask candy but there are the echoes of grape. Cigarette tobacco and smoke, duck pancakes and lolly sticks. Punches keep being pulled just before they overwhelm, and the result is very moreish.

I’m just in love with Hazelburn at the moment, I have an open bottle of the 10 year old on my shelf and I turn to it all the time.  This one doesn’t disappoint either.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Chorlton Winter 2018 bottlings

I wrote these notes a little while ago but the end of the year was a bit hectic, so apologies.  The Nevis is still available though and the Coig thingy hasn’t even been released yet.  I would definitely recommend them both.

Thanks David for sorting me out with (some of) these samples, and thanks Ed for sharing the Nevis.

Ben Nevis 21 years old, 52.2% A⊕+

170 bottles

bennevis1Nose - Dark, almost rotten fruit with deodorant, cut, ripe mango, hairy peaches and Haribo. That's the kind of weirdness I love in Ben Nevis, and this is a wonderful one - ripe fruit and plenty of wax and structure.

Body - Tobacco, burnt caramel, sesame snaps and sangria. Lightly butyric.

Finish - Long and full of fruit - travel sweets and a little hubba bubba. Weird lowlandery peach at the end.

This is a real cracker. I love finding these.

Coig Deicheadan, Butt 17 years old, 45.6% A⊕

coigNose - Crushed granite, bright red apple, cherry lip salve and strawberry Nesquik. There's a nice little dirty note underneath that, leather and tarte tatin, dried fruit cake. Christmas cake.

Body - Quite gentle with felt and cardboard, orange segments and fruit toffee.

Finish - Something extremely Christmassy in here, I actually think it might be the smell when you cut wedges off the base of the new fir tree when you're trying to jam it into the base. It's literally that Christmassy. A long finish, with strident tannins and bracing wood against the fruit. Lots of citrus and orange peel at the end.

An extremely delicious blend of stuff that was supposed to be the Christmas bottling but didn't make it to being bottled in time. A great shame as it would have been perfect! I hope it will be out for Burns night.

Ardmore, Barrel, 9 years old, 60.1% A+

153 bottles

ardmore1Nose - Sweet and dusty wood, with burnt cereal, air freshener and cut privet hedge. Floral, stalky with bright burnt peat. Dustier with water, chalky, and a little metallic.

Body - Delicate, considered and delicious, exceeding expectations from the nose. Barley sugar and toffee apples. Much fruitier with water, more complete.

Finish - Long and deeply sweet, with soft brown sugar, malt extract and just a little popping candy.

This is another cracking young Ardmore. I tasted a 4 year old Ardmore in a Springbank dunnage warehouse a late last year and it was absolutely stunning, bought it immediately. This is similarly age-defyingly-good.

Orkney, hogshead, 9 years old, 63.1% B+

191 bottles

orkney1Nose - Crushed malted barley, hard and cold with old freezer ice and cut grass. Whistle pops. More musk, more fruit with water, but even more frost blown.

Body - Stern but sweet, with Marlboro lights, black pepper and crème brûlée. Fruitier with water, more tobacco.

Finish - Medium to short, warm white wine with an underlying fug of cream and sugar.

A hard, closed, slightly grumpy whisky. This grew on me but the Ardmore is a lot better.