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+
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+
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+’
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⊕+
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⊕
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
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⊕
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+
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+
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⊕
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⊕+
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+
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.