Glen Scotia 8, 2012 (SMWS 93.145)


This week’s theme is Campbeltown but we’ll also keep last week’s bourbon cask theme going for a while with both today and Wednesday’s whiskies.

Today’s review is of another Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling of Glen Scotia. With my usual scrupulous attention to detail I had listed SMWS 93.140 in this month’s “Coming Soon” post. When going to review it I realized that I’d already reviewed it back in June. What I’d meant to list was the 93.145, which is less than half the age of the 93.140. That one was 17 years old, this one is 8 years old; both are from refill bourbon barrels. I’m hoping it might be in the general ballpark of the other, which I really liked. And I have to say that I have, on the whole, quite appreciated the few SMWS Glen Scotias I’ve had. Given the general low visibility of the official releases in the US and the even greater paucity of indie releases here from other directions, the SMWS remains one of the few places where the profile of distilleries such as Glen Scotia (or Ardmore) can be explored (if not at a reasonable price, usually). Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. The SMWS tasting panel dubbed it “Sweet Filth” which is certainly promising. Continue reading

Ardmore 23, 1997 (SMWS 66.197)


Okay, let’s end this week of peat in the eastern highlands of Scotland, at Ardmore. (You may recall that I started the week on Islay at Caol Ila on Monday and stopped in the Speyside at Benromach on Wednesday.) Ardmore is one of my very favourite distilleries these days. The only reason really that I didn’t put in my list of top five distilleries last year is that it’s very hard to come by Ardmore in the US and the official lineup has never been very inspiring. The one regular source for a varied supply of Ardmore in the US is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but I’m not sure if even they send more than just a few of their Ardmore selections here. I reviewed three SMWS Ardmores in August and I don’t see 750 ml releases for any of them listed on Whiskybase. Nor for that matter is a 750 ml release listed for this one. (If you know if any of these were in fact released in the US please write in below.) August’s Ardmore trio were a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo—all distilled in 1997. This one is a 23 yo distilled in 1997. Unlike the first three, however, which were matured entirely in refill bourbon hogsheads, this one spent 21 years in refill bourbon and then the next two years in a refill Spanish oak sherry hogshead. Will the sherry cover up all that I love about bourbon cask Ardmore? Let’s see. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2008 (SMWS 53.345)


I was supposed to review this Caol Ila bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society last month but accidentally reviewed this 13 yo instead. That was not a grave mistake as I liked it a lot. But then I almost always like Caol Ila from refill bourbon hogsheads. This one is 2 years younger but is also from a refill bourbon hogshead. Let’s hope it doesn’t prove my preferences wrong.

Caol Ila 11, 2008 (58.1%; SMWS 53.345; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright carbolic peat with lemon and lightly ashy smoke. On the second sniff there’s a coastal array: kelp, oysters, brine. Some agave aromas lurk beneath. Gets quite salty as it sits. A few drops of water and this gets turned up to 11 on all counts. Sweeter now with malt and ham brine joining the party. Continue reading

Caol Ila 13, 2006 (SMWS 53.328)


I put SMWS 53.345, a Caol Ila 11, 2008 on the list for this month but now I’ve gone and opened and begun to review SMWS 53.328, a Caol Ila 13, 2006 instead. How will you ever forgive me?

Anyway, this is the second of this week’s Islay reviews (following Monday’s Bowmore). It’s from a refill bourbon hogshead which is usually a very good thing as far as Caol Ila is concerned. Let’s get right to it.

Caol Ila 13, 2006 (58.9%; SMWS 53.328; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Comes out with pretty strong phenolic notes mixed in with lemon and salt and a bit of mezcal—which is to say it noses younger than its 13 years. With a bit more time sweeter coastal notes emerge—shells, uni. With a lot more time and air the phenols back off a little and there’s more citrus—lime peel, citronella. A few drops of water push the phenols back further and bring out some cream and some unexpected spice notes—is that cardamom? Continue reading

Ledaig 13, 2007 (SMWS 42.50)


For the last whisky review of the month let’s stick with the SMWS and with peated whisky. We’ll move from Ardmore in the eastern Highlands, however, to Ledaig/Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. In case you’re wondering, the SMWS uses the same code for Tobermory and Ledaig (which is the peated variant of Tobermory). Ledaig is much more heavily peated than Ardmore and far closer in profile to the heavier, phenolic malts of Islay (which Mull is also closer to). Like the last Ledaig I reviewed, one of K&L’s teaspooned casks from 2020, this one is from a refill hogshead. I rather liked that K&L cask, a nice break from most indie Ledaigs that hit the market from sherry casks. This one is 10 years younger, however. Let’s see how much of a difference that makes.

Ledaig 13, 2007 (56.6%; SMWS 42.50; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very clearly peated Tobermory as the smoke and phenols sit on a big yeasty, bready base. The yeasty tang begins to drift towards lemon as it sits and the smoke expands, getting even more phenolic. Water gives it more “weight”: deeper char and sweeter smoke (pipe tobacco). Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1997 (SMWS 66.174)


And here to close out Ardmore 1997 week is a 22 yo. Will it be closer to Monday’s 20 yo whose combination of fruit and smoke I really, really liked or to Wednesday’s 21 yo whose more austere charms I only really liked? I’ll find out soon. Oh yes, the SMWS’s panel named this one “A Vintage Dinner Suit” which probably means something.

Ardmore 22, 1997 (56.1%; SMWS 66.174; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big zesty hit of lime off the top, a lime that has been charred heavily. The lime is sweeter on the second sniff and then muskier fruit begins to emerge (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The char burns off and now there’s more of a mineral note; the lime turns to citronella. As it sits the char begins to come back though it’s more ashy now; some cream too. Water emphasizes the fruit and the cream—really very nice now. Continue reading

Ardmore 21, 1997 (SMWS 66.146)


Ardmore 1997 week continues with another refill bourbon hogshead bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I really liked Monday’s 20 yo which displayed a lovely mix of rich fruit, char and mineral notes. Will this one, which is a year older, be as good or better? Let’s see.

Ardmore 21, 1997 (51.9%; SMWS 66.146; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Comes in with more lime and less mineral peat than the 21 yo and there’s some cream here as well; some ham brine too. As it sits the mineral note expands and it gets more peppery; the fruit is less expansive though than in the younger cask. With time muskier fruit begins to peep out. Let’s see if water releases it more fully. Well, the citrus expands and turns to citronella but the hints of muskier fruit remain just that. Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1997 (SMWS 66.138)


This will be a week of malts from Ardmore. What’s more they were all distilled in 1997, matured in refill hogsheads, and  bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And they were bottled in successive years at 20, 21 and 22 years of age. Now I don’t want to pretend that very significant differences can be spotted between malts a year or two apart in age from each other even with all other variables quite similar to each other, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition anyway. What’s certain is that I like Ardmore a lot; it’s always a pleasure to try their mildly-peated, fruity malt, especially when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I’ve reviewed a few SMWS Ardmore releases before, including a couple from 1997. Indeed, I’ve reviewed another 20 yo (which I liked a lot) and another 22 yo (which I also liked a lot). And I’ve also reviewed casks from adjacent years from other bottlers (most of which I also liked a lot). All of this history seems to bode well for this one. Let’s see if it works out that way in practice. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 17, 2003 (SMWS 112.68)


The second Loch Lomond week of the year began with another official release (a recent 18 yo) and continued with an independent release (a Cooper’s Choice bottling of a peated Inchfad 15). Let’s close the week out now with another recent independent release. This one is from the Scotch Malt Whisky society and is a bourbon cask Inchmurrin released in 2020. I really liked the new official Inchmurrin 12, just as I did another SMWS release from a couple of years ago. And so have hopes for fruity goodness from this one as well; let’s see if they’re borne out.

Inchmurrin 17, 2003 (56.8%; SMWS 112.68; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A little spirity at first and then there’s a big wave of acid (lime, grapefruit). The fruit gets muskier with each sniff with some melon, pineapple and hints of overripe banana joining the citrus. The fruit melds together well and intensifies as it sits and there’s some cream floating over it now. The cream expands as it sits further and the citrus turns to citronella. Water just amplifies everything, especially the citronella. Continue reading

Glenturret 6, 2013 (SMWS 16.47)


I started Peat Week with a 23 yo on Monday (this Ledaig). On Wednesday, we went down quite a bit in age with a 10 yo (this Talisker). Today we go even younger with a 6 yo Glenturret that presents as a triple-threat: a very young whisky and a ludicrously highly abv and a re-charred hogshead. The last of those qualities also means that this week’s secondary theme was maturation in hogsheads. I’ve not had very many Glenturrets—as I said on the occasion of my previous Glenturret review (this much older and rather good 33 yo)—and I have certainly not previously had any peated Glenturret single malt. As per Scotchwhisky.com (RIP), the distillery makes some heavily peated malt each year under the name Ruadh Mhor or “Big Red”, which was previously allocated to a peaty variant of the Famous Grouse (when both distillery and brand were part of the Edrington Group). Presumably some went into the Black Grouse as well, and if so, I’ve indirectly had some peated Glenturret. Let’s hope this is better than the Black Grouse. Continue reading

Highland Park 17, 2002 (SMWS 4.255)


Having set the whisky world afire last week with my reviews of three single bourbon barrels of Glen Scotia released by the SMWS (here, here and here), I now turn to a week of Highland Park for a reprise. Yes, we’re going all the way from Campbeltown to Orkney.

First up is another SMWS release and, like Friday’s Glen Scotia, this is another 17 yo distilled in 2002. However, it’s not from a bourbon barrel. Well, it started out in a bourbon cask with but ended up in one that had most recently contained Jamaican rum. Did Highland Park have barrels of Jamaican rum lying around or did the SMWS have one filled? I’d guess the latter. At any rate, the label on the bottle says that the Jamaican rum barrel was the “final cask”. How much time did it spend in this “final cask”? Who can say and who would be bold enough to try? The wild profile of Jamaican rum seems an odd match for Highland Park but I guess someone’s got to try these experiments. (Or do they?) The SMWS named this one “When pineapple met pigeon”, which is certainly a name.  Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 17, 2002 (SMWS 93.140)


Glen Scotia Week comes to an end but most of you probably didn’t notice. Monday’s 11 yo and Wednesday’s 12 yo didn’t exactly get a lot of interest: just about 50 views each so far this week. I doubt today’s 17 yo will attract a lot more attention. Some of this is doubtless down to the fact that my own whisky readership has likely declined in the last couple of years even as my food readership has grown. However, a lot of it is probably down to the low to non-existent profile of Glen Scotia. They’ve never been a distillery with a high profile and the owners’ attempts to raise that profile over the last decade via various ill-conceived branding makeovers has doubtless not helped. It’s also the case that they continue to make a relatively old-school, austere type of whisky that doesn’t perhaps have a natural home in the contemporary whisky geek market which remains focused on whiskies that are either heavily sherried, heavily peated or both. Well, I can’t say I’ve found very many of the not-very many Glen Scotias I’ve had to be very exciting but outside of the official releases I’ve found them all to be interesting departures from the mainstream of Scottish single malt whisky. It would be good, I think, if more whisky geeks expanded their tasting portfolios, so to speak. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 12, 2007 (SMWS 93.135)


Glen Scotia Week is burning up the internet! Actually, that’s not true: barely anyone read Monday’s review of SMWS 93.118 (an 11 yo distilled in 2007). Undeterred, I carry on with SMWS 93.135 (a 12 yo distilled in 2007). This is also a first-fill bourbon barrel. I liked 93.118—will the extra year on 93.135 translate to an extra point or two? Let’s see.

Glen Scotia 12, 2007 (56.9%; SMWS 93.135; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: More lemon here right off the bat than in Monday’s 11 yo and more of the machine shop grease; and the oak is not really very present in this one. With time and air there’s some sweeter fruit (hard to pick: a hint of peach?) and some cream. The mineral notes expand with a few drops of water (some carbon paper/graphite here now) and then the richer fruit pops out (yes, some peach and also some pineapple). As it sits again there’s quite a bit of citronella and more of the cream. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 11, 2007 (SMWS 93.118)


Despite reviews of whiskies from two Campbeltown distilleries—Springbank and Kilkerran—last week was not a Campbeltown whisky week. Instead, with Friday’s Lagavulin 2020 Feis Ile release it became a week of sherry cask whiskies. This week, however, is a Campbeltown week. But the whiskies are all from the third Campbeltown distilllery, the one no one ever gets very excited about: Glen Scotia. And to double quadruple the theme it’ll also be a week of reviews of Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases of Glen Scotia, all from bourbon barrels.

I’ve not reviewed very many Glen Scotias. The first few were all indie releases and I liked them a lot, including a 20 yo bottled by Whiskybase’s Archives label and a 40 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland. Of late, however, I’ve mostly reviewed official releases, none of which have gotten me very excited. Let’s see if this SMWS series brings out the distillery’s most interesting qualities. We’ll start with the youngest and work our way up. This 11 yo is one the Society’s studiedly whimsical tasting panel decided to call “Aladdin’s Cave”. Let’s see if it turns out to be rich or exciting at all. Continue reading

Glenrothes 12, 2007 (SMWS 30.111)


I’ve already done three themed weeks of whisky reviews this month and so may as well end with another. The first was a week of whiskies from the Loch Lomond distillery—the new Inchmurrin 12, the new Inchmoan 12 and the new Loch Lomond 12. That was followed by a week of whiskies from Highland distilleries—a Dalwhinnie, a Dalmore and a Glenmorangie. Then last week saw three whiskies from Springbank—the 2019 Local Barley release, a Hazelburn 12 from a decade previous and last year’s Springbank 17, Madeira Wood. What there hasn’t been a lot of this month is sherry cask whiskies and so let’s end with a week of single sherry casks.

First up is this Glenrothes 12, 2007 bottled by the SMWS. I’ve previously reviewed two other Glenrothes 12, 2007s bottled by the SMWS (their two Glenrothes releases immediately prior to this one, in fact—here and here). Both of those were at ludicrous abvs and so is this one. I’m not generally a fan of whiskies at stupid strengths—especially those coming out of first-fill sherry casks, as all three of these did—but I did end up liking those two a fair bit once I added the right amount of water. I’m guessing this will need a fair bit of water too—I do hope it will be as good as the others.Oh yes, the SMWS named this “Inferno Toffee Pudding”. Continue reading

Glen Moray 25, 1994 (SMWS 35.275)


Following Monday’s Tamdhu and Wednesday’s Balvenie, let’s make it a whole week of 20+ yo Speyside whiskies. This Glen Moray was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and they gave it the relatively restrained—by their standards—nickname “Desert Island Dr(e)am”. It was bottled from a first-fill toasted hogshead. I assume this means a relatively tired hogshead was reconditioned via toasting and then filled. Was this done at origin in 1994 or is this merely the cask in which this whisky spent some time prior to bottling? I do not know. If you know more about this please write in below. In the meantime, I will note that I have previously reviewed a SMWS-issued Glen Moray 24, 1994 and that too was from a first-fill toasted hogshead. I wasn’t overly enthused by that one, which I found to be far too oak-driven for my taste. Let’s hope this one puts on a better, less woody show—though given the dark colour, I am a little nervous. Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 2004 (SMWS for Feis Ile 2020)


The blog turns 8 today. What did you get it? Nothing? Typical. As long time readers—down to the low single digits at this point—know, my first-ever review was of a Bowmore—the one-time entry-level Bowmore Legend—and so I’ve marked every anniversary since with a review of a Bowmore: The OB 12 in 2014, the OB 18 in 2015 and so forth—the only other official release since 2015 was the 30 yo Sea Dragon in 2019; other than that it’s been a run of independent releases. Well, today’s is an independent release as well, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Feis Ile 2020. It was apparently finished in a first-fill barrique or port cask after 14 years in a bourbon hogshead and was given the whimsical name, Loungecore Stave Exoticism. (I’m sure this makes sense to someone but I am fine not having any idea what it’s a reference to.) I’m not sure that I’ve ever had any kind of port-bothered Bowmore before. Well, what better time than at the start of the blog’s ninth year? Continue reading

Glen Moray 24, 1994 (SMWS)


Okay, time to head north. Let’s go all the way up to the Speyside, to Glen Moray. I still regret not finding the time to tour Glen Moray when I visited in 2018—hopefully, I’ll get the chance again someday. However, since then I have got to enjoy a few Glen Morays, including a 23 yo, distilled in 1994 that was part of K&L’s exclusive haul last year. Today’s Glen Moray is a year older and distilled a year later. Where the K&L cask was a refill barrel this one is from a first-fill toasted hogshead and I suspect that difference will mean more than the closeness in age and vintage. Hopefully, it won’t mean overbearing oak. I’ve been reviewing a lot of SMWS casks of late courtesy a bunch of bottle splits. Every time I hit a run of strong casks I begin to think that maybe I should join the SMWS after all these years despite their high prices. There isn’t a lot of interesting indie whisky around these days at reasonable prices after all. But then I invariably run into a cask that makes me iffy again. Where will this one fall? Let’s see how it works out. Continue reading