Bunnahabhain 6, 2013 (SMWS 10.202)


After a week of Caol Ila, let’s keep the peat fires burning a little while longer. We’ll stay on Islay for the first review of the week, at a distillery not primarily known for its peated malt: Bunnahabhain. Well, they weren’t traditionally known for their peated malt; these days they make a fair bit of it—you’re not going to lose money in Scotland selling smoky whisky. This one, very young at six years of age, is not an official release. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It began its life in a bourbon hogshead before being finished in a recharred cask (HTMC=heavily toasted, medium char?) and bottled at an eye-watering strength. Youth? Heavily peated? Big oak contact? Stupid strength? It checks almost all the boxes for whisky I am normally wary of. Hopefully, it will all work somehow. Let’s see. Continue reading

Dailuaine 10, 2008 (SMWS 41.116)


Last week I reviewed three 12 yo bourbon cask whiskies from three different highlands distilleries: a Teaninich 12, 2009 bottled by the Thompson Bros. for K&L; a Glen Garicoh 12, 2008 bottled by Old Particular, also for K&L: and an Ardmore 12, 2006, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We’ll stick with bourbon cask whisky for this week as well, but we’ll ditch the 12 yp and highlands-only themes. The first one takes us to the Speyside. It’s. a 10 yo Dailuaine, also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Let’s jump right in.

Dailuaine 10, 2008 (61.3%; SMWS 41.116; refill barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Toasted oak, damp leaves, lemon, malt. The lemon moves in the direction of Makrut lime as it sits. A little bit of cream, maybe, with time and the toasted oak moves to the front, but not much development here. With a splash of water there’s more cream, a bit of pastry crust and it all melds very nicely with the lemon. As it sits more fruit emerges: berries, pineapple; all of it encased in pastry crust. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.139)


This has been a week of reviews of malts from highlands distilleries. It’s also been a week of reviews of ex-bourbon cask malts and, as it turns out, a week of reviews of 12 yo malts. On Monday I had a review of a 12 yo Teaninich bottled by the Thompson Bros.; on Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glen Garioch bottled by Old Particular; today I have for you a review of a 12 yo Ardmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for bourbon cask Ardmore. Indeed, I’ve had a fair number of bourbon cask Ardmores in recent years that I’ve enjoyed a lot, many of those bottled by the SMWS with numbers adjacent to this one. Among those have been 66.133, 66.137 and 66.138. Granted 137 and 138 were quite a bit older but it still bodes well for this one, which is 66.139 (and 133 was also a 12 yo). I’m sorry if you’re not familiar with the SMWS’ funky bottle codes. The numbers before the period identify the distillery (Ardmore is 66) and those after the period identify the number of the release—which means this was the 139th Ardmore bottled by the SMWS (they’re well past that number now). In addition, they like to give each release a silly name. This one was dubbed “Deerstalkers and hillwalkers”. Okay, let’s see what it is like. Continue reading

Glentauchers 8, 2010 (SMWS 63.58)


Let’s keep the “Glen” distilleries thing going a bit longer. That won’t be the theme of this week though. The theme for this week is Speyside distilleries. And there won’t be a through line of labels either—each will be from a different bottler.

If I’d thought to do this Glentauchers last week instead of the Glengoyne it would have been three 8 yo whiskies from distilleries whose names start with “Glen” bottled by the SMWS. Unlike last week’s 8 year olds, however, (from Glencadam and Glenturret), this one was not bottled at a ludicrous strength. Compared to those >62% strength monsters, 56.1% seems downright restrained. What it does have in common with them—in addition to the bottler and age—is that I have very little experience of Glentauchers’ malt as well. It’s part of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio and apparently contributes heavily to the popular Ballantine’s blend—which is doubtless why so little of it emerges as single malt: a reminder as always that, for the most part, the single malt category is a by-product of the world’s thirst for blended Scotch whisky. Well, this review takes my Glentauchers score to five. The ones I’ve reviewed before have all been a fair bit older—the youngest twice the age of this one (this G&M 16 yo)—and I quite liked most of them (this 21 yo from Archives most of all). Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading

Glencadam 8, 2011 (SMWS 82.23)


SMWS Highland Glens Week continues. On Monday I had a review of an 8 yo Glenturret bottled at a foolish strength. Today I have a review for you of an 8 yo Glencadam bottled at an even more foolish strength. I don’t have very much more experience of Glencadam, by the way, than I have of Glenturret—this will be my fifth review of a whisky distilled there. And so I will spare you further introductory prattle and get right to it.

Glencadam 8, 2011 (63.5%; SMWS 82.23; second-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Though it is predictably tight, floral sweetness does emerge from under the alcohol. Gets quite sweet as it gets some air with simple syrup and some red fruit in there as well (cherries in syrup). Some cereals and a bit of crystallized lemon in there too. A bit of vanilla emerges with time and the lemon moves in the direction of citronella. With a few drops of water the the cereal note expands and so does the fruit (peach, berries)—there are some rose petals in there too. A few more drops and now it’s really quite lovely with the fruit turning muskier and malt and a bit of buttery pastry crust emerging to join it. Continue reading

Glenturret 8, 2013 (SMWS 16.62)


Last week was island distillery week. We began with a Bunnahabhain and ended with a malt from an undisclosed island distillery and in between there was a Highland Park. This week I have for you a triple-themed week: all Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases; all distilleries located in the Highlands; and all distilleries whose names begin with “Glen”. First up, a young Glenturret. As I always say when reviewing a Glenturret, I have sampled very few Glenturrets: this review takes the count up to four. I expect to hit double digits before the polar icecaps melt. This was matured in a re-charred hogshead and bottled at a ludicrous strength. It’s also apparently peated. Crazy high abv? Check. Peat? Check. Which means all it’s missing from the trifecta that seemingly appeals the most to a large fraction of the malt whisky drinking populace is a mega dose of sherry. The SMWS’ tasting panel named this one “No two sips are the same”, presumably because you have fewer tastebuds left after each sip. Well, I’m ready for anything. Continue reading

Loch Lomond/Croftengea 7, 2011 (SMWS 122.26)


Last month I kicked off a week of highlands distilleries with a peated Loch Lomond: an Inchmoan. This time I’m kicking off an entire month with a peated Loch Lomond, but this time it’s a Croftengea. (Again, you’ll need to go to more detail-oriented people to find out exactly how Inchmoan and Croftengea differ from each other or, for that matter, from Inchfad, Loch Lomond’s other peated line.) I’m also using it to end a week of reviews of peated whiskies (after Monday’s Lagavulin and Wednesday’s Talisker), even though the SMWS named this one, “It’s peat, Jim, but not as we know it…”

I’ve rather liked the other Croftengeas I’ve reviewed. This, a 7 yo, is the youngest of them yet, but I will remind you that one of my favourite whiskies of 2018 was a 9 yo Croftengea. Which is to say in a hopeful tone of voice that young Croftengea can be very good indeed. Let’s see if that hope survives reality. Continue reading

Loch Lomond/Inchmoan 10, 2009 (SMWS 135.22)


Okay, let’s do a week of reviews of Highland distilleries. First up is a Loch Lomond 10 bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Word on the street is that this is more specifically an Inchmoan. Inchmoan is, as you probably know, one of Loch Lomond’s peated lines. Though what exactly separates Inchmoan from the other peated Loch Lomonds—your Inchfads and Croftengeas—I’m not entirely sure and you may need to go to a more reliable source to find out. Well, this particular Inchmoan is quite different from most whiskies, whether made at Loch Lomond or elsewhere. That because the yeast used for the batch this cask came from was quite different from the types normally used in the fermentation process in making single malt whisky: it was a wine yeast. Now, for all I know, I’ve had other whiskies before without knowing it that had wine yeast in their production process but now that I do know for a fact that it was used to make this whisky I am very curious to see what characteristics it imparts. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (SMWS 108.23)


A 7 yo single malt from a no-name distillery that’s been bottled at >60% abv? Normally that would send chills up my spine. The only saving grace here is that it’s not virgin oak or even first-fill bourbon—or a raw sherry bomb for that matter. Well, I’m assuming it won’t be raw. Allt-a-Bhainne is not the most storied distillery, and it’s not a distillery I have very much experience with but I’ve always found it interesting even as I’ve not developed any real sense of what its profile might be like. On that informational note, let’s get to this SMWS cask which the brain trust at the Society dubbed “Seductive sweetness and smooth smoke”. It’s not every day that I drink a whisky whose name contains not one but two of my old stripper names. Should be special.

Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (60.8%; SMWS 108.23; second-fill ex-bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rather closed at first—unsurprising given the strength. Then there’s a bit of candied lemon and some oak and subtle malty/cereal sweetness. A bit of incense in the distance as it sits. With more time there’s a herbal/rooty note as well and a bit of anise. With water it’s the same as before but a bit more intense and a bit more integrated. Some wet wool in there too now. Continue reading

Glen Elgin 10, 2007 (SMWS 85.49)


On Monday I had a review of a Braes of Glenlivet/Braeval. Speyside week continues now with another relatively obscure distillery: Glen Elgin. This is only my third review of a Glen Elgin, which may be reliable indicator of how little Glen Elgin is generally available in the American market. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the tender age of 10 from a first-fill bourbon barrel. That combination of age and cask type sets off some warning bells but hopefully the whisky will rise above. The venerable society named this one “Aloha!”. I’m not sure what the reason for that is but at least it fits with my ongoing food reports from Hawaii, Okay, let’s get to it.

[Actually, before I get to it, I should note that this Speyside week might well grind to a halt with this Glen Elgin. This because I had not—as I thought I had—taken notes on the third whisky of the set before leaving for Ireland, where I’ve been for a week now on work. I get back home tonight but jet lag may keep me from having the wherewithal to review anything till the end of the week. Let’s see how it goes.] Continue reading

Glen Scotia 11, 2008 (SMWS 93.138)


Yes, this is Campbeltown week. On Monday I reviewed a Kilkerran released in 2009; today I have a Glen Scotia released a decade later. What is time to me? A toy! A nothing! I move through it like a wayward god! Kneel before me!

Er, where was I? I’ve had a pretty good run with Glen Scotias bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in the last year and change. All have been from bourbon casks—and all have been releases in the vicinity of this one (93.138). Some have been truly excellent; none have come close to being bad. These have included, most recently, an 8 yo (93.145) that I clocked at 89 points and a 17 yo (93.140) that I thought was good for 88. And before that was a 12 yo (93.135) that I gave 87 points. That’s a pretty good spread across the sub-20 yo age spectrum. So I am confident that this one will anchor the middle of the week well. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.  Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.140)


Last week was a week of reviews of peated whiskies from Islay—one each from Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. I liked them all a lot. This week will be a week of reviews of whiskies from the highlands. We’ll begin with a young Ardmore that also keeps the peat theme going for a little longer. This is yet another Ardmore from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—probably the most consistent source of Ardmore casks in the US. I’ve reviewed a number of their Ardmore releases before, most recently this 23 yo which I adored, and before that a trio comprising a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo, all of which I really liked as well. This one is quite a bit younger at 12 years of age—though in today’s single malt market 12 years old sometimes seems positively middle aged. Will it approach the quality of its older siblings? Oh yes, the SMWS’ tasting panel gave this the whimsical name, “Hickory smoked lobster”. I can’t say I’ve had smoked lobster but it does sound good—any relation to the reality of what’s in the glass? Let’s see. Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (SMWS 29.218)


I started the week with a review of a young bourbon cask Caol Ila. Wednesday brought the recent Guinness cask finish release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. Let’s close the week at one of Lagavulin’s south coast neighbours: Laphroaig. Like the Caol Ila this is from a refill bourbon hogshead but it is eight years older; it was also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Okay, let’s get to it.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (58.1%; SMWS 29.218; refill bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: All the classic stuff: carbolic, phenolic peat out the wazoo, laced with lemon, brine and oyster liquor; sweeter cereals underneath. After a while there’s a hit of damp smouldering leaves and also some cracked black pepper. With more time and air still the cereals come to the fore. A few drops of water and the phenols recede just a bit as the lemon turns to citronella and some muskier tart fruit emerges (pineapple, unripe mango). Continue reading

Caol Ila 10, 2008 (SMWS 53.305)


After a week of heavily sherried Macallans (here, here and here), let’s do a week of heavily peated Islays. All of these are, I think, from bourbon casks. First up, a young Caol Ila distilled in 2008 and also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I quite liked the last SMWS Caol Ila 2008 I reviewed and if this is close I will be happy. The SMWS tasting panel gave this the name “Totally tropical smoke”. Sounds promising; let’s hope it’s an accurate description.

Caol Ila 10, 2008 (59.8%; SMWS 53.305; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah, quite lovely with bright, carbolic peat mixed with some char, some brine and then quite a bit of the advertised musky fruit (charred lemon and pineapple). Gets saltier with each sniff, seemingly. As it sits the fruit recedes a bit and meatier notes come to the fore (charred pork). With more time still there’s a bit of cream but it melds nicely with the citrus and the smoke (smoked lime curd?). Water first emphasizes the coastal notes, bringing out more brine and some shells to go with it, and then the fruit pops out again. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, PX Cask (SMWS 24.151)


And so ends this week of Macallan 12, 2008s. As a reminder, this is the third of three casks released at the same time by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society this year. All started out as spirit matured in first-fill oloroso butts before being filled into ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso and ex-PX casks respectively for two more years. An interesting prospect, this juxtaposition but in reality I was not hugely impressed by either Monday’s ex-bourbon cask or Wednesday’s ex-oloroso. I thought both were overpowered finally by both the oak and the crazy high abv at which all of these were bottled. Will this PX cask finally be the one I really like? I hope so.

Macallan 12, 2008 (63.1%; SMWS 24.149; oloroso + PX casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah, this is very nice from the jump: plum sauce, orange peel, leather and just a bit of oak to frame it all. Brighter citrus emerges after a few minutes in the glass along with some pencil lead and some damp autumn leaves. As it sits further it gets stickier, the oak gets a little spicier, the plum expands further and it’s better integrated still. A few drops of water push the oak back and soften it up a bit: quite a bit of toffee now and some apricot to go with the plum. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, Oloroso Cask (SMWS 24.149)


Here is the second of the recent Macallan trio from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. As I noted on Monday, the SMWS took whisky that had matured in oloroso butts for 10 years and then put it into different cask types for a further two. Monday’s 12 year old spent its last two years in bourbon casks. This one spent two more years in oloroso—in the original casks? in re-coopered oloroso hogsheads? I do not know. Well, I was not hugely impressed by the bourbon cask—too much alcohol and too much oak for my taste. This oloroso cask is at an even higher abv, but will the sherry cover up some of the oak? Let’s see.

Macallan 12, 2008 (63.6%; SMWS 24.149; oloroso casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich oloroso notes (big surprise): raisins, cherry liqueur, dried orange peel, a bit of salt and a mildly beany note. Not much sign of oak on the first few sniffs but it emerges as it sits and gets some air: a big tannic burn that begins to cut through the rich notes. With more time the oak calms down a bit and the fruit reasserts itself (orange peel and cherry now joined by some apricot jam). A few drops of water and there’s much better integration of the fruit and the oak, and there’s some leather too now. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, Bourbon Cask (SMWS 24.152)


This week’s whisky reviews are of a slightly unusual set. This is not just because they’re all reviews of whiskies distilled at Macallan—a distillery I have not covered much on the blog. (Why have I not covered much Macallan on the blog? Well, mostly because the relationship between quality, price and high-concept marketing at Macallan went haywire more than a decade ago.) The set is also unusual as it comprises three independent releases—there’s not so very much indie Macallan out there you see, especially in the US. All of these were bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. What makes them truly unusual is the relationship between them. All originated in a group of 10 yo oloroso sherry butts which were then filled into first-fill ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso and ex-PX casks for a further two years of maturation and bottled at the same time (presumably there have been other releases of the source spirit as well). Now you might think this would be a more striking juxtaposition if the original 10 years of maturation had happened in refill bourbon casks—thus allowing the variations from the subsequent double maturations to present on a more subtle canvas—but it should, at least in theory, be interesting to compare the three anyway. First up is the ex-bourbon cask which for some reason was given the name “Albino Rhino”. Continue reading

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