SMWS Outturn 276 - Strikingly Different

SMWS G14.5 - Butterscotch crumpetsA very good outturn this month, which resists the temptation to go “Full St. Patrick’s Day” on us all. But there’s still some Irish whisky – two in fact. So that we can explore the differences between them. Which is the theme of this outturn – differences between spirits from the same distillery. To that end there are two Bushmills, two Glen Grants and two Craigellachies.

When dividing up the previews the SMWS made sure to split those three pairings between myself and Matt. But I managed a crafty end-run around that and tasted the other halves of the pairs at the ticketed preview tasting, and I’m reassured that this is more than a mere gimmick – it’s well worth comparing the two of each, as they’re significantly and delightfully different.

So let’s get on to the usual list of bottles, ordered by their impact on my impulses…

I’d like more than one bottle of the gorgeous fudge and butterscotch in the Dumbarton. It’s a superb whisky.

There’s four bottlings I’d like a bottle of – the crazy 9.160 Glen Grant, with its exuberant delivery of flavours; the deliciously fruity and flinty Glen Elgin; the stunningly balanced 44.100 Craigellachie; and the fruit and tar of the peated Glenturret.

And now we’re into honourable mentions – the part where I admit that I found it not to my palate (usually due to spiciness), but it’s gained a high technical score because it showed integration and balance. And here we see the Bladnoch and the 51.16 Bushmills. Each scored a deserved 4.5. If you’re buying me drams of those then I’m not turning them down!

I can’t wait to finish this list, because although there are a couple of lows there’s a lot of great scores – two 5’s, four 4.5’s, and six 4’s so far.

Go and check out Matt’s tasting notes to see what he thought of the rest of the drams…

SMWS Outturn 275 - A Sensory Revelation

SMWS 29.258 - Remembrance of fruits pastIt's February, and even colder than January. Which, of course explains the delicate and fruity Laphroaig and the completely unpeated Bunnahabhain...

And funnily enough, those seasonably unsuitable drams are also amongst the best.

But first, I'd like more than one bottle of the fruity, oaky Glenlivet - which is a great demonstration of how delivery is as important as the flavours. It's a delight to drink, and is bound to go quickly.

I'd like a bottle of the fruity, liniment-laden Laphroaig. It's delicate sweetness really does hark back to a different age for that distillery... The Bunnahabhain combines fruit and herbal notes with aplomb, also making me wish I had a bottle.

There are a couple of technical scores that are worth noticing. The obvious one is the Macallan, which I felt fell apart after water. It's delightful beforehand though, showing exactly why this distillery is so highly regarded. I'd also like to point out the Tullibardine, which is a nice dram with some odd flavour combinations, and the Glen Moray - which was almost too spicy for me, but that can't disguise it's superb flavours.

As always, for the other half of the outturn head on over to The Dramble.

SMWS Outturn 274 - Tak aff your dram

SMWS G8.9 - Butter, Scotch and butterscotchHappy new year, everyone!

Or at least it will be, as soon as we get ourselves some new whisky... And the SMWS is here to help.

The star of my previews was the magnificent Cambus. Toffee, vanilla, lavender, butterscotch - it was superb, and I want more than one bottle.

In the "I'd like a bottle" category, I was impressed by the fruity and grassy Benriach, and the sweet fruits of the Mannochmore.

Then we hit an unusual problem. Lots of great drams, but two stand out as worth investigating because I found them too spicy - yet still gave them a high technical score. The Longmorn has cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and white pepper. It's clearly a superb dram, and clearly not a dram for me. I'd also like to highlight the Glen Grant which had nutmeg, ginger, rye whisky and peppercorns. Another miss, but again more because of the flavours I don't like than anything in the whisky's construction or presentation. If you like spicy flavours, definitely check those two out.

Overall, a curious list - lots of nice sweet drams. It's January, and it felt like the wrong time of the year for many of them. I wonder if their scores would be better in July?

Sadly, I had only one of the peated options, so have to wait to taste everything else before I can be sure. But I hear that Matt at The Dramble seems to think highly of the Caol Ila, so go and check his notes out: https://www.thedramble.com/.

SMWS Outturn 273

SMWS G6.8 - Soothing the mindIt's the last list of the year, and it arrives a week early...

Whilst there's a fair few expensive bottles, the good news is that there's some superb drams across all price ranges. I found four bottlings I wanted bottles of, and there's plenty of good drinking with almost everything else being something I'd not turn away.

But before we get to the bottle wishlist, let's have a look at a rather special dram - the Port Dundas. It's superb, and despite being a big grain fan I had difficulty spotting that it was grain whisky. It has caramel, fruits and sherry and delivers them wonderfully. As I was doing my preview tastings an SMWS Ambassador happened to be at the bar, and I know he's not a man who loves grain whisky. So I cheekily decided to get a second opinion, in case I was biased - and he also didn't spot the provenance! This is a wonderful dram, and I want more than one bottle.

Which is not to take away from my bottle picks. Moving to the other end of the flavour spectrum we the rather excellent Laphroaig, which dials back the medicinal in favour of smoke and floral notes. Another heavily peated delight is the Highland Park, which mixes butterscotch, caramel and wood smoke delightfully. Then there's the Glen Grant, packed with dried fruits and cinnamon. Me? Recommending cinnamon? Yes, this is that good... And my final bottle pick is the Strathisla, which has lemon, foamy bananas and marzipan - it's simple yet delicious.

It's a busy time of year, so the remaining list may take me a little while to finish - please bear with me. Hopefully I'll have it all done by the end of next week...

SMWS November 2018 Mid-Month Releases

SMWS 35.226 - Nocturne du Elgin en B flat minorIt's the mid-month releases! Small but perfectly formed, there are some very interesting whiskies...

Of the nine whiskies, I'd like a bottle of more than half! The fruity, charming Glen Grant, the apples and kiwi fruit of the Balmenach, the lemon and fresh cut grass of the Clynelish, the lime and peat of the Croftengea and the crisp peat and lemon of the St George's.

The rest? All pretty good, actually - I'd have another dram of them, and they all scored well. It's purely a personal preference at play - I really don't think any of these drams will disappoint anyone...

SMWS Outturn 272 - Made for Sharing

SMWS 42.37 - Steamie Turkish bathIt's probably the biggest list of the year, with a whopping 40 spirits to choose from. 37 are whiskies, and the staff at the Greville Street venue deserve our thanks for doing a great job of getting such a large amount of drams in front of myself and Matt, whose reviews are here.

Sadly, the Benrinnes (36.147) didn't arrive in Greville Street, and the Highland Park had been drained by the time I got to the bar on Saturday to do my tastings, so you'll have to rely on Matt's notes for that one.

There's a few red wine finishes here, but fear not - they worked well. Some people don't like finishes or distrust them, but my view is that so long as the whisky's good, I'm happy with it. "But Philip", someone says, "what if it was rubbish before the cask change?". Well, more whisky is better than less whisky, so "rescued" casks are fine by me!

There three whiskies that that made me want more than one bottle. The fruity, floral and ginger Bladnoch was simply a delight. The light, sweet notes of apples and acetone in the Strathclyde won me over, and as a contrast we also have the sherried excellence that is the North British - not out first SMWS sherried grain, and hopefully not our last!

There's quite a list of drams I'd like a bottle of: the fruit and ash combination that the Ledaig delivered, the fruit and caramel of the ridiculously named Arran, the citrus and honey of the Linkwood, the tobacco and fruits of the Miltonduff, the honey mango and lime of the Glen Scotia, the fruity and lightly peated Highland Park, the sultanas and smoke of the Caol Ila and the delightfully fully atypical Laphroaig.

It's a big list, and 20 of the drams were ones I would have another dram of - I'm definitely not listing them all here, as that's going to get in the way of enjoying whisky! And we have another couple of lists coming out during this month, so get to the rooms and enjoy these while they last.

Good luck finding your favourites, and I hope you have as much fun with these whiskies as I did...

SMWS Outturn 271 - Coorie In

SMWS G7.13 - Pirates of the percolatorThe end of the year is upon us, and this outturn arrives early. Which catches me off guard, as my previews are now reviews!

My favourites are the tempered-yet-fruity Tormore, the sweet and fruity Girvan, the curious and exotic Inchmurrin, the atypical smorgasbord that is the Bunnahabhain and the ashen Caol Ila. I'd like more than one bottle of each of them!

Then there's the fruit bomb Bladnoch, the sweetly balanced Benrinnes, the rather lively Glen Grant and the bacon and ash of the Ardmore. I could restrain myself to just the one bottle of each of those, if I had the funds!

There are plenty of other whiskies I'd happily drink - 7 in fact! And even the drams that weren't to my liking were still solid, decent drams that I'm sure others will enjoy. Overall, this is a flying start on the long haul to Christmas...

SMWS October 2018 Mid-Month releases

SMWS 93.95 - Tails of the seaIt's a very short mid-month release in October - just four whiskies!

Definitely try the almost smokeless Bunnahabhain, which has lemon and honey and only reveals its provenance with some ash on the palette. Although I preferred the Glen Scotia, which has an odd but brilliant combination of diesel oil, creosote, lavender and heather. Yummy!

The Mannochmore has a brilliant nose with pear, banana, toffee and croissant - but a little too much cinnamon. And finally, have a crack at the Glenrothes, which is a curiously arboreal dram that's hard to write tasting notes about - but easy to like in the glass.

SMWS Outturn 270 - Join the Joyride

SMWS 137.1 - An English country MordorLike buses, you wait ages for one and three turn up at once... In this case, it's three special bottles. Two first bottlings from a distillery (Eden Mill, St George's) and a closed distillery (Caperdonich)!

They'll all be sold by ballot, so get your entries in now! (Update: I didn't win in any of the ballots. See? I don't get special treatment...)

The star of the list was the St George's, which showed how good the English Whisky Company has become at their craft. Smoky, sweet, floral and herbal - it's a great cask.

The other new distillery was technically even better, but an odd dram with almost Armagnac notes. The Eden Mill is well worth trying before it leaves the bar...

Caperdonich returns after an absence of four years, providing a lovely soft dram with fruit and floral notes and a hint of old oak or tobacco. Not a big experience, but one worth trying before casks from this closed distillery are never again available.

Looking at the ones I'd like bottles of, let's start the the surprise - the Caol Ila. It's smokey and honeyed with some fruit - and turns ashen with water. I doubt it will last long on the bar! And also peated is the Croftengea, which smoke, fruit and walnuts. Surprisingly complex for 7 years old! Which brings us to the Strathclyde, another surprisingly young whisky at 12. Pineapple, hoisin sauce and toffee show that a well treated young grain can do very well... Finally, we should mention the Inchmoan, which was filled with violets, peach, leather and marzipan. Very satisfying!

An honourable mention from my previews would be the Glen Grant. It's just got a little too much ginger for me to love it, but that won't stop me from recommending it as it's still a very good dram!

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