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!

SMWS September 2018 Mid-Month releases

SMWS 36.149 - Wisdom beyond its yearsIt's a mid-month release, and it's going to go quickly...

The pick for many will be the Ardbeg - which is smokey, tarry and has lemon. Demand is usually high for this distillery, so this one's only available by ballot! If you're looking for unpeated whisky, the Benrinnes is a delight - beautifully balanced and subtle, with floral notes and fudge.

I'm a sucker for bourbon casked Dalmore, and this one may be simple but it's exactly what I wanted - pears, green apples, and custard.

The remaining three are also pretty good, but stand in the shadows of those three. Still, it's worth getting to the rooms and trying them all!

SMWS Outturn 269 - Up, up and away!

SMWS 63.49 - In the dark of the abyssThe hardest part when writing about an SMWS list is introducing it. Especially recently, where the quality has been high and getting higher.

But this list is for the Society's 35th birthday, when we have a number of birthday events. So, did they find a way to make it special? Well, I'd argue that they have.

There are two standout whiskies here, and they are both superb representations of Society bottlings. First, the Glentauchers, which is a beautiful sherried whisky that tastes older than the 10 years it has. The second is the Cragganmore, which is precisely as old as it tastes and displays fantastic balance. What does it share with the Glentauchers? Well, apart from sherry influence, both are interesting drams that defy expectations and provide superb whisky that you'll want to share with your friends. If the Glentauchers were ten years older, it would be far less remarkable. If the Cragganmore were from a distillery with a higher public profile it would be priced out of most people's reach. But here we have whiskies that most people can afford to taste, and that are far enough from people's expectations that they'll always cause conversation.

If that's not what you joined the Society for, then you're in the wrong Society.

So the top spots are taken by sherry - which is unusual for me. But not everyone likes sherry - so for them I recommend the fresh and sweet Inchmoan, or the odd Linkwood that has flavours which shouldn't work together, but do.

Moving towards peat, we need to mention the superb Glen Scotia, which delivers an oily and citrus experience with slight smoke. But the real peat freakery happens with the two Caol Ilas (lightly peated, heavily peated). I preferred the honeyed notes of the more heavily peated bottling, but wouldn't turn down the lighter dram.

All in all, it's looking like a great celebration of the Society this month. Get to the rooms, before it's all gone!

SMWS Outturn 268 - Bold Discoveries

SMWS 93.93 - Summer seaside picnicThe August list has pretty good scores, but a fair bit of spice.

The sweet, subtle and shifting Miltonduff won't impress those who like big drams, but it's seriously good for those of us who like a light and balanced dram. It scored 4.5, and I wish I could afford a bottle! The constant small changes are a delight. Then there's the Mannochmore, which is honeyed and fruity. Finally there's two peated drams, both of which (unusually, for me!) also scored 4.5. The Ardmore is, to use colloquialism, "delightfully bonkers". It has sweet, savoury, fruit and smoke and it shouldn't work. But sometimes whiskies manage to deliver the flavours in a way that binds it all together, and this happens here and saves the day! And finally my favourite of the evening was the Glen Scotia, which has some tar balancing out fruit and soy sauce, with more going on as well. A great dram to finish on!

You should also try the Glenrothes - a nice bourbon cask that's done a great job, and it really suits this current weather. It scored 4, as did a the unusually spirituous Glengoyne, which has a lot of fruit alongside the spirit notes. And the Glen Moray's re-racking was also very successful - although a little too much pepper for me.


Subscribe to Philip Storry’s Website RSS