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.

SMWS July 2018 Mid-Month Releases

SMWS G4.17 - Exquisite whisky dessertThe mid-month releases are upon us!

The star of the show is the Cameronbridge, which has sultanas, profiteroles and other joyful notes. I tried it with the staff at the bar, and even the non-grain fans were impressed!

The Balmenach is an alcopop whisky - so fruity and easy to drink! And the Dailuaine is a great whisky that just didn't quite do it for me - but you should try it and make up your own mind! Finally, there's also a Glen Scotia - which is a lovely coastal dram.

Tasting notes for the others in the mid-month releases can be found over at The Dramble's review

SMWS Outturn 267 - Distinguished Characters

SMWS 27.112 - A broadside cannon barrageJuly is a slightly smaller list than usual, with just 18 drams and one of those is mail-order exclusive. And yet there are also venue exclusive bottles and the usual mid-month top-up... So over the whole month it evens out!

The quality's high - lead by the superb Caol Ila which I think has depth we don't normally see from this distillery.

But why should we stick to scores? Let's look at everything else by using the new scoring system! In "I'd like more than one bottle" there's the Auchentoshan which is delightfully fruity with floral hints. Very tempting. The sweet, gingery Mannochmore is something that probably wouldn't last long when opened! As is the Springbank, despite being the polar opposite - a superb sherry casked dram with a hint of sulphur. Finally, how about the wonderful Ledaig? It's maple and bonfire smoke, and wonderful.

"I'd like a bottle" scooped up quite a few too! There's the Linkwood with its floral, fruity and oak notes, the Dalmore with fruit and cinnamon. The Glen Grant also has plenty of fruit and a little cinnamon, but is quite different. The Strathisla and the Ardmore are both very good, and when's the last time you saw a Speyburn from the Society?

SMWS June 2018 Mid-Month Releases

SMWS 3.310 - A marooned wordsmithThe June mid-month release is an opportunity to restock on the peated drams... As seems to be the new normal the preview tastings were divided between myself and Matt at The Dramble, and this time I seem to have drawn a somewhat peated hand! Although there are only six previews, we both got to produce tasting notes for the Bruichladdich - I'm looking forward to comparing them, as I can assure you we don't see each other's notes ahead of publishing!

Before we get to the peat, there's a good Bushmills that delivers plenty of fruit and roses.

A rather less peated Bruichladdich is in the oily and coastal category, probably because the peat comes out as dry dusty earthiness. But there's plenty of fruit and vinegar in there too, making it a true chimera and a joy to drink.

If the Bruichladdich is light in is peating, so is the first of the peated whiskies - an excellent Ardmore that has glazed ham, cough medicine and hints of smoke. But the real gem is the Bowmore, which balances pink wafers and lavender with earthiness.

These are true summer peatings - lighter and sweeter, and quite enticing in the warm weather.

There's nothing here that plumbs the depths of peat, and I'm sure some will complain about that. But not me. I'm wondering which beach I can drink these on...

SMWS Outturn 266 - Emerald Gems

SMWS 64.100 - An old wine cellar by candle-lightThe return of Bushmills to the Society! And a new distillery! Truly, we're spoiled...

Top technical scores go to the well aged and complex Mannochmore, the superb younger Bushmills and the Inchmoan for a fruit so delightful I didn't want to add water...

The older Bushmills bottling was a lovely, sweet and fruity delight. I also very much enjoyed the Loch Lomond Rosdhu grain, where the real surprise for many will be that it's a mere eight years old. In a market full of aged grain, this shows that you don't need years - just good wood. And speaking of good wood, the reracking of the Glen Grant really worked, bringing big flavours that were also well integrated. Then there's the Laphroaig - another finished whisky, but again it works very well - albeit a bit ashen. Finally, how about an unpeated Bunnahabhain that was matured in an ex-port Barrique? It's a sweet treat! All these whiskies have well deserved scores of 4.5.

Scoring 4 was the Aberlour, another light and sweet dram. For heavier notes, try the superb Benrinnes - I may not like the somewhat heavy father's day marketing, but the whisky is a good one. It also demonstrated that a score of 4 isn't the end of the world - I'd like multiple bottles!

I'm really looking forward to trying the rest of the list - the port finished Bunnahabhain sounds intriguing, and the word is that the Laphroaig is very good. I'll find out later today, and will hopefully have full tasting notes up on Sunday...

On Lomond Stills

One of my whisky reviews for this month's SMWS Outturn is for a whisky from a Lomond still.

I get excited about whiskies from Lomond stills. When they get it right, they tend to get it really right. They often have a wonderful velvety smooth mouthfeel, as well as lots of flavours.

Of course, not everything from a Lomond still works. But when it does... wow!

So what the heck is a Lomond still?

SMWS Outturn 265 - Festival Fever

SMWS 64.101 - Freshly squeezed sugar cane and kumquat juiceMay has a solid list - plenty to be excited about here!

The theme is Islay versus Speyside, and both regions put in solid appearances.

Speyside won for me - I preferred the cracking Mannochmore, which gets a deserved 5 out of 5. Sadly it's one bottle per member, so I can't have the number of bottles I'd like! Scoring 4.5 there's the cracking Glenburgie, which I very much enjoyed.

There's also the excellent Miltonduff, the Benrinnes, the Linkwood, the very drinkable Glen Grant and the Glenrothes all scoring 4.

Islay makes an appearance with a solid Bowmore, scoring a 4.5. The other good Islay is one of the Bunnahabhains, which scored a 4. I did, however, think I'd like another dram...

Outside the region fight, you should also definitely try the Croftengea, which was the other dram to score 5 on the list. With velvety smoothness and a wonderful set of flavours, this whisky is superb. It also gave me an excuse to write about Lomond stills, which I'd been intending to do for ages... There's also a superb Auchentoshan that really should be tried.

That brings me to a quick note about scoring. I've grown concerned that people are getting obsessed with numbers. The score has always been a complex thing, but is intended to be more of a guideline. And it's based on (mostly) technical aspects of the whisky. But I do wonder if people aren't skipping some of the very drinkable 3's and 3.5's that I find. So from this month onwards, I'm adding a new second score - "Personal Preference". It's designed to say how much I preferred it, rather than what I thought about it.

We've all had drams that were technical masterpieces - perhaps heavily influenced by cask or cereal - but that we could happily live the rest of our lives without ever drinking again. Just because something gets a full score, it doesn't mean I want a bottle.

I struggled with how to express this, before falling back on the scoring system a friend uses, which goes like this: "Do I like it? Do I want a dram? Do I want another dram? Do I want a bottle? Do I want more than one bottle?"

Based on that, I'm now adding whether I'm happy with just a dram, or whether I'd want another dram, a bottle, or... you get the picture.

I don't think there's such a thing as a perfect scoring system - ultimately they all show some kind of bias - but the technical score tries hard to avoid it, whereas the personal preference is all about my taste. So witness the difference between the Benrinnes and the Linkwood this month - both scored 4, but I only want a bottle of one of them. The other, I'm happy to have another dram of but no more. I don't think you'd get that from the tasting notes - I wrote a lot more about the Benrinnes than the Linkwood.

Here's hoping that helps people look beyond the numbers, and get a better idea of the spirit...

SMWS Outturn 264 - Flavour Parade

SMWS 53.251 - Peat fire magicWHAT A LIST!

Nothing scores the maximum of five, but there's a whopping seven drams that get a 4.5 and a further five drams that get a four. That's a lot of superb drams, and means that over half the list is excellent.

Let's start with two drams for the whisky geeks - a Dalmore that packs in flavours like it's a car park at a clown convention, and a Laphroiag that's made for demonstrating how water changes a whisky.

Then there's the ones for less involved drinking - the light, sweet Glenlossie, the rich and fully sherried Glenlivet, the elegant and fruit-filled Longmorn, and the sweet and spritely Glen Moray.

Finally, there's my pick of the evening - the delightful Caol Ila, which is just a superb example of Islay magic.

And now we look at those that scored four. Don't overlook the wonderful Aberlour, the cracking Glendronach, the flavour-packed Tormore, the masses of fruit in the Cragganmore or the sweet and peaty Bowmore.

It's rare to have a list that has such consistent excellence - get to the Society and taste them before they're gone!


Subscribe to Philip Storry’s Website RSS