SMWS

SMWS Outturn 287 - Braw Beasties

SMWS G7.16 - Elixir of euphoriaIt’s a new year, and the holidays mean a late delivery. My colleague Matt can’t make it at all, so I have to hurry through the list on a Thursday night. London’s also missing five bottlings, which is easier on me but less good for everyone else! If you were hoping to see the 29, 53, 7, 46 or 112 then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Sorry.

I did manage to taste the rest of the list. As is so often the case, it’s a mixed bag - overall a high standard, but my tongue was burning from spice a few times.

My favourite will probably surprise nobody - it’s the Girvan. Fruits, bread, rum, and polished wood - this is a real pleasure of a whisky. Closely on its heels is the Clynelish, which is young, fresh and sweet without ever being unbalanced or uninteresting. I’d like more than one bottle of both of these!

The Craigellachie has leather, tobacco and oranges - which I’m sure will be popular. And the Benrinnes has mango and other fruits - a superb nose, and it’s only held back by some spice after water. Both are highly recommended and I’d like a bottle of each.

As I sat racing through the list, others were going through their preview tasting tickets. It was interesting to hear the discussions - the Glen Grant seemed a little divisive, and there was some discussion as to whether the Old Pulteney or the Bunnahabhain was the better Oily and Coastal dram. (I preferred the Bunnahabhain.)

This is also the first time we see the new logo and labels. I’m ambivalent about the logo. The labels, however, have both good and bad changes. It’s good that they list both woods in the event of a second maturation, but I’d still like to see the age be smaller and the distillery/cask number be bigger. And using only colour on the label to show the flavour profile is an accessibility faux pax - colour blind people now have a harder time. Would it really be so difficult to write the flavour profile somewhere? But overall it’s an improvement on the old label, if only because we’ll not see dark stripes going behind the distillery number and name on some bottlings, making it hard to read...

53.308 - Let the tempest tout an’ blaw

30 years old, distilled 18th April 1989, 52.0% abv, Refill Ex-Sherry Butt, 186 bottles, dram price J

SMWS 53.308 - Let the tempest tout an’ blawThe nose has smoked bacon, grilled salmon, bitter chocolate and salted caramels - an unusual experience but somehow it works! The mouthfeel is decent but has little cling. The body has sherry smokey bacon crisps, marzipan, grilled salmon and then bitter chocolate. The finish is bitter chocolate, salmon and smokey bacon crisps.

Water brings out thick, compact whorling that settles quickly into brief mottling. The nose gains peat smoke and some lemon, but loses nothing. The body gains peat and ash, lemon juice and some hints of olives. The finish gains peat and lemon juice, with a hint of ash - and loses the salmon.

This is a big beast of a dram. Wonderfully balanced, with the sherry never dominant. The bitterness could be a bit too much for some, but I found it nicely conterpointed by the lemon and the smokey bacon.

One for summer nights.

Technical score: 5/5

Personal preference: I’d like a bottle.

97.22 - Emerald-masked triple thrill

29 years old, distilled 23rd April 1990, 57.5% abv, First Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel, 146 bottles, dram price J

SMWS 97.22 - Emerald-masked triple thrillThe nose has pine floorboards, brioche and some new make notes, but rapidly gives way to passion fruit and mango with a hint of gooseberry. The mouthfeel is thin with no cling. The body has passion fruit, mango, then citrus zest and a hint of zinc coated bicycle clips before croissants and new pine furniture notes sweep across the palate. Very light and fresh. The finish has passion fruit, zinc and gooseberry.

Water brings out thin, compact whorling that settles quickly into brief mottling. The nose gains more brioche and mango, and loses the new make notes completely. The body gains more pine and mango, and loses the gooseberry. The finish gains more mango and some pine, and loses the zinc. There’s also a hint of peppermint.

A fruity delight, balanced by some wood and pastry notes. For me, Littlemill often has a citrus zest and slightly zinc-like top note, which needs lots of flavour as a counterpoint - this dram manages that. It’s a pleasant window onto not only a closed distillery but also one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries. Sadly, that zinc note also reminds me that this was never my favourite Lowland malt experience. It’s remarkable that a 29 year old in a first fill bourbon cask can be this light, sweet and fruity - if that’s your style then this will satisfy. But I suspect many will value it more highly for its provenance than its flavours, which is rather a pity.

One for summer mornings - whisky for breakfast, anyone?

Technical score: 5/5

Personal preference: I’d have another dram.

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