The July 2019 SMWS outturn ‘Serving Summer’ delivers 19 new single cask whiskies and two new single cask rums. The rums certainly feel in keeping with the bout of warmth we’ve been having here in the UK. It’s worth noting that the weather can play a huge role in how we enjoy our whiskies – just last weekend I attended a lovely little new whisky festival in picturesque St Albans – the 30 degree heat made it hard to appreciate all the drams in the same way I normally would. The pace was necessarily slow and sedate. So, I was intrigued see this month’s outturn include some international members’ suggestions for warmer-weather whisky server – I have to say I’ve never considered utilising any of my Society bottles in a boozy popsicle. Now there’s an experiment for a balmy day.
The outturn features 9 of the 12 colour-coded flavour profiles (Old & Dignified, Light and Delicate and Heavily Peated are given a raincheck this month) and it is worth noting that this is the first in a while where the ‘booklet’ has sensible structure to it. Bottlings are all grouped by their profiles, running from the lighter fruitier end, through the spicy and coastal styles before ending with the two peaters. Much easier to digest and soak up than a seeming hodgepodge across the pages. Let’s keep that up please SMWS.
The Dramble has reviewed 12 of the new bottlings – Phil will be covering the rest over at www.philipstorry.net and will also be picking up the range of mid-month releases which will be coming your way over the course of July.
I found this outturn to be a mix of highs and lows – there’s certainly the bright fruitiness one would hope for from a selection of summery drams – but there’s also a lot of heavy-handed oak expressed in several bottles. But, hey, if that’s your thing then you’re in luck.
I have two ‘picks of the month’ to bring to your attention – an on-point, vibrant and wholly delicious Glenlossie (46.71 Ginger and jelly sweets) and an archetypal Ardmore (66.141 Roofing felt on a beach hut) which completely nails the in-land vegetal smoky style of the distillery. Beyond that, I have an unusual recommendation for sherry heads – whilst the Benrinnes (36.161 Honey and herbs on ham) has no actual sherry influence, the underlying meaty and sweet spirit character really shines through in this month’s bottling and is well worth considering.
Bottle Name: 123.33 Spicy as hell – tasty as well!
ABV: 61.6% Distillery: Glengoyne Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Flavour Profile: Young & spritely Region: Highlands
10 year old Glengoyne laid down in August 2008 in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel. View on SMWS
Nose: Intense and certainly spicy – a whole range of piquant peppers – chilli, bell and ground black alongside rich toffee sauce, espresso beans and burnt toast. Running throughout peanut butter spread and baked apple pie. Reduction brings out a much fruitier aspect – wine gums, raspberry and quince jelly and slices of dried mango.
Taste: The arrival is as bold as it is as spicy. It’s also quite greenhouse in nature – fresh vine tomatoes, chilli peppers, tart green apples and sharp gooseberries. An unusual combination. Vanilla pods, and creamy custard are supported by black pepper spicing and drying oak tannins – the two side pair strangely well. The addition of water soften things up quickly with a basket of tropical fruits – mango and lychee – alongside creamed rice. There’s still plenty of pepperiness there though.
Finish: Quite long, peppery, drying and with a fair amount of alcoholic prickle.
There’s two stories with this intense Glengoyne – the first is that of intense spice – boldly delivered and belying the Young & Spritely SMWS profile which usually denotes a soft opening dram – this is far from that. The second story kicks off once a few drops of water has been added – laxer, silkier and much more fruit-driven. But make no mistake, the spices never fully recede. Overall, unusual, but all-in-all I rather like its gutsy style.
Glendullan - 10 years of age and from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. Simples. View on SMWS
Nose: Afternoon tea in the garden. Buttercups, honeysuckle and wild honey sit with buttered bread, hot cross buns and gingerbread men. All good things. Resting offers additional nuances – toffee notes alongside rosehips – whilst the addition of water brings out a citric side – sherbet and homemade lemonade with yeasty bread dough.
Taste: Fruit-forward with strawberry foam sweets, raspberry boot laces and a glass of pink champagne – all fresh and bright. The development adds white chocolate and dusty earthiness alongside flavours of freshly cut grasses and lavender oil. Dilution once again displays citrus with preserved lemons and limes alongside crisp green apple.
Finish: Medium in length with dusty nutmeg and pepper spicing sitting with fading florals.
This Glendullan is a solid floral-led whisky that’s easy-going in flavour, but still firm with its punchy ABV. There’s plenty of scope for adding water so I’m fairly certain that any of you would be able to find a level which suits your personal balance. Regardless this is all very summery and very fitting for the warmer weather we’ve been having.
Over to Speyside for a 9 year old Glenallachie that’s been matured in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel. View on SMWS
Nose: Garden-fresh with under ripe berries and overripe apple sitting with pear juice and lychee. After a period of resting, tinned fruit salad aromas emerge – strawberries (it’s all in the name), cranberries and apricots alongside Chantilly cream and toasted crackers. The addition of water brings out the ex-bourbon cask which a spicier display of ginger, anise and pepper alongside vanilla and mentholated oak.
Taste: Soft, silky and clean. Whipped cream is served with pear, melon and lychee whilst vanilla custard sits with soft-peaked meringues. In the background, pepperiness alongside oven-baked buns and rolled pastry. Reduction is ill-advised, it reduces the definition across the board making for a vague fruitiness along with cardboard and wallpaper. Stick to it at 57.1%.
Finish: Medium, pastry-forward with tingly white pepper.
A fresh and easy-going Glenallachie that initially shows plenty of vibrancy (especially in the nose), but that doesn’t respond positively to any amount of dilution. Fair but not fine.
Well-aged and well-priced (£121.20) Glenlossie that’s been maturing in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead since November 1992. I’m expecting good things. View on SMWS
Nose: Pronounced orange zest and redcurrant jelly are joined by dark gingerbread and dusty chocolate covered digestive biscuits. Running throughout, pineapple and guava alongside wood polish, orange liqueurs and Turkish delight. Water expresses burnt pasty and singed toffee sugars whilst notes of spent tobacco and leather mingle.
Taste: Super soft and juicy. Orange marmalade, quince jelly and mandarin segments sit with bourbon biscuits and spiced (cinnamon and nutmeg) ginger fondants. Lacquered oak and leather-covered armchairs are joined by charred cask ends and plenty of bright, steeped fruit tea. Reduction adds a bundle of florals and herbs – lavender, sage, flax and chopped grass.
Finish: Long, with cocoa nibs, dusty pepper and old, well-polished oak.
Middle-aged refill Glenlossie is something I keep an eye out for – and for good reason – it usually displays a wonderful equilibrium between bright juicy fruits and well-integrated aged oakiness. That’s exactly the case with 46.71 – it’s exactly the profile I’d be expecting and hoping for, and it’s really quite delicious to boot. Joint pick of the month.
Inchmurrin that’s spent 12 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon hogshead before being re-racked into 1st fill Vosges oak. Vosges comes from the forest of the same name located West of Alcace. Tight-grained and popular with French wine-makers since the early 1980’s. View on SMWS
Nose: Immediate oakiness – ‘green’ sappy wood, oak chips, sawdust and lollypop sticks. This sits on a bed of grainy cereals (there’s something akin to triple distilled Irish whiskey here), oatmeal and popcorn with vanilla pods, and French crepes. It’s nearly all on the cask and not the spirit. Water improves things greatly – there’s creaminess from yoghurt and whipped cream alongside toasted bread, yeastiness and charred cask ends.
Taste: Wood-fest alert. Tannic oak from freshly saw 2x4, garden fencing and park benches. Graininess pokes through with corn, cereals and waffle batter, whilst green apples and lemon peels are joined by overt rawness in the form of acetone. Reduction once again is a godsend – sunflowers, lemonbalm, Chantilly cream – an entirely different whisky.
Finish: Medium with heady clove spicing, dry and tannic oak.
Whilst water gives this Inchmurrin a pleasant and fresh creaminess, it’s fair to say that in its natural form I did not get on with this at all. The combination of 1st fill + Vosges has resulted in an incredible amount of cask influence to a point where I felt like I was tasting dry, astringent, tannic oak juice. Somewhat hard to score given the dramatic improvement once diluted, but the initial composition is sadly way off my radar.
Full term maturation in a 1st fill ex-red wine barrique for this Glen Moray. View on SMWS
Nose: Comice pears and orange peels sit alongside reduced berry fruits and leather-covered chairs. The oakiness is fairly pronounced – whilst strongly infused fruit teas are joined by chopped almonds. Dilution expresses lighter floral - rose petals and potpourri whilst also amping up the cask influence with heady pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Taste: A bright and oily arrival of orange segments, passionfruit and mango. Again, the wood influence pushes through – deep, drying and tea-like – whilst additional red wine influences offer some balance with raspberries, cherries and blackcurrant syrup. In the background, deeper notes of burnt pastry and charred cask ends. The addition of water pronounces the wine elements – chocolate cake, leather and further red and black berry fruit.
Finish: Medium, quite dry and bitter with soured berries, apple tart and plenty of distinct oak.
There’s plenty of bright, defined wine-led fruitiness in this Glen Moray – but sadly, there’s also a rather uneasy balance between the spirit and the wood, with the oak leading rather than supporting. The end result feels too sharp, sour and bitter to really recommend.
Bottle Name: 41.117 Bananas, brazils and spicy thrills
This Dailuaine has spent 12 years in an ex-bourbon barrel and then was transferred into a 2nd fill heavily charred barrel for a two year finishing period.View on SMWS
Nose: Bananas as promised – overripe, freshly chopped and mushed into a moist cake. Warmed bread and toasted loaves are joined by green bell peppers, chopped hazelnuts and cashews (I guess we all taste different nuts), whilst brown sugars and sponge cake sit with tonka beans and a freshly-made café latte. The addition of water offers fruitier pleasures – guava and lemon peels sitting with pancakes and rolled pastry.
Taste: Orchard fruits now – apples and pears alongside biscuit crumbs and toffee sauce. Chilli pepper and white pepper peek through supported by gingerbread men, vanilla pods and golden syrup drizzled pancakes. Reduction offers griddled waffles, dusty chocolate, leather and earthiness as well as additional tartness from grapefruit and the return of the bananas.
Finish: Medium to long with brown bread and fading ginger spices.
I always consider Dailuaine to be a particularly versatile distillate and this 14 year old doesn’t diminish that belief. There’s a solid combination of defined fruits, well-balanced spices and bakery pleasures to be had here. Though, to my taste, the nose offers the more interest and excitement overall.
12 year old Glenburgie that’s been matured in a refill ex-bourbon barrel. View on SMWS
Nose: Lemon balm and Locket lozenges are played off against teak and sunflower oils. Herbalness supports with basil and mint leaves sitting with oven-baked pastry, under ripe mango and lychee. In the background, damp soils and breadiness. Reduction adds herb oils, chopped flower stems and malt loaf.
Taste: A combination of sweetness and umami. Simple syrup, Silver Shred lemon marmalade, chocolate nibs and agave are balanced against yeasty bread, hay, flax and water crackers. Water brightens things up with scattered orchard fruits, honey and stem ginger.
Finish: Short to medium in length with mentholated oak. Rather tannic - quite moisture sucking.
This Glenburgie offers a rather different outlook once diluted, but retains some interesting savoury/herbal flavours throughout. Alas, the cask is somewhat over-exposed in the finish which is seriously drying and requires a glass of water close to hand.
Whilst not sherried (drawn from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead), sherry fans should certainly keep an eye on this 12 year old bottling that’s within the Deep, Rich & Dried Fruit profile. View on SMWS
Nose: Toffee, maple syrupy, honeycomb and soft-peaked meringue sit with roast potatoes, beef dripping and cornbread. In the background, freshly sliced ham, crème brulee and a scattering of brown sugar. Quite a strange selection – but it works exceedingly well and gives a sherried feeling without any actual sherry being present. Dilution introduces immediate coffee beans alongside beef stock and boiled vegetables.
Taste: Syrupy and oily in texture. Burnt caramel and panna cotta are joined by waffles, brown sugars and reduced plums – almost jammy. Lightly tanned leather and honey-roasted ham sit with Victoria sponge cake, whilst gentle pepper simmers in the back-palate. Water brings out coffee grounds and further meatiness alongside chocolate covered biscuits.
Finish: Medium with pepper and dusty chocolate.
The underlying profile of Benrinnes (to my palate, reduced sugars with roasted meats) is excellently represented in this tasty and well-balanced Society bottlings. If you’ve yet to experience Benrinnes’s ability to mimic sherried influences without the presence of any sherry this would be an great introduction. For those who are seasoned hands, this is simply a good’un.
Oily & Coastal Bunna – 6 years in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead and then two years in a heavily toasted, medium char hogshead. View on SMWS
Nose: Scones, oats and breakfast cereals are drizzled with plenty of honey and served with a side of warmed pastry. Supporting – salt seasoning and barnyard haylofts alongside machine oils and charred oak. Reduction adds honeysuckle florals and assortment of buns and croissants and a dollop of axle grease.
Taste: Much more coastal - rocky outcroppings, pebbles and shingle with tart grapefruit segments, toasted bread and oatmeal. The development adds machine oil and buttered bread and mint oil. Water softens things up with apples and peaches whilst adding some paracetamol chalkiness.
Finish: Medium with menthol, salt and flinty rocks.
A solid mineral Bunnahabhain with a nice sweet pastry/breakfast aspect. Uncomplicated, unfussy and to my mind more characterful and precise when enjoyed at its natural 60.4% ABV.
After May’s older Ardmore (66.143 Steam trains and puffers), we’re back at the younger end of the spectrum with a 12 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon barrel. View on SMWS
Nose: Sudocream ointment, burnt pine needles, and smouldering mosses are joined by fallen leaves, reeds, flax and bamboo. All very green and verdant. Leather hides and waxed jackets sit with cooked ham whilst gentle touches of shingle provide some sharp minerals in to the equation. The addition of water expresses laundry and cloth alongside white chocolate and nettles.
Taste: Sweet peat with forest influences. Lemon sponge cake and whipped cream with fir cones, pine, twigs and leaves whilst forest fires and camphor are joined by tarred ropes. The development heads more herbal with spearmint and moist grasses before ending with damp soils. Dilution adds lemon curd pie, limestone minerality and mentholated oak.
Finish: Medium, medicinal (bandages and wipes) with fading forest fires, tress sap and resin.
Excellent, evocative in-land peat from this exceedingly well-balanced Ardmore. Thoughtful, flavourful, deep and above all tasty. Joint pick of the month.
Bottle Name: 53.292 A whiff of maritime joy
ABV: 58% Distillery: Caol Ila Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Flavour Profile: Peated Region: Islay
Another month, another Caol Ila – but, what’s not to like about that?! This one comes from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead after 9 years of maturation. View on SMWS
Nose: Dirty engines and diesel are played off against lemon-drizzled oysters, langoustine bisque, smoked fish and seashells. Brine runs throughout – tart and salty – whilst white chocolate and cracker bread provide both sweetness and savouriness alike. Quite heady – you’ll nose this over a metre away. Water softens things up with baked buns, kelp and caramelised white chocolate.
Taste: More rich and sweet seafood – bouillabaisse, crab claws and buttered scallops alongside wild honey and creamy meringue. Smoke is still pervasive – an oily combination of grease, tar and brine with iodine and sooty chimneys. In the background, fruitiness – apples and greengages – tempering the intensity of the smoke. Again, dilution proves to be positive – lemon peels and balm alongside limestone minerality.
Finish: Long with sugared barley water and fading lemon-tinged medicinalness.
This Caol Ila combines sweetness with industrialness. It’s both defined and a wee bit dirty. Just how I like them.