SMWS’s June 2019 outturn ‘Beautifully balanced’ delivers 18 new single cask whiskies – and a focus on food and whisky pairings, with four of the expressions being supplied with a suggested culinary accompaniment. In all honestly, I often find whisky pairings challenging at best. To date, I’ve found that whisky errs towards being complementary rather than providing a true augmentation of either the liquid or the paired food. No bad thing in itself, but more of a melding of aromas, flavours and textures rather than a fundamentally altered composition in the manner in you can find with a well selected wine accompaniment.
What certainly is a great pairing is when happenstance (or a modicum of planning) results in Phil Storry and myself conducting our monthly Society review together. It doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. Whisky reviewing, especially when there’s a swathe of bottles to contend with, tends to be a rather lonely pursuit – head down, olfactory system fired up.
If you’re not careful the process can lead to losing one of the key facets of whisky appreciation – namely unfettered enjoyment. Society members who frequent the Greville Street member’s room would do well to keep an eye out for Phil. Despite being bizarrely adverse to anything remotely spicy, and also loving grain whiskies more than is reasonably sensible, he’s down right lovely and quite the font of knowledge – particular when it comes to the older and rarer distilleries. But, if you can’t/won’t/don’t get to Greville, have no fear, you can pick up Phil’s thoughts on his half of the outturn at https://www.philipstorry.net/This month features 8 of the Society’s 12 colour-coded flavour profiles (Light and Delicate, Oily and Coastal, Lightly Peated and Heavily Peated are given a pass), and as we move into the warmer months, a noticeable lack of peated – just the single expression from SMWS stalwart 53.
My pick of the month is the rather splendid Glenlossie (46.72 Jungle slippers) with its pronounced fruitiness and well-aged polished wood – sign me right up. In hot pursuit are a dual of finished whiskies: near three decade old Linkwood (38.175 The chocolate and wine diet) that regardless of price, just screams quality maturation and deeply characterful sherry influenced nuttiness; and a wine influenced Cragellachie (44.107 Cinnamon scented syrup) which is layered, well-integrated and delicious. Until next month - happy dramming!
Bottle Name: 93.107 Flexing the mussels
ABV: 59.6% Distillery: Glen Scotia Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Flavour Profile: Young & spritely Region: Campbeltown
Youthful Glen Scotia that was laid down in December 2010 and spent 7 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel.
Nose: Sweet with confectionary - candy floss, raspberry liquorice laces and icing - alongside a vivid vein of pear juice and hawthorn berries. Beneath - a steely minerality - hewn limestone cliffs and beach shingles – and some toasted brioche buns. Reduction adds fruits and floral – apricot halves and violet petals whilst bringing forward the ex-bourbon cask with vanilla and custard.
Taste: An oily texture delivers a combination of fruits, engines and spirit. There’s some youthful rawness here – which the high ABV accentuates – copper pots and pipes. Raspberry sherbet and grapefruit give a juicy tartness whilst wet soils, mineral oils and iron minerals provide a sharp vitality. The development heads towards the patisserie with ready rolled pasty and tart cases, whilst in the back-palate unburnt brick charcoal again reinforces a rocky quartz-like quality. The addition of water results in a softer attack – less raw bite and sharpness – along with delicate but still perceivable charred barrel ends.
Finish: Short (a confirmation of age) with crumbled rocks, jagged minerals and a fading gravy-like meatiness.
A rather unusual youthful Glen Scotia delivered without peat, but still with plenty of coastal qualities. The end result offers real bite and punch but at the same time feels a little uncooked. Nevertheless, this responds well to dilution – losing some of the hostility in return for broader fruitiness on the nose and greater cask influence on the palate.
Nose: Apple turnovers and gummy bears are conjoined with freshly turned soils, dunnage floors and water loaded fallen tree trunks. Interesting stuff. A big macadamia nut aroma sits with oven-baked buns whilst fermenting berries and apples provide an almost cider-like quality. In the background, caramel, nougat and chocolate (pretty much a Mars bar) alongside Turkish Delight. Reduction adds tartness with grapefruit and savouriness with Yorkshire Pudding batter.
Taste: The arrival is viscous and mouth-coating and offers green apples, sherbet laced apricot and sharp gooseberries. The development heads caskwards with tingly white pepper supported by saw cedar and sandalwoods. The addition of water brings forward sugars and minerals – sweet tinned fruit salad and a chiselled flinty edge.
Finish: Medium in length and quite woody with sappiness, biscuits and fresh apples.
The nose on this Dalmore is deeply complex and quite fascinating to explore both neat and reduced. The palate is less involved, but still appealing with a good selection of fruits and spices all playing reasonable well together. A bit too cask-driven in the finish, but you can rarely have it all at a mere 10 years of age.
Nose: Highly floral with freshly hung laundry and potpourri supported by a mineral vein – granite and lump coal. Meringue and digestive biscuits sit with melon and gooseberries whilst vanilla ice cream and choux buns are joined by a touch of tanned leather. Water unlocks much more fruitiness – banana and mango – and much more spiciness - red chillies, bell peppers – whilst also adding lemon balm and hewn rock faces.
Taste: Where the nose was fresh, the palate is full and viscid – and it comes with a fair alcoholic bite. An assortment of peppers, tomato vines and gooseberries provide a real greenhouse feel whilst milk chocolate and vanilla cream lifts the sweetness levels. Dilution feels rather the necessity here – it delivers vanilla pods, limestone cliffs and orchard fruits (apples and pears).
Finish: Medium with chocolate digestive biscuits and drying oakiness.
A fiery Balblair that for the most part is highly distillate-led, but at the same time really rather spicy. The name rather implied it would be. The balance between the spirit and the spice feels a little uneasy at times, but underpinning the experience is a strong minerality which manages to anchors both with a strong sense of coastalness. Probably rather divisive, but you can’t argue this isn’t packed full of flavour and character.
Nose: Fruits and sugary rich sauces. Hedgerow berries and apples, are joined by maple syrup on waffles, chocolate sauce on pancakes (decadent stuff) and a hearty sprinkling of demerara sugars. Dark honey sits with wine gums (red and black ones) whilst cinnamon spice and suede leather morph into sweet unsmoked tobacco. Reduction reveals a more overt wine influence – stewed plums, cherries and unctuous treacle.
Taste: Bolder, with a powerful delivery, but just as rich and rewarding – Raspberries and cranberries are reduced into jams and marmalades whilst toffee sauce and treacle sit with brown sugars, and raisins. The mid palate expresses firm spicing with ginger, cinnamon and sharp chilli influences, whilst burnt pastries and clove-studded ham roasts are added to the party. The addition of water reveals some well-worn leather armchairs, chocolate sponge cake and mentholated oak.
Finish: Medium to long with reduced pan sugars, and an oven-roasted Sunday joint with well caramelised fat.
Despite only being a yearlong finish, the red wine influence here is well-integrated and rather layered – offering a harmoniously balanced Craigellachie that ably delivers both sweetness and intensity, with neither outstaying their welcome. Recommended.
Bottle Name: 39.175 The chocolate and wine diet
ABV: 49.1% Distillery: Linkwood Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Flavour Profile: Old & dignified Region: Speyside
A venerably aged Linkwood that has spent 26 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead and then was re-racked into a 1st fill PX hogshead for a decent length second maturation.
Nose: Well-polished mahogany and oiled teak panelling are joined by bright apricots, peaches, lychee and melon. Really vibrant fruity stuff, despite the near three decades of maturation. Coffee beans, crumbled chocolate and hazelnuts sit with an unusual vegetal/herbal note of tomato plant stalks, whilst apple turnovers are conjoined with raisins and marzipan. Dilution adds a dusty nuttiness with increased hazel and almonds alongside pancake batter.
Taste: The arrival is viscid and clings to the mouth. Fruit-forward with apricot, passionfruit and cherries, moving into polished wood tables and a deep hazel and cashew nuttiness. The mid-palate is more wood-driven with burnt toast and charred cask ends, before heading towards the sherry end of the spectrum with cocoa powder, chocolate nibs and dusty 70s orange liqueurs. Water adds an assortment of dried peels, mentholated oak and bitter dark chocolate.
Finish: Long, with dusty wood, nuttiness and fading white pepper.
This mature Linkwood wears its age exceedingly well with plenty of polish and lacquer sitting on a bed of vibrant and defined fruitiness. The PX integration feels both even-handed and relevant – adding in a characterful deep nuttiness that persists from nose through to finish. Expensive, but still recommended.
Bottle Name: 46.72 Jungle slippers
ABV: 53.8% Distillery: Glenlossie Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Flavour Profile: Old & dignified Region: Speyside
Well-aged Glenlossie is always on my lgo-to list. This 25 year old was laid down in November 1992 in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
Nose: A riot of lively fruitiness - spit-roasted pineapples, mango, lychee, white grapes and melon – bound together by delicate lemony-polish, pink water biscuits and Victoria sponge cake. Deeper, freshly-baked white bread, yeasty beer and bourbon biscuits add additional well-judged nuance. Reduction adds sweet Danish pastries, fluffy American pancakes and a scattering of coffee grounds.
Taste: Rich, syrupy and tremendously fruity – Mango, guava and pineapple with apple tart and apricot flan. The mid-palate reveals developing spiciness with cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper dusted atop biscuit crumbs, before the back-palate delivers a coal-esque bite. The addition of water unlocks polished wood tables and vanilla icing whilst adding a creamy, full-fat icecream into the mix.
Finish: Medium to long with fading juicy tinned fruits (mango and orange) and well-aged woodiness.
This Glenlossie delivers exactly that a quarter of a century of quality maturation should – vibrant fruits, lovely lacquered wood surfaces and sweet, textural creaminess. Despite not needing dilution, it nevertheless takes it well, offering a wider array of sugary treats and carefully judged oak influence. An archetypal mature Lossie and my pick of the month.
Bottle Name: 9.163 Cinnamon dusted custard
ABV: 57.5% Distillery: Glen Grant Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Flavour Profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla Region: Speyside
Lots of Glen Grant recently – this one, a teenager that’s been matured in a refill ex-bourbon barrel.
Nose: Victoria sponge cake drenched in vanilla cream, with a side of custard cream biscuits making for a civilised afternoon tea break. An assortment of fresh florals develops – lemongrass, cut stems and fresh hay – whilst in the background, gently spiced fabrics (cloth and hessian) express cinnamon and ginger. The addition of water adds cashew nuttiness, icing sugar sweetness and clean cotton sheets.
Taste: Mid-way between creaminess and oomphy bite – Vanilla custard, meringue and Chantilly cream enlivened with sprightly ginger and pepperiness. Apricot tarts, unripe apples and pear cordials are joined by steeped fruit teas and pressed laundry. Reduction adds citrus, zing and cream with a lemon posset and sabayon alongside tart gooseberry and a touch of rock-like minerality.
Finish: Quite long with milk chocolate and fading cinnamon and pepper spices.
A solid, creamy Glen Grant with plenty of cask influenced spices. No particularly thrills, but the balance here is notable, either neat (where it’s velvety) or reduced (where it’s sharper, sweeter and more citric).
Bottle Name: 53.291 Sweet puff of smoke
ABV: 60.2% Distillery: Caol Ila Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Flavour Profile: Peated Region: Islay
Another month, another Caol Ila – though peat fans will be disappointed to note that it’s this outturn’s sole green labelled expression. A 10 year old matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
Nose: An selection of seafood and savoury treats – buttered scallops and fresh oysters alongside brined black olives and green peppers. The smoke is ashy and dusty with coal, whilst offering flex with lemon peels and putty – it steadily develops a medicinal quality with pronounced antiseptic ointments and medical wipes wrapped up in a somewhat dirty fish tank. Dilution reduces definition somewhat, adding in rubberiness and an increased coastal mineral sharpness.
Taste: Sweet, citrus-tanged peat meets surf and turf. Langoustines and fish stew are served with beef stock, putty and melted Crayola crayons. Smoke is both sweet and tart with lemon peels and grapefruit segments alongside iodine, mineral dust and tarred ropes. In the back-palate – a developing menthol and salinity. Water adds honey in the form of cough-lozenges, whilst the smoke becomes increasingly ashy, but substantially drier. It also diminishes the overall expressiveness quickly – dilute sparingly here.
Finish: Long with fading medicinalness, lemon peels and salt.
A rich, citrus-sweet and mineral Caol Ila that hits the high spots until water is added. Once reduced, sadly everything becomes much more murky and less distinct. A tasty 53 that’s a near miss from the upper echelons of this month’s outturn.