Today, we’re excited to be announcing something a little bit new on The Dramble. With thanks to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, we’ll now be bringing you tasting notes of the Society’s outturn on the morning of each 1st Friday of the month release day. We’ll be collating tasting notes for as much of each month’s expressions as we can manage, to hopefully give you a little head’s up on what’s being unleashed from the SMWS’s vaults. So strap yourself in as we’re kicking things off with a preview of some of the November 2017 outturn, and it’s a fairly big one – 45 bottles!
The November outturn from SMWS, entitled ‘Magical Moments’ covers 11 of the 12 different Society styles available (only Light & Delicate is not represented this time around). With 45 new bottles to choose from, The Dramble picked one bottle from each flavour profile in the outturn to take a closer look at. In terms of our picks for the month (recognising that we only sampled 11 of the 45 bottles), I would certainly highlight 3.304 Pine-Smoked Fruit Tea, 42.31 Sandy Toes Sundowner and 46.54 Pas De Deux as particular standouts that are well worth your time.
A 9 year old Mannochmore, filled on 5th March 2008 and matured for 9 years in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel. One of 201 bottles. Young & Spritely Flavour Profile.
Nose: Sweet and with a fair bit of zing. Straight off the bat we’re into candy-country with boiled sweets and indeed the sherbet highlighted in the bottle name. Sugar-dusted strawberries and some punchy lemon zest add juicy fruit and vibrancy. Sitting alongside this are some bready notes akin to yeasty buns and doughs, and some rather earthy vegetal notes which I’ll describe as similar to cactus or agave. The addition of water reduces the zingy sherbet aromas, but heightens the fruit notes, moving into a more tropical pineapple arena.
Taste: Lively and with the aforementioned sherbet still in play. Good mouthfeel but with some alcoholic burn when undiluted. Citrus and earthiness remain, and the bready flavours are joined now with nuttiness (almond) and some spicing in the form of nutmeg and pepper. Water much improves the balance of this dram on the palate to my taste and brings in some wine-like qualities as well as pronounced lemon rinds.
Finish: Medium to long with a very nice progressive fade and a hint of salinity towards the end.
This Mannochmore is indeed young and spritely as the style category describes it. It does need hydration however, which whilst reducing some of the tangy powdered sugar flavours brings improved balance overall. A pleasant aperitif dram to get an evening started with.
A 24 year old Glenlossie filled on 17th November 1992. It was matured for 23 years in an ex-Bourbon barrel and then transferred over to a new oak hogshead for another year of maturation. One of 234 bottles. Sweet, Fruity & Mellow flavour profile.
Nose: Pronounced cask and maturation aromas. Starting with creamy vanilla, fresh berries and a rich banana split dessert, we swiftly move into some aged notes of wood, mustiness and a perceivable note of dunnage warehouses. The wood notes hint at both cinnamon and a touch of chilli pepper. A lovely balance of old and new, which tallies particularly well when one looks at the cask description for this whisky. Adding water diminishes many of the aforementioned aromas, but does bring in some pleasant suggestions of patisserie.
Taste: Stone fruits and wood. Peaches and mangoes are joined by shaved coconut and a subtle, but creamy vanilla. Cask influence is heightened on the palate with some flavours of varnish and sappy wood alongside cinnamon and now nutmeg. Water changes the balance of the whisky and brings out the older wood flavours losing some of the sharpness of the fresher notes.
Finish: Very long and lingering with a nice level of astringency. Pepper, a lick of salt and a sprinkling of chilli all intermix nicely as the dram slowly fades away.
Excellent Glenlossie, but one which I’d recommend au naturale without the addition of water. Quite indulgent and managing to balance the older wood notes with the addition of the newer ones from the re-racking into new oak. A fruity dessert-like dram.
Up to the Highlands for a 9 year old Dalmore that was distilled on 29th May 2008 and matured in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel for 9 years. One of 168 bottles. Spicy & Sweet flavour profile.
Nose: Pronounced and animated. Warming bakery notes are joined by chocolate fruit cake and in particular raspberries. There are lighter fruits here too lychee for example, but there’s a residue sweatiness that’s discernible – rather like stale trainers or school hall plimsolls. Water reduces the pronounced cake and fruit notes (though disappointingly keeps the clammy footwear) and adds some nuttiness to the equation – roasted peanuts.
Taste: Sharpness, bitterness and booziness. This really is incredibly tart and aggressive to begin with – there’s honey, apple turnovers and cinnamon pastries in there, but it’s hard to get over quite how biting this whisky is. Once your palate has calmed down you may also detect some musty notes akin to damp walls. Water improves things somewhat, but it’s still somewhat hostile. The tartness is closer to rhubarb now, but it’s still quite fierce and acerbic.
Finish: Short to medium in length and bringing in some cask spicing – ginger and cinnamon.
Weird and a bit all over the place. I found both the incredible sharpness and hint of locker-room to both detract away from more pleasant flavours of baking, cakes, fruits and spice. I could not find a balance of water to restore proper order in this one – it’s gone rather rogue. Not for me alas.
Bottle Name: 121.101 Honey and Vanilla Roasted Rhubarb
Danny’s favourite distillery makes another SMWS appearance with this 17 year old Arran that was distilled on 20th April 2000. It was matured for 16 years in an ex-Bourbon barrel and then re-racked into a 2nd fill toasted hogshead for another year of slumbering. One of 234 bottles. Spicy & Dry flavour profile.
Nose: Rhubarb as promised. Sweet and tart and slightly stewed. Peach cobbler, bananas and lemons come together with some deep earthy and spicy notes – fresh wood planks, sandalwood, cedar, damp hay and strong black tea. Adding water I find the honey notes promised along with some freshly baked apple pie.
Taste: Sharp with zingy sherbet fruits and a fair degree of oak bitterness. Black tea again along with tart lemons and crystalline ginger. Water brings out the earthy notes further, but reduced the prominent of the sweet fruits. No real discernible vanilla in here for me.
Finish: Medium with some drying cinnamon spice.
This 17 year old Arran is satisfying enough, with some interesting spice and earthy flavours, but they’ve somewhat taken over the natural Arran spirit (which I think works best in no-messing ex-Bourbon barrels). There’s quite some sharpness and tartness here, which I suspect have come from the rerack into the toasted barrel.
Bottle Name: 52.21 Tropical Breezes Fill the Sails
ABV: 58.2% Distillery: Old Pulteney Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Region: Highlands
Old Pulteney makes a rare appearance with a bottling distilled on 18 June 2001. It spent 14 years in an ex-Bourbon barrel before being moved over to a 1st fill ex-wine hogshead for another year of maturation. One of 219 bottles. Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits flavour profile.
Nose: A interesting mix sugars, fruits and nuttiness. From the get go we’re into a fairly sweet start to proceedings with sugar syrup, tinned pears, toffee and caramel. This is supported by some pronounced nuttiness – slightly bitter and tannic – almost like seeds. There are indeed some matured wine aromas in here, and they’re quite sherry-like – sultanas and raisins in particular. Diluting slightly, we get bread pudding and toffee sauce.
Taste: Sweet, bitter, nutty, spiced – quite unusual. Star anise, cardamom, turmeric and saffron make for a heady mix of earthy spice flavours. They’ve joined by sweet wine flavours of chocolate, raisins and a light tobacco. Nuttiness continues with walnuts and hazelnuts and are joined by a slightly charred/roasted note. Water brings out fruitier flavours which favour red berries – it also heightens the tannins, making for a teeth licking experience. And there, finally, some of the salinity that I’d commonly associate with a dram from this Wick-based distillery.
Finish: Medium, quite drying and expressing a lot of earthy musky spice.
My relationship with Old Pulteney goes back nearly 20 years – it was one of my first whisky loves. You might expect a maritime, salt-licked experience as is typical with OP, but what you get here feels much more akin to a middle-eastern spice market. There’s tons of aromatic and pungent spice going on, which I can only presume comes in from the ex-wine finish. It doesn’t feel very Old Pulteney to me, but I found it highly unusual and pretty fascinating all the same.
Bottle Name: 9.135 Timeless Allure
ABV: 44.7% Distillery: Glen Grant Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Region: Speyside
A 32 year old Glen Grant that was distilled on 28th November 1984. It spent 31 years in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel and then was finished in a 1st fill American oak PX hogshead for another year. One of 185 bottles. Old & Dignified flavour profile.
Nose: Pronounced, fragrant and floral. Initial sweetness from toffee and caramel is bolstered by richly spiced ginger cake and creamy cinnamon buns. Stone fruits like nectarines and peaches and joined with rosewater and Turkish delight as we start to shift into a more floral arena. Once there, we’re greeted with freshly cut flowers – roses, hyacinths and violas. Water brings out greener aromas of nettles, flax and hemp.
Taste: A warming and coating arrival which brings with it peach tart, creamy fudge, toffee and some freshly made tea. Florals are still present and are joined with some damp soil and wet hay. The addition of water enhances the floral flavours further with rose being particularly pronounced. It also brings heightened woodiness from sandalwood.
Finish: Medium long, with some sweet zesty fruits and gentle woodiness
I can only imagine that this Glen Grant was found to be in a somewhat inactive cask to warrant a rerack into PX for an additional year of maturation. It has largely worked with pleasant toffee and bakery notes joined by inherent perfumed florals and some cask influenced darker and sweeter notes. This said, blind you’d probably not peg this as a 32 year old whisky – there’s a lot less wood and mature flavours than you might expect.
Only the ninth SMWS Allt-a-Bhainne surfaces having been distilled on the 11th March 2009. The whisky spent its entire life in 1st fill ex-Bourbon barrel. One of 227 bottles. Juicy Oak and Vanilla flavour profile.
Nose: Full-bodied fruity and herbal teas. Honey and light vanilla are combined with red apples, candied peels and coconut. Fruit infusions and herbal teas feature heavily and provide a good hit of bergamot, citrus as well as some dusty edges. Water releases orchard fruits and hints of cask spicing, particularly cinnamon.
Taste: Juicy fruits time. Red apples and Comice pears mix it up with the herbal tea brew and start to deliver some vegetal green pepper flavours as well as star anise and cinnamon. Water surprisingly dials up the sharpness for me, adding more pronounced sugary sweetness and hint of sherbet zing.
Finish: Medium to long and delivering both oak and dusty oak spices.
Not too commonly seen as a single malt whisky, this Allt-a-Bhainne delivers fresh and crisp flavours with solid fruitiness and some depth of character in terms of cask influence. Works equally well for me with or without water…so why not try it both ways?
SMWS code 42 is Tobermory, but Tobermory produces both unpeated, and peated spirit in the form of Ledaig. I’m pretty sure this is the former of the two. Distilled on 3rd March, this was matured for 12 years in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel. One of 204 bottles. Oily & Coastal flavour profile.
Nose: Initially a touch shy, but comes to life after a short resting period. Vanilla and light chalky/stony minerality are merged nicely with unripe apples, pineapple upside down cake and a host of both leafy and coastal influences. Almost into the botanical realm of gin at times, there’s forest pine, sappy birch and spicy cabbage as well as moist soils and a wisp of coastal breeze. Water enhances the earthy notes and adds in moist wood and a hint of ginger.
Taste: Sweet, savoury and umami. Initially sweetness from herbal honey, followed up by sharp apples and salted caramel. Then we’re looking at more savoury flavours, including roasted nuts and chilli pepper. The earthiness is quite pronounced now and is rather wet hay like. There’s an edge of salinity in here now, reaffirming the coastal nature of this whisky. Adding water further augments the salinity and adds in some sharp pepperiness.
Finish: Long, earthy and with a hit of chilli spice.
Lots to like with this Tobermory – very evocative of the coast with its earthy, mineral and salty notes, whilst still retaining some vibrancy of fruit and herbal influences. One of the cheaper bottles from this month’s outturn and one I’ll certainly be looking to purchase.
Over to Islay for a Bowmore. This one was distilled on 25th September 1998 and spent 18 years slumbering in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel. One of 108 bottles. Lightly Peated flavour profile.
Nose: Pine as promised, but with oh so much more! A whole host of green notes here, the pine, cut grass, spearmint and hedgerows are fused with the aromas of freshly cut garden flowers. Red berries add fruitiness whilst peat smoke is ever so delicate but still running through the entire nose. There’s a hint of varnish which nods to the age of this whisky and some good quality casking. A few drops of water heightens the red berries adding a layer of juiciness to them as well as some real saccharine in the form of Haribo gummies.
Taste: More peat now – lightly smoked kippers and a real savoury quality akin to a smoked ham joint. There’s still plenty of green notes on the palate with mint and interestingly spring onion?! getting in on the act. The smoking is part sweet, part medicinal, and sits very nicely without ever feeling overpowering.
Finish: Medium to long with a lovely fading astringency and the flavours of smoked meats.
My pick of this month’s outturn (in terms of what I’ve managed to taste so far). You know, I’ve not been the biggest fan of Bowmore’s official bottlings over the last few years, but have found a few really good independently bottled versions. This is certainly one of them. A wonderful interplay between sweet, savoury and smoky showing balance and a real depth of interesting flavours. Highly recommended.
Bottle Name: 53.243 A Fisherman’s Nightcap
ABV: 59.1% Distillery: Caol Ila Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Region: Islay
A youthful Caol Ila that was distilled on 1st June 2010 and spent its entire 7 years within a refill ex-Bourbon hogshead. One of 280 bottles. Peated flavour profile.
Nose: Coastal, oily and with some sharp citrus. To begin, we’re provided with some dusty, ashy smoke that’s sweet, but certainly of the coastal peat variety. The dustiness gives way to an almost oily nature which is interesting to detect on the nose rather than on the palate. Tart ripe apples, cinnamon coated apples and sharp lemon peels give this both a youthful, but a refreshing feel. There’s more than a lick of salt here, and a firm coastal breeze. Water heightens the salinity further and the maritime air is almost filled with ozone now. It also brings out some of the cask influence in the form of ginger.
Taste: Sharp pleasant citrus tang. Toffee apples and brown sugars are tempered by really zesty lemon and lime and become sweet but refreshing. The smoke is dusty still and brings with it some charred wood and burnt rubber. Again, its half medicinal, half fireside. No discernible positive changes with the addition of water.
Finish: Medium and displaying the character of the dying embers of a beachside fire. Smoke and salts merging together nicely.
People often forget the peating levels of Caol Ila, as their official bottlings down play the smoke compared to some of their Islay neighbours. This is not the case with younger single cask Caol Ila however, and this bottling is a great example of a reasonably peaty, but still lively and fun whisky. Dusty, ashy and quite seaside.
Bottle Name: 10.128 Sea Salt and Smoked Peppered Almonds
A Bunnahabhain that’s certainly ‘Moine’ given the dark green flavour profile colour. Distilled on 10th December 2007, this whisky spent 9 years in an ex-Bourbon hogshead and then was transferred to a 2nd fill toasted oak hogshead. Seeing as it’s still listed as 9 year old, it wasn’t in that toasted jobbie for very long. One of 253 bottles.
Nose: Salty sea air, brine and brackish water. There’s some sherbet sweetness to begin with which has a sharpness that’s quite mineral, like granite or limestone. Peat smoke is sweet, but somewhat background presently. Water brings out salted peanuts and adds a bit of greenhouse to the affair – with both fruits and vegetables.
Taste: Much bigger phenolic influence now and a somewhat aggressive arrival. Oily and rich smoke that is both dusty and rather dirty (I often find Bunnahbhain’s ‘Moine’ this way). There’s sharpness from citrus and salinity alongside a touch of balsamic vinegar. Adding some water makes this much less hostile and adds in some pepperiness. It also makes the back palate even more peaty.
Finish: Medium with dirty smoke and a lick of salt.
There are two Bunnahabhain’s in this month’s outturn and I think I need to try the other one. This bottling is rightfully in the heavily peated flavour category and that can be a fun thing – but in this case the smoke to my taste has rather overpowered some of the fresher notes I’d expect to find in a Moine. There’s still vibrancy here, but it's come from minerality and sharpness rather than from fruit or cask spice. By no means bad, but certainly not the best peated Bunna I’ve had from the Society recently.