Mannochmore is firmly on my under-the-radar radar, along with Teaninich and Inchgower – a situation i hope wont become too affected [price hikes], by Diageo’s latest  releases that include an Ob. 25yo Mannochmore. For a distillery with minimal official output, I find it astonishing that such an inconspicuous distillery [not even a website], producing almost exclusively for blend has largely gained a reputation [and not a good one], for producing the litigious Loch Dhu, especially when it can produce quality malt. That was way back in 1996, but i doubt that Loch Dhu-gate had any negative knock-on effect in the long term – and anyway, Loch Dhu has since gained an infamous cult status.
I’m rather sold on Mannochmore as a single malt as a few at the SMWS [London] will testify to. Loch Dhu aside, the distillery pumps out a rich and robust, oily, barley-porridge, malty-[bourbon]-sweet whisky for blend, whilst showing complexity, formidable body, form, depth and mouthfeel as a single malt if allowed. However, I find Mannochmore’s greatest appeal [in the main], is the spirit’s tenaciousness that translates on the palate as a full-powered, weighty malt with a solid follow-through punch and unwavering direction.
Lets see if SMWS’s latest [single cask] expressions live up to my past experiences. I rather think they will as I find Mannochmore to possess a fairly solid profile consistency, and given it’s no-nonsense style, makes it a reliable go-to malt. Now if only it were found in bars, wouldn’t it be fabulous in a whisky sour?
Mannochmore 2006/2016 9yo SMWS 64.80 58.2% WB81
- N: Resinous and fibrous, most indicative of young, CS, single cask bottlings in general. Looking underneath the hood [with water, and time], there’s a sweet lemon [Speyside character] and pineapple-bark fruitiness with a continuing resinous & fibrous, wood-pulp maltiness. It hints at coconut and leans more confidently towards [ice-cream] cellulose.
- T: Starts sweet and honeyed with a rum n raisin-toffee & lemon curd/pineapple direction, before a quick and salivating burst of honeyed, fruitiness. Then it’s chocolatey and a touch more pulpy before becoming [predictably] malty. With a soft mouthfeel, it displays more delicacy than the usual Mannnochmore robustness.
- F: That maltiness takes on a fruity dry-oak, raisin & putty/malty-paste character with a decent length finish. Concludes beautifully. After-notes include coffee liqueur into liquorice before marzipan and more vanilla-pineapple.
- C: A touch less austere than i’ve found Mannochmore to be in general but its none the worst for it. Still with a strong malt base and solid form, this expression brings a sweeter<fruitier body with a number of references to Plantation’s pineapple rum along the way. Super balance, highly recommended.
Scores 86 points
Let’s up the age with a slightly older Mannochmore from a 2nd refill cask.
Mannochmore 2003/2016 12yo SMWS 64.75 [126 bts] 60.8%
- N: Oh, this is more like it. Theres less resinous, raw-oakiness than the previous 64.80, but then this is from a 2nd refill. It’s also more of a consolidated/balanced, ‘classic’ whisky, meaning barley-distillate led, aged in 2nd fill bourbon – and ‘classic’ as in, recent decades classic. I nose a solid yet soft, oily, malty, chalky, grassy, pasty-pulpy, raisiny, barley-rum-sweet number with a handful of dusty-earthy dunnage thrown on top. This is Mannochmore!
- T: Salivating with a fruity, honeyed, malty-raisiny surge, and you know it’s going to stay on course. A soft-citrus note balances the sweetness, a lot like lime does to sugar in Daiquiri. It doesn’t hang around too long. There’s a little trip to the candy shop before the darker putty-mash notes creep in.
- F: After the long ‘creeping’, sweet liquorice and bourbon molasses reside with a deep, bourbon oak=barley-cereal sweetness. Refreshingly, there’s no vanilla vehemence here. It finishes more on Daiquiri with a splash of whisky sour.
- C: Simple yet elegant. One could sip this but i can see myself slugging it. Just a point down from the excellent 64.80.
Scores 85 points
Maybe it’s the spirit’s dominant character that drives the co-operation and cohesion between it [the spirit] and cask. The two seem to bond with some ease, even/especially with first-fills. On occasion when the spirit appears to devour the oak, what emerges is a wonderfully pleasing ‘oak-fuelled malt’ amalgamation – either that or an equally forthright determination from both spirit & cask as if lives depended on it. Either way, there’s rarely a fight. It’s a similar story currently with young Strathclyde grain spirit and first-fill sherry casks LINK. I’ve not come across an overly-spirit dominant or over-oaked Mannochmore, even one of age, but then the older ones are predominantly from 2nd refill casks. Aah, enough of all this reflection and speculation, let’s put all this rhetoric to the test, up the age by a year and return to first-fill [bourbon].
Mannochmore 2003/2016 13yo SMWS 64.83 [192 bts] 61.4% WB0
- N: That’s a lot of years in a first-fill cask and as a result there’s way more flavour from the cask than the 64.75, with bubblegum, vanilla and the bourbon oak itself the main speakers. Sweetness wise, there’s a nutty molasses [SMWS = Brazil nuts], along with wood shavings, plenty of vanilla ice-cream and a touch of chocolate cake – the sponge high-risen and firm.
- T: There’s plenty of oak. Still sweet and salivating [with lots of water], but less so than the previous dram with a light bitter=tannic/black tea edge. This time the oak has swallowed the spirit rather than the other way round, but the oak is thankfully reigned. Develops on nutty, vanilla, dry bourbon oak, very much like the nose. Enough water will bring out the malty chew with more of a spicy-spirit character.
- F: Consolidates to a honey-chocolate, malt-putty mass, [light-heat] liquorice<vanilla<bubblegum before the tannins lift significantly. Concludes with dryish, bourbon-sweet, macha-chocolate<vanilla but not before some more salivating barley-spirit action.
- C: For those that have stuck there finger in a globule of oak/sugar-syrup thats weeped from the top of a bourbon cask, this Mannochmore is indicative of that experience. The spirit as done well to reign in 13 years of first-fill oak but good job it was bottled sooner than later. What results is a consolidated [certainly], not totally un-balanced yet certainly cask driven, woody-liquid expression. I reckon the spirit met its match here yet hung on right to the end.
Scores 83 points
My money is on the 12yo 2nd refill as a drinker although the 64.80 is [probably] a tad more composed. All good for the start of the darker months.