SMWS: December outturn 2017

Another huge outturn after huge outturn. Who’s keeping up? There are a few of you I know. Here’s my selection from issue #260.


Strathclyde 1977/2017 39yo SMWS G10.12 ‘Chocolate-covered macadamia nuts’ [67 bts] 57.9% WB0


  • N: Many different types of vanilla in different forms, all wrapped up with a cracked woody oakiness. Add water for a more straight forward vanilla wafer. With water, some milky toffee, coppery oak, a wood shed wth the remains of freshly sawn wood, burnt wood sap, a little popadom,… Improves big time, over time.
  • T: Sharp and green with darker earthier green notes lurking underneath. Requires only a little water and that’s more like it. Continues in a balanced soft bitter-sour direction.
  • F: Some controlled peppery lingerings on cinnamon, some fine pepper and the now obligatory vanilla.
  • C: Thankfully this improved [moderately] from lowly beginnings.

Scores 82 points


Glen Scotia 1992/2017 25yo SMWS 93.78 ‘Like a vintage dessert wine’ [186 bts] 53.3% WB0


  • N: Butterscotch tart, soot, bergamot, Black Forest gateau [Nick], old musty lofts, some woody orange citrus and an occasional yet distinct scent of lilies. A nose you could & should spend a while with.
  • T: Trickles down effortlessly neat. Carries on succinctly from the nose with much of the same action. And just when we thought we had discovered a SMWS cracker, the loud & clumsy rubber oloroso crashes in – and all the finesse, balance and story line is lost. Seasoned sherry casks eh? – sigh.
  • F: Thankfully the finish isn’t too affected. Soon, some of the earlier magic from the nose & arrival returns with those ever desirable mouldy, damp, dunnage-y notes re-establishing the underlying provenance.
  • C: Scores 90, less the oloroso. These obtrusive/evasive finishes are really starting to get me down.

Scores 86 points


Benrinnes 2000/2017 17yo SMWS 36.139 ‘Caramel, coconut & cinnamon popcorn’ [282 bts] 57.3% WB0

Whisky matured in 2nd refill bourbon, transferred into another. Is that simply due to a leaky cask? Some distilleries only use refill casks [from memory, Caol Ila?]. Maybe Benrinnes too. What’s the story here?


  • N: Lovely new-make vibe on coppery barley sugar, icing sugar, Lino polish [Nick], something of a Clairins, odd soft funk and sweet pongy hay.
  • T: More coppery spirit led action, the cask never obtrusive here. A thin weightiness is established. Curiously it’s neither oily, waxy nor dry. Well, it’s somewhat dry but certainly not tannic. Turns out the story is short and not massively exciting.
  • F: Takes a while to cream up, concluding with a sweet barley [male-lactose] milky finish.
  • C: We shouldn’t complain when overall standard quality is so decent & consistent, but I would sacrifice some of the consistency for the odd serendipitous gem or two.

Scores 84 points


Strathmill 1991/2017 26yo SMWS 100.15 ‘Danish pastries & pickled ginger’ [234 bts] 50.8% WB0


  • N: Rum n raisins toffee, fruit & nut and some sweet underlying vegetal<copper soft funk. It’s distillate/ethanol firm with further notes of dates & honey [Nick], linseed, grasses,…
  • T: More of the same. Natural/true, grassy, barley savoury-sweet with a hint of a stagnant glass of tap water. There’s a gradual building heat that probably won’t lead to anything.
  • F: ,… and it doesn’t. Finishes neatly on ground linseeds and grassy hummus. Balanced. Uneventful.
  • C: A hip flask job that grows on me. Littlemill style in my book, or is Littlemill a Strathmill style?

Scores 82 points


Auchentoshan 2000 16yo SMWS 5.60 ‘Sweet surrender’ [220 bts] 56.5% WB85[2]


  • N: Department store perfume section alongside aromas from grandmas salle de bain, white musk, apricot jam, blackcurrant jelly, rosewater, stone kernels,… Interesting indeed. Clean and somewhat ethereal.
  • T: Further curiousness from this unusually perfumed subtle, soft & odd profile. We like!
  • F: Short finish. Decent form.
  • C: Initially not so impressive, but it edges closer to the Glen Scotia [score-wise] by the minute. Perhaps the most characterful Auchentoshan I’ve had. This has stayed on my mind for weeks now.

Scores 84 points


Glenmorangie 2005/2017 11yo SMWS 125.74 ‘Caribbean semi-freddo’ [199 bts] 57.9% WB0

The crazy price [RRP £120] reflects the rarity of an independently bottled Glenmorangie, with a vintage. Remember TBWC recently did one or two WB. Given that Glenmorangie owned the SMWS for a while, how likely is it that we will see more Glenmorangie from the SMWS in the future?


  • N: Grain-like with plenty of vanilla, lime candy, pepper and all sorts of fruits.
  • T: First-fill bourbon and it shows. Honeyed, short and well matured – as in it feels ready.
  • F: Decent length, balance & form.
  • C: ADD WATER! Then it comes alive, firms up and promotes the distillate against the repeated waves of prominent bourbon casks. You can’t argue with this as an 11 year old, one that shows it’s the complete article at a youngish age – just like the standard 10yo. An academics whisky we thought. 10-12 years in bourbon casks is a recipe that simply works for Glenmorangie, just like the standard 10y – though much less forgiving as a single [first-fill] cask at strength. An academics Glenmorangie we thought.

Scores 85 points


Glen Grant 1996/2017 21yo SMWS 9.133 ‘Elixir of the Gods’ [180 bts] 59% WB0


  • N: Lemon sawdust, woody cardboard & plasticine, hessian dry, varnished yet youthful.
  • T: Polished & youthful woody sweet lemon.
  • F: Keeps on the same lines.
  • C: There are rows & rows of this kind of style at the SMWS. Better with time but water didnt change it a jot.

Scores 83 points


Bladnoch 1990/2017 27yo SMWS 50.96 ‘A day trip to Heaven] [94 bts] 53.7% WB0


  • N: Yes yes, we have some dad murmurs because of the flowers [freesias] and porridge, hessian, marzipan and sweet hay, Barley spirit all the way.
  • T: Slightly oily, honeyed and floral. Gratitude to the cask for its sterling efforts. The first journey malt of the day with slightly different variations every sip.
  • F: Lots more soft-scented flower petals during a long finish. Firm notes on Bach’s rescue remedy, one honey Locket and soft pokey aniseed chocolate. At the death – sweet, honeyed/candy barley porridge.
  • C: SMWS’s notes are darn good on this one. The Foz “Bladnoch is one of the least shouty whisky’s”. There’s no mystery to this malt. There are some layers to it or you can simply take this for an ‘honest John’ – whisky well matured in refills. A well trodden story. Happy.

Scores 87 points


Royal Brackla 1997/2017 19yo SMWS 55.48 ‘Gooey goodness’ [270 bts] 56.5% WB90[1]


  • N: Astringent stuff with plenty of cask noise and notes of metallic peas and cheese & pickle. So very similar on the nose to the Paul John that followed. Further similarities come with a shared chalk development – and yet with this Brackla, the aged softness shows through eventually marking out the distinct difference between the two.
  • T: Very little but strong ethanol and fresh cask wood. Improves a little but there is very little to shout about.
  • F: Toasted/burned nutshell smoke with metallic>milky=saline barley.
  • C: Easily missable, save for a reasonable finish.

Scores 81 points


Paul John 2010/2017 SMWS 134.4 ’Struts its stuff’ [165 bts] 57% WB0

Paul John

  • N: As previously discussed, the resemblances between this and the Royal Brackla are notable. This is more chalky with a popadom note, samosa, Nigella seeds, a Mini Milk pong, PU cardboard and coppery candid distillate. Shows a great deal at 6 years old.
  • T: So very astringent. With time and water: fruity with rubber tree sap. The distillate softens whilst some soft sweet fruitiness emerges.
  • F: A small burned metallic milky distillate note [much like the Brackla], later with an interesting carb-sweet chew.
  • C: Not happening at all for me, though finishing chews later on show more promise.

Scores 79 points


Laphroaig 1998/2017 18yo SMWS 29.225 ’Slapped by a kipper’ [240 bts] 57.4% WB0

Can’t believe i went for this again after trying it only a few weeks ago [Blog].


  • N: Some BO, some bandages, toasted sunflower seeds, carbolic onions, raw ginger,….
  • T: Onion-y, mint, egg yokes, soft pickled onions and [Nick], ‘a marrow-family note’.
  • F: A bit weird. Smoky green grass and more pickled onion skins. Kicks in later with chocolate.
  • C: I’m again unmoved but it takes time to get inside it. A mark higher than last time.

Scores 86 points




The Glen Scotia showed so much promise before the slapdash oloroso hit it.

Of the huge Christmas outturn, the best of the bunch for me was the Bladnoch. Why? Well aged spirit in refill casks. Lovely stuff but not stella whisky.

The selection above contains the higher aged, more pricey malts from the Christmas outturn with a few younger strays. The rest – ‘malts of consistently decent quality’ were frankly missable, becoming rather predictable, bland and sometimes downright tedious.

I’m struggling [mood dependant] with the current-modern style of whisky, brought about by the focus on efficiency, high-yield, automated production techniques, rushed oak growth, snappy seasoning and whacky finishing – and this isn’t exclusive to the SMWS as we know, it’s the way of things. Will these high definition, heavily managed, colourful cask finished whiskies sustain our interest in the long term?

Where are the classic, rare malts of the future coming from, the emotion-evoking ones that transcend their constituent parts? Sure we now have thousands of 82-87 point achievers, but where are the 90+ whisky’s coming from? Are we hoping on old bottle effect from current glassware, or a lottery win perhaps?

Merry [bah humbug] Christmas


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2 thoughts on “SMWS: December outturn 2017

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