Whisky Squad #???: We <3 whisky, Part 2 – Billy's choice

Whisky Squad says: ‘Continuing the series, this month sees Billy at the helm. He’ll be choosing some whiskies that he either likes, wants to like, thinks he might like or thinks you might like‘. ‘In short: there will be whisky. Beyond that all bets are off‘.

On paper Billy admits he shouldn’t like some of the proceeding drams. Included is a young Texan bruiser, a Chardonnay matured malt, a duty free NAS,… and a few more orthodox [vintage] gems too.

All tasted blind.


Tomatin 1978/2003 25yo Ob. 43% WB87.10[65] WM85[1]

Tomatin 25.jpg

  • N: The consensus around the room is immediately positive. It’s a nose with wide appeal given the varied & familiar whisky traits it shares with good Scotch in general. Namely, dusty/earthy & grassy notes with biscuit, raisins, After Eight=Peppermint [-leaf says Phil], oily tropical fruits and hessian dried candy. The [US] oak comes out later, slightly hollow [in a good way], that reveals decent ageing in my book. Lovely nose.
  • T: It’s a sweet enough, grassy, barley, citrus malt, spicy hot and with a snappy, narrow bite.
  • F: A satisfying decent-length finish on oily-dry, bourbon vanilla – that hollow character talking once again.
  • C: There are guesses all over the shop from all of us: grain, Irish, Lowland, Highland, 12yo, 38yo? I plumbed for an 18yo Cragganmore. ’Twas a mere £75 back in the day.

Scores 85 points


Balcones Texas Single Malt [2017] Ob. Batch SM17.6 [24/08/17] ’Classic Edition’ 53%

I tried this only once, many years ago. I found it tasty, a little rough yet enjoyable with a colourful nose – old scoring: 84. Let’s see what’s changed.

Balcones texas.jpg

  • N: We’ve a funky<crazy one on our hands. Notes of blueberry muffins, blackcurrant fudge, B’loonies, cedar wood, teak furniture, and later, the addition of smoking-hot metal fillings. I initially wondered whether it was an Edradour concoction before going down the Bourbon/Rye route. And then I got it, sort of. I meant Balcones [100% corn though], but said Brimstone – and I’m only one whisky in!
  • T: Very rich, very forward [bold], and there’s that distillery-distinct burnt oily fudge note once again. I continue saying Brimstone but still mean Balcones – frustrating. At least I knew what I meant, and I was sure I’d spotted it correctly.
  • F: Finishes more conventionally than it started out with toasted caramel, popcorn and straight bourbon.
  • C: You have to give it to Balcones for developing such a clearly identifiable & unique distillery character. Technically a [Texan] whiskey, not a [Kentucky] corn bourbon, but it is a Balcones – who make Brimstone!

Scores 80 points


Starward 10th Anniversary [2017] Ob. 52% [btl code:170531A] WB85.33[3]


  • N: A creamy one with decorative lime candy, baked pineapple [a popular collective note], hot cross buns, a vibrant airy freshness and a rum-like woodiness with a hint of detergent [much like a Caroni I can’t finish]. The bourbon casks appear to be the most dominant but apparently all sorts of casks have been used.
  • T: A weighty mouthful with a bourbon-dry yet cloying richness – not dissimilar to the Balcones in that respect. Moves into butterscotch, caramel and cinnamon candy,…. all somewhat clogged up.
  • F: More cinnamon candy and bubblegum. Desirably dry finish.
  • C: Guesses regarding age ranged from 8-35 years but this is actually no more than a 3yo. Both Nick & I detected this as a young whisky with accelerated ageing from a distillery located in warmer climes – that clogging & cloying is a fair indicator in my book. Amrut and more-so Kavalan share this attribute. We’ve been treated to plenty of stella young malt releases from new distilleries [Kilkerran, Chichibu, Wolfburn, Kavalan], in the last few years. I’m yet to be convinced by the Starward character, but concede it’s decent juice – and it is early days. That said, whisky from these new distilleries [from the micro-distilleries especially], is often geared to peak early, but whether the malt is suited to longer maturation is another question.

Scores 84 points


[Springbank] Longrow 2001/2018 16yo Cadenhead ‘Warehouse bottling’ [Chardonnay finishing cask circa: 2008] 56% [WB]85[1]

Longrow 2001.jpg

  • N: A peaty one. It’s Frazzle-y, meaty [many meats], with Sunbites wheat snacks (from Walkers I think & not recommended), smoked dry pickled onions, leather hide, cows sheds,… and “a medieval tavern”, says DR – and who can disagree? The farminess grows as the peatiness fades, a touch. It’s so meaty and soft, very like that SMWS Glen Scotia from this month’s outturn [blog].
  • T: Firm yet easy arrival immediately developing a sweet chewy mouthfeel. There are subsequent notes of soft & smokey [back] bacon, mild sweet herbal lemon and barley/doughy grasses. More sugars and oak are produced with water & swilling.
  • F: A short finish on smoked bacon bits and dry, maple-sweet meat [lamb & processed turkey.
  • C: Blind, no clue. Revealed, yet another Chardonnay-affected whisky in the same week [2007 Inchmurrin blog], that I like! It’s a good sign because we are only going to see more & more wine casks.

Scores 87 points


Bowmore Black Rock Ob. Duty Free 40% [1ltr] [btl code: 5010496003824] WB83.67[3] WF80

Bowmore black rock.JPG

  • N: Spongey and meaty [again], with a Rampur-esque funk that is settling down, engine oil/ slick, tractor fuel, scorched rubber and popadom oil. Also a dry ashy, slight farmy attribute. Interesting stuff.
  • T: A soft, thin almost fragile arrival. Likely sherry influence, though light with mild floral suggestions drifting upon the pool of vagueness. It’s the first whisky tonight where the cask hasn’t been the main driver.
  • F: Lovely raisin-light distillate with further light sherry cask indicators. Final moves reveal dry cocoa after coal>tar with a light woody ashy finish – or is that the previous Longrow speaking? There is an ashy-ness on the nose so probably not.
  • C: I guessed an undisclosed Islay malt from Aldi with 27 years of inactivity on the clock, but no. It’s a duty free NAS exclusive but I don’t get the impression it’s predominantly very young. An everyday drinking whisky for sure, one I could imagine drinking a lot of very easily. Holiday’s coming up!

Scores 82 points


Laphroaig 10yo [1990’s] Ob. 43% [btl. codes L43009, L00721 & L00718]  WB86.57[104] WF89[nn] [WF]91 WM89[4]

Laphroaig 10

Apparently, labels of this circa of Laphroaig 10 were slapped on in a rather ad hoc fashion. Some authentic bottles therefore are likely to have two or three differing bottle codes on them like this one.

  • N: Yet more meatiness, salty maltiness, gooey mineral, limes [fresh>cordial], a floral touch, blu-tac,..
  • T: Salty, dry smoke maltings and an age-bearing softness.
  • F: A long finish on shy mineral citrus, dry smoked barley, a touch of bacon-meatiness and creamy icing sugar.
  • C: Convinced it was Talisker after Nick called it, this Laphroaig is especially soft compared to modern fayre, and with almost no TCP. A super decent all-round session whisky in its day, now a price-inflated auction lot.

Scores 88 points


Thanks to Billy & Elise





Whisky Squad

3 thoughts on “Whisky Squad #???: We <3 whisky, Part 2 – Billy's choice

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