Speyside Distillery 22yo  M&M for The Pot Still single sherry puncheon #942 [127 bts] 62% [WB]86.40
When I first encountered this at the Pot Still,I wrote ‘Taking a punt at £85, I’ll confirm or deny whether the occasion/time & place elevated this one in due course. I have a feeling it might have‘ WLP87.
- N: There’s nothing ‘safe’ about this precociously pungent, aged-yet-youthful sherried squidgy herbal number. On the one hand there are these delicious sherried mangos. On the other, butyric Screwdrivers. Water encourages raisin/fig > maple syrup, hessian-damp mashy barley and assertive aromatic [in your face] spices, but as it opens up, the feint-y notes appear. What have I bought?
- T: Quite the acid reflux number with more feint-y notes. Even with 50/50 dilution, it starts with a paint stripper-like ouch/punch, continuing to reveal a lively peppered sherried raisin distillate. Months down the road, every sip requires work. I cut to the chase, the [potential] romance is over – this is harsh & unforgiving rocket fuel.
- F: The finish is lacking yet there are aftershocks. Some putrid sick notes, curry notes,…. turmeric.
- C: One of very few bottles that got worse with age and one of the very few I’ve been unable to finish [Greenore 8, Laphroaig Select], eventually donated to the living library.
Scores 74 points
Let’s stick with sherry.
- N: Resinous and youthful with a strong pongy spirity touch and sweet notes of butterscotch, honey and melon raised from far more bourbon casks than the fuller sherry cask maturation from 105 expressions a few years back.
- T: Whilst the arrival is fine, there are firm Speyside Distillery Pot Still echoes, albeit without such a bitter metallic direction. This is however tin-like and coppery. From another perspective, this reminds me of STR distillery newcomers – bourbon-forward with grape-cask influences. Gets a little congested half way through but takes a large amount of water very well. Almost rum-like and even Cognac-y at times.
- F: Again, this reminds me of many of those young STR whiskies, albeit a tad more mature and consolidated if a little butyric. I love that still-present bourbon/vanilla-sweet waxy butterscotch, with more than a hint of toffee apple as well as detergent/soapy hints that have been quietly lurking around.
- C: Still a fine NAS single malt, but the character of the 105 that I always associated with prominent sherry cask maturation [from batches only two or three years ago] has noticeably changed.
LAST FEW DRAMS
- N: Fruity, spirity and woody-fresh with fruity-creamy > nutty < sappy-vanilla-sawdust.
- T: Neat, it’s a full-on prickly & [bourbon > sherry] fruity-spirity number, not the joyous malt I’d hoped for. With water, bourbon=fruity vanilla resinous/sappy wood-plane shavings with an assured vibrant heat. A winter warmer for sure, though that’s mainly the high-abv spirit talking.
- F: I’m waiting for the chewy/gooey chocolate-y/caramac notes that I enjoyed from my 2006 bottling to arrive. This hasn’t let up or given anymore than it did when opened. On a positive note, it finishes with a few very subtle Asian, Eastern & confectionary fruity/aromatic spices, but in the main it stays rather spirity and somewhat butyric.
- C: Clearly plenty of young spirit in here, making everything rather basic. With so many choices available in the market [BBR sherry casks WB, Aberlour A’bunadh WLP86 for example], I’ll be passing this expression by for a few years.
Scores 82 points
Let’s revisit an older bottling with the advantage of a 10cl decanted sample.
- N: Far more oloroso-y than the 1996 Arran [to come], though certainly not an outright sherry bomb. It’s husky with confectionary dry fruits, though the abv-laden oiliness drives it.
- T: Like the more recent bottling, it’s quite spirity at times. Unusual coppery>fruity notes dominate. A toasted/burnt spirit note lingers.
- F: Youthful fruity spirity > molasses > burnt caramel notes, remaining coppery & caramel-y with a few grassy herbs.
- C: Very good, though possibly even better/more moorish in warmer humid climates.
Scores 86 points
Excuse the long notes to follow, but bottles of Littlemill don’t pass my way too often. It’s a bottle I was pouring in last year’s TWE show queue, in light of the golden offerings I was offered the year before [WLP].
They say you should disregard the first neck pour. But still, first impressions can count.
- N: Distillate-faithful, bourbon-matured, spirity=resinous bitter/oaky honeyed/lozenge citrus straw-like nose with plump yet light raisin overtones.
- T: Very natural, firm barley and oaky vanilla=bourbon arrival, turning a little eggy & bready – so eggy bread.
- F: A fair woody > butyricness on the turn with the subsequent release of honeyed barley and a bitter waxiness, becoming more putty-ish/tannic/malolactic and gently prickly towards the end. Concludes with a touch of wood glue on balsa wood.
- C: Provisionally scores a solid 87.
- N: Time to get stuck into the meat of this bottle. It’s quite pongy – lactose/metallic pond water no less with the occasional fishy hint [literally] – though in time it’s the bourbon-aged, floury soft aromatically-spiced, spirity/fruity citrus notes that come through strongest, joined a some wort-y paste-y barley=buckwheat watery porridge character.
- T: Metallic-y eggy & < bready into an unusual waxy soft/sharp, green-bitter citrus, waxy, vanilla-y oaked development. Metallic citrus settles.
- F: Butyric/lactic/metallic bitter-zesty, greasy liquorice dryness, but with a creamy=milky barley savoury-sweetness coming through at the end. After a soft creamy citrus zing, we’ve firm bitter/milky oaky liquorice at the death.
- C: Super moments, though it’s not always harmonious. I’ll stick with my solid 87 for now.
TAKE 3 [last 1/3rd]
- N: Consistently pleasing floury-savoury < sugary=cereal-sweet nose that wears a desirable coppery coat with lime=grapefruit citrus pattern. Some Fimo, cashew=pistachio nuts and buttered bloomer bread joins the shopping list, alongside a little lamb, cotton wool, tropical fruit and a hint earthy/soil/chalk before slipping [peripheral smelling?!]
- T: Surprisingly strong everytime [given the calm nose], with a citrus bitter lemon arrival and development with a desirable & comforting heat reminiscent of green chilli masala dishes. The mouthfeel is rather good, the palate markedly sustained. Deeper layers see more tropical fruits, putty and very clean lambs wool.
- F: After some ringing aniseed action, it turns putty-like with that clean wool, soft plastics, wood plane sawdust shavings and blu-tac humming in the background. Bitter citrus pith rings so true at the death. With lots and lots of water however, we’ve an extension of the development, the finish an extension of the journey. Grapefruit pith remains true-as! The citrus heat sustains for a long while, so much so, it’s one you may take home with you.
- C: I didn’t find this easy, but my perseverance was rewarded with a uniquely profiled whisky.
Final score: 88 points
- N: A variety of dried and ripe tropical fruits, shortbread, ginger biscuits, white pitta bread and a hint of soil. Serge’s Jerusalem artichoke and aubergine note is sublime! As a mere mortal I’d have simply put this in a more general oily/herbal category.
- T: Ideally firm, slightly spicy, fresh & focused arrival with room for a little water if needed. There’s more [pitta] bread, soil, artichokes=grapes < olives & brine,… but the main body is formed of a complex mix between the cask types, the bourbon/sherry cask combo providing a sum that is a greater than its parts. Could there even be a drop of ex-Madeira, PX and maybe Sauternes casks in here? Not sure whether the bottle states more than ex-bourbon & 1st fill sherry butts. Fine blending at Balblair HQ.
- F: Relaxed waxy, fresh & aromatic dried spice with a dry chew.
- C: A treat for the old faithful. This is even better than when I first tried it at the Edinburgh Fringe [WLP88]. A gem of a whisky for a bargain price, before the vintages were dropped by Inverhouse.
Scores 89 points
Arran 1996/2012 15yo Ob. Sherry cask #1968 [bottle #124/263] 53.9% WB89.74
I was wowed by this when I first opened bottle number 124, but that was some years ago. From a 10cl decanted sample, let’s see how my palate sees things now.
- N: Far less sherried than I’d remembered. Actually appears more a bourbon matured malt with a [refill] sherry finish. Also of note, nice grainy dunnage-y vibes with dirty garage oils, Caramac, malt biscuits, ginger cake, dried whey/milk powder, stale dry salty crisp notes with suggestions of pickled onion & Worcester sauce crisp flavourings alongside earthy/sandy notes, fruity dry vanilla wafers, Cillit Bang? …. All sorts as I remembered from before. It’s also rather coppery.
- T: Hugely desirable start. Succulent, vibrant and slightly oily yet desirably dry-hessian/husky & coppery with aniseed/peppery action thereafter. This simply blazes initially, though where’s that sherry action? Refill PX possibly? The sherry action appears merely as the icing on the bourbon cake base.
- F: With the appearance of a lovely barley bourbon > sherry cask fusion, there’s an wood-echoe-y yet talkative light fungal-bungal-tastic finish.
- C: Sherry/bourbon, who cares. This is super whisky. Let’s come back to it another time.
TAKE 2 [a few months later]
- N: Even this decanted sample has blossomed a few months after opening, oozing thick rich grain juice, ginger honey, the fluffiest cottonwool candy floss and ripe fruits along with a double-sweet raspberry coulis, the jammiest Jammy Dodgers, apricot jams,… amazing!!
- T: It’s huge so get that water in! The cask drives hard but with water comes the malt-thick, herbal/green-grassy beer & barley sugar driving distillate – desirably lush and yet also bone-dry. Those favourably dirty coppery tones come through once again, on the turn.
- F: That’s one lovely ride.
- C: My, that nose. And overall, unique, lively and fabulous. Well kept bottles from this cask may become future classics. Scores say 91, for now!!!