Come on! This event happened on 14/06/18 so I’m only 14 months behind!
Whisky Squad says: ‘There are some whiskies that the distillers don’t let out of their sight. Or site. The mysterious realm of distillery-only bottlings. Your ever-generous Whisky Squad ‘organisers’ have been visiting distilleries and hoarding bottles, ensuring that you’ll get to try these special bottlings without leaving the protective smog cloud of central London‘.
I bought a ticket but couldn’t attend. The Foz kindly picked up six samples for me to taste in my own time. That time has come, let’s begin. Tasted blind, the whiskies were revealed to me afterwards.
Strathisla 15yo [06/07/2014] Un-Ob. Distillery only Batch #2 Bottled by Billy Abbot [btl #88] 55.9% [WB]86.79
- N: First up is a malt I’d actually tried before at Whisky Squad’s infamous 2018 Christmas Party [WLP85]. My notes then were understandably brief. And indeed, this does seem incredibly familiar, smells strong, contemporary > yeasty & < resinous with a savoury-sweet coffey-toffee malt profile that soon turns to sweet glazed fruits [apples and tinned peaches], with vanilla cream and later, citrus < custard.
- T: This is a fine dram. A touch of water reveals a tasty-resinous bourbon-oaky, succulent and rounded barley-fruity number with a fair number of years on the clock – say 15? Also of note is a glossy/varnished mouth coating with dryish/husky fruit oils,…
- F: ,…. laced with a desirable vibrant sour note that stays with the sustaining savoury-sweet fruity barley profile. Frankly, it stays perky right through.
- C: Let’s guess a 15yo Balvenie [though it could be any number of Speysiders > Highlanders], bourbon-matured at 50+abv.
Scores 86 points
Benromach 2010/2017 7yo Ob. Distillery Exclusive 4th edition Single Cask #280 [311 bts] 61% WB86.20
It turns out I’d also had this before, at the Benromach distillery with 2018’s Dramboree [WLP84].
- N: The least distinctive of the three so far. This smells decidedly uptight and could go either way on the palate. Light fruits & vanilla flavour the potentially astringent and/or assertive spirit, and yet it opens out to become more fluffy [eggy < spongey] and a little chalky. In fact the nose really starts firing by the end.
- T: It’s certainly firm though not astringent at all, opening up rather nicely with a pleasingly varied, rounded & vibrant chew. Furthermore there’s peppery savoury < sweet polished cereal malt, pear drops,…
- F: ,…. pineapple cubes, a little banana,… following a gradual easing fade.
- C: Guessing-wise, young & strong. This could be from a whole heap of distilleries. It’s a very nicely managed dram but the cask influence has shielded the distillery from my radar.
Scores 85 points
Glen Scotia 2005/2017 11yo Ob. Distillery Edition single cask #818 [194 bts] 58.2% WB86.62
- N: Distinctive! We start with smokey bacon Frazzles & pickled onion Monster Munch, ceviche, emulsion, burnt toffee, over-cooked cooking apples, a touch of shoe polish > Swarfega, chestnuts, sweet furniture polish,…. as well as plenty of caramel and molasses. Balcones? Na, not freaky enough. Surely it’s too freaky for a cheeky Chichibu?
- T: Surely this must be Octomore? I pick up sweet peaty Cognac-y molasses notes with a touch of onion-y soot and thick ole’ sea defence oak groin slabs. A strangely waxy > oily/briny mouthfeel ensues, turning rubbery, so suggestions then of some sort of sherry-matured whisky [not Limousine casks, a la Octomore 6.2].
- F: Savoury > sour < sweet molassas=caramel mixed with the waxy bacon-y peat, one more tiny drop of Swarfega and a hint of dried sour lemon. After some bitter oily oakiness, there’s a hugely pleasing ashy quality at the death.
- C: What distillery makes such curious swings & roundabouts whisk[e]y? Tobermory [Ledaig] Ardmore, Springbank, the Americans? It’s so obvious when you know.
Scores 86 points
Springbank 11yo [03/10/2006] Un-Ob. Refill Butt Warehouse #3 Rotation 460 58.1%
Another offering that appeared at the Squad’s Christmas Party. I’m not surprised my notes are a tad more elaborate than on that night [WLP88].
- N: Another super-strong one – feels generally like that’s ‘distillery character’ these days? A touch of peat smoke accompanies natural sweet barley with a firm-yet-relaxed yeastiness, mineral & light fruity tones – so Springbank-esque me thinks. The peat becomes more prominent by the second, yet it’s well woven into the firm desirably dry yet squidgy, oily garment.
- T: This is very similar to Cadenhead’s Cameron’s Choice Bowmore [WLP87]
that I’ve just finished [report to follow soon], with the lavender & sour honeysuckle notes though with less violets. This one beautifully coats the mouth and effortlessly oozes with a focused bitter strain pushing through.
- F: Finishes strongly and as true as a bell.
- C: I found this a little sickly today much like I found that Bowmore rather butyric, so maybe it’s an associated thing. Objectively however, a very decent whisky, the mouthfeel the most memorable experience.
Scores 87 points
Laphroaig Cairdeas Feis Ile 2018 Ob. ‘Fino Cask Finish’ 51.8% WB85.76
- N: A chatty one that talks strongly of vanilla icecream cones mixed with hazelnut-y wood resin, though other descriptors included Fish & Chip Shop grey paper, oat-based consumables, a dry pickled vibe, citrus-scented cleaning products, the smell of hardware shops, light lemon-y shellfish, light beer notes and now-banned common household/garden pesticides/weed control from yesteryear.
- T: Lip-smacking in action, it’s decidedly sweet at first before turning more savoury~sour then bitter and quirky.
- F: Moves into bitter lemon, then peat with a touch of creasote and Swarfega.
- C: All sorts going on here, mainly very good. Overall this is an easy-pleasing savoury-sweet to bitter affair, one for beginners & enthusiasts alike. Same score as before.
Scores 86 points
Glen Moray 2011/2017 Ob. Peated port bottled in 2018 for the Malt Whisky Trail [btl #2018] 55.6% WB87.33
- N: One I’ve not tried! Peated port, oh yeah? The first time I came across such a combination I was bowled over because I’d tried nothing like it in my life. I’m not so easily swayed these days. Colour-wise, it looks like a carnival cocktail. We’ve the dessert dram of the night due to its richness & sweetest coupled with notes of spearmint and log bonfires. I wouldn’t say its the most sophisticated whisky, but it offers a recipe that’s working [on the nose] with a good spectrum of flavours.
- T: Hmm! I’m struggling with this profile, flavour-wise a mix of chalky-dry sherry < brandy & fruity tea, young pine resin, grit, boot polish, celery, wet herbs, really sour lemon and a touch of detergent.
- F: Those palate flavours linger whilst it remains quite spirity and chalky/aspirin-y dry.
- C: Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s bad [whisky] – something the majority of online [eg. WB/Amazon] reviewers seem oblivious to – so I’m wary not to underscore this. I just wonder whether whisky needs fino, or fino, whisky?
Lets say 85 points