These ‘What’s In Your Cupboard’ SWAG sessions are always a good crack. Each participating member sends out a dram [or two or three] to every other participating member. Today, we have ten drams from seven peeps. As is customary, ‘WIYC’ drams are enjoyed blind. You never know what you’re going to get. Selections are always colourful and pleasingly unexpected. Let’s begin. We have plenty to get through.
Glenallachie 12yo  Ob. Virgin Oak Series – French Oak [6600 bts] 48% WB83.38
We start with a trio from the Foz, I know they are Glenallachie’s. That’s all I know. What we all find out later is, they are all 12 years old, bottled at 48%, and have received different cask finishes for a few months.
- N: ‘Clever’ active wood-driven PX-ey/sweet wine-like spirit.
- T: An effortless, desirably contemporary arrival with a slightly sweet winey and sublimely buttery mouthfeel. You can see the Glendronach evolution, though Billy Walker’s Glenallachie’s appear more spirit-driven [younger stock, sure] and expertly cask managed.
- F: More sour with water, just slightly spicy[/active] before plenty of chocolate and soft toffee.
- C: Very present and modern expression, even post-modern perhaps? – or is that term positively out-dated?
Scores 83 points
Glenallachie 12yo  Ob. Virgin Oak Series – Spanish Oak [6600 bts] 48% WB83.96
- N: More woody/resinous/active, and straight ex-bourbon-esque.
- T: Bourbon layer after bourbon layer, this is very straight ahead and savoury-sweet.
- F: Nicely spicy – the barley and oak sitting well together – and slightly fruity at the end.
- C: Robust ‘anchor’ whisky, fit for the base of a blend.
Scores 81 points
- N: A little fruity, the oak is active yet the spirit sits comfortably alongside, much like the Spanish Oak expression. Shows much promise.
- T: Softer more nutty oak leanings, similar to Raasay’s Chinquapin-matured spirit – move over standard US white oak?! Tasty, oily,… [move over Linkwood].
- F: Clean, unwavering, secure, and tasty all the way through.
- C: I hope we see more and more Chinquapin oak. It’s proved very popular today, and at recent Raasay tastings [WLP].
Scores 84 points
Next up, is the first of four SMWS bottlings, nearly as many as at an official SMWS flight. We could well see some hangovers in the morning.
Glen Moray 2001 18yo SMWS 35.265 ‘Meditation Medication’ [181 bts] 56.7% WB87.27
- N: Hard to read whisky. Abv-wise, I guessed [just] 48%. Age? 10, 12, 14? Flavour-wise, something in-between butterscotch and key lime pie, perhaps, plenty of aromatic citrus, straight ‘golden’ barley,… becoming very fruity and sour,…. Arran? Add Kova!’s Millet vibes and Caramac,… more and more so as it opens up. Benefits hugely from additional water.
- T: Fizzy fairly sweet arrival at first, and distillate-driven despite the cask length and type. Varied and tasty flavours run along sour barley chalky citrus lines, the spirit still driving, the oak spice fizzing gently around the palate’s edges.
- F: A slight slick mashy note on the turn is encapsulated within the mouthfeel. Beautifully sweet barley-led distillate, straight-ahead, but with a very relaxed yet assured heart.
- C: A most bizarre/surprising [and faultless] 18yo 1st fill winner – spell-binding, yet conversely, rather simple. £72 for a cask strength single cask 18yo,…. that’s a no brainer [in 2019/20]. Our Kenny not only nails the distillery, and the bottler, but the exact SMWS ‘cask’/release number too!!
Scores 88 points
My offering follows. It’s a young SMWS Allt-A-Bhainne that I discovered at the SMWS, Greville Street, around Valentines Day in 2018 [WLP88]. Stupidly, I’ve forgotten to supply myself a dram. A full bottle report will follow in due course.
Glenfarclas 2011/2019 8yo SMWS 1.216 ‘Cereal Killer’ [222 bts] 59.3% WB85.80
- N: Another closed nose,….. nutty oily bready abv-strong. I guess high 50s? Age-wise, I guess around 9 years old. Remains distillate sharp/spiky, salty, citrusy,… familiar too, and then not.
- T: Slightly fruity coppery oily nutty arrival,… moving into sour oyster sauce, some sea shells with just some saltiness, and a slight off-note/sour pong – lemon crab??,…. though the spirit steamrolls over these subtleties, somewhat. With a slight oily chew, we are not that far from the Allt-a-Bhainne, such is the naturally SMWS-presented way.
- F: Clean light choco nutty [Cornetto wafer] spirity sour grape peel/sweetcorn/banana peel finish that lifts off, gone. Distillate-over-coppery ghosts linger. Phil: “Is there a problem?”. Ben: “Yes, it’s gone”.
- C: Kind of obvious when you know it’s Glenfarclas, but we are talking the current [very quietly sherry] contemporary releases like the 15 & 18yo, for example. I subsequently ponder over what the implications are for Glenfarclas, if they can’t get the casks that have defined their ‘traditional’ profile for decades. The Foz pours Glenfarclas’s new make and the 21yo for comparisons. I’d appreciate a line up of the 10/12, 18 and 21/25yo [for example] from now, and from yesteryear/20 years ago.
Scores 84 points
Arran Sherry Cask  Ob. The Bodega 55.8% WB84.78
- N: Comes across as rather obviously/blantantly sherried at first, but not so. Given time, it’s far more subtlety sherried with wax capacitors into citrusy [PX-ey?] raisins – an Arran clue there – cello-tape and Airfix glue in the background, red fruits, red apples, fusty fermented/drying leathery umami,… plenty here,…[no sulphur],… needs exploring.
- T: Well made whisky with ‘more oloroso over >> PXey Arran‘, I write before Kenny nails it again. How good is he? Excellent is what! Descriptors-wise, we’ve thick fusty sour green confectionary wine gums. Without interfering cask influence, there’s no talk of the seams between cask/spirit – it’s all nicely consolidated. One might argue this is painting by numbers, perhaps, yet the painting is very good. Nothing wrong here.
- F: Sour sweet creamy, almost emulsion-thick creamy finish.
- C: Around €40 or £50, this is very good. Whilst some of the more established distilleries have struggled with adapting sherry-dependent profiles of their whiskies due to the new generation of sherry casks [Glenfarclas/Highland Park, for example], Arran seem to have found and maintained very decent quality [sherry] casks that suit their spirit, since their establishment in 1995.
Scores 85 points, all day long
- N: Besides the general coastal salty barley sweet~sourness, we’ve rugby balls, violin bows, sheepskin handbags,… What more could you want for? Fabulous! We all seem to love this.
- T: That’s Caol Ila for certain, arriving perfectly on a savoury sour barley salty oily bed. There’s discussion over how this struggles at 43% abv, but I disagree. It’s more in context of what’s gone before – four SMWS drams for starters – but here, we’ve beautifully subtle effortless movement and with nothing lacking.
- F: The refined gentleness/softness is most welcomed/desirable, particularly now we are eight drams in. Despite the abv assault which has preceded this one, the complexity/layers of this Caol ila are not lost – salty dry oily apple-y layers. Even at 43%, there’s a gentle freshness,… apple flesh-fresh, and plenty more besides.
- C: Yet another reminder of how consistent fabulous Caol Ila is. Is this Distillery Edition worth nearly twice as much as the standard 12yo? Both are excellent in their own right though I’ve found the standard 12yo has slipped in the last few years [WLP81]. Oh, I see I’ve tried this distillery-only bottling before, at Feis Ile 2018 [WLP84]. It’s easily a mark or two higher today, likely because this bottle has had time to open up.
Scores 86 points
[Loch Lomond] Croftengea 2014 5yo SMWS 122.32 ‘Punchy Peater’ [209 bts] 61.8% WB0
From malt-review ‘Croftengea is one of Loch Lomond’s peaty makes. It’s distilled entirely in hybrid stills; pots with straight rectifying columns in place of swan necks. Distillers can draw the make off at varying strengths; in practice Loch Lomond take theirs at 65 and 85% abv. Inchmoan, which Jason and I have both covered before, is an intertwangling of both. But for Croftengea they use only the richer, heavier, more phenolically dense 65‘.
- N: All spirit. I guess 7 years. It’s five?! Though rather new make-y, it’s aged well enough. Perhaps five is the ideal minimum age over the SWA’s obligatory three? Profile-wise we are talking salty savoury-coppery-farmy-sweet fruity [delicious apple-y cider, fusty melon,… the Foz: “astronaut strawberries and parma violets“,….. After seven, or is it eight drams, I feel myself moving towards the subjective/emotional realm. In light of that, perhaps this is one of the best contemporary spirit noses, ever?
- T: “Great quality spirit”, says Phil. Quite right – beautiful, perfectly aged salty malty spirit. Incredibly, at just five years in a 2nd fill bourbon cask, somehow the balance is faultless. Cellar this and pour it to unsuspecting peeps in 20 years time.
- F: The emergence of a mouthfeel centred around the new make IS the finish. Beautifully young and spirit-forward, the balance is on the tittering cusp, but would you want to age this any more?
- C: The surprise delight of the night. I’m hard stretched to think of another contemporary 5yo challenger, and for just £44. For those thinking of joining the SMWS or reactivating their membership, all four of tonight’s SMWS bottlings could sway you.
Scores 85 points
As if 9 drams wasn’t enough, here comes the tenth and final dram, a bonus bourbon from Ben who tells us the picture on the bottle is of Basil Hayden.
Old Grand-Dad 114  Ob. 114 proof/57% WB83.33
- N: I don’t guess this as bourbon, on the nose. Robust, very waxy into paraffin, Method & Madness chestnut resins/varnish,….
- T: ,… with more Method & Madness resinous bitter > sour chestnut action to taste, with scratchy-dry liquorice into sawdusty treacle and > raspberry cough sweets,… That’s kind of it. Not the most obvious bourbon. Wheat mash bill?
- F: Softens rapidly with a light lift-off finish and soft liquorice blueberry treacle banana-y scratchy-dry hums. Adding water removes the scratchy dryness, but then the body is lost. Lacking by the tail.
- C: Somewhat underwhelming after what’s gone before, but then, bourbon isn’t my first preference and we’ve had some lovely drams.
Scores 81 points
Another fabulous SWAG tasting. Amazingly, it’s still warm enough for me to be sat up in a t-shirt, at 02:39 on 18th December. What a bizarre year it’s been. The bike ride home is a breeze.
SWAGs next ‘What’s in your Cupboard’ is scheduled for February. See Meetup for details.