S.W.A.G.: Carn Mor, Strictly Limited

For this evening’s SWAG event, we are joined by Morrison Distillers‘ Carn Mor Brand Ambassador, Blair Sterrick.

Morrison Distillers – owners of Aberagie distillery – superseded Morrison & MacKay last year. To celebrate, they released eight new single cask single malt whiskies with new branding and bottle design.

Blair will take us through a number of whiskies from the current Carn Mor ‘Strictly Limited’ range, a range consisting of small batch or single cask expressions, often representing lesser-known distilleries that aren’t commonly seen through single malt releases – Mannochmore or Imperial for example – the latter of which we shall get to try as a bonus dram tonight.

SW: ‘Single casks are bottled under the Carn Mor and Beinn a’Cheo ranges. The Carn Mor Strictly Limited range of malts for every day, quality drinking whiskies was launched in 2012‘. Ticking all the ‘authentic’ ‘craft’ boxes [bottled at 47.5% abv across the board, for example], the Carn Mor range clearly appeals to the enthusiast. Typically, around [just] six expressions are released each year.

Let’s begin.

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Longmorn 2009/2020 11yo MSWD Carn Mor ‘Strictly Limited’ [830 bts] 47.5% WB87[12]

Owned by Pernod, the majority of Longmorn goes into Chivas blends. This small batch release comes from three vatted first-fill bourbon casks.

  • N: So very ‘SMWS’. As well as being spirit-firm, we’ve also firm first-fill cask action, there being a synergy/good marriage between all three casks. With emerging sugars, honeys and vanillas, it becomes more and more fruity & floral as it opens up.
  • T: Same as the nose, there’s that first-fill resinousness, but again, the spirit is allowed some say. With an oily mouthfeel comes a light fruitiness, light maltiness,… Overall, it’s well balanced, considering the things.
  • F: Resin-y, a touch peppery and green, ‘in a good way’.
  • C: A great start to proceedings, a very clean first-fill bourbon-matured expression of Longmorn, a whisky perhaps more often regarded as a sherried/bourbon-matured affair. Very decently priced too, at £45.

Scores 85 points

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Mannochmore 2007/2020 13yo MSWD Carn Mor  ‘Strictly Limited’ PX Sherry Hogsheads [1551 bts] 47.5% WB87.50[44]

We are told this lesser-known distillery’s output often finds its way into [older] Haig and Dimple blends. Further reading: SW. I don’t recall having a sherry-matured Mannochmore before.

  • N: Raisin-y for sure, but this is not a sherry-deliberate/heavy-handed/clumsy affair. From a super-clean quality cask, the sweetness here is alluring. Plenty of descriptors appear minute by minute, the nose becoming a shopping list dram thereafter.
  • T: A touch richer and less sweet [more bitter-sweet] than some other contemporary malts can be, we’ve archetypal-esque PX-driven character all the way, and with plenty of layered complexity to boot.
  • F: After some varied interplay, there’s some grape resinousness – so certainly plenty of previous contents talking – yet we are talking of some desirable PX in its own right.
  • C: A rather special and [in someways] understated dessert dram, as well as super example of PX maturation. Most agreeable.

Scores 85 points

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Glenrothes 2007/2020 13yo MSWD Carn Mor ‘Strictly Limited’ Sherry Butts [1628 bts] 47.5% WB86.14[25]

  • N: With a sherried sulphury pong aplenty, it’s more of a generally ‘sherriedness’ in character, with only a little of that particularly idiosyncratic rubbery pong that I know Rothes for – more syrup over rubber, let’s say.
  • T: On the bitter-sweet side, slightly charred, slightly chalky and,… innocuous.
  • F: Salty sour bitter sweet creamy action,… all good.
  • C: I’ve been a fan of Glenrothes in the past, but this I find this expression – much like many of the official bottlings – somewhat cask-obvious and generic. And the spirit? Rather muted.

Scores 82 points

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Imperial 1990/2020 30yo MSWD Celebration of the Cask #7531 [135 bts] 41.7% WB90.67[6]

The Morrison family describe this as ‘sweet barley sugar with ripe exotic fruits and a subtle waxy texture providing an exquisite finish‘. This release was pre-sold out.

  • N: Wowee, that’s splendid: well aged/layered fruity-sweet juice – “in sour sauce“, says Simon – still buoyant yet perfectly fusty. We’ve all the dried flowers and floral teas, apricot chutney, dried honeys,… all the honeys,…. The Swaggers offer up all sorts too.
  • T: Blissfully reflective of the nose – “Heavenly”, says Lori – and more honeyed with gentle grassy/heather-savoury-sweet barley,…
  • F: ,… into floral fusty malty refill bourbon cask-matured joy. Only slightly woody-dry with a seemingly short edgy finish at first, we see more of those pre-mentioned age-brought joys coming through by the end. It’s just perfect at 41.7% abv. No need to add water. 
  • C: I’ve never had a bad Imperial, and nothing about that has changed today. Right up my street. It comes at a cost however – £299!

Easily scores 88 points

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Ardmore 2011/2020 9yo MSWD Carn Mor ‘Strictly Limited’ PX & Oloroso Sherry casks [1272 bts] 47.5% WB87.02[43]

  • N: I find this rather Islay-esque. The Foz grabs The Whisky Exchange’s Black Friday Ardmore for comparison, of which I find general similarities. Notes then of oyster sauce and oily Frazzles,….. becoming more Ardmore-esque as the minutes pass by, it’s garage-y and very salty with some caper brine, lovely sweetness,.. plenty of action here. This is proving very popular amongst the Swaggers, many of which are very partial to the phenols.
  • T: Initially intense, then surprisingly and rapidly calm, almost reduced/flat, short and ozone-light,… then into an intense spicy saltiness, salted pebbles, salty roasted sour citrus,….
  • F: With the casks havin’ a go, I get a fair amount of gacky chewy action. Surprisingly succulent dry soft lingering smoke at the tail, it’s positively juicy by the end.
  • C: Very nice peated Speysider, though I’m not convinced enough to buy a bottle. Loses points for the slightly collapsed [for want of a better word] middle.

Scores 85 points

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Blair tells us what releases to expect under the Carn Mor moniker in the coming weeks:

  • 2011 Inchgower
  • 2012 Glenburgie
  • 2009 Strathmill STR finish
  • 2008 Royal Brackla
  • 2007 Mortlach
  • 2007 Glenlossie
  • 2005 Bunnahabhain
  • 1998 Fettercairn
  • ,… and more Glenrothes.

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To our last dram of the tasting, a Laphroaig made up from a marriage of three oloroso hogsheads.

[Laphroaig] Williamson 2010/2020 10yo MSWD Carn Mor ‘Strictly Limited’ Oloroso hogsheads [1139 bts] 47.5% WB86.91[27]

  • N: With minimal medicinal qualities, this is toffee-sweet wet peat – an emphasis on the ‘wet’ – into oily > Swarfega, almost [processed] meatiness , turpentine “lemon cello” [Kenny, brilliant again], “restaurant hot towels” [Simon] – eucalyptus sauna styley – hot sweaty mechanics yard vibes, hot oily brine,…. and a healthy dose of sour lemons overall.
  • T: Really dirty and oily now, briny slick and far more deeply medicinal, this is certainly a Laphroaig, yet one that shows a very different [and positive] side to the officials. Becomes very sour [almond-y?] throughout the journey,…
  • F: ,… into a peppery spicy medicinal oily dirtiness,… so same again, really. With a succulent mouthfeel, it becomes more salty as it goes on with a touch of chocolate at the end – always slightly boozy and medicinal.
  • C: I like it, though with few sweet joys, I [personally] find it a little grating/anaemic to want for a full bottle.

Scores 85 points

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We goad Charlie, once again, to act as SWAGs official scorer. There is instant mayhem, effing and blinding,.. all jovial and entertaining. Below is not a perfect count, but a good enough guide as to our favourites on the night:

  • 1] Longmorn 11yo – 5 votes
  • 2] Mannochmore 13yo – 4 votes [I’ll vote as many times as I like, thankyou]
  • 3] Glenrothes 13yo – 0 votes
  • 4] Imperial 30yo – lots of votes [,…. easily the most popular whisky but at a very different price point]
  • 5] Ardmore 9yo – 5 or so votes
  • 6] Laphroaig 10yo – 3-5 wavering/double votes.
[View from the Snug]

And that concludes our tasting. My overall takeaway of Carn Mor is: in a similar ballpark to Adelphi, high quality, meaningfully-limited whisky at very favourable prices.

Blair is invited to stay for the afterparty – or “chaos”, as Charlie playfully describes it – “or not”, offers Ben.

  • SWAG: “Are you reaching more or less people since Covid?”
  • Blair: Overall, more people.

Covid has meant many [new] clubs, such as SWAG, are flourishing online. We hope to see Blair in a few months time with more fabulous output from Morrison Distillers.

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There’s more? There’s always more. The Foz pours Swagger Phil’s Christmas dram, an 8yo SMWS Clynelish.

Clynelish 2011/2020 8yo SMWS 26.143 ‘Sandles and Candles’ [251 bts] 58.6% WB87.20[7]

  • N: At just eight years in 2nd refill bourbon, this puts the Carn Mor first-fill Longmorn in context. From that refill action, though the new make is still very present, it’s also perfectly tempered and talks of a nutty and toasted grain-skin/husky barley profile.
  • T: Comes through true on the palate as on the nose. Spirit-led, the wood at just 8 years has done it’s job. Diluted, Chichibu-esque with a thick un-chillfiltered sake milkiness,… [other things,…]
  • F: ,… Concluding with an almost sticky-sweet mouthfeel, it doesnt come across as sweet until the death.
  • C: Faultless young whisky that needs just a little water management for best results. At 22 years its junior, we aren’t at the Carn Mor Imperial’s level just yet, but perhaps this is/was on its way.

Scores 84 points, easily.

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END

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