For Southport Whisky Club’s 4th Member’s Grand Dram tasting, we’ve six whiskies that are together worth £1000 – for the bottles, not the samples. Our host, Damian Miraz, has chosen this selection. On the nose-pour alone, they all smell delicious. Let’s get stuck in.
A whisky that is part of a ‘stories’ series and currently priced around £260.
- N: Slightly bready, a touch husky and wonderfully oily, this shouts of barley. Solid whisky, this.
- T: More oily-malty barley action and a sour touch, this is very straight ahead with decent weight and firm strength – Benrinnes/Glenlossie vibes, perhaps? Add a drop of water for little more malty creaminess and fruitiness, as well as passing raisin-y > [Clynelish-y] waxy coppery notes throughout.
- F: Waxy creamy light dry-citrus,… some fusty leanings. Robust with age, we’ve a long lingering finish that will seemingly cut through the Deanston, two drams ahead of this one.
- C: Great start to the session. Nothing extraordinary, but a solid whisky performing very well after 19 years.
Scores 88 points
Aberlour 17yo  Ob. [1000 bts] 55.3% WB88.27
First-fill sherry and bourbon cask maturation.
- N: Plenty of sulphur here [for me], but one I think I’ll be ok with. The bourbon side offers a crucial counter. Descriptors then of Manuka honey, crushed toasted nuts, toffee,… that kind of thing – all savoury-sweet – a touch of molasses, plenty of darker rootsy tones,… plenty to discover and appreciate.
- T: More sulphur, but again, it’s within [my] acceptable levels. With a slight bone-dryness, soft tannins at this stage and a firm savoury edge, this is decidedly sherry-forward, and once again, thank goodness for that bourbon backbone to help balance the keel. More honey, nutty honey, and as Wayne says – it’s all at the front of the mouth. Falls straight into the finish.
- F: Little development aside from dark savoury-bitter-sweet grape-tannin lingerings and a’shufflings thereafter.
- C: Certainly very sherried and sulphury [depending on your tolerance], but still, it’s a very decent malt with a desirable murky dry dark side.
Scores 86 points
- N: Lightly fruity and distillate-forward, despite 23 years of ageing, this has a bewitching/beguiling quality to it. Slightly chalky, sharp, salty, a detergent hint,… but overall, fruity and malty – spirt-led/refill maturation all the way. Bizarrely, this conjures [Spectrum & Commodore] computer game [on tape] packaging from the 1980s!
- T: An unusual and pleasing whisky style in these contemporary/managed/cask-forward/contrived contemporary times, reminiscent of some pale SV bottlings from the 1990s – yet in a good way. An incredibly soft cask has allowed the spirit all the limelight. Spritely grapefruit-y citrus fruity [Lowlander] arrival with a light jammy [oloroso, but I’d have guessed port] note,… a little water softens the arrival,…
- F: ,… into a relaxed yet fresh=spirit-propelling salty maltiness, no doubt supported by the earlier Balvenie. Almost malty sharp-citrusy succulent soft-fresh conclusion.
- C: Not faultless, but boy, give that cask its golden handshake. What a way to go out. At £149, could this be a more affordable way to experience something closely resembling Rosebank? Respect to Deanston for releasing this at the bottling strength of 50.2%, no doubt natural cask strength.
Scores 88 points
There’s some chat in-between drams. One SWC member who is in attendance tonight, tells us he was in the film, Braveheart.
Arran 1996/2019 22yo M&M Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask #383 [335 bts] 55.4% WB89.80
Yet another Carn Mor for me this week, after a full lineup with SWAG [WLP]. Is this from Arran’s first year of distilling? No! It turns out there plenty of 1995 vintages out there, and even one from 1994 [WB].
- N: With this sherried Arran, we are back to a sweeter, raisin-y profile – desirably sweet, never saccharin – yet with a touch of boot polish and,… briny fruity phenols? Nah, I reckon that’s coming from the sherry > cask.
- T: Certainly oloroso-y heading cardboard-dry [which is generally not a negative in my book] then to Smarties casings, early on. Nicely raisiny in the middle, just a touch, it’s all so well consolidated [as I’d noted with Arran’s official first recently-released 21yo: WLP88], with beautiful barley juice running through the heart and more touches of boot polish.
- F: Lifts off as a finish, but hums and hums all on barley, the sherry cradling underneath and becoming all-dry – so more like a fino/Amontillado by the death.
- C: A celebration of barley spirit aged in oak. Arran collectors will be rubbing their hands in years to come if they are not already.
Scores 89 points
These official 25yo’s used to be bottled at cask strength under Daigeo’s ‘Special Releases’ series. Since 2010, as a core range release, they have been presented at 43%.
- N: It’s a whisky I know well enough, mostly because – until fairly recently – it was remarkably affordable. As a result, I guessed this was the an official Caol ila 25yo, even before I knew it was in the line-up. Its dreamy fruity juicy fragrant creamy-fresh barley nose with more than a phenol suggestion, has everything you could ask for from a well aged yet still spritely nose, one I likened to a blend of Springbank mixed with the earlier Balvenie.
- T: Oh so lovely, delicious, dreamy. I’m enjoying the abv-soft ones more and more these days. Tonight I picked out soft sweet smoky cocoa > raisiny [sweetcorn?] barley with a little seaweed and half a fresh oyster. Oozes dry, very relaxed.
- F: Soft humming [almost a purr] cocoa > faint smoked salted raisins,… salty bonfires,… this is effortlessly easy whisky to sit back with, those bourbon casks wonderfully submissive. Refill refill refill!!!
- C: Doesn’t require too much thinking in its own right, a 1/4 bottle can be gone in no time. ‘Easy going’ has always been this one’s charm ever since I’ve known it. Funny that some see its softness as a negative, but then these days, we are so frequently plied with cask strength offerings. One of my favourites. Great dram.
Scores 89 points
Last one then.
- N: Part of the SMWS’s ‘flavour’ range, this has a very thick big nose, especially after the Caol Ila but even in comparison to what has gone before. That’ll be the 60.5% abv then! I’m pleased we are having this last, or at the very least, after the gentile Caol ila. This one’s profile speaks of a fruity, lactose-y, salty, peaty farmy hay/sea saltiness [or “fish tank”, as Matt says], wax-jackets, fatty machine oils…. oh take your pick. Likened, perhaps, to bourbon-y Scotch without being bourbon-forward.
- T: On the palate, I’ll start us off with singed soggy digestives,.. brussel sprouts?, salted peat, a hint of tinned fish, all sorts from any number of farm out-buildings,…. from this full on juice, anything you want really. Again, very [peated] Scotch bourbon and rather some hangover juice for sure.
- F: After all the intensity, it boils down to the peated spirit and cask remnants, so good balance and natural presentation in other words.
- C: Very good, contemporary, driven whisky. Needs water and time to temper the ADHD.
Scores 86 points
All very good whiskies here that succeed the quality-controlled whisky cul-de-sac. With thanks to the Southport Whisky Club.