Paul and Rohit lead tonight’s SWC 6th Member’s Grand Dram. It’s an eight-dram flight consisting of three pairings sandwiched in-between two grains. They are all linked to a theme based around ‘one’ – i.e. distilleries that were establishing/formed/completed in/ending in/or consisting of ‘one’,… something like that. The years all add up together to make 1000, matching our 8 whiskies that are together worth £1000 (for the bottles not the samples). Paul likes numbers. It’s an impressive line-up for just £45 a head. I spot a fair few Swaggers in attendance, perhaps 5 or more.
In keeping with the ‘one’ theme, opening tonight’s flight is a Whyte & Mackay-owned [36mlpa] Invergordon, the distillery of which was established in 196’1′. Amongst other things, Paul tells us about the Invergordon mutiny of 1936 where 1000 sailors went on strike over naval cuts.
Distilled in May 1987 and bottled in May 2019 [around 400 bottles], at time of writing, this isn’t listed on Whiskybase just yet. That, or I just can’t find it.
- N: This is at an age where exciting things begin to happen for ‘grain’ whisky. Already it’s developed chocolatey layers though there’s little thickening varnish action just yet [give it another 10+]. Is there a dairy farm note? Perhaps. Ice-cream for sure, gluey ice-cream. Is that sherry too or a sulphury/rum-like > acetone pong more from the spirit? Regardless of age, like a lot of Invergordon’s, it’s generally plain sailing on nose, and on the palate, I suspect.
- T: Pretty much as expected, savoury-green-sweet with a pleasant general middle-of-the-road profile offering some sustain though becoming spicy,..
- F: ,… very peppery,… almost fiery,.. as it,… lifts off, concluding with sawdust > vanilla, slight emulsion ice-cream,..
- C: Very decent, though the 1971 by comparison [coming up later], obliterates its younger grain counterpart.
Scores [a very decent] 80 points
In keeping with the ‘one’ theme, our first ‘pairing’ consists of two whiskies from the Craigellachie and Strathmill distilleries respectfully, both of which were established in 189’1′. First up is Craigellachie’s core-range 17yo, who’s spirit boasts a sulphurous nature. Scotchwhisky.com gives us a deeper insight:
‘The second form of sulphur comes from barley and is naturally produced during the whisky-making process. If you cut down the amount of copper available to spirit vapour the higher the sulphur levels in the new make will be. What appears to not have been understood is that this sulphur disappears in time. It acts as a marker; an indication that once its cloak has been lifted a spirit will emerge either as meaty (Cragganmore, Mortlach, Benrinnes) or fragrant (Glenkinchie, Speyburn, Balblair, AnCnoc, and Craigellachie) In other words, sulphur can be desirable. Craigellachie revels in its sulphurous nature’.
SW ‘,.. Lagavulin and Craigellachie distilleries that evolved out of Mackie & Co.‘, both which strongly featured in the White Horse blend. SW [again] says [about Craigellachie] ‘The first thing you smell as you enter the distillery is the notes of cabbage and beef stock‘.
- N: Textural [bouncy spirit-sulphur] raisiny-sweet [white] wine profile with a pineapple-y melon sourness.
- T: A mildly-sour [pineapple] fruity punch, but add water, and it flourishes [relatively speaking]. Easy mouthful of straight-ahead American oak-matured barley juice – no more, no less.
- F: Barley-sulphury < sour, a little chalky and waxy-dry [yet grape-luscious], toffeed confectionary sweets,.. and let’s not forget the [sweet] cabbage and beef stock. Doesn’t hang around too long.
- C: SWC Carson reminds us to “give it a second chance”. Quite right. It sings far more with water, and time. Overall, however, this doesn’t fire for me as it did back in 2016 [88 points].
Scores 83 points
3] Strathmill 1994/2019 24yo Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask #2297 [btl #4/271] 47.2% WB86
Strathmill is a Diageo-owned 2.6mlpa distillery, founded 1891. SW: ‘The distillery’s main production quirk comes in the form of a purifier pipe running from the lyne arm into the body of the spirit stills. Like Glenlossie and Glen Spey, this adds a lightly oily character to the new make, here picked up almost as olive oil which mixes well with the lightly fruity/grassy notes‘.
- N: Initially not dissimilar to the Craigellachie 17yo, though more savoury sweet/meaty/oily,… and is that tomato plant I detect? Certainly some dairy farm/lactic action – like an outdoor wedding cheese buffet perhaps? Stable yet subtley colourful overall.
- T: Like the Craigellachie, it’s spirit-sulphury sour-barley driven, initially with some muddled confusion. Later, however, after a sour sharp arrival, I find this more chewy-soft, a little farmy, and less grassy than I find most Straths. Water management pays off yet the spirit powers through, more [47.2%] powerfully than I had at first realised. At just three drams in, there could be some sore heads in the morning.
- F: Certainly an ‘on-profile’ Strathmill but with a fruity [apple snow] softness I’ve not seen in whiskies from this distillery before. With water, a buttery sour to a bitter note with a simple dry grassy-tea into some Indian toffee-like sweets – with a mouthfeel to boot – some milky cream,… very soft vanilla white clotted ice-cream. ‘Mint’ was also mentioned.
- C: Straight-forward if not quite straight-ahead. In other words, there’s more to this that first meets the eye. A good one for sure. Strathmill fans are sure to like it.
Scores 87 points
Our second pairing consists of two 10 year olds, but that’s not where the ‘one’ for our ‘one’ theme applies. Remy Cointreau-owned 1.5mlpa Bruichladdich was established in 188’1′.
4] Bruichladdich 2007/2017 10yo Ob. Micro Provenance Series 2nd-fill Sauternes cask #1321 [246 bts] 63.8% WB88.17
Paul tells us the rocks near Bruichladdich are millions of years older than on the other side of the island. If the age of the planet Earth so far, is represented by 24 hours: humans have been around for the last 8 seconds and dinosaurs around 51 minutes ago, whereas these rocks appeared around lunch time.
- N: A grape-syrup-sweetness that has gone slightly meaty – oh it’s sauternes – and with a healthy dose of biscuity ashy peat.
- T: With a large oily phenolic spicy [63.8%] arrival, it’s one I added water to straight after the first sip. Boy, it swims, but then again,.. don’t go too crazy! With a stylistically cask-sweet likeness to SWCs sherried HL Caol Ila [WLP], I reckon Wayne will like this. He does! I find it quite simple beyond the initial arrival, being acceptably peppery thereafter and very very salty.
- F: Not much behind this at all. Perhaps I did drown it? Thin bodied, yet waxy spirity salty > sweet abv-hot rum-like finish. Is this whisky, or is it leaning more towards very smoky very salty generic brown [barley-vodka] spirit?
- C: I didn’t get my head around this one but peeps seem to like it. I find myself going back to the Strathmill.
Scores, let’s say, 84 points
We’ve a Talisker up next, a distillery I rarely make contact with these days – pretty much since the ‘Storm’. In keeping with the theme, we’ve a tenuous ‘one’ [IMO]. The Malt Whisky Yearbook tells us Talisker’s Diageo-owned distillery was established in 1830, yet Paul tells us it was completed/running spirit within one year – something like that. Fair enough. It’s all whisky fun.
5] Talisker 2010/2020 Ob. ‘The Distillers Edition’ Amoroso finish 45.8% WB85.76
An official bottling with a vintage, a first for me. This [9-10yo] ‘Distillers Edition’ has seen a 6 month finish in Amoroso casks. Aboutsherry tells us:
‘Medium is a blend of Amontillado or Oloroso (Amontillado being a more wide-spread option) and natural sweet sherry. Commercial names for Mediums may use such words as Avocado, Golden, Amoroso (when it is based on Oloroso), Brown, Milk, Rich. The name Medium Dry may be applied for Medium sherries with a sugar content less than 45 g/l. Medium Sweet — for Medium sherries which have more than 45 g/l sugar‘.
‘Cream is most often a mixture of Oloroso and natural sweet sherry. Sometimes the term Amoroso is used referring to Cream‘.
- N: Sharing a likeness with the previous Bruichladdich but with oodles of peat [though many peeps don’t/can’t pick it up on the nose], maritime salty peat,.. salty varied fruity peat. A firm yet oozing-gentle-soft nose, we’ve more concentrated juiciness over time – alco-free white wine-like [brands differ]. Tasty oaky vanillins are just behind in the wings.
- T: Tasty chewy salty [nutty suggestions] peaty malt, mildly sugary barley-juice-sweet,.. but there’s certainly some disconnect between nose and palate. Some relaxed travel here,.. Springbank-esque [I think], given a highly proficient yet homemade vibe/style and with a salty dry citric soft attack. The alcohol itself, however, still surges through.
- F: A stable but [desirably] slightly watery barley juice body with a touch of youthful spice ,.. that sugary barley juice akin [in part] to Springbank again. Dry salty finish, a touch of toffee at the tail, black into green tea, rolling tobacco,… waxy for sure.
- C: I haven’t had a Talisker in a while, let alone a good one [bar a 1979 Cadenhead’s 16yo at the O&R Show in 2020 [WLP89]. Like Margot described, I too had all but written-off the distillery’s official output, so this is an unexpected surprise. Not without its issues, it’s very different to anything I’ve tried from Talisker in a fair while. The saltiness sets it apart the most, and then there’s everything else around it. Appealing.
Scores 85~86 points
Nicknamed ‘‘The manzanilla of Speyside’, WF describes Inchgower’s character as: Sherry Fruits Smoky Chocolate Coffee Caramel Dry Raisins Tea Wine Oranges. At £290, this is the most expensive whisky of the night.
Established in 187’1′, SW ‘the spicy character is driven initially by a hotter-than-usual second water during the quick mashing regime which cuts back any overt nuttiness. Fermentation is short and the steeply angled lyne arms on the stills help to capture weightier elements. An underlying waxiness flashes a signal to another coastal plant, Clynelish‘.
- N: A 27yo Inchgower, what a treat. Initially, we’ve a soft/private nose with a similar spirit-sulphuriness to the [#2] Glenallachie, but with more meaty grapey-fruit = > floral-toffee-sour sweetness and an accompanying light seaside note. With plenty of soft weight behind this one, I find it subtly very powerful yet with a warm alluring calm nature.
- T: That’s Inchgower alright, the profile speaking of huskiness, honey, toffee, tea, saltiness,.. oiliness,… popadoms? The previous Talisker still lingers, but it’s ‘corruption’ on this Inchgower is rather desirable.
- F: Same again, very ‘on-point’ Inchgower – bourbon-cask styley – peppery without being spicy. Add a little water and it’s the perfect oily sailor.
- C: Typical of a well-aged Inchgower that doesn’t rely on sherry casks, though those can be fantastic too and can bring more of a leathery toffee fruity maltiness. An excellent whisky.
Scores 88 points
7] Linkwood 1993/2019 25yo Adelphi bourbon cask #4669 [230 bts] 50.4% WB85.46
Are we still caring for the theme? It matters not, the line-up is great. Next up is Linkwood, established 182’1′. Producing 5.6mlpa, its whisky predominantly finds its way into Johnny Walker & White Horse.
- N: Boy, is this fruity and formidably oily.
- T: Very Linkwood on the palate too, it’s straight sailing after splashing ungainly into the sea – maiden voyage-styley. Very solid aged slightly creamy barley juice, no surprises at all yet impeccably behaved, faultless even.
- F: Lovely dry-citrusy [orange lemon lime,…] finish. Commendably contained.
- C: The nose and the finish cushion the palate which showcases Linkwood’s solid/focused/unrelenting [Mannochmore-esque] blend-destined dependability. This single cask offering is the epitome of that character,.. best two hours in.
Scores 87 points
8] Old Perth 1971/2018 46yo MMcK Blended Grain [270 bts] 49.9% WB88.63
Blended grain, but which?
- N: Like the first Invergordon of the night, this is straight-ahead once more, but with a fruity glossy magic only brought on by the  years in [a] good cask[s]. A nice fruity=vanilla-sweet rum-like, dry-bready nose,… plenty here,.. changes/evolutions on every revisit. Beautiful nose.
- T: All aged grain [remember we begin tasting these partially blind] on the palate,.. watery not thin, just a touch boozy and confectionary fruity into gentle acetone barley,… shortish,….
- F: ,.. comforting/stimulating spicy sugar barley finish in the main. Sweet grey paper conclusion.
- C: Sensational nose, the rest good. I reckon this is an Invergordon too. Anything else, or is it teaspooned?
Scores 86 points
With thanks to Victor, SWC, Rohit, and Paul – the birthday boy – who we all hope gets to try his own selections at some point. Great stuff SWC.