It’s nearly 7pm. My five samples have been poured in preparation for tonight’s Compagnes des Indes rum tasting, due to start any minute. The Foz and I are toggling between the Spirit’s Embassy website and their FB page, desperately looking for the live link,… only to realise we are a week early. Doh!
Fortunately, I’ve brought along a dram in the form of an 8yo single cask Inchmurrin which inadvertently kicks off a Loch Lomond/Inchmurrin [refresher] flight followed by new make’s from Wolfburn, Bimber, and Dornoch. With a 25yo Tullibardine sandwiched in the middle, we finish with some affordable young blends, thereby navigating some kind of ‘Bermuda Whisky Triangle’ if you will. It’s whisky galore, but shall we sink or swim?
But before all of that, we begin with the WWA’s World’s Best Single Malt of 2021.
- N: Initially tasted blind, I first latch onto a baked almond-nutty delicatessen selection that leads to a clear-as-day sherry-driven sweetness – most likely a cask mix? Indeed, this one utilises PX and oloroso, as well as virgin casks.
- T: This is strong/formidable spirit. Those casks talk, but boy are they nice casks. I find this more syrupy than Batch 1 [to follow], but we are well within [my] acceptable limits. We see a few contour changes en route to the finish line.
- F: Appearing to be more painting by numbers compared to batch 1, up until now, the cleanly creamy gingery lactic dry,.. milky coppery,.. fearless finish is a redeeming quality.
- C: I wouldn’t be surprised if this pops up in a Ralfy review before too long.
Scores 86 points
Having first tried this batch #1 back in August 2018, how could we not compare it with the [previous] ‘World’s Best Single Malt’ batch #4?
- N: Crikey, this is even more formidable than batch #4, but then just check out that bottling strength! Then again, this one is nicely consolidated after being opened – though taped & sealed – for around three years. Though sharing the same cask mix [on paper] as batch #4 and a similar profile, I find this one less cask overt [engineered] and with a firmer lactic ‘mineralactic’ vanilla-ey Linkwood/Mannochmore character.
- T: It’s hot, reminding me of that early Founder’s Reserve Arran [WLP] that we Swagger’s enjoyed recently. Being spritely and spiky, with water then, it’s more chalky,,…
- F: ,.. and then coppery dry becoming slightly gacky/grimy with the feeling of a milky film forming at the roof of the mouth after the porridgy mash,… still a metallic edge, tobacco,…
- C: A very decent slugger if less refined than batch #4.
Scores 84 points [same as before]
Now primed, it’s time for that Inchmurrin I’d brought along.
What version of Loch Lomond is Inchmurrin again? Cue me [WLP]: ‘It’s made exclusively from Loch Lomond’s hybrid pot still with a column on top that consists of 17 plates. With reflux occurring within each plate and a water jacket acting as a mini condenser on top, this process maximises the oils and produces a spirit at 85% abv, reduced to 65% before being casked’.
- N: The sweet sherry wine talks loudest, blatantly all-sherry at first. Making for a sweet raisiny/root ginger/rubbery/biscuity/chestnut-y nose, it’s rich,… even elegant, yet without airs or graces. Could be anywhere between 8 and 18 years old, at times.
- T: Unequivocally abv-strong spirit, the arrival is delicious if fleeting. Sherry into malty honey, molasses…. the sherry cask influence is not dominating as such, but is un-ignorable – not a sherry bomb, more a stealth bomber. ‘Balblair meets Jerez’, perhaps, there is an amicable relationship here, a match,… In other words, an elegant full [manzanilla] sherry-laden malt experience.
- F: A lift-off finish save for the lingering liquorice-y dry-grape tannic malty slick.
- C: Without a shadow of a doubt, a whisky gateway for sherry fans and perhaps vice versa. For the cask alone, I’m getting myself a bottle, all brought about because of [SWC] Victor’s celebratory gifts. Many thanks.
[Provisionally] scores] [+/-] 86 points
With one, comes another,… and then another and another. We’ve an Inchmurrin quartet on our hands. Here’s #2.
Here’s one I’ve had before, but only fleetingly at a festival back in 2017 [WLP].
- N: Farmy funky creamy meaty oaky fruit-sweet with a fatty husky maltiness. In short: fabulous! Everything you want in a whisky – Springbank-esque no less.
- T: Tastes as good as it smells. With a forgiving bite, it soon salivates into an abundant parcel of dirty slick fatty phenols and a delectable pepperiness.
- F: Springbank-esque once again as it finishes with that admirable barley sugary-sweet homemade quality. Becomes quite soft by the end.
- C: Another winning madeira finish! Imagine this as an undisclosed 8yo Campbeltown malt to pique your interest, and with no ballot to sign up for! Furthermore, one can’t fault this for its position in the marketplace at just £40. Thoroughly recommended.
Scores 85 points [two more today]
[Loch Lomond] Inchmurrin 18yo  Ob. Island Collection 46% WB83.47
- N: I’m finding this less agreeable than I did 3-4 years ago, an oddball malt that smells of a waxy sherried,… soup? – no, gravy! It contains all the things you might want from a three-course meal, but all served up at the same time, and on the same plate. Like anchovies and ice cream, for example, there’s something of a culinary collision.
- T: An oddball for sure, not in a bad way, just in an odd way. Perplexing to say the least, I’ve no idea where it fits in my/the whisky hinterland, but it definitely occupies its own space.
- F: Where the sherried malty mix meets waxy cocoa-dry ashy phenols, are we so far from some wacky Benriach’s? [WLP]
- C: Like a [French] ‘film noir’ you’re not quite sure about but find thought-provoking, disturbing, and unforgettable in equal measure, this is reminiscent of Loch Lomond’s output pre-2016. when the distillery and its whisky found itself in a less favourable position in comparison to where it is now.
Scores 82 points
One more Inchmurrin then before we move on,… but to what/where? Home doesn’t seem like an option at this time.
Pretty sure I have had this before too. Yep [WLP85]. A quick refresher then. Succinctly put, this particular Inchmurrin is made using one [alternative South African Chardonnay] yeast – 25 kilos of the stuff per washback – and one still type, aged for 10 years in one refill barrel.
- N: Being waxy herbal fruity rubbery and funky, whilst there are similar vibes to the 18yo, here, we are in relatively more familiar territory.
- T: Weird/wacky/idiosyncratic phenolic raisin-y/grape-y,… malty,..
- F: ,.. waxy bitter phenolic carbolic cocoa,… Unfortunately, I didn’t get the passing Strawberry Split this time.
- C: That yeast has had such a profound effect on the spirit, and to think of all those adamant voices in the industry for years who told us [and still do] that it doesn’t.
Scores 84 points
Where does one go after a quartet of Inchmurrin? Tullibardine of course, another unorthodox ‘under the radar’ single malt.
A vintage 25yo, refill bourbon, cask-strength whisky for £90,… Things are looking good, on paper at least.
- N: Shampoo/hairspray-ed butter at first, moving to meaty boot & furniture polish, silicone,,. pickled gherkins,. a light saltiness, floral, er,.. radish? How can this be 25 years old? With very little here, it’s hard to deem where we are and where we are headed.
- T: Very prickly, almost Speyside Distillery-esque – a very soft version of – and yet, making Speyside Distillery single malt [pre-2020] look complex and involving. Notes-wise, we are looking at a little more hairspray, turkey meat, Swarfega-d cranberry sauce,… hmm.
- F: Finishes like the simple coppery ginger ale-like new make that it once was 25 years ago.
- C: Reminiscent of some anaemic bottlings by Signatory [amongst others] back in the day, this reminds us that there is refill, and then there is refill. What has happened here over 25 years is very little.
Scores 80 points
The comment “,… leaves me cold, like Wolfburn”, prompts further advancement into the watery abyss as we continue to sail head-on into the eye of the storm and embark on a flight of new make’s – in Part #2.