My first ever review on these pages was a young single cask 10yo Strathclyde from Douglas Laing [WLP90 – see pic], followed eight days later by a 9yo Strathclyde from Douglas Hamilton. As a result of my filling/librarianship obsession, I still have a sample [and more] of the 9yo. Following that, I’ll also be re-reviewing a 36yo Hunter Laing 1977-vintage Strathclyde, that I first featured over four years ago on June 15th 2017. As serendipity has it, my last whisky purchase was a 32yo Strathclyde from Cadenhead’s, of which I’ve just bought a second bottle. The first was rapidly devoured by anyone and everyone that came into contact with it. Today we’ll have all three side-by-side, to celebrate five years to the day the Whisky Loving Pianist went online.
It’s a Strathclyde grain-off.
Given I’ve reviewed and re-reviewed these [first two] bottles before, I’ll [try to] resist any lengthy analysis or descriptor lists. Let’s treat this as more of a comparison review.
Douglas Hamilton is the bottler, Clan Denny the bottling series as well as a brand name used by independent bottlers Douglas Hamilton, Hunter Hamilton, & Douglas McGibbon [any relation?], for single malts, vatted/blended malts, and grains [WB]. There were some beautiful old Clan Denny grains floating about in and around 2008~2014 as I remember it. Don’t see many around anymore, though secondary prices haven’t followed the inflation frenzy of single malts in the main.
- N: From a cracker of a sherry butt, this is more [SWC Loch Lomond WLP] sherry-direct than the sweeter richer/denser Cadenhead’s bottling [coming up], but there is an incredible synergy between the grain spirit and cask at just nine years. Think of this as a liqueur-driven cocktail in a glass – Umeshu plum wine/liqueur [WLP], gingery raisin juice, and butterscotch meets amaretto,… and there I go again, and I said I wouldn’t list things! Moving on.
- T: All three of today’s Strathclyde’s are abv-strong, but this one is the punchiest, neat. Thankfully, in this case, water is a dear friend. With a thorough examination of sherry in its own right, squidgy sweet-savoury-herbal > dry-sour delights ensue, Doorly’s madeira-pineapple vibes [a theme/signature?], currant bun-dough mix with a warmness from, er, buns just out of the oven,… and a salty touch seen with the Cadenhead’s bottling. I find this less industrial today in comparison to the 1977-vintage that follows, and yet, on the turn,… Oh my, stop me!!!
- F: Not only a Christmassy dram, it’s ideal for Easter, birthdays, NYE, Thanksgiving,….. days ending in a ‘y’,….
- C: I could write a short essay every time I revisit this young wonder. Enough said already.
Scores 89 points
That 9yo is a serious contender for initiating beginners to whisky, albeit watered down a fair bit. After all, grain can be very accessible – something I discovered some years ago when sharing a 1973-vintage 38yo North of Scotland grain with friends & family over the course of a year or so. I should re-review that one day as it easily pre-dated whiskylovingpianist.com. Of course I kept samples back!
- N: This woody~fungal and vegetal [I’ll stick with my previous ‘buttered broccoli’ note] is a darker/murkier offering in comparison to the 9yo [and the 32yo to come]. Though far more understated & patient/mature, there’s a focused wily energy lurking in the midst, a combo that makes for one alluring nose that rewards due diligence.
- T: Somewhat congested at first, there’s an initial information overload. Soon settling down to reveal something more woody and spicy/peppery, it’s relatively more savoury in comparison to the other two ‘Strath’s’. The [Palo Cortado-like] sherry peels off to reveal a very clean and intact neutral grain spirit as if the sherry cask was merely a coat, taken off and slung over a chair. Nice coat, however, one which continues to provide some delicious chewy delights en route.
- F: Where you might expect this one to lift off, it all remains ticking over a while yet, though rum-like spirit and cask remain side by side as if separated by type.
- C: A good one certainly, but even after 36 years, integration is still in the balance. That nose though, is the top of this ones game.
Scores 87 points
From re-reviews to a full bottle review. This 1989 32yo Strathclyde is my latest purchase, procured at Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop in Campbeltown a few weeks ago. There’s nothing better than buying something on a strong recommendation. Even better when you get to try it first, and on Machrihanish beach no less [see pic] – compliments of Mr Swag himself.
Strathclyde 1989/2021 32yo Cadenhead’s Sherry Cask [324 bts] 54.5% WB86
- N: Flights often start with grain. This isn’t that kind of grain. This is one to end a flight on! Uber-rich sweet sherried [around 2 years] bourbon [3 decades],.. and rum-like too, with hints/suggestions of sweet lime, coconut, vanilla, nutty sugars, a vegetal fruitiness, all number of cooking oils, background sawdust,…. and let’s not forget the raspberry sauce over vanilla ice cream! Another grain for bourbon fans, I reckon.
- T: We’ve more of that uber-rich, [desirably] sherry-sweetened bourbon > rye-resinous/forthright/driven, warm~chewy [barley sugar/brown sugar & Golden Syrup] spirit with a salty pinch,… moving cinnamon-y/aniseed-y alongside muscovado sugar,…. I imagine the cask jumped out at the master blender whilst they perused any number of casks sitting in those beguiling Campbeltown warehouses.
- F: Varnished throughout, it settles ever-fresh and still a little sawdusty, remaining [14yo Doorly’s without/less madeira WLP] rum-like again, followed by a subtle mix of dark/mocha and white chocolate, abundant [down-stage] fruitiness [in various stages of plumpness and drying]…, butter biscuits,… sweet [olive/coconut] oil?
- C: Yet another grooming/gateway [grain] whisky, this delicious and moreish offering has [so far] been a unanimous hit and the high abv hasn’t deterred the enthusiast nor the casual drinker – hence why the first bottle vanished! This one simply works.
Scores [a solid] 90 points
Happy Birthday [ha ha] to me, enjoying the day at the 2021 Whisky Show.