Southport Whisky Club: Summer Festival 2021 Review Tasting

Summer Festival, you say? I’m still on catchup as per usual. With the 2022 Southport Winter Festival currently in full flow [SWC], it’s my cue to look back at Southport’s 2021 Summer Festival via a festival review tasting pack – small consolation for not being able to attend in person for various reasons.

Much like this year’s winter festival, a handful of Swagger’s – aka Sussex Whisky Appreciation Group Ambassadors – managed the trip up to Southport, returning with glowing reports.

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First up in the tasting pack is a whisky I’ve been praising since my first contact with it on Raasay in August 2021 – WLP[87]. Unconventionally then, we start this tasting with a full bottle review.

Loch Lomond 2017/2021 04yo Peated Single Grain Ob. for Southport Whisky Festival 2021 cask #730 [247 bts] 61.3% WB88[1]

  • N: Where does one start and where does it end? Tonight, my focus begins with toasted lemonade [whatever that is], BBQed lemons & limes, grilled stone bass [served in a banana leaf],….. dry pan-fried whelks & gherkins in a sweet brine, soil, grit > > compost, Flying Saucers [see pic], carrot tops, Digestives &> Nice biscuits, parsley, a dash of orange juice, joyous liquid yeastiness,..…. so on and so on! What’s most poignant is the complex sweet >savoury-to-sour interplay. Let’s hope this continues on the palate.
  • T: Ahh, the joys of oils/fats/esters/aldehydes that non-chill filtration and a high abv help preserve and promote. It is, however, the phenolic quality that sets this one apart, as if a hard gritty~oily phenolic solid has been expertly liquidised into spirit form by a hedonistic alchemist. And yet, it isn’t anything of the viscose sublimity of a 30yo Brora [WLP] or the mind-blowing emotion of a 1950s Bowmore [WLP96]. This youngun’ is a precocious and grubby young thing that has come of age at just 4 years, the underlying spirit retaining an unadulterated purity,… alive, vibrant. From the nose, we do have more of that sweetish=savoury~sour interplay, the phenolic toasted/scorched sweet bourbon-y & sour dry lemon > lime, and burning rubbery tar-like notes suggesting we aren’t a million miles from mezcal.
  • F: What a performer. True to form with an ever-faithful savoury/sour toasted peated barley base, a firm if stand-offish bourbon cask making this all possible. A slightly gacky peated heathery aspirin finish reminds you, you’ve been rummaging around in the shady corners of the bathroom cabinet.
  • C: I don’t have another whisky quite like it. Despite a month or two of stiff competition, this bottle remained triumphant in its own right. Just one thing to bear in mind. I named it the ‘Gremlin Malt’ at times – don’t add water,…. or was it ‘don’t feed after midnight’?

Scores 87 points

Any better 4yo’s, I ask myself? Scanning my ‘whiskies I’ve tried’ database:

  • Chita 2011/2014 04yo SMWS G13.1 ‘A Complete Revelation’ [622 bts] 58.3% – (87 – no notes)
  • A randomly fascinating and brilliant Glen Moray & Tamdhu 1964 4yo G&M single cask vatting #1036 59.3% [WLP90]
  • A Kilchoman or two from their earlier days [+/-87 – no notes]
  • A 4yo Dornoch I tried at The Whisky Show 2021 [WLP87]

Slim pickings indeed. Fine young [3-4yo] whiskies aren’t so frequent in my book.

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Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow blend [2021] Ob. 43% WB83.28[171] WF85 WM82[3] CB

The last time I tried this, I wrote of the recipe: ‘Among other distilleries, this is mainly comprising of Cameronbridge [33%], Clynelish, Benrinnes and Laphroaig [20%]’. CB’s latest fact sheet tells us the blend currently consists of 35.2% Cameronbridge, 29% whisky from a distillery near Aberlour, 18.2% Laphroaig, 9.9% Clynelish,… amongst others – so not a great deal of change. Importantly, the larger percentage of this blend remains a malt.

  • N: A beer > [bloomer] bready slightly [chicken] meaty malty nose with a light toasted dry citrus quality and a suggestion of farmy~>medicinal peat – from the Laphroaig of course.
  • T: More wonderfully tempered but not ‘stripped’, salty-ish Laphroaig-y soft/dry citrus beer-forward arrival with a creamy malty phenolic chew.
  • F: Soft lingering finish, the Cameronbridge only really peaks out, proper, at the tail.
  • C: As good, if not better than I remember it. Commendable blending, not least given nearly a 1/5th of the recipe is Laphroaig. Any home blender will know how ‘hot to handle’ Leapfrog can be.

Scores 85 points

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Paul John Mithuna [2020] Ob. Zodiac 58% WB89.42[39] M-R8/10

If the price is anything to go by – £200+ – we should be onto a goodun’.

  • N: Fairly bubblegum-y at first with a hint of sooty cough syrup, this one changes by the second. Weird in a good way, Mithuna displays a full array of sweet goods – baked, confectionery, [dried] fruits,… [clove & cinnamon candy-flavoured] syrupy Guleb’s. Add to the mix, a chai/coffee blend, curry leaf, creamy spices,… sweaty salty peanuts, varnished lychee,… a whole gamut here. Remaining oily~barley~bourbon-y rich throughout, after more than an hour, the sugars are still evolving though slowly but surely consolidating towards barley sugar.
  • T: Same again really, on the wacky [weird in a good way] front. With more of those medicinal cough syrup notes up first, the curious spiced fruit > confectionary sweetness flows thereafter,… a meatiness too,…. herbal sherbet, Fisherman’s Friends and Trebor’s Extra Strong Mints. Structurally, it’s the resinous rich bourbon-esque cask element that pins it all together.
  • F: Long creamy coffee liqueur-like finish, the aromatic oaky spices lingering, and with plenty of desirable [cask] resinous flickers at the death.
  • C: A rather unique/one-off whisky that will bedazzle and bamboozle in equal measure. Easily the best PJ I’ve had.

Scores 88 points

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Speyburn 14yo [2021] HL OMC for Man With The Hat S14 58% WB0 SWC£72

  • N: Reminds me of one/some of Speyside Distillery’s newest releases – Trutina I think it is [WLP], along with an undefinable Fettercairn vibe. Descriptor-wise, I pick up on a custard-y nose at first with some garage-y murkiness. Later, I’m tuning into sultanas, pear tart cherry/strawberry essence, iron fillings, something of [glacier cherry] glycerine,… A decent start, but let’s see where the palate takes us. 
  • T: Savoury-sweet copper greasy confectionary vibes meet malty murky,… soft spearmint-fresh >> creosote for a curious waxy-resinous almost grainy middle.
  • F: Slightly hot, a little water brings out the malt and a touch more greasy mint.
  • C: From the nose, I thought I’d like this more than I did. Still, it gives the comparable official bottlings a run for their money.

Scores 84 points

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Glenfarclas 07yo Ob. for SWC Festival 100 proof 300 bts 57.1% WB0

  • N: A familiar [=105-esque] clean raisiny coppery sweet sherry-forward number, one that improves with time and water. 
  • T: Once it’s gathered itself, the palate becomes chewy, a touch rubbery, ever-coppery, leathery, malty, greasy-waxy,… so not dissimilar to the nose at all.
  • F: Clean [non-sulphurous],… and raisiny, but not too much. A fair balance overall, given its youthful age.
  • C: A solid pleasing representative dram [for £56], and a huge improvement on the last ‘official’ 105 I endured [WLP3<77].

Scores 84 points [max]

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Caol Ila 2011/2021 09yo James Eadie Red Lion cask #30358, 303559, 312141 [1128 bts] 46% WB84.25[6]

  • N: Consistent as ever, Caol Ila’s hallmarks are all over this one, albeit a tad more laid back than usual with a nutshell huskiness in comparison to the officials.
  • T: Texturally, this one possesses a watery succulence without being watery [in body], if you catch my drift. Malty also,… > sugary, wort-like,… Candid stuff!
  • F: Gathers more body later on, a tad peppery with clove, a cinnamon pinch,… gentle medicinal < Polo mint peaty wafts,… vanilla,…
  • C: Reliable ole’ Caol Ila. There’s rarely a dud even if much of the output occupies the ‘quality cut de sac’,… unless allowed to go past 25+ years – that’s where the independent bottlers lead the way.

Scores 84 points

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END

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