There’s a new day on the Campbeltown Malts Festival calendar. The inaugural [call it what you will] ‘Watt Day’ is a festival within a festival and it was a cracker!
Finally, the weather was kind and facilitated a large liquid social outside in the courtyard of Campbeltown Whisky Company’s HQ.
Due to a rather large session the night before [WLP], I’d all but missed the Imperial. Thankfully, Mark [Watt] found a way of squeezing out a few remaining few drops from an empty bottle like some quasi-Jesus.
Imperial 1996/2021 25yo CWC/Watt Whisky refill barrel [214 bts] 53.6% WB90.35
Campbeltown Whisky Company is the bottler, Watt, the bottling series!
- N: Displaying vibrancy and vigour over honeys, fruits, pears, papaya,…
- T&F: Vigour indeed! There’s nothing not to like here. With a narrow yet acute delivery, this is fully integrated juice.
- C: We all want a [now all gone] bottle.
[Provisionally] scores +/-90 points
Connors is behind the SMWS table. Always a pleasure.
- N: Starting with a phenolic vegetal oozing squidgyness, this speaks of a savoury dry-sour slightly bung-fusty salty ‘of the sea’ fruitiness – so more a ‘fruits de mer’ than tropical – the rich peated barley bound up within the flora n fauna, quince jelly, sweet grapefruit, a hint of Parma Violets, polish, shammy leather, a pork pie,..? Underside, a curious flavour mix of Asian cuisines, umami-sour-sweet pickles/chutneys,… it’s never-ending.
- T: Firm if forgiving [even neat] iodine-y savoury to sour arrival, we’ve a textural/oily if nimble/light body, giving way to a complex array.
- F: Savoury-sour, iodine, drying pink grapefruit, sour lime…. and I concur with the SMWS notes ‘exotic fruit salad juices pooling in a bowl,…’.
- C: I wasn’t so sure of this initially [outside in a packed courtyard on a hangover], so I’m glad I also took a sample home. Aged in glass, I wouldn’t be surprised if this re-emerges as a masterpiece in 20 years’ time.
Scores 90 points
Caol Ila 1983 30yo CWC The Exclusive Malts [btl #1/1] 51.1%
A [one of one] bottle from one of David Stark’s now closed-down independent bottling brands – Creative Whisky Company.
- N: Herbal/fruit tincture-sweet [becoming] almost jammy like a sweet-savoury herbal digestive, consolidated bourbon-malt sugars, iodine-y,…. fabulous! The peat is rich, a little farmy, decidedly fruity and carb-sweet.
- T: We’ve a back/middle palate arrival & sustain with an array of fructose sugars that cushion the peat as if the phenols were an afterthought. Moreish delivery if lacking the complexity in comparison to the [previous] Bowmore [quibbles really].
- F: With a patty pancake & vanilla ice cream-sweetness on the turn, though not as sustaining as first thought, it’s the greasy mouthfeel and all it brings, that lingers. Clean at the death with sweet iodine, a drop of minerally industrial oiliness, another small scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a suggestion of raspberry sauce.
- C: Caol Ila in refill bourbon over time rarely goes wrong and this is no exception.
Scores 89 points
Benriach 1991 28yo SMWS 12.43 ‘Desire Lines’ [387 bts] 54.8% WB88.23
Available free, for SMWS members. Don’t mind if I do.
- C: Distracted by [the highlight of this dram] – meeting Meeghan, formerly of Glenrinnes [and now?] – ‘very good’ is all I noted at the time. I find this far better than numerous official bottling and well priced too [+/-£260?] – given the market – and for a single cask, cask strength 28yo Benriach.
Scores 88 points
I have a ferry to catch so take these samples home:
[Clynelish] Secret Highland Distillery 2000/2021 21yo HNWS Madeira cask #1459 [288 bts] 52.3%
- N: Sweet, straw/hay-like, chewy grassy/malty, a touch [creme brulee/Ben Nevis] eggy, and with a generous handful of raisins, Silly String confectionary, very fluffy cake dough in its first five minutes in the oven,… The ex-madeira influence acts as an aperitif served on the side.
- T: Big again on raisin/grape juice, grassy again, brulee-like [again], slightly saline, coppery,… Unexpectedly citrus-sour on the turn.
- F: Remains eggy-sweet and bready with one pan aux raisin,.. lightly cooked/fried/baked,… coupled with that coppery citrus sour.
- C: Many things to many people, another commendable independently bottled Clynelish.
Scores 87 points
Clynelish 1994/2021 27yo RMW Stuart Smith ‘Over Two Decades at the Royal Mile’ single cask 50.1%
- N: Fusty bung! This is a complex one over fruits, confectionary, toiletries [the nice stuff,.. perfumes etc], mechanicals/industrial/construction notes, a herbaceousness,… all from just four simple ingredients that make up [single malt] whisky.
- T: Unexpectedly acute and salty, though the family resemblance to the previous dram is clear. A little water gets things back on track with a salty malty complex that shares its time in the balance between sweet and sour, a hint of putty, salty cream,…
- F: More of that fusty bung action you typically get from barley spirit long-aged in refill ex-bourbon casks. Long savoury-sour mash and barley faithful malty finish reveal this one’s pedigree.
- C: Heaps to like. With thanks to Sashin for a fab dram.
Scores 89 points
Glen Grant 2003 17yo SMWS 9.207 ‘A Sweetie Shop in a Garden’ [203 bts] 56.2% WB86
- N: Abound with [drying] floral fruitiness alongside vanilla custard pastries, this is a gloriously youthful yet dignified tempered 17yo. Titled ‘A Sweetie Shop in a Garden’, I find it very much a country village sweetie shop visited in mid-summer with freshly baked [fluffy white flour] goods also on offer. I could list & list as I nose & nose.
- T: Follows on along the same lines as the nose, though there is now some sour berry/stone fruit astringency. Takes plenty of water for another perspective, underside.
- F: That fresh enlivening delivery eventually leads to more dried/drying fruits – confectionary or otherwise – the sweet-sour interplay always in the balance.
- C: Quitessencially British and American, so a ’special relationship’. Abv aside, with its [not too sweet] sweet quaint charm, this is one to coax a newbie with.
Scores 86 points
Only four months late, that concludes my look back at the Campbeltown Malts Festival of 2022. Final thoughts:
- 2022 was a quiet year. Many stayed away for various reasons. In comparison to more recent years, it was a bit cold and wet, and that wind – jeez!
- Prices! Family-owned Springbank Distillers [J & A Mitchell] and Cadenhead’s could only resist global market forces for so long. Many who would have always bought festival bottles, often by the case, declined to purchase bottles this year. As a result, there were plenty of festival bottles to go around. In comparison to the Islay giants and Feis Ile, things were still relatively decent.
- Overriding all of that, with old faces and some new faces, friendships and humanity win out. Generosity and goodwill remain at the heart of Springbank.
Regards to all my good friends and everyone at Campbeltown who made another year very special. It’s time for me to head off to Islay for only my second Feis Ile!