A Farewell to S.W.A.G. HQ

The night before I was due to travel to the Kintyre Peninsula for the 2022 Campbeltown Malts Festival [WLP],…

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,… I met up with fellow Swaggers at the Snug in Sussex. As now seems customary before the long slog from Sussex to Scotland [WLP], we drink into the wee small hours.

As it transpired, this was to be the last time members of the Sussex Whisky Appreciation Group would meet at the club’s HQ before SWAG’s president moved to, where else, but Scotland!

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With glasses loaded and the fire ablaze, we get stuck in! Most drams were drunk, at least initially, blind.

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First up, a release plenty of peeps are talking about, a blended malt consisting of Springbank, Glen Scotia, and Glengyle.

Campbeltown Loch [2021] Ob./Springbank Distillers 46% WB85.19[239] WF86 DF7/10 WN83

  • N: Curious. I first pick up on the peat and prominent candle wax. Overall, rich, moreish, competant.
  • T: From a moreish nose to a moreish palate, we’ve a clean blended malt that’s packed full of flavour and a gentle fizz. I didn’t pick up on the PX, it being so integrated into the overall mix.
  • F: Light-as chocolatey malty finish with traces of all sorts.
  • C: Very solid performer, just 8 years old [I’m told] going on 12-15, and with an admirable PX & peat integration that works a treat. Recommended.

Scores 86 points

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Springbank 20yo [2021~22] WhiskyBroker for Capital Whisky Club Members’ Release sherry hogshead #457 [bottle #113/206] 51.4% [20cl
] WBx

These small bottles are becoming more & more prevalent as the current global ‘situation’ continues to bite.

  • N: Drinking blind again, there’s a pong to this, a winey pong. Ben Nevis? Nah. Perhaps it’s more an ex-cognac/European oak Campbeltown funkiness?
  • T: Tasty throughout with some rather decent maturity and formidability.
  • F: A savoury-sweet finish with some chocolate and caramel.
  • C: £79 checks out does it not – by current standards – making a 70cl bottle £275.50. Lovely stuff, seemingly more blended malt than single malt at times [a la like the Campbeltown Loch].

Scores 88 points

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Bunnahabhain 1991/2018 26yo Bartels ‘Highland Laird’ Sherry Butt #4321 [btl #85/144] 50.3% WB89.31[21]

  • N: A nose that makes everyone instantly go “ooh”. It’s a familiar signature and clearly an older boy in comparison to the Glen Scotia, and even to the Springbank, though not creaking at the seams. I’m guessing we are around the 25-year-old mark then.
  • T: Decent delivery too, I’m picking up on a grape finish which may well have revived and disguised the oak to come.
  • F: Oaky, yes, but in a great way.
  • C: Something a little special and probably quite affordable when it came out in 2018.

Scores 89 points

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Blair Athol [2016] Ob. Distillery Only Bottling [3000 bts] 48% WB85.44[47]

  • N: Big on fruitiness and oiliness, I’ve heard it said more than once that Blair Athol is/was the blender’s go-to. Funnily enough, then, I’m channelling JW Black/Green.
  • T: Malty and fruity with a sweet < sour,…
  • F: ,… followed by an acute citrusy maltiness.
  • C: A bottling I tried back in 2016 [81, no notes]. Significantly better today. Perhaps it improved in the bottle?

Scores 85 points

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The Foz pulls out not one, not two, but three Willowbank’s no less! The first is a 1993 vintage I’d already tried back in 2014, but eight years on, I’m [re]trying it blind.

Willowbank 1993/2013 19yo Ob./NZWC cask #32 55.4% WB83[1]

  • N: Scotch-style ex-bourbon-matured single malt around 16 years of age?
  • T: Wooly maltiness with a sharp-sour creamy fizz.
  • F: Dusty-ish candy into barley sugar.
  • C: This bottle has seen better days, but it’s still interesting in the context of a Willowbank lineup, and in comparison to the contemporary world whisky scene we are witnessing and enjoying some nine years later.

Scores 83 points

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The following pair of Willowbank’s are up for full bottle reviews in the coming months, so here are my initial thoughts.

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Willowbank 18yo [2022] Ob. for TWE Wine Casks [1371 bts] 57.2% [50cl] WB88[8]

  • N: A grainy nose that talks of ex-bourbon & grape maturation.
  • T: Grainy malt delivery patched over with a grape-derived sour sweetness.
  • F: Rum-like i.e. spirity finish.
  • C: Rough & ready malt which did improve over time in the glass. Here’s hoping my bottle will do the same.

[Provisionally] scores 84/83 points

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Willowbank 18yo [2021] TBWC Batch #2 ‘Wine Cask Series’ [btl #17/506] 50.5% [50cl] WB86[2]

C: I had already tried this back in March [WLP88]. Not for everyone, I’m sure. For me, every sip is a joy. A great example of red wine cask maturation going really really well.

Scores 88 points [again]

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Look out for a plethora of Willowbank coming to these pages later in the year. For now, we are off to India.

Paul John 06yo [2018] Cadenhead’s World Whiskies Individual Cask [330 bts] 56.3% WB86.33[29]

  • N: Cadenhead’s had a freaky [in a good way] 6yo in their warehouse back in 2018 [WLP84] and a similar crazy 7yo in 2022 [WF82]. To its credit, this one is far more straight-laced and refined by comparison.
  • T: Straight-laced [Caol Ila-like] malt on the one hand with some entertainingly exotic details on the other. Without knowing it’s Indian at first, I pick out an array of curry spices.
  • F: Ultimately, it finishes with a rather elemental/simple barley sugar conclusion. Without the phenols, you could imagine this being a fairly innocuous affair.
  • C: Very decent indeed, though it fell apart, with dilution, after time in the glass [outside, however].

Scores 86 points

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Also of note, we tried a [Laphroaig] Williamson 7yo, also from Capital Whisky Club. At £19 a bottle, you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better BFYB malt than this CS single cask, naturally presented, spritely age-stated Laphroaig [Scores 86].

Whilst my 8yo Five Sovereigns [review to follow in due course] Scotch from the 1970s continues to wow, Wayne is inspired to open his 1970s Cutty Sark. He gives me a sample to take home and enjoy another time. Here we are.

Cutty Sark Blended Scots Whisky 1970s Ob. 40% tWJ83 [WLP1]84 WLP288

This bottle is fitted with the plastic gubbins to fit onto an optic, so perhaps originally destined for a pub/bar back in the day. Info from an unpublished yet reliable source on Cutty Sark says ‘Most of it is grain whisky from North British and Invergordon, which pulls together the 40 different single malts, including Highland Park, Glenrothes, Macallan and Bunnahabhain’.

  • N: Relatively soft [OBE] and consolidated old blend with both grain and malt appearing balanced, literally 50/50. Surprisingly fruity on melon, orchard fruits, fruit biscuits, mixed [hazel]nuts, and cereals, with a slightly dusty quality overall and a hint of smoke.
  • T: Both malt and grain jostle for position/dominance. Malty at times, the grain has a slight edge overall with orchard fruits and hints of a confectionary fruitiness giving way to a mild sourness with a citric coppery quality. 
  • F: Not a great deal of extra impact on the tail though it retains its soft yet consistent sustaining energy, grain and malt remaining in the balance.
  • C: A nicely subdued [glass-aged] example of a young 1970s blend.

Scores 82 points

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With thanks to Wayne and to fellow Swaggers. Good luck with your move buddy. I look forward to enjoying the Snug’s new guise in Scotland in the months to come.

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