Bottle Polishing: Winter 2022

I don’t get through whole bottles that often as my last ‘Bottle Polishing’ piece posted last November testifies [WLP].

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We start with a 1970s blend I picked up at auction way back in 2016 for just £19.

Five Sovereigns 08yo [1970s] J W Cameron & Co. De Luxe Blended Scotch 70 proof [26 & 2/3 fl oz] WB0

  • N: Heaps of stewed oldskool [oloroso = palo cortado > fino, let’s say] sherry. It’s pleasingly malty too with a bitter/caramel colourant edge, the grain element light & clean.
  • T: Initially, an old soft [woody/not woody] stewed situation with more of that consolidated oldskool sherry. Very quickly though we get a metallic bitterness, the malty sweetness pushed aside. Lingers as is with an edgy fusty-fresh vail that pinches at the palate but doesn’t fully strike. The second half of the bottle sees bitter oak-infused beeswax, [pickled onion] Monster Munch, parsley & muddy leeks, dry~sweet barley sugar, icky treacle,…
  • F: Soft fusty woody/not woody stewed bitters, the honeyed sweetness always held back.
  • C: Everyone who tried this loved it or at least admired it. Initially, the nose justified the acquisition alone. Down the line, the palate joined in to provide the mucky joys of a bygone era.

Scores 86 points

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From old young to new old:

Cameronbridge 1982/2022 40yo WhiskyBroker bourbon cask #8277 [215 bts] 50.1% [50cl] WB88[3]

  • N: In short, cereal-sweet, a touch pokey [horseradish-hot], and a tad oaky towards dried gluey sawdust. Further observations include sweet raisin bread – toasted – some confectionary cross-overs, sweetened [white] rice, a hint of miso paste, a drop of rice wine vinegar, the smallest pinch of nutmeg, a blob of tomato puree over vanilla essence,… I could go on. Descriptors aside, it’s nice enough and old enough [for a grain] to provide enough interest, but there’s no sense this would have improved with more time in the oven.
  • T: A spicy/peppery/acidic arrival, neat, into a slightly gacky/congested unravel. We’ve a gradual sour-to-sweet transformation towards waxy dried fruits, sweet mild horseradish sauce [heavily mayo-ed], and a rice wine/saki sweetness over a creamy yet grainy grittiness. Add water and you’ve a less interesting if more composed more straightforward delivery.
  • F: After a longer-than-expected release [neat], we’re into a Spearmint mints heat-sustaining finish on more [sandpaper] grittiness/dry oakiness over a green peppercorn/ malty slightly sour spirit and the vanilla cream filling from a Custard Cream.
  • C: Eventually [months after opening], this became a far more pleasurable easy drinker when you don’t want to work too hard. Furthermore, the price of +/-£70 allows you to drink a 40yo [grain] whisky with a blase casualness. On the other hand, when you consider what richness life can offer, it’s a forgettable purchase and easily trumped by a 15yo Girvan I had the other day [WLP87].

Scores 84 points

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Daftmill 2008/2020 12yo Ob. Winter Batch Release [6000 bts] 46% WB87.23[216] WN87 WLS88 WoW87

  • N: What I admire the most about Daftmill, and this one possesses it too, is just how vibrant and freshly clean-cut the fruitness – with a floral-candy quality – is. Behind that fruit composition is the soft mash, flour, & putty, and then you’re into the oils, fats, esters etc. Let’s not forget to mention a lactic quality which isn’t the funk of Ben Nevis nor the contemporary sour milkiness of say Cotswolds, but a creaminess akin to a cream tea maturing rapidly in the Cornish [or should that be Devonshire] August sun. In short, this is a vibrant contemporary small-holding farm whisky.
  • T: Crisp yet malleable, thinking it may be heading towards a floral Highland style, there’s this Bladnoch-esque mash bill base – and who said the regions were dead? Then there’s this particular toffee-d creaminess wrapped up within the mash & fruit complex alongside a somewhat astringent sour citric [lime/grapefruit/lemon juice] quality.
  • F: We are sat in between the fruits [dried sweet pink grapefruit and something of a drying papaya] and the grain mash by the finish, and something of ‘smooth’ confectionary [Kit-Kat wafer-sweet] caramel & soft milky toffees.
  • C: Slightly disappointed with this bottle when I first opened it [around 84 points], months later, it’s come through no end. A solid [relatively large-batch] Daftmill that isn’t inaccessible – £130 [from CYWL] for an occasional treat is ok in my book.

Scores 87 points 

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Fettercairn 1988/2016 27yo SV cask #1996 [btl #214/261] 58.4% WB86.38[15] OMoH7/10

Here’s a bottle I fell for at TWE Show in 2016 [WB:89], just before the birth of these pages. With all its noise and distraction, what of those first festival impressions are relevant six years on?

  • N: Well-aged spirit from refill ex-bourbon, it’s business as usual, albeit with Fettercairn’s idiosyncratic signature touches. In more detail, we’ve desirably murky yet focused joys that talk of light floury fruit [apple/pear] spongey raisin & sultana bread, oats [dried apple fruit > coconut] cereal, a hint/squeeze of kiwi & lime over water chestnuts & brown rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar over [very sweet] blueberries,.. on and on. A year on, and in 3 words: quirky miso honey.
  • T: Notes of dry/set honey over vanilla wafer ice cream are bound up within the slightly fizzy zing tussle between cask and spirit over a strong/firm bourbon-y [raisiny < blueberries] woody/twiggy > floury undefined fruity cloudy beer. Floury and coppery [less so after a year] with a [spirit-borne] sulphurous hint, we’ve even more dry/set honey and dry melon/papaya on the turn. A good body is maintained/retained throughout.
  • F: Relaxed softly desirable sustaining energy on cardboard-dry-ish bourbon-ey honey with a bready [lardy bread n butter] into a coppery metallic raisiny peppery conclusion.
  • C: In three words – quirky funny honey, but this is way less quirky/wacky than I’d remembered it. 1988 is turning out to be a decent year for Fettercairn. Further reading: Dully’s 30yo [WLP87], and Cadenhead’s 34yo [WLP88].

Scores 87 points

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Laphroaig 10yo [2021] Ob. Sherry Oak Finish 48% WB86.44[21] WF86

  • N: Laphroaig of old, sort of. With the distillery’s signature medicinal note[s] in the background, we’ve a [sherry]-sweet ashy and murky oiliness, muddy-ish chard, Iranian sour lemons, and garage vibes [home garage/local garage > petrol station & its shop produce].
  • T: The head of the bottle tells of a vibrant crisp salty oaky spirit, but the body of the bottle shows off more of Laphroaig’s ashy/sweet peat vanilla bonfire dryness. A teaspoon of water is enough to bring out a chewy oily/buttery mouthfeel and an old & new leathery dimension.
  • F: We see a drop in intensity into a finish that isn’t exactly short per se. To conclude, we take home a comfort blanket party bag of oily bonfire smoke with a menthol touch, beer/wash, and cinnamon into star anise,… The sweet woody ash goes on and on, calling for yet another bottle to be opened as once this one is polished.
  • C: This has proved popular wherever it’s been poured. Even taking into account a slight painting-by-numbers quality, this is arguably the best affordable [sub-£60] official Laphroaig out there right now.

Scores 86 points [with batch variations from three bottles taken into account].

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