Tasting Notes/Whisky Reviews

Benromach 23yo 1988 (50.5, SMWS 48.26, refill butt, USA 120 Bts., +/-2012) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

Benromach 23yo 1988 (50.5, SMWS 48.26, refill butt, USA 120 Bts., +/-2012) 

“In a wild garden, late summer” 

On the nose it’s a little closed at first but then with a little coaxing some promising richness starts to emerge but event hen it’s a little shy but there are hints of greatness here. The taste is of gentle malt, the afore mentioned sweetness in the form of some sherry notes and some good wood notes which adds spiciness but does not over power. Taken all together and it’s very intoxicating. The finish is a perfect match for the nose taste and it’s long, even and very good. The cask notes take over from the sherry sweetness but only just so. Some really sensational malt lurks in the finish to tie everything together.

Despite a little hesitation on the nose this is sensational stuff.


Score 91 points

2 of 4 this week. Samples kindly provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America

Glenmorangie 9yo 2001 (57.4%, SMWS, 125.51, First Fill Barrel, USA 150 Bts., +/-2012) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

Glenmorangie 9yo 2001 (57.4%, SMWS, 125.51, First Fill Barrel, USA 150 Bts., +/-2012) 

“Perfumed Sweetness and zesty fruits” 

The nose (undiluted) offers some good sweetness and malt and after a few moments in the glass this increases dramatically to become rich, intense and concentrated with lots of notes to reflect the American heritage of the cask. Really very nice and quite vibrant. A dash (or even a splash) of water brings out much more of the sweetness and it’s very good. The undiluted taste shows the perfume (and some good malt) that was described in the title along with the really good malt. All very vibrant and very good. With water the cask is reflected and it’s all leather and tobacco and oak spice and again, it’s very good. The finish is as with the nose and the taste however here the dry dusty malt and the perfume work well together for a really good finish. Long into the finish the malt wins the battle for dominance.

Very nice with some very good youthful notes.


Score 89 points

Part 1 of 4 this week. Samples kindly provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America

Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America Christmas Outturn Tasting Notes – Scotch Whisky News

Carsebridge 35yo 1976 (53.6%, SMWS, G2.2, Refill barrel, USA 60 Bts., +/-2012)  

A Vaudeville Act 

From a grain distillery closed in 1983…always sad to see a distillery closed. Sweet corn on the nose with some alcohol with some nice oak spice (black pepper, snuff etcetera) and with some time in the glass it opens quite nicely. Some hints of Canadian whisky in the nose. The taste is sweet corn, some good dry cocoa powder and then some creamy goodness, caramel cream or similar but with a vegetal note. Some American moments in there also. The finish is much like the taste but with some liquorice thrown in there for added pizzazz.

Water only adds to the honey crème brûlée effect. Very nice.


Score 85 points

Glen Grant 8yo 2002 (62.1%, SMWS, 9.62 First fill barrel, 149 Bts., +/-2012) 

Mouth Watering Sharp & Sweet 

On the nose there’s a sharpish note, like young goat’s cheese along with lots of cask influence in the form of leather and tobacco (unlit of course). A little menthol perhaps?  Time in the glass brings out a little honey. The undiluted taste is very much of pears and wood shavings (a little pencil lead too) and then it takes off but the pear is very predominate. With some water things calm down somewhat and the pear becomes slightly smoked (just a hint – perhaps it’s simply the cask effect. Moments later it’s pears in sweet syrup (is there any other kind??)

The finish starts off with the pears but ends with the leather and tobacco, a little more of the tobacco at this point. A little dusty malt too. Long and chewy.

Big and aggressive and well worth it.

$85 (only)

85 points

Springbank 13yo 1998 (57.6%, SMWS, 27.97, refill Gorda, USA 180 Bts., +/-2012)

Glazed cashews and lemon lollies 

On the nose there’s rich cream sherry, a good heft adds to the initial impression. There is also a good sugar sweetness present (the ‘lemon lollies’ in the title is very apt. While the ‘glazed cashews’ is also apt it needs modification ‘glazed chili pepper cashews’ is more evocative and correct (IMHO). The taste is also very much of the rich cream sherry with some tobacco rolled in. It’s also quite dry and very malt chewy. It’s unusual and good. The finish is very much of the nose and the taste, either there’s great balance or the sherry have taken over from the distillery character. Late moments of malty chewiness, much like an Isle of Arran.

No matter about the distillery character it’s quite good.


Score 86 points

Ledaig 7yo 2005 (62.7%, SMWS, 42.10, refill barrel, USA 60 Bts., +/-2012) 

Straighforward Sweet & Spicy  

Clean sheets, green nettles, tweed couches and hints of coal smoke are all found on the nose and when taken altogether contributes to a pleasant nose. Time in the glass brings out more of the ‘green’ notes so before it takes over let’s move onto the taste which is quite good but a tad bitter. But water brings out more of the green and some very nice sweetness but the bitterness is still present. Think green twig. The finish is good and long and vibrant and active and chewey and very good. The peat smoke arrives late and compliments the bitterness some what, taming it a little. Late, late into the finish there is a sensational malt moment….

All’s well that ends well…


Score 78 points

Laphroaig 20yo 1990 (58.2%, SMWS, 29.104, Refill sherry butt, USA 120 Bts., +/-2012 

Not for wee boys

On the nose there’s some really, really nice peat smoke and some really, really nice sherry notes along with some brown sugar and a very good richness. Oh so very nice Laphroaig with sherry! Sherry and peat smoke, sherry and peat smoke! The taste is dry, like wood shavings, and then the sherry comes climbing aboard with the peat smoke in hand. Oh the glory and the rapture this is sensational! Chocolate intermingles with the rest to form an unbeatable combination. The finish is perfectly tuned to nose and the taste and is quite long.

A glorious Laphroaig to be sure…


Score 91 points

Samples kindly provided by the SMWS of America.

December 2012 Outturn

Scotch Malt Whisky Society “Holiday Outtrun Offerings” – Scotch & Welsh Whisky Tasting Notes

Glenturret 10yo 2001 (57.2%, SMWS, 16.32, refill port pipe, USA 120 Bts., +/-2012) 

From a refill port pipe which on the nose presents a richness vaguely familiar, some what like Isle of Mull or Deanston, along with some herbaceous notes and some really good honey sweetness. The meatiness richness along with the herbaceous notes and the honey make for an intriguing combination. The taste is once again reminiscent of Isle of Mull and Deanston and the herbaceous and honey notes are still present with a little bit of oak spice. A little water softens it somewhat but it remains true to form (not much changes). The finish shows some good malt and a lot of tobacco (unlit cured) and is quite good and fairly long. The honey notes have vanished somewhat but the aforementioned descriptors are a suitable alternative.


Score 83 points

Rosebank 21yo 1990 (59.8%, SMWS, 25.63, refill hogshead, USA 108 bottles, +/-2012)

On the nose there are some ‘green’ notes along with some good malty notes and with time in the glass the malty notes grow and there is a curious and unusual hint of Chardonnay lurking in the back ground. The taste is quite dry and this grows over a very short time period, lots of cask influence here and then some chewy malt followed by more cask notes and still very dry. A splash of water brings the down the volume a fair amount but the cask influence is quite evident. The finish is also quite woody and astringent, the malt saves the day coming at the van to bring some order to the scene.


Score 80 points

Cardhu 27yo 1984 (52.6%, SMWS, 106.18, refill hogshead, USA 78 bottles, +/-2012) 

On the nose there is juniper and rich warm honey (like the waft off warm toast) and some moments of ‘antique’ however the aromas definitely lean towards the juniper side of the house and all very pleasant. The taste is good, warming, some malt, some crème brûlée and a little sourness to give it a bit of an edge.  A dash of water doesn’t change things too much but the crème brûlée plays a bigger part. The finish is quite big and active with some nice cask influence and some really good malt moments, also some leather and chewy malt.


Score 81 points

Penderyn 5yo 2006 (61.3%, SMWS, 128.3, First fill barrel, USA 78 bottles, +/-2012) 

The third ever SMWS bottling of a cask from Penderyn which has on the nose bananas, hair spray, lemon (at first) followed by a good richness that is quite enjoyable. Water releases the serpents (the swirls in the glass). The taste is amazingly sweet tinged with some vibrant oak spice and dry cocoa powder and moments of dry sherry. At full strength it’s all very dramatic. With a little water a Christmas tree pops up for a moment and the oak spice and dry cocoa take over, not to be out done. The finish is a riot of the aforementioned flavours now with some moments of malt, a little egg nogg (‘tis the season) and it’s a little short but nothing so short as to be a fault.


Score 83 points

Kilchoman 5yo 2006 (60.2%, SMWS, 129.1, first fill barrel, USA 114 bottles, +/- 2012) 

The very first bottling of Kilchoman bottled by the Society; the UK allocation sold out in moments so a bit of a surprise that it should pop up in the USA but well done in any case. On the nose there is…drum roll please…peat smoke and from the initial nosing it’s a fair bet to say there is lashings of the stuff yet to arrive. And of course with time in the glass it only grows, like a massively desiccated and shrunk Godzilla that once rehydrated only grows and grows until you are confronted by a massive shadow blocking the sun…ok, ok a bit much but you get the point. It’s good too…. With a little cut grass with some youth thrown in for good measure. Seat belts please for the taste which is slightly perfumed with some good fruit but then the steam roller arrives to crush everything under unrelenting rollers made of peat smoke with a little coal smoke thrown in for good measure which is a wonderful delight since it adds so much depth. Malt arrives, waving for attention but of course the peat smoke steps in front. The malt however does make a good showing in the finish which is massive and long and quite sensational.

Well done….


89 points

Stock Photo

Isle of Arran 1996/2012 (52%, OB, Premium Cask Selection, Bourbon, C# 2086, 186 Bts) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

Isle of Arran 1996/2012 (52%, OB, Premium Cask Selection, Bourbon, C# 2086, 186 Bts) 

Another cask for the US market and quite a small one at only 186 bottles from Isle of Arran “Premium Cask Selection” range. On the nose there’s all the Isle of Arran characteristic maltiness followed by some duty malt, a little salt (no not actual salt, just some salty aromas), some very nice fruit plus some very good  leather and tobacco. There are also some enchanting fruity notes in the back ground. All very luscious. The taste is very active with loads of the tobacco and leather and spice and malt and some really excellent crème brûlée along with the dusty malt. A little water tames it somewhat and makes it a little more approachable but it holds together exceedingly well. The finish is once again of the leather and tobacco, maltiness, oak spice and the crème brûlée but now quite dry and exceedingly long and active.

Very well balanced with lots of notes from the cask which compliments the malt, it handles water quite well and perhaps improves it a little. Go find a bottle if you can…you won’t regret it.


Score 90 points

Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America October Outturn Tasting Notes – Scotch Whisky News

Auchentoshan 12yo 1999 (54.7%, SMWS, 5.35, Second Fill hogshead, +/-2012) 

“Laundry in the Bakery” 

Light and spicy on the nose with green tree fruit followed by rich warm caramel pudding. With water it changes somewhat to reveal some floral notes and is certainly less vibrant but still very good. The undiluted taste is lemon sweet with a strong back ground of cocoa or dark unsweetened chocolate and loads of oak spice, quite active actually. Very nice undiluted but strong. With a little water it holds together quite well and becomes increasingly delicious. The finish has some more of the…hold on…lots of fragrant malt and floral notes (the latter is not over whelming) and the finish is extremely long and it’s very good. Quite an extraordinary finish, very active and very flavourful.

Not your typical Auchentoshan and very, very good (which is not  to say that the Official Bottlings of Auchentoshan are not also very good).


Score 88 points

Clynelish 21yo 1990 (49.1%, SMWS, 26.84, Refill barrel, +/-2012) 

“Moorland after rain”

Lovely quality right off the bat, a sensational nose but subtle and gentle, not like being smacked about with a kipper. Some hints of age and gentle lovely fruit and some very nice hints of malt. Lovely ‘antique’ moments and all very refined. The taste is also quite lovely with some very nice toasted malt, some more of the fruit and a little tobacco and leather (perhaps a little bit more of the tobacco and a little uncured tobacco thrown in for a little vegetal bitterness to give it all a little twist (just a tiny bit) and then some welcome and slightly surprising smoke. The finish is a mirror image on the taste and a really good blast of sweetness and some emerges to carry the finish to a distant end.

To hell with the water, this is awesome.

$145 (buy two)

Score 90 points

Glen Elgin 12yo 1999 (59.4%, SMWS, 85.23, Refill Sherry Butt, +/-2012) 

“Burnt granary toast with bramble jelly” 

Sour cherries on the nose and a slight portent of doom; is the dreaded “S” making an appearance?? Even without water it’s beginning to emerge. Oh bugger.  Some nice sherry notes struggle through the sulphur could that hangs over the nose like a malevolent fog over an unsuspecting village. The taste is good at first with some …..ooops rotten eggs are really too much to bear. Stop…..

Like a hair dressers when a little old lady is having her hair turned blue.

Apologies…it’s too much and a real shame since there was some moments of greatness in there.


No score.

Glen Scotia 9yo 2002 (59.7%, SMWS, 93.47, Refill Barrel, +/-2012) 

“Seaweed, sushi and Abroath smokies” 

Glen Scotia has cast iron wash backs, something of a rarity in Scotland. This sample, on the nose is some what of the ocean and then the peat smoke arrives to take over and express dominance over the assembled descriptors but not in a dictators fashion (not as they are in real life since they are always bastards) but in a more subtle way, tinged with some sweetness however the peat smoke is quite delightful. Oooff, that’s nice. The taste is of malt, some lemon fizzy notes (like 7-Up) and then some of the very good peat smoke along with some juniper. With a good dollop of water honey notes emerge and it dulls the peat a little. The finish is very active and slightly thinner, more malt and less peat smoke.

A little stumble in the finish but nothing to get too worked up about, it’s a really nice Glen Scotia and killer value for the price.


87 points

Ardbeg 8yo 2003 (60.4%. SMWS, 33.113, First fill barrel, +/-2012) 

“Sweet, peaceful dreams” 

On the nose there is surprisingly gentle peat smoke however it’s very good none the less; it’s not overly complex with peat smoke and sweet cocoa being the predominant descriptors and sometimes you just want to have a dram without having to agonize on all the nuances. This is good Ardbeg, plain and simple. There could, however be a trap about to be sprung by the 60.4% which is deceptively gentle on the nose. The taste, without water, is gentle at first blush and then the rocket engine is ignited and off it goes, big smashing peat smoke, crazed shards of oak splinters and the heat of a thousand suns (OK, a little over the top with that last bit). The finish is chewy malt, peat some and some citrus but loads of chewy malt and a smattering of chocolate. Medium long with a moment of coconut matting at the last.

Big and bold and excellent.


Score 89 points

Samples kindly provided by the SMWS of America.

October 2012 Outturn

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Isle of Arran 1996/2012 (51.1%, OB, Premium Cask Selection, Sherry, C#1979, 219 Bts., D’11/12/96, B’25/04/12) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

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Isle of Arran 1996/2012 (51.1%, OB, Premium Cask Selection, Sherry, C#1979, 219 Bts., D’11/12/96, B’25/04/12) 

A single sherry cask from the new Premium Cask Selection series and has just arrived in the US market. On the nose there is a blast of sweet spice and some vegetal earthiness that quickly transforms into lots of welcome sherry notes, very much first class in nature. There’s also some chocolate and the aforementioned spice notes. And sherry. Richness like consommé with a dash of sherry but with some good spiciness added in. Deluxe. The taste is some what subtle despite the level of alcohol and there is a really good dryness along with the chocolate, a little coffee grounds and the sherry malt combination.  This is really quite sensational and it is so nice to come across a sherry cask of such quality. The finish is warming, long and filled with various fall and winter spices, tobacco (unlit of course) and the ever present characteristic Isle of Arran malt.

A real treat, find one if you are able.


Score 90 points

Isle of Arran 2001/2012 (55.2%, OB for Kensington, Bourbon, C#808, 233 Bts., D’13/12/2001, B’12/09/2012) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

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Isle of Arran 2001/2012 (55.2%, OB for Kensington, Bourbon, C#808, 233 Bts., D’13/12/2001, B’12/09/2012) 

Yet another single cask selected for Kensington in Calgary, in 2011 they bottled Arran KWM Bourbon Barrel – Distilled July 9th, 1999 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 11 Years – 57.4% – 202 individually numbered bottles and Arran KWM Sherry Hogshead – Distilled April 2nd 1998 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 12 Years – 55.3% – 282 individually numbered bottles. This latest is from an ex-American bourbon cask and on the nose there are some slight hints of gin, the high alcohol comes through but then after just a few moments in the glass some wafts of toasted sour dough bread starts to emerge followed by hints of heather, rose water and some sweet malt. There are also tantalizing moments of BBQ; somewhat multi-faceted. With water some further sweetness emerges, more malt and caramel or even barley sugar. The undiluted taste is big, aggressive and quite vibrant with loads of malt. With water the whisky is significantly more approachable (it handles quite a bit of water with aplomb) and is much like the undiluted nose with the lighter fragrant notes working well with the malt and sweet notes. The finish is much like fizzy orange drink (think of a soda that’s been sitting in the sun a while and has lost some of its fizz) with lots of malt. There’s lots of mouth smacking moments of malt (try saying that 3 times quickly). As times winds in the malt comes to dominate and grow, astonishing.

Vibrant, active, big and malty but not as malty as previous bottlings in the nose and the taste but certainly in the finish.

$88 (for a cask strength single cask whisky – well done!)

86 points

The Naked Grouse NAS (40%, OB, Batch 1017822:05, +/-2011) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

“As the makers of The Famous Grouse we bring over 100 years of whisky making to the creation of The Naked Grouse. We have enriched the best loved flavours of Scotland’s Favourite Whisky by maturing our blend in hard to find (and pricey!) sun dried sherry oak casks. Distinctively sweet, rich and, some would say, famously smooth – The Naked Grouse is simply pure indulgence in a bottle.” From www.thefamousgrouse.com  (which is just a maddenig site -WI)

On the nose there is a heaviness with lots of dried dark fruits and are often associated with Christmas cake as well as some good malt notes. This is not overly complex but the collective aromas are very good. There is also quite a bit of sherry on the nose also which adds to the aromas. The taste is a little gentle at first (soft) with some good richness and lots of the dried fruit and then some really sharp oak notes appear along with cedar (clean and fragrant). The finish is big, sherried (quite sherried) and then the dry wood notes take over but they are complimented by the sherry so they both pull together very well. The dryness from the cask(s) is complimented, late in the finish, by some good malt.

Quite enjoyable.


Score 86 points

Kuchh Nai NAS (40%, OB, ++/2011) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

Kuchh Nai NAS (40%, OB, ++/2011)

Kuchh Nai’s unique flavour, its name gives it considerable added value in an Indian context. The deliberate pun in Kuchh Nai, which means “Nothing” in English, will generate a smile at least, bringing humour to the image of whisky drinking.  

Kuchh Nai Scotch Whisky carries a deep amber appearance, with elements of mahogany lights. 

Kuchh Nai’s full bodied aroma, blended with sweet Highland heather influences, lingers long on the palate, instantly displaying the whisky’s fine heritage to the most discerning Scotch enthusiast In its purest form its nose is rich and rounded with good whisky identity and well-integrated aromatics. A trace of peat -smoke is evident, suggesting that Islay malt has been used in the blend. When water is added to this finer blend, this opens up the aromas, bringing out the fruity, eastern character and developing an attractive freshness.  

The taste is smooth and viscous, full and rich. The primary taste is sweet, with a hint of smoke in the finish. Connoisseurs have described the finish of this fine whisky as lengthy. 

The traditional hospitality generously offered to visitors in India is enhanced with an extra dimension of humour with the serving of Kuchh Nai, given the significance of the name in the traditional welcome; 

“Ki Pivon Ge? Kuchh Nai”, which translates as “What would you like to drink? Kuchh Nai (Nothing)”.  

In summary Kuchh Nai is a first rate whisky in the deluxe category. Its richness is described as “old-fashioned”, a rare quality, which has been blended out of most premium blends of today. 

In language terms the words Kuchh Nai mean “nothing”, in whisky terms ” everything” may be a more befitting description. 

All the above from thei website www.kuchhnai.com

A blended scotch whisky which has, on the nose, some pepper, vibrant grain and some well-defined grain whiskies that smooth out after some time and becomes sweeter with espresso grounds. Not overly complicated but it is quite good, unsurprisingly it noses like a blended scotch whisky. The taste is more of the grains with a good dollop of malt in there for character as well has some good heft from some where and then some really very good lemon curd sweetness as well as an astonishing flash of creamed corn. The finish is also quite hefty and active with some good malt and the lemon curd all of which contribute to a lengthy and active finish. A late arrival of some hesitant diesel notes.

This presents as a young Scottish blend well assembled and while it’s not overly complex it is a good dram with a decent (so it would appear) malt content.  This is certainly a good cold weather dram but it will certainly freak out the malt heads because this is undiscovered country for them. There’s a charming sweetness as well as some vibrancy and it works.

For $26 you cannot go wrong.

80 points

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