Last week I had the chance to try five whiskies from the new July Scotch Malt Whisky Society outturn, so I thought I’d quickly share my notes. They’re on the basis of a single dram each, so please don’t take these as definitive reviews, but rather as initial impressions. Onwards.
Longmorn – 7.134 ‘Comfy slippers o’clock’ 11yo
(Distilled 7/9/04, 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel, 174 bottles, 60.6%)
Smells like your nan’s bathroom – pot pourri, lily of the valley, bath salts. In a blind tasting I’d have guessed this was Miltonduff – it has that same strawberry and coconut thing happening. Liquorice wood in the aftertaste. It’s fairly spicy, and a bit too hot even with plenty of water; a fairly standard young Speyside whisky then. Nothing to write home about.
Benrinnes – 36.103 ‘Ivory Keys’ 13yo
(Distilled 14/8/02, 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel, 210 bottles, 60.1%)
Really sappy on the nose: like cut elderflower stems. As the name suggests there’s lots of wood: parquet flooring and balsa. Tastewise there’s a really nice spiced fruitiness – stem ginger, nutmeg and apple leather. Lime cordial and cassia bark in the finish, with the suggestion of chewing the end of a pencil. I’m on the fence with this one – lots to like, but it does teeter on the brink of being too woody. I’m sensitive to that, though, and it is “nice” wood and not drying. One to investigate further.
Glen Elgin – 85.39 ‘Soft fruit nougat’ 8yo
(Distilled 25/10/07, 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel, 180 bottles, 61.1%)
Very typical Glen Elgin: light, grassy, delicately floral. There’s a sort of sharp creamy note too – tzatziki I thought. Initial taste is exactly like the nose, with a bit of additional elderflower. Finishes on a meatier and spicier note, with some pineapple. No nuances here (it’s only 8-years-old!) but very enjoyable.
Glenrothes – 30.90 ‘Juicy fruit and perfumed sweetness’ 35yo
(Distilled 3/7/80, refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 156 bottles, 43.8%)
Older than the three previous whiskies combined, and it really smells like it. Old dunnage warehouse, waxy yellow flowers, sunflower oil. Tobacco and pineapple cubes on the palate, with dry chocolate creeping in and then lots of raisins in the aftertaste. I’m really annoyed by the placement of this after three young and very strong drams – it’s not the ideal way to come to a low-strength and subtle old malt.
Bowmore – 3.276 ‘Oysters in a thyme mignonette’ 17yo
(Distilled 25/9/98, refill ex-bourbon barrel, 114 bottles, 57.4%)
Super-savoury nose, with beef and mustard crisps, and boil-in-the-bag cod in parsley sauce (does that still exist as a thing?). Settles down into more typical teenage Bowmore-ness, with just a hint of swimming pool. The taste has almost Laphroaig-like levels of lemony herbiness, with some prawn cocktail crisps. Very salty and dry ashy finish. Very solid indeed, this one, although I think I prefer the last few Society Bowmores.
Not, to be honest, the most scintillating line-up, and very unusual for the SMWS in all being from ex-bourbon casks. I’d pick the Glen Elgin if you want an affordable everyday summer tipple, the Glenrothes only if you have money to burn (it’s £250 and, frankly, you can do a lot better for that), and the Bowmore if you don’t already have one on your shelves.