Google Characterful Makes 4, 3, 2, 1

Serge whiskyfun
Thousands of tastings,
all the music,
all the rambligs
and all the fun


Facebook Twitter Logo
Guaranteed ad-free
copyright 2002-2017


Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

August 24, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Characterful Makes:
4, 3, 2, 1
Bear with me, there is some sense to this daft title. Although, this tasting is generally contrived and tenuous at best – evidently being a further blatant excuse to batter through more samples. Serge recently referred to a ‘mineral rectangle’ that includes Highland Park, Clynelish, Ben Nevis and Springbank.


I like this idea, although, when drawn on a map the shape is more of a shard – which seems appropriate for minerality. Perhaps we could propose the ‘Axis of Minerality’ in Scotch Whisky? I’m sure a few other distilleries might make the cut. Anyway, while thinking about ‘characterful makes’ let's try a few today and then finish with a wee bonus. Now, I’m not sure the various malts of Loch Lomond distillery would be accepted into the Axis of Minerality but, in my view, they are certainly some of Scotland’s more characterful contemporary distillates. Even if that character is occasionally a tad… ‘unlikely’. We’ll kick off with four different malts from Loch Lomond and try to have them in theoretical order of peat level. SMWS, you’re up…



Inchfad 17 yo 2000/2018 (56.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #135.4 ‘Lip-smacking seduction’, 2nd fill barrel, 248 bottles)

Inchfad 17 yo 2000/2018 (56.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #135.4 ‘Lip-smacking seduction’, 2nd fill barrel, 248 bottles)
This is a relatively new number from the SMWS, Inchfad is one of those funny ones that they make unpeated, lightly peated and heavily peated versions of, but all under the one name. The one constant is that spirit is always collected from a mid-cut point in the run. This is an unpeated version. Also of note is that this one was produced using organic malt. Colour: pale gold. Nose: This could really just be some old Irish pure pot still style whiskey. You know the kind that is made with unmalted barley in the mash and displays this kind of glossy sweetness mixed with metal polish and a rather precise grassy note. There’s plenty of that on display here. Also yellow gorse flowers, some clean cereal notes, pollen, straw and fresh fabrics. Abundant personality and very good in my view. With water: some jellied fruits such as pineapple and crystalised lemon, candied oatmeal and grapefruit. Mouth: Again this curious mix of chalk, fabric, limoncello, juicy fruit chewing gum, gorse, putty, some mineral oil (perhaps this one could join the Axis of Minerality Serge?), cornflour and citrus flavoured boiled sweets. A sense of fatness and syrupiness in the texture with notes like sunflower oil and waxed canvass. With water: some bitter lemon, tonic water, very light medical touches, chalk, white flowers, cereals, more putty and some bitter, very grassy olive oil notes. Finish: Good length, getting rather bitter and peppery with more cereals and fabrics. Comments: It’s worth remembering how much damage the former owners of Loch Lomond did to their brand name amongst enthusiast circles over the years by bottling just any old shit lying close to the warehouse doors. The flip side of that is that it’s been a very pleasing revelation to rediscover these malts in recent years and find that they are often quite distinctive and very good. That’s certainly the case here – although it probably remains an acquired taste to a certain extent.
SGP: 641 – 86 points.



Inchmurrin 23 yo 1995/2018 (53.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #112.37 ‘Teasing and enticing’, refill barrel, 115 bottles)

Inchmurrin 23 yo 1995/2018 (53.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #112.37 ‘Teasing and enticing’, refill barrel, 115 bottles)
Inchmurrin is unpeated malt made in its own pair of pot stills with cooling heads and collected from a high cut point. There’s also a heavily peated version made in the same stills and cut point called Inchmoan. I’ve enjoyed quite a few Inchmurrins in recent years, many are notably quite fruity in my wee book. Maybe an ‘Axis of Fruit’ Serge…? Colour: gold. Nose: Indeed! Exotic fruit syrups and extracts such as guava, pineapple and papaya. Some ripe melon, poire Williams and wee touches of citronella, marshmallow and lemon curd. Quite excellent! With water: citrus piths, lime zest, coconut water and some rather light fruit teas. Mouth: pin sap mixed with orange cordial! Some pink peppercorns, damp earth, tobacco leaf, strawberry lace sweeties – a real mix of stuff! Some extractive notes from the wood that nibble the gums and add a pepperiness to proceedings but it remains well balanced by the fruits which are still rather syrupy and oily. With water: a little dryer and more bitter now. Herbal extracts, light medical touches, crisp cereal notes, brown toast and some rosewater. Finish: Medium and rather ‘polished’ with things like light sooty touches, cough sweets, chopped mixed herbs and grassy aspects. Moves more in line with the Loch Lomond character now. Comments: A very fine dram and worth seeking out. There’s a notable fruitiness about Inchmurrin that I don’t think is quite as present in the other makes. Overall this is still quite a departure from other mainstream Scottish malt whisky styles I think, which is absolutely to be commended.
SGP: 631 – 88 points.



Croftengea 7 yo 2011/2018 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #122.24 ‘Spray-lashed spinnakers’, 2nd fill barrel, 240 bottles)

Croftengea 7 yo 2011/2018 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #122.24 ‘Spray-lashed spinnakers’, 2nd fill barrel, 240 bottles)
Let’s have some peat now. By the way, if anyone is looking for some exceptionally rare old peated Loch Lomond bottlings from the 1990s, I believe Serge will pay you good money to take them off his hands… Colour: straw. Nose: there’s a gravelly, antiseptic-led purity that wouldn’t be out of place in one of these 10ish year old Caol Ilas. Here there’s also a background waft of farminess as well, along with a whiff of boiler smoke. But also plenty aspirin, wet rocks, lemon juice and smoky wort. Mature beyond its years at first nosing. With water: gets ashier and more direct now. White pepper, petrol, peat embers, seawater, more lemon juice etc… Mouth: Really, this is pure disinfectant and antiseptic. The kind of mysterious liquid your Mum would produce every time you grazed your knee or sliced a finger as a child. There’s also some very nice notes of smoky bacon, soot, paraffin and mercurochrome. The whole is extremely ‘hospital’. Some light notes of yeast and sourdough in the background betraying youth. With water: Elastoplast, gauze, vinegar, old lambic ales, some dried parsley and tarragon. A big oily chunk of smoked mackerel. Finish: long and getting heavier with a deeper smokiness. A meaty aspect again and still bags of medicine and sooty qualities knocking about the place. Comments: It’s slightly annoying how much I’m enjoying this. Hopefully there are some sister casks that will be left a little longer, at 12-18 this should be really something.
SGP: 367 – 87 points.



Inchfad 13 yo 2005/2018 (53.2%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 295 bottles)

Inchfad 13 yo 2005/2018 (53.2%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 295 bottles)
Back to Inchfad, but a peated variant this time. Colour: straw. Nose: quite a different peat profile. Far more towards yeast, fermenting wash, various freshly baked breads, chalk, beach pebbles, ointments and surgical ‘things’. Some oily sheep wool, salted almonds and anchovy paste. With water: lots of lime, ink, cereals, seawater and crushed seashells. Very fresh and pure. Mouth: the peat is actually surprisingly light compared to the nose. Instead there’s lots of brine at first along with some green pepper and then a strangely assertive and rather tart fruitiness. Like lemon jelly and cider apples with some hessian and barley water. Farmyard and seashore in impressive balance. With water: gets fatter and more towards freshly malted barley, hessian, wood smoke and some salted peanuts. Earthy coal smoke in the background. Finish: rather long, sooty, earthy, smoky and lightly tarry. Plenty of medical embrocations and touches of gentian eau de vie. Comments: A curious head on collision of the first Inchfad and the Croftengea. If you ever get the chance to visit Loch Lomond distillery then do take it as it’s a fascinating place to see round. Having said that, I think if I had to be manager there I’d go insane within a month trying to juggle all the various distillates.
SGP: 466 – 86 points.



Let’s now return to the Axis of Minerality, as officially approved by Serge, and have 3 Ben Nevis if you please.



Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2018 (49.5%, Archives for Shinanoya, cask #521, hogshead, 265 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2018 (49.5%, Archives for Shinanoya, cask #521, hogshead, 265 bottles)
There are many lovely drams sheltered in this series I think. High hopes here… Colour: straw. Nose: perfect mix of soft fruits such as ripe banana, green apple, star fruit and lemon peel mixed with very soft waxes, mineral oil, putty and chalk. Some stone fruits such as lychee an pear as well. Something like gin and tonic sorbet if you’re feeling wretchedly middle class about it. Also a rather ‘sauvignon’ note of nettles mashed up with passion fruit. I just love these late 90s Ben Nevis. In case you couldn’t tell. Mouth: superb fruits, elegant waxes, green tea, herbaceous, tropical, cereals, minerals (Axis worthy indeed!) more inks, putties, melon, bitter lemon. Just superb and extremely fresh and balanced too. Finish: long, some rather crisp lemon notes, lots of fresh breads, cereals, camphor, wax, olive oil. Just great! Comments: Is it boring that these Ben Nevis are all so good? Discuss…
SGP: 651 – 90 points.



Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.5%, Archives, cask #1862, hogshead, 202 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.5%, Archives, cask #1862, hogshead, 202 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: whereas the first one had a more immediate and obvious fruitiness, here we’re rather on waxes, cereals and an almost Clynelishesque minerality. Chalky, notes of sandalwood, white flowers, heather, dried herbs. There’s even a very slight coastal element too along with things like petrol, putty, vapour rubs. Really excellent! With water: full of lovely notes of oily sheep wool, hessian, ink, fabric, pebbles, vase water, seashells and dried flowers. More medical, more fatty and more waxy with water, I love it. Mouth: Seriously, blind you could say this is an old Clynelish. Or even some old Cadenhead dumpy bottling due to these wee metallic and sooty touches it displays. Something extremely pure, old school and distillate dominated. Gets increasingly polished, waxy and sooty. More medicine too. With water: that slight grassy edge is fully developed now and there’s lots of overripe green fruits, baked banana, custard, lime cordial and elderflower. Hints of fennel seed and waxed canvas too. Finish: long, herbal, medical, waxy and slightly salty. Comments: I’m always looking for reasons to score whiskies down, or not to go to 90+ etc. However, this one is pretty indefatigable and unequivocally superb. This really could be some old full-bodied highland malt distilled in the early 60s.
SGP: 562 – 91 points.



Ben Nevis 27 yo 1990/2018 (59.4%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #1505, fino sherry butt, 593 bottles)

Ben Nevis 27 yo 1990/2018 (59.4%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #1505, fino sherry butt, 593 bottles)
In my experience the early 1990s Ben Nevis could be a little more funky, although, almost everything in this series so far has been uber impressive, so let’s see… Colour: coppery gold. Nose: indeed, this is a rather different profile, although still impressive with these lovely notes of apricot jam, tinned peaches, olive oil, sultanas, daffodils, wildflowers, pollens, carbon paper and leather tobacco pouches. There’s also some nice medical aspects such as gauze, crushed aspirin, ointment and bandages. With water: some darker shades of fruit such as fig and date but also a slightly resinous saltiness and a leathery note too. Some game meats, old toolboxes, metal polish and camphor. Mouth: wonderfully syrupy arrival. Old herbal liqueurs, lightly tarry, bouillon stock, miso, camphor, toasted pistachios, verbena and wormwood. Quite a departure from the 1996s but we’re in the same territory in terms of quality. With water: the texture holds well and the whole becomes more complex and elegant. Extremely herbal, nicely bitter, hints of salted liquorice, jasmine tea, dried mint, pot pourri and some dry earthy notes. Finish: wonderfully long, salty, meaty and still glimmering with a few candied fruits and grassy olive oil notes. Comments: I’m not really sure why Ben Nevis wasn’t picked up by whisky geeks sooner, it’s such a terrific distillate, even when it’s not technically ‘good’ it’s still hugely entertaining. This one however, pulls no punches! Terrific distillate in a perfect cask + time. Another great selection in this lovely series from Signatory.
SGP: 662 – 91 points.



And now, time to head east…



Clynelish 2009/2019 (57.3%, OB for the Highland Whisky Festival 2019, cask #303029, 1st American oak hogshead)

Clynelish 2009/2019 (57.3%, OB for the Highland Whisky Festival 2019, cask #303029, 1st American oak hogshead)
It’s not often that Diageo cough up a single cask. Well, at least that used to be the case before they discovered rich people. Anyway, this cool wee bottling was done earlier this year for the first Highland Whisky Festival. Everyone seems to be starting their own whisky festival these days. You’d never catch me doing that (ahem). Colour: light gold. Nose: happily this is very fresh and pure and Clynelishy at first nosing. No clouds of sawdust clogging things up. Instead it’s more on pineapple syrups, wet rocks, beach pebbles, sandalwood, gorse and citra hops. In fact there’s a rather nice citrus zing about the whole thing. A wee thread of wax running through it all as well. With water: funnily enough I do find a wee sawdusty note with water but it’s only slight and kept in check by bath salts, dried seaweed, wildflowers, olive oil and plenty freshly chopped and muddled herbs. Mouth: buttery and herbal on arrival. Chopped chives, parsley, nettles, crisp grassy Sancerre and getting nicely saline. Some notes of Edinburgh rock, sweet pastries and American cream soda. With water: gets more waxy and traditionally ‘Clynelish flavour’ now. White jellybeans, hints of pastis, eucalyptus throat sweets and a light chalky note. Finish: long, lemony, lightly herbal, cough medicine, soft waxiness and some flowers and fruit tea notes. Comments: Top notch young Clynelish that remained commendably true to the distillery character. I’ve tasted quite a few younger Clynelish recently and it’s extremely heartening to see that it remains a great distillate. More stuff like this please Lord Diageo!
SGP: 662 – 89 points.



Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2019 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary, cask #11252, refill sherry butt, 550 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2019 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary, cask #11252, refill sherry butt, 550 bottles)
I hear that Sukhinder is planning to celebrate TWE’s 20th anniversary by allowing his staff to leave 10 minutes early on a Monday night next January. Colour: bronze/amber. Nose: the sherry is quite voluminous here. Lots of damp earth, leather tobacco pouches, strawberry jam, Maggi, some old Cointreau and herbal bitters. Soot, beef stock, waxed canvas and hessian. You can also add some very expensive dark chocolate and a chunk of salted liquorice into the mix as well. With water: salted almonds, marzipan, pancetta, paprika – all rather classical and excellent. Mouth: Hello Clynelish! The distillate character comes through more clearly here. A lovely chocolate-accented waxiness, with dried herbs, Darjeeling tea, pollens, cough medicine and nutmeg. I find Clynelish and sherry don’t always dance too well together but here they have found harmony. In time it gets more meaty, tobacco and chocolatey. With water: gets more peppery and spicy. Lots of wood spice, cumin, paprika, some rather fruity red chilli and also things like cinnamon dusted breakfast cereals and sultanas. Finish: long, leathery, deeply earthy, full of black tea, bitter chocolate, game meats, hessian and some kind of lightly spiced wax. Comments: It’s more about the sherry than the Clynelish most of the time but it’s a terrific cask that has delivered a highly polished, clean profile. Mucho pleasure here.
SGP: 562 – 90 points.



Mystery bonus…



Unknown Cadenhead Dumpy. Presumed 46%.

Unknown Cadenhead Dumpy. Presumed 46%.
A bottle cracked open by our friend Harrison from Whisky Online. It’s dark sherry and from one of those old Cadenhead Dumpies that didn’t display vintage but instead just an age statement. The only fragment of label remaining on this bottle was a small piece of the collar label. So, if any of you can narrow it down based on those factors then let me know. Colour: dark brown/coffee. Nose: Ooft! Nosing these old school sherry monsters is like getting into a time machine nowadays. Beautifully deep and stunningly aromatic old school sherry. Abundant fruits, both dark and tropical. Bitter chocolate and herbal extracts. Kirsch, rosewater, wormwood, ancient herbal liqueurs, soy sauce and strawberry wine. Not forgetting some of that funky Italian green walnut liqueur. Dense, profound, deep and totally spellbinding. Mouth: immensely herbal and medicinal at first. Lots of black pepper, tar, ointments, lime pith, Maggi and other liquid seasonings, umami paste and a hint of smoked sea salt. Camphor, soot, old tar liqueur, metal polish. It’s remarkably fresh and punchy, not a shred of OBE about it. The sherry also starts to reveal a mineral side as well. Humbling stuff! Finish: endless! Dazzling, poetic and majestic. Fruits, spices, wax, chocolate, earth, medicine, tar, herbs…. Everything! Comments: Ok, non-vintage collar label + dark sherry. Internet… assemble!
SGP: 664 – 95 points.



Apologies for such a useless tasting note at the end there. And big thanks to Dirk, Harrison, Stewart and Serge.










Whiskyfun's Home