SMWS 10.242 (Bunnahabhain) & SMWS 53.446 (Caol Ila)


We’re looking at two single cask releases from the SMWS released to celebrate Fèis Ìle 2023.

Before we get into the review we’ll mention again that our scale has changed. Check out our about us page for more details.

    SMWS 10.242 (Bunnahabhain)

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 58.7%

    Price: £79.50

    This release was distilled on the 17th of October 2013 and matured for five years in a bourbon hogshead before being transferred to a second-fill PX hogshead for a further four years. A total of 201 bottles were released. It's named "Beware the hypersonic mackerel..."

    Nose

    Initially on the nose we’re getting tar covered prunes, cinnamon, caramel, toffee and grape must. There’s also some cherry, treacle and mellow peat. It’s sugar forward, but the sugar seems to integrate quite well with the spirit. As it sits in the glass, we’re getting a bit of orange marmalade and sticky pork ribs.

    Palate

    The palate opens with earthy peat, burnt caramel, saltwater, bitter grapefruit, and burnt coffee on the finish. We’re also getting antiseptic, tea leaves, Arbroath smokies and caraway seeds. The mouthfeel has a nice texture, and the finish lasts a fair while with a lot of dry wood, ash and coal fires. Compared to the nose, the palate is significantly less sweet and considerably smokier. There’s also a little too much bitter grapefruit here for us.

    Nose (with water)

    Reduction brings out notes of menthol, sherbet, and candy floss. The peat and tar have been subdued and take a backseat to the sweeter notes, reminding us of a recently extinguished log fire.

    Palate (with water)

    The reduced palate is fairly similar, but has more citrus, lots of lemon and grapefruit zest, boiled sweets, woodworkers shed, with dry oak and ground ginger. The mouthfeel is a bit thinner but not by much.

    Conclusion

    For us the nose is lovely, but the palate is a bit of a disappointment. Lots of peat for those looking for it, good alcohol integration but overall a bit too bitter. For us it’s a 5.5/10.

    Score: 5.5/10

    Value: Reasonable, but we wouldn’t rush after a bottle. 


    SMWS 53.446 (Caol Ila)

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 57.7%

    Price: £95.00

    This release was distilled on the 27th of May 2008 and matured for eleven years in a bourbon hogshead before being transferred to a first-fill American oak PX hogshead for a further three years. A total of 234 bottles were released. It's named "Blowtorched Mexican mousse"

    Nose

    Initially we’re getting harbour aromas, woodsmoke, coal, ginger juice, meringue, dusty wardrobes, and lemon balm. There’s also a fair amount of alcohol appearing on the nose too. We’re also finding a little chocolate, mackerel, furniture polish, orange marmalade and copper coins.

    Palate

    The palate begins with charred oak, sweet molasses, nori seaweed and heaps of Maldon sea salt on the finish. We’re also getting Terry's chocolate orange, lemon zest and a little bit of brine too. There’s heavy peat smoke, black pepper and candied walnuts. The mouthfeel is nice, and finish lingers on for a good while, but a strong bitterness develops as the finish concludes. Time and air reveals more orange, peel and juice, cinnamon sticks and cough syrup.

    Nose (with water)

    Reduction doesn’t dim the alcohol too much, but does bring out more of the PX. Sweeter dried fruits are much more apparent now. There’s a bit of pear and thyme coming out too.

    Palate (with water)

    The reduced palate settles the spice, brings out more raisin and date flavours, but thins out the mouthfeel and accentuates the transformation from sweet to bitter grapefruit on the palate. The peat is still quite powerful and there’s still a maritime fishiness too.

    Conclusion

    The classic Caol Ila character is present here, but the PX feels a touch overdone. It’s hot, although water does help tame this but it’s a bit too bitter on the finish for us. Not our favourite Caol Ila to be honest, we'd suggest looking at the recent 53 from the June 2023 outturn instead.

    Score: 5/10

    Value: Too expensive for what it tastes like.

    • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
    • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
    • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
    • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
    • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
    • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
    • 4 - Below average. Passable.
    • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
    • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
    • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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