SMWS December 2021 Outturn Review

Deck the halls with casks of bourbon, va-nil-la la la la, la la la lahhhh.

We won’t lie, we were hoping for Christmas Chichibu or maybe a Christmas Ardbeg, however don’t be like us and temper your expectations. Unless you were hoping for Christmas bourbon in which case you’ll be ecstatic. It’s not all bad news if you’re a peat fan as there’s a good amount of peated releases to choose from.

Unfortunately, we were unable to try all of this month’s ~47 releases at the preview, but will update the below with our thoughts on the other releases in the coming days. Note that some of these bottles included in the review are scheduled to be released later in the month. Check out our social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to get an update on the missing bottles and heads up on our reviews of January's releases as they come.

Top Sips

Our Top Sips are the bottles that we thought stood out amongst the rest. We would highly recommend you at least sample these drams if possible. Note that these are in no particular order.

3.338 - Bowmore Distillery

Name: Smoky 'spice of the angels'
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Islay
Cask Type: 2nd fill Bourbon Hogshead
ABV: 57.6%
Age: 17

Price: £122.00

We’re excited at the first sniff. Vanilla, smoke, a touch vegetal and meaty but with a good undertone of sweetness. Palate follows through with a little salted cod, smoked kippers and a sweet, smoky finish that lingers on for a good while. Alcohol is integrated well and we’re just quite happy right now. 3.335 edges this out, but this is still recommended.

93.172 - Glen Scotia Distillery

SMWS 93.172

And this is why you can’t write off a whisky without trying it first. This 8yo bourbon cask is sweet, coastal, citrusy, with notes similar to a dessert wine. There’s also apricot and quince, it’s like a coastal Sauternes. It’s funky, Interesting, and quite unique. If you get the chance, give this a try, it’s quite special.

48.139 - Balmenach Distillery

SMWS 48.139

Raspberries, vanilla cream, lemon peel, a nose that has excited us from the first sniff. Palate is full of red fruit with an underlying alcohol warmth and a touch of dark chocolate. There’s a good acidity on the finish that perks up the palate. Great whisky, great price.

59.68 - Teaninich Distillery 

Name: Leather Bound Petrol Station
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.0%
Age: 12

Price: £62.80

Irn-bru, copper, toasted oak and dates in syrup. The mouthfeel is nice and viscous with some cinnamon, orange, dark rum and chocolate. The alcohol is warning but works incredibly well with the cask flavours to enhance the richness. Delicious.

Middle of the Road

Our Middle of the Road bottles are whiskies we thought were good enough for a dram or two, but we weren't blown away by them. Some of this will be down to our personal preference, so if the notes we've written sound like something up your street then it may be perfect for you! We’ve listed these in order of our preference.

5.92 - Auchentoshan Distillery

SMWS 5.92

Opens with fruit pastels and red berry jam. Has a lovely nose like all the other SMWS 5's we've tried recently. Palate has some ripe tomato, pear and balanced oak note. Not as sweet as the last few Auchentoshans, it’s a little spicer but still great quality whisky. This just misses being in our top sips.

19.61 - Glen Garioch Distillery

SMWS 19.61

Pineapple, sugar paper, guava, strawberry, vanilla cream, a fruit salad in a Glencairn. Alcohol is really well integrated with the nose. Palate is sweet initially, but also a touch savoury, salted cured ham and icing sugar. This is meatier than the other 19s released recently, not bad at all but just depends on your preference.

39.228 - Linkwood Distillery

SMWS 39.228

On the nose there is peach, vanilla, and juicy apple. Palate is like biting into the a peeled apples flesh. Alcohol on this is slightly too much, but there’s some nice creamy notes and a little mango purée. Society Linkwoods have been disappointing these last few years, but this is a big step in the right direction.

63.89 - Glentauchers Distillery

SMWS 63.89

Nose has vanilla cupcakes with a touch of pineapple in the background. There’s some nice fresh tropical fruits on the palate with very well integrated alcohol. Finish is sweet, sweet and sweeter. This is actually really nice, albeit a bit simple. Price here isn’t bad given the age and we’d happily have another dram.

BAT.14 - Douro Cruise

Name: Douro Cruise
Flavour Profile: Small Batch Single Malt
Region: Single Malt
Cask Type: 1st fill Port Pipes & 2nd fill Bourbon Barrels
ABV: 50%
Age: 10

Price: £49.00

We’re getting grapes, raspberries and a touch of bakewell tart. The palate is an explosion of dark fruits, a little pepper and sweetened crepes. It’s lovely and the alcohol disappears into the background quite quickly. We just wish there was a bit more body to this. We recommend opening this and throw the cork away as it’ll go down easy all evening.

4.308 - Highland Park Distillery

SMWS 4.308

Nose is quite restrained, there’s a touch of smoke, touch of vanilla and touch of stone fruit. The palate opens well with some more vanilla cream but quickly becomes woody and a touch rough. There’s an underlying salinity which is quite pleasant and a toffee note that’s not dissimilar to Werthers originals. For the age and price, it’s probably the best of the 3 highland parks on offer this month.

4.305 - Highland Park Distillery

SMWS 4.305

There’s notes of chocolate, raisins and dark chocolate dipped cherries. Palate has some nice fruit notes, and liquorice accentuated by a coastal saltiness. This is a complex dram, we’d want to spend some more time with this to make a definite decision on where we’d rank it, but for now we’ll leave it here.

39.231 - Linkwood Distillery

SMWS 39.231

Nose is a little floral, with some vanilla, custard cream biscuits and tropical fruits. Palate is quite pleasant actually, more creme anglaise with a fruit tart base. It’s great for what it is, but we'd love to try this 10 years on.

68.64 - Blair Athol Distillery

SMWS 68.64

The nose doesn’t say bourbon cask at all, we’re getting much more of a sherry/wine cask feel from this - red fruits and light tannins. Palate is hot, but has some nice cherry lemonade and grape notes. One of the best Blair Athols this year.

53.390 - Caol Ila Distillery

SMWS 53.390

This has light peat, vanilla and fishiness like fresh tuna on the nose. Some cotton candy, brandy snaps and seared salmon on the palate. This is lighter than most other 53 but more to our palates. There’s no bad 53's, but this is just a notch above the average society release.

42.71 - Ledaig Distillery

SMWS 42.71

This is dirty, muddy, beefy, with some citrus. Oh yes! These Ledaigs have consistently been quality releases over the past 6 months and this this no exception. More smoked meat and beef gravy on the palate with a touch of brown sugar. Delicious. This would have been higher on our list if the bar hadn’t been set so high by previous other releases. Bog is the perfect name for this.

9.231 - Glen Grant Distillery

SMWS 9.231

We’re getting some pineapple, haribo fried eggs, a vegetal note and wood. Vanilla essence and banana on the palate. Still a touch alcoholic but it’s not terrible. Society Glen Grants have dipped in quality over the last few years, and this unfortunately follows the trend.

12.66 - BenRiach Distillery

SMWS 12.66

Nose opens with tannins and fresh raspberries. There’s also dark chocolate biscuits. It's got a rich and velvety palate, deep cocoa and maraschino cherry. Alcohol is there and the finish is medium length. All in all this is not too bad.

100.31 - Strathmill Distillery

SMWS 100.31

Some cola cubes, sultanas, a little nutmeg and some dark chocolate on the nose. Palate is initially quite spicy, but full bodied and a little buttery. There’s some panatone in there too. Quite nice but maybe a bit too spicy on the initial palate. Last months 100 is better and still available, grab it quickly!

3.331 - Bowmore Distillery

SMWS 3.331

Rich, smoky, and salty on the nose. It’s quite ashy and more peated than we’d anticipated. There’s some iodine and meatiness on the palate, a little reminiscent of a Laphroaig. Overall we prefer the other Bowmore this month as it’s a bit more balanced, but if you’re into your meatier, peatier drams then you may favour this.

4.297 - Highland Park Distillery

Name: Film star hangs out at smokers' corner
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Highlands
Cask Type: Refill Bourbon Hogshead
ABV: 54.8%
Age: 20

Price: £150.00

It’s a little foosty, bready, and salty. There’s also some farmyard in there too. Palate shows some light smoke and citrus, ashy but with good alcohol integration. We’re not the biggest HP fans and this is one that’s not for us, but we can appreciate the style and if you're a fan of classic Highland Park, this might just be for you.

6.55 - Macduff Distillery

SMWS 6.55

On the nose this reminds us of a carpenters workshop. It’s also milky and creamy. It reminds us of cornflakes. It’s breakfast in a whisky. Palate is light, a little lacking in complexity but it’s actually quite nice. Light sweetness and some white bread. Not terrible just a little dull.

53.386 - Caol Ila Distillery

SMWS 53.386

This is bready, almost like brioche, light smoke and salted caramel. Palate has some sweet and salty popcorn, a little coastal but not super fishy. There’s a burnt fish note in the background. It’s not bad but nothing really special. If you need a 53 grab the other release this month.

46.119 - Glenlossie Distillery

SMWS 46.119

Whipped cream and milky bar. It’s very light on the nose. Palate has some more white chocolate, touch of peach and nicely warming alcohol. It’s quite nice, and good value, but just not a standout dram.

64.125 - Mannachmore Distillery

SMWS 64.125

A little savoury, with some curry spices There’s typical bourbon sweetness with some boiled sweeties in the background. Palate has strawberries and cream in abundance, like an English garden party, even with the Pimms. Maybe a touch spicy on the finish though.

1.252 - Glenfarclas Distillery

Name: Sizzling sunshine
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill Bourbon Barrel
ABV: 59.4%
Age: 10

Price: £65.00

On the nose there’s strawberries dipped in milk chocolate, some ginger, it’s a touch herbal with some lemon in the background. Fizzy on the palate, with a good amount of sweetness with a touch of salinity as well. Perfectly acceptable but nothing special, and £10 too expensive. Worth noting this doesn’t really taste of typical Glenfarlcas.

18.42 - Inchgower Distillery

SMWS 18.42

Instantly hit by the Spanish oak on the nose, followed by typical sherry notes of raisins, baking spices and a little brandy. Quite a restrained nose actually. Palate has some sweet chocolate initially, replaced quickly by spicy ginger biscuits that linger on a bit too long. If you’re a fan of raw ginger, this is for you.

13.92 - Dalmore Distillery

SMWS 13.92

Nose has dry gingerbread biscuits with a little citrus in the background. Lots of alcohol and more ginger on the palate, it reminds us of a dark and stormy cocktail. There is an underlying note of rum there which we don’t mind, but overall a bit too spicy and dry for us.

73.128 - Aultmore Distillery

SMWS 73.128

Nose is very yeasty with some citric notes, and a touch of green apple. There’s a hint of salt there too. Palate has oak, uninspired vanilla and grapefruit. Overall it’s pleasant but doesn’t excite us at all. There’s better bourbon casks this month. Maybe if this had been given a few more years this would have been something great.

78.52 - Ben Nevis Distillery

SMWS 78.52

Think overcooked bread, burnt popcorn, and twiglets. This is incredibly savoury on the nose. Palate has some wood and chocolate. This has a medium length finish that is pleasant enough. Nothing standout here, and it’s a little drying.

2.132 - Glenlivet Distillery

SMWS 2.132

Initial hit of nail varnish, icing sugar, with a touch of lemon peel and vanilla. Palate is a little rough, with bitter oak and a drying mouthfeel that’s actually a little unpleasant. Closer to spicy and dry flavour profile in our opinion. It’s also pretty expensive for what it is.

80.32 - Glen Spey Distillery

Name: A kick up the old bodega
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill Oloroso Hogsgead
ABV: 58.8%
Age: 11

Price: £58.75

This has ginger snaps dipped in chocolate on the nose. Palate is quite malty and biscuity. This tastes very young. Well at least the finish is decent, with a peppery note that lingers. Nothing special again. 

94.20 - Fettercairn Distillery

SMWS 94.20

Some salted popcorn, burnt toast, it’s slightly buttery, with lots of oak. Palate has honey, salted caramel and more oak. There’s also some carrot cake with frosted icing. It’s fine if you’re into your savoury, buttery drams.

1.246 - Glenfarclas Distillery

Name: A one like no other
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill bourbon barrel
ABV: 64.0%
Age: 8

Price: £55.00

We’re looking for peat on the nose but not finding much. There’s a light smoke but you have to go hunting for it. There’s a little breadlines, sandalwood and varnish. The palate has some orchard fruit, apples, pears, with some oak and pepper spice. This is a bit of a confused dram, unsure if it’s peated or not. Can’t say we really care for it.

122.43 - Loch Lomond (Croftengea) Distillery

SMWS 122.43

On the nose this is a painters palette (in a good way!). There's some dried meats, and icing sugar that disappears on the palate quickly. Sadly once it’s gone we’re left with quite a harsh alcohol burn. Started well but fell off a cliff.

We’re not putting the next few bottles in bottom of the barrel, but these came dangerously close.

G5.15 - Invergordon Distillery

Name: Age with grace
Flavour Profile: Old & Dignified
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-wine barrique
ABV: 57.9%
Age: 33

Price: £150.00

Grain sweetness alongside menthol toothpaste on the nose. Mustard seeds and ground pepper on the palate alongside oregano and sugar water. Alcohol is very restrained, a little thin on the finish. There’s some dark chocolate and brandy there too. We’re not getting much of the wine finish at all. Maybe it needs a little more time and air but we think this is a bit pricey for the taste.

7.274 - Longmorn Distillery

SMWS 7.274

Nose shows fresh grass, some milk, a touch of toasted wood, and a little red berry compote. Palate is quite alcohol forward, and shows the young age more than we’d like. Finish is a bit short and rough. Overall very disappointing.

9.232 - Glen Grant Distillery

Name: Teeth marks in a fruit tree
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill Bourbon Barrel
ABV: 57.8%
Age: 13

Price: £65.00

This is little mushroomy initially, but not much else. Very light on the nose. Working at it there’s some stone fruit and kiwi. Palate is warming, some spiced fruit jam and a reasonable length finish. There’s just something off about this that we can’t quite put our fingers on - maybe a touch too sour.

80.29 - Glen Spey Distillery

SMWS 80.29

Theres some wholemeal bread, Weetabix, and vanilla. Palate has some rough alcohol and a touch of sweetened cream. Finish is medium to short. Uninspired and boring like most whiskies in the young and spritely category.

39.237 - Linkwood Distillery

Name: Forest mackerels and chimney bananas
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill Bourbon (ex-Islay) Barrel 
ABV: 60.9%
Age: 10

Price: £54.80

The peated cask really shows through here, there some forest floor and fresh cut grass too. Some floral garden aromas with a herbal palate that is quite savoury overall. This shows much more of the cask influence than the last peaty 39 but we can’t say thats really helped much.

135.40 - Loch Lomond (Inchmoan) Distillery

SMWS 135.40

This is like taking a trip to the dentist. Nose of spearmint, it’s like the deep clean for your teeth. There’s some overly medicinal peat without the smoke, it’s really strange. Not for us, but maybe you’ll enjoy.

Bottom of the Barrel

Our Bottom of the Barrel picks are bottlings we really didn't enjoy. That's not to say that these are bad whiskies, they're just not to our taste, and had we tried one of these as our first ever whiskies we’d probably be gin drinkers.

113.56 - Braeval (Braes of Glenlivet) Distillery

Name: Mix & match
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill Bourbon Barrel
ABV: 65.2%
Age: 9

Price: £48.40

Alcohol. Jet fuel. Ahhh it burns. Why would you bottle this at 65%? Just don’t. Our friend did say that with the addition of water and time this was a lot more palatable, but we don’t have the inclination to try that given the terrible start.

Thanks for reading. Let us know what you thought of the outturn in the comments below.

Interested in trying drams like these? We've created the Two Whisky Bros Dram Club to help you get access to high quality, rare whisky by the dram.

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