SMWS February 2023 Outturn Review


We're back with the February outturn review. The preview tasting this month featured 17 new bottles. There’s a lot of Spicy and Dry releases this month, which always makes us slight nervous, but there’s a few interesting casks mixed in which give us hope.

Not all the bottles releasing in February were available at the preview. There’s a new Highland Park being released we were sadly unable to try, but we’ll attempt to update this article with details of this bottle and any others we missed over the next few days. Check out our social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to get an updates on the missing bottles and heads up on our other reviews.

As usual we’re giving every bottle a score. The score will be based on our initial impressions, and for full disclosure, we won’t be spending the time we usually would with a dram that we’d do a full review for, but we’re hoping you’ll find the scores useful.

For reference, our scale is...

  • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
  • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
  • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
  • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
  • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
  • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
  • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
  • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
  • 2 - Pour it out
  • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.

We’re in Velje this week so if you’re a member of the SMWS Denmark chapter and at the festival come over and say hello if you see us!

🥃 If you enjoy our content, consider buying us a dram! 🥃

Onto the bottles...

5.123 - Auchentoshan Distillery

Name: Barley sweetness hits dry oak
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Dry
Region: Lowlands
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 58.0%
Age: 19

Price: £125.00

The typical light and esthery Auchentoshan spirit, mixed with a carpenters workshop, orange marmalade, lime zest and general sweetness on the nose. The palate begins dry and dirty, toasted cereals, rye bread, charred twigs, moving into a pleasantly sweet and fruity finish. We’re used to the light, fruity flavours coming before the bitter finish but this is the other way around. We’ll go with 6/10.

Score: 6/10


6.61 - Macduff Distillery

Name: Never judge a dram by its name
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 62.3%
Age: 11

Price: £57.00

A slightly restrained nose, nail varnish remover, barley sugars, sugar puff cereal, poached pear and toasted grains. The palate has good alcohol integration initially, but it gets hotter as it sits on the palate. We’re also finding fresh lemon and lime, a touch of pickle brine and a touch of salt right in the background. Nothing special, not offensive but not for us.

Score: 6/10


9.260 - Glen Grant Distillery

Name: Buckthorn mousse and juice
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 56.1%
Age: 14

Price: £76.20

We read the name and they’re spot on with sea buckthorn, strawberries, light vanilla cream, lemon zest on shortbread and a hint of malt. The palate is zesty to begin with, more berries, apple juice, bitter grapefruit and overcooked cake. It’s alright, again, nothing special and far from our favourite Glen Grant.

Score: 6/10


12.73 - Benriach Distillery

Name: A barrel of laughs
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill HTMC barrel
ABV: 56.2%
Age: 11

Price: £66.80

Toasty oak spice, cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, a hint of red kola and caramel on the nose. The palate has red fruits, currants, more cinnamon and sweet caramel sauce. The mouthfeel is a disappointing, it’s super thin and the finish also disappears too quickly. You may be fooled into thinking it’s sherried. Decent value and good flavour, if a little flat.

Score: 6.5/10


16.89 - Glenturret Distillery

Name: Retro walnut ashtray
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: Refill recharred ex-bourbon hogshead
ABV: 63.3%
Age: 9

Price: £57.00

We’re getting surf and turf, it’s both meaty and fishy at the same time. BBQ sauce, smoked kippers, vegetal peat, malt vinegar and roasted peaches right in the background. The palate begins with brown sauce, super umami, roasted cabbage, heavy peatsmoke with a relatively sweet finish. It’s not too bad it’s a 7/10 for us, but some may enjoy more.

Score: 7/10


26.213 - Clynelish Distillery

Name: Carnations on the coast
Flavour Profile: Oily & Coastal
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 61.5%
Age: 10

Price: £69.50

The nose is waxy, slightly coastal, sea air, with a nice sweetness too. There’s also some icing sugar, blackberries and fondant icing. The palate has an initial citrus burst, candle wax, menthol, and dark chocolate, with a bitter oak finish. We really enjoyed the nose but the palate is a bit of a letdown. Not the worst of the younger Clynelish releases we’ve tried, but again not for us.

Score: 6/10


28.96 - Tullibardine Distillery

Name: The night comes in
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Dry
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 60.1%
Age: 10

Price: £61.20

Dusty wardrobes, banana skin, tumeric, and a slight earthy note. Like a fair few of this month’s releases there’s not a lot coming from the nose. The palate has an initial pepper spice, green peppers, and a hint of vanilla essence before moving into dry, dry oak and wood spice. Flat, spicy and uninspiring.

Score: 5.5/10


35.346 - Glen Moray Distillery

Name: A blast of springtime sweetness
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.8%
Age: 10

Price: £61.20

It's dusty, malty, with fruit pastels, black currant, and a fair bit of ethanol but overall very restrained on the nose. The palate is interesting, sour black currants, artificial sweeteners that move quickly into licking a dry log, then into melon balls. A bit out there, a bit weird, not really our thing.

Score: 5.5/10


39.269 - Linkwood Distillery

Name: Brandied blackberry fool
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 58.7%
Age: 12

Price: £71.30

It’s disjointed, it’s like you get both the bourbon and sherry notes but they don’t merge together properly. Light red fruits, prunes, icing sugar, and oak. It’s a bit all over the place. The palate is a little sour to start, raspberries, yoghurt, then slightly creamy moving into oak spice quite quickly. Again, the palate is disjointed and the finish hasn’t quite gelled. Saying that, it’s an interesting dram and perhaps with some time and air it would develop more.

Score: 6.5/10


48.158 - Balmenach Distillery

Name: Pumpernickel
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Dry
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.7%
Age: 10

Price: £57.00

Gingerbread, light cinnamon spice, dusty wardrobes, icing sugar, potent alcohol spice on the nose. The palate has sweet vanilla, following quickly into dry oak. There’s also a little lemon zest, flying saucer sweets, a touch of menthol and fresh green apple. Surprisingly sweet and fruity but becomes drying too quickly and the finish is a bit of a letdown.

Score: 6/10


68.107 - Blair Athol Distillery

Name: Bountiful brownie bites
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-Spanish oak oloroso hogshead
ABV: 53.8%
Age: 14

Price: £91.10

Chocolate orange, candied ginger, oak spice, mustiness and copper. The palate has orange marmalade, cocoa, a hint of coffee bitterness and some vanilla syrup. It’s really quite nice and has great balance which for us is unusual with Spanish oak. Saying that.. 91 quid for a 14 year old Blair athol? Maybe not.

Score: 7.5/10


72.116 - Miltonduff Distillery

Name: No Panama hats allowed!
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: Refill Panamanian rum barrel
ABV: 62.8%
Age: 8

Price: £51.80

Again, this is dusty and restrained, but as we get deeper in we find bananas and caramel, molasses, brown sugar and ginger. Not as rum forward on the nose as we expected. The palate is dry, sour pineapple, a little apple, ginger, cheap dark chocolate and parma violet right in the background. It’s alright, the rum cask gives it some additional dimensions but it’s a little bitter.

Score: 6.5/10


93.199 - Glen Scotia Distillery

Name: Pan drops on grandad's sideboard
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Dry
Region: Campbeltown
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 60.2%
Age: 9

Price: £59.20

Vanilla icing with sprinklings of maldon sea salt on top. It smells like a boatyard, wet rope, slightly muddy with some minerality. The palate has a lot of mint initially, sweet icing sugar, menthol, wet oak planks and a little bit of pepper spice on the finish. The mouthfeel is nice, but overall it feels a little unbalanced and we know Glen Scotia can be much better than this.

Score: 6.5/10


128.29 - Penderyn Distillery

Name: Biscuit rose de Reirns
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Wales
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-fino hogshead
ABV: 59.2%
Age: 6

Price: £73.00

Varnish at first, a hint of cream, tarragon, and a little menthol, not our favourite nose on a Penderyn. The palate is.. weird. Normally when we review whiskies, we have some reference points but this is quite out of left field. Violets, mint, ethanol, yeast, all around weird. Give us back our Madeira maturations please.

Score: 5.5/10


A5.5 - Chateau Labaude

Name: Pitch dark fruit
Flavour Profile: SCS - Other Spirit
Region: Bas Armagnac - Colombard
Cask Type: Gascon black oak
ABV: 55.9%
Age: 29

Price: £195.00

Initial mixture of fresh berries, orchard fruits, herbal mint and rosemary. A mature nose that is incredibly inviting. The palate has apple pie, Pernod, lime cordial, and strawberries with a little bit of dry earth on the finish. Very good spirit, but a touch too rough around the edges and finish. Still we enjoyed the dram, and if it was a little cheaper we could have went higher.

Score: 7/10


R9.10 - Varela Hermanos (Ron Abuelo) Distillery

Name: Soothing sensation
Flavour Profile: SCS - Other Spirit
Region: Panama
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 57.9%
Age: 16

Price: £82.50

Tinned pineapples, underripe papaya, banana, and a good amount of rum funk without any of the notes we find off putting. The palate has heaps of apple, and pineapple. It’s sweet yet quite well balanced. Very tropical, fruity, and slightly spicy, but really quite nice. A little pricey but if you’re into your rum you’ll enjoy this.

Score: 8/10


RW5.2 - Lux Row Distillery

Name: Tantalising Tonka beans
Flavour Profile: SCS - Other Spirit
Region: Indiana
Cask Type: #4 char with #2 char heads
ABV: 55.3%
Age: 5

Price: £57.00

Menthol, cough medicine, desiccated coconut, tonka beans, and after eights. Not as punchy as other rye whiskies we’ve had. The palate begins with mint leaves doused in sugar syrup, mint aero bar, with a little bit of charred wood in the background too. It’s nice for a rye, but still a bit spicy for us. We’ll go with 7/10.

Score: 7/10


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

If you like what you’ve read then check out our social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to get notifications of when we post a new review or just to chat about whisky with us.

You can also help with website costs or buy us a dram, Slàinte Mhath!

You also might be interested in...

SMWS February 2024 Outturn Review
SMWS February 2024 Outturn Review
Find out which bottles are the winners from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's February 2024 Outturn.
Read More
Kilchoman Islay Pipe Band 2016 Release (Cask 689/2011) & Kilchoman Club 12th Edition (Blanc De Blancs Casks Finish)
Kilchoman Islay Pipe Band 2016 Release (Cask 689/2011) & Kilchoman Club 12th Edition (Blanc De Blancs Casks Finish)
We're looking at a couple of younger Kilchoman releases, including a not often seen blanc-de-blanc finish.
Read More
Thompson bros 1969 Blended Spirit Drink
Thompson bros 1969 Blended Spirit Drink
We've got an interested blended spirit drink up for review, six years by age statement but containing whisky from the si
Read More

Leave a comment