SMWS February 2024 Outturn Review

We're back with the February outturn review. The preview tasting this month featured 12 new bottles. As with most February outturns it's a smaller release, and interestingly there seems to be a few re-released bottles appearing too. 

As usual check out our social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to get an updates on any missing bottles and heads up on our other reviews.

This will be our last review of the week as we're off to visit the Danish branch of the SMWS, but we'll be back with our thoughts on some old grain on Monday. For any Danish readers attending the festival in Veilje, feel free to say hello if you see us!

The scores below are based on our initial impressions. For full disclosure, we won't spend as much time with a dram as we usually do for a full review, but we hope you'll find the scores useful.

  • 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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Onto the bottles...

9.292 - Glen Grant Distillery

Name: Thou art a saucy one!
Flavour Profile: Old & Dignified
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 53.7%
Age: 20

Price: £145.00

The nose opens with lemon scented varnish, granulated sugar, with a fair amount of mustiness too. We’re also finding some fresh fruit, apple, buttery pastry and a hint of honey too. The palate shows some caramel drizzle, lemon syrup, vanilla fudge and a touch of white pepper too. The mouthfeel is fine and the dram has a medium length finish with a little bit of oak, but not much else. We love our old Glen Grants, especially in bourbon, but this is a bit flat for us. We expected heaps more cask influence for 20 years in 1st fill bourbon but it feels more like a refill cask.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: This is nearly £30 more expensive than the 19yo 9.265 that was released last year. We'll let you decide yourself if you think the price increase is fair.

41.177 - Dailuaine Distillery

Name: Dancing with summer
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: Refill bourbon hogheads, 1st fill American oak px hogshead & 1st fill oloroso quarter casks
ABV: 56.6%
Age: 16

Price: £95.00

The nose begins with some balsamic vinegar, red kola, rancio, treacle, caramel, sweet cinnamon and marzipan. We’re also getting clove, cherry bakewell, and pastry cream. The palate brings warming ginger ale, rum and raisin ice cream, milk chocolate, a touch of milky coffee and some cola cubes too. The alcohol is quite balanced, and the finish has a decent length with sour cherry and molasses. It’s a good dram, a bit likr a mish-mash of casks but pleasant enough. We can’t help think this should be small batch release though.

Score: 7.5/10

Value: We stand by our opinion that these small batch releases should be cheaper.

48.166 - Balmenach Distillery

Name: Two-part harmony
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 60.1%
Age: 11

Price: £63.60

The nose opens with strawberry laces, candy floss, fondant icing, a little marzipan, and some sugar coated mint leaves too. There’s also some marshmallow and light honey notes as well. The palate is.. generic 10 year old first fill bourbon speysider, vanilla, fudge, candy floss, a bit of ginger and some lemon peel, a hint of orange juice. It’s classic, and we can’t really complain too much. Perfectly fine, perfectly drinkable.

Score: 6/10

Value: Not bad for an 11 year old first fill bourbon.

53.462 - Caol Ila Distillery

Name: Catching combo
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Islay
Cask Type: 1st fill American oak PX hogshead
ABV: 55.8%
Age: 15

Price: £109.90

The nose opens with white vinegar, wet pebbles, salmon sashimi, tar, TCP, burnt ginger sticks and earthy, dry peat smoke. There’s also sweet and salty popcorn, grapefruit, sawdust and mussels simmered in white wine. The palate has nutty chocolate up front, sweet vanilla icing moving into seaweed, salted peanuts, dry earth and engine oil. There’s a bit of bitterness on the finish, but it's juxtaposed with more sugary sweetness than expected. Not as overly sherried as some of the other SMWS sherry finished Caol Ila’s we’ve tried, but It still doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot for us.

Score: 7/10

Value: This feels a touch pricey for a 15yo Caol Ila.

68.122 - Blair Athol Distillery

Name: A café in Jerez
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bodega px barrique
ABV: 59.8%
Age: 15

Price: £95.00

Rancio right up front, bovril, meaty, oxo cubes, boiled beef, iberico jamon.. it’s pretty damn meaty. There’s a hint of chocolate in the background along with some sherry vinegar but this is one of the most savoury drams we’ve experienced in a while. The palate has upfront chocolate, coffee beans and biltong. There’s more sweetness than expected but it’s still quite savoury, a little bit of charred oak and cinder toffee too. This isn’t what we expected from an ex-bodega cask, a lot of the previous ones we’ve tried from SMWS have been considerably sweeter and more balanced. This isn’t for us, although some may appreciate these types of flavours and aromas.

Score: 6/10

Value: The price feels a little rough for Blair Athol.

72.113 - Miltonduff Distillery

Name: Fruity and floral with faint fizz Glory be to the pâtisserie
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 53.6%
Age: 14

Price: £73.20

The nose is a bit fizzy, green grapes, Albariño white wine, buttery croissant pastry, shortbread dusted in lemon sugar and green apple skin. There’s a nice floral note sitting in the background too, alongside a mellow rum and raisin ice cream-like aroma. The palate has a good texture to begin, quite syrupy, but hits you hard with upfront alcohol. When the spice settles, we get Chantilly cream, butter biscuits, barley sugar sweetness and fudge cookies. A palatable dram, nothing too exciting, a bit too much upfront spice.. it’s fine.

Score: 6/10

Value: Not a bad price. Nice to see some value can still be found.

85.92 - Glen Elgin Distillery

Name: Fires the imagination
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill Spanish oak ex-Oloroso butt
ABV: 58.9%
Age: 13

Price: £80.00

The nose opens with wood chips, raspberries, strawberries, red currants and a bit of cherry. It’s quite red fruit-forward. There’s a lot of sugar showing on the nose too. The palate has a bit of a thinner mouthfeel than we’d like, but a good alcohol balance with only a touch of spice. We’re getting strawberry ice cream, irn-bru, berry compote and Lambrusco wine. This is a lovely sherried dram, not nearly as spicy as other Spanish oak casks, which suits our palates much more. If you love your red fruits and berries, this is the dram for you.

Score: 7.5/10

Value: The sherry premium strikes again.

95.98 - Auchroisk Distillery

Name: Focaccia fudge
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill toasted hogshead
ABV: 59.7%
Age: 10

Price: £62.00

The nose opens with a warm, melty caramel, fudge and some coffee too. We’re reminded of the coffee revels. There’s a bit of rosemary and olive oil, we can sort of see where the panel were going with the name. The palate has some salted caramel, quite a lot actually, along with fiery ginger beer, honeycomb, along with sweet vanilla. The toasted cask has given this a bit more oomph which we’re quite enjoying. The mouthfeel and finish are both fine, but overall this is an interesting dram with some richer chocolate and coffee flavours which we’re all for.

Score: 7/10

Value: It would be nice if this was a few quid cheaper, but it's not an awful price.

105.43 - Tormore Distillery

Name: Lushness balanced with freshness
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 54.9%
Age: 17

Price: £105.60

The nose opens with toasted brioche, milk chocolate buttons, light caramel, fondant icing, pear drops and macerated strawberries. There’s a peppery alcohol spice on the nose, but the confectionary-like notes still shine through. The palate opens with some fresh citrus, mandarin and lemon, following into ginger spice and some bitter dark chocolate. There’s also some pear flesh, limoncello and icing sugar. The mouthfeel is decent, and the finish lasts for a medium length. It’s a decent mid teens bourbon cask, a bit hot in places and a touch too bitter on the latter palate.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: £90 feels fairer to us.

135.55 - Loch Lomond (Inchmoan) Distillery

Name: Billions of battered barnacles
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill HTMC hogshead
ABV: 56.3%
Age: 16

Price: £91.40

The nose opens with rusted iron, blueberries, engine oil, sweaty socks, baby sick, and seaweed. There’s also toasted and buttered sourdough bread. The palate brings forward dirt, bitter grapefruit, burnt hay, dark chocolate and rusted metal. It’s fiery, Jamaican ginger beer without that sweetness. There’s a redeeming mouthfeel, but overall this is quite unpleasant and we really don’t want to continue drinking it.

Score: 5/10

Value: A few quid overpriced, but the really issue is how unpleasant it is.

GN6.7 - Holyrood Distillery

Name: The heretical hot toddy
Flavour Profile: SCS - Other Spirit
Region: Edinburgh
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 48.7%
Age: 2

Price: £48.50

We’re getting of juniper, lemon peel, runny honey, and sweet tea (like lemon ice tea). It’s a very balanced nose, with a slight herbal aroma coming through too. It’s mostly citrus though. The palate has more of that sweet lemon iced tea, sugar cane, vanilla, and icing sugar. It’s a really lovely gin, very simple but one we could sip on without needing any tonic at all.

Score: 7/10

Value: It's nice gin, but its very hard to recommend picking this up at this price.

RW6.3 - Kyrö Distillery

Name: Cinnamon sauna smoke
Flavour Profile: SCS - Other Spirit
Region: Finland
Cask Type: 1st fill charred ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.2%
Age: 5

Price: £75.00

We’ve never had such a powerful upfront aroma, but this is full of olive brine for us. There’s also liquorice, Vicks vapour rub and heaps of menthol. The palate has a lot of similar notes to the nose, salty olives, salty liquorice, a bit of mint and spicy grated ginger towards the later palate. It had a reasonable mouthfeel but that may be the most redeeming factor. This is unpleasant.

Score: 4/10

Value: BBR released some rye from this distillery priced at £150 making this seem a bargain.

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