SMWS January 2024 Outturn Review

Happy 2024! We're back with the January outturn review. The preview tasting this month featured 13 new bottles. As expected, it's a smaller outturn, coming just after the deluge of bottles at Christmas. 

The majority of the bottles releasing in January were available at the preview, but if we've missed any releases then we'll look to update the site with reviews of the rest over the next few weeks. 

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

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...

1.286 - Glenfarclas Distillery

Name: The finesse and energy of a hummingbird
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-wine barrique
ABV: 59.8%
Age: 10

Price: £76.40

Raspberry jam, pineapple chunks in syrup, currants, and red grapes. There's some interest fruit flavours here that we don't often find, along with some floral aromas and a light touch of honey too. A unique nose, no doubt down to the wine cask. The palate has cherry jam, more currants, blackberries and dark chocolate. There's a touch of spice, gingery in nature, along with a hint of red kola. The flavour profile hits this spot on, it's definitely a sweet, fruity and mellow dram, although the alcohol does feel a touch warming in places. 

Score: 7/10

Value: Definitely a little rough for a 10yo.

4.368 - Highland Park Distillery

Name: Smokescape
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill STR oloroso barrique
ABV: 57.1%
Age: 18

Price: £136.40

The nose opens with fresh coffee, milk chocolate, caramel, with an earthy, sweet smoke behind this. There's also vanilla, toffee and honeycomb. It's a really pleasant nose, a nice balance of the original bourbon cask and the rejuvenated oloroso barrique. The palate has runny honey, caramel, toffee, tobacco and good quality milk chocolate. There's a nice backbone of smoke here which doesn't overpower the richer, chocolate-y flavours, but compliments it well. Good alcohol integration, mouthfeel and finish. It's a not a sherry bomb, but very complex, interesting whisky. We tried the unpeated sherry casks before this, and declared the Glen Elgin the best, however this just pips it at the post.

Score: 8/10

Value: This is in line with similar age statements from the society, and they’re a little pricey, but to be fair it is Highland park.

5.112 - Auchentoshan Distillery

Name: Sweet serinity and teasing musk
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Lowland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 58.5%
Age: 19

Price: £125.00

A light dusting of icing sugar over strawberries, chewits, marzipan, foam bananas, we're basically in a confectionary shop. A good balance of alcohol, especially for the ABV. There's also something slightly floral, lavender-esque, along with something quite spiritous. The palate has an upfront spice we didn't expect, confectionary sugar, boiled sweeties, Blackpool rock and some mint candies. It's a touch acrid towards the finish, with a bit too much wood coming through. As the palate develops, we're getting Malibu coconut liqueur and sour lemon bon bons. For us, we preferred the nose to the palate, it's just lacking some balance.

Score: 6/10

Value: Not bad given the age of this release.

36.216 - Benrinnes Distillery

Name: The height of Scottish summer
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-PX hogshead
ABV: 52.9%
Age: 16

Price: £96.80

The nose opens with rich notes of toffee, caramel, gingersnaps and very light, sweet BBQ pork. It's in no way a sherry bomb, and we can see why the society put it in the sweet, fruity and mellow profile. We're also finding cinnamon sticks, mellow vanilla and sherry vinegar. The palate brings a punch of warm caramel sauce, ginger cake, clove spice and gooseberry. It's a little tannic, it's really drying our mouthes out. It's more winey than PX-y for us. Decent mouthfeel and reasonably good alcohol integration. It's not a bad dram, maybe just a bit underwhelming.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: Not a bad price given the cask finish and the age.

39.290 - Linkwood Distillery

Name: Delish!
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogsheads
ABV: 57.0%
Age: 17

Price: £115.00

We're met with rancio, sherry vinegar, red kola, cinnamon sugar doughnuts, with some unsmoked bacon and pickled ginger too. We're also finding nutmeg and sugar coated almonds. The palate shows ginger, cinnamon, more of that red kola, it's less meaty than the nose suggests but does have that sherry vingear coming through. You get the age, it's got a good alcohol balance with a mild spice, and the mouthfeel is alright. The finish is a bit non-existent though. It's a decent dram, especially if you like the drier oloroso style. 

Score: 7/10

Value: Seems a little pricey given the age, cask type and distillery.

48.165 - Balmenach Distillery

Name: Warm reekin' rich
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.2%
Age: 9

Price: £60.00

The younger age is showing on the nose as we get yeast, cheap white toast, heather, fresh flowers and mellow vanilla. It's... not particularly punchy on the nose, quite restrained. We get some pastry cream and shortbread, but we're looking deep for these aromas. The palate begins with fondant icing, sugar syrup, lemonade, butter cookies and a little heat akin to a jalapeno. The mouthfeel is disappointing too. The palate is much better than the nose, but we have a feeling they slapped a picture on the label as the whisky overall is sub-par.

Score: 5.5/10

Value: Much more reasonably priced than this month’s other 9yo release.

53.471 - Caol Ila Distillery

Name: Bacon baked in treacle fruitcake
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Islay
Cask Type: Ex-bourbon hogsheads, oloroso & PX hogsheads
ABV: 58.5%
Age: 15

Price: £109.90

We're met with tar, rancio, burnt kippers and iodine. We're also getting saltwater, tarmac and smoked pork ribs. There's also charred oak staves, blowtorched strawberries, hazelnuts and a bit of the original bourbon cask sweetness peeking through. The palate begins with a lot of sweet red fruit, moving quickly into dark chocolate, cigarette ash, burnt bacon and a light peppery spice. The mouthfeel is good, and the finish lingers on for a while. Some of these older Caol Ila's that have been in sherry casks for a long time end up overpowered by the wine and wood, losing some of the Caol Ila spirit that we love. This isn't the case here, it's a good balance of spirit, wood and wine. 

Score: 8/10

Value: Feels a little rough price wise for a 15yo Caol Ila.

73.153 - Aultmore Distillery

Name: Contrapuntal impasto
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 57.1%
Age: 10

Price: £64.20

On the nose, we're finding baked vanilla cheesecake, icing sugar, lemon peel, lots and lots of upfront bourbon cask sweetness. Relatively well balanced alcohol, with runny caramel and a touch of dusty oak furniture. The palate begins with a disappointing mouthfeel, it's a lot thinner than expected. Flavour wise, we're getting citrus upfront, yuzu, pink peppercorns, ginger spice and some grapefruit bitterness as the palate develops. The finish has a reasonable length, but it's a little insipid and spicier than we'd like. Great nose, less great palate.

Score: 6/10

Value: £5 cheaper would have been nice, but it’s not a terrible price.

78.77 - Ben Nevis Distillery

Name: A cinematic rabbit hole
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highlands
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 56.9%
Age: 9

Price: £72.00

The nose opens with burnt rubber, car tyres, oak smoked brisket, and smoked mackerel alongside asphalt and a menthol, minty aroma that we're left a bit perplexed at. The palate begins with more smoke.. is this peated? Earthy, burnt tyres, wood chips, cassia bark, dry oak and.. toffee crisp bars? The mouthfeel is decent and finish has some length, with dirt, copper pipes and dark chocolate. We're not sure if we like this, but also we keep going back for another sip. A love it or hate it dram.

Score: 7/10

Value: This is a few quid more expensive than lasts month’s release and a little pricey for a 9yo.

85.81 - Glen Elgin Distillery

Name: Ceilidh dancing in the bakehouse
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 56.5%
Age: 16

Price: £96.80

Date jam-filled french pastries, irn-bru, sweet cinnamon, along with raisins, Christmas cake, and fondant icing. We're also finding tangerines, perfume, and lemon peel. The palate has some upfront spice, but moves into brown sugar, Terry's chocolate orange and light cinnamon notes. The mouthfeel is a bit weaker than we'd like, but the alcohol balance is really good. We're also finding some candied orange and toffee as the palate develops. Probably the standout sherry cask from this outturn, it's pretty decent.

Score: 7.5/10

Value: Like this months 36, it’s not a bad price given the cask finish and the age.

94.46 - Fettercairn Distillery

Name: Scotch bonnet-flavoured toothpaste
Flavour Profile: Young & Spritely
Region: Highlands
Cask Type: 1st fill HTMC barrel
ABV: 61.9%
Age: 12

Price: £75.00

A pungent, yeasty, bread note that explains why Young & Spritely isn't one of our favoured flavour profiles. We're also finding gingerbread, nail varnish remover and sour plums on the nose. This is really not to our taste, maybe the palate will redeem it. The palate follows through with uncooked bread dough, blowtorched orange slices.. in fact there's quite a lot of citrus coming through. The alcohol balance isn't too bad, and it's not overly spicy, but we're not sure we really want the flavours lingering on the medium length finish. Not for us.

Score: 5/10

Value: We don’t want to sound repetitive, but a few pounds cheaper here would have been nice.

95.71 - Auchroisk Distillery

Name: Seranno-wrapped plums
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.0%
Age: 14

Price: £85.80

The nose opens with nutty aromas, clove and cinnamon, orange marmalade, old dusty oak furniture, honey-glazed ham and a bit of pickling spice too. We're also finding some gingerbread, and overall the nose has a nice balance of sweetness and savouriness. The palate opens up with milky coffee, big red chewing gum, cooking chocolate, toffee coins and sawn wood. It's not too spicy, but there's still a fair bit of chili heat coming through. The mouthfeel is decent and finish has some length, with charred oak staves and dry oat biscuits. Some will enjoy this more than we do, so we'll try and be fair with a score of 7/10.

Score: 7/10

Value: Maybe it’s time to retire this section on our Outturn reviews. It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of good valued releases these days.

155.6 - Milk & Honey Distillery

Name: Rumbustious rumifications
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Israel
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso butt
ABV: 64.3%
Age: 3

Price: £77.00

We're met with aggressive nutty oloroso sherry, lots of chocolate, praline, toffee,  cinnamon, pickling spice and balsamic vinegar. There's a light smoke underpinning the nose, but it's not overwhelming at all. The palate brings a thick, creamy mouthfeel, with some punchy alcohol, moving into rich dark chocolate, well roasted coffee beans and fresh mint leaves. There's also the standard toffee, burnt caramel and a little Szechuan peppercorn spice that sits on your tongue. A solid example of a single cask Milk & Honey, however we do prefer the unpeated variety. It's still a great dram though.

Score: 7/10

Value: In line with what everyone else is charging for single casks... Angel's share in Israel is rough.

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.

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1 comment

  • djr

    As a long time SMWS member I’m seeing less and less value in the monthly outturns, the prices are becoming a bit eye-watering, long gone are the £50-£60 bargains, when you factor in the £80 a year subscription to only buy a few bottles – I doubt I’ll renew my subscription. PS. Love the website, you’ve steered me to some great bottles (I’m still enjoying the Arran “Feliz Navidad” from the December release!)

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