SMWS May 2023 Outturn Review


We're back with the May outturn review. The preview tasting this month featured 25 new bottles.

Not all the bottles releasing in May were available at the preview, and there were a few that we assume will be released later in the month. We’ll attempt to update this article with details of bottles 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.

It was a mixed bag of an outturn this month, that was better on paper than it turned out to be. Normally we’d mention the excess of young bourbon casks as being the most disappointing part of an SMWS bottle drop. This month however it was the finishes that disappointed. We’re not against a finish on a dram, but they seemed to be all over the place this month in terms of quality and we were really pining for some full maturation sherry casks while working our way through these.

We also had a chance to review the 2023 Festival Rare Releases earlier this week, you can find those here.

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.
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Onto the bottles...

5.129 - Auchentoshan Distillery

Name: Cava Cocktail
Flavour Profile: Sweet Fruity & Mellow
Region: Lowland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 54.5%
Age: 20

Price: £137.10

It’s a fruit shop mixed with some French pastries, boiled sweets, vanilla bon bons, watered down apple juice, icing sugar and tinned pineapple. Overall the nose feels a little restrained. The palate has a lot of those light, tropical fruit notes, mango, guava, pineapple, but it’s like Robinsons barley water in its thinness. There’s some richer oak flavours coming towards the finish but overall too light and delicate for us, we want more of a fruit explosion.

Score: 6.5/10


6.62 - Macduff Distillery

Name: Brusque and Broad-Shouldered
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px hogshead
ABV: 54.9%
Age: 16

Price: £106.90

Balsamic, brown sugar, banana bread, a light nuttiness too. Wholemeal bread, cinnamon stick and nutmeg. The palate has burnt caramel and maraschino cherries. It feels overly harsh in the sherry maturation, there’s some dry bitter notes that we’re not loving. Behind those there’s some creme brûlée and brown sugar sweetness. This additional maturation hasn’t really worked for us. It’s too disjointed.

Score: 6.5/10


7.282 - Longmorn Distillery

Name: Peaches on Parade
Flavour Profile: Sweet Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 53.9%
Age: 12

Price: £75.00

Tinned peaches, single cream, a little triffle-y. There’s also a bit of lime and typical vanilla notes. There’s a chalkiness that reminds us of loveheart sweets. The palate has a burst of the aforementioned peaches, more cream, it mirrors the nose quite closely. There’s a bit of black pepper spice that sits on the tongue, but it’s incredibly well balanced overall. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. A good fruity bourbon cask speyside. If it was a few quid cheaper we could have pushed this to an 8, but at £75 it’s a 7.5.

Score: 7.5/10


9.265 - Glen Grant Distillery

Name: All Things Dark and Mystical
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-muscat barrique
ABV: 54.2%
Age: 19

Price: £117.00

Brown sugar, molasses, a little dried apricot, cherry, light caramel too. There’s not much red fruit here, it’s more dried fruits like raisins and prunes. The palate has pickled walnuts, sherry vinegar, dark chocolate, biscotti, toffee crisp bar. It’s very sherry-like for a sweet wine cask, and we’re quite enjoying it. At £117 it’s not cheap, but we’ll go with an 8.

Score: 8/10


16.92 - Glenturret Distillery

Name: Sandwich of Doom
Flavour Profile: Heavily Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: re-charred hogshead
ABV: 63.8%
Age: 9

Price: £60.00

The nose opens with petrol, chlorine, burnt rubber, sweet vanilla, honey, seaweed, saline solution and used plasters. The palate is well balanced, good alcohol integration with mostly bourbon sweetness, a little shellfish fishiness, moving into lime juice and ash on the finish. Good mouthfeel, but the finish is a little short. Another solid 16 that others will probably enjoy more.

Score: 7/10


19.90 - Glen Garioch Distillery

Name: Chilled Toddy
Flavour Profile: Sweet Fruity & Mellow
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 54.0%
Age: 19

Price: £125.00

On the nose there’s papaya, light caramel, strawberries, and some vanilla cream. There’s a slight funk here that we don’t tend to get with Glen Gairoch which is unusual. The palate begins with a burst of fruit, starburst, pineapple candy, but it moves into a drier finish than we were expecting. It’s also got a bit of chili heat that we’d have thought would have mellowed after 19 years. All in all, not our favourite 19, a bit of a letdown.

Score: 6.5/10


26.215 - Clynelish Distillery

Name: Have Fun and Celebrate
Flavour Profile: Sweet Fruity & Mellow
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 63.0%
Age: 8

Price: £62.00

This release is actually two years younger than the last 26 we reviewed from the society, and it’s good to see they’re listening to us and bottling sooner… anyway there’s icing sugar, lemon, candle wax, and jelly babies on the nose. The palate has a nice texture and continues with the sugar, lemon and ends with a bit of soda water and lime. There’s also some pickled ginger towards the end of the finish. It’s fine, perfectly palatable, we’d drink another dram.

Score: 7/10


35.345 - Glen Moray Distillery

Name: Tumble into Fruity Crumble
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 60.1%
Age: 10

Price: £64.20

This one looks like it’ll be released later in the month. It was also limited to one per member. Hopefully that’s a good sign. Melon, candy corn, banana bread, some and light grape aromas on the nose. The palate brings some spice to the fore, along with sponge cake, fudge and dry oak on the finish. Well that was disappointing. It’s another uninspiring bourbon cask. we’ll go with a 6.

Score: 6/10


41.159 - Dailuaine Distillery

Name: Lean Mean Sherry Machine
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px butt
ABV: 57.1%
Age: 14

Price: £85.80

Rich aromas of treacle, toffee, caramel, pecan nuts and brown sugar. There’s a lot of spice coming through on the nose that’s a little much for us. The palate has a nice texture, caramel shortcake, lots and lots of ginger, a little menthol and fudge. It’s too spicy on the nose, better on the palate but overall feels a little unbalanced. Another finish that hasn't quite worked.

Score: 6.5/10


44.163 - Craigellachie Distillery

Name: A Beaker full of the Warm South
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 58.3%
Age: 20

Price: £137.50

Meaty, foosty, with some rancio, cherry compote, fruit and nut chocolate, ginger and walnuts. The palate has chocolate and venison, red currants, BBQ pork, burnt wood and caramel sweetness. We’re torn, we don’t love Craigellachie in general, but this has a lot going on that we like, and a lot going on that we don’t totally care for. A little longer in the cask would have probably completely killed the spirit character, and made this very tasty. As it stand we’ll go with a 7.

Score: 7/10


46.146 - Glenlossie Distillery

Name: Jambon Jam
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px hogshead
ABV: 54.8%
Age: 12

Price: £75.90

Red currants, really dusty, white pepper, Irn Bru, overall quite restrained and we’re not getting as much on the nose as we’d like. The palate has oak, and too much of it, following into cherries, chocolate, burnt caramel, aged ham, and some raisins too. It feels disjointed, too bitter and oaky for us. We’ll go with a 6.5

Score: 6.5/10


55.78 - Royal Brackla

Name: What a Spread!
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px hogshead
ABV: 59.2%
Age: 13

Price: £82.50

On the nose there’s cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, sherbet, toffee and a little milk chocolate too. There’s a fair bit of spice as well, with lots of white pepper coming through. The palate has candied ginger, brown sugar, kvass, cola and black currant. The palate feels a lot more harmonious than the nose, but still there’s too much spice and too much oak on the finish.

Score: 7/10


58.54 - Strathisla Distillery

Name: Sticky-Sweet Karate Chop
Flavour Profile: Juicy Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 60.0%
Age: 11

Price: £68.40

Sweet vanilla, peaches, a little buttery, and persimmon. It’s just typical young bourbon cask aromas on the nose, admittedly without too much spice. The palate has lots of vanilla sweetness, chantilly cream, white chocolate, and a little too much dry oak on the finish. It’s fine, uninspired perhaps but not offensive. We won’t remember this tomorrow.

Score: 6.5/10


59.71 - Teaninich Distillery

Name: Raisin-Paved Highway
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-Spanish oak oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.6%
Age: 12

Price: £75.90

Meaty sherry, rancio, a little sulphur, grated ginger and nutmeg too. Going back and we’re finding chocolate with honeycomb pieces along with orange peel. The palate is nice, good texture with lots of brown sugar sweetness overriding some of the spice. There’s also cloves, cinnamon and milk chocolate alongside this sweetness giving the dram a nice balance. One of the better sherry matured drams on the palate, but the nose is a bit funky for us. It’s close between a 6.5 and a 7, we’ll air on the side of caution and go with 6.5

Score: 6.5/10


64.142 - Mannochmore Distillery

Name: Raisin-Fried Vanilla Pods
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px hogshead
ABV: 55.3%
Age: 15

Price: £92.40

Creamy, dusty, not overly sherry forward but we’re still getting notes of dates and raisins coming through. It a touch peppery on the nose too. The palate has cherries, strawberry laces and raspberry jam up front, but there’s too much alcohol here, which is weird for only 55%. There’s also a nod to the initial maturation cask with vanilla ice cream and a hint of fresh mint. Again, this is too disjointed for us.

Score: 6.5/10


66.235 - Ardmore Distillery

Name: Mild-Mannered, Urbane and Sophisticated
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: refill ex-bourbon hogshead
ABV: 50.3%
Age: 24

Price: £180.50

Furniture polish, roasting herbs, sage and onion stuffing, along with mellow peat smoke. It’s quite earthy, a little dry dirt, pickled walnuts and haybales. The palate is a little thin to begin with, dark chocolate, muddy leather, vanilla, wet soil and highland peat. It’s fairly balanced on the alcohol front, but a bit boring overall. 6.5/10 based both on the price and because it’s been too long in the cask.

Score: 6.5/10


68.103 - Blair Athol Distillery

Name: Sophisticated Emulation
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill American oak ex-px hogshead
ABV: 56.4%
Age: 15

Price: £89.50

This is another release that looks to be coming out later in the month. Polished mahogany oak, chocolate coated cherries, brandy butter, vanilla bean and light caramel notes on the nose. The palate has a whack of alcohol up front, summer fruit cordial and lots of ginger spice. It’s super fruity on the palate but overall just too hot for us to enjoy it. It’s another 6.5.

Score: 6.5/10


70.56 - Balblair Distillery

Name: Ice Cream in a Rose Garden
Flavour Profile: Juicy Oak & Vanilla
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.4%
Age: 14

Price: £82.80

Vanilla ice cream, caramel drizzle, toffee, and meringue. There’s maybe a little red fruit like raspberry and strawberry, but it’s very light overall. The palate has a good amount of caster sugar up front, along with walnuts, dark chocolate and a touch of Armagnac spice. It’s another passable dram, but the nose lets it down and it’s a little pricey so we’re going to go with a 6.
 

Score: 6/10


72.120 - Miltonduff Distillery

Name: "Feeling Hot Hot Hot"
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: Refill Trinidadian rum barrel
ABV: 61.5%
Age: 8

Price: £51.80

There’s mango and papaya, and a little bit of funk appearing too. We’re also getting the standard bourbon cask vanilla and brioche aromas here too. The palate has a good amount of upfront spice, tinned mango slices, ginger juice and sugarcane. It’s not bad, and pretty good value taking the price into consideration, but there’s better drams in the outturn.

Score: 7/10


78.67 - Ben Nevis Distillery

Name: A Tobacco Salesman's Briefcase
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.3%
Age: 10

Price: £65.50

On the nose there’s leather, rice paper, chocolate dropped in dirt, apple strudel, must, tidewater and lots of white pepper spice appearing too. The palate is oily, with cardamom, dark chocolate, and hazelnut, it’s got a chewey texture and a good amount of spice, we’d have pegged a low 60s ABV. It’s got a decent length finish with a bit of cardboard. Not great and not really to our tastes.

Score: 6/10


80.45 - Glen Spey Distillery

Name: A Circus of Oddities
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-cabernet sauvignon hogshead
ABV: 58.8%
Age: 10

Price: £59.00

Nose has soft red fruits, a little rancio, grape must, strawberry marmalade, along with a real deep earthiness too. The palate has sour raspberry coulis, tannins, dry oak with the faintest hint of sweetness in the distance. It’s like cheap red wine with a extra kick of booze. Wine finishes can produce great drams. This is not one of these times. We’re not fans.

Score: 5.5/10


82.47 - Glencadam Distillery

Name: Jazz Custard
Flavour Profile: Juicy Oak & Vanilla
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 63.5%
Age: 11

Price: £68.40

A creamy bourbon cask, there’s custard, black pepper, lemon, and a little bit of bruised mint too. The palate has marzipan, pear drops, lots of sugar up front but becomes slightly nuttier as the palate develops. There’s also fudge and burnt caramel on the finish. It’s alright, perfectly drinkable, but again just a little boring.

Score: 6.5/10


121.104 - Arran Distillery

Name: Let the Fun Shine
Flavour Profile: Sweet Fruity & Mellow
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 62.1%
Age: 8

Price: £57.00

There’s a definite sourness, haribo tangfastic, maybe sour chewits. Quite fruity too, with strawberries, lemon posset and a bit of candy floss too. The palate has a lot of fruit up front, pineapple, mango, melon, with a big squeeze of lemon juice over it all. It’s definitely more citric than most may like, but we’re enjoying the battle between sweet and sour. There’s a touch of spice on the finish that lets it down for us. Some will rate this higher.

Score: 7/10


128.26 - Penderyn Distillery

Name: A Flood of Childhood Memories
Flavour Profile: Light & Delicate
Region: Wales
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 62.6%
Age: 8

Price: £76.00

Lemon, hint of yeast, sponge cake, buttercream frosting, and a little funk too. As it sits in the glass we notice light notes of a French bakery wafting through. The palate has acetate, calvados, peach cobbler, and juniper. It’s a little heavy on the gin flavours for us. As one of our favourite distilleries, we’re this is a bit of a letdown. It’s too hot, too raw, an unfortunate 6 from us.

Score: 6/10


B5.6 - George Dickel Distillery

Name: Smooth and Creamy
Flavour Profile: Bourbon
Region: Tennessee
Cask Type: 1st fill charred barrel
ABV: 64.0%
Age: 6

Price: £69.50

Mint, red kola, fudge, a little balsamic glaze and lime juice on the nose. The palate has more cola, ginger spice, menthol, caramel and some apple slices dipped in toffee. Good mouthfeel and alcohol integration. It’s a solid bourbon, if you’re looking for a bourbon then you’d be happy with this, for us it just falls a little short compared to other B5 releases, and we’re going to go with a 7.5.

Score: 7.5/10


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1 comment


  • KP

    Why is 6 passable? You don’t wanna do 80+, I get it. But your scale is equally pathetic.


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