SMWS May 2024 Outturn Review


We're back with the May outturn review. The preview tasting this month featured 21 new bottles. Unfortunately a fair few of the first Friday release are missing, but in their place are a number of festival bottlings including a 25 year old 29.  

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.

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...

2.139 - Glenlivet Distillery

Name: Feeling Peachy
Flavour Profile: Sweet Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 57.5%
Age: 17

Price: £114.00

Initially, the nose offers aromas of fruit salad sweets, grapefruit, orange peel, grass, gingerbread, icing sugar, and dried apricots. On the palate, flavors of Peach Melba and sweet brown sugar emerge, underpinned by more tropical and citrus fruits, reminiscent of limoncello and lychees. Unfortunately, the finish is marked by more ginger spice than we prefer. The mouthfeel is good. Overall, there's a pleasing tropical sweetness here, slightly marred by an excess of spice. Adding water simplifies the profile, making it somewhat one-dimensional, but it’s an easy 7/10 without water.

Score: 7/10

ValueQuality whisky and not a terrible price either. We do wish this was a few pounds cheaper, but that’s today’s whisky market.


4.387 - Highland Park Distillery

Name: Sweet Smoky Dreams
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 62.4%
Age: 14

Price: £85.00

The aroma opens with caramel, heather, and honey, distinctly reminiscent of Highland Park. Additional scents include burnt twigs, sea salt, and ginger. The palate is quite sweet, featuring notes of sugar paper, salted caramel, and gingerbread, accompanied by a slight bitterness from dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is good, not too thin, and it concludes with a medium-length finish. While the older Highland Park released this month is refined, this expression is tasty in its own right

Score: 7/10

ValueA few quid cheaper would have been nice, but it’s not a terrible price.


9.154 - Glen Grant Distillery

Name: Pickled in an Orchard
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill charred red wine barrique
ABV: 54.7%
Age: 14

Price: £82.80

On the nose, there are aromas of Shiraz that's a few days old, redcurrants, yuzu, and cinnamon. The Alcohol is noticeable highlighting its ABV. Additional notes include pencil shavings, nail varnish remover, a hint of red apples, and pear drop sweets. The palate introduces cracked black pepper and similar to the nose the taste of gone-off red wine, alongside sweet white sugar. The dram is tannic, and quite spicy. The finish is of medium length, with the spice lingering. While the mouthfeel is somewhat thin. Overall, we’re really not gelling with the cask finish.

Score: 5.5/10

ValuePrice is ok for a red wine finish. It’s just a shame the whisky is lacking


39.274 - Linkwood Distillery

Name: Marmalade Pipe Tobacco 
Flavour Profile: Deep Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.8%
Age: 16

Price: £106.90

On the nose, this whisky presents aromas of beef gravy, chocolate, treacle, ginger snaps biscuits, fresh leather, pears, and vanilla extract. The original cask is noticeable here, but we’re not complaining.. The palate offers flavors of treacle, caramel, chocolate buttons, and brown sugar. It has a reasonable mouthfeel with a medium finish, where the sweetness lingers alongside the spice. While it's not the most overly complex dram , this is a Sherry finish executed well, earning it a solid 7/10.

Score: 7/10

ValueToo expensive for the distillery, age etc


55.92 - Royal Brackla Distillery

Name: Does What it Says on The Tin
Flavour Profile: Deep Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.2%
Age: 15

Price: £95.00

Initially, the profile is quite reserved, but patience reveals notes of marzipan, dates, caramelized brown sugar, ground almonds, and raspberry ripple. Over time, touches of golden syrup and pear juice also emerge. On the palate, there is a pleasant burst of sweetness from caramel sauce blended with the spicy flavors of marinated dates and figs. This is offset by a hint of bitterness from grapefruit juice and dark chocolate. The finish is medium in length, with the sweet and spicy notes persisting on the palate. While simple, it's tasty enough to earn a 7/10.

Score: 7/10

ValueThere’s definitely indie bottler out there who would release this cheaper, but also a fair few who wouldn’t.


95.97 - Auchroisk Distillery

Name: Smile and Wave
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px barrique
ABV: 55.9%
Age: 15

Price: £92.40

On the nose, this whisky features notes of rancio, beef Wellington, cardamom spice, burnt ends, brown sugar, caramel, prunes, and dates, with the alcohol presence being quite pronounced. The palate offers flavors of cinnamon, ginger snap biscuits, strawberry jam, chocolate buttons, and caramel sauce, although these are heavily overshadowed by a potent spice. The finish is medium in length but dominated by the spice. The mouthfeel is also quite thin. Overall, another disappointing Sherry cask release.

Score: 5.5/10

ValueIt feels like there’s a Sherry cask premium being attached to this release.


R11.9 - Worthy Park Distillery

Name: Rumbustious
Flavour Profile: SCS - other spirit
Region: Jamaica
Cask Type: refill ex-Islay barrel
ABV: 67.1%
Age: 9

Price: £67.50

On the nose, this rum exudes aromas of brown sugar, banana fritters, Jamaican ginger cake, dried mangoes, rum funk, and fizzy cola bottles. The palate is very sweet, featuring flavors of mangoes and papaya, chopped banana, and is complemented by orange peel and orange bitters. The finish is reasonable, carrying through the sweetness. The mouthfeel is also good. Overall, this is a solid rum that has just the right amount of funk for our tastes. 

Score: 7/10

ValueCask strength rum for around £70 isn’t a bad deal at this age.


RW6.2 - Kyrö Distillery

Name: Aquavit-Spiked Fig and Lemon Verbena Jam
Flavour Profile: SCS - Other Spirit
Region: Finland
Cask Type: new charred oak barrel
ABV: 51.0%
Age: 6

Price: £80.00

On the nose, this presents an unusual array of aromas, including mint polos, Rivetta bread, pine, plasticine or Play-Doh, toothpaste, thyme, and syrupy sweet prune juice. The palate continues with the plasticine and Play-Doh notes, alongside sweet white sugar, and a fair few notes we wish we hadn’t experienced. Reasonable mouthfeel, the finish is short—but not short enough, given the overall taste. Worst of the outturn.

Score: 4.5/10

Value: A terrible deal at any price.


BAT.24 - Underwater Barbecue 

Name: Underwater Barbecue
Flavour Profile: Small Batch
Region: Blended Malt
Cask Type: bourbon and Spanish & American oak oloroso hogsheads
ABV: 50.0%
Age: 12

Price: £70.00

On the nose, this whisky features seaweed, burning newspapers, dates, sultanas, burnt wood, brioche bread, caramel sauce, and cinnamon bagels, along with dry wood. There's a good level spice, but it’s balanced enough not to distract. The palate delivers a punch of smoke and ash, reminiscent of a burning log fire, complemented by sweet brown sugar, chocolate orange, and sweet BBQ. The mouthfeel is adequate, and the finish offers a reasonable mix of peat and the sweeter notes. We prefer the palate to the nose, but the combo is enough to earn 7/10.

Score: 7/10

Value: Not bad given its peated whisky.


12 Rare Release - Benriach Distillery

Name: Heritage Pudding Follows Breakfast
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill & new oak bourbon & htmc barrels
ABV: 58.4%
Age: 10

Price: £65.00

On the nose, this whisky offers melted butter, toffee fudge, sugar fondant, toffee, and Cadbury eclairs, yet its heavy ethanol presence detracts from the otherwise pleasant aromas. The palate introduces lemon, fudge fingers, sweet liquorice, orange peel, tobacco, and cracked black pepper. The mouthfeel is somewhat thin. The finish is of decent length, though the spice outlasts the sweetness. Overall, it feels a bit one-dimensional with a few flaws, making it another passable release. 

Score: 6.5/10

ValueNot our favourite Benriach, but the price is definitely more wallet friendly than a lot of releases.


39 Rare Release - Linkwood Distillery  

Name: Cross-Atlantic Destinations
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: refill & 1st fill bourbon, oloroso & px hogsheads
ABV: 58.4%
Age: 15

Price: £90.00

The nose is surprisingly delicate for a cask strength whisky, featuring sweet cinnamon, pine cones, vanilla, sugar paste, lime juice, marzipan, and sultanas. On the palate, flavors of caramel, sugar cane, vanilla buttercream, cinnamon sticks, and cloves come through. It has a good mouthfeel and a decent finish characterized by lots of sweetness and a warming nutmeg spice. Unlike some other releases where the mix of casks seems to dilute the intriguing aspects of the components, in this case, the casks appear to work in harmony. The result is a pretty tasty dram.

Score: 7.5/10

Value: Similar to the Glen Spey rare release, you can save a few pounds on a similar bottling if you look elsewhere.


85 Rare Release - Glen Elgin Distillery

Name: Freeform Jazz
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: refill & 1st fill bourbon & Spanish oak oloroso hogsheads
ABV: 57.5%
Age: 15

Price: £90.00

Sherry dominates the nose, with notes of red apples, dried earth, cola cubes, caramel, and cinnamon. There’s also some charred wood in the background that would almost make us think this was peated. On the palate, a burnt note prevails, and behind it hints of eucalyptus, freshly brewed coffee, and blood orange. There's also a fizziness reminiscent of sherbet and Tizer. The alcohol integration is better than many of tonight's tastings, yet the flavor combinations don't quite appeal to us, we’ll go with a score of 6.5/10. Others may find it more enjoyable

Score: 6.5/10

Value: There are better value options from other indie bottlers for comparable releases


48 Rare Release - Balmenach Distillery

Name: Tawny Garibaldi 
Flavour Profile: Deep Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: refill & 1st fill bourbon & American oak px hogsheads
ABV: 49.8%
Age: 14

Price: £85.00

Initially, the nose appears closed, but as you delve deeper, aromas of strawberries, umami, miso, raw ginger, and vanilla pod come through. On the palate, flavors of orange marmalade, burnt treacle, tobacco, and candy canes are evident. The mouthfeel is satisfying. The finish is a good, although it is eventually dominated by cinnamon spice. There are better options for deep, rich & dried fruits fans.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: Competitive against other bottlers pricing


Speyside Batch 2024

Name: The Writing Bureau
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill bourbon barrels
ABV: 53.1%
Age: 30

Price: £175.00

On the nose, there are notes of icing sugar, rice crackers, baked bread, toasted oak, and honeycomb, with just a hint of white pepper spice making it quite approachable. The palate features flavors of shortbread, pears, butterscotch, and bergamot. It has a reasonable (medium) finish, with a touch of sweetness lingering. The mouthfeel is adequate. While this whisky is quite drinkable, the blending of the casks seems to have diminished the distinctive qualities of the individual components. Priced, this would be a good bottle to introduce a non-whisky drinker to cask strength whisky. We’re finding this boring, but are sure others will enjoy more. Technical score of a 7/10, but a pass from us.

Score: 7/10

Value: £175 for a 30yo malt is sadly good value in today’s market


5 Rare Release - Auchentoshan Distillery

Name: Philosophers' Stone
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Lowland
Cask Type: 1st fill bourbon barrels
ABV: 54.0%
Age: 20

Price: £137.00

The nose offers a medley of confectionery-like aromas such as pineapple Chewits, mango icing sugar, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla cupcakes, with a slight off-note that could be likened to wet dog. The palate is very sweet, mirroring the nose, but transitions into an overly spicy profile with a hint of bitterness. Flavors include lemon bonbons, orange juice, simple syrup, and sweet chili spice. The mouthfeel is reasonable, but overall, the experience is quite one-dimensional. It lacks complexity and if you’re looking for a bourbon cask you’d be better with this month’s Glenlivet.

Score: 6/10

Value: These older Auchentoshan releases seem to be creeping up in price.


4 Rare Release - Highland Park Distillery

Name: Take Me to the Chippy
Flavour Profile: Oily & Costal
Region: Highland
Cask Type: Bourbon, HTMC & Oloroso
ABV: 54.7%
Age: 20

Price: £195.00

The nose offers aromas of butter, heather, honey, hay, digestive biscuits, and sugar water, with a light smokiness and a hint of spice. The palate reflects the nose closely, adding notes of candied almonds, leather, and lime juice, along with light peat smoke. The mouthfeel is pleasant, with a balanced, medium-length finish. While perhaps a bit one-dimensional, it’s very drinkable.

Score: 7/10

Value: We remember an 18yo sherry cask release a few months ago at £136. That’s some inflation.


55 Rare Release - Royal Brackla Distillery

Name: Rhubarb and Fig Crumble
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Highland
Cask Type: Bourbon & HTMC Chinkapin
ABV: 58.2%
Age: 8

Price: £60.00

On the nose, there are notes of ketchup, red cola, vinegar, charred wood, a musty wardrobe, plums, tobacco, gingerbread, menthol, and caramel. The palate follows with flavors of gingerbread, Big Red chewing gum, pine, dry wood, and flambéed orange. The mouthfeel is pleasingly syrupy. However, the medium finish has a bit too much spice for our liking. If tasted blind, we might have guessed this was matured in a Sherry cask. It's passable but lacks excitement, well go with a score of 6.5/10.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: Not a bad price for a cask strength hit.


149 Rare Release - Ardnamurchan Distillery

Name: Furtive Gherkin
Flavour Profile: Oily & Costal
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill bourbon barrels
ABV: 62.4%
Age: 8

Price: £80.00

On the nose, there are vibrant notes of Sour Apple Chewits, lime cordial, verbena, toffee apple, and cashew nuts, complemented by candy floss, coastal sea breeze, and barley sugars. The palate features sugar paste, lemon juice, chopped apples, and light peat, with a hint of rose water, and exhibits a noticeable oiliness. The finish may have a touch too much spice, but overall, this is a pretty good dram that offers a delightful mix of sweetness with just a hint of peat.

Score: 7/10

Value: Not bad for cask strength Ardnamurchan.


93 Rare Release - Glen Scotia Distillery

Name: Viking Toothpaste
Flavour Profile: Oily & Costal
Region: Campbeltown
Cask Type: 1st fill bourbon barrels
ABV: 62.4%
Age: 9

Price: £65.00

The nose presents Campbeltown funk, musty cupboards, green apple, yeast, icing sugar, toast, ash, tobacco, cloves, and aniseed. On the palate, there are flavors of simple syrup, granulated sugar, and a delightful backbone of smoke, alongside lavender, musk, tar, and a good mouthfeel. It's definitely oily and coastal. While it's a good whisky, it feels like a couple of great casks were blended with a few less interesting ones. We wish we could have tried the individual components. Nonetheless, it remains very good. 

Score: 7.5/10

Value: Good price for the distillery.


10 - Rare Release Bunnahabhain Distillery

Name: Smugglers' Bacon
Flavour Profile: Heavily Peated
Region: Islay
Cask Type: Bourbon & PX hogsheads 
ABV: 58.4%
Age: 10

Price: £85.00

On the nose, this whisky features peanuts, dirt, Butterkist popcorn, lime juice, rice crackers, and a touch of iodine. There are also smoky sardines, ash, and bandages. The nose leans more towards savory than sweet, but there is a hint of sweet BBQ sauce. The palate has notes of lavender and musk, wet soil, beef crisps, tobacco, satay sauce, and bacon frazzles, finishing with a touch of sweet BBQ. The mouthfeel and long finish are good, with plenty of lingering sweetness. Probably our favourite dram of the night.

Score: 8/10

Value: We can’t help, but compare this to Signatories 100 proof range, and not in a favourable light.


29 Rare Release - Laphroaig Distillery

Name: Sm'oak!
Flavour Profile: Heavily Peated
Region: Islay
Cask Type: Bourbon & STR Oloroso
ABV: 56.3%
Age: 25

Price: £550.00

On the nose, the dram presents chlorine, iodine, tar, cloves, TCP, kippers, rancio, figs, dirt, burnt rubber, and cola. The palate offers aniseed, cloves, tar, cigarette ash, gammon, and a hint of bitterness from dark chocolate, alongside peanuts. There is a surprising amount of smoke, more than we expected given its age. Upon revisiting, there are additional notes of burnt brown sugar, Bovril, and pork loin, appear. The finish is a decent length, but unfortunately the mouthfeel is slightly thin. Overall, this is a good release, though the cask finish has overshadowed a lot of what we love about this distillate. 

Score: 7.5/10

ValueOuch, feels very pricey even if this is 25yo.


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