SMWS November 2023 Outturn (Part 1) Review

We're back with the November outturn review. The preview tasting this month featured 11 bottles. Which included a bottle released for Bonfire Night 2023.

Not all the bottles releasing in November were available at the preview, as the society plan to do another bigger drop later in the month. We’ll of course attempt to cover as many of these other releases as possible, and should be publishing our thoughts on these on the 15th. 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.

  • 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...

10.256 - Bunnahabhain Distillery

Name: Winter's green lichen
Flavour Profile: Oily & Costal
Region: Islay
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-px hogshead
ABV: 58.0%
Age: 9

Price: £79.20

The nose opens with coastal peat, peanut satay, kippers, icing sugar, leftover fryer oil (you can smell the trans fats), dill pickles and fudge with raisins inside. There’s a lovely light smoke that underlies the nose. The palate has a touch of pickle brine, cashews and peanuts mixed together, salt beef, cherryade, salt crystals and earthy peatsmoke. The mouthfeel, although we expected it to be oily, is a bit of a letdown, but the finish lingers on with smoked nuts, charred oak and salted caramel. These young bunnahs are often unrefined, but they’re punchy, aggressive and often times quite weird and wonderful. This is slightly more refined, for better or for worse.

Score: 7/10

Value: It's not a terrible price for Islay whisky.

12.81 - Benriach Distillery

Name: Embrace the untamed spirit
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill STR oak ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.8%
Age: 14

Price: £98.40

The nose opens with cream soda, raspberry jam, rich raisin purée and dark caramel. There’s also some prunes, Irn-bru and pickled ginger. Decent alcohol balance. The palate brings more of that raw ginger spice, along with sweeter vanilla, fudge and sour plums. There’s a little chocolate and currant jam too, but there’s also a touch of funk in the background. The mouthfeel is good and the finish lingers with raisins, dark chocolate and cinnamon. A tasty dram, that’s a little funky in places.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: There's better value to be found in other distilleries.

18.61 - Inchgower Distillery

Name: Cocoa sand dunes
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Dry
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso & px hogshead
ABV: 60.3%
Age: 15

Price: £95.00

In case anyone is unclear about the cask types used, let us clarify: this is a small batch. It's a blend of two bourbon hogsheads that were re-racked – one into a first-fill Spanish oak oloroso hogshead and the other into a refill PX hogshead. The casks were then married before bottling.

The nose has meaty sherry, beef oxo cubes, Cadbury’s chocolate, takeaway chili sauce, along with red berries and dry earth. We’re also finding musty cupboards, green apple peelings, cinnamon and a sprig of mint too. The palate begins with overcooked gingerbread, dark chocolate shavings, burnt caramel, and an underlying cherry-fruitiness that is in constant battle with the drier, woodier flavours. The mouthfeel is mediocre, there’s hints of texture here but it’s thinner than we’d like, and the palate brings more burnt oak, wood shavings and ground ginger spice. There is better sherry options this outturn.

Score: 6/10

Value: 18.49 released earlier this year was only £86. It's sad to see these prices creeping up.

23.81 - Bruichladdich Distillery

Name: Fatberg ahead
Flavour Profile: Oily & Costal
Region: Islay
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.7%
Age: 15

Price: £175.00

On the nose, we get icing sugar, a cool coastal breeze, roasted hazelnuts, barley sugars, a little leather and a bit of lactic acid too. Quite simple, clean and pleasant. The palate has an oily mouthfeel, along with more of an olive oil flavour, sweet vanilla cream, a bit of minerality, white pepper, rice paper and candy corn. It’s also got a little white bread too. The finish is nice, albeit a touch short for our liking. Simple, and tasty, we wouldn’t turn our nose up at a second dram of it.

Score: 7/10

Value: Ouch, the prices for IB laddie has reached insanity.

35.385 - Glen Moray Distillery

Name: Hiding in the undergrowth
Flavour Profile: Light & Delicate
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 59.8%
Age: 11

Price: £68.40

We’re met with Spanish creme caramel, appletiser, marzipan, white pepper, and a fair bit of alcohol. There’s also a herbal, menthol aroma, alongside lemon meringue and shortcrust pastry. The palate begins with a lemon/sugar mixture, then hits you about the face with the bite of the alcohol. There’s also some Gaia melon, drizzly caramel sauce, inexpensive milk chocolate and mint leaves. There’s a decent mouthfeel here, and a medium length finish with toffee popcorn, grapefruit and black pepper spice. A liberal dash of water brings out a dusting of icing sugar and pear skin on the nose. The reduced palate has a more mellow spice, and creamier texture with fudge ice cream and brandy snaps. Too hot overall, but has some better balanced flavours with a large splash of water.

Score: 6/10

Value: Not a bad price compared to other IBs.

36.211 - Benrinnes Distillery

Name: Chocolate-covered cherry cask
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px barrique
ABV: 54.7%
Age: 16

Price: £96.80

On the nose, we’re getting some candied ginger, cardamom, pickling spice, moving into stewed cherries, red kola, malt loaf and light cinnamon. The palate continues in the same vein as the nose with red kola, cinnamon and gingerbread. There’s a really nice balance of sweetness, sherry wood spice and spirit that’s making this dram quite enjoyable. We’re also getting raisins, milk chocolate and maraschino cherries. The mouthfeel is a touch thinner than we’d like but the finish carries on for a while with lingonberries, currants and clove. We’re really quite impressed with this, it’s a 7.5/10 for us.

Score: 7.5/10

Value: Best dram of the outturn, and not a bad price either.

42.83 - Tobermory Distillery

Name: Muscovado pipe tobacco
Flavour Profile: Oily & Costal
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.4%
Age: 17

Price: £115.00

Red kola, maraschino cherries, candle wax, tobacco, cinnamon sticks, jamon iberico, with a fair bit of chili spice (in a fragrant way, rather than an overwhelming alcohol spice). The palate has a silky texture, with brown sugar, warming wood spice, caramel, a hint of tomato ketchup, with some wood shavings in the background too. There’s also some toffee, cinnamon and leather. It’s a touch drying, but there’s a lot more going on here which we quite enjoy. It’s a 7/10 for us.

Score: 7/10

Value: Reasonable price for the distillery.

53.465 - Caol Ila Distillery

Name: A bold smoky affogato
Flavour Profile: Heavily Peated
Region: Islay
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-px hogshead
ABV: 56.9%
Age: 15

Price: £109.90

The nose opens with malt vinegar, smoked kippers, brandy snaps, orange peel, a touch of chocolate and balsamic. The peat is present, bonfire-like smoke, but the rich sherry covers a lot of the smoke overall. The palate lacks some of the oiliness and heft we expected, but brings smoked almonds, leather, raisins, dates and every other typical sherry note you’d expect. There’s a fair bit of alcohol, ginger spice, along with caramel wafers, smoked haddock and toffee bon bons. Sherry can cover a lot of sins, in this case it’s covering most of them but not enough for us to give it higher than a 6.5/10.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: Rough pricing for a 15yo Caol Ila.

59.74 - Teaninich Distillery

Name: nan
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon hogshead
ABV: 54.7%
Age: 12

Price: £69.00

The nose is slightly musty, mellow smoke, dusty wardrobes, leather, vanilla and lemon balm. We’re also getting chopped apples and dying bonfire embers. The palate has a nice texture, sweet vanilla syrup, wood chips, vanilla essence, melon and pear. The peated spirit adds an interesting dimension, but not quite enough to give this bland dram the lift that it needs. It’s fine.

Score: 6/10

Value: Reasonably priced, just a shame the whisky isn't better.

73.159 - Aultmore Distillery

Name: Green grow the rushes o
Flavour Profile: Juicy Oak & Vanilla
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 56.3%
Age: 12

Price: £75.00

On the nose, we’re met with candy floss, varnish, sugar paste, sponge cake, wood polish and some orchard fruits in the background. There’s also a little peach and some nectarine too. The palate brings mint toothpaste, basil sorbet, green apple, and a little bit of chocolate too. It’s a touch alcoholic but some of the sweeter vanilla and fudge flavours cover this up. It’s fine whisky, nothing too exciting but perfectly drinkable.

Score: 6/10

Value: We'd have expected this to be £5 to £10 cheaper.

BAT.22 - Scarlett Marzipan

Name: Scarlett marzipan
Flavour Profile: Small Batch Single Malt
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st & refill American & Spanish oak oloroso butts
ABV: 50.0%
Age: 10

Price: £60.00

The nose opens with rancio, lavender, prune juice, cured venison and a date-like sweetness right in the background. We’re also getting brown sugar and maraschino cherries. There’s a real musty funk here. The palate has cherries in dark chocolate, Chinese bbq pork, Szechuan peppercorns, a little marzipan, copper, and flat Barrs cola. The mouthfeel is fine but the finish disappears way too quick. For a sherry blend, it’s no Exotic Cargo. It’s a bit uninteresting, we’ll go with 5.5/10.

Score: 5.5/10

Value: Not a terrible price, but we'd like to see these batches being a little cheaper.

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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