SMWS November 2023 Outturn (Part 2) Review


We're back with the second part of our November outturn review. If you're interested you can find the first part here. 

There's a massive number of bottles coming out, and we've been lucky enough to have tried 24 of them. These include a new .1 and a rum from a closed distillery. 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...

4.382 - Highland Park Distillery

Name: Avast ye smoky apricots
Flavour Profile: Oily & Coastal
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 62.8%
Age: 12

Price: £76.90

The nose opens with the quintessential Highland Park notes of heather and honey, then drifts into coastal sea air and red apples, though there’s a fair bit of alcohol to contend with here. The palate is more approachable, showcasing smoky charred wood, a saline note, simple syrup, and honey. The mouthfeel is enjoyable. There's perhaps a tad too much cinnamon spice on the finish, but once you get past the alcohol on the nose, you find it’s quite an enjoyable dram.

Score: 7/10

Value: Not a bad price given the distillery.


16.96 - Glenturret Distillery

Name: Peat-ploughing lunacy
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: Refill recharred hogshead
ABV: 60.8%
Age: 9

Price: £60.00

Peanuts and peat to start, followed by peppercorn, smoked ham, burnt brown sugar, tar, pork rinds, and smoked almonds, with a dash of vanilla essence and a further hit of peat. On the palate antiseptic, star anise, chocolate milk and burnt newspaper notes come through. There's some peat and sweetness on a lengthy finish. The mouthfeel also impresses. It's just a tad fiery, but aside from that, no complaints from us. One of the better 16s the society has released recently.

Score: 7/10

Value: A good value option for anyone looking for a hit of peat.


26.221 - Clynelish Distillery

Name: Entranced and enchanted
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla 
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 63.1%
Age: 9

Price: £65.50

Distillery 26, it's been a while, old friend. On the nose, we're greeted with lemons, limes, caramel, toasted white bread, green apples, apricots, and candy floss. One downside the waxiness we associate with this distillery isn’t really showing. The palate offers an array of citrus blossoming into caramel and dark chocolate, persisting through a good length finish. A hint of peppery spice is present but is well integrated. Again, the palate is missing the wax, but we’re enjoying it for what it is. A solid 7, edging towards 7.5.

Score: 7/10

Value: A good price compared to other IBs Clynelish.


39.287 - Linkwood Distillery

Name: Perfumed pleasure
Flavour Profile: Light & Delicate
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 61.4%
Age: 11

Price: £68.40

The nose opens with strawberries, ginger, Lucky Charms, sponge cake, chocolate, whipped cream, and pear drop sweets. The palate opens with some red fruits, vanilla syrup, and baklava pastries, although the spice is a bit overpowering for our taste. There's a decent mouthfeel once you get past the spice and a reasonable finish, but a lingering bitterness detracts from the dram. It's not terrible, but the excess spice means we can’t really rate it higher than a 6/10.

Score: 6/10

Value: Not terrible value, but you can find better bargains if you look around.


44.167 - Craigellachie Distillery

Name: A rum drinker's dram
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: Refill Jamican Rum barrel
ABV: 60.4%
Age: 10

Price: £66.20

The cask influence is so prominent on the nose that you might mistake this for a rum, offering up aromas of brioche bread, fresh mangos, ginger, and banana bread. Sitting with it and we’re reminded of Discarded banana peel rum. The palate features overripe bananas, fried plantain, pineapple juice, and a persistent ginger spice. While the mouthfeel lacks body and the spice is somewhat overbearing, we’re happy that the cask does well to mask the base spirit, which long time readers will know isn’t our cup of tea. We suspect others might appreciate this more than we do.

Score: 5/10

Value: Reasonable price given it's a cask finish.


48.163 - Balmenach Distillery

Name: Going a wafer a while
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 50.1%
Age: 14

Price: £78.00

The nose opens with Bassetts Fruit Salads, lemon bonbons, Tizer, a hint of copper, and raspberry ripple ice cream, wafer included — a promising start. These fruit salad notes carry onto the palate, accompanied by the metallic tang of copper, banana sweets, and Cadbury’s Caramel. The finish is a respectable length, leaving a lingering sweetness, and we're finding the mouthfeel quite pleasing. Not quite as good as this month’s 26, but a solid dram nonetheless. It’s an easy 7.

Score: 7/10

Value: Not a bad price for a 14yo.


53.470 - Caol Ila Distillery

Name: Santa's sooty fireside dram
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Islay
Cask Type: 1st fill Spanish oak ex-Oloroso hogshead
ABV: 56.3%
Age: 13

Price: £98.40

Grilled pineapple paired with bacon, raisins, TCP, smoked ham, prune juice, and cashew nuts on the nose. That medicinal smoke smothers the sherry cask influences. The palate is smooth at first, but ends with a little too much spice, and we're finding it has a rather thin mouthfeel. There’s a flavour here reminiscent of Ardbeg's herbal peat, along with fresh earth, cinnamon, cardamom, and raisins. The 53 released earlier this month was a touch sweet. This could have used some of that extra sweetness. 

Score: 6.5/10

Value: Sadly this is ok for Islay peat.


55.89 - Royal Brackla Distillery

Name: Oak-fired fruit cocktail
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 2nd fill STR barrique
ABV: 55.5%
Age: 15

Price: £91.40

We’re getting an earthiness, pears, cream, corn, oats, raw pastry dough, rice crackers, and a dustiness. To be honest, we're surprised that this is an STR cask finish as the nose wouldn’t suggest it. For us it has a yeasty quality and smells significantly younger than its age. The palate carries through with the corn and yeast notes, complemented by orange jelly, crème brûlée, and peaches. On the plus side, it doesn't have a too much alcohol spice and has a decent-length finish, with the taste of Jamaican ginger loaf lingering . The mouthfeel is passable, but the yeast is just too much for us. 

Score: 5.5/10

Value: A little pricey for a 15yo.


60.33 - Aberfeldy Distillery

Name: Malt loaf and vanilla frosting
Flavour Profile: Juicy, Oak & Vanilla
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 61.0%
Age: 10

Price: £64.20

The nose presents with sugar paste, melon, vanilla pods, cinder toffee, a hint of an unventilated room, and buttercream. The palate echoes the nose, dominated by sugar paste and vanilla pods. Sitting with it we notice traces of apple and honey, but really we’re finding the sweetness is a little one dimensional. The finish is dominated by a spice, which quickly overpowers all other flavours. The mouthfeel is ok, but the overall experience is ruined by excessive spice and a lack of complexity. 

Score: 5/10

Value: Not a bad price compared to other IBs.


68.115 - Blair Athol Distillery

Name: Let's head for the lobby
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 57.8%
Age: 14

Price: £89.50

We're met with notes of Black Forest Gateau, custard cream biscuits, prunes, figs, gingerbread, and a hint of crème glaze. it’s not as sherried as we were expecting, but it’s pleasant. The palate shares similarities to the nose with prunes and chocolate, transitioning into a ginger and cinnamon spice that lasts through a lengthy finish. Although decent enough, it’s not as sweet as we would like, leaning more towards spicy and dry rather than deep, rich, and dried fruits profile.

Score: 6/10

Value: Price feels a little rough for Blair Athol.


73.158 - Aultmore Distillery

Name: Into the long night
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 58.2%
Age: 11

Price: £68.40

We’re finding this is initially very reserved, and the nose really needs patience, eventually revealing strawberry jam, ice gems, freshly chopped strawberries, pistachios, and cream. The palate opens with a plasticky note, chocolate coins, a spicy margherita kick, and some caramel sweetness. The mouthfeel is ok, though that spice is too pronounced for our liking. The finish is long, but with the spice lingers for too long. There are much better options in this outturn 5.5/10.

Score: 5.5/10

Value: Again, not terrible value, but you can find better bargains if you look around.


78.76 - Ben Nevis Distillery

Name: Flames dancing on mango
Flavour Profile: Young & Spritely
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 2nd fill heavy char #4 hogshead
ABV: 58.8%
Age: 9

Price: £64.00

We’ll preface by saying this is not our flavour profile, and we usually don’t enjoy young Ben Nevis. With that in mind, the nose starts with the funk we usually get from this distillery. That funk is underpinned by an overtly industrial and spirit-forward nose that really doesn't appeal to us. If we try hard we can find hints of banana, marshmallows, and honeycomb, but that’s about it. The palate is smoky, reminiscent of burnt toast and ash, with undertones of cough syrup and icing sugar. The alcohol is well-integrated, but we’re not really enjoying the flavours. 

Score: 5/10

Value: Seems a little pricey for a 9yo


82.51 - Glencadam Distillery

Name: Complementary smoke and toffee
Flavour Profile: Lightly Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: 2nd fill charred red wine barrique
ABV: 61.8%
Age: 12

Price: £77.00

The red wine influence isn’t really noticeable on the nose, there is however a certain cheesiness, which isn't particularly pleasant to nose. Accompanying this note is toffee cream, red apples, and a faint peat smoke that manifests as an earthy note. The palate has more wine cask character with a bounty of red fruits; however, the initial sweetness, reminiscent of flambéed apples and raspberries, is swiftly replaced by a tannic note. It's has a nice mouthfeel, but is a bit too fiery for our tastes. That along with the nose makes this a 5.5/10 for us. We did hear a few people really enjoyed this, but we’re just going to chalk that up to people being overly drunk. Although if you are one of those people, what we actually mean is palates differ.

Score: 5.5/10

Value: Peat carries a premium unfortunately.


85.88 - Glen Elgin Distillery

Name: Full fruit fantasy
Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill ex-oloroso hogshead
ABV: 59.5%
Age: 13

Price: £80.50

Surprisingly subdued for a sherry cask, offering wood shavings and sherbet dabs with underlying notes of oak, limeade, and prunes that emerge with patience. To be fair to the dram this may benefit from further time sitting with it. There is more cask influence on the palate, and we’re getting cranberries, dried orange peel, gingerbread, and a cinnamon spice. It's a pleasant, well-balanced dram, though let down by a finish that's too brief and somewhat dry. Not bad, but there are better options for a Sherry lover this month.

Score: 6/10

Value: Spend a few quid more and buy the 95.


93.205 - Glen Scotia Distillery

Name: Pebbles, flowers and pickles
Flavour Profile: Oily & Coastal
Region: Campbeltown
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
ABV: 60.0%
Age: 9

Price: £65.50

The distinctive Campbeltown funk mixes with coastal sea air, sugar syrup, lemons, and a hint of vinegar on the nose. The mouthfeel is pleasing, and we agree with the panel that it has a notably oily texture. The palate brings loads of bourbon cask sweetness, featuring vanilla pods, lemon drizzle cake, marshmallows, and more, culminating in a long finish with a subtle peppery spice. While not our favorites ever society Scotia, we can’t deny it's still a good dram. It's a tough choice, but the 26 edges this.

Score: 7/10

Value: Good price for the distillery.


95.89 - Auchroisk Distillery

Name: Just right for a balmy night
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bodega barrique
ABV: 55.9%
Age: 14

Price: £85.80

There’s something here that reminds us of a Starbucks pumpkin spiced latte, along with marzipan, Christmas cake, treacle toffee, and Amaretto liqueur. It's somewhat subdued, yet we’re enjoying sitting with it and teasing out the notes. The palate complements the nose, adding toffee crisp, lemonade, and chocolate sauce, then culminates in a lingering finish of candied ginger and nutmeg spice. Good alcohol interaction, and mouthfeel. Our favorites sherry cask release of the outturn, just don’t go in expecting a sherry bomb this is more subtle affair.

Score: 7.5/10

Value: Not bad value given it's a 1st fill ex-bodega barrique finish.


115.28 - Knockdhu Distillery

Name: Weird and wonderful
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: Speyside
Cask Type: 2nd fill PX hogshead
ABV: 63.2%
Age: 8

Price: £66.00

The nose is characterized by a pronounced rancio presence alongside a somewhat displeasing funk, rounded out with notes of chocolate, pine, vinegar, and red cola. Honestly, it doesn't appeal to our personal tastes. Consistent with the nose, the palate continues with pine cones, vinegar, and rancio. While the texture is nice and oily, it is somewhat overshadowed by a slightly aggressive spiciness. For us we’re finding the persistent funk and spice overstay their welcome spoiling the dram a little.

Score: 6/10

Value: Reasonable given it's a sherry finish.


122.57 - Croftengea (Loch Lomond Distillery)

Name: Short circuit
Flavour Profile: Heavily Peated
Region: Highland
Cask Type: Refill Trinidad rum barrel
ABV: 62.7%
Age: 9

Price: £59.00

Remarkably sweet initial, with notes of candy floss, iced lemon tea. and freshly made iced donuts, one could easily mistake this for a bourbon cask, especially given the stark differences to the other rum cask release this month. With a little time an air an industrial peat starts to show in the glass. The peat is more pronounced on the palate, yet we think it’d be fairer to label this as peated. Like the nose there’s a burst of sweetness on the palate, evoking marshmallows and flat cola. the peat eventually starts to show as petrol, smoked fish and tar. It's syrupy, with a satisfyingly long finish where the rum character starts to show. This one might be a hit for those with a penchant for sweet and peat However, for us, it's a tad too one-note in its sweetness, earning it a 6.5.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: Good price for a peat hit.


140.16 - Balcones Distillery

Name: Chocolate rain on a cherry tree
Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet
Region: Texas
Cask Type: New Oak Char #3 barrique
ABV: 63.4%
Age: 3

Price: £85.00

The nose is a blend of pineapple chunks, cherry cola, cola cubes, treacle, and  cheap aftershave, which, while peculiarly, isn't unpleasant. There's a certain syrupiness on the nose that's quite hard to explain . On the palate, we’re getting cloves, fennel, Maraschino Cherries, tobacco, and white chocolate mice. Though it packs some heat, the mouthfeel echoes the nose with its pleasant syrupy texture. Despite the spice, it remains surprisingly quaffable for its ABV. The finish has a good length and persistent lingering sweetness. We frequently say that some people will enjoy certain drams more than us. In this case we suspect some will think this is rated a tad too high. 

Score: 7/10

Value: It's the price you pay if you want to buy this distillery.


157.1 - Armorik Distillery

Name: Toasty, roasty and oaky
Flavour Profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits
Region: France
Cask Type: 1st fill Spanish oak ex-Oloroso butt
ABV: 60.8%
Age: 8

Price: £95.00

An explosion of chocolate, aniseed, prunes, figs, raspberry compote, cardamom, and a hint of copper greets the nose. The spice from the alcohol is noticeable, yet it’s balanced by the other notes. The alcohol is also well-balanced on the palate, making it surprisingly quaffable for a strength, and given it a satisfying mouthfeel. The palate is reminiscent of cola bottles, brown sugar and dried apricots, transitioning to a cinnamon spice on a good finish where, although the spice does slightly overshadow the sweetness, it remains enjoyable. Great full maturation sherry cask 8yo that makes us excited to see what will happen to the spirit with a few more years in a cask to smooth the rough edges.

Score: 7/10

Value: pricey for an 8yo.


B5.12 - George Dickel Distillery

Name: Vanilla cupcake-scented candle
Flavour Profile: SCS - other spirit
Region: Tennesse
Cask Type: 1st fill charred barrel
ABV: 62.9%
Age: 7

Price: £74.00

Minty toothpaste, menthol, coconut, flat cola, oak, honey, and peanuts dusted with icing sugar on a less aggressive nose than we've encountered in other B5s, likely its been tempered by age. The palate unfolds with honey, fresh orange juice, strawberries, and a dash of cinnamon spice, leading to a finish that's pleasantly spicy. This has a decent mouthfeel, but it's somewhat one note. Saying that it’s still enjoyable. We'd have another dram.

Score: 6.5/10

Value: Decent price for a bourbon.


R11.20 million - Worthy Park Distillery

Name: Sensory adventure
Flavour Profile: SCS - other spirit
Region: Jamica
Cask Type: Refill bourbon barrel
ABV: 66.1%
Age: 10

Price: £80.00

Sour cherries, aniseed, burnt brown sugar and lots of rum funk that we are a little put off by. The palate is not as bad as the nose with more burnt brown sugar, papaya and burnt sultanas. Decent length finish with the sweetness lingering. We’re not the biggest fan of most British style rums, but we can see the quality in this, for us this is a 6, but for lovers of this style it’ll probably be closer to a 7.

Score: 6/10

Value: Not bad for cask strength rum.


R13.6 - Caroni Distillery

Name: Cocoa tornado
Flavour Profile: SCS - other spirit
Region: Trinidad
Cask Type: Refill bourbon barrel
ABV: 61.7%
Age: 25

Price: £345.00

The Caroni DNA is very noticeable, showing as treacle, and dark fruits. Along with these notes we also got some sugar cane, ouzo, aniseed, and chocolate cake. The palate also clearly displays the Caroni character. There’s more treacle, chocolate, and a raspberry sweetness present on the palate. One critique there's a bit more ginger spice here than we would have liked. The mouthfeel is good, and the finish is medium-length with lots of sweetness lingering. Good, but previous releases were better.

Score: 7/10

Value: Bit of a jump up from the £275 these used to be.


RW7.1 - Journeyman Farm Distillery

Name: Rye do fools fall in love?
Flavour Profile: SCS - other spirit
Region: Michigan
Cask Type: New oak charred barrel
ABV: 57.6%
Age: 5

Price: £90.00

This rye leans towards the sweeter side, dialing back the aggressive menthol we often get to a subtler mint leaf note, yet it’s still unmistakable rye whisky. A hint of sourness mingles with red cola on the nose, while the palate, offers a little too much honeyed sweetness, along with tobacco and dark chocolate. The alcohol is well-integrated, but the whisky is rather one dimensional, with an excessive sweetness we’re not the biggest fans of.

Score: 5.5/10

Value: We'd have liked to have see this a few pounds cheaper.


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