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Murray McDavid 2023 UK Exclusives - complete review

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Full review of all five releases

As covered in a previous Murray McDavid review, I skimmed over the history of the company and gave some background context before diving into the review. The company appeared in 1994 and has become extremely well-known across the globe as an independent bottler (IB). They profess to have a bit of a hankering for maturing whisky in casks that are "interesting", with an emphasis on wine casks.

Historically, they're actually responsible for reopening a certain Islay distillery at the beginning of the 21st Century that you may have heard of - Bruichladdich. Both the Bruichladdich distillery and Murray McDavid were then bought up by Remy Cointreau in 2012. Today, Murray McDavid is owned by Aceo Limited. All these changes of hand get confusing.

This review covers the latest set of exclusive bottles for the UK that hit the shelves in mid-March and knowing what the Head of Whisky Creation does (Dean Jode), I'm not surprised that all of the bottles in this release sport some kind of a wine influence - be it sherry, port, Tokaji or winey-wine (that's my technical term) And there's also a bit of a curve-ball with an ex-Pineau des Charentes cask (Pineau des Charentes is a fortified wine, more known as an aperitif)

The 5 bottles range in age from 8 years to 21 years old. They also include peated and non-peated.

The distilleries include:

  • Caol Ila

  • Glen Spey

  • Ledaig

  • Linkwood

  • Teaninich

Caol Ila - 2014 - 56.4%

Tokaji Wine Cask Finish - 8yrs

Appearance: Light-medium golden amber. Fast & thick oily legs.

Nose: Restrained peat with notes of caramelised sugar that's verging on burning in the saucepan. Fresh & crisp garden fruit like green apples, gooseberries, and some ripe stone fruit.

Palate: Maple-glazed BBQ pork with an oily and creamy sweetness. A beautiful level of peat that lets the flavours appear without being dominating. For an 8-year-old, this feels a lot older. The Tokaji cask that this whisky was finished in has worked so well and has imparted a rich but balanced sweetness that compliments Caol Ila's own trademark sweetness.

Finish: Long and warm with sweet BBQ'd spare ribs and lingering wisps of that beautiful Caol Ila smoke.

Water adds... A little more fruit on the nose, with a creamier sweetness on the palate.

Conclusion: Yet another example of Caol Ila working brilliantly in a cask that is renowned for being a bit tricky to work with and isn't the norm.

Glen Spey- 2007 - 50.1%

Pedro Ximenez Sherry Cask Finish - 14yrs

Appearance: Medium amber/butterscotch. Long, waxen legs.

Nose: Raisins straight off the bat. There's a waft of a full fruit bowl, with some additional notes of chocolate and caramel (like a Mars Bar). White grape juice, very faint pear drops (acetone), sweet sherry, a freshly open bag of mixed nuts & raisins, and more toffee. It's finished off with a milky coffee and some caramel sauce.

Palate: Really mouth coating with notes of sweet liquorice from a bag of All Sorts, a cup of warm cocoa, creamy coconut, and sweet-coated nuts. There's a really faint wisp of mint right on the finish.

Finish: Long & oily with heaps of toffee, warming liquorice, nuts & sherry

Water adds... More fruitiness & toffee on the nose. Increase of nuts, drying woodiness on the palate, with a drier finish.

Conclusion: Lovely & thick with a nicely balanced sweetness.

Ledaig- 2001 - 57.4%

Margaux Wine Cask Finish - 21yrs

Appearance: Medium amber with hints of Rosé. Oily beads circle the top of the glass before falling down the sides in slow motion.

Nose: Soft, sweet peat and some burning embers from a dying bonfire. There's also a slight funkiness going on - verging on a whiff of farmyard (me likey) Old fashioned cloudy apple juice or even scrumpy cider.

Palate: Beautiful & balanced sweetness with less peat & smoke on the palate than the nose would suggest. The alcohol tingles the tip of the tongue, but stays there and behaves itself. The sweetness from the Margaux Wine Cask Finish is pretty bang-on and is so enjoyable.

Finish: Long with an oily mouth-coating and well-balanced sweetness. Satisfying whisps of smoke return.

Water adds... More fruity smoke on the nose. Sweet oakiness on the palate.

Conclusion: I love this one. I can really get my nose and palate in for ages to discover even more flavours.

Linkwood - 2012 - 50.0%

Port, Oloroso, Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish - 9yrs

Appearance: Golden amber with flecks of gold. Long & lively oily legs.

Nose: There's an immediate sweet dustiness that appears, which then gives way to sherry sweetness, brown sugar, and a note of soft sweet liquorice. I also pick up a timid oakiness. That dustiness comes back and it's quite similar to the sweet & dusty aroma I get from a bottle of 10-year Tawny Port I have in the fridge. There's a final note of gentle minerality.

Palate: Lovely savoury-sweetness with a gentle chilli-tingle on the tongue. It's quite complex with layers of different kinds of sweetness appearing - from oily & rich to vibrant & playful, to tart berries. There's also a really nice funky dunnage note - which I love.

Finish: Long with lingering waves of fruit, moist brown sugar, and nuts.

Water adds... More vibrancy from the berry note on the nose, and a bigger emphasis on toffee in the taste. The peppery crackle is turned up a notch.

Conclusion: A lovely coming together of the Port, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. This is a little cracker of a merge and marriage. Exciting and bursting with flavour.

Teaninich - 2012 - 53.2%

Pineau des Charentes - 9yrs

Appearance: Light to medium amber with bright golden flashes. Long & speedy oily legs.

Nose: Gentle sweetness with some cereal notes. The alcohol fumes are soft with notes of baked apple, honey-roasted nuts, and stewed fruit with a particular emphasis on pear. The cereal notes are not a million miles away from an open box of Weetabix.

Palate: Vibrant, with a nuttiness that is both sweet and slightly sour. The base-distillate shines through with really lovely warming notes of fruity new make. Some spiciness appears with notes of cinnamon and oak.

Finish: Warming sweet cereal & caramel notes coat the mouth and stay for a long time.

Water adds... More cereal on the nose, and a creamier vibrancy on the palate.

Conclusion: Lovely, clean & sweet. The youth of this whisky does show, but it allows the personality of the distillery spirit to shine through. I'd love to know what this would be like after another year in the cask.

Overall conclusion...

I wasn't entirely sure what would be chosen for this year's release, let alone that there would be no less than 5 bottles. And then add to the fact that they are not expensive (they start from £67) - so the range and the value are quite excellent. I also like that the distilleries chosen are quite varied, and they all have different types of wine cask influences - so aren't all the same.

Personally, my favourites were the Ledaig and the Glen Spey. Both stunning!

Available from specialist retailers. See my retailer list here



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