Thursday, October 31, 2019

Scotch Malt Whisky Society Special

The line-up.
For October's tasting we were fortunate enough to try a range of whiskies all bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and squirreled away over the years for just such an occasion. And there was another large group of club members and guests gathered upstairs at the Britons Protection for Becky to guide us through them.

Sweet, Sassy and Playful
The SMWS is one of the best known names in the whisky world, bottling a wide range of different whiskies each year, mainly in their familiar green bottles. Each goes to a (somewhat mysterious) tasting panel, which supplies the tasting notes and the famously wacky names for every bottling.

We started off with something called Sweet, Sassy and Playful, that originated at Loch Lomond, where the Inchmurrin whiskies come from. As with all of the evening's whiskies, it was cask strength, although it didn't taste much like the 56.5% on the label. That's far from a criticism, though. This 10yo ex-Madeira cask dram was a very easy drinker for the strength, biscuity and malty.

Village of the Dramned
A bit of water brought out a fruitiness as well, along with notes of plum jam, raisins, and a certain butteriness reminiscent of Murray mints (ask your parents). A very nice way to start the evening.

Next was a whisky called Village of the Drammed, appropriately enough for Halloween, and we were already taking it up a notch to 59.9%. Also apt for the time of year, this got us thinking of toffee apples, along with, rather more harshly, a bit of nail varnish remover.

This 11yo from Balblair, matured in an Oloroso sherry cask, was perhaps a bit too spirity we thought. It was certainly dry and peppery, although there was a certain marshmallow-like sweetness to it too. We weren't as keen on it as we were on the opener, generally speaking.

Dark, Menacing and Mysterious
For whisky number three we moved to one of the best value distilleries around, Glen Moray, and a bottling called Dark, Menacing and Mysterious. This had a particularly dark colour, having been matured in a cask that once held Moscatel, a sweet wine, and clocked in at 61.4%.

And very pleasant it was too. There were a whole range of tasting notes from the floor, from strawberries and dried fruit, to honey, spices and dark chocolate. An addition of water really changed things too, turning the whisky into something lovely and creamy, almost like brie. One comparison made between what it was like with and without water, was between milk and dark chocolate, and several members thought that summed it up pretty well.

Sea Salt & Smoked Peppered Almonds
After a mid-tasting break and an opportunity to recharge our beer glasses, it was on to dram four, Sea Salt and Smoked Peppered Almonds. An Islay, from Bunnahabhain as it turned out, this was a 9yo bottled back in 2017, again at a good old strength of 58.4%.

Peaty as you'd expect from an Islay, this was also smoky and salty. A lot of the club members are big Islay fans and enjoyed playing guess the distillery (to little success it must be said). With water, this developed a taste more reminiscent of something like tar or asphalt. Again, a very enjoyable drop all round.

Exotic Cargo
We switched gear slightly for the last two bottles, going from single malts to blends. Indeed, whisky number five, Exotic Cargo, was the very first blended whisky produced by SMWS. We had tried a later version at a previous tasting, but this was a bottle from the first batch.

The idea of a 'blend of blends', which is what this is, put some people in mind of the slop tray on top of the bar, but once we got past that idea, plenty of drinkers enjoyed this very much. One criticism was that it was perhaps a little less focused than some of the other bottles we had tried, but others pronounced it "beautiful". There was a bit of toffee around here, although it did disappear a bit.

Peat Faerie
The last bottle was Peat Faerie. This had a bit of peat, a bit of smoke, and even smelt a bit like strawberry. Even some of the non-peat fans in the room said they enjoyed this one, while others thought it tasted a bit like one of those heather ales beloved of Scottish breweries.

A good drink again, but perhaps not in the front rank of the ones we tried during the evening,.

There was just time for the all-important voting, and three of the whiskies got significant support: dram 1 came third, but it was dram three - the Glen Moray called Dark, Menacing and Mysterious - that just pipped dram four by a single vote. Another triumph for a distillery that remains underrated.

Thanks to Becky for another great tasting, for members and guests old and new for attending, and for all at the Britons for hosting us once again.

The six bottles, all from SMWS.

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