After the runaway success of our first Edinburgh Whisky Festival in conjunction with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s 30th anniversary, we thought it fitting to take some of their bottlings on tour around the UK to help spread the word on what is simply one of the best Indie bottlers going.
So we set out to all our usual haunts London, Brighton, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, York and Sheffield. The series saw a fantastic uptake from you all with Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield all selling out. This in my mind shows just how keen people were to try these elusive single cask beauties.
Before we look at the results, its worth quickly explaining the SMWS, so if nothing else this review makes some sense to people other than those in the know.
The SMWS have been bottling single-cask whiskies exclusively for their members for three decades, and have a collection of slinky venues for members to kick-back in all over the world. Unlike other independent bottlers the SMWS never disclose the distillery of origin on their labels. Instead you get a quirky title which gives a suggestive nod to the whisky’s style and a mysterious code which (with a little research) reveals the whisky’s origin and release within the SMWS archive.
The beauty of single cask bottlings like these is that they are selected and bottled under their own merits and offer a one-off snap shot of the distillery in question. They will often display characteristics which are unique to that individual cask – characteristics which can be lost when casks are vatted together to iron out differences and create consistency in regular distillery bottlings.
Make sense? No? Well you should have booked onto one of these tastings! Never mind, the opportunity to taste single cask whiskies with us will no doubt come up again.
Now being single cask is both a strength and a weakness depending on how you look at it. The merits of bottling an individual cask which shines with unique and delicious character is a given, but what if you want to drink that dram for weeks, months, years to come? Well then quite simply, you’re scuppered, unless of course you had the foresight (and cash) to buy a case or two of the whisky in question. Indeed the whiskies that were featured on this flight of tastings might have already been lost to the pages of whisky history never to be repeated. So like I say strengths and weaknesses….
Here was the line-up
4.167 Perfumed and Sultry, 21yo, 53.7%
35.87 Exuberant, Confident, Energetic, Vivacious, 9yo, 60.1%
G7.3 Fresh Toffee and Glossy Magazines, 27yo, 59.4%
73.52 Speakeasy Perkiness, 23yo, 57.5%
3.193 Baby-Faced Arsonist, 14yo, 57.7%
53.176 Pain is So Close to Pleasure, 20yo, 56.6%
Just look at that lot, you know you’re in for a good a tasting when you kick off with a 21yo Highland Park. Apologies if you’re looking at this and thinking “what the hell does that all mean?” that’s ok, there was a day when I would have thought the same too. If you quickly search any of the codes and their titles on line you’ll soon find out which distilleries they’re from.
So with such an unusual and incredibly strong line-up like this is not surprising that everyone fortunate to taste this lot were blown away. I’ve worked with some strong line-ups over the years but this is probably one of the strongest and a real roller-coaster ride with sherried twists and peaty turns. Here’s some of the high lights from twitter, you can see what various people thought by searching the hashtag #scstunners
It’s often the case that single cask whiskies can display characteristics a far cry from their regular off the shelf counterparts and this lot was no exception. Whisky #2 was for me absolutely mind blowing, after having tried several releases from this distillery, including some rather old and expensive releases. This particular cask left all of these other examples in its dust. It also came in as the second favourite of the tour. Proof beyond any doubt yet again that you can never condemn a distillery as you never know when a little gem like this might appear to surprise and delight you.
I think it’s fairly safe to say that if you like whisky and are always on the hunt for interesting things to try you can do a lot worse than getting on board and becoming a member with the SMWS.
Check out http://www.smws.co.uk/ for more info on this cracking organisation!
See you next time!