If you are reading this, then give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Even better – give yourself a round of applause! Hug your loved ones. Kiss your dog or cat if you are an animal lover. Somehow, you managed to survive the absolute horror show that was 2020. That does call for some rejoicing. How best to celebrate what will hopefully be a happier (or at least more stable) spin around the sun for us all? By tasting through the first Scotch Malt Whisky Society Canada Chapter’s first Outturn of the year, of course! I have seven dram samples in front of me, so I had better get cracking!
A4.1 – The SMWS Canada has chosen to ring in the new year by starting with a dram from their spirits range. Dubbed ELEGANT AND INVITING, this is an Armagnac. I have been a fan of what I have seen for Armagnac from the SMWS so far – any chance you get to try a brandy at cask strength has to be a good thing, right? On the nose, I find this has plenty of wood notes and cherry sauce, along with dashes of cinnamon, orange peel, fruit leather and Christmas cake. The palate is remarkably big and chewy upon first sip – especially for a first dram – before it settles into syrupy sweet notes of dutch liquorice, boozy fruit cake, roasted hazelnuts and walnuts, Grand Marnier and cloves. This is a decadent dram for a number one!
85.64 is next on the docket. This is a specially chosen bottle that the SMWS Canada has to donate the proceeds from. The cause they will championing for newly launched Giving Spirit campaign will change with a new bottle launch each quarter. The proceeds from BAKED BANANAS AND BURNT BACON will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. I am guessing many of you have already purchased a bottle given the good gesture and cause this supports, but I should give my notes on it anyway, right? The nose offers up toast with marmalade, wine gums, crisp malt, rich vanilla and a nice soft floral note underneath. The palate shows white pepper, chamomile tea with honey, lemon bonbons, plus a waxy and slightly drying finish. This is a tasty dram from Glen Elgin that leaves one feeling warm inside from both the whisky and the supported cause.
93.138 – My heart is all aflutter just with the excitement of having a Glen Scotia in this Outturn. I have really enjoyed the 93s we have seen over the last year or two from the SMWS, so SUSPEND YOUR DISBELIEF has some lofty standards to live up to in my mind. For the nose: Cotton Candy. Seriously. McCormicks Marshmallow Strawberries, confectioner’s sugar, lemon-infused olive oil, dryer sheets, assorted jelly beans, cream soda, and so much more sweet delights. I think I developed a few cavities just nosing this one. Hopefully, my teeth don’t just give up and fall out now, but on the palate, I get watermelon jolly ranchers, a touch of dry oak, saltwater taffy, and more of all of those confections and candy that you loved as a kid but now your doctor and dentist warn you about. There is also just the slightest touch of floral peat. This bottle is absolutely insane!
Okay, now that I am back from brushing my teeth and flossing, it is time to give 68.38 a try. On the nose of this Blair Athol named BUTCHER SHOP QUARTET I notice some buttery and savoury notes such as chicken stock, buttered toast, a touch of dill, dim sum egg custard tarts, and steely, dry Riesling. On the palate, the sweet and savoury combination continues with low sodium bacon, honey glaze, burnt caramel, lychee, and honeydew melon. This is a wild ride, and a fun one at that.
Speaking of wild rides, next up is a Craigellachie at 68.5% ABV(!). Put on your crazy pants and get ready for 44.117 which is oddly named HAPPINESS IS A WARM BUNG. I would give you kudos for not letting your mind slip into juvenile mode when given a name like that to contend with, but I know you would be lying. I am not sure why the SMWS chose to put a double entendre in the name that could easily be taken as a single entendre if you don’t know that ‘bung’ is indeed a term for cask closure. I guess they are trying to educate us all! On the burning nose hairs, this massive Craigellachie shows chocolate-dipped bacon, maple syrup reduction, walnut liqueur, and molasses. To taste I get much more of the same. That is not a slight – this whisky is just so damn big and sherried that it is hard to pull apart in a quick fashion. There are plenty of dried fruit notes, but they do get a bit buried in the burly, meaty, spicy, syrupy palate. If you find sherry bombs such as Aberlour A’Bunadh and Glenfarclas 105 too light and watered down, then I think I found a dram for you!
Up next we enter in to peated territory with a Caol Ila titled BURIAL AT SEA. On the nose 53.317 shows notes of barbecue pork ribs (I didn’t want to say bacon for the third dram in a row), roasted red peppers, mezcal margaritas, hickory sticks, smoked applewood, burnt apple crumble, and flint striking steel. The palate is salty, creamy and oily with more savoury barbecue notes (must… not… say… bacon…), iodine, overripe lemons, and spicy pad thai.
For the final dram in the Outturn, we have a young, peated Bunnahabhain. 10.190 – MAKE MOINE A DEVIL is sadly sold out as it was a lottery bottle, but let’s give it a try for completeness’ sake anyhow! I usually prefer my young, peated Bunnas to be from ex-bourbon, but this ex-sherry number shows a nose full of grape must, crumbling peat, pepperoni and peppercorns, Worcestershire Sauce, Soy sauce, black olives, and more (Can I say bacon again yet or is it still too soon?). The palate is more sweet and floral than the nose would lead you to believe with thrills gum, dates, dried blueberries, HP Sauce, and chocolate-coated espresso beans. Fun stuff!
Tasting this lineup made for a better way to celebrate a new year than nearly anything else I could imagine excluding inoculation. Hopefully, February, March and onward will be just as pleasant. For that I mean life itself – I know the SMWS drams will be!
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