As I write this, it has only been 22 days since I started writing my blog post for the SMWS March 2020 Outturn. That feels like way more than a year ago. I think we all probably feel like we have aged more than a year over the past three or so weeks. Who knew that the planet could turn so completely upside down in such a short period of time – at least not without some form of war or a nuclear holocaust or both? Given neither of those things has happened as well (knock on wood), I guess should count ourselves relatively lucky?
What has transpired has definitely been a game-changer for all of us, if not in a permanent manner then at least for the short to medium term. We are all stuck in this fog and none of us know exactly when it will lift yet. For me, and for KWM it hurts. We as a store rely on tastings, in general, to showcase and sell the bottles that we bring in, and the seven new bottles brought in for the SMWS Canada Outturn each month the prime example of this. Not being able to host the SMWS tastings at the beginning of April means it is more difficult for people to taste them and in turn harder to entice members to purchase said bottles.
Selfishly, it also means that I don’t get to hold an audience captive in our tiny tasting room as we work our way through the lineup. That hurts me a lot personally. I enjoy the comradery of the groups that attend and the discussions that ensue as we work our way through each dram blind. I have always considered myself to be an introvert, so the amount that I will miss doing these tastings surprises me somewhat. I didn’t really understand how much I craved that kind of social attention.
Hopefully, we will get back to normal in the future, or some version of normal in which we can all get together and listen to me blather on about the nonsense I nose and taste in the glass. Doing this without an audience at home just isn’t as much fun. Sharing the whisky and my own version of nonsense with some like minds is what makes it so much fun. So, let’s raise a glass to a future in which we can do that safely again!
If you are not interested in my own thoughts on each of the seven new bottles, you may instead want to check out this Youtube video from the Victorian chaps at the Dram Association. This crew wears many hats (and many ties it seems) and are gifted in ways I could only hope to be. Check out their reveal of the SMWS Canada April 2020 lineup here.
But enough about them, let’s get back to me. Here are my thoughts on the April 2020 SMWS Canada Outturn.
Like last month, April gives us a very affordable Outturn. There is only one bottle north of two hundred bucks this month and three (!) that are less than $140. Below are some more details:
- 72.67 – Miltonduff typically has some nice fruit notes, and this one is no exception. Wood notes to be found right up front on the nose – but have no fear – the fruit comes through as well. If there is such a thing as pink grapefruit jujubes (if there aren’t, there should be), this is what it would nose and taste like. Candied citrus and fruit along with floral notes and beer nuts. A delicious starter for the Outturn.
- 113.22 – This Braeval is more dough and yeast driven on the nose than number one, with floral notes, cake fondant and white chocolate coming through on the nose, along with the toasty, yeasty note of Champagne. It makes for a very intriguing combination. Both the Champagne and floral notes come through on the palate as well, along with a waxy, creamy, decedent spiciness. Can spice be decadent? In this case, I believe it can. This distillery doesn’t usually wow me, but I like this one quite a bit.
- 112.46 – Loch Lomond – Inchmurrin style-wise. Fruit cup syrup and cotton candy on the nose, along with delicate oak and a touch of felt marker. I am going to say orange highlighter this time around, but there might be some green highlighter in there too. And a dash of Elmer’s Glue? I love myself a wacky Loch Lomond! On the palate: Spicy and juicy, with some wood, cinnamon and blackberry compote notes coming through along with orange slice candies. This is one of those bottles that you need to settle down with to really decipher. You could almost swear somebody put a drop of tequila or mezcal in with the whisky just to mess with you…
- 89.10 – Tomintoul – and the first Tomintoul from the SMWS Canada if I am not mistaken! This has a wonderfully grain-forward nose with some nicely integrated sherry. It is kind of like an Ardmore without any peat upfront: All oatmeal and raisins and fruit-laden yogurt for breakfast. There is a bit of funk in the mix too, again reminding me of Ardmore without any peat somehow. The palate is similar but also exhibits some leathery notes without going too dry. There is a touch of the more typical peanut-laden notes of official Tomintoul as well.
- R9.4 – Ooooh, a rum! I typically enjoy the single cask rums that come to us through the SMWS. The nose on this one, coming to us from Panama, has a nice hit of cedar plank along with black licorice, molasses and gingerbread. It is rich and mouth coating but also contains some wonderful spice notes on the palate, with ginger, apples and cinnamon, bananas and Nutella coming through in a big way. It finishes like an Eatmore bar with a side of Sasparilla. I love how the spice notes keep the decadence in check on this one.
- 53.284 – The name gets it right on Smoky, malty minerality. This is a very malt-driven Caol Ila with plenty of earthy smoke in the mix as well. Surprisingly, I don’t get as much of the typical young Caol Ila salty lime margarita note on this one, until it starts coming through on the palate. Even then the sweet barley notes keep the salt and citrus in check until they come to the fore on the finish. I don’t find this quite as complex as January’s VIGOROUS, CONCENTRATED INTENSITY, but it is still a lovely peaty dram.
- 10.179 – This is one curious Bunnahabhain. I don’t usually get into the colour of a whisky but this guy looks like you mixed equal parts tawny port and rose wine together in the glass. It did spend a year plus being finished in a first fill red wine barrique, so that explains that. How about the nose and palate? The wine notes don’t jump out to me on the nose as much as I thought they would. The earthy smoke and soot do. More of the wine shows itself on the palate, with red fruits in the mix. I get cherries and dark chocolate, brownies with walnuts, and a wonderful intermingling of smoky, sweet, and bitter notes on the finish. I have become less and less of a fan of red wine cask finishes over the past few years, but somehow this Bunnahabhain just works. Not only that, but it shows very differently than the other recent SMWS Bunnas we have seen, peated or otherwise.
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72.67 – DAFFODILS CAPTURED IN HONEY
This 9 year old Speysider was matured in a 1st fill barrel and comes in at 56.3%.
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow.
Outturn: 226 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A gentle nose, slowly opening from grassy meadows and hay fields to vanilla ice-cream, pears or apple strudel in custard and marshmallow tea-cakes; also wicker baskets and pencil boxes. The smooth, silky palate combines mellow fruitiness (orange, tutti-frutti, strawberries) with sweet things (glazed donuts, candy floss, chocolate-coated raisins) and flickering twinkles of liquorice, pepper and wood on the finish.
The reduced nose – elegant and easy-going – a polished wooden counter in an ice-cream parlour; honey with a memory of sun on daffodils. The palate now much more balanced and integrated – still syrupy, but with hints of citrus and warming spice to complicate it.” $133.99
113.22 – CREAM OF THE CROP
This 8 year old Speysider was matured in a 1st fill barrel and is 64%.
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla.
Outturn: 247 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A perfumed bouquet coupled flower gardens rich in roses with creamy vanilla and toffee as ripe apples fell from orchard trees. A foamy lava of shampoo blew in the breeze like pink candyfloss whilst the palate brought a tingle of fresh chillies and citrus. Heavy oak created fantastically chewy textures as caramel biscuits enhanced the malty notes of crunchy kiln dried barley.
A few drops of water encouraged sandalwood and dried pine cones to tumble alongside freshly harvested grains before fruity notes combined lemon and mango with lavender soap. The palate had become creamier, abundant with vanilla and custard cream biscuits on a bed of oak shavings. Boiled brown rice then accompanied oat cakes as the finish continued into herbal realms.” $130.99
112.46 – A WAFER A WHILE
This 14 year old Highlander spent 12 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being transferred to a 1st fill French oak hogshead for the remainder of its maturation, and comes in at 56.7%.
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow.
Outturn: 368 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “As the sun warmed our skin we drifted away to the smell of 1980′s suntan lotion and salty sea air. Oil and buttery notes combined with creamy strawberry yogurt, that chilled down to multiple scoops of vanilla ice cream precariously perched on a crunchy caramel wafer. Confected fruit passed by as bubble gum merged with sticky fruit pastries, and joined the malty sweetness of breakfast cereal.
Milk chocolate and praline delivered us to a palate of deliberate funk as fermenting fruit wandered helplessly towards scrumptious cider. The fruit matured into cool white wine loaded with ripe banana and mango flavours, just as we awoke to find an empty wafer cone and melted ice cream on the sand. Twelve years matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead before transfer to a French oak hogshead.” $154.99
89.10 – GLOVE BOX SONATA IN B MINOR
This 7 year old Speysider comes in at 64.1% after maturing in a refill butt.
Flavour profile: Young & spritely.
Outturn: 556 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “An elegant and supple aroma of white port, stone fruits, pear skins, orange travel sweets, candy floss and a warm barley steep. There’s also grape must, lychee, horse box, white chocolate dipped marzipan, almond puree and sultanas soaked in mead. With dilution the aroma opens onto cough syrup, hand lotion, sun cream, olive oil cake, malt bins, lemon peel, sunflower seeds, brown bread and warm grist.
The palate begins with tinned peaches, ripe pears, green apple, sweet wort, aged grappa, cider brandy, raisins stewed in young Calvados, chopped chives and clover. Water reveals cocoa nibs, shea butter, putty, sweet wines, waxed canvas, cooking oils, flints, tart gooseberry and graphite oil.” $123.99
R9.4 – CHOCOLATE CHILLI COMBO
This 13 year old rum from Panama was aged in a refill barrel and is 62.1%.
Outturn: 250 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Comforting warm, sweet and spicy aromas wafting through the room of German lebkuchen (honey and spiced biscuits) marzipan stollen (fruit bread containing dried fruits and raisins covered in icing sugar), gingerbread cookie and banana chocolate chip loaf.
On the palate neat a sweet, bitter, and spicy flavour explosion like that of a chewy dark chocolate brownie combined with the tartness of sour cherries and the addition of a chipotle chilli pepper. With a drop of water we actually did smoke and dry the ripe red jalapeno peppers to make chipotle but that was in a walk-in humidor where we all lit a hand-rolled cigar.” $176.99
53.284 – SMOKY, MALTY MINERALITY
Bottled for the 2019 Islay Festival, this 10 year old was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 59.8%.
Flavour profile: Lightly peated.
Outturn: 282 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Imagine a flattering sweet peat smoke which was immediately apparent then add some oysters and scallops cooked on an open fire as well as winter waves sending their iodine rich scent into the salty, misty air and you should get the picture.
On the palate neat salty almonds, tangy lemon and lime zest floated in a tide of a ‘smoky, malty minerality’. With water a little more phenolic at first (petrol and diesel fumes), but soon turning sweeter with roasted marshmallows, and to taste a lightly smoked tuna salad with sweet relish, sweet corn niblets, mayonnaise and honey mustard.” $207.99
10.179 – FLAMINGOS SMOKING PIPE TOBACCO
This 12 year old from Islay comes in at 60.2%; it spent 10 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being transferred to a 1st fill red wine barrique for the remainder of its maturation.
Flavour profile: Heavily peated.
Outturn: 243 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A beautifully pink hue introduced aromas of salty sea air and sea shells as the sweet reek from burning peat wafted over barley. Fresh seaweed provided a mineralic edge that merged with sour cherries and morphed into cranberries on the palate, with a glass of port. Big and chewy chunks of charcoal rolled with tar and chimney soot before vanilla ice cream introduced wonderful textures.
Water on the smouldering ash unleashed more bellowing clouds of smoke but this time from sweetly scented pipe tobacco. Burning gorse and kelp combined with smoked ham as more medicinal notes of antiseptic cream and cough sweets united. Finally plum and gooseberry tarts brought a sweetness to the finish alongside liquorice and heat rub. After spending 10 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead this was transferred to a 1st fill red wine barrique for the remainder of its maturation.” $167.99
All of this information, plus the information on previous releases that are still available can be found on our website here. If any SMWS bottles show as being out of stock on our website please contact us – we might still be able to get more.