Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada January 2021 Outturn

by Evan

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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Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool

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Merry Christmas! KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 25: SMWS

by Evan

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

We made it, guys! It was hard work, but somehow we have gone through 24 drams in 24 days, and now we get to celebrate by tasting a 25th! Crack open the longer and larger door on top of your 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar and pull out that special, extra-large 100ml bottle: Today we have a gift from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada: this is SMWS

My reasons for writing these posts for each day are numerous, and they are all selfish. Here are the main ones:

  • I enjoy writing, and I especially enjoy foisting my own silly ideas and opinions on others. It makes me feel important.
  • I especially enjoy the feedback I get from those that read what I say. I am a fragile snowflake and thrive on the accolades and opinions shared with me. It makes me feel loved.
  • If Andrew was doing these posts, I would end up editing them and likely having to write quite a few of them anyhow given the constraints on his time. Why not cut out the middle man?

Sure, those reasons are part tongue in cheek, but there is a ring of truth to all three. Here is the main reason. It is still selfish though, so don’t go thinking that part wasn’t one hundred percent truth:

  • I get to discover and learn about these whiskies along with everybody else.

Yeah, I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to the subject of whisky. I should be – it is a big part of my job. But I definitely don’t know everything. I am a whisky enthusiast first and foremost, and I am always looking to learn more.

These blog posts allow me to do a bit of research and learning myself. Like you, I might retain a fact or two after I write these posts, and hopefully, that will give me more anecdotes and ideas to use when helping you or somebody else select their next bottle. Hell, it even helps me pick my next bottle, all while getting to taste another whisky and read a little bit more about the distillery behind it.

I am thankful for all of this, and I am especially thankful that anybody would put up with my words as we tasted our way through the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. Thank you very much for joining me in this 25-dram undertaking!

Before I get even sappier, let’s launch into talking about today’s special whisky. Open the door at the top of your 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar and reveal The Scotch Malt Whisky Society 72.92 – A WONDERFUL WELCOME!

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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 24 – Loch Lomond 12 Year Old

by Evan

The End Is Nigh! – on the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. When we pull out this bottle we will have opened all twenty-four panels on the front of the Whisky Calendar box, and we will only have the special bottle up top to open tomorrow. What do we have to look forward to today, so close to the holiest of days when we crack into that secret and special SMWS bottle? For Day twenty-four we have the Loch Lomond 12 Year Old!

The Loch Lomond 12 Year comes to us from Loch Lomond Distillery. Founded in 1965, Loch Lomond is a bizarre operation that is capable of making multiple different styles of spirit all under one roof.  The distillery is capable of producing Single Malt, Single Grain, and Blended Whisky entirely at one site. It can and does do this, and it also makes Single Malt in and a wide variety of styles, including both peated and unpeated types.

There are a total of thirteen stills within the Loch Lomond Distillery, however, they are definitely not all the same. Included in this number are your typical swan-neck style pot stills: the type you see at most Scottish distilleries that make single malt whisky. Beyond that though, things get weird. There are also three pairs of straight-neck pot stills, which are sometimes called Lomond stills. One of these pairs has a water cooling system installed on the top of the still that the heated vapour hits before going through the narrowing neck/pipe for collection. This results in much more reflux and leads to a lighter, softer, fruitier spirit being produced.

Last but not least, there is a six-story Coffey/column still that is actually split in two to accommodate the three-story building it resides in. This still is used to distill malted barley, but due to SWA regulations it is still classified as Single Grain spirit. The whisky made with this still is used in their blends, but you can occasional find it bottled as Rhosdhu by indie bottlers.
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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 23: Ardmore Legacy

by Evan

Day 23 brings us something a little bit different: this is a peated malt from the Highlands. Today’s mini bottle is the Ardmore Legacy.

Ardmore distillery was founded in 1898 and was purpose built to provide whisky for Blending, as pretty much all distilleries were at the time. However with Ardmore that hasn’t changed much – even today just about all of Ardmore’s still being used for blending, trading stock, or selling.

Only a small portion of Ardmore Single Malt Scotch lands in official bottles released by Ardmore and its parent company Beam Suntory, and the only official bottle that makes its way to Alberta the Legacy that we will be trying. Ardmore does also release three other bottlings, but one of them is duty-free only and the remaining two have yet to make their way to Canada.

Beam Suntory seems to treat Ardmore as the red-headed stepchild in its Scotch Whisky portfolio. When it comes to profile and releases, Bowmore and Laphroaig get plenty of attention, being the Islay darlings that they are. Auchentoshan in the Lowlands gets similar treatment. Even Glen Garioch gets more releases, and that is saying something!

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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 22: That Boutique-y Whisky Co. Bunnahabhain 10 Year Old

By Evan

Day Twenty-Two in our 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar brings us another bottling from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. This is the fourth we have seen thus far – and the second we have Single Malt we have gotten from them. We are heading back to Islay today for That Boutique-y Whisky Company Bunnahabhain 10 Year Old!

2017 was the last time we had any Bunnahabhain in our KWM Whisky Calendar, which is a bit of a travesty by my estimation. Bunna is my personal favourite distillery on Islay – I love it for both unpeated and peated Single Malt distilled there.

Bunnahabhain Distillery is the northernmost distillery on Islay – it lays off the beaten path and is somewhat remote even when compared to the rest of the island. The distillery was actually only reachable by boat until the 1960s, when a road was finally built to it. Bunnahabhain is one of a trio of Scottish Single Malt Distilleries owned by Burn Stewart (Distell Group).

Burn Stewart and its parent company also own Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull which we discussed on both on Day Four and Day Seventeen. and Deanston Distillery which resides on the Scottish mainland in Perthshire. Like its siblings, most of the flagship single malts Bunnahabhain range are bottled unchill-filtered and with no added colouring at the the curious but commendable strength of 46.3% ABV.

This Islay distillery was founded in 1881 and started its life making the heavily peated whisky that the region is famous for. For most of its history its whisky was exclusively used in blends such as Black Bottle, and even today only a fraction of its production is bottled as a single malt. In 1963 production was increased and at the same time the distillery’s style was changed to the lighter, unpeated single malt whisky it is known for today. Since 1997 there have been small amounts of heavily peated (35 PPM malt spec) single malt made each year but it is not what the distillery is known for.

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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 21: That Boutique-y Whisky Co. Strathclyde 31 Year Old

by Evan

We are going all Boutique-y once more: behind Door Twenty-one lives the oldest whisky in the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar by a whole four years! This is the Strathclyde 31 Year Old Single Grain Scotch from That Boutique-y Whisky Company.

This Strathclyde whisky marks the second Single Grain Scotch Whisky in this year’s KWM Whisky Calendar, and possibly only second in this style we have ever put in during the six years of making our own Whisky Calendar. The first Single Grain was from a closed distillery we tasted back on Day Three. So, what is the deal with Strathclyde?

Seriously, I am asking.

I honestly don’t know much about Strathclyde Distillery off the top of my dome. I have only tasted a handful of bottlings from this distillery that I can recall – most of them have been from indie bottler Cadenhead. Give me some time and I will get back to you with a bit more information, okay?

— Hours Later —

Phew! Okay, so here’s the deal: Strathclyde is a Distillery located in Glasgow, on the South side of the River Clyde which bisects Scotland’s largest city. Like many Grain Distilleries that have come and gone or still exist, the Glasgow location means that it resides in the Lowlands region-wise. Strathclyde was one of two Single Grain Whisky-producing distilleries in Glasgow until Port Dundas Distillery was closed in 2009. With the recent boom times that Scotch Whisky has enjoyed, there have been a few other distilleries popping up in the city along the River Clyde but all of them are dwarfed production-wise by this veritable Grain Whisky factory. Continue reading

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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 20: Balblair 18 Year Old

by Evan

Day Twenty is here, and we are getting to the tail end of the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. Today, we will be revisiting Balblair Distillery. This time we will be trying one of the Highland Distillery’s newer age-stated releases: The Balblair 18 Year Old.

As we discussed eleven drams back on Day Nine, Balblair has quite recently undergone a large shift in philosophy when it comes to the distillery’s own releases. What happens when a brand reinvents itself like this? There had to be a bit of worry that Balblair would lose all of it’s previous fans but also not create any new ones in the process, right? On top of that: would the distillery character and DNA survive the change from vintages to age statements as well?

The 1997 Vintage we tasted on back on Day Nine was matured solely in ex-Bourbon casks. The Balblair 18-Year-Old we will be tasting today has some sherry cask influence in the mix. This 18 Year Old purportedly spends the first fifteen and a half years in refill ex-Bourbon casks before a finishing period of more than three and a half years in first fill Spanish Oak that previously held Oloroso Sherry.

Math is definitely not my forte, but doesn’t that total add up to a potentially more than eighteen years in cask? I don’t have enough fingers and I am too lazy to take my socks off right now, but I think this means that there is potentially -even likely- nineteen-year-old whisky in this mini bottle… Continue reading

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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 19: Bowmore 12 Year Old

by Evan

Another classic distillery label is on the docket for today’s entry in our 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. We are heading back to Islay, because Door Number Nineteen gives to us the Bowmore 12 Year Old!

Bowmore Distillery is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and is the oldest on Islay that still exists, having been founded in 1779. It currently vies with Lagavulin to be the 2nd best selling Islay Single Malt brand. As I mentioned on Day 10, Laphroaig sells the most and has for quite a while.

The Distillery itself lies within the town which shares its name and is right against the shoreline of Loch Indaal. Even though the distillery is on the coast, it can still be considered closest to the centre of Islay. The town of Bowmore only predates the distillery by less than two decades, and it was the first planned settlement in Scotland.

The town’s gridlike layout and construction were initiated in 1768 by Daniel Campbell the Younger, who was the owner of the Islay and part of Jura. He resided in the famous Islay House and planned the town of Bowmore to resettle residents from the village of Kilarrow.  Kilarrow was situated close to Islay House, near what is now called Bridgend. It is said that Daniel the Younger felt that Kilarrow spoiled the view between Islay House and Loch Indaal. All that remains of the old village is a cemetery on Islay House property.

On the upside, Daniel the Younger did also build the now-famous Kilarrow Parish that is atop the hill in Bowmore. The church is famous for being entirely round, so that it gives to corner for the devil to hide in. Bowmore and the Kilarrow Parish lay a little over 4km south of Bridgend and where the previous village existed. Currently, the town of Bowmore is populated by around 800 residents.

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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 18: GlenAllachie 15 Year Old

by Evan

Day Eighteen is here for us and the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar, and it looks like we are taking a darker turn based on the look of the liquid in this bottle. It is beginning to look a lot like Sherry with the GlenAllachie 15-Year-Old!

GlenAllachie Single Malt Scotch and its Flintstone’s-esque choice of font are still fairly new entries into the tough competition for your Scotch Whisky dollars. GlenAllachie Distillery was founded in 1967 by the same group that managed to revive the Isle of Jura Distillery a few years earlier. It ran for two decades before being shut down in 1987. In 1989 was sold to Campbell Distillers, which was owned by the company we now call Pernod Ricard. The company increased the amount of stills and reopened the distillery, using the whisky produced by GlenAllachie specifically for blending purposes.

All of that has changed quickly since a group led by Billy Walker purchased the distillery from Pernod Ricard in 2017. Since then, the distillery has undergone a sea change in both in branding and ownership philosophy.

Billy Walker might be a name you have heard before, especially if you are fans of the BenRiach and/or GlenDronach Distillery. He previously lead a group responsible for reviving both distilleries: first BenRiach in 2004, then GlenDronach in 2008. Glenglassaugh Distillery was purchased by the same group in 2013, but sadly Billy Walker and the company behind him ended up selling the joint venture of three distilleries to Brown Foreman in 2016. The upside of that sale is it allowed Billy Walker and another group to purchase GlenAllachie and begin working his magic with this distillery.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend - standing next to Billy Walker

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KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 17: Tobermory 12 Year Old

by Evan

We are headed off of Jura and moving North for Day Seventeen of our 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. We visited this island once already on Day Four. If your memory serves, it will tell you we are heading back to the Isle of Mull, this time for the unpeated side of Tobermory Distillery with the Tobermory 12 Year Old.

I have not yet been to the Isle of Mull, but the town of Tobermory seems like it would picturesque town to visit. With a row of houses along the waterfront painted in bright colours, it looks like it could be located in parts of Italy or Greece if it wasn’t for the surrounding trees and foliage. The waterfront view has been used on many different UK television shows because of this.

The town Tobermory is located on the Northern part of Mull and was founded in 1788, a decade before Tobermory Distillery came to being. The town was intentionally built and engineered to be a fishing port by the British Fisheries Society. Today, the population sits around 1,000.

The Tobermory 12 Year Old that we will be tasting today was just introduced in the summer of 2019, at around the same time that the distillery reopened being closed for two years of heavy renovations. The 12 Year is the flagship of the Tobermory lineup – and it replaced a 10-year old that was the previous main bottle in the range. That range is small currently, with the 12-Year-Old and the Ledaig 10 being the main and only regular bottlings from the distillery that reach Alberta.

We have already tasted the heavily peated style from Tobermory. How does the unpeated version stand up? Time to find out!

Tobermory 12 Year Old – 46.3%

Also available in 50ml Mini bottles

Evan’s Tasting Note

Nose: Full of lemons, limes and grassy notes. Olive oil, apples, pears, lemongrass, green onions, mint leaves, sea salt a good amount of minerality.

Palate: Oily, salty, warm and toasty with notes of toasted almonds, cracked pepper, lemon tarts, apple strudel, shortbread cookies and a touch of ginger.

Finish: Clean and fresh with salty and citrus-driven with a soft nutty note on the fade.

Comment: Crisp, salty and fresh this dram is. A solid 12 year that balances fruit and minerality nicely.

Pretty tasty stuff in my opinion. Almost a palate cleanser in style, like lemon sherbet. I am more of a Ledaig fan, but I would never turn this Tobermory down! See you tomorrow for Day Eighteen!

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Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool

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