Here we are and it is already July. These “interesting times” we are living through just keep on rolling by, for better or worse. This pandemic has been difficult on us all. This is petty and self-serving, but one of things I miss the most is getting to run the monthly SMWS tastings here at Kensington Wine Market. Getting to chat with all of you SMWS members and make a fool out of myself by coming up with bizarre tasting notes was something I always looked forward to.
We will get back to that fun eventually, but for the time being I have to relegate my thoughts to digital screens only. I hope you will bear with me regardless!
As we did in the long ago, before Covid-19, the SMWS Canada drops to six new releases from the typical seven for the summer months of June, July, and August. So we have six new bottles to look at (though one is already sold out!). Let’s take a look at the lineup:
- 6.32 – The first time we have seen Macduff in a green bottle in Canada. Macduff does have official bottlings, but for those it is called The Deveron, or Glen Deveron in Duty free shops. Let’s give Knickerbockers at a wedding a go and see what gives. I find green apples, nectarines, honey, and a dash of salt on the nose along with soft vanilla and oak. There is also something cooling in there, like eucalyptus or menthol. The palate is oily and tangy with a pleasant saltiness again. Butterscotch, apricots, candied ginger, plus cookies and cream ice cream come through nicely as well. This is a very tangy and tasty start to the lineup.
- 113.24 – Young Braeval from a first-fill barrel and a fairly high ABV of 63.4%. Nose: wow, as the name suggests there are some pretty good floral notes on this one. I also get light, flakey pastries with icing sugar on top, steel-cut oats, lemon drizzle, and diced pineapple as well. For taste, it is big and juicy – mouth-wateringly so! Also mouth-tingling in a nice manner thanks to the high alcohol. Lemonade, saltine crackers, ginger heat, salt and vinegar potato chips, This is a tightly wound but very expressive whisky at the same time. Lots of other bottles at this young age would be weird and jagged and all over the place, but somehow this seven year old is laser-focused on the nose and the palate.
- 59.58 – Teaninich has become a distillery I watch for when it comes to indie bottlings. It tends to have a fun combination of gassiness, minerality and juiciness – at least from those that I have tasted recently. How will This ain’t no pussycat fare? Let’s see. The SMWS tasting notes mention waxiness right off the hop, I and get that. Not sure if it is from the power of suggestion or not at this point, but regardless there it is. There is a grassy note in there as well – possibly because I am looking for it. I also get fresh mint sprigs like you are muddling with lime wedges to make a mojito, chamomile tea, and honeydew melon on the nose. The palate shows coconut, pear juice, mint again, shortbread, lemon zest, and a slight waxiness and dryness on the finish. There is a fair bit going on in the glass on this one – I don’t think my notes really do it justice. I really like how this one is put together.
- 139.4 – Okay, we have to get a bit serious for this one. I am sure that many of you see the black bottle and then see the NAS, then decipher the code for the distillery and are left with a lot of questions. Me too. Right off the gate, I don’t want to like this one. I want to rail against it based on price and lack of transparency when it comes to age, but then I heard from three people I trust at work that this bottle is a knockout. Andrew and Curt. They have tasted more than I have and have very well-developed palates. They both love this one. To top it off, our beer buy Shawn loves it as well. In my opinion, he is the best at breaking things down on the nose and palate in our store. Part of me wants to not like on principle even more so, just to go against the grain. But I had better give this a try and see what is going on in the glass. The stats on Spellbindingly sublime say 1st Fill Barrique for the cask, so this is probably one of those mythical STR casks that aid Kavalan in creating some of their mythical bottlings in the Vinho series. The nose gives new leather, rooibos tea, balsamic vinegar, cranberries, coconut shavings, dried mango, and earthy, perfumed cigar notes. To taste: BIG. This is one of those whiskies that grabs your tongue and takes a long time to let go. Concentrated black tea, cloves, pineapple, mango, polished oak, leather – both the fruit and the hide kind, cayenne pepper, paprika, and more and more tangy tropical fruit and wood. To summarize: Okay, I get it. This one is very, very good. It is essentially a thesis on why Kavalan is in the upper echelons the international whisky scene. The SMWS bottled one hell of a cask with this one. For those of you that, like me, saw the no age statement and balked at the price – GOOD NEWS – it is already sold out!
- The Beachcomber – Now, let us head back to Scotland for this Blended Malt. This seven-year-old is all ozone and coastal notes along with Beachwood and citrus with a touch of wax on the nose. It doesn’t come off as just youthful the way you would expect with a seven-year age statement. The palate is downright delicious, with salty notes colliding with ripe peaches and pears, a touch of ash, lemonade, pickled ginger with just a touch of wasabi on a California roll (no soy sauce though). Even the finish reminds me a bit of sushi. Maybe I am just hungry, but at any rate, this is a stellar blend. I enjoyed Old Fashioned, but I believe this now takes the top spot in SMWS Blended Malts that I have tasted so far. The nose is a bit soft, but that palate is great.
- 70.38 – Only 83 bottles in the outturn on this one, and the SMWS Canada managed to nab just about all of it! Balblair, finished in an ex-Bowmore barrel. Sounds very enticing. The nose offers lavender, potpourri, and earthy smoke with an ocean breeze in the background. The palate is salty and juicy with some smoke and a nuttiness to it. I get jujubes, saltwater taffy, salty cashews, and honey-roasted almonds with a bit of chili spice. The Bowmore’d Balblair is a lot of fun. B + B = B² indeed – this is definitely a case of a cask finish being even greater than the sum of its parts.
All in all, I REALLY enjoyed this lineup. I don’t feel there was a weak link in the lot. I tasted through the series in this order over a period of two days. On day one I really thought that Teaninich would take the cake. By the time I tasted the final three on the second day, I had to retaste 59.58 just to see if it stood up to the rest. Good news! It does.
If you are looking for other Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases, we usually have a good stock of bottles in our store. These can be viewed online through our website as well. If a release shows as out of stock, feel free to contact us (or me) via phone or email and we can look into it for you. If your favourite bottle sadly gone, I can try and line you up with something similar in style. For any questions SMWS or whisky related, you can reach me via the email listed below.
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool
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6.32 – KNICKERBOCKERS AT A WEDDING
This 12 year old Speysider – the first from this distillery for SMWS Canada – was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 58.6%.
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet.
Outturn: 325 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose had a sophisticated and subtle combination of toffee, honey and cola cubes, lemon tart, rosewater, apricot jam and peach schnapps. The palate was textured and complex – sweet, tangy and bright, but with deeper underlying notes; we got rum and raisin ice-cream and melted dark chocolate, with teasing nips of chili, clove, aniseed and ginger to finish.
We found the reduced nose rewarding and ‘classic’ – dried papaya, pineapple, chocolate orange and a mixture of flowers and fruitcake that evoked weddings. The reduced palate was tasty and sweet – chocolate, fudge, toffee, banana chips and knickerbocker glory, with cinnamon swirls coming later.” $142
113.24 – ATTACK OF THE KILLER FLORISTS
From a 1st fill barrel, this 7 year old Speysider is 63.4%.
Flavour profile: Young & spritely.
Outturn: 239 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “It opens on candy floss at first, a light and fluffy sweetness that evolves towards geraniums in warm greenhouses and yellow wildflowers. The sweeter aspects continue with hints of pink nougat, American hot dog mustard, cornbread, toasted seeds and mirabelle eau de vie. Water brings softer notes of clove, lemon water, flower vases, cough drops, burlap and roasted potatoes.
The palate begins with cookie dough before unveiling notes of pear drops, lime oil, rosewater, cherry lips candies, fruit loops, juicy fruit chewing gum, dried lavender and Turkish Delight. A little water gives earthy turmeric, lemon thyme, oregano, sourdough starter, pot potpourri and long aged yellow wine.” $120
59.58 – THIS AIN’T NO PUSSYCAT
This 10 year old Highlander comes in at 58.4% after maturing in a refill hogshead.
Flavour profile: Spicy & dry.
Outturn: 205 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “An unusually superb waxiness at first. Then lots of pear, green apple, mint and sandalwood. Wee coastal inclusions; grass, mineral salts, hedgerow and undergrowth. Cider apples, green malt, lemon juice and hints of spice cake with touches of graphite oil, sunflower seed and pineapple jelly. Water brings soot, putty, camphor and baking parchment. Underneath there’s petrichor, olive oil, dry earth and eucalyptus.
The palate opens unusually on hot roast peppers, then waxed canvas, roasted root vegetables, heather honey, dried lavender, 80 shilling ale, cough mixtures, delicate medical notes, straw, hay lofts and gorse. With water it develops towards white mushrooms, damp tobacco leaf, herbal extracts, polished hardwoods, beeswax, pollen, heather ale, miso broth and rosewater. Superb!” $124
139.4 – SPELLBINDINGLY SUBLIME
The first release from this Taiwanese distillery for SMWS Canada, it is a no-age-statement whisky in keeping with other releases from this distillery. From a 1st fill STR barrique, it comes in at 58.3%.
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet.
Outturn: 181 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose is like sinking into a honeypot full of cloves and allspice. Inside there’s also freshly eviscerated vanilla pods, quince jelly, plum wine, pear tarte tatin and many tropical fruit syrups. In time it becomes wonderfully mentholated with resinous herbal notes and hints of red kola and lime leaf. Reduction brings out bubblegum, black tea sweetened with brown sugar, dried mango and hints of ivy and chamomile.
The palate immediately displays peppermint, blackcurrant jam, dark chocolate, dandelion & burdock, old tobacco, sarsaparilla root, clover and medicine balls. Quite sublime. With water there’s jasmine, juniper, pink peppercorns, grape must, old Calvados, many dried flowers, potpourri, incense and lapsang souchong tea. Exquisite and beautiful whisky.”
$479.99 SOLD OUT
SMWS THE BEACHCOMBER
This 7 year old is the next release in the Society’s “heresy” line of experimental blended malts. From a selection of 1st fill barrels from the Campbeltown and Highland regions, it’s been bottled at 50%.
Flavour profile: Oily & coastal.
Outturn: 1999 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Looking to our flavour profiles for inspiration, we decided to experiment with malts that displayed classic coastal characteristics. Exploring our warehouse, we identified a selection of 1st fill bourbon barrels from both Campbeltown and Highland regions as our blending ingredients. After creating and assessing a number of different recipes, we settled on the 12th one, which sits at the lighter end of the flavour profile with just the slightest hint of peat behind a boatload of fruit and coastal evocations. The Panel favoured this for its balance and complexity. A blended malt of great intrigue, displaying remarkable texture and vibrancy. We give you The Beachcomber…
A beautiful and evocative nose! Freshness, sunlight, seashore, medical balms, sandalwood, petrichor and wild herb gardens all jostle together for attention. Greenery, waxes, old papers, distant seaweed and complex, fragrant mineral aspects. Dilution offers up bog myrtle, heather flowers, juniper and lemon peel. Superbly fresh! The arrival in the mouth is tart. Raw gooseberry with delicate acidity, cut grass, gorse bush prickle and red apple. Some sea buckthorn, grapefruit pith, Citra hops and buttery cereals. Beguiling stuff! With water there’s a kiss of vanilla, some sweet cereals and pink sea salt. Hints of salty liquorice, wild mint leaf, children’s medicines, lime zest and brine diluted with extra virgin olive oil. The finish drifts endlessly out to sea. Drink this one with your eyes closed…” $115
70.38 – B + B = B²
This 13 year old from the Highlands comes in at 57.3% and after 11 years in an ex-bourbon barrel it was transferred into a barrel which previously matured whisky from SMWS distillery number 3.
Flavour profile: Lightly peated.
Outturn: 83 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Aromas of a distant wood fire on the beach combined with mellow Virginia tobacco having that typical touch of grassiness and earthiness alongside citrus and a slight floral note. On the palate neat we enjoyed “Bloody Mary oysters“ – fresh, salty, spicy with a hint of sweetness.
When we added water, we stepped into the room the morning after – the air filled with the aroma of empty whisky glasses once filled with peaty whisky and sweet cigar smoke. Oh, what a great night it was surrounded by friends! After 11 years in an ex-bourbon barrel we transferred this whisky into a barrel which previously matured whisky from SMWS distillery number 3.” $162