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!
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool
This 2002 vintage Armagnac was matured in an Armagnac barrel and is 49.1%.
Outturn: 456 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “This copper coloured Baco grape Bas-Armagnac offers aromas of apple pie with caramelized sugar, gentle spices (cinnamon and cloves), dried flowers and winey freshness. Fruits develop with dark cherries and then caramelizing melted butter. Hints of black tea together with tobacco, resin and a slight woody character contribute to a drying nose.
The refined taste has gentle tannins and woody spices balanced with vanilla custard, prunes and apples. This turns slightly nutty with wax furniture polish. It is sweet and warming with a short and drying finish that leaves you wanting more. This small estate and vineyard was purchased by the current owners in 1990. Only eight hectares are used for making Armagnac.”
This 13 year old Speysider was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 57.8%.
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet.
Outturn: 224 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A massively fruity nose introduced fresh strawberries, pear drops and wooden crates packed with apples and lemons. Earthy notes of rain on warm flowerbeds and tree bark emerged through juicy fruit before deepening to ground coffee beans and stout beer. A spicy mouthfeel unveiled cinnamon, ginger and turmeric with stewed apples and burnt fruitcake that evolved into singed sugar and the charcoal from a grill tray.
Bacon notes developed with water and joined ripe bananas with creamy elements that touched on butter and fruit yoghurt. The velvety feel turned to cream soda and beeswax on the tongue as burnt toffee covered apples, nutmeg and sultanas on a charred finish.”
This 11 year old from Campbeltown comes in at 54.9% after maturing in a 1st fill barrel.
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow.
Outturn: 237 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The first statement was “this has something for everyone” – how true; cola cubes, salty caramel, red liquorice laces and assorted fruit flavoured candy pebbles next to a clean floral perfumed handkerchief. The taste dangerously delicious, sweet and salty popcorn as well as tropical fruit salad with a chili, star anise, cinnamon and lime dressing.
Water released a sweet smoke like that from a thurible being used in a religious procession along the waterfront. When we took a sip we started singing ‘Campbeltown Loch, I wish you were whisky’. The beauty of a single cask as the ‘Wee Toon’ had truly delivered a surprise – suspend your disbelief.”
This 9 year old Highland was matured in a re-charred hogshead and is 57.9%.
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla.
Outturn: 273 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The initial impressions for this one were very much meat themed. Beefy, gamey, rich and full of savoury herbal and stocky notes. Broth, bouillon, bay leaf, bouquet garni and hints of charred fruit and blue cheese. Dried apricot rings, barley sugar, grape must and vegetable oil. With reduction this meaty aspect remained but developed more towards dried herbal mixtures, wood char, damp earthiness, pencil erasers and peppery beef stock. Touches of caramelized brown sugar and malt vinegar. Unusual and compelling.
The palate opened with spicy dried chili, barley sugars, metal polish and cured bacon. Very umami and rich, like whisky-cured venison with notes of lemon acidity. Some white pepper and cough lozenges. With water it was still rather hot and peppery but also showing notes of vanilla custard, spiced dark fruits, walnut oil, apple pie and mixed berries.”
This 8 year old Speysider spent 6 years in an ex-American oak Oloroso butt before being transferred to a 2nd fill Spanish oak PX butt for the remainder of its maturation and comes in at 68.5%.
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits.
Outturn: 590 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A big and sumptuous nose of treacle pudding, dried figs, fresh pear cake, ginger biscuits, old wine cellars, leaf mulch, chocolate sauce, strawberry-scented tobacco and aged Madeira drizzled over fresh lychees. Water gives us café latte, roast chestnuts, milk chocolate, carnations, toasted almond flakes, chocolate spread, pencil shavings, sheep wool, soft earthiness, unlit cigars lost in a new handbag and game meats.
The palate is alive with spiced honey cake, aged sweet wines, rosewater, jasmine tea, cherry marmalade, wood spice, black pepper, wax and methylated oils. A little water brings out coffee tequila liqueur, rosehips, mint leaf, wood extracts, cocoa powder, pink peppercorns, dried thyme, Bovril and old workshops. Matured for 6 years in an Oloroso butt before transfer to a 2nd fill Spanish oak PX butt.”
This 10 year old from Islay comes in at 58% after maturing in a refill hogshead.
Flavour profile: Peated.
Outturn: 279 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “50/50 lime juice and brine at first nosing. Then bright, shining peat smoke and clean, crisp, freshly kilned malt. Sooty cereals, cured meats, burlap, bonfire and newspaper ash. Add to this some squid ink, BBQ charred calamari with lemon juice and mercurochrome-drenched wellies. Reduction reveals pure farmyard smokiness. Bonfires on the seashore, old rope, tar liqueur, stir fried oysters with soy sauce, liquid seasoning and vinegar-soaked chip wrapping paper.
The palate neat is like a hot injection of lighter fluid and antiseptic. Salt baked cod, iodine drops, lemon flavoured cough syrup, pine air freshener, mouthwash and fiery salami. With water it all melts into hot plastic, lemon infused green tea, kippers in kedgeree, petrol doused oatmeal, green olives bobbing in seawater and dried seaweed in ramen broth.”
This 6 year old from Islay was matured in a 2nd fill Oloroso butt and comes in at 61.1%.
Flavour profile: Heavily peated.
Outturn: 616 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “There’s mountains of silage, freshly poured bitumen, boilers belching smoke, molten tar erupts from a gnarled peat bog and winged demons season the land with black pepper and slices of spicy salami while noshing down smouldering jeroboams of pickled onion Space Raiders! With water comes a tidal surge of briny disinfectant, peat bricks are bobbing about the inside of your car while the engine bursts into flames and molten putty oozes from the dashboard. The sky opens and down comes an apocalyptic rain of petrol and kippers. The Devil’s sherry bodega is open for business!
As you drown, your mouth floods with kipper eau de vie, burnt pencils, oozing mechanical oils, a stray bicycle inner tube and globules of iodine-laced paraffin wax. Some water dilutes things to reveal an ocean of soot, molten tractor fumes, olive tapenade cut with malt vinegar and flaming farmyard peat embers. The finish is long and tinged with the end of the world!”
$165 *LOTTERY BOTTLE* SOLD OUT
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.