Happy New Year Everybody!
2018 seemed to fly by at a speed causing sonic shockwaves, becoming past history faster than it ever was present. Now, we are back, feet on the ground, in early 2019. New year to live in, new whisky to taste our way through. As it should be. Take a deep breath, allow yourself a quick stretch, then hop back aboard and buckle in once more for another spin around the sun. The pace of it all can be dizzying to be sure – that is why you should make time to sit back and relax every now and then. Is there a better way to do so than with seven new green bottles filled with cask strength goodness? I doubt it, and if there is I don’t really want to know about it anyhow.
The first Outturn of 2019 brings us a plethora of refill barrels and hogsheads, but a surprising amount variety as well. You would think that all of these once or twice (or more?!) used casks would give us a lot of bland and plain whisky, but they definitely do not. Variety and nuance can be found in this Outturn. Here is a peek at what is on the docket for SMWS Canada bottles this month:
- The lowest ABV in this bunch weighs in at 53.1% ABV, and only one bottle is just barely north of 60% ABV. This is no tame SMWS lineup, but it won’t burn your nose hairs too much either.
- No cask finishes in the Outturn this month, although one of the refill casks is a re-charred hogshead. This means that after the refill hoggy was emptied, it was then scraped and burnt with fire once more in an effort to refresh the cask before being filled again. Re-charred casks can give some unique and interesting qualities to the whisky in my limited experience, sometimes offering a more concentrated and heavily steeped tea-like character to the whisky.
- Instead of starting the tasting with something from Speyside – the first TWO bottles were distilled in the Highlands. In fact, Highland malts actually outnumber those from Speyside by 3-2, which almost never happens in SMWS Canada Outturns.
- Rounding out the lineup, region-wise, is an always-welcome Campbeltown malt and a lone bottle from Islay.
- Age-wise our bottles run from 8 to 24 years-old for the January 2019 Outturn, giving us both the brashness of youth on one end and a more refined and confident style on the other.
- We have one new SMWS Canada distillery number – possibly two depending on how technical you want to get!
- The main new number is 68.12 – Blair Athol is a Diageo-owned Highland distillery that has been around since 1798, but is not seen in official bottles other than very occasional special releases. Most of the whisky produced here goes into Bell’s blended Scotch, which it has been a core part of since the brand’s inception in 1933.
- The other bottle is more of a curiosity: 135.4 is part of what could be dubbed the SMWS / Loch Lomond fracture – in which the Society decided to get much more technical in how it identifies and categorizes Loch Lomond Distillery’s plethora of different styles. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has a good article on their philosophy regarding the subject here. Many blogs and unnoficial SMWS numbers lists state that SMWS 135 is Inchmoan – which would be heavily peated Loch Lomond Single Malt. IT IS NOT – as it is not peated.
What does it all mean? Where does this leave us? Do any of these words actually hold weight and meaning, or are they little more than packing peanuts blocking your view of treasures to be discovered at the bottom? As with the whisky itself, it is ultimately all up to you to decide. Best dig in below and find the gems before they disappear!
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135.4 – LIP-SMACKING SEDUCTION
This 17 year old Highlander comes in at 56.2% after maturing in a 2nd fill barrel
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Outturn: 248 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “On the nose, we got sweet, aromatic fruits (pear, passion fruit) some grassy notes (making jam in a meadow) and confectionery (Haribo jelly snakes, Jelly Babies) – all in all, very attractive. The palate was lip-smacking and seductive, with a combination of sweetness and zing, like apricot jam and candied citrus peel. With water, we agreed it was complex and delightful – now discovering vanilla sponge and hints of linseed oil and putty. The reduced palate found perfumed pear, waxed fruity sweets and candy necklaces – very comforting and enjoyable – and one or two of us had to revise previous prejudices.” $192
70.26 -COOL AS A CUCUMBER
This 9 year old Highland whisky was matured in a refill barrel and is 60.1%
Flavour profile: Young & spritely
Outturn: 204 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “A powdery musky floral note with orange blossom combined with crisp green apples and honey lemonade with fresh mint made this an uplifting experience on the nose neat. To taste, like a crunchy cucumber iceberg salad tossed in a dressing of mustard, honey, lime, freshly grated ginger root and a splash of cilantro – a truly refreshing experience, with a zesty twist. When adding water a walnut whip (whirl-shaped cone of milk chocolate with a whipped vanilla fondant filling topped with a half-walnut) appeared and on the palate, a chocolate, hazelnut and crushed meringue ice cream.” $147
9.134 – MAKING A HAZEL BOW
This 11 year old Speysider comes in at 57.1% after maturing in refill barrel
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Outturn: 168 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “A picture of a sunny summer’s day, sitting in the garden having just cut the grass and hung out the laundry to dry, we were now enjoying the heady scent of the rose bush whilst eating a buttered scone with strawberry jam. On the taste neat a balance between a sweet honey softness and ground white pepper spiciness combined with a slight tannic finish, like that of strong black tea. With a drop of water fresh woody aromas were released like making a bow out of a hazelnut stave, whilst on the palate now as creamy and juicy as a peach melba with sugar roasted doughnuts and vanilla ice cream.” $146.99
46.57 – RELAXING IN A SAUNA
This 24 year old Speysider comes in at 53.6% after maturing in a refill hogshead
Flavour profile: Spicy & dry
Outturn: 214 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “An interesting nose! Sweet, fruity and floral, with custard creams and lemon sponge-cake, but also something almost earthy, like greenhouses, vanilla pipe tobacco or woollen socks drying by the fire. The palate combined separate strands – sweetness (tinned peaches, wine gums), wood (balsa, cedar, wood-sap, eucalyptus) and spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, peppercorns). The reduced nose evoked warm sauna wood, a model-maker’s work-bench and a pine forest floor – all very relaxing and easy-going. The palate still had the wood and the spice, but it seemed sweeter (fruit salad chews, honey, vanilla ice cream, blueberry muffins); altogether more enjoyable.” $279.99
68.12 – BEESWAX ON A CELLO
The first-ever release from distillery 68 for SMWS Canada!
This 8 year old Highlander was matured in a re-charred hogshead and comes in at 58.1%
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Outturn: 240 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “A complex, layered nose of marzipan and plum jam, apple, cinnamon, apricot and lime – followed by a definite floral aspect of roses, violets and elderflower, finishing up with oak, beeswax on a cello and tobacco strands. The palate was both sweet and tart with damson jam and cherries in dark chocolate, then a curlicue flourish of Fisherman’s Friends sweet teasing spice. The reduced nose found figs, dates, maple syrup, dark toffee and polished red apples in a basket. The palate still displayed that sweet heat – nut brittle, Bakewell tart, sweet cinnamon and liquorice root – interesting, unusual and enjoyable.” $141
93.90 – A MASCULINE ENIGMA
From Campbeltown, this 16 year old comes in at 53.1% after maturing in a refill hogshead
Flavour profile: Lightly peated
Outturn: 175 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “On the nose, we found nougat dipped in white chocolate and Tunnocks Snowballs (coconut, chocolate, soft marshmallow). Easier to identify were rusting shipwrecks and rock-pools, West Coast disused slate quarries, peppery Scotch pies and honey-roast ham (with cloves); burnt jam tarts, vanilla pods, ash and smoke from burning cardboard. The palate also had its grubby side – charred twigs, charred lime, oiled wood, licking envelopes, watches with leather straps, smoke and ash – but we found enough positive sweetness to excuse it – nut brittle, sugar buns, honey, biscuit tin crumbs, cheap chocolate and pickled ginger. An enigma, but with a certain masculine charm.” $208
53.250 – SMOKED SALT ORANGE PEEL
From Islay, this 11 year old was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 58.4%
Flavour profile: Lightly peated
Outturn: 292 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Introduced by a salty twang the nose discovered rich oils from sardines and mackerel as they sizzled in a pan of melted salted butter until it smoked and blackened in the heat. Burning heather produced a perfumed smog that echoed shades of oily orange skin and the sticky gloss of glacé cherries. The palate evolved this sweeter strategy into honey and currants, perhaps taking in a barbecued glaze before diving head-first into a tin of smoked fruit salad. Ever-present waves of delicate floral perfume weaved around fresh fennel and sticky liquorice that merged into tar covered ropes on a finish that returned to salt and sweet smoke.” $191.99
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.