February typically marks a shift here at Kensington Wine Market. You would think that January would slow down for us, but it doesn’t – at least not much. Christmas and New Years might be done but the first month of the year was crammed with events. We hit the ground running with the January Outturn on the 3rd and 4th followed by plenty of other wine, whisky and beer tastings over the following two weeks. Then the already fast pace became even more frenzied with three festivals, our sale weekend and then inventory all happening within only eleven days from the 17th to the 28th.
We are finished our big winter holiday rush and it almost feels as if there is time to breathe. Don’t get me wrong: I love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, especially working in a small shop like KWM. We are a tight-knit crew that typically gets along with little to no issues cropping up. Not that we would time for personality clashes or friction to come into play. The importance of momentum cannot be understated. Any serious strife would take too much planning and effort when you have toÂ keep all of these plates spinning as well.
Those plates will keep on spinning, too. There is always plenty that needs to be done at the shop and seemingly never enough time to deal with it all. The pace may not be quite as chaotic and frenetic as it is from November (actually, more like early to mid-October) until the end of January, but that means we can look up, calmly take in our surroundings, and thank our lucky stars that we are all here, scoping out these wonderful green bottles once more.
It is quite the Outturn this month. Here are a few teasers:
- Two distilleries have come to Canada as SMWS bottles for the first time!
- One of these distilleries is Knockdhu (115), which in my opinion boasts a great regular lineup of official bottlings. The SMWS bottle from this month would fit right in with their own line style-wise. It personally reminds me a bit of the old An Cnoc 16-year-old with it’s structured, creamy and citrusy style. Not bad considering it is only 8 years old…
- The other distillery is not in Scotland at all – it is from the Bas Armagnac region in France. I have had two SMWS Armagnacs now. Both have left me craving more. Cask strength Armagnac is quite a treat!
- Also impressive is what is likely the oldest SMWS bottle from Dailuaine (41) that we have seen yet. It is soft, smooth and elegant in style.
- After seemingly getting a Glen Moray (35) just about every other Outturn for much of 2017 and 2018, we had a five-month dry spell. Good news though – the wait for another 35 is over! And it is a good one (are there any bad 35s though?)…
- We were also welcomed by two Islay malts – one unpeated and one peated. Both are solid. Both won’t last. One likely won’t even make it through the tastings.
As I said – quite the lineup. On a whole, this is one of the smoothest and most easy drinking Outturns I can recall tasting. Maybe I just far too used to cask strength, but even the youthful, big peated 29 seemed smooth, with very few rough edges. At any rate – there are quite a few very approachable bottles to be had and share here.
Tired of the teasing? Ready for the facts? Read on below!
115.8 -Â STRAWBERRY CHOCOLATE KISS
First release from distillery 115 for SMWS Canada!
This 8 year old Speysider was matured in a refill barrel and is 59.9%
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Outturn: 240 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “A sweet, malty cereal note, tinned peaches in fruit juice and a moist lemon and coconut cake drizzled with warm lemon syrup made this a very delicious experience on the nose neat. On the palate, creamy warm melted white chocolate mixed with dark chocolate sauce over sweet raspberries – an absolute delight.
When adding some water we got aromas of citrus five-fruit blended juice and strawberry sauce with caramelized sugar and pink peppercorns. We finished by receiving a strawberry chocolate kiss (a light fluffy mallow covered in chocolate on a waffle base) â€“ one more please!”Â $138.99
A3.2 -Â FRUITY PIPE TOBACCO
This 18 year old Armagnac comes in at 46.7% after maturing in an Armagnac barrel
Outturn: 510 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Tate & Lyleâ€™s finest Golden Syrup hues hide aromas of labyrinthine complexity. There is an initial waft of fresh figs, overripe plums, the seats of a Rover 90, Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco and a touch of Deep Heat, just for good measure.
A little surprising then, when the avalanche you expect becomes a gentle cuddle of flavour. Initial sweetness gives way to an unctuous embrace of fruity sap wood, and zesty orange flesh, which clings to the palate with a lip-smacking fervour. At the end youâ€™re left in a warm and satisfying, gently tannic, afterglow.” $218
41.105 – A DRAM FOR SNUGGLING
This 21 year old Speysider comes in at 51.1% after maturing in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Spicy & dry
Outturn: 191 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Initial aromas bee lined towards sweet and nutty domains as layers of praline sat on top of a thick wedge of marzipan. Fresh grape juice thickened into fruit jelly as pine cones beckoned the earthier hints of a forest floor before turning to soft leather.
The texture was viscous and chewy with the sweet mouth feel of hazelnut oil. Blood orange combined with porcini mushrooms to give an autumnal sense snuggling in a thick blanket whilst sipping on a glass of whisky liqueur. The finish had sustained character, venturing again through honey, nuts and finally settling on fresh ginger marmalade on malt loaf.”Â $224
35.208 – THICK AND JUICY
This 15 year old Speysider was matured in a 1st fill hogshead and comes in at 58.1%
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Outturn: 261 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “A well matured dram that started with an array of aromas of vanilla fudge, glazed ham, burnt wood, coconut, fruit salad, ash, pepper and malt. A sip at full strength showed it to be thick and juicy. Honey, oak, chocolate, spiced vanilla, tropical fruits, tobacco and a winey taste all packing a punch.
Adding water took us to summer days in a conservatory, all heady floral and spicy. But it was also creamy with vanilla custard and porridge then becoming nutty. The taste was creamy too with gentle tannins and tobacco, rich honey, light spices, chocolate, cherries and coconut. A satisfying finish.”Â $175.99
10.151 – REMINDER OF THE SEA
This 11 year old from Islay comes in at 60.3% after maturing in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Oily & coastal
Outturn: 188 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “We imagined having a plate of oysters covered in a squeeze of lemon, a Champagne-vinegar mignonette and freshly grated horseradish by the side. However, before we tucked in, we had a cilantro-infused sweet, spicy and salty jalapeno Margarita cocktail – a truly refreshing and invigorating invitation.
Diluted, more maritime, more coastal on the nose, honey sweetened sugar kelp crisps as well as spaghetti alle vongole (with clams), whilst on the palate a sweet- spicy-salty freshly cut juicy pineapple and a frozen daiquiri that Hemingway so rhapsodically described as â€œlooking like the sea where the waves fall away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots.â€” $174.99
4.242 -Â COASTAL LANDSCAPE WITH SMOKE
This 13 year old from the Highland Islands was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 58%
Flavour profile: Lightly peated
Outturn: 262 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose declares itself with shed-loads of vanilla, panettone, dried pineapple and coconut â€“ then slowly another tale unfolds â€“ sheepâ€™s wool, light smoke, ash, distant heather moor-burn and coastal elements. On the neat palate, unmistakable peat smoke and wood ash combine tastily with brown sugar and toasted marshmallows â€“ the finish has curious anise and nutmeg spice with almost medicinal and resinous echoes.
The reduced nose has toasted cumin seeds and dried herbs, incense smoke and yellow Chartreuse. The palate now has serenely restrained smoke, nougat, sugared buns, heather and the herbal and wild flower scents of the summer machair.” $189.99
29.245 – FILTHY HONEY
From Islay, this 8 year old comes in at 59.8% after maturing in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Heavily peated
Outturn: 180 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “An intense honeyed sweetness made the initial introductions with burnt blackcurrants in hazelnut liqueur before we encountered scented wood smeared with tar and creosote. Traces of maritime brought the familiar fragrance of iodine and kelp with sea salt- saturated old rope. Peppered mackerel fused with smoked fish and charred driftwood as we took an interesting turn towards black olives with sugar coated fennel seeds, salted liquorice and cinnamon spice.
Complexity gained pace with strong earl grey tea leading towards blackcurrant cordial and the oily nature of a dirty old shipyard. Finishing with the woody crunch of charred twigs, the palate continued into rosemary with a hint of eucalyptus oil.” $170
A big thanks as always goes to our neighbourâ€™sÂ Peasant Cheese for supplying the food complement for the tastings.