Wow! November arrived in full force here at Kensington Wine Market. In the first full week of the month we held a sold out whisky festival, which itself was sandwiched betwixt two days of SMWS tastings. As with October, the November tastings for SMWS at our shop sold out incredibly fast. Due to this, we added a FIFTH tasting, which itself sold out as well! All told, We hosted five SMWS whisky tastings and at our whisky festival over four straight days. It was like running a sprint and a marathon at the same time. Luckily, the groups at every one of these events were fun to hang out and chat whisky with, which made the time fly!
So, what does November bring us in green bottle form? Here are my thoughts:
- Starting off with 80.9: an SMWS bottle from a distillery rarely bottled is always fun. As a person at one of the tastings said: Distillery 80 has possibly the most generic name of all. Marketing must not have been consulted when they named Glen Spey. Luckily the whisky made for a solid opener with round fruit, hints of green oak and barley and a zingy spice notes.
- Bottle two was very popular at each tasting we held, and not just because of the low price. 63.53 is a wonderfully big and rich Glentauchers that does not show much in the way of rough edges, especially considering its age and ABV%.
- Up next was a Single Grain, and an old Single Grain at that – even with an old-school SMWS label. From Caledonian – which was once the largest distillery in Scotland – closed for good in 1988 and was eventually demolished. G3.9 may be fairly straightforward in style, but I loved the small nuances it did show, with some lemon tea and cherry notes mingling with its grain forward style. To me it comes off as a hybrid of a Canadian Whisky and a Bourbon.
- A Benriach (or BenRiach for you Alistair Walker fans out there) was the fourth green bottle of the Outturn, and quite a bit different from the previous two SMWS bottles we had from the Speyside Distillery. 12.25 is finished in a charred ex-red wine cask, this is a wine-heavy dram for those that enjoy the style.
- 10.147 continues the long line of excellent young Bunnahabhains’ we have been seeing from the Society over the past few years. They arrive in both peated and unpeated form from this versatile Islay distillery – this specific bottle is one of the latter. Not a lot in the way of smoke or peat, but the coastal influence is alive an well even if brine and iodine are not around. Crisp, clean saline and seaside notes are abundant in fruit and a floral note packed in for good measure in this one. Delicious stuff.
- Continuing the coastal notes in the number six spot was 4.251. Like the bottle previous, we have seen a good amount of Highland Park in SMWS form lately. This one is more on the soft and elegant side than any other bottle of green HP sauce that comes to mind though, with plenty of complexity to boot. This was my personal favourite of the Outturn, even when taking the excellent Bunna and gorgeously aged Bourbon-like (or aged Bourbon-lite?) Single grain into account.
- Last but not least we had a special Feis Ile bottle. A higher-end black-and-gold raiment SMWS bottle. A Laphroaig bottle. A 21-year-old Islay bottle. A bottle that was aged in two different casks. One of those casks is an ex-sherry cask. It comes from a from a distillery that is not selling casks. What does this all add up to? Well, it is definitely expensive. The price is a perfect storm of all of the elements I listed – combined. Luckily the cost of the bottle doesn’t tell the whole story. 29.261 is a lovely and lively bottle. The sherry isn’t over the top, the Laphroaig is old enough to show a touch of its lovely tropical side, and the peat has a wonderful parma violet note. Does that make it all worth the money? Well, that is for you to decide.
Tired of my preamble and looking specifics? Read on below! If you are looking for other bottles from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society you can check out what we have in stock here. If any SMWS bottles show as being out of stock on our website please contact us – we might be able to get more.
As always we would like to give a big thank-you to our awesome neighbour’s Peasant Cheese for supplying the small bites for the tastings.
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80.9 – A WOLF IN WOLF’S CLOTHING
This 11 year old Speysider was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 55.7%.
Flavour profile: Young & spritely.
Outturn: 250 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Pinecones, fabric and air freshener strike first in this open and inviting nose. Underlying are textural notes of engine oil, raw barley, earthy turmeric, lemon peel and macadamia nut. Water opens the nose further with white stone fruits, lemon cheesecake, lychee, rosewater, grass, sorrel, wild garlic, pistachio nut and a pebble strewn minerality.
The taste is surprisingly dense for this distillery. Plenty of sooty wax, lime curds, white truffle, dried sage, hazelnut, white balsamic, graphite oil and savoury pastries. With reduction there is a heightened earthiness, more gravelly notes, mineral oil, crushed aspirin, aged white Madeira, perfumed waxes and old Riesling.” $140.99
63.53 – NUTTY PROFESSOR’S DRAM
This 8 year old Speysider comes in at 60.5% after maturing in a refill barrel.
Flavour proflle: Spicy & dry.
Outturn: 227 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose initially opened with flower meadows, Turkish Delight and ice cream – then developed nutty aromas (Magnum ice cream bars, Bounty bar, hazelnut shells, peanut brittle). The palate had good viscosity and body – lots of sweet flavours (toffee, milk chocolate, treacle tart, honey) and a gentle spicy finish of cinnamon.
Water brightened the nose again, offering lemon balm and lemon puffs, perfumed tobacco, shaved oak and almond slice. The palate retained its body and sweetness – chocolate sauce and nuts on raspberry ripple, dark chocolate Brazil nuts, with an even more drying, tingling finish of toasted pine nuts, ginger and pomegranate.” $131.99
G3.9 – MELLOW AND ALLURING
This 36 year old single grain whisky from a closed Lowland distillery comes in at 46.8% after maturing in a refill hogshead.
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow.
Outturn: 144 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The rich, inviting nose conjured up an age gone by – polished wood, pipe tobacco in a leather pouch and vanilla pods, with additional alluring sweetness of toffee, honey, Sugar Puffs and pink wafers. The palate also hinted at leather, tobacco and vanilla, with sweeter dimensions of Rich Tea, Garibaldis, toffee and banana loaf.
The impression was of mellow understatement; a very appealing combination of venerable age with a lighter playful touch. Water brought mango, banana chips and bourbon-like wood spices to the nose – a blooming flower to be treated with care. The palate was now juicy, sweet and tropical – eminently quaffable.” $278.99
12.25 – STEALTH TRUFFLE PIG
This 10 year old Speysider comes in at 60.4% and after 9 years in a bourbon hoghsead it was transferred to a 1st fill charred red wine barrique for the rest of its maturation.
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits.
Outturn: 267 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A red fruit scented Beaujolais nouveau, sweet abundance of red fruit compotes, furniture polish, treacle tart, nutmeg and spiced fruit chutneys. Also plum wine, orange bitters and sweet roasted peppers. Water brings toasted brioche, buttery croissant, raisins, youthful Petite Champagne cognac, menthol toothpaste and herbal resins – like an aged herbal liqueur.
In the mouth, initially, it’s all strawberry jam, wood char, frying bacon, serrano ham, black pepper and maraschino cherry. Some chili oil gives heat and there are suggestions of truffle pecorino and chocolate syrups. Reduction enhances the savoury aspects with notes of brown bread, coal dust, sooty ointments, aspirin, honeydew melon, camphor, sour cherries and blackcurrant cordial. Matured for 9 years in a bourbon hogshead before transfer to a 1st fill charred red wine barrique.” $148.99
10.147 – MARMALADE ROCK POOLS
From Islay, this 10 year old was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 60.8%.
Flavour profile: Oily & coastal.
Outturn: 242 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose conjured a scene of coastal calm as the setting sun highlighted salty rock pools beneath the mineralic contours of chalky cliffs. The air carried a faint whiff of perfumed smoke, perhaps from burning heather and gorse, which mixed with the clean and earthy smell of a dunnage warehouse floor.
The palate surprised with a fiery kick like an unexpected chili pepper lurking in honey. Sweetness ensued as the biscuity base of cheesecake mingled with thick cut marmalade to balance with a fruity tang that also encapsulated physalis and kumquat. The finish delivered a wonderfully oily texture and left a lasting taste of fine Cognac and spiced pickle.” $163.99
4.251 – ARMCHAIR DANCING DRAM
This 13 year old from a Highland Island is 58.1% after maturing in a refill hogshead.
Flavour profile: Lightly peated.
Outturn: 305 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose is a captivating Orkney saga – herbal smoke (garden bonfires, heather moor-burn); followed by sea-shore hints of salty spray and langoustines on beach bonfire barbecues – lastly chocolate limes. The initial palate has a chewy, earthy, salty thread of peat smoke – followed by chocolate and butterscotch (Daim bars), Bounty bars and ice-cream – mouth-filling, lip-smacking and very satisfying indeed – a real armchair dram (though you might feel the need to get up and dance occasionally).
With water, the smoke takes a medicinal, shaman’s tepee, male bonding turn – with heather flowers and chocolate dancing sensually behind that almost transparent curtain of smoke.” $179.99
29.261 – AN EVIL DUTCH DENTIST’S DRAM
Bottled for the 2019 Islay Whisky Festival, this 21 year old is 50.3% and after 19 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead it was transferred to a 1st fill Oloroso hogshead for the remainder of its maturation.
Flavour profile: Old & dignified.
Outturn: 257 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Tropical fruits! Hallelujah exclaimed the Panel. A style that harks back to much older examples of this distillery. Beautiful aromas of tropical fruit syrups, lemon jam, muesli, grilling whelks, sandalwood, lightly smoked barley orange oils and camphor. A little water reveals a more farmyard orientation with notes of lemon rind, earth, beach sand, brine, wool, chalk and flints.
The palate is powerful at first with notes of grist, peat oils, fragrant herbs, smoked meats and orange zest. Before returning to these tropical aspects with notes of pink grapefruit and guava. With reduction it goes towards coconut water, treacle, kiln fresh peat smoke, mango slices and pineapple syrup. Majestic whisky! Matured for 19 years in a bourbon hogshead before transfer to a 1st fill Oloroso hogshead.” $534.99