We made it! Twenty-four days straight of whisky in small bottles to make that difficult trudge to Christmas Day all the more pleasant and fulfilling. Did it work? Did you find some new favourites? I know I did.
It is fun to take this time to reflect on the Whisky Calendar as a whole. Did some bottles stand out for you? For myself, I had tasted many of these bottles before, though some I had never paid as much attention to. The most exciting part for me was tasting some that I had never tried before. Now that I have written about and tasted them all, here is a list of my personal top five:
- 5 – Buffalo Trace Bourbon – I was saddened when we found out that this was in a plastic bottle, but regardless of that, this shows Bourbon in a nutshell. It has plenty of flavour and even a bit of nuance, and it is very inexpensive for a full-sized bottle. Especially if you are used to Scotch whisky prices.
- 4 – Glenfarclas 21 Year Old – Despite my protestations in having to find something new to say about Glenfarclas for the blog post, I think I managed it. On top of that, this is a wonderful bottle to revisit, so I will do so whenever I possibly can.
- 3 – Kilchoman KWM Cask – Of course this would make the top three. I am a sucker for Kilchoman, especially at high proof from ex-Bourbon casks. Our cask checks those boxes nicely and delivers sweet and smokey whisky that is complex beyond its seven years of age.
- 2 – SMOS Ben Nevis KWM Cask – Yeah, I helped pick it, but I will take any chance I get to revisit this one while we still have some of it around. This is a deliciously old-school sherried malt.
- 1 – Loch Lomond 18 Year Old – It is no secret that I have been enjoying bottlings from this distillery recently, be it from the distillery labels or from independent bottlers like the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I was excited to taste this one, but it still blew away my expectations. It has a cereal driven, fruity smoke and peat that reminds me of Ardmore, but the Amaro-like bittersweet notes make it entirely its own beast. I loved this dram.
How was the 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar for you? Which bottles would be in your top five or top three? Feel free to tweet me @sagelikefool and give me your thoughts!
Speaking of Ardmore – for the time being, we still have one more whisky to delve into, and that is the special 100ml Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottle on the top of the calendar box. Firstly, let’s go through a little bit of background on this not-so-secret whisky club!
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is the world’s largest whisky club, and also an independent bottler. As a club, it has close to 30,000 members all over the world, and branches in close to 20 different countries. It is an independent bottler that has been six times accorded the honour of Independent Bottler of the Year by Whisky Magazine over the past nine years.
It bottles as broad a range of single cask, single malt Scotch whiskies as any other firm, and it doesn’t stop there. It has also bottle Japanese whiskies, Bourbon, Grain whisky, Cognac, Armagnac, Rum, and Gin. Whether it is a whisky or another spirit, the Society always bottles the spirit from a single cask, straight from the cask, Unfiltered. Undiluted. Unrivalled.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was officially founded back in 1983. The Canada Chapter of the SMWS also celebrated its own milestone, turning seven years old back in October of this year. Kensington Wine Market is proud to be the original home of the Society in Canada, and its exclusive retailer in Southern Alberta and all parts east of Calgary. Over the last seven years, we have introduced more than 550 bottles to more than a thousand Canadian members. Every month we launch at least 6, and usually 7 new green single cask bottles.
Membership to the SMWS is easy and gives you exclusive access to the widest selection of single cask single malt whiskies anywhere in the world. We also hold monthly Outturn tastings at the shop. Only Scotch Malt Whisky Society members can buy our exclusive single cask single malt whiskies, but anyone can try them. We’re confident once you’ve had a taste you will want to join the club. For more information on the SMWS, you can visit our web page or www.smws.ca.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society does not put the name of the distillery directly on the bottle or in the tasting notes. Instead, everything is codified. This SMWS bottle in front of us says “66.155 – Big on bacon”. The “66″ means that this cask was originally distilled at the 66th distillery to ever be bottled by the SMWS. The “.155″ means that this bottling was the 155th cask selected and bottled by the SMWS from distillery number 66.
You can find numerous distillery code cheat sheets online by doing a quick search for ‘SMWS Codes’. For this one I will just tell you to save you time – you should spend some of that with family today after all: Distillery number 66 is Ardmore.
Ardmore is a Highland Distillery that was purpose-built in the late 1800s to supply whisky for a blended Scotch called Teacher’s Highland Cream. It is still used as the main flavour component in Teachers to this day. Ardmore is now owned by Beam Suntory, and is a bit of a workhorse distillery for the company.
Ardmore is the only distillery in the Highlands to devote its entire run to peated spirit, either lightly or moderately peated in style. It does bottle some single malt of its own, but most of its production is used for Blended Scotch or traded to brokers/other producers.
This is a good thing for us and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, because it means that great casks of Ardmore are easy to come by in comparison to other very sought after distilleries – especially those located on the Island of Islay such as Laphroaig and Bowmore (which are also owned by Beam Suntory).
Now – time to dig into this Christmas Day Dram!
66.155 – BIG ON BACON
2nd fill barrel – 8 years old and bottled at 59.7% ABV.
Distillation date of 27 Oct 2010
Flavour Profile: “Lightly peated”
SMWS Panel Tasting Note: “Delicate aromas teased us with sweet yet subtle smoke and the fragrance of distant heather. Walnuts and hazelnuts combined with sawdust, before the confected realms of burnt apple crumble, lemon and vanilla sponge cake appeared. The palate however released an irresistible concoction of smoky bacon flavoured crisps with the sweet malty notes of digestive biscuits and the crumbled remains of burnt toast. A spicy tingle persisted on the tongue until dried apricots and peach melba balanced the bacon smoke. Only towards the end did we encounter a pile of seasoned wood, neatly stacked beside an old and dusty coal cellar.”
So sayeth the wise and poetic folks on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting panel. Now, let’s dive in for ourselves and see if we can manage to come up with some even weirder notes!
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: What do you know – the bacon note on this one is definitely right up front, along with waffles in pancake syrup, and all of the rest what you would want for breakfast. Peach slices, whipped cream, lemon tarts, Hibiscus and a campfire off in the distance.
Palate: Salt, pepper, smoke and barley all over the place along with that bacon note again. Canadian Bacon in style, more meat than strips of fat. Poached pears, the zing of raw ginger, maple-glazed scallops and bacon (there is that word again), and Lemon Zinger Tea.
Finish: The salt and spice keep it from going creamy and mingle for a long time, together with a tangy sweetness on the fade.
Comment: This is a delightful Ardmore where the peat isn’t the only thing it throws at you. A lot of flavour is packed into this bottle, which is par for the course when it comes to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
And there you have it! Another KWM Whisky Calendar is finished. I hope everybody has a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year to all as well. See you in 2020!
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool
*The Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar is produced under license from Secret Spirits, Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar™