Happy New Year!
January is a time of new beginnings, a brief moment to recollect at days past but also dream of what the future holds. The new year means seven new cask strength bottles to discuss and share with friends.
If you are a Scot, a Scotch Whisky Drinker, or both; it also means the spectre of Rabbie Burns looms in the air. He hovers above us, anxiously waiting for his moment to pounce, which as always will happen on January 25th: the day of his birth. Then we will all be forced to don a fake Scottish accent, wear kilts and belt out Gaelic Rhymes in a Seussian manner and gulp down some haggis before we get to the dramming.
Enough of that for now. We have at least a few days more before we do all of that. For now, let’s talk about Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles and the spirits that THEY contain. Here is a quick rundown of the first Outturn of 2020:
- There were a few surprises in the lineup, including number one. Starting with an Armagnac? Preposterous! Typically an Armagnac would be too rich and earthy to start a tasting and when they have been included in past Outturns, they usually ended up fourth or fifth in the lineup. Not so for this CUP O’ KINDNESS, which is lighter than most other Armagnac I have tasted. Light, but not lacking flavour.
- SOUL O’ PLAYS AND PRANKS arrived next, and takes its name from one of the Scottish Bard’s many poems. The SMWS of course selected a bottle to honour Robbie Burns this month, and 58.29 does so nicely. Rich and elegant with beautiful fruit notes, and hailing from one of the most picturesque distilleries in Scotland.
- Third in the lineup was NUTS, SPICE AND INTRIGUE. This is a wonderful unadulterated Dalmore, showing plenty of complexity for a cask that was just ten years of age when it was bottled.
- Number four was the oldest bottle of the tasting by a full decade. WALKING INTO A FRUIT PUNCH is not just a pun your dad would make, it is also a wonderfully fruity dram from distillery 35.
- We landed on the shores of Islay for the fifth bottle in the lineup. SEA, SAND AND SOOT is an unpeated whisky from distillery 10 that vacillates between being fresh and vibrant to tight and mineral-driven, yet without as much salt as many other SMWS Bunna’s have shown recently.
- DISTOPIAN CYBERMAN LUBRICANT. That has to either be the title of a 1970s Arthouse/Sci-Fi/Porno film or an SMWS bottle distilled in Campbeltown. Perhaps it is both. Either way, the whisky version is wonderful and exhibits a soft and complex palate with the bright barley and mechanical/metallic character that only The Wee Toon’s three distilleries can pull off with any consistency.
- Our final green bottle of the Outturn gave us peat in a different manner than we might expect from a typical number seven in a lineup. ACME GHOST REPELLENT gives us mainland peat with little to no coastal notes and hails from an unlikely and difficult to guess distillery source: Glenturret. It was fun to taste an indie bottle in the peated style from the distillery. It was the first chance to do so for me personally. If you could guess the distillery blind on this on, you are a better person than I!
For the full rundown of the lineup in the words of the more trusted SMWS, read on below.
A big thanks as always goes to our neighborâ€™sÂ Peasant Cheese for supplying the food compliment for the tastings.
A4.5 – A CUP O’ KINDNESS
This 2005 vintage Armagnac comes in at 47.9% after maturing in an Armagnac barrel.
Outturn: 488 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose gives a warm embrace like an old acquaintance. There are blood orange madeleines covered with desiccated coconut and freshly cut figs on the side. Then a fizzy quality reminiscent of citrus sherbet and Love Hearts candy, with cherry liqueur and chocolate bitters. One panellist was reminded of fine antiques and silverware (Brasso, beeswax). The taste brings rich vanilla pods, Madeira cake, Jamaica ginger cake spread with marmalade. The antique furniture theme continues with hazelnut oil, chocolatey tobacco and nutmeg.
Water sees us taking a walk in Edinburghâ€™s Botanic Gardens. A farmhouse table offers banana bread, satsumas, rice pudding with strawberry jam and lime marmalade on buttered toast. There is also a waxy note as fragrant candles flicker. The taste is now refreshing, with peach and apricot yogurt, watermelon and honey, and a mouthful of lemon sponge cake. Burns himself might have called this Armagnac a â€˜right gude-willie waughtâ€™ â€“ or a hearty drink taken in goodwill.” $172.99
58.29 – SOUL O’ PLAYS AND PRANKS
This 10 year old Speysider was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 59.3%.
Flavour profile: Light & delicate.
Outturn: 267 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “As spiky as a passionate poet, prickling with assorted citrus, fresh pineapple, cheese curds, lemon bonbons, icing sugar, chamomile and a maple syrup drizzled cheesecake. Water throws up apple turnover cake with a hefty slathering of vanilla custard.
The palate has a fine texture, more maple syrup but a bittersweet quality as well. Some chewy toffee and a guilty note of chocolate eclairs. Even with water the texture is still luxurious and mouth-coating. Notes of gooseberry jam, stem ginger in syrup and rhubarb and custard sweeties. Barley water washed everything down nicely in the finish.” $142
143.70 – NUTS, SPICE AND INTRIGUE
This 10 year old Highlander comes in at 61.1% after maturing in a refill barrel.
Flavour profile: Spicy & dry.
Outturn: 172 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose began with fresh waves of cut grass and pine forests whilst a curious overlaying character initiated thoughts of ‘what is that aroma’? Perfumed notes formulated into lilac and lavender before brazil nuts and toasted pine nuts presented oily textures. Oils turned to cream – strawberries and cream to be precise which quickly became accompanied by peaches, apricots and brandy butter.
Curious aromas turned into warming spice as cloves and nutmeg joined allspice and star anise. Without water the palate was sweet and rich yet feisty like fresh ginger. However, with just a drop added it revealed herbal tones with butter on crumpets and puff pastry wrapped around blackberry jam. The dried fruits of malt loaf appeared at the end with brioche bread and a glass of dry white wine.” $149
35.220 – WALKING INTO A FRUIT PUNCH
This 28 year old Speysider comes in at 56.9% after maturing in a 1st fill barrel.
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla.
Outturn: 187 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Vibrant fruit came out swinging as banana and tinned peaches traded blows with apricot and coconut before getting caught by a tropical rum punch. Apple and rhubarb crumble waited in the corner with a bucket of vanilla custard and dusty oak sawdust.
Soft marshmallow cushioned blows as boozy baked plums entered the ring with frangipane cakes and stone fruits in a dunnage warehouse. Honey sweetness transpired into chewing on warm fudge and fondant icing before the final round presented pink wafer biscuits and Turkish Delight with banana fritters on an oak platter.” $499.99
10.165 – SEA, SAND AND SOOT
This 11 year old from Islay was matured in a refill barrel and is 62.4%.
Flavour profile: Oily & coastal.
Outturn: 181 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Mineralic sea air came laden with the sweet smell of vanilla ice cream cones and cinnamon on seaweed. Coal dust and soot sprinkled down onto a sandy beach as driftwood and the frayed remnants of ship’s rope washed up on the shore. The sweet fragrance of hibiscus flowers drifted into Earl Grey tea and spicy sandalwood like a lucid dream whilst a whiff of the medicinal delivered tea tree oil and salted blackcurrants.
Sticky cherry cola and pink wafer biscuits became balanced by the tartness of kumquats and lime relish with a suggestion of turmeric and lemongrass. A combination of salty rocks and gravlax returned us to a maritime mood as the finish wrapped our senses with warm butter and pepper.” $178
93.116 – DYSTOPIAN CYBERMAN LUBRICANT
This 18 year old from Campbeltown comes in at 50.4% and was matured in a refill hogshead.
Flavour profile: Lightly peated.
Outturn: 171 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Fish and chips with lashings of malt vinegar, smoked marzipan, heather doused in TCP, salted grist, Parahandy puffer smoke and grilled whelks bobbing in petrol diluted with barnacle foam. Delicious madness! With water it moves more towards the farmyard with notes of iodine, ink, mutton fat, antiseptic, disinfectant and mixtures of brine, engine oil and medical tinctures. Smoked black peppercorns pulverised in a pestle and mortar.
The palate opens with smoked porridge, nettle cordial, soft tar notes, citronella candles, kippers in kedgeree, smoked almonds, aged Loire chenin and dried kelp. Water unveils notes of salt baked cod, Austrian potato salad, peppered mackerel, coal dust, miso seaweed broth, meat stock, beach sand and salty blue cheese sprinkled with crushed aspirin.” $213.99
16.38 – ACME GHOST REPELLENT
This 8 year old Highlander comes in at 59.3% after maturing in a re-charred hogshead.
Flavour profile: Peated.
Outturn: 315 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Pure farmyard! All smouldering wood ash, strap leather, old hay loft, tractor engines and mutton heavy stovies. Some burnt orange peel, burning newspaper and flint smoke. Water brings out coal tar soap, brake fluid, mead and burlap. Hints of antiseptic, chicken soup, mustard oil and burnt toast.
The arrival in the mouth is all on earthy peat oils, lemon jam, biltong, game meats, pine cones, dried banana chips, camphor and lanolin. A splash of water gives jasmine tea, caraway, incense, ginger beer, heavy eucalyptus oils, smoky bacon, salted liquorice, butterscotch and paraffin wax. A wee beast!” $137