Sunday, November 8, 2009

Have just tried ... The Scotch Malt Whisky Society's winter releases

scotch malt whisky society logoThe Scotch Malt Whisky Society,, is a members club devoted to bottling single casks of whisky. The Society is based in the UK and has two members rooms in Edinburgh and one in London. There are also bases spreading around the world and these currently include America, Australia, Japan and throughout Europe.

Their collection of whiskies is extensive and ever growing. They select, bottle and release around 20 casks the first Friday of every month. Their whiskies are all are bottled at their natural cask strength and are un-chillfiltered to maximise the flavours and characteristics of the whisky. The Society has a unique labelling system uses numbers rather than naming distilleries. For example, something labelled as 24.108 has 24 being the number ID of the distillery and 108 being the number of casks bottled from that distillery.They also provide comprehensive (if not necessarily sensible) tasting notes for each bottling. These notes are put together by a tasting committee that meet up to discuss the merits of each bottling and the notes that are created can often be curious to say the least.

We were lucky enough to be invited to try the releases for November and to get a first hand glimpse of their new limited edition bottle labels.

Cask No. 25.49 (Rosebank 17 years old)
Described as 'Laundry and fizzy chews' this pale whisky is aged in refill bourbon barrels. It has floral and citrus notes with soapy 'washing powder' on the nose. It has a chewy palate with zingy citrus fruit, creamy vanilla and a woodiness. The finish is full of the woodiness and grain with just enough citrus to make the lingering experience quite fresh. Extra grainy sweetness and vanilla coming through once water is added. Only 226 bottles of this whisky exist and given that Rosebank is now closed, the £75 asking price seems more than reasonable.

Cask 35.32 (Glen Moray 34 years old)
Unlike Glen Moray's younger more commercial releases which are quite light in nature, this rare old whisky has a delicious complexity and spiciness. Aged in refill bourbon barrels, this whisky is bright amber in colour with orange oil, red fruit, tobacco and wood polish characteristics. It is described in the Society's notes as "like biting a banister". Adding water brought out red fruit, dark chocolate, licorice and burnt sugar sweetness. The 183 bottles of this whisky are priced at £129 which does reflect its age and rareness.

Cask 24.108 (Macallan 13 years old)
Sporting one of the Society's new limited edition labels, this whisky is described a 'Ferrari Screech'. The dramatic label plays up to the name. Aged in a sherry butt this richly chestnut coloured whisky has burnt rubber notes that are more than a little nutty. Toffee and fudge, sweet maltiness, spicy dried fruits, cinnamon and damp woodiness are all present in this complex whisky. The finish is long and woody with a fading sweetness. The sensation the others trying it with us experienced was of dusty old books. So it seems the odd tasting notes were starting to sink in by this time. This whisky is available as part of the set of three bottles with 'Far Flung Flavours'. Only 30 sets are released and priced at £176. Alternatively buying on its own will cost £60 with a more accessible 556 bottles available thanks to the larger nature of the cask.

Cask 119.10 (Yamazaki 19 years old)
This whisky is big and unapologetic. It is highy influenced by its aging a sherry butt but was surprisingly easy-drinking for a whisky of this nature. It resembled flat cola in the glass and was full and explosive on the palate and richly dark rum or Cognac on the nose. Dried fruit, burnt sugar, almonds and toasty charred woodiness make its release timely as this whisky would make a great Christmas day drink. You could almost imagine you were drinking the cake. 465 bottles are available for £65 each.

Cask 33.79 (Ardbeg 10 years)
Titled by the Society as a 'road-side dram', this highly imaginative description has been given as it reminded the Society's tasters of "the Kildalton road - newly laid tar, petrol, salt, peat smoke and straw bales". It is full of Ardbeg's characteristic peaty smoke with earthy iodine and menthol notes and a surprising hint of lavender on the nose. Aged in first re-fill bourbon barrels it is light in colour with a sweet vanilla influence you would expect from this type of cask which was described by one of our fellow tasters as reminiscent of powdered custard. Its long fresh finish is full of the smoke that won't let you forget that you are drinking an Ardbeg. 235 bottles at £54 each are available.

Dram of the evening
For us this was cask 119.10 (Yamazaki 19 years old), as it highlighted the quality and diversity of whisky that comes from Japan, and the unique nature of single cask whisky from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

If you want to get your hands on any of these bottles, you will need to be a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. You can join online at, as well as seeing the full range of First Friday releases and reading their quirky tasting notes for yourself.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

we have SMWS Taiwan :))