Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Review | Drop & Dram by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (or SMWS for short) have launched Drop & Dram – a monthly subscription service aimed at allowing whisky enthusiasts in the UK to explore new flavours without having to pay for full annual membership. The new initiative, which formed part of the company's 40th anniversary celebrations when introduced in November last year, costs £45 per month. It is currently exclusive to the UK.

For this you receive a pack of three cask strength whiskies. Each is bottled at 5cl (50ml) and taken from the SMWS’ vast portfolio of casks. This currently includes over 180 distilleries from Scotland and the whisky world beyond. Each month has a different theme and allows access to exclusive tasting notes and video links about the samples.

A huge benefit of signing up for Drop & Dram is temporary monthly membership to the SMWS. This gives the opportunity to purchase full 70cl (700ml) bottlings upon release from the website and visit one of the four excellent Society venues in the UK – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leith, and London. It also allows participation in exclusive events and tastings. 

The SMWS was established in 1983 and bottles whiskies exclusively for its members. Most are single cask single malts and at natural cask strength with roughly 150-200 casks bottled per year. They use a unique numbering system for their bottlings and do not reveal the distillery identity - the first number is the distillery where the spirit was produced and the second is the number of casks released by the SMWS from that distillery. Each bottling also has a creative name.

We are sampling Set #4 entitled Drams Without Borders. This includes two Scotch single malt whiskies, one from Speyside and one from the Highlands, plus an English single malt. Drop & Dram Set #4 was released in March 2024 and was the latest pack at time of writing. For further information and to purchase a pack - please visit

Our Tasting Notes

Drop & Dram | 39.284 Push Pineapple, Shake A Bee
Distilled 5 December 2011/ 11 years old/ first-fill ex-bourbon cask/ Speyside/ 62.1% ABV
The colour is pale gold and the nose is highly aromatic and fresh. Vibrant green apple and freshly mown grass aromas mingle with vanilla custard, honey and luscious juicy pineapple. There are also hints of white chocolate, pink peppercorn and candyfloss.

On the palate this whisky is equally as vibrant. Notes of freshly sawn oak shavings, vanilla pod and honey rise first. These are quickly joined by juicy tropical fruits - think of ripe pineapple, peach and apricot especially. Some creamed coconut, lemon curd and crisp green apple are also evident. There are hints of woody spices (imagine cinnamon, cassia and a tiny scratch of nutmeg) and cocoa powder. The white chocolate and candyfloss from the nose also develop. The finish becomes particularly peachy and is reminiscent of caramelised peach with vanilla custard. The woody spice and dryness draw out the length well. A classic ex-bourbon cask Speysider.

Drop & Dram | 55.85 Passionate Desire
Distilled 28 September 2009/ 13 years old/ first-fill ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry hogshead/ Highlands/ 57.5% ABV
The colour is a deep coppery amber and the nose is laced with fruity and sweet aromas. Dark muscovado sugar, caramel and treacle sponge cake mingle with warm orange marmalade, brandy-soaked raisins and cherry compote. Hints of milk chocolate, almond patisserie and dates sit in the background.

On the palate this whisky is rich, viscous and decadent. Notes of golden syrup and treacle mix with caramelised bitter orange, fresh warm gingerbread and a pinch of cocoa. It is big and bold with plenty of dark sugary sweetness. Then comes the fruit and then a building spiciness and dryness. Think of black cherry jam and chargrilled figs in combination with the brandy-soaked raisins from the nose and a hint of marzipan. The spice and heat build and evolve from initial notes of gingerbread through to clove-studded almond tart and finally, warming baking spices - imagine cinnamon bark especially. The finish sees the sweetness fade slowly to leave a drying tannic feel.

Drop & Dram | 137.20 Potted Shrimp & Salmon Terrine
Distilled 25 October 2012/ 9 years old/ second-fill ex-bourbon barrel/ England/ 60.9% ABV

The colour is deep gold and the nose is smoky, sweet and woody. Peppery peat smoke and expressive charred oak aromas rise from the glass first and are quickly followed by golden syrup, apricot jam and a twist of burnt orange peel and zesty lemon. Hints of vanilla sugar, honey and dessicated coconut back things up.

On the palate this whisky packs an immediate peaty punch. Charred oak and ashy charcoal embers hit first and these slowly subside to allow further characteristics through. Chargrilled lemon and bitter orange notes are followed by golden syrup, honey and a hint of milk chocolate garnache. There is also a distinct pepperiness that builds and adds heat. Savoury and umami elements develop slowly and are reminiscent of black tea, old cigar box and a hint of cedarwood. Some toasted spices also come through - think of cinnamon bark, mace and clove with a hint of coriander seed. This spice and dryness dominates the finish, which becomes woody and ashy with plenty of tannins and white pepper.

What's The Verdict?
Drop & Dram is a great initiative from the SMWS and offers a good way of sampling their cask strength single cask whiskies without having to buy a full-sized bottle or annual membership. We like the fact that you can pick and choose which month's packs to subscribe to, depending on your personal tastes and preferences, and that you get a temporary membership with all the benefits it brings for that month.

The whiskies in Set #4 Drams Without Borders perfectly showcase what the Scotch Malt Whisky Society do well - cask strength whiskies in traditional casks. The selection of the three in this set is clever and takes you in three differing directions. All are tasty whiskies and the size of sample allows you to revisit them a couple of times. Well worth checking Drop & Dram out.

Please note | all images are copyright of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

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