When I really got into Whisky, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Scotland for the Spirit of Speyside festival.
We were celebrating Coldorak’s birthday and at the same time planning to enjoy Scotland and its distilleries. And boy we did.
One of the event we attended was Glen Moray’s May 4th 2019. May the fourth anyone? It was cohosted by Glen Moray and the SMWS that I didn’t know before then.
The SMWS is an independent bottler somehow atypical: it’s a club and you need to be a member if you want to partake in the goodies. It releases almost only single casks, cask strength, non chill-filtered whiskies at a very affordable price.
I was intrigued with the SMWS and it didn’t take long for me to commit myself to become a member. Fast forward to August 2019 and I finally did my first tasting session with the Parisian members at Mersea.
Oh boy how I do not regret going there. Here’s a sneak peek of what I had the joy of trying out
Before getting into the meat of this review, it’s important for me to say that this event was my first and I was impressed with the quality, the friendliness of both attendees and organizers and it left me with a very good impression. Kudos!
For those of you who don’t know how to or don’t like to read, here’s the TL;DR version:
SMWS – Old Fashioned: 82/100
SMWS G4.18 – The paradise patisserie: 83/100
SMWS 26.128 – A wildcat did purr (or Salty Chalk-mallow): 88/100
SMWS 107.16 – Truly a fairy tale: 88/100
SMWS 29.262 – So long and thanks for all the medicine: 92/100
SMWS 53.294 – Drampaigne Extra Brute: 86/100
We started this session with this peculiar release. Peculiar as it’s a blend for starters and it’s been intended to be used for Mixology – Old Fashioned particularly. It sits at 57% ABV.
A nice golden hue going to the Sauternes
Quite a caramelly smell, with hints of vanilla and this peculiar sandalwood smell. After the first few whiffs, there comes a bit of ginger.
Wood comes first, pleasant but not strong followed by caramel, a slight hint of custard and some spices that I usually link to sherry: ginger, clove… Nothing strong nor out of place.
It is very sweet and easy to drink though. Makes for a dangerous combination.
Quite smooth but not lingering, leaving on the caramel notes.
In and of itself, this is a good whisky, but not a whisky for me. It’s sweet and a tad sirupy, and I could’t find anything to really reminisce things that would make me enjoy it on the long term. In a cocktail though…
This Cameronbridge is a whopping 29 years old, and all grain, no malt. Interesting choice there, for a 54.7% ABV.
Very light! Something between Champagne and Chardonnay.
The usual bourbon vanilla is also letting the spices from the grain come through. There’s also some damp earth smell (that I personnaly attribute to rye, even though I don’t know if there’s any in!), and hints of kiwi. It smells very alcoholic.
When adding water, the nose gets fresher and less alcoholic, more pleasant.
When sipping neat first, the vanilla and some peppery taste came straight at me, followed closely by caramel. Still these notes of damp earth. There are few notes of the barrel itself, which makes sense for a 2nd fill.
Adding a dab of water reveals even more pepper and the overall mouthfeel gets oily and dry.
The finish is extremely peppery (which I like).
A quite palatable whisky albeit I always have “issues” with this damp earth nose. To each his own!
This Clynelish is a a youngster, 7 years old, standing at 60.4 ABV. I don’t know why but the bottle picture here for 26.128 is named differently on the website. Who knows?
Straw or eiswein.
Neat, the nose is very fruity – kiwi comes to mind. Then it’s the standard (and very pleasant) vanilla, caramel and a whiff of toasted bread and sea salt (odd enough for that).
When adding water, the nose gets even fruitier with some stone fruits, notably apricot.
Neat, the palate is very fruity and warm. Quite surprising for such a young one. All about kiwi and mango, with a salty note and quite a strong alcoholic feel.
Adding water makes it smoother and even fruitier (as if it wasn’t enough already!)
The overall mouthfeel is typically Clynelish – very waxy.
This one ends strongly on caramel and apricot jam.
When I visited Clynelish I wasn’t that convinced. This one had me though. I bought a bottle!
A young Glenallachie with a surprising 67% ABV. Ok sure it’s young, but that much? I feared for my taste buds.
I expected overpowering alcohol, but no! Fruity and spicy, kiwi again, hints of caramel.
Adding water brings out some very enjoyable pepper.
Sipping on it delivered nuts, figs, plums. The typical “Deep, rich and dried fruits” experience SMWS can deliver.
With water, it also brought out the pepper.
From nose to palate, I expected alcohol, yet even at the very end, it didn’t strike me. It was very soft!
I expected a slap cross the ahead standing that high when it came to ABV but it was an excellent dram. Again, I bought a bottle (I’m a sucker for this category).
A Laphroaig with its black label. This screams pleasure. 20 years old, ex-bourbon barrel, 55.6% ABV.
Straw or eiswein
The typical Laphroaig peat comes to you with that. To me, this evocates roses and is very iodic.
Adding water made it somehow nuttier, and also reinforced the roses and brought forth some pleasant maritime smells, e.g. algae.
The taste was of consequence…. sweet bonfire followed by stone fruits and ashes. Again the rose permeates all of this.
I licked the very last drop.
A finish on stone fruits, very palatable.
I track Laphroaig releases from SMWS. This is the stuff of gods. This one was sold out. Sad emoji.
This Caol Ila is a 9 years old, 59.1% ABV, coming from an ex-bourbon refill hogshead.
Straw or eiswein
Yet again quite a typical peat smoke – charred meat especially. It reminded me of another release: Speck-tacular. It had a twist though, some citrus underneath the meat.
This is the stuff you sip while waiting for your piece of meat to cook. All about charred meat, a nice oaky base, smooth and kind of herbal.
A very long and descending finish, staying quite a long time on the tastebuds.
I like meat, but I’d prefer something more to that one. Bought one to give away to a fan of that though!
This was my first tasting session with SMWS, even though I did hold some at my place for my own pleasure and… it was a blast! The venue (Mersea) was very good and friendly to us, all people present were very welcoming and keen on sharing and I also got to invite a friend of mine who was whiskurious and ended up asking me to order a bottle for him (you’re lost, sucker!).
As to what I preferred, it’s abundantly clear that it’s without a doubt SMWS 29.262 – “So long and thanks for all the medicine”. This is the stuff I love, Laphroaig through and through and its flowery peat. I was surprised by SMWS 107.16 – “Truly a fairy tale” and its monster ABV as much as clean taste. You wouldn’t guess drinking it it’s that strong.
SMWS 26.128 – A wildcat did purr (or Salty Chalk-mallow) made me reconsider Clynelish as well and that’s no small feat – probably the overall fruitiness of it all.
Stand by for more reviews of that type soon!