Early september, I discovered there was events where you could taste SMWS whiskies as well as cigars – and boy what that an excellent discovery.
This time around, the French ambassadors reached out to me and asked me whether I would be interested in an “exclusive” session where we would taste a whisky selected just for France – SMWS 7.217 – Joie de vivre. This session would again be at Gentleman 1919, which I’m starting to love more and more.
Obviously, I accepted – and I can only thank them for that as I missed the Whisky Live due to friends having the bad idea of having their wedding that week-end. This was then the occasion for me to forget about the sheer pain it caused and soothe my broken heart by downing some drams.
The four of us, plus Cyrille & Jean-Philippe, two of the French ambassadors for SMWS, sat in the very good private room where we were last time and began this evening with a nice cocktail.
As I got there a bit early I had the opportunity to chat with the bartender (Adrien, if memory serves), and to tell him I wasn’t really keen on trying rum as whisky was already a big expenditure. So he decided to fix me a nice rum cocktail!
I have absolutely no idea what was in that but boy was it excellent. We kicked off with that, got our cigars, and started to enjoy our evening, talking about Jean-Philippe & Cyrille experiences of the Whisky Live as they attended it as exhibitors for three days (lucky them).
After some nice gulps of the cocktails we each had, listening to the slurred voice of Cyrille who assured us he did not drink while manning his booth at Whisky Live (yeaaaaah, right!), we started the hostilities with the first few drams and the cigar our host selected.
This was a very nice lineup, and as you were able to see on the picture, a pretty large one. Here’s the TL;DR version once again:
SMWS 71.65 – Cracking – crispy and crunchy: 90/100
SMWS 44.111 – Spicy and fruity, sweet and sour: 87/100
SMWS 7.217 – Joie de vivre: 88/100
SMWS 9.168 – Cedar bigger picture: 85/100
SMWS 46.82 – A journey from light to dark: 88/100
SMWS 29.195 – Charred staves and black dragon tea: 95/100
SMWS 137.3 – Smouldering englishness: 89 /100
Let’s crack on to the reviews!
We started our tasting with a Glenburgie – I can only say I was expecting it very much. I’ve recently tasted a very nice Glenburgie 1995 (the 20, rue d’Anjou edition from LMDW) and was positively extatic with it. So I had high expectations for this 8 years old, first fill ex-bourbon barrel.
A true Bourbon barrel – Vanilla and custard on the forefront. But then, this Glenburgie note of peach, candy floss or sweet candy.
Candy, sweet and vanilla, like these little candies tasting peachy.
The finish is heavily on peach, lengthy yet mellow.
To me, this was a very fruity nectar. I loved it very much (and actually bought a bottle, a given for £44). The very fruity notes were sharp, and writing that, I almost can feel it back, rolling on the tongue.
Sitting in the Spicy & Sweet category, this 12 years old Craigellachie went after a Glenburgie so had, in my humble opinion, the hard job to follow that up. It was again a bourbon barrel refill, with a high ABV (60.2%).
Sweet yet spicy – yes, that’s true! Nutmeg, ginger and smooth pears.
Very creamy in the mouth, attack on pears, smoothly going on the spices, off to smooth milk chocolate.
Smooth and light finish, pears and green apples, cocoa.
Well that was a good surprise. I was still smelling the previous dram but this Craigellachie had nothing to be ashamed for. It stood on its own and the spicy/sweet thing was on the point, not too overpowering.
This was the meat of the meeting truly. A 14 years old Longmorn, exclusive to France. I never tasted Longmorn before so I went in curious, open minded and thirsty. It’s a first fill ex-bourbon barrel.
First came the barrel: vanilla, slight oak. But then I was surprised by the floral aspect: geranium, carnation. Smooth!
Smooth start going on a fruity (mango, passion fruit) middle and ending on flowers.
A bit short of a finish, vanilla and flowers again.
Well, that was quite a treat for my first Longmorn. I think this is the first time I can smell such a smooth and pleasing floral smell. It was tough rating this one – I removed some points for the short finish. But I bought one!
I tend not to really go for the Light & Delicate category of the SMWS. Usually, I’m a fan of strong flavours. So I eyed this Glen Grant with some bias, I’m afraid. But heh – why not try? It came from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
At first, the typical Glen Grant citrus came out along with some sort of astringency, on a background of meringue and some oak.
Very surprising meringue on the attack! Then lemon meringue pie, lemon meringue pie, and lemon meringue pie again with some slight vanilla at the end.
Short finish, sadly.
It was a surprise as when I mentioned lemon meringue pie, everyone present said “ooh yes!”. It’s not often to feel such a clear cut, explicit sensory experience shared across an assembly of 6.
Ah, an old one! 26 years old Glenlossie, obviously coming from the Old & Dignified category, and coming from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead again. A good change from the light drams we had before this one.
Vanilla, some sort of old Madeira, almost liquorous, light spices.
Sweet all over, prunes, some chocolate, adding water lets some spices get out, very light yet profound in some sort of an unplaceable way.
Quite a low key finish yet lasting, dates, plums.
An interesting dram, but at this price point (£144) and with this finish, I’m afraid that even though it was good, it’s a pass for me.
SMWS 29.195 – Charred staves and black dragon tea
A Laphroaig. Cue a picture of myself mouth ajar, saliva dropping on the floor. This is my kind of peat. A 16 years old ex-bourbon refill barrel exclusive to France. Bet you’re jealous!
Iode, fresh and light, reminiscent of a sea side on a rainy morning, fresh fleshy fruits.
Low key attack, fruity and smoky the Laphroaig way, building up on smoke with light touch of vanilla, smelling the sea in the far out.
Finish on apricot, smooth and lasting in the mouth, leaving this salty taste making you ache for more.
Give me the bottle. Give me all bottles. I don’t care how you do it but I want one.
The third SMWS release from Saint George’s Distillery, a 9 years old first fill ex-bourbon barrel. This one measured against the Laphroaig I had before – which was hard, but I was told it was founded by an ex from Laphroaig based on English peat. Why not?
A very surprising juniper start, followed by sea salt, chocolate and apricot, and at the very end a low key custard.
Attacking on an alcoholic burn. Milk chocolate, very smooth smoke with a slight sea salty after taste.
Finish a bit short yet on sea salt crystals, with this smooth smoke bringing them forward.
I discovered a new distillery with this one. I have absolutely no regret but this one: I waited for the Joie de vivre release on October 10th to make my order and there was none of this release left. My world is misery.