I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of the SMWS’ bottlings, they seem to be consistently good with only one or two that I’ve not been that impressed by so when The Good Spirits Co. announced they were going to be holding a non-members SMWS tasting I jumped at the chance and bought a ticket, around the same time Helen from the society invited me along to another tasting, a much smaller and cosier affair, where they show off their latest releases to friends and bloggers.
Tasting 1: Non-members.
All of the tastings I’ve ever been to have been pretty civilised affairs, a great selection of drams, plenty of water, sometimes oatcakes and occasionally leaflets, I knew this was going to be something special walking in and seeing their British racing green and gold tasting notes folders covering our drams (in SMWS glasses of course), nuts, raisins, sultanas, chocolate and oatcakes spaced out around the tables and a bundle of SMWS pencils on each table – those pencils should have been a warning sign!
The tasting was hosted by James and Helen from the society and I was sharing a table with some fellow Glasgow’s Whisky Club members, Nicola from Whisky Boys (read her post on the night here.) and Angus from Mulberrybank Auction House so I really couldn’t have hoped for better company!
SWMS 50.48 – Capering on a riverbank (18 Year old Bladnoch at 54.6% ABV)
As usual I found the societies notes to be amongst some of the best in the industry so I didn’t have a great deal to add to them, on the nose there was plenty of soft fruit, peaches, apricots, some ginger and coconut and a bit of citric zestiness. On the palate it was rich, sweet, lot’s of tropical fruit, mangos with a bit of spicy chilli, the soft fruits made an appearance again on the finish along with golden syrup and the paper from wax crayons.
SMWS 7.78 – French Patisserie in a bluebell wood (20 Year old Longmorn at 53.6% ABV)
Again, the SMWS notes were spot on with floral perfume, lavender golden syrup flapjacks and marshmallows on the nose, on the palate; dried red fruit, oily and syrupy, but powdery, cereal, creamy, pick ‘n’ mix with sherbet flying saucers going onto a very sweet fruity finish with pinapple cubes, green bananas a little smoke and some hot chocolate.
SMWS 82.19 – “Stunning” (13 Year old Glencadem at 55.7% ABV)
I know a lot of bloggers and whisky enthusiasts who wouldn’t buy this one simply because they’re sick of hearing things described as “stunning”, this may not have been my favourite dram of the evening, but it’s definitely their loss! On the nose, plums, sherry, nutmeg, treacle, wood, a very thick, syrupy, but winey character. The palate was a strange mixture of cola cubes, furniture polish, leather, hazel nuts, wall nuts, cocoa powder going onto a very dry powdery/dusty sherry/port type finish, I found this one extremely dry, but with a bit of water it turned into something that could quite easily be compared to a desert wine, I’m not much for pairing whisky and food, but this whisky would be ideal for pairing with some sort of rich chocolate gateau.
SMWS 27.97 – Glazed cashews and lemon lollies (13 Year old Springbank at 57.6%)
YES! I love you Springbank and my notes can’t do you justice! A lovely dram and obviously my dram of the evening, golden syrup, new boots, cereal and coastal sea breeze on the nose, caramelised nuts with honey, lemon curd, golden syrup and butter on the palate with a hint of waxy lemsip and that trademark mineral quality that you only really get from Springbank. A bit of smoke managed to creep into this one and there’s a lovely smooth finish like manuka honey on toast.
SMWS 54.172 – Unmistakable Islay (21 Year old Caol Ila at 52.2% ABV)
There’s an unwritten law somewhere that says you have to finish the night with an Islay so this one done a great job with BBQ, frazzels (those bacon shaped crips), shredded wheat and brown paper towels on the nose and the palate was unmistakable Caol Ila, like eating chocolate next to a bonfire on a beach with a bit of old leather and sea breeze thrown in for good measure.
We ended the
evening formal tasting with some Ardbeg new make at around 69% ABV, it was surprisingly fruity with just a touch of smoke and peat – really nice! Around this time I decided money was no object and it was about time for me to join the SMWS, it became clear what those pencils were for – filling out the membership cards, but the four bottles, lovely membership pack and free bottle of 35.72 made it all worthwhile, the trip to the Pot Still after helped too!
Tasting 2: Christmas SMWS Outturn
Helen was nice enough to invite me along to this, along with some familiar faces from the previous weeks tasting (one week on and I’d just about recovered). Once again Nicola from the Whisky Boys was there this time joined by Jim, you can read their take on the night here.
SMWS 7.79 - Cranachan in de Caribbean (9 Year old Longmorn at 61.5% ABV)
This bottle also doubled as the Glasgow’s Whisky Festival bottling so it was good to get a bit of a sneak preview, the nose was a pleasant mixture of pineapple, dusty pencil shavings and creamy vanilla, the palate was extremely smooth and Caribbean, some spicy barbecued pineapple and brown sugar with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a finish of smoked candied almonds – lovely!
Helen and James
SMWS 35.75 – Victorian walled garden in Las Vegas (17 Year old Glen Moray at 57.4% ABV)
I’m not sure how a Victorian walled garden would hold up in Vegas, but if this is anything to go by it would be woody and spicy! The nose was a mixture of spicy leather polish, raisins and there was something very syrupy that reminded me of rum or grain whisky. The palate lived up to the expectation of syrup and maintained a lot of its spice while brining tropical fruit into the equation, mangos, papaya and guava with an oaky, spicy finish of nutmeg.
SMWS 26.89 – An exotic tearoom experience (27 year old Clynelish at 56.6% ABV)
I’m really starting to pay more attention to Clynelish, I’m not sure if my palate’s evolving or if I’m just noticing them more, but Clynelish rock! A typical Clynelish nose, waxy, floral with a bit of gorse blossom, a lovely fruity, waxy palate with refreshers (the sweet) going on to a finish of ginger snaps with fruit and candle wax, while it might not sound too appealing I loved it!
SMWS 72.23 – Complexity well beyond its age (8 year old Miltonduff at 58.1% ABV)
And the name is spot on! I recently had a really bad Miltonduff, but this one was excellent, chocolate with berries, balsamic vinegar and coconut on the nose, an extremely sweet palate with butterscotch, caramel, marmalade, orange oil with sultanas and honey going on to quite a dry tannin finish with a bit of sweet cigar ash.
SMWS 116.17 – Pinball wizard in Japanese teahouse (25 year old Yoichi at 59.2% ABV)
I love this ones name, I’m not sure if it’s meant to make me picture Samurai listening to The Who, but it does and that’s awesome! For some reason I always find Japanese whiskies quite grainy on the nose and they often remind me of emulsion paint, this one was no exception although there was the addition of some orange pith in there. The palate was extremely sweet, strawberry laces with toffee bonbons, quite light, floral, perfume notes, hints of sandalwood and a finish of highland toffee and cayenne pepper.
SMWS 29.128 – Deep, dark and hugely entertaining (21 Year old Laphroaig at 58.8% ABV)
This is what a Laphroaig sherry cask should be like! Slightly winey and vinegary on the nose balanced out with some fruity and creamy cereal notes, the fruity creamy notes carry onto the palate with a mixture of cough syrup and smoke along with the character you’d expect from Laphroaig, on the finish it’s a delightful mixture of spice, smoke and treacle toffee – lovely!
These were two of the best (and most liver punishing) tastings I’ve been to this year, thank you very much to Helen and James for letting us taste some truly amazing whiskies and if you’re not already a member you can join at SMWS.co.uk.