Scotch Malt Whisky Society – Fall tastings for the US

As you may or may not know, I am a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (of America).  And in case you’re not aware, the SMWSA does a series of tasting events called “The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza“.  The “Extravaganza” is now in it’s 17th year.  If you’ve never been to one of their events, you may want to change that, and soon!

Perhaps I can help.  I’ve been working with the good folks at the society and they were kind enough to extend to me a discount code for my readers; specifically for people who are not members of the SMWSA.  Tickets to one of their Extravaganzas, for members, are $120.00ea, non-members are $135.00ea.  If you use the discount code JMS10, all of you non-members can purchase your first two tickets at the member price of $120.00.  Not bad!

For more information on the SMWS events and on how to purchase your tickets, click here.

See below for a full listing of their fall events schedule.  I always jump at a chance to meet my readers so, for those wanting to come out and meet yours truly, I will be at the Boston event.


As a reminder, earlier this month I did an interview with Alan Shayne (President of the SMWSA and an all around great guy).  To read that, click here.

Glenglassaugh Peated New Make Spirit – 50%ABV

Highland Region – 50%ABV – 200ml – $29.99

“What’s this,” you say, “a heavily peated Highland malt?”  Yes folks, the fine group at Glenglassaugh are working on some spirit which they are peating at a level of 30 ppm (parts per million).  As a frame of reference, Laphroaig has a peating level of 40 ppm whereas Bunnahabhain has a level of about 5 ppm.  So, 30 ppm is going to give us a nice peaty little Highlander!

Let’s see what this spirit tastes like prior to maturation:

On the nose Water doused campfire.

An old pipe you find that you’re sure you used a lot while in college (if you catch my meaning.  Ok people, a pot pipe.  Wow, it’s been a while!  Seriously.).

Fresh dirt & gardening gloves.

More of that pipe (kind of like the resin from said pipe).

Believe it or not, clean cotton.

On the mouth Bright lemons.

Salty (reminiscent of a very young Ardbeg if it were to have no oak influence).

Malty for sure and the pears that I detected in the Clearac are there.

Ashtray and last night’s cigarette (yet another thing I haven’t done in years but, man, how cool that those memories come back through smell and taste).

Finish Medium long.  More biting than the clearac.

In sum This is going to be quite an interesting Highland malt.  The peat is clear, and bold.

To see Jason of Guid Scotch Drink’s notes, click here.

A week dedicated to Glenglassaugh – first up, Clearac 50% ABV

Highland Region – 50%ABV – 200ml – $29.99

Soon to be released in the US will be a series of four 200ml bottled of Glenglassaugh spirit drinks.  Today I am tasting, along side my good friend Jason Johnstone-Yellin of Guid Scotch Drink, the Glenglassaugh “Clearac”.  A new, unpeated, un-matured spirit – straight off the still.

If you’ve never tasted or experienced new make spirit or an unmatured malt distillate, please do not go into it thinking you’re going to taste whisky.  This is not whisky.  Whisk(e)y gets a good 60% (or more) of it’s flavors from the barrel during the maturation process.  What I am reviewing today is an unmatured spirit which is unaffected in any way by oak barrels.

So, what should we expect?  Well, I would expect beer like, or, malty notes and gobs of sweetness.  Let’s see what we get:

On the nose Big beer notes right up front — like a good Belgian beer (think Duvel or Leffe).

Beneath that there are some very fruity notes.

Berries (lighter, more sour berries, like gooseberry).

Baked pear.

There’s also notes of unsweetened iced tea.

This is a bright, fresh nose.

On the mouth Pears, all the way (bartlett).

Nice mouthfeel, slight chewiness (chewy like gum, not like Chewbacca).

Some minty notes.

Malt is there for sure but this is really more fruity than malty (complete opposite of the nose).

Finish Short to medium with a slight saltiness at the very end.

In sum When I go back to the nose after taking a sip, those malty/beer notes seem much more prevalent.  The flavor is where it’s at.

As mentioned, this is NOT whisky.  However, let’s look at this as if we were chess players (as some of you may be).  Think a few steps/plays out or, perhaps 10 years out.  This liquid, matured in ex-bourbon barrels?  Now we’re talking!  This is going to be some fine tasting whisky!

By the way, as I mentioned, I’m doing this week along side the Guid Scotch Drink blog.  You can read Jason’s notes here.

The Balvenie 15yr Single Barrel – my favorite Balvenie in their standard line

Speyside – 47.8%ABV – 750ml – $60-65 | £42 | €51

Balvenie week, Day #5.  The final day in this series (though surely not my final Balvenie!).  A big thanks once again to Sam Simmons (aka Dr. Whisky) for the videos and samples!

The Balvenie 15yr Single Barrel was my first Balvenie ever and currently, my favorite.  I remember the day I bought the bottle as if it were yesterday…

Looking at the storekeepers stock, I had a choice of The Balvenie 12yr DoubleWood for $36 or the 15yr for about $49 (it’s now a good $60-65 bottle of the 15yr these days).  I went into the store with the good intention of buying the DoubleWood but when I saw that I could get 3 more years worth of whisky for only $13, I jumped for it.  It’s sort of silly now that I think about…  I now feel that, for the most part, age doesn’t mean anything.  Taste does.

So, how does this stuff taste?  Well, there are two answers to that question:

A) It tastes damn good (as you’ll see in my notes below)

B) Because this is a single barrel expression, there’s a good chance that every bottle you buy could have come from a different barrel and the fluid could be more than 15yrs old (remember, an age statement with whisk(e)y is a minimum age statement), resulting in a slightly different tasting whisky each time.  This is one of the things I love the most about this Balvenie series – you get something new every time.  It’s like getting the honeymoon period of a romantic relationship in a bottle!  Cool stuff.

On to the video…  At long last (well, not that long.  It’s only been a week), we arrive at the final video of the series.  Today we are featuring Mr. David Stewart.  Yes, the David Stewart.  The man who designs and meticulously selects all of the whiskies for The Balvenie range.  David, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed and for explaining why the Balvenie 15yr is also your favorite Balvenie:

And now my review of The Balvenie 15yr Single Barrel:

On the nose The higher ABV for this one is dead on.  Good on you, David!

Big bright fruits peaches (in white wine) & cantaloupe.

Marzipan – sharp almond notes.

Thai yellow curry & lightly buttered couscous (even getting some lime leaf here).

And floating on top of it all, those classic Balvenie honeyed notes.

On the mouth Pure honey and citrus.

Hints of water cured ginger.

A slight brininess to this.

Great mouth feel – thick and sweet but not overly so.

The sweetness is pushed aside and now there a nice tapioca pudding quality to this.

Finish There’s a fizziness throughout my entire mouth and lingering citrus and honey notes.

A delicious nuttiness returns (reminiscent of the marzipan note from before though, less sharp).

In sum There’s something so elegant about The Balvenie.  While this is nice enough as an everyday drinker, I can picture myself saving it for a special evening – a nice Shabbat (the Sabbath) dram!  Wait a sec, Shabbat starts tonight!  Also, its my oldest daughter’s 4th birthday.  I think I’ll celebrate both occasions with a little Balvenie 15yr.


The Balvenie 12yr DoubleWood – a tale of two noses.

Speyside – 43%ABV – 750ml – $35-40 | £30 | €36

Balvenie week, Day #4.

Alright, we’re coming down the pike here.  Only two days left of The Balvenie week.  I’ve decided to save my favorite Balvenie whiskies for the last two days.

Here, on our fourth day, I am featuring what is quite possibly one of the best bang-for-your-buck whiskies out today.  Full, rich in character and in flavor and… for only $35-$40??  Come on.

There are other bang-for-your-buck whiskies out there and I think that the good folks over at do a great job with their top 40 whiskies under $40 series.  Check it out (then come back).

Also, as an aside and with regards to The Balvenie DoubleWood, this whisky was my good friend Gal Granov’s (Whisky Israel) gateway dram.  You can read about it here in this interview with him on

As with my other Balvenie Week posts –  before we get to my review of today’s whisky, please sit back and enjoy this exclusive video with a very special employee of The Balvenie (please note that my saying this is not meant to imply that the other Balvenie workers we’ve shown aren’t special) – today’s guest is Dennis McBain, Coppersmith for The Balvenie for nearly 51 years.  You can read more about Dennis here and here.  I am very honored that he agreed to be recorded for this series.  Dennis, thank you.

Now, my review of Dennis’ favorite Bavenie expression, the DoubleWood:

On the nose A tale of two noses.

Initial few whiffs offer up great (though not overwhelming) sherried notes filled with chocolates & licorice.  

Better yet, chocolate covered licorice (yes, it exists).

Wine soaked raisins.

Right beside these scents I get notes of a full jar of honey and cup of vanilla tea.

Clove laden orange.

On the mouth Succulent.

Warm.  Warming.

Chewy toffees and warm butter.

Boston baked beans (the candy coated peanuts).

More sugared nuts.

Finish Baklava.  Walnuts.  Medium length.

In sum A solid… let me rethink then restate this…  Beyond a “solid” whisky, it’s a must have.

Inexpensive and interesting enough to give to your guests who have the occasional whisky (perhaps this one will turn them into whisky geeks – as mentioned, that’s how it happened for Gal of Whisky Israel), complex enough for the whisky connoisseur, easy enough to be an every day drinker.