Back in October, 2011, I had the pleasure of attending the Boston Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza which is held by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America.
If you’re not a member of the SMWS(A) then the Extravaganza would be the only place you’d get to try their Single Cask, Cask Strength whiskies (they always 5 of their bottlings to sample from at these shows). And while that’s all fine and dandy, not being a member means you are excluded from access to their 60 or so whiskies they release on a yearly basis (about 5 per month).
Being upfront, I am not an employee of the SMWS and do not receive any compensation to tout their goodness. I’m just a proud, card carrying member of the society and have been wowwed enough times by the whiskies they release (and I buy) that I feel comfortable in saying that you should consider becoming a member.
Again, with being upfront, I will tell you that not all of their whiskies are winners. I’ve have had a few bottlings, here and there, that were just not up my alley. We all have different palates so it makes sense that I’m going to find one that the society loved and I just did not.
Last disclaimer – the whiskies being reviewed below were samples given to me by the SMWS – special thanks goes out to Gabby for the samples!
“Pass the Flapjacks” – 50.42 – 18yo – Refill ex-bourbon Hogshead – 56.9% – Bladnoch – $130/bottle
On the nose – A sweet, yet light nose. Fresh honey crisp apples, cotton candy and cola barrels (those brown hard candies). Unbaked sweet buns; heavy on the sweet unbaked doughy notes. Not a super complex nose but very warming/inviting. With water, those buns start to bake a bit but that apple sweetness goes away. Milk chocolate fudge.
On the mouth – Very hot, alcoholic and sweet. More apples and honey. I think it needs water. Celery and salt (but not celery salt – I’ve gotten this mix before from other whiskies). Cinnamon and cinnamon red hot hearts (with that added sugar from the candy). Water calms it down a bit and brings out more of the honeyed quality.
Finish – Medium in length, some slight drying and an apple sweetness comes through.
“Chutney on hot wood” – 71.33 – 20yo – Refill sherry butt – 57.4% – Glenburgie – $140/bottle
On the nose – I think the SMWS notes provided on the bottle (which I read afterwards) hit it on the head with the French onion soup note – beef stock, onions and sharp cheese all wrapped into one. Cooked ginger and heavy sweet rum cakes. Spiced & cooked nuts and dirty socks – reminds me (a bit) of the SMWS Macallan 24.111. I think it’s the type of sherry cask (Amontillado perhaps?).
On the mouth – Very sweet and savory with combined notes of liver and onions and hoisin sauce. This is an odd duck that shouldn’t work but does; and in a very cool way. No water needed here. The attack is welcome and the flavors are aggressive. Nice drying effect toward the end.
Finish – Warming, savory and woody yet not overly so. Long.
“Old Fashioned Tea Chests and Maple Candy” – 125.48 – 12yo – Dechar/rechar ex-bourbon hogshead – 52.1% – Glenmorangie – As of Dec 14, 2011, this is yet to be released.
On the nose – Very very sweet. Scents of ice wine and Halls cough drops – menthol and all. Under ripe stone fruits. Danish butter cookies (I love butter cookies!) and an old shalalee. White berries (gooseberry mostly). With time, the Glenmorangie character really comes through. Like and intense and spicy Glenmorangie Original.
On the mouth – Woody (as expected with a dechar/rechar cask). I’m getting notes that I’d usually associate with a sherried whisky like dried fruit and leather yet there’s also flavors I’d normally find in an ex-bourbon barrel like vanilla, pencil shavings and cinnamon.
Finish – Short finish. Tannic and leathery.
“Alice in Wonderland whisky” – 27.90 – 10yo – Refill ex-bourbon Hogshead – 50.6% – Springbank – $90/bottle
On the nose – Smoldering beach fire with wet drift wood (think of thick salty smoke here). Not unlike and ashtray. Peppery as well. Excuse me while I sneeze. Hidden, way in the background is something sweet… Pixie stix?
On the mouth – Sweet and smokey and sooty and burnt and doused fires and burnt sugar on creme brule and motor oily with a side of brazil nuts.
Finish – Insanely long – imagine enjoying this at a construction site while a parking lot is being laid while you are eating bit-o-honeys.
“Desperate Dan whisky” – 127.9 – 9yo – Refill ex-bourbon Barrel – 56.9% – Port Charlotte – $90/bottle
On the nose – A bit of a shy nose but unmistakably peaty – not smokey, peaty. Also, extremely medicinal and… sterile and things that should remain sterile like old folks homes and hospital beds. Also some dried cardboard in here (perhaps more of the tails cut in the original spirit run?). Dried pineapples.
On the mouth – Tropical fruits all around – pineapples, star fruits and ever a floral quality to it. Spicy too. Burnt microwave popcorn. Did I mention that the mouthfeel was big, oily and lush? Very nice.
Finish – Long and hot and drying.
In sum – This was a wild ride. Five completely different whiskies from the same bottler. While I’d not reach out for every bottle here, as one who loves to explore whisky, I could do this again and again. In the end, was there a winner (other than me or you, should you try something like this)? It’s got to be the 71.33 – Glenburgie. I loved the mix of flavors, balance and complexity.