Our intrepid reporter from Down Under, Mike D, is checking in with us once again, this time to recount his impressions of a tasting hosted by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This was truly a tough assignment, but he willingly volunteered and appears to have survived to bring us this update!
Last night was a quiet night so along I trotted to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting held at the Parmelia Hilton Hotel in Perth. The cost for the visit was $125 with five drams served, so the cost was $25/serving, but this was an opportunity to taste some very good single cask malts….let’s see if it was worth it.
Very quickly, for those of you who may not be familiar with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the SMWS is a membership-only whisky club. The SMWS only releases single cask bottlings, selected from a range of over 132 whisky distilleries. Uniquely, the Society doesn’t disclose outright the name of the distillery, rather they use a numerical system consisting of a number representing the distillery, and a dot.number to reflect the specific release. While they don’t disclose the distillery name on the bottles, there are a variety of references that one can use to convert the numbers to the distillery name. Finally, each bottling has its own unique and descriptive name designed to give you a hint about what’s inside…..as you will see as we go along! So let’s get rolling…..
The evening started with a tasting of Cask No 64.54; the bottle coding indicates the distillery as Mannochmore and this was the 54th cask the Society has purchased from that particular distillery. This one was named Sweet and Tart, Subtle and Delicate. It is a 10 year old whisky, distilled 11 June 2003 at bottled 56.3% ABV. The cask a first fill bourbon barrel and provided a total of 253 bottles. Cost is $173.
Nose was sharp but sweet with some green tea and vanilla bean ice cream. Palate was very sweet. In fact, probably the sweetest single malt that I have ever tasted and with water, it had a finish like cotton candy. The longer it sat, the sweeter it tasted. I would recommend it for a summer day dessert.
The second whisky on offer was surprising as it was a single Grain whisky from Cask No G7.9 (note the G stands for grain), and the distillery number refers to Girvan, a lowland distillery owned by W Grant & Sons. The whisky, named A Sultry Smoking Seductress, is a 22-year-old whisky distilled 27 September 1992 at 57.3% ABV. The cask produced 177 bottles and it is priced at $290/bottle.
The name is slightly confusing as the nose is very fruity and floral but there are hints of oiliness and some solvents. The palate has lots of fruits, something like a mixed berry preserve or jam. Maybe a touch of butterscotch and in Australia what we call vanilla slice; don’t recall having that in the US. It is fairly long in the finish with a bit of afterburn. The alcohol does not seem that present initially but does grab you at the end.
Number 3 was from Ireland, Connemara to be exact and it was another 22-year-old called Self-Assured, Buxom and Rewarding…..Probably could get arrested if it was any younger! It was barreled 14 October 1991 at 57.9% ABV. 206 bottles at a cost of $429/bottle.
This one again started out very fruity, but also with citrus at the start…..lemons followed by strawberries and crème brulee. Some vanilla was found in the palate along with caramel and liquorice (maybe fennel or star anise spice) and the color was described as sexy redhead but from my perspective it was more of a strawberry blonde.
The fourth on offer was fairly easily recognizable as a Japanese whisky. This one was an 11 year old Yamazaki called Raspberry Imperial Stout, Cask No 119.14. Barreled on 7 April 2003 with an ABV of 53.9% and the cask provided 538 bottles from a first fill sherry butt. Cost is $349 per bottle.
The whisky in the glass was a deep mahogany red in color. Needless to say, the sherry aroma was present with some cherry, raspberry and some dark chocolate. Water actually spoiled the palate for me as it seemed to really bring out the liquorice and it was a bit overpowering for my taste. Not delicate at all. After sitting for about 15 minutes, chocolate coated ginger seemed to be the lasting taste.
As the evening was drawing to a close, we were poured our final dram. Our final whisky was Cask no 53.117, and by the number of casks the society has purchased, you know it has to be a favorite distillery. Distillery no 53 is Caol Ila and it was a 19-year-old, distilled 24 August 1995 at bottled at 55.9% ABV. This cask produced a total of 283 bottles and is priced at $285.
The color was pale amber almost straw and the nose starts with iodine, band-aids and seaweed. The palate gave some sweet smokiness along with bacon saltiness and some lingering peat. No oil or creosote was noted but if you were not a single malt drinker, this is one that could change your mind. (where have I seen that before?)
So after this final, delicious Caol Ila dram the evening drew to a close. The other guests seated at my table were heading to Devlin’s Cigar Bar to continue the evening, but being the good husband, I opted for a taxi and a trip home.
Last year, I found my first visit to a SMWS tasting here in Perth akin to the Dallas Whisky Festival where they had booths set up and you wandered from booth to booth nosing and tasting as you went along. Last night’s set up was a bit more “formal,” with 8 to a table and with a specific order of tastings set out for the night.
For the Society, I think the evening was a success as I saw at least 7 new members sign up as well as older members purchasing the remaining few bottles of the particular tastings from the evening. The Caol Ila was particularly sought after as they announced the society only had 7 bottles left in Australia and at $285/bottle was a very good price comparatively.
Sadly, this was probably my last SMWS night while we continue our stay in Perth as the Society rotates tastings between major cities. If I recall, it was this time last year that I had my previous night out with the Society, but by this time next year we should be back in the States.
Cheers and Slainte from Perth!!