Friday, 21 March 2014

SMWS Blind Tasting

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to a bloggers blind tasting at the tasting room in the SMWS venue in London.  Quite apart from the promise of “5 drams from the special shelf” (!!!) the opportunity to finally meet all the people I’ve been emailing, bottle sharing with and talking to on twitter for the thick end of a year was extremely exciting.  And all this the night before Whisky Live London!

The evening was hosted by John McCheyne, a fantastic speaker who played the lot of us like a fiddle all evening.  Oh what a a night!  Here’s the line up we tried, all tasting blind.

1. SMWS 21.28, Glenglassaugh, Relaxing in a tropical garden, 48.1% A⊕+

photo 137 years old, 27th December 1974, refill bourbon barrel, 188 bottles

This one was baffling, as the nose suggested a refill sherry but was also full of juicy red fruit and sappy bourbon. We were all agreed it had a lot of age but I think we all undercut it by a decade. Quite an amazing opener. It also benefited from an hour or so in the glass to open up. I think we were all thrown a bit by the extreme time spent in oak – and who knows when that barrel was last in America with bourbon in it, if it was re-filled for the nth time in 1974.

Nose – Sweet, boiled sweets, pear drops, cherry bakewell tart. Juicy but cakey – very moreish, very classy, but with some drying sherry tones. Dark fruited oak and caramel.

Body – Spicy, creamy vanilla. Quite sharp and a bit meaty. Much sweeter and smoother with a drop of water. Some light, well integrated smoke.

Finish – Quite mellow, not too long, very fruity and rich.

2. SMWS 46.22, Glenlossie, An Italian Kitchen, 50.6% A⊕

photo 220 years old, 15th September 1992, refill bourbon barrel, 219 bottles

I was a big fan of this one, with I think Steve Prentice declaring it his favourite of the night. Nobody had a clue as to what or where this was from although we were pretty good on the barrel and age.

Nose – More angular, still fruity, more grape and fresh pear. Poster paints (thanks Matt).

Body – Light pear, quite a fresh cereal, piney edges. Long, toffee malt. Fabulous.

Finish – Long, peppery edge, quite meaty. Very, very sexy.

3. SMWS 26.93, Clynelish, Cottage Garden beside a Church, 56.3% A⊕+

photo 328 years old, 13th December 1984, refill sherry, 352 bottles

I’m going through a bit of a Clynelish thing at the moment and loved this, although I went off it a bit when I came back to it at the end of the tasting. That meaty, cereal back of palate thing is a start of evening thing rather than an end of evening thing. This is very good though. Not the best notes by this point as we were doing more talking than writing.

Nose – Really classically presented, absolutely beautiful perfume.

Body – Quite hot, lightly peated, very sexy, quite spiky but very elegant and beautifully made. Some rich malt and cereal notes – very cereal in a fruity, fresh, limey, almost Mexican way.

Finish - Quite long, balanced, flawless delivery. Love the peat. Fabulous.

4. SMWS 121.50, Arran, Xmas cake and Afghan coats, 61.3% A⊕

photo 49 years old, 15th July 2002, refill sherry, 673 bottles

I was shocked at this being an Arran, it’s like none I’ve had before. My first reaction was that this was 2.84 (Katherine Hepburn in a Vintage Jaguar, Glenlivet) but there were various calls for Glenfarclas and Highland Park. This is the bottle that made Tom Thomson join SMWS – he’s drunk a whole bottle and he didn’t get it!

Nose – Darkly raisiny, lots of coca cola, lovely ripe wood. BBQ competitions, i.e. caramelised Demerara sugar and boiling apple juice.

Body – Dark fruit again, quite spiced, fresh and dry. Big, clean sherry monster.

Finish – Long, dry, very well made. A little sourness and spiced wood. But really rich and moreish.

At this point in my notes, I think Matt Viera has written “Arse! Feck”

5. SMWS R2.3, Rum, Visiting a Gothic Art Gallery, 69.5% A+

photo 521 years old, 1st January 1991, bourbon barrel, 117 bottles

Well, we weren’t expecting this. John had told us that all the whiskies tonight were Scotch – he didn’t mention the rums! I was desperately trying to place it – “it’s like some sort of other spirit, not like whisky at all, but I can’t put my finger on it!” – rubbish! I thought it might have been finished in Jaegermeister barrels. Plenty of others called the rum. Despite being really odd (when expecting whisky) it was still very interesting and moreish.

Nose – Sour, baby sick, a bit cheesey. Then cherry, banana, some kind of other spirit. Very challenging. Liquorice, root beer.

Body – Dark rubber bands, liquorice. Very medicinal. Like bonjela, and also numbing.

Finish – Lots of wood, numbing, weirdly clove-like. A dominatrix – and oddly compelling.

6. SMWS 129.1, Kilchoman, A Smoky, Peachy, Yoghurt of Loveliness 60.2% A⊕

photo65 years old, 28th June 2006, ex bourbon, 235 bottles

This was perhaps, age aside, the surprise hit of the evening. Just the most wonderfully drinkable, ashy Islay beauty. Long since gone and very expensive at auction.

Nose – Lovely, cereal peat reek. Very drying, mineral, fresh running water and some apple peel.

Body – Dusty charcoal, lovely sweet wood, some red chilli, sharp oak.

Finish – Long, dusty, loads of liquid smoke and bright hospital

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the great review 🙂

    Can I use the photo of the SMWS R2.3 in our website ?

    Also, if you still have the bottle, can you sample it ?

    Best Regards,