So here’s the final 4. SMWS changed hands, the bottling operation changed, and they made the largest outturn of all time – some things got left until the last minute! The logistics of me actually tasting this outturn were already so hard that some got left behind. Even now, there’s two missing here – G7.7 (a reissue) and 53.232. The latter is delayed until November 20th. I might pick it up later in the month but don’t hold your breath, I’m done with November.
I wanted to reiterate here that this outturn is about volume, not big, old and weird. If you already have hundreds of SMWS bottles, then this is an outturn to browse in the bar and enjoy for what it is, not collect. What sets SMWS apart from other indies is that it’s a members club, and a bar that happens to sell bottles of whisky. If you only have a few then go for it, pick up some good stuff and enjoy some xmas whisky! But if you do have hundreds of green bottles on your wall, then keep your powder dry for December.
So here’s the final 4, then something “special” at the end. Thanks Cuan for taking the photos (they’ve got this weird and very unwelcome “moving then a photo” thing going on on my computer, but hopefully they’ll render ok on your phone).
SMWS 80.7, Glen Spey, Indian Summer Sangria, 16 years old, 54.5% A+
26th October 1998, 156 bottles, 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead. I don’t think I’ve ever had a 2nd fill Sauternes hogshead before! Maybe not a Glen Spey before. Anything .7 is pretty special.
Nose - Initially sweet, then hot like chilli peanuts. Perhaps honey glazed peanuts - salty, very sweet, almost a Vimto edge to it. Lots of cereal - weirdly this is oscillating between hot, sweet black fruits, exciting and young. Very interesting. With water, more of the cask comes through. Rather good.
Body - Big sweet fruits, cereal, a touch of funk and then lots of woody spice. Lovely mouthfeel with water but big yellow oak and lots of youth with water. Retronasal waxes and good cask leading into…
Finish - the finish which is mainly chilli hot - fried green chillis, tamarind and black plum.
A really interesting "dram at the bar" I'd say. Great black fruit notes running throughout and can stand up to the hubbub of public drinking, it but you probably don't need a whole bottle on your shelf.
SMWS 82.20, Glencadam, Big, bold and beautiful, 17 years old, 54.9% A⊕
4th May 1998, 612 bottles, 2nd fill butt.
Nose - A rather restrained, but still a heavy sherry and cereal bomb, like a slow motion explosion. Balanced sulphur toffee and a rather fizzing brightness, a bit like popping candy. Fruits are roasted plums on puff pastry with marzipan. Nice enough but relatively ordinary, I suspect water will open it up. And it does, wonderfully. Jelly snakes, ripe pear, beautiful.
Body - Ah… delicious on the delivery, somewhat like that Springbank (27.019 Guns on the grouse moor) a really dirty fruity depth but just balanced on the right side. Deliciously sweet.
Finish - Quite short, fruity and a twang of sulphur make for quite a compelling dram. Tannins are pretty significant and balance it out. Lovely stuff. Slightly less good at the end with water but you can play with that.
Rather a lovely little whisky, and still in stock.
SMWS 10.85, Bunnahabhain, Live life on the edge!, 17 years old, 55.8% A⊕
30th April 1998, 600 bottles, 2nd fill butt
Nose - Sweet, mineral and slightly funky, this has a slightly coastal edge to it, and actually quite delicate, with a feeling of restrained sherry beneath. There's a little sliced bread in there too, maybe toasted fruit bread with raisins and lots of butter. Rather good. Even better with water; more nutty fruit bread and more pronounced wood. A little more savoury actually.
Body - Nutty sherry, green apple and crumble, plus cherry pipe tobacco and crystal malt. Much more bitter with water. A touch of cinnamon too.
Finish - Very long, descending into spice and bitterness. Quite delicious too, very teenage Bunnahabhain.
This is a complex and very interesting Bunna with real depth and a well judged nutty sherry hit. Recommended (if a bit late).
SMWS 30.87, Glenrothes, A skinny dipping dram, 14 years old, 55.6% A⊕
27th March 2001, 738 bottles, Refill port pipe. Port pipes are big. From the notes I think this is full term maturation on the refill port pipe but I’m not sure – I’ll ask.
Nose - Jewelled red sweetness, with a sour top dressing; candied Morello cherries, plus lots of honey and toffee. Caraway and good cask. Sweet and soft, a little sour, a little herbal and rather lovely. Quite small though. More funk with water, more toffee, delicious.
Body - Sweet, herbal, spiced again, and a very light port touch - slightly winey with its characteristic sulphur but brighter, more oaked than that. Much like the recent Springbank port cask, this is very subtle and nicely integrated.
Finish - Long with a waxy mouthfeel and a lovely balance throughout - never strays into bitterness. It honestly feels a lot more mature than you'd expect from Glenrothes and 14.
A perfect end to a truly epic outturn, and a far cry from the usual Glenrothes presentation. Highly recommended.
And a last little treat…
SMWS November outturn, Cacophony, Vatted malt, NAS, probably about 45%
This is the dregs of every whisky in the November biglist, after water, mixed together and left in a bottle in a laptop bag for a few days. Terroir!
Nose – The power of marrying! Last week this smelled truly dreadful – it’s really come together now. Toffee, oak, fruits and fibre and a background level of peat (last week it was right in your face). It’s really breakfast cereal! Lots of wax too. I’m genuinely surprised that this is this good.
Body – Rather good again – initially it’s like a highland park – toffee and peat, but quite coastal. Some Ardmore is pretty present, but not the one in this outturn, weirdly.
Finish – Medium, cloying, a little wrong. Too bitter and too much wood. Although some good things start to raise their heads later. Maybe it’ll be better in a few months?
Cheers all – more SMWS gear in December!