Thursday, 3 May 2018

SMWS Festival Bottlings


Some big, bold whiskies here for SMWS’s festival outturn, but why no Campbeltown for the most important whisky festival of the year! 

There’s membership offers linked below for either Speyside or Islay (not sure what’s in them at the moment) worth looking at if you’re on the fence.  Or there is a “split decision” offer here too.

This all goes live at 9am, 04.05.2018.  I suspect there will be a rush on this lot.

Spirit of Speyside

Get a membership deal with Spirit of Speyside here.

SMWS 107.13, Glenallachie, Andalusian Gazpacho, 9 years old, 65% A+

26th August 2008, refill oloroso butt

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0014Nose - Hot, young sherry cask at first, slightly burnt caramel with significant hard oak and a confident, bright but tempered sweetness. Cold soil (rich compost, earthy and clean), wet wood. Robust, sweet, fresh and promising on the whole. The fresh soil and wood come together, bright and fresh with water, fruit backing it up.

Body - Big, very sweet and oily, but balanced by the hard woods. Dark chocolate, instant coffee granules and dark marmalade. A toothsome, blockbuster delivery, although not very subtle! Water exposes this, knocks a hole in the midrange and leaves royal icing and orange pith.

Finish - Toast, perhaps fence. Numbing wood oils and medium long, a little caraway at the end. Peppery with water, bitter and drying, spicy and sweet.

This is a cracking whisky, young and unrefined but bright and confident. Drink it at its natural fighting strength, in large measures, in large groups of friends.

SMWS 9.143, Glen Grant, Graceful gravitas, 21 years old, 60.6% A⊕

23rd April 1996, refill bourbon

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0013Nose - Hard toffee, cut hedges, chocolate orange. Maybe orange buttercream icing actually, rich and clarty, very sweet and citrussy. After sipping, beautifully waxed with a sort of warm vanilla and cigarettes thing and chocolate sponge depth. After being used to having them monthly, it's been a while since I smelled mature Glen Grant but it's unmistakable. It's sweeter with water, no less intense but somehow even more fruity.

Body - Enormously creamy and orangey, liqueur levels of orange spirits. Spicy and very zesty, robustly bright. Warmer and richer with water, better.

Finish - Very long with numbing, intense wood. The orange is very present but a back seat to the spirit and wood.

Cream, wood, depth and zest are all in harmony with this well aged Glen Grant. Numbing orange oils make this robust and compelling, and with water the whole thing is seriously drinkable.

Feis Ile

Get a membership deal with Feis Ile whisky here.

SMWS 29.244, Laphroaig, Weaving wondrous dreams, 8 years old, 62.2% A+'

22nd January 2009, refill bourbon.  This is only available to buy on Islay at the festival.

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0019Nose - Fresh but fencey, with lemon peel, dry biscuity wood, salty rocks. Roasted lemon halves actually, and cold but slightly rotten phenols. Excellent balance though, very interesting too in the balance between dirty and fresh/fruity. Fruitier and more perfumed with water, no less robust though.

Body - Big, bright and sweet (at least at first) with more lemon and sweeter fruits (orange, apple), peppery peat rapidly takes over with splints and cracked black pepper in between a steak and the pan. No let-up in the flavour with water, more medicinal if anything.

Finish - Long and medicinal, bitter tannins and peat dominates at the end. Longer, palate crushingly peated with water, cloves and TCP. Delicious.

This is proper, I haven't had a young Laphroaig for a while. It's like young Ledaig but weirder. Recommended.

SMWS 10.141, Bunnahabhain, Indulgence by the sea, 12 years old, 59.5% A-

25th May 2005, refill bourbon

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0022Nose - Very sweet, salty and slightly sour, Seville orange juice and refreshers, some lightly musky, fusty waxes - just a little bit dirty. That restrained fruit is very nice.

Body - Quite bitter and sour up front, unexpectedly angular but it turns into the sour Sevilles at the back end of the delivery. With time it's compelling like a Sazerac, bitter citrus, fruit and wood.

Finish - Long, bitter, fizzing (like a Sazerac). The cask and wood backs it up.

Weirdly artificial for a 12 year old refill bourbon, maybe if it'd been first fill. Whisky cocktail. Nevertheless this is a tasty thing to drink.

SMWS 3.307, Bowmore, A journey into joy, 20 years old, 55.9% A⊕

25th September 1997, refill oloroso butt

SMWS_Islay&Speyside_FInals_Web_0024Nose - Dark, dry, wine-casky with very light sulphur, a touch of dust and an old school fruiting. There's a touch of gunpowder, and great depth. And yeah that fruit is very old school, lovely. But not without its challenges. Sweeter and waxier with water, nutty sherry cask rather than red wine.

Body - Sweet but dessicating, plywood and apricot jam, then sulphur and ripe red fruits. Gentler with water, including that sweetness, but a hole here and there in the midrange.

Finish - Very long and that weird woodsiness continues, this is very Devil's Casks (and I thought those were first fills too, maybe I've been away from SMWS too long). Almost Ribena at the end, but no end to the fizzing.

An extraordinarily sweet thing to drink but balanced by weird, pure fruit. There is a downside, an angular sourness that detracts from it’s general character, but that makes the whisky all the more interesting. On the whole, this is a dirty, lip smackingly tannic whisky – yum.


  1. Thank you for this festival release notes. Glad that I got a bottle of the 3.3p73.

  2. I meant 3.307 (as well as 3.308)

  3. Hi Ben.

    Nice to see that you are back with the Society bottle reviews! Even if its just the Festival special...