Scotch Malt Whisky Society April 2020 Outturn Overview

Posted by Dave on 2020 Mar 27th

Scotch Malt Whisky Society April 2020 Outturn Overview

Hello Scotch Malt Whisky Society members!

I hope everybody is doing well and staying safe. Despite the fact we’re not in our typical tasting format for the April Outturn, I’m excited to have this opportunity to share some of my written impressions of the whiskies with you. The aim here is to try to benchmark what you can expect from this month’s Outturn, beyond what you might discover in the notes from the tasting panel, or by divining the bottle number and details. After all, one of the things about the Society that still strikes me as immediately attractive is that it embraces difference (or différance?) – knowing the origin distillery, age statement, percentage abv, cask type, or even each of these variables in concert with each other, will never tell you the whole story of the single cask.

And well, if there’s silver lining to be found in our current predicament, it’s that the usual April Mini Eggs are safely out of sight and out of mind, & anyway I’ve already blown through my annual kilogram.

OK, on to the Outturn!

89.10 Glove box sonata in B Minor (Young & sprightly)
A light nutty character, with a clean, almost dairy, yogurt-like sharpness on the nose. This is undoubtedly on the young side of single malt, with all the aromatic assertiveness and edginess that comes with that. The pallet is showing lots of that bran flake character that has been mentioned in the tastings recently, and I imagine that’s what the tastings notes are probably pointing at by mentioning ‘barley steep’ and ‘warm grist’. I will say, this whisky does not strike me as undermature or grainy. It’s on a really fun maturity threshold between when a whisky remains fierce and raw, and when it starts picking up sweetness and oaky complexity. There is some bite, but as is typical with SMWS bottlings, this one comes across far softer than you’d expect for something at 64.1%. This was matured in a refill butt, and though it does have some very light shades of sherry fruitiness, it’s definitely more spirit-forward, to its benefit. Far feistier than commercially available releases bottled by this distillery.

Give it a go if you like crisp, young, expressive drams at a high abv%
If it was an orchestral instrument: Bar chimes

72.67 Daffodils captured in honey (Sweet, fruity & mellow)
Big hit of concentrated, pungently fragrant Turkish Delight on the nose. The panel are right to point out marshmallow and vanilla ice cream on the nose, likely imparted from that 1st fill barrel, though it’s not an oak bomb by any means. If anything, this one comes off as a bit pricklier than the previous dram. For what it’s worth, it recalls aromas and flavours of things that are sweet, but I don’t find the palate to be palpably sweet. Floral and intriguing, not unlike some of the other releases we’ve seen from this distillery by SMWS.

Give it a go if you also enjoy the ‘spicy & dry’ profile, there are some affinities to be found there. Will be a great bottle to have when spring finally comes around...
If it was an orchestral instrument: Oboe

112.46 A wafer a while (Sweet, fruity & mellow)
Getting into more profound cask influence, this one has a much softer approach, with butterscotch at the top, an aroma with some serious depth. Deep oaky palate, with a nice bite of tannin on the finish to balance things out – again, not overly sweet. This 14 year old single malt was aged for 12 years in an ex-Bourbon hogshead and then was transferred into a 1st fill Moselle oak hogshead. This is my first experience with Moselle oak. HQ in Leith tells me that this is new, toasted oak from the Moselle region, in the Northeast of France. This wood did not previously have any wine in it, and it is not wine influenced (or ‘vinuous’, for my pretensions friends). Weird and wonderful.

Give it a go if you’re looking for something totally new and exciting, exploring the strange new depths of what single malt can be.
If it was an orchestral instrument: Harp

113.22 Cream of the crop (Juicy, oak & vanilla)
Nice fresh vanilla on the nose that follows up well on the palate. This one is a bit hot at full strength, and I suggest that it benefits from being cut down with a bit of water, which brings out more depth on the nose, and intensifies the palate. Juicy, oak & vanilla is an interesting flavour profile, because there is quite a bit of variation within the profile. I would say this one is not as ‘juicy’ as others, I think probably due to its age, but it has picked up a really nice vanilla profile, which comes off on the dry side.

Give it a go if you like your whiskies young, dry, and pugilistic
If it was an orchestral instrument: Theremin

R9.4 Chocolate chilli combo (Rum)
Dark molasses is right out in front on the aroma, really warm and inviting. This rum is unlike any of the ones we’ve had to-date from SMWS in Canada. It’s not overly phenolic, and quite sweet and welcoming compared to some of the more challenging rums we’ve had recently. I do love those rubbery, Canadian-Tire-automotive-section rums, but this one is not that, it’s clean and not wacky at all. I can’t stand rums that finish sweet and thin, and this one doesn’t do that either. There is a hit of sweetness on the front and mid-palate, which rounds off into the finish without getting flabby. A 13 year old, refill barrel with remarkable complexity. Dangerously drinkable.

Give it a go if you prefer your rum on the slightly sweeter, mellower, not rubbery diesel fume-y side.
If it was an orchestral instrument: Tuba

53.284 Smoky, malty minerality (Lightly peated)
Kippery and coastal, a wooden ocean dock after the tide has gone out. The palate is snappy and bright. Tasting panel is bang on with the savoury characteristics on the nose, and citrus on the palate. Actually a very well balanced whisky, no one thing dominating any other. The peat plays off of the savoury, coastal qualities.

Give it a go if you’ve been enjoying the recent SMWS releases from this distillery (one of Scotland’s most consistently excellent producers) and are looking for another fine example.
If it was an orchestral instrument: Crash cymbal

10.179 Flamingos smoking pipe tobacco (Heavily peated)
Reminiscent of some of the better Longrow Red releases, which see a similar maturation and finishing regime. Powerful earthy, woody smoke on the nose. The palate is a dead ringer for the Octomore Comus release that they aged in Château Pétrus casks. Flavour-wise, I get a mushroomy, forest floor earthiness where the peat is not overpowering but the volume is turned up to 11.

Side note, remember when the SMWS used to designate a colour for their whiskies in the tasting notes? I do. Things like ‘polished doorknob on a balmy Sunday afternoon’ was the kind of description to expect, and if nothing else it was usually good for a chuckle. Majority of the time, talking about colour and whisky isn’t very interesting or revealing. However, it’s worth mentioning that this dram is one of the most peculiarly coloured whiskies I’ve ever seen, red and shining with an interior gem-like light, the colour of Chinese red vinegar.

Give it a go if you have enjoyed other French wine cask finished peated whiskies. It’s a very particular, and interesting flavour profile.
If it was an orchestral instrument: Bassoon