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SMWS The Vaults New List Steak & Chips Tasting 03/02/2015

SMWS The Vaults New List Steak & Chips Tasting

03/02/2015

On the 3rd of February I had the pleasure of attending one of my first bought and paid for SMWS events. I had previously been lucky enough to be asked along to the November pre-release tasting at SMWS Queen Street, however I was looking for an excuse to explore the SMWS Vaults venue down in Leith and could think of nothing better than a slap up meal of Steak & chips washed down with a dram or 5!

The event was hosted by Ryan McCafferty, who had selected 5 very special drams from the upcoming February outturn for us. This was a blind tasting event – which is always great fun as the guesses and tasting notes start wild and get wilder! Tasting whisky without being fettered down with preconceptions based on distillery, bottler, cask type, age, etc. can be quite good fun so long as you’re not the sort of person who always has to be right!

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To begin with we were confronted with our first 3 drams (L-R) – as you can see there is not a huge range of colour difference between them so nosing was the best way. This comparative nosing is also quite helpful as you’ll go on to see each of these was quite different! They were later revealed as the following:

#1 G3.8 Eccentric and exotic ~ 53.9% (SMWS)

A 35 year old single grain sample from the closed Caledonian distillery

#2 35.121 ‘You make me feel (mighty real)’ ~ 57.9% (SMWS)

A 12 year old zesty and fruity bourbon-cask matured Speysider from Glen Moray

#3 44.63 Zesty, zingy and alive ~ 55.4% (SMWS)

A 15 year old Craigellachie matured in a refill sherry butt

After a quick repast

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we were treated to two further expressions:

#4 4.202 Salt and pepper ~ 45.1% (SMWS)

A 27 year old Highland Park – meatier & juicier than the steak we had just consumed

and finally

#5 127.42 Peat freak heaven ~ 63% (SMWS)

A serious amount of peat in this 12 year old Port Charlotte expression.

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The final line-up – with just enough left for me to re-sample and cross-compare before rushing off to buy my maximum allocation of 2 bottles of 127.42 for use in the WOLS tasting we held here:

Water Of Life Society Tasting 15/6 For Peat’s Sake Tasting! 19/02/2015

And off home I went, well fed and watered and all for ~£30!

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4.202 Salt and pepper ~ 45.1% (SMWS)

4.202 Salt and pepper

Island single malt scotch whisky

45.1% ABV, £126 for 70cl available from Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Score: 86/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask No. 4.202

We found ourselves in a garden shed on the Atlantic coast. The salty sea breeze impregnated everything – work bench, wooden shelves, compost, window flower boxes, used paint tins and in the corner an old leather couch where you can find rest whilst enjoying smoking a pipe. The taste neat had all that raggedness, oiliness and saltiness with the smooth finish of a sweet, well hoped Porter beer. Water added aromas of a camp stove with Earl Grey tea brewing and strawberry jam filled doughnuts, and in the taste mackerel pate on a salty cracker washed down with Dr Pepper.

Drinking Tip – Relaxing after a hard day’s work outside

Date Distilled: 8 December 1986 Colour: Lager Shandy Age: 27 years Flavour : Oily & coastal Cask Type: Refill Hogshead Whisky Region: Highland Northern

Outturn: 261 bottles

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What I say:

Dram #4 from SMWS The Vaults New List Steak & Chips Tasting held by Ryan McCafferty on 3rd February 2015. A rather interesting expression that received a mixture of responses from around our table. Now firmly fed with a large plate of Steak & Chips, this expression sat right on top of this savoury feast with consummate ease.

Colour:

Refractive gold (9/20), light-medium tears

Nose:

Heather blossom honey, almonds, marzipan, bakewell tart, vegetal – cabbages, fruity, orange, peach, apricot, spiced, prunes, salted caramel (made me wonder if this was from Jura) cherry lips sweeties and tobacco

Taste:

Lemon and lime citrus, sweet pastries, shortbread, toffee, caramel, fudge, thins a little in the mouth, fruity mango, pomegranate, passion fruit – quite tropical and finishes with cherry bakewell tart/almond and pastry

Finish:

Short, sweet caramel, maraschino cherry, hints of sulphur/rubber

Overall:

Very enjoyable and possible a little perplexing as I couldn’t quite decide if this was sherry-cask influenced as the last or just an odd mixture of fruity spirit and aged tropical fruits. The reveal of a well-aged (27 Years Old) HIghland Park (SMWS distillery #4) went a long way to explaining some of these flavour characteristics! It was certainly delicious!

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44.63 Zesty, zingy and alive ~ 55.4% (SMWS)

44.63 Zesty, zingy and alive

Speyside single malt scotch whisky

55.4% ABV, £49.20 for 70cl available from Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Score: 86/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask 44.63

Colour: Pale straw

Flavour: Light & delicate

The nose was attractively light, citric and biscuity (vanilla, iced gems, creme Anglaise, cherry cola, stewed apricots); some panellists detected deeper notes of sawdust, pepper and earthy elements. With water it seemed even fresher, softer and sweeter – almost floral now (rainbow drops, Dolly mixtures, lemon Edinburgh rock, honeycomb, pear orchards and grass). The palate core contained a pleasant sweetness, but with a zesty side – lemon Creamola Foam, strawberry compote, sherbet, sweet pear and sweet chilli sauce. Green grass and laundry suggested freshness and the mouth-feel was youthful, zingy and lively; acceptable chilli heat and some citric bitterness dried out the finish.

Drinking tip: A picnic aperitif dram. 15 Years Old, Distilled 24/08/1999 , Refill Butt, 261 bottle outturn.

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What I say:

Dram # 3 from SMWS The Vaults New List Steak & Chips Tasting held by Ryan McCafferty on 3rd February 2015. This one was a shade darker than the others, perhaps suggesting a greater age or differing cask type?

Colour:

Full amber gold (10/20), medium tears with fine trails

Nose:

Caramel, toffee, heather blossom honey, figs, sweet, vanilla cream, white wine vinegar, dusty, coconut, cereal grist, fruity, pear, melon and peach (peach melba)

Taste:

Creamy and buttery, butterscotch, fudge, caramac bars, black pepper spice, waxy and oily, mouthcoating, candlewax, pez sweets – dusty/chalky and fruity with hints of sherbet fizz, calcium/bath salts? With water became smoother, creamier and more toffee’d

Finish:

Relaxed, floral and sweet, caramel oak, honey and Murray Mints (butterscotch toffee and mint/menthol)

Overall:

A couple of key flavours in here suggested the use of a Sherry cask to me though refill definitely due to the light colour and delicate nature of the flavours (plus lack of some other key ‘Sherry’ signature flavours). The result was a 15 Years Old Craigellachie (SMWS distillery #44) from Speyside

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35.121 ‘You make me feel (mighty real)’ ~ 57.9% (SMWS)

35.121 ‘You make me feel (mighty real)’

Speyside single malt scotch whisky

57.9% ABV, £43.80 for 70cl available from Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Score: 83/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask No. 35.121

We all imagined entering an old fashioned sweet shop. Aromas of candy floss, jelly babies, wine gums, marshmallows, liquorice allsorts, mint humbugs and large sheets of cinder toffee with pieces broken off with a hammer fill the air and make us all smile. To taste hot and intense like black pepper or wasabi, a zesty sweetness of citric extract and flavours of toasted barley and stewed carrots. With water, honey and beeswax to start followed by fruity aromas of strawberry fondant and summer berries with vanilla mascarpone. Sweet and mellow to taste, strawberry Angel Delight, coffee liqueur chocolates and in the finish ginger nut biscuits.

Drinking tip: Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh

Date Distilled: 11 December 2001 Colour: Pale Ale Age: 12 years Flavour : Spicy & sweet Cask Type: First fill ex-bourbon barrel Whisky Region: Speyside Lossie

Outturn: 235 bottles

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What I say:

Dram # 2 from SMWS The Vaults New List Steak & Chips Tasting held by Ryan McCafferty on 3rd February 2015. Back on familiar ground now, there was no doubting this was Single Malt and also a lot younger than Dram #1. At the reveal we found out this was from Glen Moray (SMWS Distillery #35) in Speyside and was matured for 12 Years in a1st fill bourbon barrel – classic malt territory.

Colour:

Light gold (9/20), medium tears

Nose:

A faint hint of Methylated spirits, stewed apples, cereal barley grist, heather blossom honey, icing sugar, vanilla, freshly baked sweet pastries, alcoholic and spirit, ascerbic, resinous, a little spiced heat then further vanilla, coconut and apple.

Taste:

Smoother than the nose, more rounded and fuller bodied, freshly baked apple pie with cinnamon, bubblegum, toffee-coated popcorn, a little liquorice torpedo’s. With water sharper and crisper (almost unripe) apples and crab apple jelly were added.

Finish:

Spicy and drying, cinnamon spice, tannic oak wood, sharp and ascerbic

Overall:

A young fruity Speyside malt – a classic, if still a little youthful in places, Glen Moray.

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G3.8 Eccentric and exotic ~ 53.9% (SMWS)

G3.8 Eccentric and exotic

Single grain scotch whisky

53.9% ABV, £108 for 70 cl available from Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Score: 85/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask No. G3.8

The panel found eucalyptus, earth, perfumed tobacco and hessian. Aromas of ripe nectarine and peach soaked in orange liqueur mingled with coriander. The flavours found were of figs rolls, dates and honey on a toasted crumpet with more damp sackcloth and a curious hint of celery. Water yielded more curiosities of hot dogs with tomato sauce, Benedictine liqueur and sauerkraut. The aromas of linen sheets fresh from the tumble drier had the panel raising collective eyebrows. The mouthfeel was rich with coffee and Fishermans Friends with a lick of balsa wood to disarm you completely. Very unusual and spectacularly different.

Drinking Tip – For discussion and debate

Date Distilled: 28 May 1979 Colour: Tarnished gold Age: 35 years Flavour : Old & dignified Cask Type: Refill Hogshead Whisky Region: Grain 

Outturn: 198 bottles

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What I say:

Dram #1 from SMWS The Vaults New List Steak & Chips Tasting held by Ryan McCafferty on 3rd February 2015. Tasted blind but later learned that this was actually a single grain whisky (which no one guessed) from the now extinct Caledonian distillery here in Edinburgh (SMWS distillery #G3)

Colour:

Light gold (9/20), medium tears

Nose:

Light and floral, lemon citrus, cereal barley, fruity, pear drops (esters/ethyl acetate), banana (ketones/isoamyl acetate), pineapple (ethyl butyrate), icing sugar, vanilla and caramel fudge, light cereal flour, a little estery and solventy. With water less vanilla was present on the nose and becomes more herbal, thyme, sandalwood and floral

Taste:

Light, delicate, sweet, butterscotch, fudge, toffee, lemon, citrus, lime – but foam or creamy (not sharp citric), beeswax, sandalwood, a little spiced cinnamon and white pepper as the sweet flavours thin towards the end. With water becomes smoother, less fruity and more fudge rich sugars and caramel

Finish:

Short-medium length, caramel and toffee oak persist, with water a sweeter icing sugar finish is revealed

Overall:

A very enjoyable old Grain whisky from a closed distillery to start meant we were really being spoiled with this tasting. The most enjoyable part of this reveal was that not a single taster guessed this was an old Grain – most had it as a 20+ Year Old Speyside or even Lowland whisky

SMWS 73.68

73.68 Summer landscape with woods ~ 55.6% (SMWS)

73.68 Summer landscape with woods

Speyside single malt scotch whisky

55.6% ABV, £54.50 for 70cl from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Score: 85/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask No. 73.68

The nose rested on foundations of wood (carpenter’s workshop, sawdust, wood glue, hessian, cinnamon) but reached out to summer landscapes of grass, flowers, honey, apple pie and vanilla custard. The taste had very similar characteristics to the nose – toffee and honey snuggled sweetly up to fresh grass and floral perfumes; the wood appeared as polished furniture and lolly sticks with pepper, cinnamon and ginger spice. The reduced nose added panna-cotta, vanilla slice and bubble gum, while the palate found sugared almonds, coconut mushrooms, toffee apple and liquorice torpedoes; all with good weight and decent viscosity. The distillery is between Keith and Buckie.

Drinking tip: A summertime dram or aperitif

Date Distilled: 29 May 1998 Colour: Peely wally gold Age: 16 years Flavour : Light & delicate Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead Whisky Region: Speyside Deveron

Outturn: 232 bottles
SMWS 73.68

What I say:

Released by the SMWS in their late November/pre-Christmas outturn I took a particular shine to this Aultmore (SMWS Distillery #73) example, and promptly purchased one to share amongst friends.

Colour:

Yellow gold (8/20), light-medium tears with thick trails

Nose:

Sweet and floral, flower and grass meadows, cereal barley malt, light wildflower honey, orchard fruits and blossom, apple, pear, nectarine, dry and dusty cereal flour, sweet pastries

Taste:

Oily and mouth filling, thick and syrupy/sugary, chewy cereal and honey (flapjack), white pepper spice, slightly new/green oak wood, drying sawdust and pencil shavings, sandalwood, vanilla and coconut

Finish:

Short-medium length, sweet pastries with plenty of icing sugar dusting

Overall:

This 16 year old Aultmore expression displayed a lot of drying oak and vanilla sweetness with a backdrop of light honey and orchard fruits from the spirit character. A lovely summer dram, this has a nose that Paula absolutely loves and I often catch her un-corking the remainder of this bottle for a wee sniff.

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Water Of Life Society Tasting 15/8 The Giving Tree Tasting 05/03/2015

Water Of Life Society Tasting 15/8

The Giving Tree Tasting

05/03/2015

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From the tree we have casks and from the casks we have whisky and the whisky is good. So let us celebrate and educate how different casks impart their delicious flavours upon the whiskies we love. At this tasting we will be serving up 4 whiskies matured in different types of casks along with their casks’ original inhabitants. So that’s 4 whiskies and 4 non-whiskies. If you’ve ever wondered where the flavours of whisky come from, this is the tasting for you!

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#1 Glen Moray 10 Years Old Chardonnay Cask ~ 40% (Glen Moray Distillery) paired with

Kirkland 2012 Californian Chardonnay

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#2 Aberlour-Glenlivet 19 Years Old 1995 Sauternes ~ 52.6% (Wm Cadenhead) paired with

Chateau De Myrat 2005 Sauternes

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#3 Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength ~ 60% (Glenfarclas Distillery) paired with

Lustau East India Solera Sherry

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#4 Longrow Red 11 Years Old Port Casks ~ 51.8% (Springbank) paired with

Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port

With each pairing Richard had attempted to display the characteristics of the casks previous occupants alongside whisky matured in said casks, helping us understand where some of the flavours in the whisky originate from. An excellent selection of both whiskies and accompanying drinks was very well received by all.

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Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength ~ 60% (Glenfarclas Distillery)

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength

Speyside single malt scotch whisky

60% ABV, £46.50 for 70cl available from Royal Mile Whiskies

Score: 86/100

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What they say:

Colour: Deep peaty-gold.

Nose: Complex, oaky, apples and pears, and a tempting dark toffee sweetness.

Flavour: Dry and assertive, develops quickly to reveal a rich spiciness, combined with a hint of oak and sherried fruit.

Finish: Amazingly smooth for the strength; wonderfully warming and with a lingering smokiness, yet very rounded.

Comment: A great whisky holding all the flavours of all the Glenfarclas in one glass. Being so warming, this is the perfect Hogmanay dram. Don’t be afraid of the strength and order a 210, if you dare!

The smoothness makes the 105 drinkable at cask strength, but I suggest adding a little water to fully explore its great depth.

For its price to performance ratio, the Malt Maniacs named Glenfarclas 105 their ‘Bang for your Buck’ in 2004.

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What I say:

Dram #3 at the Water Of Life Society – The Giving Tree Tasting 05/03/2015 was the eponymous Glenfarclas 105. Proudly named after its strength (in proof 105 not ABV of 60%). This is the classic Glenfarclas, the sherry-monster, paired with rather fine Emilio Lustau East India Solera Sherry. So this being the Giving Tree tasting (and a Glenfarclas) you could be forgiven for thinking this was matured in Sherry Casks, right? WRONG! (Waaaah!…).  They even state Sherried fruit in the official taste notes, however  the 105 is actually matured in Spanish wine casks that have produced a sherry-like wine but is unable to be called Sherry as it is made outwith the protected (by Spanish Law) Sherry region between Cadiz, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Rumour has it that the 105 is actually matured in ex-Heulva wine casks. Huelva’s wines are made with Zalema, the indigenous white grape of the region. Traditionally it is used to make an amber-coloured, oloroso-style, fortified wine, Condado Viejo. This earthy, nutty, mouth filling wine goes well with the famous hams of the Huelva sierras. Sadly Huelva wines are not widely available out of the Huelva region so the 105 was paired with a solera vatting from Lustau that uses a mixture of sherry types.

Colour:

Dark copper gold (12/20), medium tears

Nose:

Dark fruits, raisin, fig, date, earthy and dusty, a distinct lack of leather, nutty almonds, cocoa and a slightly musty smell like old socks/sweaty feet, hints of cheese and sulphur

Taste:

Fruity, dark fruits, bramble, raisin, blackcurrant, red grapes, fig, date, a little dark chocolate, almond and walnut, cereal barley malt, some honeyed sweetness, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg

Finish:

Medium-long, spiced rum and raisin

Overall:

A rather interesting expression and one I enjoyed very much. A No-age statement (NAS) whisky that has been available for sometime and is a very good example for that category, plus somewhat surprisingly may not be matured in the type of casks most people assume it is!

SMWS72.36

72.36 Holy moly! ~ 44.6% (SMWS)

72.36 Holy moly!

Speyside single malt scotch whisky

44.6% ABV, £169 for 70cl available from SMWS

Score: 91/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask No. 72.36

Holy moly! – passion-fruit and kiwi on polished oak – then orange syrup, raspberry tarts, crystallised ginger and toffee, but this was a complex dram and the nose also held sand dunes, railways sleepers, leather armchairs and engine shops. The palate was mouth-watering and friendly – caramel, crème brûlée, tropical fruits, wine gums, red jelly babies and mint humbugs – we knew instinctively it didn’t need water – yet we tried it – and the nose developed pink cup-cakes, icing sugar and marshmallows – very homely. The palate seemed to have absolutely everything – cherry lips, monkey’s blood, Old English spangles, honey-nut cornflakes, pain au chocolat and ash – mmm!

Drinking tip: To share with special friends – if you don’t have any handy, line up your teddy bears and have a wee picnic.

Date Distilled: 3 November 1981 Colour: Spun sugar Age: 31 years Flavour : Spicy & sweet Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead Whisky Region: Speyside Lossie 

Outturn: 51 bottles

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What I say:

Another sample courtesy of Tom from Toms Whisky Reviews, this one is from Miltonduff distillery in Speyside (SMWS Distillery #72)

Colour:

Dark amber gold (11/20), medium tears

Nose:

Sweet, sherbet, fizzy fruits, acetone, nail polish remover, woody, ketone, pear drops, aromatic, pear, apple, peach, beauty salon, lotions and potions, light wood polish, beeswax, xylenols, reminiscent of canoe construction, curing resin, must and dusty, almond croissants

Taste:

Toffee apples, caramel, peach skin, woody oak, mouth coating, tempered oaky sweetness, brown sugar, apple sauce and jam, some honey and faint cereal notes, mostly getting stewed fruits and oak wood

Finish:

Medium long, cherry lips, woody, orchard fruits, antique polished oak, hints of fixative and acetone, drying

Overall:

A beautiful single cask example with plenty of aged oak wood and tempered sweetness of stewed fruits.

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Aberlour-Glenlivet 19 Years Old 1995 Sauternes ~ 52.6% (Wm Cadenhead)

Aberlour-Glenlivet 19 Years Old 1995 Sauternes

Speyside single malt scotch whisky

52.6% ABV, ~ £55 for 70cl when available from Wm Cadenheads

Score: 91/100

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What they say:

Distilled in 1995 at the Aberlour distillery in Speyside, this has been matured a full 19 Years in an ex-Sauternes wine cask before bottling in 2014. Producing 264 bottles at 52.6% ABV.

What I say:

Dram #2 at the Water Of Life Society – The Giving Tree Tasting 05/03/2015 was this 19 Year Old Sauternes-matured Aberlour bottled by Wm Cadenhead’s as part of their Wine Cask range. Paired with the Château De Myrat Sauternes 2005.

Colour:

Amber gold (10/25), medium tears

Nose:

Sweet honey, blossom and heather honey (light), orchard fruits, apple, pear, peach with sweet white grape, dried hay/grassy, hay barn/loft, woody oak, cereal barley flour

Taste:

Oak wood, toffee, a deep caramel sweetness, salted caramel, honey stewed orchard fruits, fruity apple, pear, peach, tarte tatin, tarte aux pommes et poires normande, zesty orange and tangerine, cereal barley malt and flour, gristy, dry hay

Finish:

Long, sweet oaky wood, orchard fruits and honey sweetness

Overall:

I’m stuggling to think of a better combination of whisky and cask than this example. The beautiful soft sweetness of Aberlour’s honeyed apples in Sweet (vin liquoreux) White Bordeaux such as Sauternes giving a zesty sweetness and a little salt and spice to the caramel. Simply delicious, more apple-y than a bag of apples!