Water of Life Society Tasting Event #5 Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Water of Life Society Tasting Event #5 (or WOLS#5 for short) was presented by the Scotch Malt whisky Society (SMWS) representatives Jillian Scott from SMWS The Vaults, Leith and Ryan Mcafferty from SMWS 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh. Providing us with a preview of some of the latest bottlings to be released the following day to the SMWS.

9.75 Imperial Leather in a boat chandlery

Cask No. 9.75

The nose seemed rounded and attractive – dusty hay and pepper on mashed banana – something reminiscent of a boat chandlery (wood, canvas, brass) and the sweetness of sherbet straws, coconut and American Cream Soda. The neat palate delivered milk chocolate coffee creams, champagne truffles, custard cream biscuits and fruit crumble, light spices, tea and toast and a lovely fruit syrup texture. The reduced nose developed vanilla, banana and strawberry blancmange, nutty toffee, buttered cherry scones and some floral soap (chamomile, Imperial Leather). Water lifted the fruitiness of the palate (peach, pear, white grape) – a well-balanced dram from the oldest distillery in Rothes.

Drinking tip: With afternoon tea or while gazing out to sea.

Date Distilled: 3 April 1997
Colour: Golden chintz
Age: 16 years years
Flavour:  Spicy & sweet             
Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead             
Whisky Region: Speyside Spey

55.3% ABV, outturn 285 bottles, £53 for 70cl (Glen Grant)

What we say:

Colour: Light gold

Nose: Imperial leather soap, sandalwood and chamomile, dry hay and grass

Taste: Buttery and oily, a little vanilla and custard and lots of soap [Imperial Leather soap], with water soapiness pervades and other more pleasant flavours are lost

Finish: Thankfully short with a soapy aftertaste

Overall: Unpleasant, too much soap flavour!

Score: 49/100

121.65 A well-oiled Baseball glove

Cask No. 121.65

There is right at the start a musty note of fermenting grapes which is soon replaced by sweet aromas of fudge, molasses, caramelised Demerara sugar and treacle. In addition some spiciness and the vinous character reminded us of a Muscat wine or Oloroso Dulce Sherry.  The taste split the Panel; some got struck matches followed by cooking Sherry whilst others enjoyed flavours of hazelnuts and roasted chestnuts combined with dried apricots and bitter orange chocolate. With water; lighter fluid and lamp oil moved quickly on to nut oil, stewed red fruits and honey on baked pears.  The taste is salted liquorice, raisins, duck terrine and a hint of turmeric; someone described it as a ‘well-oiled Baseball glove’.

Drinking tip: Watching the ‘World Series’ of the MLB

Date Distilled: 31 July 1999            
Colour: Vin Santo Italian dessert wine              
Age: 14 years years            
Flavour: Deep, rich & fruity            
Cask Type: Refill ex-sherry butt            
Whisky Region: Highland Island 

58.3% ABV, outturn 756 bottles, £46 for 70cl (Arran)

What we say:

Colour: Orange bronze

Nose: Caramel and something herbal like Anise, hints of sherry cask and a wet/rotten smell

Taste: Sweet and syrupy with drying tannin, lots of caramel and muskovado sugar, hints of liquorice

Finish: Short and sharp with cinnamon spices and lingering orange

Overall: Interesting and reasonably pleasant, the finish was a little disappointing as this promised big flavours then fizzles out at the end

Score: 70/100

76.108 Raspberry Ruffles

Cask No. 76.108

A very interesting nose; vibrant, fresh, fizzy, fragrant and fruity – all at once. Green apples, peaches with vanilla custard, orange and lime flavoured refreshers, sherbet lemon, fresh cut grass and in the background an aroma of menthol cigarettes. On the palate hot, fresh, minty and sweet, all sensations rather than flavours but you will not get bored. Eventually rhubarb flavoured boiled sweets, freshly pealed apple skins and a dark chocolate Bounty Bar. With water sweet and fruity; cherries, bananas, mangos and pineapples and Raspberry Ruffles (chocolate covered coconut and raspberry fondant creams). The taste is soft and fruity, nicely balanced with sweet cereal notes and a hint of macadamia and hazelnuts – very interesting indeed.

Drinking tip: On a walk with or without following a little white ball

Date Distilled: 25 April 2002            
Colour: Classic yellow topaz
Age: 11 years years
Flavour : Young & spritely
Cask Type: First fill ex-bourbon barrel
Whisky Region: Speyside Spey

57.9% ABV, outturn 235 bottles, £48 for 70cl (Mortlach)

What we say:

Colour: Very pale gold

Nose: Solvent [Isopropanol], green apples and dry hay/grass

Taste: Vanilla custard with white chocolate and nutty [hazelnut] flavours

Finish: Dry, prickly spices then strong vaporous taste of menthol cigarettes that relaxes into freshmint toothpaste

Overall: Different, once we picked out the menthol cigarettes, this became a little pervading of the whole dram

Score: 72/100

31.26 BBQ smoke by a rolling sea

Cask No. 31.26

Our noses picked up the sea in droplets of spray, mixed seafood barbeques and beach clean-up bonfires. We also found mineral notes (slate, plaster, Plasticine) butterscotch, aniseed, salted crisps and cooked buttery pastry. The palate had quite serious smoke plus sweet, woody and earthy elements but most comments were exploring the savoury flavours of smoked ribs, bacon rolls with brown sauce, barbecued scallops and marmite on toast. On the reduced nose, somewhere between a rock-pool and a swimming pool, we were aware of prawn tempura with wedges of lemon and charred gammon with pineapple – nice feast! From Jura’s only distillery.

Drinking tip: At a beach barbeque – O man! Roll on the Hebridean summer.

Date Distilled: 27 Sept 1988            
Colour: Brassy gold            
Age: 24 years            
Flavour : Lightly peated            
Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead            
Whisky Region: Highland Island

53.6% ABV, outturn 262 bottles, £75 for 70cl (Jura)

What we say:

Colour: Gold

Nose: Nutty, sweet white chocolate [vanilla and coconut hints], slightly medicinal [phenolic]

Taste: Heather honey, butterscotch and brazil and macadamia nuts, slight cayenne pepper spice with earthy undertones

Finish: Like gentle wood smoke from a cooking fire

Overall: Macadamia nuts enrobed in white chocolate – my favourite of the evening

Score: 88/100

53.191 Candy Fruit Filled Seashells

Cask No. 53.191

The initial nose neat was like a salty sea breeze standing on a sand dune, soon followed by antiseptic notes of germolene as well as herbal ones of fennel and aniseed. Sweeter aromas appear later; foamy bananas and Mini Milk ice cream lollies. The taste without water is very sweet indeed like a Crème Chantilly with the slightest touch of peat smoke. It also brought back happy childhood memories for some of candy fruit filled seashells, one calling it ‘Roudoudou’ whilst another one ‘Schleckmuschel’. Careful when adding water, the aromas are still sweet and salty like salted butter caramels and an even fresher sea breeze than neat. The taste is fizzy and citric, good old fashioned homemade lemonade or cream soda.

Drinking tip: Whilst having a break during an afternoon walk on the beach

Date Distilled: 3 September 1996            
Colour: Balsamic olive oil            
Age: 16 years years            
Flavour :  Lightly peated            
Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead            
Whisky Region: Islay

56.3% ABV, outturn 245 bottles, £59 for 70cl (Coal Ila)

What we say:

Colour: Gold

Nose: Peat smoke, phenol, TCP and antiseptic, whipped cream

Taste: Smoky bacon, salt, sweet and smoke, reasonably smooth and creamy and mouth-coating

Finish: Medium length peat smoke and salt spray

Overall: A gently smoky Islay but a little thin on complexity and other flavours, very easy drinking but not as well formed as the last one.

Score: 74/100

Would I buy it:

As well as exclusively revealing these drams to the WOLS members Jillian and Ryan also brought along bottles for sale at the prices indicated above. Of them all, only the 24 Year Old Jura really tickled my tastebuds, and true to form it turned out to be the most expensive at £75 per bottle. On the basis that I am sure I can purchase whiskies that really ring my bells for that price or less I decided not to purchase any of the offerings from this tasting. I should qualify this however and point out that when I have visited the SMWS, I have often picked out from their tasting notes some really stonkingly good drams and have been sorely tempted into buying their expressions on several occasions. It just goes to show that each bottling is highly unique and individual and shouldn’t be judged by its age or distillery – go to the superb SMWS locations and try some for yourself. Also I don’t like drinking soap!


Categories: Event

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