New ideas need old buildings

Posted 09 August 2019 by Matt / In Blend
The Dramble reviews SMWS Old Fashioned

Bottle Name: SMWS Old Fashioned

ABV: 50%
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 11

There’s a growing symbiotic relationship in whisky which is extending outside of the bounds of the industry itself. We’re all aware of the connection between the US bourbon industry and the Scottish malt whisky industry – the former using fresh barrels once, the latter requiring a constant source of pre-seasoned wood for a number of fills and refills. A perfect rapport. But, there’s another type of cooperation which is growing in both significance and occurrence - cask sharing.

The Dramble has written about collaborations between distilleries and breweries before. My favourite example being the two whiskies and one beer which were produced though the creation of Chichibu’s IPA Cask Finish 2017. Now, there’s another beer/whisky collab out in the wild, and this time its comes courtesy of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

SMWS’s fifth experimental blend was released yesterday in the form of ‘Old Fashioned’ an 11 year old blended malt composed of 1st fill ex-IPA, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. To create Old Fashioned, SMWS sourced and provided Scottish Border’s Tempest Brewing with a selection of Heaven Hill ex-bourbon casks. Tempest took their orange and ginger infused rye and marmalade DIPA (Marmalade on Rye) which is created from a malt base of rye, Vienna and Golden Promise (along with some unspecified ‘North American hops’), and cask aged it the casks for 14 months. The result is the brewers third batch of their Barrel Aged Double IPA. And it’s quite highly rated.

There’s nothing like staying on brand – Tempest’s beer is also called ‘The Old Fashioned’. Similarly to SMWS’s latest blend, the name stems from the parallels in the flavour profile (sweet herbal and citric) to the Old Fashioned cocktail. Once Tempest’s BA DIPA was produced, they returned the (now seasoned) casks to SMWS who utilised them for the 1st fill ex-IPA (ex-DIPA) component in their Old Fashioned blend.

Those looking for comparison drinking (which is always educational and fun) can pick up a bottle of Tempest’s Barrel Aged DIPA directly from Tempest for £6 via their shop.

For those more whisky focussed…SMWS have produced 2122 bottles of the Old Fashioned blended malt. They’re bottled at an ABV of 50% and cost of £45 each via SMWS. N.B. the first day UK allocation sold out in a flash, but it appears that the release has been staggered as there's plenty more available today.

Nose: Opening fresh and fruity with oranges and mandarins alongside apricots and peaches. Chocolate dipped biscuits, desiccated coconut and nougat provide a unctuousness on which, sage and something close to tree bark, (not quite angostura, but we’re in that ball park) sit. The addition of water adds overt sweetness with simple syrup, cough sweets, gingerbread and chopped nuts.

Taste: Soft and juicy, and with plenty of perky spicing lurking at the back. Cherries and orange segments mix it up with coconut shavings, whilst vanilla cream is dolloped onto a chocolate flan. The mid-palate offers more tartness from grapefruit and gooseberry, alongside lemon pith and resin. Dilution amplifies the cask spicing with gingerbread, almonds and mulled-wine like cinnamon sticks and anise.

Finish: Medium in length with dusty orange juice, cocoa nibs and fading ginger spicing.

SMWS Old Fashioned offers an intriguing balance from its three component casks – ex-bourbon provides the bedrock of flavours, ex-sherry adds an overlay of sugary goodies and ex-DIPA augments the underlying spices. It feels as if it’s greater than the sum of its parts. Nothing clamours for attention alone. This is all about the band, not the soloist. The beer influence is tangible, but nowhere near as overt as I’ve found in some cask exchange expressions – and that’s OK, Old Fashioned is about equilibrium, and not about being a beery whisky. Well-priced, well-made and offering a different spin to many other similarly aged old blended malts. 

Score: 85/100

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