The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) underwent somewhat of a rebrand in time for their 35th Anniversary. Still keeping the distinctive green coloured bottles (they don’t want you judging by the colour of the liquid alone), the labelling introduced a colour-coded system of 12 unique flavour profiles which help to define the style of each dram based on its inherent aromas, flavours and regional characteristics. It’s both useful and attractive.
I managed to visit the Society's Kaleidoscope Bar this weekend past to sample the August Society outturn. The bar is open to both members and non-members alike, so if you're ever in the area and wanted to see what the SMWS is all about, I'd highly recommend a visit.
As always, the monthly selection was wonderfully varied and covered many of the 12 different flavour/style profiles available. This ‘10’ stood out to me from the get-go due to its interesting cask listing – a first fill ex-port barrique. Whilst it’s not specified, the liquid has in fact spent much of its life in an ex-bourbon barrel and then has been re-racked (possibly by the Society itself) for an undisclosed period of finishing in the port barrique. It’s hard to judge the length of this finishing, but it being first fill is plain to see, the dram has taken on a lovely vivid salmon pink hue.
Nose: A real melting pot of fruits and dirty peat going on here – both sweet and smoky. Red berries and tart grapefruit are played off against oily machine-like murky smoke. There's more than a whiff of maritime, with iodine and kippers providing a fairly medicinal and coastal punch of peating. Spicing is already prominent with peppercorns (not pink ones, that would be far too convenient) and some earthy vegetation which reminds me of damp autumn leaves. Well balanced and indeed enthralling.
Taste: An oily and rich mouthfeel with sweetness coming through first. A great delivery at 60.6% which doesn’t feel overly hot. The port finish is obvious but not overdone – raspberries, cranberry sauce, figs with some underlying nuttiness. Lively stuff which pairs surprisingly well with the exceptionally ashy and dirty peating present here. Spicing is once again present throughout and favours pepper with a hint of cinnamon and cloves.
Finish: Long in length, peppery and drying with some real bite.
10.118 is pretty absorbing stuff from the get go. Wine finishes are not easy to judge, but this one has been pulled off very well indeed. The dram has taken on a lovely pink hue and yet that cask influence never feels overwrought here. Given the 60.6% ABV there’s certainly scope to play around with the addition of water (which dials up the red fruit prominence a notch), but likewise, this is worryingly drinkable in its natural state. If you’re visiting an SMWS bar in the near future seek it out – it’s well worth your time.