SMWS 53.434 Tarred and pickled

Posted 03 November 2022 by Matt / In Caol Ila
The Dramble reviews SMWS 53.434 Tarred and pickled

Bottle Name: 53.434 Tarred and pickled

ABV: 58.3%
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Heavily peated
Region: Islay Age: 13

This month’s obligatory Caol Ila offers something a little different to many SMWS 53’s – a rerack into oloroso – and at three years, that’s a decent length for a 1st fill sherry hogshead to do some real transformative work.

Nose: Pickle. Big tick. Alongside overt vinegar there’s sweeter balsamic, mentholated oak, saline and salty minerality. Smoke is quite think and viscous throughout – near tarry and with touches of chilli pepper, smoked lime and limestone. Dilution expresses sweetness with lemon cured apple slices and nectarines alongside olive brine and smouldering log fires.

Taste: Not messing. Leading again with vinegar (not sure what I think about that in these volumes) before heading off into a wall of peat influence – tarry ropes, iodine, smoked ham, burnt toffee and charred nuts. Second sips will be required to assess deeper (such is the initial impact), but lurking beneath is saline, beach pebbles and lamp oil. Reduction is welcome here. Cured and smoked meats, dried earth and Sunday roast gravy….with far less added vinegar.

Finish: Long with more sherry influence now from hedgerow berries, coastal minerals….and lingering aceticness (from vinegar).

So, if you’re particularly vinegar adverse I’d suggest staying clear. Interestingly the secondary maturation here seems to have melded primarily with the natural acidity of the fortified wine, over and above its more expected fruit-driven notes. But at the same time, it has also amplified the sense of phenolic power throughout the whisky. I certainly like the slight oddity of it all….but I don’t know if I’d want a whole bottle to wade through. Probably would make a glorious onion or egg though 😊.

Score: 84/100


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