SMWS August 2021 Outturn review

Posted 05 August 2021 by Matt / In Group Tastings
SMWS August 2021 Outturn review

There are 32 new single malt whiskies in the August 2021 SMWS outturn (Power Pairings). And that’s a lot. Long-standing members will remember months where outturns were consistently half that number. But whilst these beefed-up offerings are reflective of an ever-enlarging Society membership – and as such should be viewed as a positive recognition that a growing member cohort must = more whisky – at the same time there are substantial disadvantages to deluges of bottles. Case in point – my visit to Greville Street yesterday.

Whilst the venue is still looking swanky and new following its refit, there are bottles absolutely everywhere. All the cupboard and storage spaces are chock-full. Many of the surfaces, include the bar itself, is swimming under a seemingly never-ending sea of releases. And honestly, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem that has been compounded by COVID-19. There’s simply not enough consumption currently happening at Greville Street to make a decent dent into the monthly deliveries – and as such, with enlarged outturns, the direction of travel looks entirely monodirectional – huge accumulation.

As a punter, that’s surely not a problem right? More choice is always better thing. However, the raw number of bottles alone doesn’t actually tell the full story. Outturns have and likely always will result in particular styles (namely peated and sherried) and particular popular numbers shifting far faster than other bottlings. And as a result, the remaining bottles left on the shelves of Greville Street has often tended towards “the everything else” once eager beavers had gnawed their way through the chasey releases. This situation as best as I can tell is now compounded to a point where I’m honestly not sure that SMWS are going to do with all these bottles. Each month an enlarged outturn arrives – and the supposed ‘dregs’ simply continue to accumulate at the venue.

Similarly, to a takeaway menu with too much choice – there’s now to my mind far too many bottles at Greville Street – to a point where the staff cannot possibly keep up with being able to try and advise customers who are looking for direction and inspiration. There’s a keen different between choice and overload.

I can’t see any easy way out of this barring regular fire-sales. Until members return in their numbers to venues, increased outturns sate the bubbling online demand, but do little in terms of producing a well-balanced and accesibly focussed selection for venue-drinkers. Who knows what’s behind the bar? It’s starting to seem like anything and everything all of the time.

We’ve reviewed 12 bottles from the outturn – Phil has got another 11 over on his website. The remaining 9 are MIA – sorry folks neither of us have got notes on those ones.

Pick of this month goes to the very old-styled Glenrothes (30.119 Molten armchairs) which offers considerable elegance and antique-y charm. But there’s three contenders for the recommended slot – and they’re a diverse bunch. A welcome return for Glen Garioch (19.50 A special treat) proves to be a special treat indeed, teenage Strathisla (58.44 For campers and hampers) hits all the right notes, and an ex-bourbon Glendronach offers a textural masterclass (96.36 Night-time nurse).

There's also some weirdness in amoungst what proves to be a wide-ranging outturn - but you can read about that for yourselves. Until next month…


The Dramble reviews SMWS 7.265 In a garden centre café

Bottle Name: 7.265 In a garden centre café

ABV: 57.9%
Distillery: Longmorn
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Region: Speyside Age: 17

OB Longmorns haven’t really broken into the market since the long defunct 15 year old – irrespective of any OTT packaging – but the steady stream of IBs are always something to keep an eye out for. This Society edition was filled into an ex-bourbon barrel in 2003 and matured for 17 years and disgorged at 57.9%.

View on SMWS

Nose: Coffee and walnut cake joins nougat, cream fudge and crème patisserie, whilst ginger spiced peaches are given a floral lift from a selection of pressed flowers and cut stems. The addition of water offers effervescent, fizzing oakiness alongside desiccated coconut, teacakes and pencil shavings.

Taste: The arrival delivers ample spirit weight and quickly reveals peach whipped cream, poached pear and soft toffee. The development broadens things out with gentle char alongside a selection of clays and putties and livened by dusty ginger, a lick of chilli pepper heat and dry earthiness. Reduction expresses the fruitiness of the distillate with tinned orchard and stone fruits joined by dried mango slices and well-judged pepperiness.

Finish: Medium in length with fading field flowers and aromatic, dry oakiness.

A characterfully fresh Longmorn which drinks nicely both out of the bottle and when reduced. There are plenty of sweet and floral asides which provide additional curiosities to the fruity core of the spirit which can be sensed and enjoyed throughout. Nicely done.

Score: 86/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 19.50 A special treat

Bottle Name: 19.50 A special treat

ABV: 58.3%
Distillery: Glen Garioch
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Region: Highlands Age: 18

It has been over a decade since SMWS bottled Glen Garioch – so this month’s 19 is indeed a special treat. Matured in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel for 18 years and clocking in at a still reasonable intense 58.3% ABV.

View on SMWS

Nose: Immediately expressive and vibrant with pears poached in brandy with cinnamon sticks, anise and pink peppercorns. Tonka bean paste is joined by soured white chocolate, whilst preserved lemons are served alongside a selection of pastries, buns and granary breads. Dilution presents night jasmine together with lemon crepes – all rather perfumed at this point.

Taste: Lots going on. White grapes and gooseberry fool sit with lemon gel, whilst chestnut puree join wine gum sweetness and another selection of baked goods that this time includes cinnamon buns, malt loaf and griddled waffles. Water offers Chantilly cream and syrupy tinned fruits alongside both salt and pepper seasoning.

Finish: Medium with spent espresso beans, fading orchard fruits and spicy cask char.

A bottling which will more than likely lead to calls for 19.51 to appear sooner than 2031. Animated and vivid throughout and offering quality both neat, and particularly when reduced, where the underlying Glen Garioch distillate is really allowed to shine through. Recommended.

Score: 87/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 58.44 For campers and hampers

Bottle Name: 58.44 For campers and hampers

ABV: 58.9%
Distillery: Strathisla
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Region: Speyside Age: 13

Over to Strathisla for a 13 year old that has been maturing in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel since 2007.

View on SMWS

Nose: Eaton mess joins the inside of a sweet shop – strawberry laces, foam mushrooms and pink shrimps. Alongside, lemon bonbons and orange gel are given a sense of stylishness with pressed cotton sheets, cream custard and freshly picked buttercups and sunflowers. The addition of water offers lemon sherbet alongside condensed milk, toffee cups and lamp oil.

Taste: Perfectly weighted. Strawberries and cranberries are macerated in simple syrup and with the slightest drop of balsamic, whilst a bowl of milky cereals is served alongside clotted cream, lemon meringue pie and balled melon topped with a mint sprig. Reduction favours the ex-bourbon barrel – vanilla imbued-cream and selection on oils and balms adding noticeable texture.

Finish: Medium to long with fading lemon-tinged fruits, pastilles and wispy barrel char.

What appears to be a rather unassuming teenage Strathisla is in fact something of a cracker. There’s poise, balance and brightness throughout, making for an ideal hot summer’s day dram. Recommended.

Score: 87/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 28.67 Cricket bat wrapped in hessian

Bottle Name: 28.67 Cricket bat wrapped in hessian

ABV: 58%
Distillery: Tullibardine
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Spicy & sweet
Region: Highlands Age: 10

Spicy & Sweet profile Tullibardine that’s been slumbering in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel since November 2010.

View on SMWS

Nose: Crisp and breezy. Pressed laundry and clean cotton sheets sit alongside tart cases, crème brulee and orange-infused toffees. A stack of fluffy pancakes joins Apple flavoured Pop-Tarts, complete with their sugar crusted exterior. Dilution introduces shortbread biscuits alongside fresh Comice pears, Caramac and vanilla-piped choux buns. Great nose all in all.

Taste: A darker complexion. Crunchy toffee apples and café latte sit with shaved chocolate, oak bowls and carpentry benches. The development is all oak-wards with an increasingly wood focussed selection of flavours – sawn 2x4, sawdust, lumbermills and furniture shops. Too much for me. Reduction offers an improved balance with toffee pudding and apple compote joining lemon peels and gummy bears – the increased sweetness starting to cut through the overbearing oak influence.

Finish: Medium with cinnamon spiced apple and wood shavings.

Ah, so close yet so far. The nose of this Society Tullibardine is exceptionally – but it sadly proves to be something of a trap, with a palate that has become over-exposed to the cask and as a result struggles to find balance. Things are better with a drop or two of water, but nevertheless the oak is just a bit too bossy for my liking.

Score: 82/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 95.50 Oddball funk

Bottle Name: 95.50 Oddball funk

ABV: 62.2%
Distillery: Auchroisk
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Spicy & dry
Region: Speyside Age: 10

One of two rum finishes in this month’s Outturn (a quick sample of 5.76 proving to be all of the high-ester rum and barely any perceptible Auchentoshan – though I have an incline that Phil might think differently). This Auchroisk spent 8 years in ex-bourbon before being moved into a refill Trinidadian rum barrel (which is much more likely to be Angostura than Caroni – especially at the price point). An odd choice which seems to have resulted in an odd whisky. Let’s see…

View on SMWS

Nose: What?! Burn iron pans and dirty ovens sit with old leather car seats, roasted pecans and brandy snap biscuits. Stale cola joins rosehip cordial whilst rum and raisin ice cream is served atop apple crumble. The addition of water is no less absurd – Playdoh alongside lard spread over toast.

Taste: Copper piping, steely sheeting and fermenting beer. Still not in Kansas yet Dorothy. Gingerbread men and oak panelling sit with nettles whilst chilli-spiced apples and metholated oak are joined by car exhaust fumes. Reduction reveals cough syrup together with chainsaw oil, spent pan fats and a lemon and gooseberry fool.

Finish: Medium and cask-forward. Taut oak, char and lingering cinnamon spice.

Quite fun as a novelty, but in reality this is utter madness. You’re unlikely to taste anything quite like it all year – so in that sense, a dram at the Society is well worth your time - but a whole 70cl bottle of this daftness is probably 27 drams too many. Certainly entertaining, but hugely confused and rather aimless throughout.

Score: 72/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 24.161 Sensuous susurration of Spain

Bottle Name: 24.161 Sensuous susurration of Spain

ABV: 63.1%
Distillery: Macallan
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Region: Speyside Age: 12

Another bottle from the procession of 10 year old Macallan’s that were vatted together then re-racked into a selection of different casks for some additional maturation. This month’s listed as a 1st ex-oloroso hogshead and regardless is guaranteed to sell out on impact no matter the profile or quality.

View on SMWS

Nose: First off – Bombay Mix – unexpected. Then more anticipated aromas – dark cherry cordial, high % cocoa chocolate and Soreen malt loaf. Percolated coffee and roasted walnuts join a selection of fruit-infused petit fours whilst polished parquet flooring provides an early hit of oak. Reduction adds orange liqueurs and nut bread alongside almond paste.

Taste: More than a few struck matches. Balsamic cherries and plump raisins sit with chocolate-covered gingernut biscuits, whilst rolled, but not yet ignited cigars are joined by dark sugars, Viennese swirl biscuits, dusty cinnamon spicing and palpable, sticky tannins. Dilution reveals syrupy cherries and berries – lovely. But it also amps up the sense of volcanic-ness that is pervading this dram – less lovely.

Finish: Medium with bitter chocolate and still prominent oak tannins.

Depending on your predictions for sulfur dioxide and tannin stickiness you may want to add a handful of points to my score. I’m far from swayed by the distillery behind this bottling as an allure onto itself – and so for me, these traits are both minor detractions. Nice enough, but if you ignore the number/name, there's really no need to be clambering over each other to acquire this <spoken into the cold hard vacuum of brand obsessed, asinine insta-purchasing>

Score: 83/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 64.123 Red alert

Bottle Name: 64.123 Red alert

ABV: 53.6%
Distillery: Mannochmore
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Region: Speyside Age: 14

One of two ex-port re-racks in this month’s outturn – this Mannochmore spent 12 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being moved into a 1st fill port barrique. There’s something about recharring and an oloroso seasoned barrique in the outturn description – but I’m unsure what any of that really means contextually.

View on SMWS

Nose: Fruity stuff. Freshly picked hedgerow berries – blackberries, raspberries and redcurrants. Fireball cinnamon gobstoppers join well stepped fruit teas, whilst coconut macaroons and pink wafer biscuits sit with overt port-wine influence. Reduction has positive results – honeycomb, burnt toffee and asides of mandarin peels. Set phasers to stun...

Taste: A more reductive palate – jammy cranberries and redcurrants alongside mirabelles and a glass of Ribena. Red liquorice laces and marzipan are livened with gentle ginger and cinnamon powder. Water again is worthwhile here – berry syrup and toasted alongside anise and wine-soaked bread and butter pudding.

Finish: Medium in length with dry oakiness and grippy tannins beginning to bite.

A rather cask-led Mannochmore that’s just a touch too dry and sticky for my tastes, but is nevertheless bright, expressive, berry-forward and enjoyable throughout. Those into fruity, dry port compositions will likely adore this.

Score: 85/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 30.119 Molten armchairs

Bottle Name: 30.119 Molten armchairs

ABV: 58.4%
Distillery: Glenrothes
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Old & dignified
Region: Speyside Age: 24

This month’s black bottle comes courtesy of Glenrothes with an expression that has spent 21 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being re-racked into a Spanish oak PX hogshead for an addition three years of maturation. The ABV is notably still rather high here.

View on SMWS

Nose: Burnt parchment paper, dunnage floors and just extinguished church tapers all offer a sense of elegant, well-considered maturity. Reduced plums and greengages join sultanas and raisins in a stewed combination that includes more than a hint of cellar rancio along for the ride. Roasted nuts and polished sherry oak sit with a sack cloth full of potatoes and spent espresso beans. Dilution adds a cake-y quality alongside stepped fruit teas and yet more old school diversions – this time, dusty attics.

Taste: Seems even more mature than its 24 years. Polish wood panelling in a library full of dusty books. Metholated oak runs throughout with black coffee, balsamic and rancio sherry sharpness and a selection of cherries and berries livened with 70s orange liqueur. The addition of water reveals an exquisite fruity quality with tinned stone and berry fruits alongside tobacco tins, walnut oil and old, brittle wood beams.

Finish: Quite long with slightly medicinal oakiness that sours as it lingers.

This Society Glenrothes possess an old world profile which virtually always floats my boat. There’s stylishness and charm throughout and whilst the oak is prominent, it has reclined and sprawled into its fireside leather armchair to offer considerable maturity without ever outstaying its welcome. Reasonably priced compared to some similarly aged OBs – most of which don’t come with the associated antique-y profile. Pick of the month.

Score: 88/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 82.38 Sugar hit

Bottle Name: 82.38 Sugar hit

ABV: 63.4%
Distillery: Glencadam
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Region: Highlands Age: 8

Over to Glencadam for what sounds like a saccharine pick-me-up. Matured in a 1st fill ex-bourbon hogshead for 8 years, but still possessing an eye-opening ABV of 63.4%.

View on SMWS

Nose: Highly citric and sweet. Lemon curd, lemon gel and preserved lemon alongside meringues, well-whipped cream and Bird’s custard. Notes of air-freshener and washing powder take the lemon further by melding it with floral asides – peony and cut grass. Reduction expresses a clean and crisp profile with press sheets, newly-spun cotton alongside bubblegum fruitiness.

Taste: Lemon cordial, lychee and yellow jelly babies provide an enjoyable, if rather sweet opener. Simple syrup, and crème patisserie sit alongside milky cereals, whilst cut stems and grasses add a summery aside. Dilution reveals lemon barley water together with a combination of syrupy green (apple and pear) and white (melon) fruits.

Finish: Medium and still on lemons joined by light cask char and residue pepper.

I preferred this Glencadam with a dash of water – not to reduce its alcoholic bite – but rather to take the edge off of the sweetness levels, which feel a little bit too diabetic straight out of the bottle. Nevertheless, whatever your balancing point, there’s a fresh and crisp whisky here that would prove to be a sound opener to an evening.

Score: 83/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 96.36 Night-time nurse

Bottle Name: 96.36 Night-time nurse

ABV: 59.5%
Distillery: Glendronach
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Region: Highlands Age: 13

Ex-bourbon Glendronach is a niche within a niche – but for those who enjoy the inherent qualities of the spirit which has considerable weight (which is usually why it pairs well with sherry), it’s always worth seeking out. And SMWS editions don’t tend to hang around all too long because of this.

View on SMWS

Nose: Freshly woven cotton bandages and treated fabric plasters sit with break dust and suede, whilst peaches and cream and mango slices are dusted in nutmeg and joined by hillside flowers. And unusual, but entirely successful combination. Water presents a more vegetal aspect with ferns and brackens alongside lamp oil and graphite.

Taste: Bold, fatty, oily and greasy. Peach cobbler and balled melon sit with burnt tart cases and jelly baby sweetness, whilst ginger and cinnamon spicing are set against wet, alluvial soils and touches of fruity mint. Reduction retains the chewy body and introduces both orange and lemon gels, together with hessian and barley water.

Finish: Medium to long and combining everything before – fruits, oils, spices and distillate sweetness.

A texturally brilliant Glendronach that offers a vivid and wide-framed experience from start to finish. Quite divergent in places – but everything works together excellently. Recommended.

Score: 87/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 52.41 Seahorse ramen

Bottle Name: 52.41 Seahorse ramen

ABV: 59.6%
Distillery: Old Pulteney
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Oily & coastal
Region: Highlands Age: 7

I’ve rarely seen Pulteney offered up at less than 8 year of age – an indeed, most IBs tend to fall into the 10+ realm. So, this should be an interesting experience. Matured in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel and clocking in at 59.6% ABV.

View on SMWS

Nose: Ingredients forward. Porridge, oatmeal and rice pudding with hillside flowers, granite cliff faces. Cream custard, heather honey and seashells join a selection of yeasty buns. Dilution brings forward the coastalness further with chiselled rock faces, chalk and sandy beaches.

Taste: Similar story. Doughs, pastries and cereals lead, whilst steely minerality and seawater develop into golden syrup, butter biscuit (base), graham crackers and apple preserved with lemon juice. A greasy texture runs throughout – axle lubricant. Water reveals salinity alongside industrial copper piping and a bowl of warmed Ready Brek.

Finish: Medium and quite cereal – tempered by sustained steeliness.

This Pulteney is still very much on its journey and whilst it offers and enjoyable dip into the inherent character of its make, I can’t help but think that it’s been disgorged just a bit too soon. Pleasant, but primordial. 

Score: 82/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 66.199 Cricket in the Caribbean

Bottle Name: 66.199 Cricket in the Caribbean

ABV: 50.6%
Distillery: Ardmore
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Lightly peated
Region: Highlands Age: 23

Ending our coverage with a trip to Ardmore and one of the oldest Society bottlings of the distillery for quite some years. This bottling was initially matured in ex-bourbon before being moved to a HTMC (high toast, medium char) hogshead.

View on SMWS

Nose: Damp potting sheds and long burnt-out vegetal fires sit with boiled greens and bitumen road surfaces at 5 miles distance. It’s very Ardmore, but also very relaxed in focus. Kale and wet soils sit with prosciutto ham, whilst a little barnyard funk can be felt from hay lofts and sweaty farmhands. Reduction offers less expression overall, adding wellington boots, mud and clay.

Taste: The arrival focussed on sweet, lightly peated fruits with apples and pears held under a wispy cloche of applewood smoke. The development introduces salt and vinegar crisps and dried meats together with lamp oil and vanilla-filled buns. The addition of water again reduces the vibrancy, revealing cinnamon and cumin spices alongside crackerbread and lemon balm.

Finish: Medium and rather ‘herbal’ with hemp leaf and residue, gentle char.

There’s a lot of ‘green’ about this well-aged SMWS Ardmore – and that suits both its in-land profile and some of the well-developed nuances which have added to this expression during its near quarter of a century in cask. But, the bottling strength is the only point of balance for me – and adding water just served to diminish all aspects of what makes this an enjoyably gentle peater.

Score: 85/100

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