SMWS September 2022 Outturn Review

Posted 01 September 2022 by Matt / In Group Tastings
SMWS September 2022 Outturn Review

Back in March I opened my SMWS outturn review with “Goodness - has it really been a whole 6 months since our last SMWS outturn review?” And here we are….another 6 months on <sigh>. A few of you have messaged asking where The Dramble’s outturn review have got to (two over 12 months is super slim pickings) – but despite some amusingly left-field suggestions, our inability to bring you Society reviews has been purely down to the continued buggeration that is logistics. Simply put - Greville Street in London has not been getting outturn bottles until right up until the wire of the release itself. Not nearly enough time to taste, note, collate and write up.

Nevertheless, it’s great to be back – even if we’re certainly not back to any semblance of what I’d call ‘normal’. Things have changed since I’ve been away – some releases are staggered throughout the month…I’m guessing that’s partly the aforementioned bottle op logistics and partly an attempt to persuade members to take multiple bites from each outturn. How long that will be sustainable with the changes in the global economy remains to be seen. But nevertheless, it feels to me that the Society, having seen an explosion of growth over the past 5 years may well have to look much more deeply into retention as opposed to recruitment. Whilst SMWS have had no issues persuading folks to join as whisky has continued to boom – they have had issues in fulfilling the insatiable desires of this growing membership in a single cask format. Vatted releases clearly go some way to alleviating that pressure – but at Greville Street the shelves were packed with these bottles – they clearly don’t have as much allure (no great surprise).

At the same time, economic pressures are now telling. I’ve seen a few of you noting that you’re not renewing your Society memberships for the coming year. Sorry to see you go! This is surely going to be an increasing trend across all of whisky. There's only so much that a squeezed wallet can take. How will the Society respond I wonder? Whilst the emphasis has been on growth for a number of years – I suspect that now, this focus will need to change onto persuading members of the long-term value of membership in order to retain them. Churn is inevitable....but there's a healthy amount of it one should expect and target. If something has to give within the budget of whisky drinkers – SMWS needs to convince people that their memberships are not one of those things. Whilst other bottlers only have to market their bottled products - the Society needs to promote membership *and* bottles - the latter cannot happen without the former. And that to my mind *will* require a change of tact – particularly for members who aren’t located within a stone’s throw of a venue. Interesting, but at the same time worrying times ahead I’m afraid.

This outturn delivers 22 single malt whiskies, 1 Texan corn whiskey and a Scottish gin. There’s pretty good coverage of Society styles here with only Light & Delicate and Oily & Coastal not accounted for. Most will be released tomorrow – but a few will stand as tempters later in the month – together with various Gathering bottles which are also being released. For thoughts on the other half of the outturn, you can head over to Phil’s website – he’ll have his views up shortly.

My pick of the month goes to the Ben Nevis (78.61 Smoky Plumes and Salted Prunes) – on paper this looks like a very strange cask makeup, but the results speak for themselves. There’s a few just behind this which earn my recommendation – highly characterful Clynelish (26.206 Tropical Toothpaste), potent and box-ticking Ledaig (42.82 The Thing) and a batshit mental Glen Scotia (93.187 Baldrick’s Aquatic Dress Turnip).

Until….well…let’s hope sooner than 6 months!


The Dramble reviews SMWS 35.324 Tangerine Collings

Bottle Name: 35.324 Tangerine Collings

ABV: 58.9%
Distillery: Glen Moray
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Young & spritely
Region: Speyside Age: 8

Opening our account of the September 2022 SWMW outturn with a trip to Glen Moray. This younger example has been matured in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel before being bottled at 58.% ABV.

View on SMWS

Nose: Opening with crisp and slightly blow-torched meringue peaks, before leading into mandarin and clementine slices and tangy lemon gel. In the background, mint leaf, char,  sack cloth and a scattering of jelly baby gummy sweetness. The addition of water presents a warmed less snappish complexion – it also ups the fruit ante with gooseberry fool and balled melon.

Taste: The arrival is saccharine and somewhat sherbet. It also has some potent alcoholic bite to it. It does however possess a clingy syrupy texture. That works. Orange peels, cantaloupe melon and fizzy powered lemon join Rich Tea biscuits alongside fabric – this time cotton – and cask-led pepper. Dilution lowers the initial hostility adding effervescent soda water together with tangy lemon jellies. It’s simpler – but it’s also somewhat easier.

Finish: Medium with the powdery fruity sweetness sitting alongside that tingly pepper.

Whilst I enjoyed the bright, piquant fruits of the nose of this Glen Moray – that palate was too antagonistic and overtly booze-led for me at its natural strength. There’s more than enough scope for dilution here – however whilst that proved beneficial in broadening up the bouquet – it quickly diminished the overall breadth once in the mouth. You can’t have it both ways it seems.

Score: 82/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 82.43 You Might Start Yodelling

Bottle Name: 82.43 You Might Start Yodelling

ABV: 64.2%
Distillery: Glencadam
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Region: Highlands Age: 10

We move over to Brechin in Angus for a Glencadam that has been fully matured in a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel. Underrated distillery in my book this one.

View on SMWS

Nose: Rather perfumed with rosehips and clean cotton sheets set alongside raspberry bootlaces and freshly baked tart cases. Red fruit pastilles followed together with Caramac and pink wafer biscuits. All perfectly affable. Water expresses far more fruit-forward aromas with foam strawberries and Nesquik milkshake powder alongside creamy sandwich biscuits.

Taste: A juicy entrance with apricot, apple and redcurrants all held in a nicely textural suspension. Chopped garden herbs following alongside green bell peppers, runny toffee and a touch of cinnamon ball heat in the back palate. Modest but all rather genial. Reduction retained much of the overall shape of the whisky, whilst allowing addition yellow fruits – peach and mirabelles – into the mix together with waffle mix and cream-filled choux buns.

Finish: Medium in length with lingering stone fruit syrupiness.

Despite the high bottling strength this drinks pretty well as-is, offering a tight array of balanced fruit-forward influences mingles with bakery notes. Reduction allows for a touch more scope with additional pastry-led aromas and flavours and a slightly amped up fruity core. Either at cask strength or taken down a few degrees that’s a solid semi-oily mouthfeel throughout which binds everything together. Nice.

Score: 84/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 73.145 A Curious Wee Sort

Bottle Name: 73.145 A Curious Wee Sort

ABV: 57.8%
Distillery: Aultmore
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Spicy & dry
Region: Speyside Age: 10

Aultmore and sherry are tried and tested combination. Here’s we’ve got a version which is a little more stripped back – but no less appealing because of that. 10 years in a 1st fill barrel before being bottled at 57.8% ABV.

View on SMWS

Nose: Plenty to unpick here. Golden syrup, wood lacquer and bees honey (almost mead-like) sit alongside sharp lemon, a hodgepodge of Skittles sweetness and some unexpected background minerality. After time in the glass this develops additional oak-led notes of polished bowls and shaved timber. Dilution reveals fabrics – cloth and hessian together with savoury spices – turmeric and earthy ginger.

Taste: Similarly far-reaching with a syrupy weight that delivers dried yellow fruits, apple juice and touches of lemon zest. The development is mainly cask-forward with cinnamon and ginger sitting atop of cashew nuts and crackerbread before hewn granite again provides an unanticipated minerality. Water sweetens things up – touches of mentholated oak, cough syrup and macadamia.

Finish: Quite long and favouring oak spices mingled with char and fading rather progressively (as opposed to dryly).

Bit fan of this distillate and the complexities its capable of. Here we do indeed have a curious wee sort which took me longer than most on this outturn – both to get familiar with and to notate. Overall though there’s some lovely combinations which are as thoughtful as they are rewarding. Not a quick dram, but I’d happily spend more time with it.

Score: 86/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 80.41 Volcanic Marmalade

Bottle Name: 80.41 Volcanic Marmalade

ABV: 60.2%
Distillery: Glen Spey
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Spicy & dry
Region: Speyside Age: 11

Interesting stuff here. Initially matured for 8 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being reracked into a 1st fill toasted oak barrique composed of Quercus macranthera – aka Caucasian/Persian oak. Colour me intrigued.

View on SMWS

Nose: Volcanic indeed. Immediate sulphur from saltpetre and plimsole rubber. These both fade in the glass, but not entirely. Marmalade certainly, then Terry’s Chocolate Orange, powdered ginger and a peanut nuttiness. Aromatic and rather fruity tobacco leaf wafts alongside both rose hip and pumice. Dilution really worked for me here – markedly lessening Atomic No. 16 whilst adding cashews and Brazil nuts together with Bombay mix and additional ginger spices from ginger cake.

Taste: Uncommon. An initial ‘sweatiness’ gives way to chocolate covered cherries, tangerine juice and cinnamon spiced apple cider. Char, pepper and ginger (lots) follow. Less volcanic, but still just as fiery in other ways. Water once again is highly welcome – poached pears, mandarin segments and far less piquancy throughout.

Finish: Medium to long. Touches of shoe rubber remain alongside char, chilli and ginger.

Nope. Straight out of the bottle I’m really not a fan of this interestingly casked Glen Spey – the sulphurous elements and intense spiciness mask many of the other nuances of the distillate. Taken down though – there’s a far more sociably acceptable dram here. As such I’ve scored somewhere in the middle – but for me, this is case-in-point why I believe that not all whisky is better or more desirable at its natural cask strength.

Score: 78/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 78.61 Smoky Plumes and Salted Prunes

Bottle Name: 78.61 Smoky Plumes and Salted Prunes

ABV: 66.9%
Distillery: Ben Nevis
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Region: Highlands Age: 8

Another interesting casking – four years in an oloroso seasoned butt and then moved into the 2nd oloroso butt which was used to mature SMWS 3.307 – Journey into Joy (a 20 year old Bowmore). There’s a 3rd fill finish for the final four years of this whisky. Curiouser and curiouser.

View on SMWS

Nose: Salted caramel, sticky toffee pudding and raisins join flat coke and spent coffee beans, whilst traces of peanut and mineral oil join chocolate sponge and dusty tobacco leaf. Reduced, there’s mossiness alongside wisps of ethereal smoke and the creaminess of a latte coffee.

Taste: Engine oil and axle grease lean this whisky a firm weight in the mouth. It opens with a sharp, fruity, almost balsamic combination that covers dried apricots, orange gel, raisins and chocolate cake alongside a pang of aceticness. Edges of minerality follow with beach pebbles and salt toffee set alongside leather armchair, almond brittle and tendrils of thin smoke. The addition of water really emphasises the oily texture, whilst adding a sense of vaporousness to the smoke – still background and supportive, but now mechanised and joined by plum jam and espresso.

Finish: Quite long and favouring bitter orange together with some final flecks of salinity.

One might wonder why this Ben Nevis was deemed to need a smoke-tinged oloroso finish at such a young age – but in the cold light of day that’s beside the point as the result is nevertheless quite brilliant. Few distillates would be able to handle the intensity of the finish that has been applied here and come out in a state of equilibrium – but this Nevis most certainly has – and it has done so deliciously. Rare for me to select this colour/style as my pick of the month, but this one is an easy shoe-in for my top spot.

Score: 88/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 9.255 Tropical Trail Mix

Bottle Name: 9.255 Tropical Trail Mix

ABV: 53.9%
Distillery: Glen Grant
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Region: Speyside Age: 18

The ever reliable Glen Grant makes its regular appearance in the outturn – this example being matured for 18 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel.

View on SMWS

Nose: Battenberg cake with a notably thick marzipan covering is joined by dried apricots and dehydrated apple and mango slices. Sultanas and oaty cereals are sweetened with golden syrup before cashew nuts and shaved chocolate collide with desiccated coconut and buttery brioche. Dilution expressed malted milk, nutmeg and a peach and mango strudel.

Taste: Pineapple marmalade and orchard fruits sit with pressed flowers, clear honey and gently sheened oak. Golden syrup joins a bowl of dry Alpen whilst gingerbread men sits alongside almonds and cashews. Water unlocks gently spiced apple tart together with orange jelly and a sprinkle of pepper. Sweeter, but certainly drier in the back palate.

Finish: Medium in length with warm toasted oak and fading ginger spiced fruitiness.

This Glen Grant presents with an appealing profile that runs the gamut of fruit and nut throughout its development. Less scope for manipulation with water than some bottles on this month’s outturn – but nevertheless as appealing and solidly composed as one would expect.

Score: 85/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 26.206 Tropical Toothpaste

Bottle Name: 26.206 Tropical Toothpaste

ABV: 61.6%
Distillery: Clynelish
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Region: Highlands Age: 9

Young Clynelish that’s been matured for 9 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel – nothing more needs to be said.

View on SMWS

Nose: Cool mint and a swipe of lamp oil join green mango, touches of underripe pineapple and a medley of yellow and green Starburst. Notes of earthy dunnage are joined by fir cones whilst touches of rocky minerality and toasted cereals bring up the rear. Reduction increases the sense of coastalness with hewn rock faces sitting alongside a stick of rock (still minty) and fruit jellies.

Taste: Bright and tangy fruits sit atop a cough syrup-like arrival. Lemon peels and pink grapefruit sit alongside guava and mango whilst pine needles join Milky Bars. Water is a joy here – the texture is retained straddling oil/syrup, whilst mingled tropical fruit juices sit with Trebor mint and a tingle of developing minerality.

Finish: Medium sweet chocolate and char join pepper and slapped mint.

As always I’d expect anything from 26 to fly off the shelves regardless of its underlying quality. This one however backs up its number with a lovely profile that socialises fruits, mints and oils to a high level of success. Recommended.

Score: 87/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 42.82 The Thing

Bottle Name: 42.82 The Thing

ABV: 58.2%
Distillery: Tobermory
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Heavily peated
Region: Islands Age: 14

Pleasing to be back in action in time for a release of peated 42 – though looking back over the month’s I’ve missed, it seems that there’s been a fair number of Ledaig releases from the Society. This one is noted as heavily peated and hails from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. High hopes here.

Nose: Asphalt and lemon-tinged cleaning fluid join pickling juice, langoustine and notes of swimming pool changing rooms. Brine, sea salt and sandy beaches reinforce a real sense of salinity. Reduction offers sea shells and tarred rope alongside smoked fish stew, boiled potatoes and touches of developing rubber tyre.

Taste: Bolder now. Sweet smoked apple and Lemon Pledge join salt-baked cod before a wave of iodine, felt roofing and engine exhaust joins fish stew, salted prawns, beach groynes and BBQ briquettes. Dilution adds candied sweetness, but also some medicinalness with TCP, ash and tar alongside resinous oak, pepper and cask char.

Finish: Long – mingling pungent peat with a salty tang.

Named after my second favourite John Carpenter film – this pleasingly doesn’t disappoint. All the modern Ledaig motifs are present and correct here – and there’s an attractive emphasis on rocky salinity that really sits both the distillate style and a refill cask that lets the spirit do the talking. Unsurprisingly recommended.

Score: 87/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 53.421 Smoked Cloudy Mulled Cider

Bottle Name: 53.421 Smoked Cloudy Mulled Cider

ABV: 57.8%
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Islay Age: 10

Some things never change - especially the pleasing predictability of Society Caol Ila. This one is notably pale and drawn from a refill ex-bourbon barrel.

View on SMWS

Nose: Olive oil and white wine are poured over a bowl of mussels and cockles whilst lemon gel and slate join soured green apples, squid ink and slate. Simple enough. The addition of water revealed felt-like fabric together with shellfish bisque, seaweed and salinity.

Taste: Interestingly ‘green’. Salad leaves, moss and damp leaves lead into bell peppers and lemon slices. Far less smoke and minerality than you’d expect from this distillery. Smoked cashew nuts, mentholated oak and cough sweets bring up the rear. Water offers a softness in the arrival and more potency in the development – juicy apples and lemon gel – into golden syrup char and salt.

Finish: Medium and delivering salinity and finally some anticipated rockiness from pebbles and beach sand.

Somewhat divergent away from the triptych of lemon, minerals and medicinal peat – but nevertheless enjoyable – it is after all quite difficult to present a truly bad Coal Ila! This is another whisky that I far preferred when taken down a couple of degrees – don’t be afraid to similarly play with it.

Score: 86/100

The Dramble reviews SMWS 93.187 Baldrick’s Aquatic Dress Turnip

Bottle Name: 93.187 Baldricks Aquatic Dress Turnip

ABV: 58%
Distillery: Glen Scotia
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Flavour Profile: Peated
Region: Campbeltown Age: 9

Ending our outturn review with a very 'Britishly' named Glen Scotia. Not sure what to expect – root vegetables, idiocy or just plain madness.

View on SMWS

Nose: Pickled radish, vinegar, shellfish stew, polystyrene cement and medicinal gauzes. Pretty wild. In time – French white loaf, cress, lovage and damp leaves together with air-dried ham. Dilution adds a chiselled character – granite – together with further ‘greenness’ from smoked pear, leafy greens and mulch.

Taste: Continuing the theme – Pickled Onion Monster Munch leads to tarred felt roofing and floor cleaner. Kiwi and melon join alluvialness from slate and gravel before ginger spice and pangs of salinity sit with mentholated oak. Water offers a broader base of damp wool, barn yard manure, medicinal wipes, smoked meats and char.

Finish: Long with wet vegetal smoke, white chocolate and pickling juice mixed with menthol.

Madness it is. Wonderfully perverse stuff here – and easily the pick of the month for drinkers looking for psychotic whisky. Reminds me a lot of Ardnagherkin – and indeed, I like it just as much for the same left-field reasons. Joyfully, unashamedly odd. Not everyone will get this - indeed some will run a mile. But I’ll happily recommended it for those who share my predilections.

Score: 87/100

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