SMWS “Moonlight night at the beach” 20 year 51.9%

Last in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Moonlight night at the beach” where we finally, firmly entered into the land of peat – Islay style!

29.216 “Moonlight night at the beach” 20 year (26 Nov 1996) 51.9%

Islay, Virgin Oak Hogsead 293 bottles

  • Nose – Well hello peat! Then as it settled in, revealed citrus, summer meadow, bitter ash, sweet then sour, chocolate cinnamon, bitter almond,  then back to ash, shifting between sweet and smoke
  • Palate – First hit of ash, the 2nd sip was pure sweet, further sips found it to be quite chewy, curiously soft and became increasingly gorgeous as it opened, nice, heavy and almost oily
  • Finish – Sweet cinnamon, long and satisfying

The whisky was wonderfully complex. Peaty but not in an overly forceful way – clearly a mature dram.

And with water….

  • Nose – Citrus, lemon drops, orange, embers rather than a raging fire, sweetness, spice
  • Palate – Young cigar, bitter, wet…
  • Finish – More linear but still most enjoyable

And as it continued to open up, took on a delicious maple bacon. Mmm…. bacon…

Of all the whiskies we sampled in our SMWS evening, this one was unmistakable – a clear Laphroaig! Not of the current mass market “hit me over the head peat” but a mature, much more nuanced older style  Laphroaig. And yes – our guess was spot on.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

The scent made us all feel very cosy and warm; baked chocolate marshmallow apples, a steaming creamy bowl of porridge and gingery plum cake. To taste, crunchy, chewy and crispy skin salmon crackling at first before sweet flavours arrived in the form of honey cured hickory smoked bacon. With water we made a campfire on the beach out of driftwood under a moonlit sky and ate sugar coated fennel seeds and chocolate covered coffee beans both infused with a gentle sweet peat smoke. Nineteen years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, finished in a virgin oak hogshead with a heavy toast and a medium char.

DRINKING TIP: For a walk on the beach at night

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SMWS “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna” 9 year 64.5%

Next in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna”. Aside from a wee bit of eye rolling at the name, we settled immediately into sampling…

What did we find?

30.94 “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna” 9 year (6 June 2007) 64.5%

Speyside, 1st fill Spanish Oak ex-sherry butt, 666 bottles

  • Nose – Coconut, leather saddle, thick honey, 70% bitter chocolate, plums, chocolate covered acai berries, marshmallow, biscuits, toffee
  • Palate – Sweet cinnamon spice, bursting with character, quite dry almost like a PX or Madeira, roasted salty nuts, rich, creamy with a bit of chocolate
  • Finish – Holds…. bitter, a bit woody with more of the cinnamon spice

This is a BIG bold whisky with tremendous complexity. Remarkable to have so much going on after only 9 years. It was also incredibly smooth and balanced for such a powerful alcohol strength – hard to imagine we were sipping 64.5%?!?

In short – we loved this one! It hit all the right elements for complexity…. even after opening for over a hour, the nose still held its own with big toffee sweetness, nicely rounded on the palate and a finish with staying power.

As for guessing? Names such as Glendronach, Glenrothes and a few others were tossed about. With the reveal, delighted to discover it was indeed a Glenrothes.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

We stood at the foot of the volcano; a towering eminence of tightly packed fruitcake and sticky toffee pudding, and gazed up towards the bellowing clouds of pork crackling infused smoke. Climbing onto the back of a giant duck and gripping the leather reins we began our ascent with the spicy smell of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon becoming heavier as we advanced. The ground shook as figs, dates and roasted chestnuts were blasted high into the sky and rivers of molten toffee passed nearby. Sipping export strength navy rum to steady our nerves we bravely continued further towards the summit passing boulders of macadamia nuts, honeycomb and salted chocolate.

DRINKING TIP: Drink whilst reading Tolkien stories to the devil.

What else did we sample in our SMWS evening?

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SMWS “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year 57.8%

Next in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Totally Tastylicious” from Speyside. Naturally it was a full cask strength with the distillery not directly disclosed – known only through its code number.

So did we find it totally tasty??

76.131 “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year (30 Sep 2001) 57.8% 268 bottles

  • Nose – Lots of ripe fruits, figs, citrus lime, mandarin orange, black peppercorns, pine, vanilla and cream, cherries, sweet spices, berries, toffee, egg nog, oak…
  • Palate – Salt water taffy, toffee, coffee and caramel, rich fruits and full-bodied
  • Finish – Spice, nice and long – delicious!
  • Water – Not even tempted to try

The nose was fabulous – it simply kept evolving, shifting and revealing different elements. Initially came across as a juicy sherry, it kept morphing eventually settling into a sweet toffee. And the promise on the nose followed through on the palate – really quite gorgeous which continued to a superb finish.

In short, we found this whisky rather wonderful. And yes… tasty!

Our guess? Perhaps an Aberlour but… when we found out it was Mortlach, made perfect sense!

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

The nose had truckloads of wood and fruit – we identified orange boxes, orange muscat, Madeira molasses cake, Demerara and dried fruits (figs, dates) on polished wood. The palate was just Wow! – juicy, chewy, tangy, fruity, woody and winey – wine gums, plum stones, grilled almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon – and a vigorous nod towards Calvados; liquorice Imps to finish.

Water enhanced the complexity of the nose – orange chocolates, punch-bowl, empty cigar tubes, herbal hedgerows, sherbet, pomanders… The palate – plum, Kirsch, charred wood, toasted cumin seeds – totally tastylicious.

After 14 years in ex-bourbon wood we moved this to a first-fill French oak hogshead.

DRINKING TIP: This is quite different – something to turn to when you need a change.
What else did we sample in our SMWS evening?

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SMWS “Eastern Promise” 14 year 56.8%

First in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Eastern Promise”. This whisky was selected as a lighter start to our quartet, something to tease the palate awake… and get us in the mood for further delights.

What did we find?

37.85 “Eastern Promise” 14 year (1 Oct 2002) 56.8%

Speyside, Ex-Bourbon Hogsead, 234 bottles

  • Nose – Apple juice, lots of white fruits like pear, a light perfume, talcum powder, gripe water, soft, pink marshmallows, a bit of light heather.. after time was almost chalky with the aromas nearly disappearing. After more time, a bit of lime cordial…
  • Palate – Spice, lightly malty, liquorice, chalk, perhaps a hint of smoke? Quite thin without much weight
  • Finish – Nothing memorable

There was something oddly ‘closed’ or muted about this whisky… resisting opening up hence leaving the impression there should be more to it but we simply couldn’t access.

So we tried adding water…

  • Nose – Initially brought out a light spice, cooked oats almost like a porridge but slightly sour… perhaps more like rice congee? With a drop or two of soya sauce?
  • Palate – A bit of wet mud, almost like compost – like leaves decomposing in a forest after a heavy rain, again that fleeting hint of smoke but quite faint
  • Finish – Still nothing memorable

We tried leaving it to open up further for nearly an hour… and were rewarded with wet mop aromas, sugar water on the palate and a whiff of smoke. Hmmm…

Nope. Sorry. This one didn’t do it for us.

As for guessing? We made a few lacklustre attempts but nothing with any degree of confidence. Turns out it is from the Cragganmore distillery.

As a starter, it certainly succeeded in calibrating our palates to cask strength whiskies. But as a dram, our quest tends towards more complex, weightier whiskies.

But that’s half the fun of whisky explorations – discovering what appeals to your personal palate and what doesn’t.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

We were transported to a Thai street food market with a never-ending variety of fruits as well as a wide selection of dishes on offer all smelling of exotic spices being cooked right in front of us. The stall we stopped at served barbequed spice-rubbed chicken with a kumquat-lemongrass dressing. We decided to have a plateful of it and the mouthfeel was a delicate balance between sweet and spice with a light smoky finish. After some water we were drawn to aromas of rice noodles, shrimp and scallion rolls which we dipped in a soy and oyster sauce – weird but wonderful!

DRINKING TIP: Open your mind and you open your life
 

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BMC explores a Scotch Malt Whisky Society quartet

Once upon a time there were Bombay, Delhi and Pune chapters of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in India. I’ve certainly come across a few bottles in members homes… and rumour has it there remains stock at Indigo too.

However to have an opportunity to explore over an evening four single cask strength SMWS bottles with our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club? Bring it on!

What all did we sample in our SMWS evening?

The bottles reveal only the region, cask type, alcohol strength and in some cases the age… however for those clever enough to do a simple online search, all is revealed about the distillery codes.

As for what we thought? Tasting notes available by clicking on the links above. I should also note, the sampling order which was spot on in terms of a tasting profile progress from light to sweet to robust and peat!

And our cigar of the evening? An Edward Sahakians private vintage selection 1999. A might fine night it was indeed.

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