‘Tis the season to be jolly and all that, so, working with SMWS, I have put the following Twelve Drams of Christmas together as options for pretty much every flavour profile you could be buying for. What are you waiting for? Get stuck in to these SMWS single cask whiskies.
My first encounter with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was through the ignitable John McCheyne, their legendary brand ambassador and all-round lovely man, way back then, when I first met John he got me trying some of the greatest whiskies I’d ever tried at that point and bought a membership from him then and there.
Since then I have bought a vast array of SMWS bottlings, and shared many memorable drams with friends at and with the SMWS and been lucky enough to expand my enjoyment of whisky flavours from all over Scotland, as well as a couple of cheeky global whiskies too.
The SMWS single cask whiskies below are in no particular order, but each display something interesting and unique when nosing, tasting and enjoying. I’m not going to tell you which distilleries they are from as that’s the whole ethos of the society; flavour exploration, although you will learn what most of the codes are in time as you will want to know what your favourites are!
G8.8, Botanica Gardens And A Sawmill (light and delicate), 56.7% ABV
GRAIN! I love grain whisky, a real guilty pleasure of mine due to its soft, smooth, mellow The 26 Year Old buttery, caramel note on this whisky is superb, so smooth, such easy drinking with a brilliantly juicy fruit notes, like a tropical juice drink.
63.43, Sorrel Punch (juicy, oak and vanilla), 60.7% ABV
Creamy, fruity – quite tart fruits for me – and a tonne of oak char notes ooze out of this dram, really intriguing, like drinking a fruit salad, well, a very boozy fruit salad (aren’t they the best ones?) – a very interesting and multi-layered whisky giving a new fruit on each nose and each sip. Only looked this distillery up after trying this dram as I enjoyed it so much and was pleasantly surprised as I was only there a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it then too.
64.96, Fruit and Spice Duality (young and spritely), 61.0% ABV
Caramelised fruit tarts, butter notes, citrus notes, hints of banana, peaches, pears and cayenne pepper spice. A luxurious whisky that is wise beyond its years, truly an eye-opener to how much you can enjoy an incredibly indulgent whisky without waiting decades for one to mature.
39.154, Bitter-Sweet Banty (deep, rich and dried fruits), 59.8% ABV
All about the sweeties, oh yes, like being in an old school sweet shop. But there is an underlying stone fruit note, vanilla notes, oak char notes coming through too. On the palate, sharp, tart fruits including peaches, apples, strawberries and cream notes all come through too. Really interesting, opens up and softens quite nicely with water.
31.34, Muted Hebridean Smoke (oil and coastal), 48.3% ABV
Almost three decades in cask have left this whisky really thick, biscuity character rich in stewed fruits, tannic wine notes and soft vanilla and a raw earthy note reminiscent of the warehouses it was likely matured in. Light Demi-smoky notes come through on the palate with a subtle sweet, tannic finish that is short and sweet.
5.60, Sweet Surrender (sweet, fruity and mellow), 56.5% ABV
Aged 16 years, the first 15 in ex-Bourbon and a final year of finishing in a First Fill Ex-Oloroso Sherry Hogshead, this whisky is delightfully fruity with a lovely sweet wrapping. Lots of fresh red apple notes, hints of peaches, quite oily in character with a long smooth spicy finish. Quite a treat to be able to enjoy a lowland whisky like this that has been in such an exquisite cask finish.
28.37, Custard On Ginger Cake (spicy and dry), 61.6% ABV
Not a distillery I’m actually familiar with, and yes I cheated and checked which one it was from after sampling as I was curious… so this was a completely new experience, and exactly what the SMWS is all about. The nose delivered exactly what I expected from the name of the bottle; warming fresh ginger but with a nice smooth, caramel-like quality to it too. The palate was a spicy delight, tingling the tongue with each sip and ponder. Quite a short finish, medium at a push.
4.239, High Seas Rebellion (old and dignified), 51.8% ABV
A twenty-six year old whisky oozing coconut and those sweet pineapple cubes I remember from when I was a kid, hints of kiwi and a tar-like character reminiscent of BBQs and burning rubber. Whoa this is a great example of an old whisky done right, with a lovely note of orange zest / burnt orange flesh. The peated notes that come through on the palate are a true delight, leading to a really juicy palate with hints of salt and a really short finish.
42.32, Calming Low Tide (spicy and sweet), 61.3% ABV
Fruity peat notes have developed over the last 12 years in refill ex-bourbon casks, with lots of salty and white pepper spice notes tingling the nose, then again appearing on the palate. This is one of my favourite island whisky brands, and this one absolutely rocks. Seriously nice whisky with both a spicy and an earthy, sweet character to it.
66.108, Caramelised Smokiness (lightly peated), 58.9% ABV
Oh. Holy. Wow. All the caramel, lots of thick, treacle like caramel notes. Like honeycomb, molten, sensual honeycomb. Imagine, if you will, diving in to a swimming pool of broken Crunchie bars. I’m going to leave this one here, the peated palate with the caramel note is just immense. I’m going to spend some time with this guy…
53.241, Dense Smoke Over A Tarry Deck (peated), 60.3% ABV
Thick, powerful, nostril-filling power. This is a beast from a wonderful Islay distillery, with a great view (which you’d want as the distillery itself is, politely, industrial chic… not going to be pictured on a postcard any time soon). Oily, great peat balanced with sweetness and subtle spices including cinnamon, cayenne and a white pepper spice note on the finish that lingers for a while… delicious.
10.132, Burnt Twigs In A Honey Pot (heavily peated), 59.5% ABV
A heavy peated release from this distillery, and man am I glad they produced this guy. Clocking in at 9 Years Old, the peated smokiness is superb, with pineapple, coconut and lychee notes alongside a creamy rubbery note that gives off an unexpected peach note on the long spicy finish. Marvellous.
I’m advised that SMWS single cask whiskies Christmas delivery dates are fast approaching…
UK DELIVERIES: Order by 8pm, Wednesday 20 December
GERMANY & SWEDEN: Order by 12 noon, Thursday 14 December
REST OF EU: Order by 12 noon, Monday 18 December