Category Archives: SMWS

SMWS 33.130 “The Farmyard And The Chip Shop” Review

SMWS 33.130 “The Farmyard And The Chip Shop”IMG_2109

56.1% abv

Score:  89/100


Oh, man, do I like this one.  The last of four SMWS Ardbeg releases I stacked up head to head (to head to head) a couple weeks back.  Not only is it the closest to the true spirit of Ardbeg – falling squarely into that phenolic and tarry/ashy sort of profile I love – it was unquestionably the best of the range.

I’ve shared enough words on the SMWS 33’s of late, so let’s keep this one short and sweet.  Let me just say that releases like this are the very reason I have kept my SMWS membership up to date.  It will be interesting to see if the club still has access to these young barrels of Ardbeg going forward, now that the brand is no longer owned by the good folks at LVMH.  Sorta doubt it.  As we know, indie Ardbegs are becoming more and more just relics of a bygone era.

Nose:  Tar, ash and soot.  Menthol.  Very nasal-clearing.  Leather.  Lime.  Seared scallops.  The notes on the label suggest tomatoes, and I completely agree.  BBQ sauce and grilled meat.  Some dry smoke.

Palate:  Fiery, savoury arrival.  Very juicy though.  More vinegar-y BBQ notes.  Mint candy.  Like a mouthful of smoke.  Black ju-jubes.  Definite notes of grilled seafood.  Lime.  Black coffee.  Fennel that grows bigger and bigger at the back end.  Slightly herbal.  Loooooooong finish.

Thoughts:  Quite in line with what Ardbeg tends to release nowadays.  And quite in the strike zone.  I like this one a lot.  Still a little rough around the edges, but that’s part of its charm.  Much like we love the Hanson Brothers for their scrappiness.


 – Images & Words:  Curt

SMWS 33.113 “Sweet, Peaceful Dreams” Review

IMG_2105SMWS 33.113 “Sweet, Peaceful Dreams”

60.4% abv

Score:  88/100


Ok.  Back to these Ardbeg SMWS reviews we’ve not yet finished.  A little off the beaten path, but tons of fun.  With this ’33’ we’re moving into somewhat more familiar Ardbeg territory, but still only at the periphery in some ways.  Yes, it’s monstrous (and probably offensive to the sensitive) but it also bears a softer, sweetness that might surprise those looking for the signature whomp of Kildalton’s heavyweight champ.  The closest profile analogy I can give here is Serendipity meets Corryvreckan.  If you were fortunate enough to have landed a taste of Serendipity back in the day you’ll know the subtleties I’m hinting at.

Part of me thinks Ardbeg is actually a tough malt to screw up.  Such is the nature of a great distillate and talented stillmen who recognize the ideal cut points of the spirit run.  And nowhere is this more evident than when you see the flawless spirit hit a clean bourbon barrel and then be rocked to sleep for a few years.  The last part of the equation is plucking it from the cask at its true apex age for delivery to the bottling line.  In this instance it was the Scotch Malt Whisky Society who had final say in when it was bottled, and fortunately they chose a good time for it.  So as I said…with this one – an eight year old – we are indeed in familiar Ardbeg territory.

Now that’s not to say this is completely typical, but it does bear all the hallmarks.  Feisty, smoky as hell, earthy, citric, coastal.  You know the drill by now with Ardbeg.  Bigger than big.  The fact that LVMH owned both Ardbeg and the SMWS at the time this one was released may have something to do with the level of quality control.  Who know?

Nose:  Dough.  Sweet candy notes.  A hint of Play-Dough.  Surprisingly creamy.  Faint unlit pipe tobacco.  Sugar cookies.  Anise.  Seems almost mildly-peated for an Ardbeg.  Damp ash.  Orange.  Then orange and lemon zest.

Palate:  Soft arrival, surprisingly, then wham!!  Sharp peat kick to the meat and two veg.  (A touch of) Melon, with some lemon and orange.  Then an explosion of smoke and licorice.  Dark vanilla bean.  Coffee.  Meaty and plummy.  Gets barn-y.  Big earthy, peaty notes.  Wow…the smoke keeps expanding outward.  Very hot whisky.

Thoughts:  Creaminess takes us into thoughts of the vanillas imparted form the French Oak in some batches of Corryvreckan.  Must have been a very lively bourbon barrel.  Almost like an Ardbeg vatted with a Tormore (I know…weird, aye?).  I like the fruits, but this is definitely unbalanced.  Extra point for the singularity of this one.

*Kelly Carpenter, founder of the SMWS CA saved this  sample for me a couple of years ago.  Thanks, Kelly.


 – Images & Words:  Curt

SMWS 33.93 “Tarry Peppermint Tea” Review

SMWS 33.93 “Tarry Peppermint Tea”IMG_2099

55.9% abv

Score:  86/100


Another nifty little Ardbeg from the SMWS.  At ten years old this time, but not likely too comparable to the distillery’s flagship ‘Ten’, as this one is from a refill sherry butt that yielded up 626 bottles; not an ex-bourbon barrel.

Ardbeg SMWS releases are well-coveted nowadays.  When they do hit the market they tend to be quite young and still full of teeth.  I think the oldest I’ve yet seen hit the shores here is an 11 year old (but I should double check that before I swear to it).  What this means is that the Ardbeg we do get from the SMWS should be somewhere in the neighbourhood of the standard or limited releases the distillery puts out.  I can’t really say that’s the case though.  Only one or two of the eight or ten Ardbeg SMWS bottlings I’ve tried actually fit the distillery’s recognized profile.  Odd, in ways, but understandable when you acknowledge that a) the distillery isn’t likely to let its best casks go to anyone (despite the fact that the SMWS and Ardbeg were under the same ownership up until about a year ago) and b) every cask is a snowflake.  Additionally, as we know, the single cask path is often paved with some very wobbly stones, so any preconceptions that this would be truly ‘Ardbeggian’ may be mistaken.

As the score above should attest, though, this is a rather decent outing.  I like the singularity here, if maybe mourning the lack of true Kildalton capital ‘A’ might.  In short…I liked this one, but didn’t love it.  But Ardbeg is like pizza or sex, right?  Even when it’s bad, it’s still good.

Oh, and by the way…not so much on the tar (in my opinion), but definitely the mint.

Nose:  Mint jelly.  Cigarette (generic, I know).  Deeply phenolic, and bearing notes of clay or putty.  Deeply briny, and somewhat barnyard-ish.  The mint grows exponentially over time.  Very seaside-esque.  Smoked oyster.  Some ash.  Slightly citric and vinegar-y maybe.

Palate:  Big oaky notes redolent of bourbon.  Spice and eucalyptus.  A lot of smoke.  Sharp citrus.  Apple skins.  A Palate that reminds a tick of Corryvreckan, oddly enough.  With maybe drops of Oogie in there too.  Seafood on the shell.  Dry scones.  Tannic fruit skins at the back end.

Thoughts:  Quite aptly named dram.  Unique enough to keep me coming back for more, but quite jagged.  While this came from a refill butt, I would never guess sherry. I may be being a mite stingy with the marks, but it’s definitely an outlier for Ardbeg.  Cool to try though.

*A friend of mine, Kelly Carpenter, founder of the Canadian extension of the SMWS put this little sample away for me a few years back, knowing I was an Ardbeg junkie.  Just now tasting.  Thanks, Kelly.


 – Images & Words:  Curt

SMWS 33.70 “Keith Richards Meets Socrates” Review

IMG_2086SMWS 33.70 “Keith Richards Meets Socrates”

57.3% abv

Score:  74/100


It’s 12:15 am.  May 29th, 2016.  It is now the day after Ardbeg Day.  Or perhaps I should say Ardbeg Night, as they’ve elected to brand it this year.  Over the past few days I’ve been fortunate enough to taste both the Committee and general releases of this year’s bottling, ‘Dark Cove’.  Unfortunately, however, I have no samples of either to review at this time, nor had I opportunity to set pen to paper and capture thoughts when I did try them.  Oh well.  I’m sure I’ll get another chance at some point.  In the meantime I figured I’d go one better this eve, and – sticking to the theme – tackle four indie Ardbegs from the SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society, that is).

I’ll be posting tasting notes for all of them in very short order, but let’s kick it all off with the earliest of the bunch.  This 33.70 was a cask from several years back now.  1998 to be a little more precise.  It was born of a sherry gorda that yielded 848 bottles (I know!  Whopping outturn!), and bottled as a 10 year old.  And I must admit that the name alone had me excited to try this one.

Unfortunately, high expectations and distillery fanboyism has led to disappointment as devastating as a wee boat smashed to kindling on a rocky cape.  I came in expecting to sail high on this one (rich, dark natural colour, high strength, relatively mature age and from earlier (read: better) years) but my hopes were immediately tempered.  Reality is a harsh mistress sometimes.  This decader is heavy and cloying in thick caramel (which is bad enough) and nothing – not even herculean phenolic might – can completely temper the sulphuric undertones.  Put as simply as possible:  This was a real dud barrel.  Such is the nature of the single cask game, I suppose.  Disappointing nevertheless.

Nose:  Syrupy, heavily sherried nose.  Damp horse blanket.  Almost a vague hint of sulphur.  Too much caramel.  Ok…definitely sulphur.  Something reminds of young(ish) port here.  Savoury stewed fruits (even a little tomato).  Stale ashtrays.  Wax crayons.  Poor quality Roman Nougat.  Smoke.  Organic, mineral notes.

Palate:  Ash.  Smoke.  Immediately drying.  Bitter chocolate.  More ash and tar.  Salt licorice.  Cooked greens.  Oversteeped lapsang souchong tea.  Caramel apple.  Slightly syrupy.  Very dry finish.  And yeah…hints of burnt matchsticks.

Thoughts:  Not my kind of Ardbeg.  At all.  Granted I am grossly intolerant of sulphur, but still.  I had such high hopes too.  This is just…no.  Let’s move on.


– Images & Words:  Curt

SMWS 29.109 “Oak And Smoke Intensity” Review

SMWS 29.109 “Oak And Smoke Intensity”063

59.2% abv

Score: 92/100


From the Islay distillery closest to the wee fishing village of Port Ellen.  This is a 20 year old SMWS single cask release from a refill sherry butt.  No dead wood here, though.  This must have been one of the liveliest and sexiest of sherry casks ever.  The barrel influence is massive and the fruity depths plumbed here are leagues deeper than we usually see in any of the distillery released expressions of Laph—-g.

This is the kind of whisky I actively seek out: intense, brooding, thick and all-encompassing.  This perfect balance of peat and sherry is difficult to achieve, but when the balance is struck there’s simply nothing comparable.  I could go on for a while, but there’s really no point.  Utterly magic.

Nose: Syrupy and jammy.  Plums and grapes.  Ash and notes of smoke, with a strong peaty undercurrent.  Licorice.  Lanolin.  More rich, dark fruits and chocolate.  A clean thin stroke of oak and vanilla.  Like a cup of lapsang souchong tea, smelled from across a vast room.  Well-oiled leather and spiced nuts.  In short…stunning.

Palate:  Rich and oily.  Mouthcoating doesn’t even begin to describe this one.  Big, smoky and ashy delivery.  Licorice and black cherry.  Cough syrup.  Dark and earthy notes.  Bittersweet chocolate and espresso.  Drying, but only after a mouthwatering arrival.  Enormous and instantly enamoring.  Man…that cloud of smoke builds again at the back end.

Thoughts:  Love this malt.  One of my all time favorites, and truly majestic.  Sadly, I’m now down to the last 1/3 or 1/4.  Something this beautiful wasn’t meant to last, I suppose.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt


SMWS 77.28 “Tropical Nights” Review

SMWS 77.28 “Tropical Nights”155

54.9% abv

Score:  92/100


Would seem the only way I can get my hands on Glen Ord is through our friends at the SMWS.  Literally the only releases from this somehow seemingly elusive Highland distillery I’ve ever tried have been via the enigmatic green bottle with the oh-so-clever tasting notes and the naming conventions that put even the most out-there baby-naming Hollywood celeb to shame.  So be it.  As long as the quality remains as astronomically high as these SMWS expressions I’ve tried, I’m more than ok with the concentration of brand.

Glen Ord produces oodles of juice, but precious little ends up with ‘Glen Ord’ on the bottle.  Most finishes its journey under the ‘Singleton’ banner or smushed into obscurity in Johnnie Walker.  This 25 year old was a real treat to run into in its slightly more bespoke incarnation.  Sadly though, this hoggy yielded a mere 236 bottles at 54.9% abv.

The bottle says this whisky was matured in a second fill charred oak hogshead.  Nothing overly unique there, of course, but a style that definitely appeals to my palatal preferences at this wizened old age.  This is arguably my favorite whisky profile right now.  Yep.  Even supercedes the big peats I’ve been pouring down my gullet for years.

Not a lot more to say here, other than this is another absolutely exceptional malt from Glen Ord.  In fact, it was actually one of the most exciting drams I tried all year.  Not to say best, but unforgettable and yes…very, very good.

Nose:  We are indeed close to tropical here.  What a great nose.  Grilled pineapple.  Dried orange fruits.  Fruit scones and sugar cookies.  Dusty and waxy notes.  Rosewater.  A dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg over good vanilla ice cream.  Soft pie crust.  Just a hint of candied ginger.  Pristine wood.

Palate:  Some pineapple again.  Oh, wow…what a great development throughout.  Lots of sweet mouth watering fruit notes.  White chocolate.  Pepper.  Fruit flan with sweet pastry crust.  Very juicy.

Thoughts:  Malts like this are the reason we drink whisky.  Keeps getting better and better as the bottle breathes.  One of the best SMWS bottles I’ve tried.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

SMWS 1.172 “Sophisticated, Delicate And Feminine” Review

SMWS 1.172 “Sophisticated, Delicate And Feminine”117

55.7% abv

Score:  89/100


This feels wrong.  So wrong.  Naked Glenfarclas from a refill hogshead.  Unlike pretty much all of the distillery’s output, there is no sherry influence here (unless they built this hoggy from cut down staves of a disassembled butt, but I doubt that.  Or…maybe this hoggy held sherry at one time?  Also doubt it).  Either way, seeing Glenfarclas this exposed feels sorta like walking in on someone in the shower.  Perhaps I should also add that for an anorak such as I, it gives the same perverse sort of thrill.

Whisky geeks will most likely be all over a malt like this.  It ticks all the right boxes for the purist.  Big natural cask strength, no added coloring, no chill-filtration, bottled at a suitably mature age and well labeled for clarity.  But most importantly, it’s a unique malt in that it offers up something different for all of us to natter about in our infinite geekery by breaking the distillery’s stereotype and showing us a very different iteration of a much loved theme.

To me, this is exactly the kind of release that makes whisky exciting and keeps it fresh.  It is a 19 year old bottling from an outturn that yielded just 230 bottles.  But pushing aside the inherent awesomeness of all of the meta associated with this one, let’s discuss the actual ins and outs of this particular expression.  Its 55.7% abv delivers flavour by the spadeful, and instead of those exceptional leathery, dried fruit and Christmas cake notes so typical of Glenfarclas, here we’re treated to more ripe fruits and deeper spice notes.  

I wish more folks out there, especially the really devout Glenfarclas fans, could have an opportunity to try this one, but unfortunately that’s the nature of not only the SMWS, but single cask bottlings in general.  This one just happens to be even more exclusive than most single cask releases out there, as it is only available to SMWS members (or was, as I assume it is now long gone). 

If you get an opportunity to try this one, do so.  Highly recommended.

Nose:  Earth.  Candy and floral notes.  Let’s call it Turkish Delight-ish.  Orange jelly.  Grape jelly.  Stewed peaches and apples in baking spices.  Canned pears.  Pie crust.  Very firm oak notes.  Dry cinnamon sticks.  Moist tobacco.

Palate:  Very tangy arrival of fruits and jelly candies.  Quite lush.  Clean wood, but slightly bittering around the mid to back end.  Allspice and candied ginger.  Ever eaten flower petals in a salad?  This latter note may help contribute to that bittering influence.  Some orange zest and pith.  More apple sauce. A touch of honeycomb.  Very un-Glenfarclas.

Thoughts:  Arguably the most apt name I’ve ever seen on an SMWS label.  This one definitely exemplifies all three adjectives.  Also…decent tasting notes on the bottle.  I can’t say I disagree with much of it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

SMWS 77.24 “Mouth-Numbing Handbags” Review

SMWS 77.24 “Mouth-Numbing Handbags”012

57.2% abv

Score:  92/100


Man, these guys (and gals) have fun with their naming conventions, don’t they?  ‘Mouth-numbing handbags’.  WTF?!  Gotta love the SMWS for this bit of tomfoolery that adds a smile to our sipping.

Another obscure as shit distillery from the Northern Highlands.  Well…obscure under it’s own name, that is.  This distillery (which may or may not be Glen Ord, if we’re keeping with the SMWS tradition of ‘sworn to secrecy’ releases under numbered, not named, distilleries) is more known for being bottled as The Singleton.  That malt, as you may be aware, is a rather generic entry in the Diageo stables.

With a production capacity as high as the distillery boasts (and still expanding!), and knowing the limited range of OBs they release, I can only assume that most of the distillate ends up blended away under the Johnnie Walker brand.  Sad, really, but let’s remember that for all the bottles of shameful Red Label that hit the shelves, there are also great bottles of Black, Blue and Green.  Well…perhaps not Green anymore.


That’s where the indies, such as the SMWS, come to the save the day for us malt enthusiasts.  By releasing odd casks like this 77.24 we get to see another side of the distilleries.  This is the kind of stuff that makes single malt whisky as much fun as it is.  In this case I’ll move forward with the hopes that there just may be more impressive whisky in the warehouses of Glen Ord that isn’t destined for mediocrity!  This is a hell of a cask, served up at just the right age:  A solid 23 years.  Good on the SMWS for scooping this one.

‘Nough said.

Nose:  Quite some pepper and spice.  Polished wood.  Caramel apple.  Think there’s a touch of smoke there too.  Ruby grapefruit with sugar.  Some peach and some of the most perfectly ‘in-check’ vanilla I’ve yet encountered.  Poached apple with mild x-mas spice.

Palate:  Smoke and peppery spice…maybe chili.  Citric tang.  Fruit salad.  Old cask notes and toasted oak.  Leaves behind an old school, almost kerosene-like, smoky candlewax and oak.  Close to an aged Talisker, to be honest.  A beautiful whisky.

Thoughts:  Glad to have tried it, but one of those bittersweet drams that leave you wanting more, all the while knowing that you can’t have it.  Better to have loved and lost, as they say.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

SMWS 127.26 “Student Party Aftermath” Review

SMWS 127.26 “Student Party Aftermath”004

65.5% abv

Score:  91.5/100


Aka ‘Student Party Aftermath’.

Ok.  By now you know it as well as I do: I am an unrepentant peathead.  It should come as no surprise that a frighteningly huge young whisky from Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte line would score high in my books.

This bottle isn’t really a Port Charlotte or Bruichladdich release though, of course.  It is an SMWS ‘numbered-not-named’ bottling.  The SMWS, as you likely know, is an independent bottler/members-only whisky club.  They source casks, sex ’em up a bit, add a dash of flamboyant wit and turn out some of the most aesthetically pleasing (to my eyes, at least) bottles on the shelves.  For this, their 26th cask of Port Charlotte, they really managed to score a winner.

Port Charlotte has never really been a brand for the faint of heart, and this lumbering beast is arguably the most extreme representation I’ve seen yet, tipping the scales at a monolithic 65.5% abv.  This is an absolutely enormous whisky.  One of the biggest I’ve ever encountered, in fact.  It sorta leaves me wondering how the hell this abv is even possible.  I’m pretty sure Bruichladdich casks their new make at 63.5% (like most distilleries), and Scotland doesn’t exactly boast the sort of climate that leads to a higher water than alcohol evaporation rate from the barrel like some of the more temperate locales.  Hmmmm….curiouser and curiouser.

Independent Port Charlotte releases are relatively few and far between.  This is primarily due to two factors, I think.  One…that it’s still early days for this whisky (just about a year ago we finally saw a ten year old variant), and two…the ongoing whisky boom makes the idea of selling off barrels to independents much less appetizing to distilleries who could likely do better bottling and peddling their own juice.  This makes it a bit of a treat to find an expression like this 127.26.  Independent bottlings often help show us a sort of ‘celebrity-without-the-makeup’ view of the malts we love.  It allows a different appreciation.

Enough natter.  Suffice it to say, this is good whisky.  More than good, actually.

Nose:  To quote the great Billy Connolly: “Jesus suffering f*ck!”  Smoky, peaty and earthy.  Licorice and lapsang souchong tea.  Rubber and road tar.  Quite intrinsically sweet too.  There is some wax and citrus fruit.  Some hard candy sweetness as well.  Slightly farmy and some of that Port Charlotte buttery character.  Camphor-like medical notes and a deep thread of thick, dark vanilla.  Bundle it all together though, and what it really smells like is the most ferocious Mike Tyson uppercut distilled and bottled.

Palate:  Oh wow, what an attack.  Phenols from hell.  Feels bigger, smokier, peatier than any Octomore I’ve ever sparred with.  Under-ripe Granny Smith apples.  Lime Jolly Ranchers.  Ashtrays (I imagine, though I’ve never licked one).  Oaky, toothpick notes.  Slightly meaty…like a peppered salami maybe.  Salty and licorice-like again.  Sen-sen would be the closest parallel.  The finish lasts longer than a Viagra-induced….errrr…you know what I mean.

Thoughts:  I had an absolute blast doing this one.  Wish I had 6 or 8 bottles of this sitting on a shelf somewhere for future days.  Sadly, not so.  Not necessarily a balanced whisky, but who the f*ck cares?!  It is quite deep, though, with a myriad of swirling flavours though.  One of the best PCs I’ve ever tried.  (Feel free to slightly correct the score above to accommodate my personal bias, but believe me when I say I stand behind the mark.  It really is a strong outing for Team McEwan et al.)


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #004 – Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Dram Initiative #003 – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Logo (2)

Event date:  August 20th, 2013


I went into this one already a member of the SMWS.  I also went in knowing I liked many of the expressions I had tried so far.  Further…I already had some idea as to how the event would go down.

What I didn’t anticipate going in, however, was just how much I would enjoy this evening.  Honestly.

Earlier this day, as I was preparing for the event, I said something to my wife along the lines of being ‘pretty excited’ about this one.  It’s not often I get to sit down to a flight of malts blindly, in which most (or all) are new to me.  Especially in the context of the DI, where I am always involved in pulling together line-ups for the Collective.  Sometimes it’s nice to be the puppet, and not always the puppetmaster (said with benovolent glee).

This was definitely a night with a few surprises in store. 


The SMWS, for those not in the know, is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a private whisky club whose members get exclusive rights to buy the society’s bottles, first crack at attending society events, a killer start-up kit and, if abroad…may visit the infamous UK clubhouses (hitting The Vaults is on my whisky ‘to-do’ list).

The Society is home-based out of the UK, and boasts a tasting panel responsible for selecting and bottling single casks from 129 different single malt distilleries, nearly a dozen grain distilleries and others such as Armagnacs, rums and more.  Each release is numbered and cleverly (read: abstractly) named, but the distillery itself is never mentioned on the bottle itself.  Tack on some rather…errrr…over the top tasting notes, and…voila!  The rationale here is that the whiskies should speak for themselves, and not allow any preconceptions to cloud the judgment of the buyer.  Fair ‘nough.

A couple of years back, friends of ours, Rob and Kelly Carpenter, took the plunge and committed to launching the Canadian arm of the SMWS right here in Calgary.  After some intial hurdles were bested (procurement of rights, set-up of agency, retail outlet confirmation, etc) the society launched to a rather phenomenal public embrace.  In year two now, membership numbers simply keep growing.  All you have to do is hit up one of the First Friday tastings to see why.


I had approached Rob and Kelly many months back about coming out and sharing a bit about the SMWS (and maybe a dram or eight of their sexy single malts).  I figured that the Society’s novel approach, utterly unique take on whisky culture and high test presentation perfectly aligned with the Dram Initiative’s ethos of independence and strength…quality and curiosity. 

There’s also one other simple factor here at play which shouldn’t be overlooked.  Inside, we’re all like kids.  We like surprise and mystery. 

Kelly, being the enthusiast that she is, immediately committed to an evening with the club.  We settled on a date and the rest is now (a week later) a piece of DI lore. 


 The reception to both the Society and the whiskies was much better than even I could have anticipated.   I figured we’d have a few keeners who would get right behind what the SMWS was, and I’m happy to say this was exactly the case.

The laughs throughout the evening came easily, both in relation to the names of some of the bottles and, even moreso, in relation to Rob and Kelly’s experiences and presentation itself.   Now laughs are one thing, but an appreciation and an admission to quality is another.  Interestingly enough…one member commented that it was his favorite flight of whiskies we’ve tried since the very first event.   Considering some of the malts we’ve tried to date, that is saying something.

Several left the hall speaking of joining, and i know at least one committed on the spot.  Neat stuff.


Extra special thanks to Rob and Kelly, who did an excellent job in pulling together a fun and informative tasting.  There were a couple of neat twists to the selections…some age…some youth…a variety of cask influences and some neat tales to go along with them.  I think the members really enjoyed this one.  Scratch that. I know the members enjoyed this one.

Now…what say we have a closer peek at the whiskies themselves?  In keeping with the club’s ideology, I’ll refrain from naming distilleries here.  Have a read…


5.35 “Laundry In The Bakery”

54.7% abv          12 y.o.            2nd fill hogshead, ex-bourbon          Outturn:  195 bottles

Nose:  Some light bread-like, mildly spiced baking notes.  Orange and peach.  Cinnamon.  Apple.  Sorta ‘flour-y’.  Hot cross buns.  Some floral notes.  Orange creamsicle.

Palate:  Peppery.  Cinnamon.  Some very clean oak.  Almost a ‘toasted’ note here.  Sweet fruit gum.

Thoughts:  Very light.  Very clean.  Very drinkable.  I immediately knew the distillery, but was way off on age.  This seems older than a 12 year old whisky.


48.31 “Honey & Flowers In A Knicker Drawer”

53.1% abv          23 y.o.          2nd fill sherry butt          Outturn:  262 bottles

Nose:  Some paint.  Peanuts and pencil shavings.  Florals and yeasty dough.  Strawberry and creamy caramel.  A fair bit of chocolate.

Palate:  Good cocoa.  Somewhat tannic.  Neat honey nougat notes, similar to the hard bits in Toblerone bars.  Slightly smoky (clean wood smoke).

Thoughts:  Very nice drink, serves up at a perfect age for this profile.  Would happily sit down to a bottle of this with mates.


G2.2 “A Vaudeville Act”

53.6% abv          35 y.o.          Refill barrel          Outturn:  139 bottles

Nose:  Wow.  Odd one here.  Like an aged rum almost.  Caramel corn.  Dust.  Paint/glue.  Hint of cherry.  Marshmallow.  Very bourbon-ish.  Slightly smoky.  Strange nose at first, but it definitely grew on me.

Palate:  Sweet bourbon flavours.  Bold oak and big fruity notes.  Vanilla.  This tastes like a bourbon aged in a rum cask.

Thoughts:  This one kicked a bit at first, but after a few minutes in the glass, some of those more surprising notes dissipated and left a rather sassy drink.  I know a couple of people around me names this older grain whisky as their favorite of the night.


35.75 “Victorian Walled Garden In Las Vegas”

57.9% abv          17 y.o.          Designer hogshead, toasted and seasoned          Outturn:  206 bottles

Nose:  Dark caramel and cherry.  Some sharp ‘green’ vegetal notes and barley.  Cinnamon hearts.  Again…sorta bourbon-ish.  Big spice profile.  Tobacco.  Grassy.  Smells of a good toffee/fudge/chocolate shop (I’m thinking of those in Banff, Alberta right now).

Palate:  Chocolate.  Marmalade.  Chilis.  Zesty and fizzy.  Bourbon-like here too.

Thoughts:  Some very interesting individual nuances that coalesced nicely.  Still not sure what a ‘designer hogshead, toasted and seasoned’ is, but hey…it works. 


71.37 “As assignation In A Boudoir”

57.9% abv          14 y.o.          Refill sherry gorda          Outturn:  699 bottles

Nose:  Creamy.  Milky caramels and toffee.  Maybe akin to the softer Werther’s.  Freshly churned butter.  Vanilla.  Some sulphur for sure.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Sulphur.  Tannins.  Green apple and plum skins.  Some prune or fig.  Dandelion-like bitterness.  Maybe a bit of leather.

Thoughts:  Somewhat polarizing dram, this.  The sulphur was the dividing factor here.  A little water added took those ‘struck match’ notes down a notch, but never really got rid of ’em.  I took a little exception to this one, but I think any of the others were quite keen.


3.188 “The Camping Trip”

58.8% abv          14 y.o.          Refill sherry butt          Outturn:  616 bottles

Nose:  Farmy notes.  Dark moist soil.  Rubber and charcoal.  Wet rock.  Smoke, peat and iodine.  Still quite some vibrant barley notes.  Chocolate.  Burnt marshmallow.  Wet leather.  Very salty smelling.

Palate:  Dirt and dust.  Bitter chocolate.  Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Salt licorice.  Burnt rubber.  Sweet and tangy peat and rich sweet smoke.

Thoughts:  Awwww, yeah!  Here we go.  A few eyes in the room lit up over this one.  Mine included.  I’m with Kelly on some of these peat and sherry sweet monsters.  Hell yeah!


3.189 “Echoes Of Bonfires & Funfairs”

58.4% abv          14 y.o.          Refill sherry butt          Outturn:  607 bottles

Nose:  Sweet and spicy.  Stewed tomato.  Sunflower seed.  Salted grapefruit.  Peat and smoke.  Prickly greens.  Seafood-y.  Some dark fruits, but rather unrecognizable.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Smoke.  Citrus.  Some raisin.  A bit of Granny Smith apple tartness.  Sharp and iodine-rich.  Quite farmy.

Thoughts:  Sister caks to the one above.  Fun little bit of compare and contrast here.  Very different, but equally enjoyable.  These two are the kind of drams to sit down with when you have unlimited time and no interruptions.


129.2 “Humbugs In A Horse’s Nose-Bag”

61.6% abv          4 y.o.          1st Fill barrel, ex-bourbon          Outturn:  250 bottles

Nose:  Young.  I know this distillery.  I know it well.  Soem neat vanilla notes not tempered by the fiery young peat.  White pepper.  Smoke.  New leather.  Big notes of cola with fresh-squeezed lemon or lime.

Palate:  Licorice.  Smoked orange and burnt lemon rind.  A little more fruit here.  Hay and leather.  Green apple.  Seet peats.

Thoughts:  This and the first were easy ones to peg.  The others…not so much.  The youngest malt of the night was also my favorite.  There may not be sophistication here yet from Islay’s youngest distillery, but there sure as hell is quality.  Loved this one.


Thanks again, to Rob and Kelly, for coming out and spend a great evening with us.  Cheers!

For those that may be interested, see Andrew Ferguson at Kensington Wine Market, or visit the SMWS Canada site.

Until next…


– Words & Tasting Notes:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt