Every month, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society puts out a new outturn of round about 20 single cask whiskies. As these illustrous releases always cover a wide range of styles, regions, ages and price points, picking your next purchase isn’t easy. Thankfully, the Society are happy to assist their members in making that tough call. Via eye-catching color codes, telling monickers and in-depth tasting notes, they give you a good impression of what to expect from each bottle – before you even got around to taste it. Still, even the most elaborate words can never be a full substitute for the manifold sensations you have when you nose, taste, savor and reminisce a fine dram. Therefore, the Society’s numerous brand ambassadors around the globe host special preview tastings once a month to introduce curious drammers to selected bottles from the next outturn. Yesterday, I attended such an event for the first but certainly not last time…
The intimate circle was led by Chris Rickert of Hansemalt, who welcomed the local SMWS members and their plus ones to a fun, nonchalant evening in his well-equipped tasting room at Hamburg’s legendary “Fischmarkt”. As all of the attendees were already in the know about the Society and what they are up to, we opened the first bottle without much ado. Although the 10-year-old Glenallachie with the cask number 107.11 was bottled at a headspinning (pun intended) ABV of 63.3 per cent, it did not electrify our tongues right away. Much to our surprise, this young Speysider had a comparatively mellow mouthfeel. Only after we added a few drops of water, the spiciness increased and a prickle on our tongues appeared. Flavour-wise, I discovered (lots of) licorice, tart cherries and dried strawberries. Yummie!
Next up was a fresh and feisty Balmenach called “Tongue twerking”, which started with ice bonbons and light fruits in the nose, followed by lemon zest and rock sugar in the mouth. I also made out another quality in this fine pour, which reminded me a little of gin. In the lasting finish, these flowery juniper notes stepped forth and formed the most striking trait. Number three on Chris’s list was a 14-year-old Mortlach. Finished in a heavily toasted and medium charred new oak hogshead, this sophisticated sip was beautiful to look at in the glass and amazing to have on the palate. Orange, wood, vanilla and candied ginger were but some of the many flavors I found in it.
Of course, a tasting like this is not really complete without a sherry bomb. We got it in the form of a 20 years old Glenrothes drawn from a 2nd fill Oloroso sherry butt with the identifier 30.100. Super-sweet and immensely fruity, we found it hard to believe at first that the wood, which enshrined this high-class spirit for no less than two decades, was drenched in Oloroso sherry rather than PX. Its manifold sensations included red fruits and lid candles in the nose, dark chocolate and strawberry jelly on the tongue as well as whipped cream and more red fruits in the aftertaste. While the complete line-up of the evening was of top quality, this was probably the one dram leaving the biggest impression on all of the attendees. The tasting’s finale, however, should not go unmentioned either. Distilled a long time ago on May 28 in 1979, this savory grain whisky from Lowlands-based production unit Cameronbridge was an incredible 38 years of age. The eternity it spent in the barrel has given it a sugary nose, a butterscotch palate and a fruity finish. The latter I found particulary fascinating as I did not expect wild strawberries, red winegums and rose hips to join the party at such a late stage. What a nice and very unsuspected surprise!
While the official tasting – admittance to which was granted for as little as EUR 35 per person – had come to an end with the Cameronbridge, the evening was far from being over. We kept sitting in Chris’s tasting room almost until midnight, talking whisky and trying additional sips from some of the several hundred (!) open bottles in the shelves. One particular highlight that we were treated to during the encore was an insanely good Laphroaig 27yo from the prestigious Vaults Collection monickered “Smoked and salted toffee apples” (29.234). As this luxurious malt’s name is absolutely spot-on, I do not even need to recite my own tasting notes to give you an impression of what this deep and complex Islay whisky smelled and tasted like. A fact that comes in pretty handy in view of how long this recap of yesterday’s “February Outturn” tasting has already become…
Cask 107.11 “Electrifies the tongue” (Glenallachie) (Malt / 10yo / 63.3% / 56.00 GBP)
Cask 48.95 “Tongue twerking” (Balmenach) (Malt / 10yo / 58.2% / 50.00 GBP)
Cask 76.136 “Frisky fresh fruitiness” (Mortlach) (Malt / 14yo / 56.8% / 73.00 GBP)
Cask 30.100 “An abundance of fruit cake” (Glenrothes) (Malt / 20yo / 56.5% / 85.00 GBP)
Cask G4.15 “Syrupy, sun-kissed sweetness” (Cameronbridge) (Grain / 38yo / 47.6% / 129.00 GBP)
Cask 29.234 “Smoked and salted toffee apples” (Laphroaig) (Malts / 27yo / 54.9% / 475.00 GBP)