Tag Archives: SMWS

Bunnahabhain 9-year-old (SMWS 10.93)

Bought: SMWS, 6th May 2016

88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Those who have read my SMWS Review (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) wont be surprised to hear that this Bunnahabhain will be my last ever SMWS bottle in my collection. Although the majority of what this illustrious independent bottler produce is excellent it was their customer service that let them down and I allowed my membership to expire last year. Nevertheless the opportunity to get a cask-strength Bunnahabhain was too good to resist, so I purchased 10.93 entitled ‘Sweet but Dangerous’ before leaving the society.

I love the standard 46.3% bottling of the Bunnahabhain 12yo, perhaps a little too much, which is why this 9yo by the SMWS failed to impress me. The distillery’s 12yo is mature, refined, smooth and well crafted. Unfortunately this 9yo has none of those qualities and at 61.8% it was very difficult to tame. Maybe I didn’t get the water right, or perhaps it will improve over time as it sits in an open bottle. It wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t go as far as scoring it 88/100 as one member does on Whiskybase. For me it was more like an 85/100 compared to 90/100 for the standard 12yo.

Here are the tasting notes as provided by the SMWS for the Bunnahabhain ‘Sweet and Dangerous’ 9yo:

“Flavour profile: Peated

The nose took us to a beach bonfire – peat smoke, heather, gorse, salty sea air and moules marinières – but one panellist had his own barbeque in a hospital car-park. With water, we imagined coal-tar, liquorice and teriyaki-glazed ribs, an Islay High Street in winter and Dick Van Dyke’s chimney-sweep cap. The neat palate was enormous – deep smoke, chewy dark toffee, mechanics overalls, a disinfected operating theatre, hints of farmyard and pork and apple sausages roasting on a smoky barbeque. The reduced palate – liquorice and clove confectionery – sweet but dangerous (like Mary Poppins!) – and all enjoyed down-wind of an Islay pagoda.

Drinking tip: At a beach bonfire – or while watching a certain movie.”

Linkwood 9-year-old (SMWS 39.128)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 17th October 2016

84/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. It may only be from one member but it is backed up by reviews elsewhere such as 4/5 from Philip Storry (his review here) and A+ on Ben’s Whisky Blog, which comes with a “highly recommended”. With the title of ‘Back to Primary School’ this dram brings back childhood memories of “lime Opal Fruits and drumstick lollies”, “orange barley sugar squash”, “lemon sherbet” and lashings of ice cream in various forms. This single malt may only be 9 years old but it has drawn out a lot from the first fill bourbon barrels and cracks a whip at a feisty 60.3%.

Here are the notes provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:

Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow

The nose was light, bright, citric, lively and youthful – evoking primary school scenes for some of us – felt-tip pens, poster paints, Flumps, drumstick lollies, fruit salad chews and Jammie Dodgers. The neat palate had some distinctive confectionery notes – Oddfellows, summer creams, sherbet lemons – also pink wafers, peach cordial and hints of vanilla – more adult themes included Buck’s Fizz and mojitos. The reduced nose had peach schnapps, travel sweets, vanilla custard slice, perfumed hand lotion and chopped up kindling sticks. The reduced palate was simple and straightforward – peaches and cream and vanilla sweetness with a wee fizzy tingle in the tail

Drinking tip: A bit of a garden party dram – lazy, laid-back summer time fun.


Dailuaine 11-year-old (SMWS 41.82)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 17th October 2016

0/100 – Whiskybase (awaiting votes)
4/5- Philip Storry (his review here)

Although there are no ratings yet for this Dailuaine single malt on Whiskybase, of the five 11-year-old bottlings by the SMWS with scores, the lowest is 81/100, then two at 86/100, one at 86.5/100 and finally an excellent 88/100. This is similar to how Dailuaine by the SMWS does in the Whisky Bible across all ages. At one point a 10-year-old scores an amazing 94.5/100.

11 years seems to be a good age for Dailuaine single malt and this cask strength version packs a punch at 60.1%. The distillery uses ex-bourbon casks, which are usually finished in sherry casks when destined for single malt (e.g., the Flora and Fauna 16yo) but the SMWS have taken this cask as it comes, matured in first fill ex-bourbon barrels.

Distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2016 this Dailuaine is named ‘Lively and Entertaining’. Here are the notes provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:

Flavour profile: Young & spritely

Constantly changing aromas; candied ginger, lemon and honey sponge cake, sour apple sherbet as well as aniseed and ginger thrown in for good measure – this one just would not sit still! So we took a sip – what a surprise; spicy chocolate-dipped pineapple with sea salt as well as sour cherry and black pepper ice cream – we certainly did not get bored with this one. Water calmed it down – well, a little – slightly smoky white peppered strawberries with a balsamic vinaigrette on the nose and milk chocolate with zingy coconut lime and sea salt in the finish.

Drinking tip: If you want to be entertained


Benrinnes 13-year-old (SMWS 36.103)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 17th October 2016

0/100 – Whiskybase (awaiting votes)
4/5- Philip Storry (his review here)

There are 102 different versions of Benrinnes by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) listed on Whiskybase. Seven 13-year-olds get ratings, which range from 81/100 to 89/100. Most are in the upper 80s. That’s very impressive. Owned by Diageo the principal single malt is the 15yo Flora and Fauna series. The house style is full-bodied, smoky yet also sweet with cereal notes and malt.

Distilled in 2002 and bottled in 2016 this Benrinnes is named ‘Ivory Keys’. Here are the notes provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:

Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow

The initial sweet, fruity and floral array of aromas reminded us of natural rosewater essence, pear drops and ripe bananas. But at the same time there was also the scent of clean wood finally described as opening the lid of a grand mahogany piano and lifting the fallboard after it had been expertly cleaned and tuned. If you have never experienced that, how about ‘sipping a tree’ – a ‘cedar infused’ Campari accompanied by ginger spiced marmalade on toasted rye bread. Diluted; apples in new wooden boxes and crates of limes before we finally relaxed with Viennese apple strudel and a Wiener Melange coffee.

Drinking tips: Listening to Mozart Piano Sonata No.11


Teaninich 30-year-old (SMWS 59.51)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), 16th December 2015

84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)

I only had a miniature of Teaninich so I was interested in upgrading to a full 70cl. The SMWS had a tempting discount before Christmas so I decided to plump for this vintage 30-year-old. With only 140 bottles produced I wasn’t expecting to find it in the Whisky Bible but it was released in 2014, which provided plenty of time for a review. My incorrect assumption was that new bottlings by the SMWS sold out very quickly but that probably only applies to releases of the popular distilleries like Ardbeg, Macallan, Laphroaig, etc. Teaninich is more Partick Thistle than Celtic with regards to popularity. An acquired taste but entertaining nonetheless.

84.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dram as “good whisky worth trying” but two other Teaninich 30yo by the SMWS score 87/100 and 90/100. I’m feeling a little disappointed that the version I have isn’t one of the better ones in Jim Murray’s opinion. The author says about this whisky “no shortage of character. And one with some witty lines written for it. But this is about as outrageously salivating and eye-watering as you can find without really offering any depth of complexity. A tart blending malt essentially. But one which has it’s moments in the spotlight.”

89.33/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score albeit from only 3 voters. Interestingly the two bottles Jim Murray ranks above it with 87/100 and 90/100 score 88/100 and 89/100 on Whiskybase, which is less than for my bottle. All are excellent marks and show that the SMWS team have a good palate when it comes to choosing a Teaninich cask. A very worthwhile dram!

Teaninich 30yo SMWS 59.51 70cl

Bladnoch 25-year-old (SMWS 50.71)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 30th November 2015

92/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Bladnoch closed in 1993. In 1994 dynamic Irishman Raymond Armstrong spotted the mothballed distillery when he was on holiday in the Lowlands and he decided to buy it. Lots of work had to be done, which meant whisky production didn’t start again until 2000. Sadly the distillery went into liquidation in 2014 putting the future of Bladnoch in the balance. Thankfully a successful Australian businessman, David Prior bought Bladnoch in July 2015. In September he announced on the distillery’s Facebook page (which hadn’t been updated in over 2 years) that he’d appointed Ian Macmillan as the new master distiller and blender. Another announcement on 24th December proclaimed the arrival of new single malts in 2016. The future is looking good for Bladnoch once more!

Having said all that about the distillery’s recent history, my bottle by the SMWS entitled ‘Alfresco brunch’ was distilled in 1990, back when Bladnoch were under the ownership of United Distilleries. Someone clearly loves it on Whiskybase with a vote of 92/100. The house style is light-bodied, dry, fruity, fresh, floral and grassy. The SMWS description below mentions a meadow, so there’s the grass element, but bacon, gingerbread and salami don’t sound overly typical of a standard Bladnoch. It goes to show how varied each cask can be!

“We were having a Picnic Brunch in a meadow; the sun had almost burnt off the morning dew and we were looking forward to a glorious day outside. Out of the basket came smoked salmon, gravlax and a bowl of fresh watermelon and Cantaloupe salad with mint and basil vinaigrette. The taste was satisfyingly sweet, like dipping a wooden spoon into a jar of heather honey or a glass of delicious viscous mead. Just a drop of water and meaty aromas appeared; eggs Benedict with bacon, gingerbread pancakes with Parma ham and the taste turned into a spicy salami pizza.”

Bladnoch 25yo SMWS 50.71 70cl

Highland Park 15-year-old (SMWS 4.213)

Bought: SMWS, 4th November 2015

87.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

Although Jim Murray doesn’t mention this HP by the SMWS in his Whisky Bible 2016 (it’s too new) he does mention 4 other HPs by this experienced independent bottler. They range from a 13yo scoring 88.5/100 to a 22yo scoring an incredible 96.5/100. In the middle are two 14yos, which are closest in age to my 15yo. They score 93/100 and 95.5/100 respectively. This tells me that, according to Jim Murray at least, the guys at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society know how to pick a good Highland Park. This is hardly surprising when you consider that Whiskybase mention 137 separate releases of HP by the SMWS since their inception in the early 1980s. They have a lot of knowledge of Highland Park and it shows in the quality of casks they select for bottling. The code ‘4.213’ would suggest this is the 213th HP cask the SMWS have released. That’s about one bottling every two months since the society started.

My 15yo, distilled in 1999, goes by the name of “A Regency Pomander” with the usual over-the-top Oscar-winning tasting notes conjured up by the SMWS “from the word go this one was oozing quality. The aromas were intoxicating, baked apple with crème Anglaise, Banana Brulee using Ambrosia custard, clove studded oranges, a very chocolaty mousse and always in the background, the fragrant glow of a Jo Malone incense and embers candle. The taste neat was that of thick, sweet and waxy goodness, deep fried corn fritters served with honey and cream, blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and chocolate tofu pudding. A drop of water and the luxurious fragrance of a rosewater poured candle appeared along with a heavenly dessert of macadamia praline and Frangelico parfait.”

In the video below Georgie of the SMWS explains the society’s bottle labels:

Highland Park 15yo SMWS 4.213 70cl

Arran 15-year-old (SMWS 121.66)

Bought: SMWS, 30th October 2015

93/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

My 3rd and final 10cl sample from the SMWS membership pack and I’m surprised and delighted to find it’s included in the Whisky Bible 2016. Not only that but the author, Jim Murray, scores it 93/100 which classifies it as “brilliant”. He describes the taste as “spectacular mouth feel: the softest of oils allows the salivating butterscotch and barley to do its thing” and summarises with “the way in which it keeps its sweetness in such delicate voice is a thing of wonder”.

86/100 on Whiskybase is also a very good score. The society entitle this dram “Foamy strawberries in a cigar box” with tasting notes of “sugary cola bottles, crème Anglaise and raspberry jam. Deeper resonances of cedar, cigar boxes, putty, mint and menthol cigarettes. Luxurious, strawberry sweetness; custard donuts, banoffee pie and menthol cough candies.” Completely over-the-top description as usual but clearly it must be worth it, especially if Jim Murray thinks it’s brilliant!

Here’s a quick video on the origins of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:

Arran 15yo SMWS 121.66 10cl

Caol Ila 19-year-old (SMWS 53.224)

Bought: SMWS, 30th October 2015

90/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

SMWS name: Jekyll & Hyde

Up until a few days ago there was no rating on Whiskybase for this Caol Ila but thankfully someone came to my rescue with a stunning 90/100. The tasting notes on the bottle read “honey glazed ham and boozy grilled pineapple. The taste is an explosion of peat smoke and brown sauce served with fish and chips. With water, smoked scallops and a peat smoked pineapple soufflé.” Sounds lovely!

Although Jim Murray doesn’t mention this exact Caol Ila 19yo in his Whisky Bible 2016 he does include 9 bottlings by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) including four 18-year-olds. This is a similar maturity to my 19yo sample and their scores range from 85.5/100 to 91/100, which is excellent news. Of the 9 bottles the lowest mark is 81/100, which is still “good whisky worth trying” according to the book’s score chart. This might not seem 100% relevant since every whisky is different but it lets me know that those within the SMWS that taste and select Caol Ila casks for bottling are consistently good in the eyes of Mr Murray.

I’ve yet to taste a bad Caol Ila and this sample isn’t likely to change that fact. Now, where’s my glass…..

Caol Ila 19yo SMWS 53.224 10cl

Glen Grant 26-year-old (SMWS 9.94)

Bought: SMWS, 30th October 2015

84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

As I waited for the arrival of my SMWS membership pack I allowed myself to dream about the three 10cl samples I would receive; perhaps something rare, interesting or from an unusual distillery? The society used to send out packs containing four 10cl bottles and I spotted some at auction that included Macallan and Laphroaig. Perhaps I’d get a Highland Park or, God forbid, an Ardbeg! When the pack arrived it contained a Glen Grant, Caol Ila and Arran…..{tumbleweed}. It was like hoping for an X-box at Christmas only to receive an apple, pencil and a pair of socks.

Don’t get me wrong, Glen Grant, Coal Ila and Arran are all excellent distilleries that can produce fantastic whisky but they’re a bit, well, common. Practically every independent bottler’s website I’ve visited in the last 2 years has had all three of these distilleries available, often several versions. I was hoping the SMWS would be a little less predictable, especially having reduced the membership pack down to three bottles. Forgive me, I’m transcending into a grumpy old man! The male equivalent of menopause. I will chop the apple into the Glen Grant, stir the Coal Ila with my pencil and wear the socks whilst drinking the Arran. There, I’ve spiced up the experience!

Although this Glen Grant isn’t in the Whisky Bible 2016, the author includes 3 examples by the SMWS. A 12yo scores 89/100, a 16yo scores 94.5/100 and the one closest in age to mine, a 25yo, scores a lowly 79/100. Thankfully that doesn’t mean my 26yo is likely to be sub-80 and 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very reasonable mark, albeit from only 4 votes. One reviewer includes the official tasting notes for my dram, which are “sweetened coffee with chocolate brazils, stem ginger and sour cherries. Well handled leather, exotic woodiness and raspberry jam. Figs, date syrup, rich balsamic then creamy mint chocolate.” I think the addition of an apple could work well!

Glen Grant 26yo SMWS 9.94 10cl