SMWS AND SHERRY
SCOTCH AND SHERRY
It’s 40 years since The Scotch Malt Whisky Society launched its first bottling list, with an 8-year-old Glenfarclas ‘matured in sherry casks – hence its rich depth of colour’, according to our inaugural offering (£13.45 at the time). Cask No. 1.1 is one in a long line of highly prized sherry-matured whiskies. But how did sherry, of all wines, become so closely associated with the finest Scotch? Iain Russell has been doing some digging to find out.
Cask No. 53.462
PROFILE Peated REGION Islay AGE 15 years ABV 55.8% CASK TYPE 1st fill ex-PX hogshead
A powerful nose, the sweetness of honey-glazed baby back ribs combining with the scent of the sea, smoked oysters, clams and cockles made this a fascinating combination. The palate was smooth and silky with chocolate and vanilla before we got honey and mustardglazed ham as well as honey-roasted carrots and parsnips.
Careful when adding water, as the aroma moved to a dark chocolate crème brûlée with spiced smoky pistachios. To taste, we found ginger dates, chocolate-coated raisins, and espresso coffee beans – sweet, smooth and smoky, a match made in hell which gave us heaven on earth! Following 11 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, we transferred this whisky into a first fill American oak PX hogshead.
Cask No. 85.92
FIRES THE IMAGINATION
PROFILE Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits REGION Speyside AGE 13 years ABV 58.9% CASK TYPE 1st fill ex-oloroso butt
This one got our thinking juices flowing, with just a few examples including a motorbike gang member’s leather jacket, sour dough pizza marinara and Turkish delight shisha tobacco mix. The taste was truly an experience. Eating a slice of sourdough bread served with herb butter, blue cheese and wild boar salami in the shade of an olive tree on the Mediterranean coast was how one Panellist described it.
After reduction we prepared a chocolate espresso martini with dark chocolate cream liqueur, cold espresso and vodka as we sat by the Bosporus Strait overlooking the bridges that connect the Orient with the Occident. At 10 years of age we combined two hogsheads from the same distillery into this cask for further maturation and marrying.
Cask No. rw6.3
CINNAMON SAUNA SMOKE
PROFILE Finnish Rye Whisky REGION Finland AGE 5 years ABV 59.2% CASK TYPE New charred oak barrel
In a traditional sauna workshop the aromas of sticky sap from fresh pine and birch mingled with wood glue and leather polish. Then sweet smoke reminiscent of burning pencils wafted over a lunchbox of hard pears and salted liquorice. On the palate, wood transferred to birch water infused with thyme, cinnamon and spruce tips while olive oil burned on a hot barbecue.
A dash of water brought out burnt caraway seeds and juniper wood, with a hint of cough syrup and spirit. Back in the workshop, linseed oil was being worked into balsa wood and sourdough rye bread was toasting on sizzling sauna stones.
SMWS Tasting Panel
THE SOCIETY'S SEAL OF APPROVAL
Tasting Panel. Two words which have become synonymous with the Society over the years and which have been a constant in the Society’s communications, marketing and coverage since the early days of the 1980s. So ubiquitous are they, in fact, that it has become easy to overlook the significance of what the Tasting Panel represents, how it works and what it has delivered for the Society’s members over the years. Angus MacRaild has been one of the Panel’s chairs for the past seven years, and here reflects on its functions, and what he’s learned from his role.