M A LT O F T H E M O N T H : SHIP SHAPE AND BRINE CASK No. 53.253 Pump up your peat: Friday 5th October
CELLARMASTER'S NOTE Dear Members, I was just this week compiling and preparing a Whisky Quiz for the Whisky & Wisdom website. It was an online quiz full of whisky trivia questions so that whisky enthusiasts can test their knowledge and see if they’re a whisky novice or a whisky nerd! (All in good fun, obviously). Whilst conceiving the questions and answers, it became very apparent to me just how much information is out there and available to today’s whisky drinker. And I pondered: Is there too much information?
I thought back to the whisky scene about 20 years ago. If you wanted to find out some information about a distillery, or to learn something about a particular bottling you liked, what were your options? This was before distilleries and brands had meaningful websites that utilised cameras and livestreams from the stillhouse; it was before online marketing and e-newsletters became the norm; and it was certainly before social media avenues exploded. The truth is, we relied on one or two printed books (e.g. Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion comes to mind); we relied on what little information was printed on the whisky label or packaging; and – if we were really lucky – a brand ambassador might come to town to present a tasting and share some nuggets of gold. And so, for the most part, whisky drinkers were satisfied to know simply that – for example – the distillery was in Speyside; the whisky was 12 years old; and the casks used to have sherry in them. Today – in stark contrast – we can be overwhelmed with information. Distilleries now open their doors; their websites are choc-full of info, pics, tasting notes, archives, and video; other whisky websites provide historical accounts and trivia; and – perhaps most critically – the marketing departments of the whisky brands go to significant lengths to make each frequent new release sound more interesting and intriguing than the last. Which means they have to tell us more about
what’s in the bottle and how it got there! We’ll now be told which field the barley came from; where the peat was sourced; how long the extra fermentation went for; where the casks were sourced from; the type of oak involved; whether they’re 1st fill or refill; and what they were seasoned with beforehand.
Of course, it’s all absolutely fascinating and interesting, but tell me: does knowing this information influence the aromas you detect as you lift the dram to your nose? Does it influence what your palate tastes? Many social commentators lament the “dumbing down” of society and how modern behaviours are killing off key human skills, habits, observation, and etiquette. And I wonder if the wealth of whisky information online and at our fingertips is having a similar effect? Are we becoming reliant on being told what we should taste and why, rather than relying on our own faculties? Does knowing so much about a dram’s provenance distract us from actually just enjoying it?
I tasted an incredible sherried whisky the other day. Was it from a fino cask or an oloroso cask…the truth is, who cares? My eyes told me the spirit was dark and appealing; my nose told me it was rich, spicy and full of dried fruits; and my palate told me it was delicious and that I should immediately go back out and buy myself a second bottle. That’s all I needed to know.
Andrew Derbidge | Director, Cellarmaster & NSW Manager
AMBASSADORâ€™S ADDRESS Well, Spring has definitely well and truly sprung now! What a September I've had; yet again roaming about sharing drams, experiences and great whisky in great company. I wanted to remark on a question, however, that I love asking, as well as one that I love getting asked. We can all (hopefully) remember the first ever whisky we had growing up, and for many it was a blended whisky, or something you pinched from your Dad's old rickety liquor cabinet, or something your Grandmother rubbed on your gums when you were teething (yes, that's me, technically). But I also love asking "which Society cask was the one that made you reassess what whisky is, what whisky can be, and what incredible flavour there was". For me, it was at a tasting hosted by our Cellarmaster, Andrew Derbidge, at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. The whole night was so 'foreign' to me in many ways, so unusual, and yet so memorable. I had no idea whisky could taste like this. It was like I'd stepped into a parallel universe. I'd tasted other bottlers, other whiskies, but this was really something else entirely. The first couple of drams were intriguing and malty, not that I can recall the codes or names, but from what I've found from members is that the
cask that really 'pops' for you is the code and name you're unlikely to ever forget. That for me was Cask 125.71 'Chocolate coke float' from a rather well-known Highland distillery. It was young, sherried, with notes of spare ribs, hoisin sauce, fruit loaf and coffee beans. I still have my bottle of it today and am planning on opening it soon. It's through these names, these often wacky and strangely specific titles, that we form a connection with the time and place we enjoyed it also. A glimpse both into the panel's decision and the image that it invokes. A memory of the people we enjoyed that moment with and when we long to repeat that. A taste in the mouth that takes us back and forward through time and wakes up our senses and is heart and palate warming. That's what whisky is to me, anyway, and that's precisely what I try and create for our members. An experience that lingers in your mind and mouth for as long as possible. Tastings and bottlings that you remember for years later. Whiskies and other spirits that when cracked open with friends who appreciate it, have that 'wow' moment that sticks around forever. It's not about codes, it's about experience.
M A T T B A I L E Y // S M W S N A T I O N A L A M B A S S A D O R T W I T T E R : @ s m w s _ m a t t // E M A I L : b a i l e y @ s m w s . c o m . a u
SAIL INTO S I N G L E C A S K H E AV E N Jump aboard October’s offerings – an exciting extravaganza of flavours. Whether you want to pump up your peat, catch something oily & coastal, or single out something sweet, there’s truly something for everyone. ALL NEW RELEASES WILL BE AVAILABLE ONLINE FROM FRIDAY 5TH OCTOBER AT MIDDAY AEST.
SPICY & DRY
CASK No. 72.61 MUSK PERFUME AND RUM PUNCH TASTING NOTES: Tropical murmurs suggested an aromatic undercurrent of ripe melon, coconut body oil and rum punch laced with liquorice. The curiously seductive waft of musk perfume unveiled floral tones as talcum powder merged with the lychee-laden fruit of guwurtztraminer wine. Shortcrust pastry expanded the oily richness before turning towards herbal realms and strong black tea. The palate carried the lively zing of gooseberry tart but blended seamlessly with red berries, cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise. A butter pastry element led us to cherry pie before turning to juniper berries and a finish of fresh green twigs. 10 YEARS 1 S T
2 7 N OV E M B E R 2 0 07
F I L L
B A R R E L
A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 2 4 B O T T L E S
5 7. 7 %
1 of 244 bottles PRICE: $165
CASK No. R2.6 BANANA FLAMBÉE TASTING NOTES: On the nose neat we got served a vanilla bean cream Frappuccino with a dash of peach syrup as well as a warm raspberry compote banana bread muffin. Lots of banana flavours to taste; baked banana chips, banana flambé split with rum-pineapple caramel and spiced banana fritters. With some water initially a whiff of petrolic/engine oil with a touch of wood glue and varnish which quickly faded into the background allowing a crème Brulee flambé to take centre stage. On the palate now candyfloss, strawberry liqueur trifle as well as coconut tapioca with pineapple, mango and lime – truly heaven for the sweet-toothed! Made in a wooden ex-Enmore pot still!
01 JUNE 2003
R E F I L L
G U YA N A
1 of 204 bottles
B A R R E L
A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 1 8 B O T T L E S
S W E E T, F R U I T Y & M E L L O W
CASK No. 135.4 LIP-SMACKING SEDUCTION TASTING NOTES: On the nose, we got sweet, aromatic fruits (pear, passionfruit) some grassy notes (making jam in a meadow) and confectionery (Haribo jelly snakes, Jelly Babies) – all in all, very attractive. The palate was lip-smacking and seductive, with a combination of sweetness and zing, like apricot jam and candied citrus peel. With water, we agreed it was complex and delightful – now discovering vanilla sponge and hints of linseed oil and putty. The reduced palate found perfumed pear, waxed fruity sweets and sweetie necklaces – very comforting and enjoyable – and one or two of us had to revise previous prejudices.
2 8 J U LY 2 0 0 0
2ND FILL BARREL A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 3 6 B O T T L E S
1 of 248 bottles PRICE: $235
O I LY & C O A S T A L
CASK No. 29.248 CREAKING SHIPS LOST IN THE FOG
This is the late night dram. The contemplative pour. The mysteries of Islay in a glass. 21 years old and from a charred ex-red wine barrique, this premium release of 29.248 Creaking ships lost in the fog will transport you to that creaking ship with a perfect balance of oak and distinctive Islay spirit in your glass. A special occasion dram to share.
TASTING NOTES: Chewing on cherry cough sweets we stood on the tarry deck, peering into the fog that seemed to absorb the light from the paraffin lamps. The ship creaked with the waves and the scent of oak was heavy in the air. Aromas from the galley wafted up through gaps in the timbers and we could smell sweet wood smoke combined with burnt porridge and fruitcake. Peeling a waxy orange its oils sprayed into the air and mixed with passing droplets of seawater. A fruity note came from cherry and liquorice sweets as lobster nets rebounded off the sides of the thick hull with reverberating thumps. After spending 20 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead this was transferred to a 2nd fill charred red wine barrique for the remainder of its maturation. 21 YEARS
2 6 N OV E M B E R 1 9 9 6
2ND FILL BARRIQUE - CHARRED RED WINE A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 3 0 B O T T L E S
I S L AY
1 of 256 bottles PRICE: $499*
*LIMIT OF ONE BOTTLE PER MEMBER
P E AT E D
CASK No. 10.130 C H I M N E Y S W E E P O N A T R AW L E R TASTING NOTES: The nose suggested a cheerful, cheeky chappie chimney sweep, sitting by the sea-shore eating crab and grapefruit sandwiches and strawberry ice-cream wafers. The palate surprised us with big, hot, mouth-etching smoke; seaweed and salty porridge as well and lots of barley sweetness to balance it up – imagine Winnie the Pooh throwing honey bombs. The reduced nose evoked Icelandic geysers and a deep-sea trawler mix of sea-spray and exhaust fumes – one panellist got smoked fish on a hot steam-train shovel. The palate was now sweet, salty and smoky, with fresh ginger, charred oak staves, plums, apricots and a seaside tang. 9 YEARS R E F I L L
03 OCTOBER 2007
I S L AY
1 of 270 bottles
H O G S H E A D
A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 3 1 B O T T L E S
Y O U N G & S P R I T E LY
CASK No. 54.66 PA R T Y F I Z Z TASTING NOTES: The nose presents a creative tension between tutti frutti sweets, bubble gum, wine gums and lemonade and a creamier sweetness of butterscotch, pannacotta and dulce de leche. The palate, at natural strength, is big, effervescent and mouth-etching, with flavours of perfumed black tea, salted caramel and light spices. Water brings fruity sherbet fizz and pineapple yoghurt to the nose and the palate now picks up more fruity sweetness – rhubarb rock, candied peel, tinned mandarins and star-fruit, with hints of flower stems and paint and light ginger spice on the finish. Young but definitely intriguing. 10 YEARS R E F I L L
04 APRIL 2007
B A R R E L
A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 3 6 B O T T L E S
5 7. 9 %
1 of 228 bottles PRICE: $159
M A LT O F T H E M O N T H H E AV I LY P E A T E D
CASK No. 53.253 SHIP SHAPE AND BRINE BOOM! HEAVILY PEATED IS BACK! For October Malt of the Month, we've picked out something from our lesser-seen Heavily Peated flavour profile, and from an Islay distillery that isn't traditionally known for peating levels like this! Close your eyes, picture Islay, and drift away with Ship shape and brine...
TASTING NOTES: It was fish ahoy as we sat on the tar-covered ship's decking, preparing smoked haddock for cullen skink (Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions). Puffs of smoke from a passing tugboat's exhaust wafted by and mingled with the smell of smoked scallops on the barbeque and scorched rosemary. Chewing on salted liquorice we used a charred stick dipped in honey to drizzle a sticky glaze onto lobster meat, which crackled and flamed as it dripped onto the hot coals. The smell of brine was thick in the air as we opened the capers to accompany pickled ginger and a dash of ginger marmalade to finish. 11 YEARS R E F I L L
1 8 J U LY 2 0 0 6
H O G S H E A D
A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 6 6 B O T T L E S
5 7. 2 %
I S L AY
1 of 288 bottles PRICE: $169
$199 REDUCED TO $169!
D E E P, R I C H & D R I E D F R U I T S
CASK No. 2.108 ‘ T H E K I N G O ’ M A LT S ’ TASTING NOTES: Gold with copper lights. A complex aroma, at once fruity (Soor Ploom sweets, hard pears, dried orange peel), faintly vinous (an empty dry sherry decanter) and nose-drying (a dusty desk drawer). A drop of water enhances the sweeter elements in the aroma and introduces suggestions of barley sugar and orange-flavoured boiled sweets, but still on a dry base (river bank mud). The texture is oily, the taste sweet throughout, with traces of tablet and some gingery spice in the fragrant finish.
10 YEARS R E F I L L
16 AUGUST 2007
S H E R R Y
1 of 560 bottles
B U T T
A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 3 6 B O T T L E S
J U I C Y, O A K & VA N I L L A
CASK No. 58.22 S W E E T S C E N T S A N D TA N G Y S P I C E TASTING NOTES: Aromas teased the nose with sweetly scented aromatics that ventured through delicately perfumed rose petals, pot pouri and dusty talcum powder. Light fruit notes followed closely, combining orange oil with zesty pineapple tarts before turning to sticky jelly sweets. A waft of milk chocolate carried us onto the palate with waves of Belgian waffles and pink wafers wrapped by the warming tingle of crystalised ginger. A cool breeze of mint leaves and eucalyptus drifted over dry pinewood whilst water released spicier dimensions, incorporating garam masala and cloves with the tangy finish of candied lime peel and marmalade.
11 YEARS 2 N D
2 1 AU G U S T 2 0 0 6
F I L L
B A R R E L
A U S A L L O C AT I O N : 2 4 B O T T L E S
1 of 231 bottles PRICE: $185
CHARLIE MACLEAN’S SOCIETY REFLECTIONS As we proudly release three releases from Charlie McLean's selections for October, Charlie looks back at the Society's history and shares some thoughts.
Whisky writer Charlie MacLean reflects on The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s birth 35 years ago, its influence within the wider whisky world, and on his role as a chair of the Tasting Panel since 1992. Charlie has been involved with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society since its early days at The Vaults in 1983, first as an enthusiastic member and then since 1992 as a chair of the Tasting Panel. Sitting in his Edinburgh home, surrounded by whisky books and samples, Charlie reflects on the Society’s birth and its role in the wider Scotch whisky world...
It was pioneering,” he says. “ You have to remember that malt whisky was in its infancy at that time. Both The Macallan and Glenmorangie only began to promote their whiskies in 1981, which is staggering to think about now. And in that year, less than one per cent of Scotch whisky was bottled as a single malt – just one bottle in a hundred. At the same time there was a crisis, with the industry in complete disarray, sales plummeting and the closure of various distilleries. But against that backdrop, the Society played an important part in developing the trend – which was growing against all expectations – in the rise of single malt whisky.” When Charlie first visited The Vaults in Leith, the Members’ Room as we know it now didn’t exist. But it was already a place for whisky lovers to meet and share a dram of single cask whisky, something previously unknown to them at that time.
“There was a wee dresser, in the corner, with various samples and an honesty box,” Charlie says. “ You could go in and nose and taste and put your money in the box, and there would usually be other people there and they would say, ‘Wow try this one! Help yourself and put the money in the honesty box.’ You have to remember that the concept of tasting single cask whisky, at full strength, un-chill f iltered and at its natural colour, was a brandnew idea. Brand new! This produce wasn’t available until the Society came along.” Charlie watched the Society grow from this small group gathering to share samples of single cask whisky at The Vaults to a larger and increasingly international club. At the same time, his whisky writing was developing to the point that, after completing a course in The Sensory Evaluation of Potable Spirits with Dr Jim Swan and Sheila Burtles at Pentlands Scotch Whisky Research [forerunner of the Scotch Whisky Research Institute] in 1992, he turned to writing full-time.
“That course changed my life,” Charlie says. “I had more or less f inished my f irst whisky book, but after the training in sensory evaluation I had to go back and rewrite all my tasting notes!
Overall, we're looking for something that's both interesting and pleasant to drink, but ideally embodies the two key characteristics of mature character and distillery character.”
Shortly after that, the Society’s then-managing director Richard Gordon asked me to chair the SMWS Tasting Panel. The Panel’s Tasting Notes had always been provocative and exuberant, and my role was to encourage the Panel but rationalise its structure – don’t talk about taste until we have talked about the whisky’s appearance, that kind of thing.”
Charlie has also focussed on the language used in the Tasting Notes, combining subjectivity in terms of what panellists pick up from a whisky with specific descriptors that the majority of contributors agree are present in the sample. “The SMWS was the f irst organisation to focus on flavour, and really invented a new language to talk about whisky,” he says. “The whole point of the Society’s single cask bottlings is in their variety, they can be so extraordinarily different, and the Tasting Notes need to reflect that. For example, the descriptor ‘fruity’ is very common, for Speyside whiskies in particular, but I try to get the Panel to narrow that down – are we talking dry fruit, fresh fruit, citric fruit, tinned fruit, cooked fruit - baked apples? That’s all part of the fun. But we’re not just plucking words out of the air – there was a great example when the Panel described an Islay whisky as being like ‘wetsuits and charcoal’. A member came into The Vaults and said our Tasting Notes were getting absurd. He produced a neoprene booty from his bag, and then we got a sample of this particular whisky. A random group of members nosed it, nosed the neoprene booty, then tasted the whisky, and it was exactly as described. So bingo!”
Charlie has been chairing the Tasting Panel regularly ever since, leading the process of sampling and approving those single cask whiskies deemed outstanding enough to make it into a Society bottle. “ You come across many casks that are okay, but not good enough for bottling as a single cask, single malt,” he says. “At the Society, we’re looking for samples of distinction – which means it may be an extraordinarily good example of the make, or it may be an unusual example of the make.
In terms of refining your own nose to the extent that you can pinpoint the aroma of neoprene booty in your next Society bottling, Charlie has one more piece of advice:
People say to me, you must have the best job in the world, just drinking whisky, talking about it and writing about it. How do you get a job like that? I say practice, practice, practice.”
UPCOMING EVENTS PERTH
ADE L AIDE
SMWS X BLASTA BOILERMAKERS WEDNESDAY 24TH OCTOBER 6.00PM FOR 6.30PM
GUESS THE WHISKY FRIDAY 12TH OCTOBER 6.00PM FOR 6.30PM
Blasta Brewing Company 84/88 Goodwood Pde, Burswood Host: Jason Davies, WA Manager
Rob Roy Hotel, 106 Halifax St, Adelaide Host: Jenny Forrest, SA Manager C ANB ERRA
SY D N E Y
EIGHT CHRISTMAS STEPS TO HEAVEN WEDNESDAY 14TH NOVEMBER 6.00PM FOR 6.30PM
FIFTH FLAVOUR ELEMENT FRIDAY 5TH OCTOBER 6.30PM FOR 7.00PM
Royal Automobile Club 89 Macquarie St, Sydney Host: Matt Bailey, National Ambassador EIGHT CHRISTMAS STEPS TO HEAVEN FRIDAY 30TH NOVEMBER 6.30PM FOR 7.00PM
Royal Automobile Club 89 Macquarie St, Sydney Host: Matt Bailey, National Ambassador M ELBO URN E FIFTH FLAVOUR ELEMENT THURSDAY 18TH OCTOBER 6.00PM FOR 6.30PM
The Botanical 169 Domain Rd, South Yarra Host: Matt Bailey, National Ambassador SMWS X STARWARD CHRISTMAS DRAMS SATURDAY 8TH DECEMBER 4.00PM TIL 7.00PM
Starward Distillery 50 Bertie St, Port Melbourne Hosts: Owen Smythe, VIC Manager Matt Bailey, National Ambassador
The Deck at Regatta Point Barrine Drive, Parkes Host: Drew McKinnie, ACT Manager B R I S B ANE SMWS X NEWSTEAD BOILERMAKERS SATURDAY 1ST DECEMBER 6.30PM FOR 7.00PM
Newstead Brewing Co. 85 Doggett St, Newstead Hosts: Scott Mansfield, QLD Manager Matt Bailey, National Ambassador WO L LONG O NG CHRISTMAS WHISKY DINNER FRIDAY 7TH DECEMBER 6.30PM FOR 7.00PM
Novotel Northbeach Hotel 2-14 Cliff Rd, North Wollongong Host: Fred Apolloni, Wollongong Manager BOOKINGS & ENQUIRIES
For more information or to book in for any of these events, please visit: smws.com.au/events or contact our office.
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Society whiskies are offered and sold through The Wine Empire Pty Ltd, Liquor Licence LIQP770010175.