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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A real question of taste.

Following on from our last post and the weather related theme continues... the sun is back with us (hurrah!) and we're parched, looking for a couple of summer crackers to get stuck into. Low and behold, an anonymous looking parcel drops onto the mat this morning and.... our prayers are answered! 2 brand new samples from the summer range of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society have arrived. Time to assemble our newly purchased garden table and chair set and catch some rays...

What really impresses me about the SMWS is their ethos towards the pure enjoyment of just whisky and nothing else. As many of you are probably aware, there’s little clue to which distillery you’re trying, other than a few well placed pointers to region, cask type and- if you’re really lucky, locality. This can only be a good thing to enhance your appreciation of different styles and essentially hone your nosing ability and palate.
First up, it’s the rather sweetly titled 97-11 ‘Honey Harmony’. All we know is that this is definitely a Lowland, so here’s hoping for a perfectly balanced start.

97-11 'Honey Harmony' Age 18 yo- 56%abv - 233 bottles

Nose: Fresh bourbon, vanilla, candied fruit and creamy chocolate.  I really had this down as a Rosebank on first nosing but the more you keep going, other notes like ripe banana and light heather notes also come through.  

Palate: Rich fruitiness with more of that heather, then there's almost a touch of coconut ice cream sundae, you're left with a nuttiness of crushed hazelnuts and almonds further in.

Finish: Definite notes of fragrant perfume with pears and apples on the very death. Also a slight saltiness coming thru, which lingers for a while.

Overall:  This definitely shares that light and fragrant fruitiness of a Rosebank, but there perhaps isn't as much depth as some which we tasted recently. It has it's own qualities though- the cracking sweetness and nuts on the palate make this a really great summery dram. Fortunately, our sample bottles are of a nice size and an extra dram is swiftly extracted, just in time catch the last bit of sun before South London once again clouds over. So as they often say - 'a little certainly goes a long way'!  

Next up is 64-15 'Waxing Lyrical' - which is something I tend to do after one too many great drams. (cue Caskstrength's 'Verbose Editor' to 'maniacally watch over this one , with one hand hovering on the delete key!) We're told that this is a Speyside whisky, from the Lossie area.

64-15 'Waxing Lyrical' - Age 15 yo - 57.1% abv - 288 bottles

Nose: Sweetness, rum notes, hints of smoke, candied fruit, candle wax and cedarwood.  So far, everything in its right place, really refreshing in character and delicate. Nothing jumps out too far. With a dash of water, you get more creamy toffee hints through here too, rounding the whole lot off very nicely.

Palate:  Wow, didn't expect that!! Licorice, menthol and lots of star anise coat the tongue like nothing i've had for a while. A real wake up call!  After a while, ginger and green herb notes come through, with more parsley if you add water.  A very different experience from what I was perhaps expecting, but really good and refreshing!

Finish: Sweetness and fudge like qualities come through after a while with orange zest and more of that candle wax.  Definitely a lot of depth to this dram, again longer than I had anticipated.

Overall:  This is certainly a distillery that I am very unfamiliar with - my palate has experienced surprise for the first time in a while which can only be a very good thing.  Another cracking dram...

In this day and age of marketing strategy, mass roll outs and heavyweight branding, it's easy to overlook certain distilleries or buy into something because you're 'told to' by the creative jargon on the packaging or flash website. With whiskies as good as these, you simply don't need to; your nose, palate and imagination do all the work- and that is to be applauded.