Friday, December 9, 2011

A visit to the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society

Hola Amigos,

First off, apologies for the lack of posts in the last month; between the work, the commute to Scotland - gotta love those high winds, and various family commitments I haven't had a lot of time for blogging.

I did, however manage to get out in Edinburgh this week to the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society (Queen St branch) courtesy of m'colleague N Smith. N isn't a big whiskey drinker but is a member, and generously offered to bring me along as a guest when he heard I was into a wee dram.

Anyhoo, after a delicious burger and a couple of pints of Schiehallion in The Cambridge we ambled along to the SMWS on Queen St. The SMWS down in Leith is apparently an even nicer place. It was a school night so we didn't go mad, but we did try four different whiskys - see details below.

I should explain that the SMWS doesn't sell "regular" whisky, that you can buy in a shop. What they do is buy a cask of whisky direct from the distillery and bottle it themselves. Big whoop, I hear you say, this is what the distillery does. Bong! Wrong answer. The distillery does two things typically, 1) They blend various casks of the same age/batch to produce a harmonious "blend". 2) They water down the whisky from "cask strength" approx 55% - 60% abv. to 40+% odd.

So what you get from the SMWS is 1) a unique, never to be repeated expression 2) pretty damn strong, which means you are pretty much obligated to water down the drink (I only tend to add water with very peaty or very strong malts), which can be a variable experience as you could easily add too much or too little AND the minerals in the water can have subtle affects on the taste.

Our expert "barman" suggested the malts below based on my ramblings and while the bottles only have a number on them, the staff will "translate" for you, if, for example you were keen to try a Macallan or a Talisker (sadly out of stock) or whatever. The prices range from £4 up and they serve other drinks too; I had an Aussie beer, a delicious Little Creatures Pale Ale as a chaser.

Anyway, the whiskys we had were as follows (with "codes" in parantheses). The number on the left of the decimal point represents the distillery, the number on the right is the cask number from that distillery, in chronological order. Star of the night for me was the 19yo Clyneish, btw.

Isle Of Arran 9yo (121.50) - A little rough, needed plenty of water.
Clyneish 19yo (26.77) - Complex and delicious.
Highland Park 15yo (4.157) - Expecting more here but nice.
Laphroaig 20yo (29.108) - Subtle.

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