Review – An SMWS Duo.

Today we will be looking at two independently bottled expressions from the Scottish Malt Whisky Society. Membership of the SMWS gives access to its range of independently bottled expressions from a large variety of distilleries, which are always referred to by a system of numbers rather than distillery names.

First up is 76.135, which is a Mortlach for those who don’t speak SMWS codes…

76.135, A Moment of Serenity, IB, SMWS, 55.1%abv, press sample (available here)

76.135

This expression spent 15 years in a ex-bourbon hogshead before being transferred into a first fill PX cask for a year. Always a little sceptical about re-casking but maybe thats just me…

A limited run of 233 bottles and priced at £75.

Nose: There are strong hints of chocolate gingers, faint wisps of pine resin and a very mild woodiness. Underneath there is a delicate touch of florality and a vaguely perceptible perfumed note. Over time there are developing elements of apples and touches of polish and old leather.

There is also a slightly damp element, perhaps akin to some wet matches.

Palate: It is much as we would expect from a Mortlach on the palate with a good meaty feeling. There is a sweet muscovado sugar note alongside vanilla pods and oranges. Surprisingly there is a nice waxy feeling here too, alongside some drying, spiced and nutty elements alongside some well glazed honeyed ham.

Finish: The finish continues with the muscavado sugar but sees the addition of baked spices, a twist of pepper and a gentle warming wood note. It is drying, savoury and gently spiced but does seem to have a very odd mineral, or perhaps even chalky note.

It is presented at a good abv which perfectly suits the character of this dram, I would advise against adding any water, which will only serve to bring out drying sherry notes, will kill the sweetness and accelerate the chalky note of the finish.

Generally it is a meaty and mellow dram but is unfortunately marred by a few unexpected and unbalancing notes, namely the strange minerality on the finish which, when I discovered it, I really couldn’t see past.

£75 seems a touch on the pricy side, I’ve had better Mortlachs for much less.

53.242, Honey & Vanilla Smoke, IB, SMWS, 58.4%abv, press sample (Available here)

53.242

This is a 7 year old Caol Ila matured in a refill ex-bourboun hogshead. 332 bottles are available, one of which will cost you £56.

Nose: There is a light peat smoke with a slighty fishy note, perhaps almost kippery. Underneath these more dominant notes there are elements of citrus, bananas, honey and some blossom. There is a slight sweet fizz on the nose.

Palate: The palate is lightly peated but this is intermingled with some very sweet fruit notes. It is lightly oily and now and again some touches of white ash pop up. There is a good smooth vanilla element throughout that tempers the younger spirit. Although there are hints of youth here and there I would be hard pushed to guess that its only 7 years old, it appears somewhat older in its nature.

Finish: Full of coastal tang with some elements of balsa wood, a touch of rubber, whilst the lingering smoke outlasts the sweeter elements.

Refill bourbon casks are fast becoming my favourites and this is a decent example of a young dram taking just the right amount of character from its cask.

There are quite a few young Caol Ila bottlings out there, varying in price from £45 to £59 so this sits quite nicely in the middle in terms of price, but nearer the top in terms of quality and drinkability.

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