Like many whisky drinkers out there, I had heard about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). Until last year however, I had never realised there was a tasting room/bar in London. And it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that I discovered how brilliant ‘St Greville Street’ was! Cue Adrian Barnet (@mynameisgone), a brilliant member of the twitter #Whiskyabric who I had got to know over 2013. He asked if I fancied meeting him and a few others up there on the first Saturday of January as he could sign me in. Well….. How could I decline?!
[For those who don’t know, SMWS bottle single cask whiskies. Each outturn of each cask is given a unique numerical identifier, representing first the originating distillery and second the individual cask from which the bottle was taken. The Tasting Panel also gives each bottling an awesome name with some whimsical tasting notes. It’s my kind of place]
After a nightmare journey to Farringdon, I arrived to meet Adrian. This was only the second time I’ve met someone from the #Whiskyfabric, and the first time I had met Adrian. Top bloke. He took me into the rooms, where I discovered some sofas, a fire and what can only be described as a treasure cove of whisky. I also discovered two more drinking buddies in the form of Dave and Scott. Dave Worthington (@whiskydiscovery) was one of the first whisky-ers I followed on twitter, and is the author of the first whisky blog I properly read. We had chatted many times before online, but again, this was our first meeting. Scott (Saunders_AFC) on the other hand, had only cropped up on my twitter feed in the recent weeks, but this didn’t stop us getting along like a house on fire. Great company all round.
SMWS 84.12 ‘Party in the Vineyard’ (58.2%)
This was our first dram of the afternoon and chosen by Scott. This was my first Glendullan and I was pleasantly surprised. On the nose it was sweetly floral with some oakiness. On the palate it became incredibly fruity, especially green apples. Hints of woodiness became more apparent with time. This was Incredibly smooth for 59%. It was quite dry on the finish but retained its sweet quality.
SMWS 2.84 ‘Katherine Hepburn in a Vintage Jaguar’ (53.3%)
For the second instalment, the gentleman that is Joe McGirr (@SMWSlondon) brought over this little treat for us from the January Outturn that had been causing a stir on twitter. It matured for 20 years in a first-fill ex-sherry cask, with only 77 bottles of this release. The most notable thing about this dram was its unusual dark colour… Especially for a Glenlivet. The nose on this was fantastic. Huge sherry notes, woody/sawdust, nuttiness and some cocoa too. My main note was “Nose = Lovely”. On the palate sweet syrup, liquorice, anise, chocolate. Lovely level of woodiness. I did find this a tad thin on the palate, but man this has a smooth, delicate, lingering finish. This was special and know why people will go for it.
SMWS 3.193 ‘Baby Faced Arsonist’ (58.2%)
Dave’s turn to choose and he brought over one that really excited me. Originally the nose was interesting. Farmyard peat, peppery & nice sherry. Dave & I detected a slight hint of struck match, but not in a bad way. I wouldn’t have guessed bowmore straight away. The palate made me smile. Real POW factor. Beautiful marriage of slightly harsh peat and sherry, it tingled on tongue perfectly. There were sweet juicy fruit flavours at the front, whilst an explosion was occurring at back of the palate. This Bowmore didn’t hang around, and left my mouth feeling slightly abused, but clean. If there were any bottles left I would have bought one without a doubt.
SMWS 29.150 ‘Hand Rolled Cuban Cigars’
It was my turn to choose the weapon of choice, and after looking through the menu, one particular bottle caught my eye. I’d heard SMWS Laphroaig’s were pretty nifty, so when I saw an 18 year old on the menu I jumped & ordered one for us all. I had also tried the OB 18yo on the #LaphroaigTT in November, and I LOVED it. The nose had similarities to 18yo OB. Rather sweet, with a smooth level of peat & smoke. Not as heavy a peat as 10yo or Quarter Cask. Beautifully medicinal. The palate was beautifully balanced. Peat works the tongue smoothly, whilst the sweet woodiness takes over. Medicinal, but less so on palate. It peters away nicely, with the gentle smokiness lingering beautifully. Great stuff. Plus I love the label!
At this point, I thought we were drawing to a close. We’d had four great drams, and had been there a few hours. This, however was when Philip Storry (@philipstorry) jumped into the equation. I had never met Phillip before, but had been told he was a bit of a stalwart member of the SMWS. He was with another group, but that didn’t stop him popping over to chat throughout the afternoon. After a while he brought over a glass for each of us. “What dangerous substance could this be”, I thought to myself. He then handed me the bottle. It turned out to be a 1986 Bruichladdich bottled in 2005. I have come across very few independent bottlings of this awesome distillery, especially before it’s re-opening. It was sublime to say the least. The generosity of the surrounding whisky drinkers didn’t stop there, as two more “Money can’t buy bottles” found their way into my glass. Firstly a 20yo Heaven hill SMWS bourbon, followed by a Brora 2005 30yo special release. I was not only amazed by this generosity, from people who I had never met before and might never meet again, but the quality of these three fantastic bottlings.
SMWS 23.52 ‘Teenage Dreams’ (55.9%)
Some classic Laddie notes on nose, but amplified and more refined that usual OB’s. Beautiful, light, slightly floral, balanced, hints of peat there too. At first taste I fell in love with the stuff. It is Bruichladdich as its meant to be. Peat is there, but only showing its face now and again. Some real salty brinyness holds it all together. It stuck to my tongue and wouldn’t let go. Making sweet love with my taste buds. Incredibly drinkable. Correction. Incredible. [I love what Dave wrote on his blog: “Distilled in 1986, this would have been the Bruichladdich Mark Reiyner would have been enjoying before realising his dream and reopening the distillery in 2001”. Well said Dave.]
SMWS Bourbon (66%)
Heaven Hill, 20yo
Dusty, woody, yet sweet on the nose. Really pure & classy. I haven’t had a huge experience of bourbons, but man this was good. Full. Powerful. Massive on upper palate. Strong & sweet. Lingers forever… I was tasting it 2 hours later. Incredibly smooth for 66%. So different, yet so enjoyable.
Brora 30yo Diageo special release 2005
I was so excited to try this, especially after a 10-minute chat with an enthused Philip on Brora/Clynelish. On the nose there were similarities to certain Clynelish bottlings. Spicy, coastal brineyness. Peppery, with hints of fruit & smokiness. The palate was serious stuff though. Meaty, peppery. Heavy and strong, sticking to my palate and powering through. A lovely delicate whisp of smoke on finish. Slightly dry, holding my taste buds for what seemed like days. After 15 minutes in the glass, it just got bigger & smokier. Wow, this was something special!
I had a truly wonderful afternoon. My eyes were opened to the glory of the SMWS & St Greville Street. I got to meet some cracking guys, who I look forward to meeting again. And it showed not only how fun the #Whiskyfabric can be, but how generous and encouraging too. Here’s to many more.