With a guilty delay, here we are to complete the publication of the reviews of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Advent Calendar 2020: you’ll forgive us, revelry is revelry for everyone. The calendar closes with some heavy stuff, a rum and a Swedish spirit that we’ve never met before, but which is spoken of very highly… You see, they say that you never learn anything from drinking…!
Shiver me timbers 10.195 6 yo (Global Gathering 2020, Smws, 59,8%) – 21 December
Directly from an Islay distillery at the end of one of Scotland’s most beautiful roads, here is a young peat malt, as it is so popular now among indies. N: Young and Islay at extreme levels. There’s a very pronounced dirtiness to it, like brine and bacon sticks. Beach. Salami skin not too integrated. Also a lot of green smoggy cereal. Then comes an impetuous simple vanilla sweetness, like liquid sugar. P: explosive entry, still very dirty and cerealy. The peat is really acrid, accompanied by savoury hints. White chocolate and vanilla. Simple but direct, certainly very drinkable. The little defect on the nose is lessened, but it remains animal. F: more burnt pork fat, saltiness, peat barley grain and burnt grass. There are a lot of Bunna’s like this, already insanely good at this age, this one perhaps pays for a slightly too wild nose – obviously only to our taste: 84/100.
Forthright without being impertinent 39.193 11 yo (2008, Smws, 62,3%) – 22 dicembre
It’s not every day you get to taste a malt from this Speyside distillery, with no official bottlings and little available to independents – despite a very close association with wood, and we’ve said far too much. Bravo Smws! N: did someone say coconut? Well here we have a whole ton of it, complicit in the fact that the cask is a first fill ex bourbon barrel. Almond flavoured nail polish remover (over 62 degrees is no picnic). We then have a lot of sugary richness reminiscent of Malaga and cream ice cream. Cream puffs and fruit pastry. Peach, banana. P: impressive how easy it is to drink at this strength; we still have an explosion of coconut, vanilla, custard. Linkwood confirms itself as a champion of fruit, displaying yellow apple, apricot, orange juice with great freshness. Hints of sweet wood. F: quite long, still with lots of yellow fruit and cream ice cream. Dried buttery fruit, like Pecan nut. An easy whisky that doesn’t pay duty to the crazy alcohol content, clean although heavily impacted by a very active cask. Enjoyment: 85/100.
Ready-made Marmalade R13.2 22 yo (1998, Smws, 62,1%) – 23 dicembre
A single cask of a rum distilled in Trinidad and matured in a first fill ex-bourbon cask. N: two souls coexist, pushing each other into a frenzied profile. On the one hand the first-fill ex-bourbon cask, giving mighty barrels of vanilla and warm sponge cake, caramel; on the other those notes of that famous and closed distillery in Trinidad (we understand each other, in short) that remind us a bit of diesel fuel. Then there’s lots of brown sugar (mavvà?) and very ripe fruit like persimmon. Super charged. P: explosive with its 62 degrees of brute power, bombs of caramelised sugar and icing. Sicilian cassata and burnt marshmallow. There is also a lot of ripe persimmon with fruit that mixes with plastic notes, still fuel, suitable for more than trained palates. F: very long, with hypermature fruit dominating, soaked in naphtha and brine. With the addition of water, the fuel notes become bigger and surprisingly take centre stage, bringing out a bitter edge that is not exactly graceful. Often the bottlings of this defunct distillery are hailed by fans of the Caribbean distillate, and we too, despite our colossal ignorance, have often been seduced by them. Here, however, a truly disproportionate sweetness, exhibited in a way that is not to our liking, is compounded by dirty notes that add charm only in part, however intriguing. Nonetheless, it is definitely an experience to be had, which we number with an 84/100.
Black Oak 8 yo (2019, SMWS, 50%) – 24 dicembre
Curious operation, this one: Society does not declare any number on the label other than the age (8 years), for this Speyside malt that has undergone a finish in ex-Armagnac barrels. N: very fragrant and aromatic, tending decidedly towards sugary: ripe fruit, candy floss, a sweet note of dried apricots that brings to mind a good Muscat. Nothing extraordinarily complex, but pleasant. Some vegetal hints peep out after a while. P: consistent, tends a little more towards citrus and spice here. Notes of orange liqueur, cinnamon and ginger (Christmas biscuits). More dried apricots, then something darker, like pipe tobacco. Some hints of infused tea a little too much, curious for a malt of this age but not at all annoying. P: long, a bit ungainly, with the sweetness going to one side and the wood spices remaining as if detached. A pleasant experiment, overall a good drink, very interesting – woods of this kind will be used more and more in the years to come, let’s get used to these flavours. Pity about the finish that is a little bit underwhelming. 85/100.
A sweet kiss from a smoking mermaid 145.1 8 yo (2011, Smws, 62,7%) – 25 dicembre
The Sweden you don’t expect, not the “usual” Mackmyra but a micro-distillery founded in 2009. N: miraculous delicacy at over 62 degrees. It is very clean and crystalline, herbaceous and coastal. It feels like being in a sauna where herbs are heated. The smoke is not excessive and resembles the smell of a fire in the distance. Wood from a cabin in summer. Lemon to give additional freshness. P: here the alcohol content is already more noticeable and the drink becomes more difficult. The sweetness, however, is simple, like a sugary lemonade. Then burnt grass, chestnuts and so far so good. However, halfway through the sip there is a really exaggerated balsamic side (pine needles), again of warmed dried plants, together with a sense of plasticity that is frankly disturbing. F: good savouriness, on which however these notes of melted plastic and burnt pine needles insist in a disastrous way. With water: dried fish (leave it alone). Let’s say that consistency is definitely not its strong point: a really pleasant and chiselled nose is followed by a crazy and practically sinister palate. The definition of Sirena is therefore perfect, luring you in with its irresistible charm and then dragging you down into the abyss: 81/100 (average between a nose of 86 and a palate of 74).