At the end of January, I received an email from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) announcing that we would soon be receiving a small Valentine’s Day gift in the mail. As a general rule, I don’t care for Valentine’s Day, but when there’s delicious whisky headed our way, I’m all for it! This cheery little email from the SMWSA made us feel a little like this…
Let’s get on with our reviews…
Cask No. 93.61 aka CalMac Welder’s Tea Break
What they say…
On the nose, the sweet charabanc of sugar puffs, Crunchy-nut cornflakes, fudge cookies, honey and chocolate flapjacks collided into the savoury wall of smoky bacon crisps, barbecued prawns and baked ham. The palate was also a crash site – big, rich and chewy, with cinder toffee, spiced sultanas and dark honey on toast scattered in a frightening wreckage of charcoal, ash, liquorice sticks, peat reek and industrial garages. The reduced nose suggested a welder on a Calmac ferry enjoying a Daim Bar. The palate – sweet and (we thought) acceptably dirty with a big spicy finish. From the ‘quiet outsider’ distillery in Campbeltown.
Drinking Tip: To aid the visceral enjoyment of a brutal rugby match
Date Distilled: June 1999
Colour: Orange sandstone
Cask Type: Refill hogshead
What we say…
- ABV: 58.3%
- Age: 14 Years Old
- Appearance: Ahhhhh, Amberlita! Or however you say Amber in Scottish.
- Limpd: Astringent at first, which is exactly what I was expecting from something with a 58.3% ABV. Once I work past the alcohol, I get cane sugar, toffee, Earl Grey tea, buttered popcorn, and treacle.
- G-LO: Ohhhhh! The nose on this is sweet and luscious. I’m picking up dark brown sugar, caramel, clove, cinnamon, some musty grapes, pipe tobacco, and a healthy dose of nuttiness (no wisecracks please).
- Limpd: Hot and a little salty with a medicinal and metallic taste. It then transitions to a buttery toffee sweetness. With water, there’s a heightened medicinal quality and it loses some of its pleasant qualities, i.e. I get more sea salt and cinnamon.
- G-LO: Surprisingly mellow in the beginning given its high ABV. Definitely tasting the Sherry cask influence with lots of dried fruit and baking spices from start to finish. Not as intense as I was expecting with pretty consistent flavors from start to finish. And speaking of the finish, it lasts for quite awhile with oodles of lingering fruit and spice.
Cask No. 36.67 aka Intensely Tasty
What they say…
A good example of whisky transformed by water – we didn’t know what to make of the nose – quite fruity (baked apple, fruit salad, watermelon, lemon curd, pear-drops) with an odd assortment of other aromas – Hawaiian pizza (pineapple, ham, pizza dough) pine forests and model kits. With water, suddenly the sweetness was released – caramel wafers, honeycomb crunch ice-cream and vanilla fudge. The unreduced palate seemed sweet and sour – pineapple dusted with chilli and salt, peppery Cream Soda and a slightly metallic finish – but water settled it down to zesty key lime pie and biscuity flavours – intensely tasty. Named after Speyside’s biggest mountain.
Drinking Tip: As an aperitif or to awaken the senses
Date Distilled: June 2004
Colour: Fake gold
Cask Type: First-fill barrel
And here’s our take…
- ABV: 59.9%
- Age: 9 Years Old
- Appearance: Golden yellow.
- Limpd: Despite the high ABV, the first notes are of lemon drop candies and honey. After that I get a blast of alcohol and the smell of a fresh haircut, i.e. Clubman Talc and Barbicide.
- G-LO: You would think that this 59.9% ABV whisky would singe your nose hairs, but that’s not the case. The alcohol is there, but it fades away quickly. Quite light and fruity with vanilla nougat, canned peaches, a touch of cinnamon, some tobacco leaf, and maybe some menthol.
- Limpd: WOW! This whisky is hot, sweet, and tangy! It’s like barbecue in a glass. I’m thinking sweet and sour short ribs over a fire with a side order of cinnamon tart for dessert. With water, the heat is reduced and more of the barbecue is released. Also getting some fresh cut wood and tea biscuit notes.
- G-LO: When I took my first sip, I said to myself, “Self, this doesn’t burn at all”. But then I took a second sip and let it sit on my tongue for a few seconds and then “WHAM!”, this whisky really opened up! Starts off lightly sweet and fruity with those peachy notes, and then it heats up with a cinnamon and chile pepper heat. Some tobacco leaf comes through in the middle and the spice builds even more. The finish brings some vanilla as all the flavors some together. There’s a pleasant, lingering burn with some herbal notes coming through in the aftertaste.
If you put a gun to our heads and forced us to pick a winner in this head to head tasting, we would go with Cask No. 36.67 because it definitely lived up to its name. What we liked most is how the nose is all light and fruity while the palate is intense and flavorful. According to the Whisky Portal, Cask No. 36.67 was sourced from the Benrinnes Distillery. This might be our first experience with a Benrinnes. If the rest of their expressions are as good as this one, then we’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from this distillery.
With regards to Cask No. 93.61, we enjoyed it, but the palate just didn’t live up to its fabulous nose. Our biggest gripe is the fact that it lacked the flavor transitions and intensity of Cask No. 36.67. Cask No. 93.61 was a good whisky, it just wasn’t a great one.
Many thanks to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America for sending us these very generous samples!