SMWS 1.192

SMWS 1-192

SMWS 1.192 – Syrup Sponge in a Lumberjack’s Pocket

This SMWS bottling is from a Genfarclas distillery cask.  The whisky was aged for 22 years in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead cask.   It was bottled in 2015 at 56% ABV.

I always enjoy the rich descriptions of the SMWS tasting notes.  Here is what they had to say about SMWS 1.192.

“This dram smelled like a barista’s apron (coffee,brown sugar,chocolate) with further sweetness of honey, cinder toffee, dried dates, apricot jam and syrup-smothered pancakes, but always balanced by polished wood and a sawmill wrapped in Fablon. Waves of sweetness flooded the mouth-toffee,salted chocolate,honey,boiled sweets and lollipops and it had very attractive cigar box goodness. The reduced nose continued the wood and sweetness theme – syrup sponge pudding a lumberjack’s pocket. honey nut cornflakes (including the sunshine), butterscotch and maple syrup- completely sensual and elegant. The reduced palate was deliciously tasty and sophisticated- candy floss and passion -fruit.”

Not surprisingly, I find a different mix of elements in my tasting notes. There is a sweetness here, but more citrus based, I get scents of orange and apricot.   There is also a light peat smoke element.  As one who is fond of Glenfarclas whisky, I do find here is a real familiarity in the nose, just not as much of a sherry element.

The first sip is a strong reminder that this is bottled at cask strength.  The aggressive burn of 56% ABV brings a sweet, hot, spicy first wave to the palate.  Under that, as the burn subsides, I taste orange-chocolate, cinnamon, and light smoke.  The mix of light peat, spice, and sweet fruit lingers, I suspect it is that combination that contributes to the “Syrup Sponge in a Lumberjack’s Pocket” descriptor. The finish is medium-to-long.

When I add water, I find even more familiarity with a Glenfarclas whisky profile.  On the nose there is a bit more complexity, maybe adding a little vanilla.  On the palate, less burn brings out more of the spicy elements, and adds butterscotch to the flavor mix.  On the finish, I find elements of liquorice flavor added. Overall, this is a whisky that benefits from adding a little water, cutting the cask strength enhances the flavor profile while still delivering a strong whisky punch.

I read that there were only 264 bottles of this fun whisky.  I will enjoy my good fortune of having acquired one.

Säntis Malt, Edition Dreifaltigkeit

Santis Malt

Säntis Malt, Edition Dreifaltigkeit.  52% ABV.

I have been enjoying sampling some single malt whisky from places other than Scotland, the comparisons with Scotch are fun and highly varied.  A while back, one of the blogs that I follow mentioned a single malt whisky from Switzerland that sounded very interesting.  After doing a bit of looking around, I was able to find a reasonably priced bottle where my curiosity exceeded the concern with shipping costs.

The whisky?  Säntis Malt, Edition Dreifaltigkeit.  This is a single malt whisky produced by a family-run distillery that is known for brewing beer in Switzerland. The Edition Dreifaltigkeit is a cask-strength single malt whisky, 52% ABV.

This is a very smoky whisky and I have enjoyed reading about the process that brings it’s unique profile.  The malt is smoked in three stages; beech, oak and peet smoked.  The peat comes from a local moor and the water from Alpstein Mountains.  It is aged in very old oak beer casks that have been smoked.

They have been distilling whisky since 1999, producing low volume due to limited availability of the aged beer casks used to age the whisky.   It has gained some attention, particularly being named the “European whisky of the year” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2010.

On the nose, the smoke is prominent.  But it is not your peat phenol smoke.  The smoke more roasted, charred oak, with a kind of BBQ-like sweetness.  After it sets a while, I find minor elements of sweetness, scents of vanilla, and perhaps a bit of glazed ham.

On the palate, it is very smoky, but in a way that is unique from the smoke of a Talisker or an Islay scotch.  My first flavor impression, is like slightly burnt BBQ chicken skin.  Burnt flavors up front, with a bit of a BBQ sauce sweetness underlying.  It has an oily coating mouth feel, perhaps why chicken skin came to mind as the foundation for the burnt flavors.  The residual is a bit tarry, akin to the aftertaste of having smoked a cigarette.  Adding a drop or two of water cuts a bit of the cask strength, and mellows out the smoke a little.  With that, I get more of  the smoked ham element now, which I find less aggressive on the palate.

The finish is short, smoky, with some subtle vanilla notes.

Am I happy that I tried this whisky?  Yes.  It is a very good, well balanced, whisky with a distinctive taste profile.  I will enjoy sipping it and sharing with friends with my affinity for appreciating the enjoyable range of whisky available today.

Would I purchase another bottle?  Probably not. The decision to not pursue another bottle would be conditioned cost, profile and my curiosity about other awaiting discoveries.  While the base cost was reasonable, when you add the shipping costs, you are in the price range of some of the nice 12 year aged single malt scotches.   So, I would likely either invest in the next Scotch whisky, or stroll on to the next world single malt whisky that I just have to sample at least once.



Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey


Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey

I have read a little about this American single malt whiskey and I found it all the more interesting in that it comes from one of my favorite places to visit – Seattle.

This particular variation of Westland whiskey comes from the mix of a peated malt mash and a 100% Washington state pale malt.   The whiskey is aged for a minimum of two years in a combination of 1st-filled ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.   It is bottled at 46% ABV, non-chill filtered, and no coloring added.

I did not find as much of a peat influence as I anticipated on the nose.  It has more of a floral presence with a bit of fruit sweetness.  There is smoke, but it is not pronounced.  But, on first sip I did find the smoke coming more forward, balanced well with floral dimensions and a little dry white wine.  On mid-palate I find something more like sherry-influenced sweetness intertwined with light peat.  The finish is relatively short.

I really like this whiskey.  For being as young as it is, it has an impressive balance and smoothness.   While I have tasted other American single malts that I have also liked, none have been as close to the flavor profile of Scotch whisky as the Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey.  It does not have an Islay-level peat.  I think the parallel might be more in the character of a lightly peated whisky from Campbeltown.

I can see why this whiskey has earned so much recognition and several awards.  I certainly plan to keep a bottle in my cabinet. It is a very good single malt whiskey at a very reasonable price level.

I hope that I can arrange a visit to the Westland distillery on my next trip to Seattle.  It would be a nice addition to the usual detours to Canon and the Whisky Bar.

Springbank 15


Springbank 15, 46% ABV, non-chill filtered.

It has been a while since I last sampled a dram of Springbank. The Springbank distillery is family-owned and located in the Campbeltown region.  Back in 2014, when I was first trying my hand at tasting notes, I wrote a bit about Springbank 10.  As brief as my notes are these days, I was even less verbose back then!

Now, I am trying my hand at capturing the quality of Springbank 15.  This single malt whiskey is finished in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.

On the nose I first get the scent of sherry that is complemented with a citrus element – perhaps orange peel.  There is also a subtle peat element.  The first sip brings buttery sherry balanced with light peat and sea salt.  I find a little smoke on mid-palate.  It is smooth and balanced throughout. Finish is moderate and dry, with a tease of peat smoke.

I find myself wondering why it took me so long to get back to a Springbank whisky again.  It is a really fun dram.  It does not have as much peat as Islay whisky, I recall reading that it has about 8 PPM, but it has just enough to tease my tastes for a peated whisky.

Sometimes, when I try a single malt whisky with this age profile, I do not find the combination of taste and balance that I anticipate.  However, I do not find that disappointment here.  The overall profile of this whisky is very pleasurable.  I will not take so long to visit it again.


Stranahan’s Diamond Peak


Stranahan’s Diamond Peak

I decided to sample another American single malt whiskey before returning to tasting notes from my scotch cabinet.  Stranahan’s is a small batch whiskey distilled in a neighboring state, Colorado.  Stranahan’s Diamond Peak is a special bottling that is aged for at least 4 years in new charred White American Oak barrels.  It is made with local barley and water from the Rocky Mountains.

This whiskey is 47% ABV and non-chill filtered.  My tasting notes are from a Lot # 9 bottle.

On the nose, I find sweetness, primarily honey.  On second pass, I find a scent akin to lightly smoked pear.  There is also a damp oak forest element.  On the palate, the first sip is immediately sweet, with a bit of a spice prickling of the tongue.  In mid-palate, I find banana, and a little charcoal, with the spice lingering.  The finish is relatively short, pleasantly warm, and ends with a raspberry note.

This is a good young whiskey.  Similar to my recent tasting of another American single malt, there is something about it that makes it unlike most scotch, possibly the influences of the bourbon-like approach of finishing in new charred barrels?   But, do not read that comment as suggesting that I would find Stranahan’s Diamond Peak to have a profile like the Cut Spike whiskey I recently sampled.   Fundamentally, I like both of these single malt whiskeys, but I would not mistake one for the other.

The only drawback to my assessment of Stranahan’s Diamond Peak is that it costs more, around $70, than I think may be warranted for a young whiskey in a market where there are similarly young whiskeys for less, and more aged scotches for no more.

Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey


Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey

I am taking a little detour of late, to explore some single malt whisky that is not scotch.  I have recently put together tasting notes on a mesquite smoked single malt whiskey from Arizona, and another from India.  Today, I am venturing very close to home, tasting a single malt whiskey from right here in Nebraska, Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey.

I had become intrigued with tasting this single malt after I heard that it had won some awards.  In particular, this whiskey won the 2014 Double Gold Award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  In 2016, Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey was awarded a Gold Award at the same competition.  Given that I live within 50 miles of the distillery, it was not difficult to obtain a bottle.

There is a lot that I found unique about this whiskey as I started reading.  It is made from malted barley and limestone-filtered water from the sandhills of Nebraska.  The whiskey is distilled in copper pot stills imported from Scotland.  The finish takes a bourbon-like turn as they age the whiskey for two years in new charred American oak barrels.

Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey is bottled at 43% ABV, non-chill filtered, with no coloring added.  The bottle I sampled is from Batch #4.

On the nose, I immediately get sweetness.  I sense honey element, probably because it seems to have a little floral base.  But, overall, the nose is not easy for me to capture.  In time, I get some orange in the sweetness along with oak and just a bit of charcoal.

The first sip brings a bit of a sweet-spicy light burn, that quickly fades.  Then, I get vanilla, some floral, orange, and some oak on the back.  It is sweet throughout.  But, more of a mix and balance of flavors than I would expect in this young a whiskey.  The finish is rich and relatively short.

I really like this whiskey.  It is a fun dram with a unique profile.  I would not think that many would mistake this for a scotch in a blind tasting. But I think that many scotch drinkers would enjoy this whiskey, particularly if they have preferences that lean toward the sherry influenced single malts.

Lest you think I am too effusive because it is a local whiskey, I did a quick look and found a couple other reviews online that give Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey a positive assessment.


A bit of reflection on my Scotch journey

After reading a humorous blog post about stereotypes and taste by Gentlemangrimm, I thought a bit about tastes and preferences for whisky.  More to the point, I thought about how my tastes for Scotch whisky have evolved over time.

Reflecting on my particular interest in single malt Scotch, I can still recall my initial introduction, at the bar in the Capital Hotel, in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1999.   I was on a work trip, having a quiet meal at the bar, and asked the bartender for something different than the usual bourbon.

A current photo of the bar, pretty much as I recall it, right where I was sitting.


That first taste, of a Glenmorangie, was enough to make me curious to discover more.  As I read about single malt Scotch, I was curious about the variety, and the highly variable opinions about what was good, or not.  My journey started with some early explorations of Glenmorangie casking variations.  Then I started branching out a bit, to others, as best I reacall initially to Glenfarclas, Highland Park and Macallan.

Relatively early in this journey, I had read somewhere that Islay single malts were particularly good.  I was in New Orleans for a conference, and found my way to a bar that had a decent selection of single malt Scotches.  I asked the bartender for a recommendation for a good Islay single malt.   I ended up with a Laphroaig.  It was quite a surprise, as I had not done much reading to fully anticipate the taste profile, and my initial reaction was that I would stay away from Islay single malts.

Over the years, I started to branch out from the Highland and Speyside distilleries.  I recall my first exposure to Talisker, and how I enjoyed the discovery of more smoke on my Scotch.  I recall that around that time I also learned about Campbeltown single malts, particularly a very nice Springbank.

Eventually, I am not exactly sure when, I once again wondered into the world of Islay single malts.  But, by this time, my tastes had evolved.  I now count various Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich single malts as some of my favorites.

Just as my initial response to Laphroaig is very divergent from my current perception, I am also enjoying going back and re-discovering some early favorites.   The experiences of my 17 year journey have helped shape my appreciation of nuances in these whiskies.  I find that my early favorites, for example Glenfarclas 17, are still one’s that I really like.  However, if I had written earlier tasting notes, I suspect that they would vary in meaningful ways from what I would write now.   My perceptions have been conditioned by the path I have walked.

I am not exactly sure where I am going with all of this, other than perhaps reflecting on part of what intrigues me about single malt Scotch.   Within the criteria that define what can be labeled as ‘Scotch’, there is an amazing diversity of styles that produce a wide range of tastes.   Moreover, they keep evolving in ways that I anticipate will keep me returning to find out what lies around the next bend.