I recently learned of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and once reading about their offerings, I signed up for a membership. My introductory mini-bottles have just arrived.
The Society provides select single cask bottlings. They come without a distillery label, rather a two part number. The first is a number for the distillery, the second for the number of single cask bottlings that the Society has produced from that distillery.
The Society provides tasting notes from the panel who selects which casks are ready to be bottled. They also give an intriguing descriptive name. For example, the middle of the three 10cl mini-bottles above is numbered 29.99, and comes with the label “Power and Scorched Earth”. It indicates that the whiskey has been aged 20 years and is 59.6 ABV. The number 29 is for the Laphroaig distillery. This 99th bottling comes from a sherry butt cask. All of the Society offerings are non-chill filtered. So I am guessing the color hints to a strong sherry influence. Given the distillery origins, I anticipate a unique nose and palate.
The Society documentation makes it clear that they do not place the distillery name on the bottling, since a whiskey from a single cask can be, and apparently often is, distinctive from the distillery single malt offerings. I am anticipating a fun and engaging journey.
There are some other interesting benefits to membership. Here is a link to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America.
Highland Park Dark Origins, 46.8% ABV, non-chill filtered.
This is a new addition to the Highland Park line of single malt whiskey, not just a special release. It does not have an age statement. It is distinctive in it’s use of twice as many “first fill sherry casks” for aging the whiskey as is used in Highland Park 12. Using 80% first-fill Sherry casks (the rest are aged casks used previously) – 60% are first-fill European oak and 20% are from first-fill American oak. This seems to be something of a trend. Macallan has a new non-age statement whiskey, Rare Cask, that is 100% first-fill Sherry cask finished. The big difference is cost, the Dark Origins sells in the neighborhood of $80. The Rare Cask comes in at $300, very steep for a non-age statement whiskey and you will not see me reviewing it here.
Back to Dark Origins. It certainly has more of a sherry influence on the nose compared to the Highland Park 12. It is also a little darker in color, but not dramatically so. I think it might be just a bit more smokey than other Highland Park.
On the nose, I find a drier expression. Sherry, chocolate, caramel with underlying peat. The first sip certainly brings on the Sherry sweetness. I find there is a bit of an orange twist to the chocolate element on the palate, along with spice, and closing with peat and smoke. The finish has a little heat, intermediate in duration. It has just a little more enhanced element of the light gentle smoke finish of a Highland Park.
This is certainly a Highland Park whiskey, but with a twist. Probably not as refined and balanced in some dimensions, but a little more bold. I will certainly drink it, and enjoy it, as a fun addition to my single malt neighborhood.
We recently had a few friends drop by to share a little single malt. I sat out a few of my favorites for easy access. I should note that six of the twenty bottles were Ardbeg, including a new member of my single malt neighborhood – Ardbeg Supernova, the SN2014 Committee Release. I fear that some of my favorite expressions from Islay were given extra exposure!
Two other new ones, hidden by other bottles in the photo, were Highland Park Dark Origins and Caol Ila Unpeated Stitchell Reserve.
In addition to these new additions, the lineup included Lagavulin 16, Port Ellen 9th Edition, Ardbeg Supernova, Ardbeg 10, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Ardbeg Uigeadal, Ardbeg Alligator, Ardbog, Laphroaig 18, Talisker 25, Bunnahabain 18, Bruichladdich 1989 18 Year Old, Glenfarclas 21, Macallan 18, Highland Park 18, Oban 18, and Glenmorangie 18 Extremely Rare. A lot of quality, fun single malt whiskey. I wanted to share a few of the better single malts I have across a range of tastes.
Needless to say, I did not sample all of these in one evening.
Now, I must really get busy and start writing up and posting my impressions of the newer acquisitions. I did try all three, quite distinct from one another, each enjoyable in their respective domains.