It was recently Grain Week at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), and the folks there were very kind indeed to me and sent three great grain whiskies to review. They sent:
G10.4 (Strathclyde Distillery) – “A witch’s Christmas tipple”
G3.4 (Caledonian Distillery) – “Pride of Bengal”
G1.9 (North British Distillery) – “The palate gets a Ping!”
Before we review, can I just quickly recommend you check out the SMWS website, it’s a club worth considering joining, the amount of quality casks from every distillery you can think of is really quite astounding, I’m yet to have a bad dram bottled by the SMWS! For balance it’s fair to mention that there’s also plenty of other good quality fee-free independent bottlers around.
Right, let’s take a more in-depth look at the three drams…
“A witch’s Christmas tipple” – 57.9% ABV – 23yo.
Colour from an ex-bourbon hogshead is a full gold. The nose is clean with an alcoholic zinginess to it followed by a rich summer fruit vanillery spiciness and fresh grassy tones and mixed with a small dollop of oak aged tomato ketchup (?!).
On the palate it’s nice and full, very oily and with rich spices jumping straight out at you along with heat bubbling away. It’s packed full of flavour, I can’t get the thought of tomato out of my mind, but let’s put that to one side for the moment. There’s freshly cut oak, and old oak with a brushwood feel and there’s a sweetness with lots of melted / burnt brown sugars.
The finish shows a much more nutty effect on the palate, coconut along side hazel and almond. It’s long, sweet and warming on your chest, quite magical.
A drop of water brings out a more perfumed oiliness to the nose, best left hidden I say, an oiliness that almost turns costal in nature, slightly salty. However on the palate it reduces the heat a wee bit making it easier to enjoy, but not reducing the mouthfeel or finish noticeably, so worth it.
The words Christmas seem to be linked here, certainly I’d happily drink this on a dark windy cold winters eve, there’s enough of a different and curious depth to keep you amused for an evening.
This is £61.20 with 33 bottles left at time of review.
“Pride of Bengal” – 57.5% ABV – 27yo – Closed distillery.
This refill hogshead has produced an amazingly light straw colour for a damn of this age. On the nose plenty of old dunnage oak, with lovely bourbony summer citrus fruitiness and sweetness, and a grain freshness coming through. It really reminds me of standing in a good old warehouse taking in the smells.
On the palate a rich heavy oilded hot spicy fruit cake of goodies, every bit as good as any excellent Malt of similar age. It really is quite something compared to what the nose and colour might have lead you to wonder.
The finish is medium with a warmth spreading out over your chest slowly and beautifully.
A drop of water brings out an almost metallic, meaty edge to the nose, but doesn’t detract at all on the palate, maybe reducing the heat a wee bit, but leaving the herbal spice notes and oils intact.
The description suggests Indian connections, and right enough the spices in this whisky are constantly there.
This is £72.10 and there’s 7 bottles left at time of review.
“The palate gets a Ping!” – 62.8% ABV – 21yo.
Ex-bourbon hogshead grain giving a medium gold in colour. The nose is sweet and floral at the start going into kind of heavy oils by the end, it’s quite complex with butterscotch notes and vanilla ice cream.
On the palate the oils come straight through into a big mouthcoating which is smooth at first but quickly becoming hot and spicy due to the high ABV. It becomes nicely sweet and balanced with the slight spices and oak.. the palate sure does get a ping, but it’s quickly taken back down a notch to become really enjoyable.
The finish is fairly long and hot, oils left all over your mouth for a good while.
A drop of water allows a younger, sweeter oakiness to come forward, the high ABV closes the nose and palate a little, so a drop of water here works just find and changes the dram to allow more aromas and tastes to come forward, so it’s very much worth it.
A further glug of water brings the dram down to a much smoother drinking range. It opens up some really summery floral notes along with nice brown sugars. On the palate it’s still pretty full, still a little spicy, but more vanilla and molasses show through. The finish becomes quite refreshing, almost minty fresh eucalyptus.
I’m ever so pleased to have tried this, up until now I’ve not enjoyed North British on the whole, but this is very much an enjoyable dram, every bit as good as any aged Malt.
This was £54.70, but sadly now all sold out.
Samples kindly provided by SMWS London.