*A sincere thank you to the good folks at the SMWSA for the samples.
Here’s part two of three taking a look at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America’s 2012 Holiday Outturn. This time around, it’s the two youngsters of the group, one I liked quite a bit, the other…not so much.
This is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s first offering from the newest distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. This is probably one of the youngest bottlings the SMWS has ever done as well. Kilchoman started producing spirit in 2005 and has released whiskies as young as three years old to wide acclaim, so this relatively ancient five year old single cask expression is a treat.
The Nose: A really lovely nose full of peat, smoke, and sweet citrus. Meyer lemon curd and juicy orange washed with ashy, dry woodsmoke are the dominant notes with chocolate covered berries and vanilla bean following behind. There’s a touch of seaweed drying on a sunny beach and just a hint of cola further in the background. Water not only saves your nose hairs from being singed off, it also tones down the sweet citrus a bit while turning up the peat and ash, and adding some cask-influenced cinnamon.
The Palate: Citrus-y sweet to start with the orange outpacing the candied lemon. Notes of holiday spiced apples and vanilla cream soda are washed over by a big swell and briney, salty peat and dry woodsmoke but manage to linger throughout. Coarse clove and drying cinnamon accompany a growing ashiness as it finishes. Water is fairly necessary here, and really makes the palate shine. It gives the sweet citrus a creaminess, rounds out and lengthens the vanilla, clove and cinnamon, as well as the smoke, and holds off that ashy quality some, thereby giving it a much more comfortable and approachable progression.
The Finish: That great dry woodsmoke continues turning ashy as it fades. The spice and sweetness from earlier in the palate happily hang around for a while as well. As with the palate, water tones the ashy quality down and allows the mouth-watering spice to come forward.
Thoughts: Being a big fan of Kilchoman already, and having tried a three year old single barrel expression, I was pretty excited to give this five year old a try. I certainly was not disappointed. The elements I associate with Kilchoman were there but there was also more influence from the first-fill ex-bourbon cask than I expected. The addition of orange citrus and woodspice like clove and cinnamon to the overall profile really show how much the barrel contributed in a short time. Water definitely helps this one stand out more, there’s just too much heat straight out of the bottle. I’ve found a remarkable consistency to Kilchoman’s whisky so far and this one is no exception. A delicious, excellent dram to sip next to the fire on a cold, blustery night. Recommended.
This one comes from the only active distillery in Wales, Penderyn. Like Kilchoman, Penderyn is also newcomer on the malt whisky scene, beginning production in 2004.
The Nose: Light, youthful, and sweet. Initially, vanilla crème brûlée with that burnt sugar top, and quite a few cherry notes; fresh tart, sweet baked, and chocolate covered. Dark berry notes are there as well, think blackberries and currants. There’s also a slightly sour, beery, spirit-y quality, though not completely an unpleasant one as it provides a bit of a counterpoint to the fruit. Water seems to simplify things, toning down the fruit and spirity grain while coaxing out cocoa powder and vanilla creme cookies.
The Palate: Fairly hot with a creamy mouthfeel. Milky caramel and french vanilla ice cream morph into unsweetened chocolate and more of that grain-y, beer wash from the nose. There’s also more spice than I expected, sharp clove, cardamom, and pine resin. Water helps the palate immensely adding some jammy fruit and more fudgey chocolate early on, and rounding off the sharp edges of the spice.
The Finish: Hot, with that grippy resin and grain mash spirit-y-ness lingering. Touches of vanilla bean, white pepper and clove as well. As with the palate, water calms the finish down nicely.
Thoughts: Interesting, I guess. Undiluted, I found this one too spirit-y with too much sourness to really enjoy. Nice fruit notes on the nose, but overall, drinking it neat was an impressive experience in the wrong direction. To say this one needs water is an understatement, it pretty much demands it. Though H2O did help quite a bit, it didn’t quite tamp down that sour hotness enough and ended up simplifying things a little too much. For me, this was too youthful and simply did not have the complexity or structure to really be anything more than decent curiosity.