*A sincere thank you to the good folks at the SMWSA for the samples.
The second 2012 “holiday” outturn from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) was entitled “Holiday Parcels” and now that I’ve missed that boat and the holidays are pretty much over, I thought I’d take a three-part look at this particularly interesting group.
Here’s part two of three, a pair of relative youngsters…
SMWSA Cask No. 42.10, “Straightforward, sweet and spicy”
The Isle of Mull’s only distillery, Tobermory, was initially founded in 1798 under the name Ledaig (pronounced LED-chig…I know, right, just when you thought you had an easy one) in 1798. Over the years, the name switched back and forth from Ledaig to Tobermory, and the distillery spent more time closed than open. Today, Tobermory is open and producing two distinct styles of whisky, an eponymous non-peated malt and the medium-peated Ledaig…which is what this one is…
The Nose: A bit of a deceptively complex nose on this one. Initially there’s Lemonhead candies, burnt toffee, possibly with nuts, possibly not), and wet hay. Powdered sugar cookies and softened, peat are tucked further back with some grated ginger, faintly sour malt and just a touch of cut cedar in the background. Adding water brings out more a bit more of that farmy peat while simultaneously playing up more sugared lemon sweetness.
The Palate: Sugary sweet and yet peppery right away. Lemon curd and white pepper to start with vegetal peat leading into some rough-ish woodspice notes; raw clove, coriander and just a touch of star anise. Water calms that initial burst of pepper down, allowing more honeyed notes to come through, and also tones down the brash spice.
The Finish: Lingering and white-peppery still, with continued clove and that little touch of star anise.
Thoughts: A strange little whisky. Definitely young, a little rough and a little simple but there was a lurking, subtle complexity that made it pretty interesting. The slightly farmy, Ledgaig peated-ness definitely saves the day in that regard. Interestingly, that complexity was more apparent at strength, and though it was a lot more drinkable with water added, it lost a little of that uniqueness. I enjoyed this despite its quirkiness and because of it…if that makes any sense.
SMWSA Cask No. 42.10, Island (2005 Ledaig 7 Year Old, matured in a refill barrel)
SMWSA Cask No. 9.62, “Mouth-wateringly Sharp and Sweet”
Thanks to Italy’s relatively insatiable thirst for their 5 year old expression, Glen Grant has regularly been amongst the top five or six best-selling single malt brands on the planet. Considering that the U.S. is the largest consumer of single malt scotch and that Glen Grant has only recently made more of a push in this country and, well, you can see just how much Italians love the whisky from this particular distillery.
The Nose: A crisp fresh nose. Warm caramel sauce and tart citrus; fresh-squeezed lemon, orange zest, and unfortunately, a bit of lemon-scented, solvent-y furniture polish. Behind that, there are nice but all to subtle notes of fresh cinnamon-ginger cookies. Almost buried hints of fresh-cut oak and wet stone are easy to miss. Thankfully water takes away much of that solvent-y heat, bringing out instead more fruit in the form of tinned fruit cocktail and ripe mango. Wood spice notes are softened quite a bit but more sawdust come through.
The Palate: A bit of brown sugar is quickly overwhelmed by a high-alcohol astringency which nearly wipes out anything else. White pepper and bitter ginger give way to much more oak influence than I anticipated. Very green, coarse clove, gentian, and oak mingle with the peppery heat. Water makes this palatable, but it remains fairly simple. A bit more butterscotch comes through and the edges on the spice are nicely rounded
The Finish: Continued sharp woodspice with a bit of salted nuts towards the very end. Again with water, things are calmed down, and the dram has a lingering mouth-watering-ness(?).
Thoughts: Hmmm…too hot and too simple. At strength, the solvent-y citrus nose pretty much overwhelms any subtler flavors that are there and the palate, too, is nearly undone by a sharp bitterness. Neat, this was certainly not a whisky to savour, it requires water…and fast. It’s much, much more appreciable with water, and has decent balance, but in the end, it’s lacking depth and complexity. Interestingly, my notes were fairly close to those of the SMWS, however, this one did not impress me overmuch.
SMWSA Cask No. 9.62, Speyside (2002 Glen Grant 8 Year Old, matured in a first fill barrel)