The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWA) is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2018. The latest run includes an exclusive bottle dedicated to Scotland’s most famous poet Robert Burns. Burns Night is annually celebrated in Scotland on or around January 25. It commemorates the life of the bard (poet) Robert Burns, who was born on January 25, 1759. The day also celebrates Burns’ contribution to Scottish culture.

Below you can find a selection of expressions from the January 2018 run. To learn more about SMWS and become a member, visit here.

If Rabbie Burns Did Afternoon Tea – Cask 7.195 – £65.00

AGE 13 Years
DATE DISTILLED 22nd September 2003
CASK TYPE First Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel
REGION Speyside Lossie
OUTTURN 1 of 180 bottles
ABV 60.1%

Set the haggis aside and indulge in this sophisticated afternoon tea with fruit scones topped with hazelnut spread, clotted cream and plum jam. Address the delicious banana bread, alongside raisin-packed apple strudels, crystallised ginger and stollen bread with a thick wedge of marzipan. Savour ae fond kiss of chilli chocolate combined with spiced apricot chutney, while the smell from a nearby blackcurrant bush blends with the aroma of a red, red rose. Westlin winds bring salt, which fades into heavy woody notes. A finish of lemon drizzle cake with sour cherry sweets and white chocolate round off this cup o’ kindness

Sailing Ship In Stormy Seas – Cask 29.237 – £124.00

AGE 18 Years
DATE DISTILLED 11th November 1998
CASK TYPE Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
REGION Islay
OUTTURN 1 of 266 bottles
ABV 60.9%

Even just pouring the sample into the bottle we realised this was a ‘Big One’ not to be taken lightly like a storm brewing out to sea. Menacing, dark, gloomy, oily, briny, salty sea air, seaweed, burning reclaimed tarry shipwreck timbers and smoke from blazing lavender bushes prepared us for trying it neat. Lashings of briny, salty and smoky flavours, we felt like being flogged with the cat o’nine tails on board a ship in high sea. Water added a little calmness in form of burnt treacle tart, strong salted caramel and sweet smoky white wine whilst the taste we went from Force 11 to Force 10 on the Beaufort scale.

Teasing And Playful – Cask 37.100 – £56.50

AGE 12 Years
DATE DISTILLED 3rd November 2004
CASK TYPE Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
REGION Speyside
OUTTURN 1 of 264 bottles
ABV 60.2%

This is a gentle, subtle nose of chalky sweets, orchard fruits, Eve’s pudding, chocolate limes and a tin of assorted biscuits; cinnamon swirls and hints of ginger lie underneath. The palate is warm and spicy – still delivering mango and tutti frutti ice-cream, but now also liquorice and blackcurrant, chilli jam, lemon peel, toasted coconut, nutmeg and ginger – a mouth-feel of teasing, earthy spice tingles. The reduced nose seems more acidic – brambles, stewed apples, pear flan and ‘soor plooms’*. The palate now has raisins, apricot jam, charred roast chestnuts, humbugs and sweetie tobacco – warming and homely but frisky and frolicsome as well. (* sharp flavoured green, round boiled sweets)

Relaxing In A Sauna – Cask 46.57 – £105.00

AGE 24 Years
DATE DISTILLED 17th November 1992
CASK TYPE Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
REGION Speyside Lossie
OUTTURN 1 of 214 bottles
ABV 53.6%

An interesting nose! Sweet, fruity and floral, with custard creams, refreshers, and lemon sponge-cake, but also something almost earthy, like greenhouses, vanilla pipe tobacco or woollen socks drying by the fire. The palate combined separate strands – sweetness (Victoria sponge, tinned peaches, Dolly Mixtures, wine gums), wood (balsa, cedar, wood-sap, eucalyptus) and spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, peppercorns). The reduced nose evoked warm sauna wood, a model- maker’s work-bench and a pine forest floor – all very relaxing and easy-going. The palate still had the wood and the spice, but it seemed sweeter (fruit salad chews, honey, vanilla ice-cream, blueberry muffins); altogether more enjoyable.

Warm Butter On Banana Bread – Cask G10.13 – £102.00

AGE 29 Years
DATE DISTILLED 15th June 1988
CASK TYPE Second Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel
REGION Lowland
OUTTURN 1 of 96 bottles
ABV 55.7%

Warm butter croissants and buttered popcorn appeared to be the order of the day, alongside thick slices of banana bread and freshly planed wood with a thin layer of runny honey. With time caramel wafers appeared with cinnamon and cloves that began to point heavily towards a well-aged bourbon whiskey. A delicate floral note of geranium developed into poached pears on the palate, only to be joined by custard creams and marzipan whilst deploying a healthy prickle from fresh ginger. Green wood and fine tannins provided a dry balance with a touch of quinine and sugar coated brazil nuts on the finish.

You can see the full January 2018 run here.

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