After the successful launch of the SMWS Kaleidoscope Bar in Edinburgh last August, comes another tube of mirrors containing small coloured objects [mainly golden in colour], this time to London. Situated in the heart of the city a stones throw from Liverpool Street Station, its due to open officially this month.
Hosted by the irreproachable John McCheyne, [us] guests were greeted with a whisky-based cocktail consisting of pear syrup, a herbal bitter/liqueur and an undisclosed SMWS single malt. Whilst enjoying the surroundings and catching up with familiar faces, entertainment for the evening opened with the talented Tim Hain, singing whisky-inspired songs from his considerable repertoire.
With the pre-opening event now in full swing, canapés spread about the room and my cocktail nailed, what to drink? I notice there has been another SMWS May outturn after the earlier ‘bite-sized’ release [blog], but after looking through the catalogue im still undecided.
I ask for something awkward & challenging, something left-of-field. With that request im taken to the dark side.
Tullibardine 2008 8yo SMWS 28.33 [637 bts] 60.4% WB87
‘Temptation to the Dark side’
There was some confusion, at least on my part [as per usual] over what distillery this was from. I thought id heard it as distillery #8 not #28, neither of which are seen much as SMWS bottlings though I believe the SMWS haven’t seen Tamdhu since 2006 WB – no wonder they had none in stock when I enquired. SMWS Tullibardine are similarly as infrequent however, there being only 33 bottlings since the late 70’s/early 80’s.
- N: With only one sniff and I had indeed joined the dark side. I was detecting notes of chocolate raisins, leather, roasted & honeyed pork, dark/deep sherry & black cherry with a heavy maltiness and vibrant armagnac notes (dark grape-skin tannins) – all presented in a youthful cask, a winning combo here. Intoxicatingly stuff.
- T: Thankfully, it delivers on the palate as hoped. Add a little water for a waxier, dryer malt.
- F: A salty malty chocolate finish.
- C: As Tullibardine goes, its the best I’ve had – and utterly memorable. Thanks Jamie, great recommendation and a great whisky to start.
Scores 86 points
[This subsequently went straight on the Whiskyshare list and has since been acquired].
Aultmore 2002/2016 14yo SMWS 73.80 [210 bts] 59.3% WB84.75
C: Straight-ahead robust whisky-ish whisky from [yawn], virgin oak.
Scores 83 points
Glenlivet 2007 9yo SMWS 2.97 [522 bts] 60.9% WB87
- N: This Speysider is unusual in that its a sherry finished, sherry finish. It spend the first part of its life in bourbon followed by time in an oloroso cask and then finally in PX – and yet its still called a single cask which i still find confusing. Add water and wait for tobacco notes, an unusual murky funk and mint & peas. Appears to be considerable [cask] control from that/those 1st-fill casks.
- T: Even though theres a full sherry experience, its not what id call a ‘bomb’. Very good quality gear.
- F: Sweet-dark-woody-fruity-malty-biscuit with a long waxy chocolate finish – lovely.
- C: Despite the double/’all’-sherry vibe, there’s more to it than that.
Scores 86 points
Benrinnes 2002 14yo SMWS 36.129 [196 bts] 57.2% WB88.50
Red wine cask trickery can be expected when you ask for more whisky awkwardness – fair play.
- N: Strange. I sense its not going to pick-up.
- T: Wonderfully distillate led with a mouthfeel to match, but taste-wise its weird.
- F: There’s balance and form, but personally ‘Im out’.
- C: Didn’t do it for me but a good whisky nevertheless – simply challenging/odd flavour combinations throughout.
Scores 84 points
Longmorn 2004 12yo SMWS 7.171 [180 bts] 61.3% WB0
- N: Vanilla, spring water, fruity resins<glue, sawdusty,… and plenty of decent, ‘all-round’ flavours.
- T: Lots of chew. Straight ahead and yet not. In other words, delicious & seemingly predictable save for a certain something/funkiness – and all the better for it. A silky mouthfeel to boot.
- F: Finishing length is good with green-floral vanilla descriptors concluding.
- C: Its good but one which didnt quite float my boat for whatever reason.
Scores 86 points
Theres more entertainment this time from this talent on the Scottish small pipes – playing amongst others, a tune called ‘The Clumsy Lover’:
Arran 2000 16yo SMWS 121.98 [266 bts] 55.4% WB0
- N: Furniture polish, wax, smoky leather, Worcestershire sauce flavour crisps [Walkers], rubbery/grapey leathery cherry-tobacco.
- T: Furniture wax, roasted black crusty things, lots of complex savoury,… also rich with the usual suspects.
- F: Woody raisins before a strong muesli finish. Permeating.
- C: 1st-ill French oak works a treat here.
Scores 85 points
Not sure how single malt was allowed to be sneaked into this prestigious Coke Cola event, but we will let it slide this once.
There are regular events taking place at the Kaleidoscope bar. Visit smws.co.uk for more details.
Thanks to everyone.