SMWS ‘New Spirits’

Nearly two weeks have flown by since the widely reported release of the New Spirits range from the SMWS, but there are one or two that remain firmly etched in my memory. Sadly, purchasing certain bottles proved harder than tasting them, impossible actually – but im pleased to have had the opportunity to try them at least.

Single cask new spirits range.png

It was about the rum on the night, but first came three Cognacs.

Unusually for the SMWS, there wasnt much info cask-wise on the labels, but as i discovered when researching Godet, Traditionally, two types of wood are used for storing and ageing Cognac, either from the Limousin or Troncais forests. Limousin is a natural forest that produces wide grain pedunculate oak. Godet use wood from the Troncais timber forest producing fine grain sessile oak’. blog

We tried them in abv order.

SMWS C5.1 XO Grande Champagne ’A tapestry of flavours’ [483 bts] 44.9% SMWS BB


  • N: Im not a huge fan of [youthful] Cognac – Armagnac however,….  To me this is very ‘clean’ but then my Cognac experience of late has come from dirtier 1970’s miniatures, a poor reference I know. Choice notes include nougat, pistachio and sour lemon spirit.
  • T: Lets focus on where we are with this. Cognac: a spirit made from undrinkable white wine typically using Ugni blanc grapes, twice distilled & aged in oak. Tasting-wise, i get plenty of grapey white pepper. Its sherry-ish & a touch fizzy throughout with more of those dryish sour lemons on development.
  • F: Short finish with a shortcake base and a little radish peppery-freshness.
  • C: Clean & modern and given its light and savoury profile, the consensus was that this would make a better appetitive than a digestive.

Scores 81 points


I always have to remind myself that XO/Napoleon [at the moment] means 6 years+. Originally scheduled for implementation in 2016, the new date is set for April 2018 where this minimum will be increased to 10+. To maintain the confusion however, the previously unofficial Napoleon status will remain officially at  6+.


SMWS C4.1 XO Petit Champagne ’A tantalising tightrope’ [478 bts] 57.5% SMWS BB


  • N: Appears to be an older, more classical style Cognac with notes of canned fruits, new hessian, nougat oak,…
  • T: The wood speaks, though refreshingly not in a resin-y [US bourbon casks] kind of way. That could be down to the 3 year seasoning program that the Cognac industry seem to adhere to. Some sour complex on the palate.
  • F: A grapey freshness, some aniseed.
  • C: Like C3.2 [up next] with more maturity. A sure malternative.

Scores 84 points


SMWS C3.2 XO Grande Champagne ’Strolling through bliss’ [554 bts] 60.9% SMWS BB


  • N: Sweet vanilla, hay bales,…
  • T: Sour-sweet.
  • F: A grape-y heat similar to the palate-burn from unripe pineapples, vanilla, custard and custard creams at the end. Long finish.
  • C: A patisserie cognac – so we have found our digestif, superior to the C5.1 aperitif. Allowing for my minimal Cognac experience, a refreshingly different style of Cognac.

Scores 85 points


Away from the grapes now, we are of to the Carribbean and to sugar cane. No XO nonsense here, we have ages and vintages! With a couple of rums failing to turn up on the night, this first one quickly became a popular substitute.


SMWS R6.1 2002 14yo ’Spice at the races’ [201 bts] 57.3% SMWS BB

A vintage Bajan rum aged in a refill barrel – so that will be from either St Nicholas, Foursquare or Mount Gay. My money is on Foursquare.


  • N: Tequila [or should that be Mezcal?] in a glass, also with references to a Painkiller even – thats a Pina Colada with the addition of orange juice. Fabulous.
  • T: Boy, super drinkable even at strength. Tastes of fruits aromatic enough to whisk me off to the sensory garden with notes of sweet pea, honeysuckle, honeydew melon,… then malted notes, roasted almond skins,..
  • F: Easy travel into the finish, some form, some length with a youthful pineapple burn, sour detergent, pepper sprinkles,.. :/ – read on.
  • C: That may read like an appalling finish, but i found this to be a delicious ’ready to go’ rum all over – its just got, character.  Initially i had this down for 84 points, but it got better and better. On reflection:

Scores 86 points


SMWS R7.2 2000 18yo ‘Jamaica me Crazy’ [199 bts] 52.8% SMWS BB

A Jamaican rum, so thats either Hampden or Appleton – so it has to be Hampden.


  • N: Reeks of rotting fruits with a salty/fruity sweet complex, seeped into an old leather Chesterfield. More on that sweet complex: cola bottles, De Kuyper cherry brandy, carob fruit chocolate, grape-y rancio,…
  • T: Arrestingly rich and abundant with fruits, oak – we are in high-octane Karuizawa territory, and yet its oozingly soft on the palate and at strength.
  • F: Imagine a complex De Kuyper with bio-dynamic cola, a splash of root beer, carob, spices (fenugreek, lime leaves] and dirty/soily dunder – a beautiful muck.
  • C: Sensational rum & coke fit for the Gods.

Scores 90 points.


SMWS R10.1 1991 25yo ’Carnival Concerto’ [in E Minor] [228 bts] 63.4% SMWS BB

Trinidad eh, is this a 25yo single cask Caroni? If it is, the price [£195] on paper is set fair, but can the juice inside rival our Jamaican jewel?

  • N: Husky,.. coconut oils/products in many forms. The cask has turned the spirit into coconut milk!
  • T: Soft yet intense toffee/molasses sugars, dunder-y.
  • F: Dry, and vanilla with water. Because adding water simplifies the whole lot so significantly, lets go back through it – diluted.


  • N2: Smells just like a [+/-35yo] grain whisky now, speaking heavily of column over pot still distillation, and of a straight=modern bourbon cask in the form of vanilled plank-wood shavings.
  • T2: Sweet, almost malty with invariable form.
  • F2: Grain-like again with vanilla and a little more coconut. Uneventful yet faultless form & finish.

C: Another one drunk neat that goes down a treat, but the R7.2 beats it on all levels. Strangely quiet/mild/soft/stable for a Caroni, if it is a Caroni. Could it be a Plantation or even an Angostura – plenty of vanilla & coconut character from their sweet expressions.

I had this down at around 87/88 points neat, but with water its no more than a very good 85. Interestingly it brought to mind G14.1 WB.


What a super flight! Im delighted the SMWS are introducing more spirits to the society, certainly if the standard is maintained – which im sure it will be.


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