SMWS: The Vaults, August 2019

With the Edinburgh Fringe coming to a rapid close, I worried I may have missed the opportunity to visit the Vaults this year, but after watching Marcus Brigstock’s The Red at the Pleasance Dome [whilst missing Ben Stokes’ final runs to his historic 135 not out], I couldn’t resist the ritual.

First up we’ve a cognac, duly advertised at the bar as ‘Spirit of the Month’. I’m very much enjoying this twice-distilled grape spirit since discovering Guillon-Painturaud’s Vieille Reserve [and other less affordable delights], at the Cognac Show 2019 [WLP].


Camus XO SMWS C1.2 Deep as the Fountains of Sleep [444 bts] 48.2%

 Colour: deep orange gold.

Camus SMWS C1.2 Deep as the Fountains of Sleep [444 bts] 48.2%.jpeg

  • N: A confidently delicious nose with a varied mid-to-wide spectrum profile of subtle earthy tones that compliment light floral-grape sugars.
  • T: The strength is absolutely perfect, but I add a little water for the chewiest of spirits. Moves thick bitter > > savoury-sweet before soon turning.
  • F: A longer travel in this section with a neat combo of fruits & confectionary mainly towards the black bitter berry corner. Ideally subtle cask toasting/cooking.
  • C: A cracking cognac especially for those who struggle with the sweeter ones. Think I may have to buy a bottle.

Scores 88/87 points


For my second I jump to Armagnac on recommendation, not least because there wasn’t a great deal more cognac behind the bar. I’m offered a snifter of A4.3 first. With a provisional score of 80-81, I find it rather dry and astringent compared to the opening cognac and settle for A4.1 instead.

Domaine d’Espérance 15yo SMWS A4.1 Elegant and Inviting 49.1% SMWS

Staying with the same distillery, this is the SMWS’s first bottling of armagnac from Domaine d’Esperance [LINK]. Like the previous cognac, it’s very similar in colour. 

Domaine d’Espérance 15yo SMWS A4.1 Elegant and Inviting 49.1%.jpeg

  • N: Dryer, more straight forward than the cognac, a little bready, a touch of sawdust, hits of Grappa, slightly honeyed, green pepper corns, pink salt,.. whilst the very slightly Persil < chalky gym-sweaty fruits are yet to fully bloom at a mere 15 years. I find the spirit speaks candidly of its oaked host.
  • T: Similar bitterness to the cognac, though again, this is far more straight forward/narrower with a less rich but more direct mouthfeel. Water brings out sweeter bitter-sweet tones and helps the travel, but its clearly a straight driver.
  • F: Slightly green pisco-like finish though fruitier, less metallic and definitively bitter-sweet. It lifts off so much quicker than the cognac that there’s little to talk about save for the elongated controlled fusty-freshness which is a treat at the tail.
  • C: Could this be my preference evolution from armagnac to cognac? I wonder how cognac producers view armagnac and visa versa?

Scores a fine 84 points


I look up to see a Jimmy Hill lookalike reading a newspaper in front of me. Back to cognac.


Tiffon XO SMWS C5.2 Herby Goes Bananas 47.1% SWMS

Deep yellow gold – burnt banana liqueur gold.

Tiffon XO SMWS C5.2 Herby Goes Bananas 47.1%.jpeg

  • N: More of that herbal-fresh chalky note that I want to stop associating with Persil. No obvious bananas just yet.
  • T: We are lurking around in the swamps and lower cellars here with a curious savoury-fauna, dank-ish chew. Now we’ve some banana < liqueuer, scorched banana ‘snow’ and vanilla on the turn,…
  • F: ,… turning waxy sour > bitter herbal [privet leaves]. Slight witch hazel conclusion.
  • C: That first cognac set the bar rather high. Very decent yet also a touch innocuous this one – some England Ashes batsmen spring to mind aside from the hero Stokes.

Scores 82 points

Vaults bar.jpeg

Time for at least one whisky before ordering food. I’m one day early for the September outturn so I consult and then for inspiration for the current August outturn of which I’d only had five [WLP]. I’m tempted by the Balblair – any Balblair really – but Blair Athol feels the more adventurous choice.

Blair Athol 2006 12yo SMWS 68.26 Do Androids Dream of Eclectic Sheep? [282 bts] 55.8% WB87[3] Dramble88

AKA, Blade Runner!

Blair Athol 2006 12yo SMWS 68.26 Do Androids Dream of Eclectic Sheep? [282 bts] 55.8%.jpeg

  • N: Thick brown paper [almost cardboard], raisins, lemon & orange peel [Edinburgh’s Nile Valley speaks], coppery pancakes,… Aah, it’s nice to be back in malt territory. More dry than spice on the nose which is just fine at this stage. Some ominous feint-y hints will hopefully lead to nothing.
  • T: A spicy one, the cask digging in – something the French are well adversed at avoiding/managing in cognac & armagnac production. The spice aside, we’ve an exciting delivery and a likeable firm fruity citrus [rind] & coppery thread. Pour in the water and the dryness turns to succulence, the spiciness seemingly a bonus addition now.
  • F: Coppery sweet/sour citrus with some almost leathery mineral tones, chilli heat continuing to providing a desirable trigeminal burn [if you like that kind of thing]. More sips, more citrus with sand! – and now an almost meaty, sweet-suet mouthfeel chew with one dusty wax capacitor and a sooty candy cigarette thrown in. The chilli spice finally diminishes allowing for a long death scene around dusty chalky dank cellar mould. Some finish!
  • C: A genuinely interesting malt that appears far more advanced than its years would suggest. An unexpected surprise. Thanks Dramble!

Scores 87 points


One more then before my food [surely, hopefully] arrives.


Glenlossie 2008 9yo SMWS 46.73 The Artist Formally Known as Mints [251 bts] 57.7% WB83.50[2] PS4.5/5

Glenlossie 2008 9yo SMWS 46.73 The Artist Formally Known as Mints [251 bts] 57.7%.jpeg

  • N: Popcorn=straw, honeyed barley sugar, slightly roasted citrus oils, peanut oils,.. floury pitta bread,.. Overall strong yet light, firm yet controlled.
  • T: This is a big hitter, so immediately a little water goes in to bring a more sour-sweet creamy light vanilla edge. Glenlossie tends to be consistently excellent at around 19-21 years but often feels slightly ‘over’. This younger one displays the honeyed putty & dense citrus [slight spice], but without the congested nature,…
  • F: ,.. though a butyric spicy hint suggests that this one may well have been overwhelmed by the cask had it been bottled later on. Creamy & husky vanilla < citrus remains, ever controlled fresh and with an equally tempered spiciness throughout.
  • C: Desirably youthful Glenlossie.

Scores 84 points


Food never came. Yet more falafel for me then!




Vaults side.jpeg

4 thoughts on “SMWS: The Vaults, August 2019

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