Alas the time has come! I have been fortunate to have tasted some incredible whisky in my time but as I reflect on the past 1-2 years of this journey through The Single Malt Alliance, I cannot recall a moment in which I felt this excited. Not only am I about to dive into a 26 year old single malt bottled at a mind-blowing 61.0%, this is my first official tasting of single cask whisky bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society! As a whisky enthusiast for many years, this is something that I have been eager to try for quite some time.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (www.smwsa.com) is an international membership organization that bottles and sells single cask, single malt whisky to over 25,000 members worldwide. It’s purpose is a simple one: to allow whisky enthusiasts an opportunity to come together and experience some of the best whisky from over 130 distilleries from Scotland and beyond. All of the whisky sold by the Society is naturally colored, non-chillfiltered, and bottled at cask strength in order to exhibit the raw character of each individual casks. For whisky enthusiasts seeking something truly rare, the Society presents a fantastic opportunity to purchase single cask whisky at a reasonable price that will only ever be experienced by a select few.
Purchasing single cask whisky from an independent bottler has always been hit or miss for me. Some of it has been incredible, truly breathtaking whisky while other bottles have left me a bit disappointed. Before a cask is acquired by the Society for bottling, it must first receive approval from its own ‘Tasting Panel’ made up of distilling industry experts. As a consumer, I like this. Knowing that each cask goes through a thorough approval process by a tasting panel gives me assurance that the whisky they are purchasing will be money well spent. At the very least, that its quality will be undisputed.
7.148 is the code designated to this brand new release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Technically reserved as a May 2017 release, I was lucky enough to get an early taste of what I am told is some of best whisky the Society has ever offered. The first part of the code, “7”, refers to the distillery of origin, which in this case is the Longmorn distillery. The second part of the code “148” refers to the cask number itself, or the number of casks the Society purchased from that specific distillery. In a given month the Society may release multiple single cask offerings from the same distillery. The cask number allows members to differentiate.
The name of this particular whisky, “Wicked Viscosity”, was given by the Society’s own tasting panel. In typical Brit fashion, they come up with all sorts of whimsical names that hint at the uniqueness of each single cask, single malt whisky. They also include a short description of the tasting notes, which all do a fine job of stirring up enough intrigue to stoke a chord in the hearts of whisky enthusiasts and new drinkers alike. Viscosity or texture is something that I appreciate when tasting whisky as it aids in the delivery of the full flavors of the spirit. Higher viscosity will also make for a lengthier finish, something that whisky enthusiasts such as myself tend to seek out. For me, the name “Wicked Viscosity” could not have more appeal.
As I mentioned earlier, this whisky was distilled at the Longmorn distillery located in Speyside, the region often referred to as the heart of the Scotch whisky industry. It was matured for a full 26 years in a refill hogshead, ex-bourbon cask and bottled at 61.0% ABV. According to the label, this whisky was distilled on 15th of June 1990 and is one of only 174 bottles. Now before we get into it, I want to pause and just restate my excitement to try something of this age at such a high ABV. It’s just not something you see on the standard market. Amazing really. The price per bottle? $295. No, it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. If, however, you consider the age and ABV of this particular Speyside single malt and comparable alternatives on the market, one could make a case that the 7.148 Wicked Viscosity is, dare I say, affordable. While it’s certainly an expensive whisky, it’s still hundreds or even thousands of dollars cheaper than many “name-bran” alternatives. Even then, very few offer the longevity of a whisky bottled at 61% ABV.
On the nose, wow…an evocative aroma of chocolate fudge whisked with toasted caramel and burnt orange. There’s a hint of freshly brewed coffee, just as the label suggests, but with a layer of buttery french bread beneath it. A light note of allspice and a swirl of creamy vanilla rounds out what is to me, a beautiful old-world aroma with an undying remembrance of youth. Oh and the depth of it all! Pressing deeper, a light floral with a touch of citrus is caught dancing in the distance. Absolute stunner.
When tasting cask strength whisky, I typically refrain from jumping straight into anything bottled above 55% without a bit of water to neutralize the spirit. To hell with that. On the palate, and at neat, it begins with calm surge of orange marmalade and warm apple pie. It starts off very delicate, very light, but just as I begin think “Ok, let’s see what else we have in this nice little dram”, an explosive burst of freshly cracked cayenne pepper dominates the palate. Wow! This is whisky. The alcohol content is high but its age gives it a brittle character as it slowly desiccates all moisture in sight. Now we can add water and in doing so, the whisky evolves into a luxurious, creamy spirit with bright, juicy apples with vanilla and a rich maltiness to it. In this state, it is every bit of 26 years old with layers upon layers of depth to be discovered and a finish that is never ending.
In conclusion, a spectacular spirit that has pushed the boundary of what I know whisky to be. An old-world single malt that has reminded me of why I chose to embark on this journey in the first place. You have won my heart Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I have seen the light. There’s only one problem. Where can I possible go from here?