Sunday, March 16, 2014

Danish Drinking Team and the new SMWS outturn

This friday, me and two of my friends made a visit to the danish chapter of SMWS

This is a report of the new outturn

SMWS is a very nice whiskybar in Vejle, in fact, it's the biggest SMWS bar in the world, more than 300 open bottles in the bar, I didn't count them. I counted the Mortlachs just to see. 18 open Mortlachs. I can recommend the 76.94, it was great. Probably sold out. I didn't like the 76.95 at all. But that's SMWS, they like to bottle different things.

The host, Terje Thesbjerg, who runs the danish SMWS, and does it very well, was so nice to pour the 16 drams of the new outcome for us blind. 14 actually, as 2 wasn't availbale in the bar, but he threw in two substitutes instead.

So we went through the 16 drams blind and here are our average scores of the new outturn

9.83 - 88.7 (25yo Glen Grant)
37.56 -  79.0 (9yo Cragganmore)
35.108 - 84.3 (12yo Glen Moray)
1.178 - 88.3 (11yo Glenfarclas)
76.115 - 89.0 (18yo Mortlach)
29.153 - 81.7 (23yo Laphroaig)
132.2 - 81.3 (22yo Karuizawa)
53.203 - 82.0 (17yo Caol Ila)
39.97 - 91.0 (23yo Linkwood)
93.59 - 86.3 (14yo Glen Scotia)
127.39 - 80.7 (11yo Port Charlotte)
66.48 - 82.0 (Ardmore)
73.62 - 86.3 (25yo Aultmore)
4.189 - 86.7 (13yo Highland Park)
93.58 - 85.0 (14yo Glen Scotia)
4.186 - 88.7 (22yo Highland Park)

We rated all the whiskies indepently and only shared the scores after we all had a taste.

Now these are just average score and they do reflect that 2 of 3 in the group are known beforehand of not liking peated whiskies (the other two), but it only showed in one of the others ratings, he rated a couple  distinctively lower than the rest of us. I must say I wasn't a big fan of the Laphroaig or especially the PC myself, the latter having a terrible nose and awful finish, only saved by a somewhat decent palate.

By some facebook recommendations I had preordered the 35.108, but I returned it after tasting it blind, and got myself the Linkwood and Mortlach instead. Two distilleries that I normally don't rate that high. The Linkwood was the best whisky of the night, we agreed on that all three of us. I also found the 4.189 particular good for it's age and not like Highland Park at all. In fact I crossed it out as the whisky I hoped was the 35.108. Unfortunately it wasn't. It was very caramel-fudge-butterscotch in character.

But this is a great way to shop whiskies. Go by your palate. No labels or distillery names to distract you. In fact, this was the way I was introduced to the society in 2001. Back then I didn't really know a lot of distilleries. So I just went in, tasted some random whiskies trying to choose from the weird descriptions, and then purchased the bottle I like the best. It was SMWS that in this way introduced me to distilleries like Caperdonich and Glen Moray. I remember buying these whiskies and having no clue what the distillery was until I finished the bottles and decided to ask somebody

Of the above whiskies, it was the Aultmore where I was not in agreement with others. I rated it quite a lot lower as I found it to be sulphured

Getting ready for the blind tasting


  1. HI Steffen,

    This is a very interesting report, thanks!
    A couple points that came up for me:
    1. That's a lot of whisky to drink/try in one sitting! If each of these was a 25-30ml sample, by the end of the night each of you drank more than half a bottle of whisky! If the samples were 10-15ml, was that enough to form a solid opinion?
    2. You didn't drive home, did you? By the third or fifth sample you must have been above the drinking and driving limit.
    3. It's interesting that you noted two fellows aren't into peated whisky. How about ex-sherry vs. ex-bourbon casks? It would be nice to know which of these casks were ex-sherry (or had whisky that passed through ex-sherry casks), and if any or all of you three have a sweet tooth. I suspect the Glenfarclas, Highland Park, and Mortlach were all ex-sherry - and they all got top grades -, but how about the Linkwood? Or the Glen Grant?
    4. Did you discuss the whisky after each taste? If not, for more reliable ratings the three of you could conceivably tackle the whiskies in different, random orders. Once again, after 10 samples tasting fatigue must intervene, and one wonders whether, say, earlier whiskies receive better scores than later ones (tasting ability is better early on), or maybe the opposite is true, the later ones get better scores (the feel-good takes over the critical faculties at some point). I do understand this was not a controlled experiment, rather three guys having fun. I'm just saying...
    5. I agree 100% that when it comes to single casks all bets are off as to the distilleries. You're as likely to find a great Craigallachie or Teaninich and a mediocre Clynelish as the other way around. It's a very different game than the OB "blended single malts", which are created to satisfy very different criteria (consistency, price, taste of a particular market/demographic, importance to the distillery/business, place in the portfolio, marketing, available stocks, etc etc). This is what keeps whisky interesting, isn't it?
    6. So what was wrong with the Karuizawa? Given all the fuss around this distillery the low score is a bit of a shock.

  2. Hi Florin, I am glad you liked to post, it must be a somewhat limited audience for a blog post like this as it probably doesn't make a lot of sense if you aren't an SMWS member.

    We shared 16 drams between the 3 of us. It took us around 1½-2 hours, we actually only finished about 2/3 of each glass when blindtasting - but drank the rest after :-),

    It probably take a bit of practise to judge whisky from 1cl tastings, but it's a lot easier with cask strength whiskies. For me personally I usually need more whisky when writing specific tasting notes than when just giving away a quick score

    A couple of months ago I actually did a whisky experiment with 5 friends, where we microdrammed (less than 5ml each) 36 whiskies in 2 hours to see if we could rate them within statistical deviance of what other raters have rated them in a more "serious" manner (we were very serious as well actually, just tried to be very fast). We were only off with one whisky (no 2 served..) and personally I was only going off with 2/36 which I found very sulphured.

    We didn't drive home, but took the train :-)

    About casks. We all have different tastes and favourites to all kind of whiskies, I just mentioned the peat and sulphur as this is something that made our ratings quite different. It was a sort of service information as I would guess this group would have an acerage rating of a peated whisky a couple of points lower than most other groups. But then, me the peatfreak in the group really disliked a couple of the peated whiskies, particulat the old Laphroaig and the PC. Not many of the SMWS whiskies these days are heavily sherried. Of these I would only say the Aultmore, Karuizawa and Glen Moray were ex.sherry. I actually just checked now and they are. Aultmore and Karuizawa were more spicy than sweet and the Glen Moray was definitely Ex-fino in my opinion, which also explains why I didn't really like it. The Laphroaig could be sherry, it does say hogshead but this was kinda a borderline in my opinion and then peat doesn't help at it can mask other things. I am pretty sure the rest is labeled as hogshead and that is usually ex-bourbon. FUnny enough the HPs, especially the Glenfarclas and Mortlach were ex bourbon and not ex-sherried in my opinion

    We only discussed the whiskies briefly. We tasted them in almost the same order as given here but usually has sets of 2 or 3 glasses going around at the same time so we didn't taste them exactly the same order. Off course your palate get fatigued, but I found out that exercising these kind of tastings for many years has made me better at it. Last time I did this I did it standing up and this time we did it seated. That, for some reason, makes a lot of difference. Somehow I am doing much better when I sit down and relax.

    The fun thing about doing SMWS blind is that I always find whiskies I like I wouldn't otherwise find. By doing the whole outturn we can
    't really sort between them.

    Others should answer about the Karuizawa, I have never been a big fan myself. I actual thought the Aultmore was the Karuizawa, as that split us, and I was way below the other two. The actual Karuizawa we rated 80, 82 and 82 with me on 82

  3. And since I am one of the other guys (me in the picture) I think I have to give my say as well.
    I had a "peat overdose" some time ago. And since then I have only really been drinking mostly unpeated whisky. I am however beginning to like it again. And in fact one of my highscorers in the lineup was the 23yo Laphroaig. I was also the one usually scoring very close to Steffen most of the time. We have previously been worlds apart scoring wise. Funny how things sometimes change.