Friday, July 30, 2010

Edinburgh : Bottler's and SMWS

1. Balmenach 1984 21yo 57.8% 
cask 3056, refill sherry butt

The Bottlers is a small independent bottling company based in Edinburgh. The amount of bottlings this company has released recently is very limited, but the quality has always been exclusive in my opinion. I don't recall anything new coming out from them the last couple of years. A company like this that for some reason releases so few casks and are very selective about them, can afford to wait for the best of the best.

 Balmenach is a hidden gem of a Speyside distillery and is owned by Inver House, which also owns Knockdhu (AnCnoc), Balblair and Old Pulteney which is getting the company's main promotions. I find the general quality of their bottlings well above average for standard OB's and  I hope they will extend their range to Speyburn and Balmenach as well.
 Visiting their distilleries has always been a great joy for me, it has always been more about whisky and people than big company marketing which isn't always the case when visiting distilleries. I had a range of very fond memories from them :

 - Bottling Old Pulteney straight from the cask in Wick for some of the best whiskies I ever tried
 - Visiting Balblair in 2007 around the time they released their vintage series (1979 and 1997 are also favourites of mine)
 - Visiting Knockdhu at the 2010 SoS festival for one of the the best distillery visits I ever experienced (great whisky as well)

 Inver House is a company that just seems to do it the right way  (well.. the way I like it) and I really hope they get the success they deserve !!

Back to the whisky...
The nose is sweet, with a sourish touch which just screams to me that this is gonna be fullbodied - its like inhaling oils and not alcohol vapours. The palate is creamy, musty, minty, spicy with a big touch of vanilla
This is a very good example of whisky you get from a refill sherry butt and its clearly distinguished from malts that has been on fresh sherry butts. Wood has more impact in refill butts whereas the sherry has more impact on fresh butts (usually).  The colour is brown with a orange glow. I enjoyed this

Rating 90

2. SMWS 2.61 16yo 1988 59.0% (Glenlivet)

SMWS, Scottish Malt Whisky Society started as a small group of friends sharing one cask, and developed into a society with a membership restaurant and bar with club rooms, apartments the Vaults in Leith, with similar locations in Edinburgh center and London and quite a few overseas departments. The first cask bottled was labeled as 1.1 and this 2.61 is cask #61 from their distillery number 2. The number of distilleries that SMWS has bottled has passed 120, and includes irish, grain and japanese whiskies.
 - If you're a peathead it's compulsary to know that 33 is SMWS'ish for Ardbeg :-)
Their bottlings doesn't reveal distilleries, by not putting distillery names on the labels, they have easier access to trading with the distilleries. The distilleries of origin is not a big secret, here's one list available online :

When visiting their staff has no problems with revealing distilleries either, here's a video where 3 of their bottlings are presented, and I have to admit that video made me want a 33.84 :-) and I wasn't alone on that

Today the society has thousands of members, releases around 20 bottlings every months and has been bought by a big multinational company LVMH  -MOËT HENNESSY - LOUIS VUITTON who also owns a couple of distilleries (Ardbeg and Glenmorangie), so they have moved quite a bit from the start - a huge success

SMWS are also wellknown for their maltporn : their exaggerated tasting notes and bottle descriptions, a bottle of Laphroaig I bought recently was labeled "Kissing a Balrog's Bum" !

SMWS Haggis (yum yum)

Now to the 2.61 !

Nose : fruity, apples and pears
Honey, more apples and pears, quite musty ash and dust, bitter on the finish
Feels like having an older dram that it actually is, there is a bit of warehouse feeling about this, the wood bitterness is a little bit to much

 Rating 80

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