SMWS Cask No. 53.242 “Honey & Vanilla Smoke” (Caol Ila)

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A unique whisky club

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a members only whisky club that sources casks of mature spirit from more than 135 distilleries. They bottle a varied selection on a monthly basis and sell exclusively to members.

The Society was founded after the Highland travels of Phillip ‘Pip’ Harris. Harris was inspired by the outstanding quality he found in single malt whisky when sampled direct from the cask. Upon his return to Edinburgh, he persuaded friends and acquaintances to join him in investing in the purchase of a cask from the Glenfarclas distillery. As follow-up casks were sourced and acquired, the group of investors began to grow and by 1983, the decision was made to open membership to the general public.

In that same year, the Society established a permanent base with the purchase of property in the Leith area of Edinburgh. Known as The Vaults, the site came complete with extensive wine cellars said to date from the 12th century and still acts as company headquarters today. Additional properties were acquired in 1996 and 2004 while the organisation has since grown to include branches in Australia, Japan, Germany, India, South Africa and the USA, with membership now spanning the entire globe.

Bottlings are rather unique as distillery names are left undisclosed as a rule. Instead, each offering is named for its flavour profile. For instance, here I have a sample from an Islay distillery which goes by the name ‘Honey and Vanilla Smoke’. For the curious amongst us, however, further information can be obtained with a little digging. Each bottling carries a numbering code, which in this case is 53.242. The code relates first to the distillery, with 53 being the code for Caol Ila, and 242 being the number of casks bottled thus far from the Islay giant. Aged for 7 years, this single malt was bottled at 58.4% and made available to society members for £56.

The Whisky

Smell: Peat Smoke and Charcoal with Vanilla Cream, Lemon Meringue, Honey and Biscuit.

Taste: Sea Salt and Pepper, Honey, Vanilla, Spice and Fiery Peat Smoke.

Thoughts: This is a young version of Caol Ila and as such, it’s got a little bit of venom about it. In the best possible way. With the peat more prominent than in official bottlings, it is not a dram to be taken lightly. It’s a good example of the power in young Islay whisky, a style that constantly proves that you don’t need to age a whisky for 18 years to make it good. It also fits nicely with the SMWS’ exploration of flavour. It’s big and brash and full of the arrogance of youth. Lovely stuff – but not for the faint hearted.


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