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The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a unique whisky club that offers members an opportunity to purchase interesting bottlings of spirits from all over the world. Though predominantly focussed on Scotch whisky, they have also bottled gin, Cognac and Armagnac and rum. Membership also grants admittance to any of the Society’s members rooms in Edinburgh, London and Glasgow.
I’ve been a member of the SMWS for a few years now. I received notification in May of this year that my membership was due for renewal so off I went to see what offers lay in wait for me. To their credit, the Society have knocked a little off their annual membership this time around. The pandemic-fuelled lack of member’s room access is hardly their fault but it’s a nice gesture none-the-less.
When I renewed last year I opted for their Mystery bottling offer. You can read how I got on with that here. This time around I was intrigued by the new small-batch Membership Exclusive. Pomegranate Gremolata is a 14-year-old single malt, bottled at 50% abv. The whisky matured in a combination of first-fill bourbon casks and heavily-toasted Chinkapin virgin oak casks.
Chinkapin oak, or Quercus Muehlenbergii is a species of tree in the white oak group. The species is native to eastern and central North America, ranging from Vermont to Minnesota, south to Florida and west to New Mexico in the United States. Chinkapin oak is so close in appearance to Quercus Alba that few can tell them apart. In fact, the wood has probably been finding its way into whisky casks for years without anyone realising. Some even theorise that Chinkapin staves may have been behind some unusually exceptional bourbons.
Whilst such speculations aren’t particularly useful, there can be no doubt that different woods can create different flavour profiles in the whisky. Glenmorangie ran some experiments in 1993 and the likes of Raasay, GlenAllachie, Teeling and Jura have dipped their toe, too.
According to the SMWS, chinkapin oak will provide the lovely sweetness and confectionary notes you would expect from American white oak, along with dark fruit flavours and deeper notes like candied-ginger and butterscotch. Let’s see, shall we…
The whisky is bottled at 50% abv and retailed for £55.
Smell: Lots of furniture polish notes. Citrus. Cranberry. Raspberry. Cinnamon and ginger. Varnished oak. Toffee.
Taste: There’s a lot of oak notes. Almost more like a bourbon than Scotch. That cranberry / raspberry note again. Ginger and peppery spice. Cinnamon. Water brings some vanilla and chewy caramel.
Thoughts: Quite an unusual one this. As I mentioned before, it’s a very Bourbon-like character. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. The intensity of the oak loosens with water and the dram really comes into its own. The wood is still there but the overall effect is more balanced, more complex. In fact, it becomes a rather lovely dram. w
I wouldn’t dare hazard a guess at the distillery that produced it, because it’s not really like anything I’ve had before. On that note, it’s a little weird that the Society haven’t included a distillery code on it. Not sure what the reasoning behind that is. That’s only a small niggle though and it certainly doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of it.
When renewing your membership, you can choose between this or a mystery malt. I don’t know what they’re offering for the mystery malt just now but it would have to go some way to beat this one.
If you would like to become a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society you can sign up here.
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