Drink Magazine

An Evening With the SMWS

By Josh Peters @TheWhiskeyJug

The calendar said Fall, but the weather in Los Angeles still read Summer as I left my apartment and walked 9 blocks to the British Consulate to drink some Scotch with the SMWS. I’ve never been inside of a Consulate and didn’t know what to expect when I arrived but I’m happy to report it wasn’t weird. It was just a home, an impressive home in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, but a home none-the-less with a family that lived inside who would be our hosts for the night.

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Once inside some fellow whiskey writers and myself were treated to whisky, small bites and the opportunity to chat with Paul Skipworth, Chairman of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. The food was great, the atmosphere was lovely and our hosts gracious and gregarious. But you’re not here to read about tuna tartar and small talk, you’re here for whisky.

Below are the five whiskies we tasted that night and my thoughts and feelings on them. As I mentioned I got to chat with Paul Skipworth and that interview is coming, but for now we’re going to focus on the whisky.

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An Evening With the SMWS

Single Malt Whisky Society 33.136 – Halcyon Tarfest

  • Details: Ardbeg, 10 years, 57.1%, First Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel
  • Nose: Peat, graham, honey, vanilla, fruit, malt and some saline minerality.
  • Palate: Peat, malt, graham, vanilla, fruit, citrus and some saline minerality.
  • Finish: Long -> Peat, honey, malt, fruit and char.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) Sweet and smoky with additional balances of minerals and spice. I even liked the bitter burnt char the finish faded out to.

Single Malt Whisky Society 9.150 – Thyme Well Spent

  • Details: Glen Grant, 30 years, 54.7%, First Fill Ex-Pedro Ximenez Butt
  • Nose: Dried apricots, malt, nuts, char, spice and a bit of oak.
  • Palate: Cocoa, honey, dried apricots, nuts, spice, roasted malt and some menthol.
  • Finish: Long -> Cocoa, oak, char and dried fruit.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) As cliche as it is, my favorite of the night was also the oldest. It was just plain deeper and more complex, definitely upper end of the B+ scale.

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Single Malt Whisky Society 15.4 – Thermonuclear Banana

  • Details: Loch Lomond, 10 years, 58.3%, Second Fill Heavy Toast Medium Char Hogshead
  • Nose: Bananas foster, spice, honey, char, caramel.
  • Palate: Spice, grain, banana, Honey Nut Cheerios.
  • Finish: Medium -> Char, honey, banana, spice.
  • Overall: B (83-86) Not bad, quite nice even. Simple honied banana notes with a malt essence. Decent all around; higher end of the B scale.
    Side Note: Discovered Loch Loman uses 100% malted barley in a column still, explains the malty essence in a grain whisky

Single Malt Whisky Society 68.11 – Honey cake with Elderflower Icing

  • Details: Blair Athol, 7 years, 57.9%, Re-Charred Hogshead
  • Nose: Overripe fruit, honey, graham, raisins, malt and char.
  • Palate: Overripe fruit, honey, char, graham, raisins, malt and some nuts and a frosting-like sweetness.
  • Finish: Long -> Fruit, honey and spice.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) Ooh I like this one. I wasn’t too keen on it at first, but as it opened up it became elegant and complex. Nice pick.

Single Malt Whisky Society 7.197 – Mature Way Beyond Its Years

  • Details: Longmorn, 8 years, 59.8%, First Fill Ex-Sherry Butt
  • Nose: Brown sugar, oil, funk, sherry sweetness, char, spice, raw oak and malt.
  • Palate: Brown sugar, oil, funk, sherry sweetness, grilled fruit, char, spice, raw oak and malt.
  • Finish: Long -> Toffee, dark fruit and lots of that raw oak essence.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) I’m not a huge fan of this one. It has a funk and a slight raw oak to it that’s not doing it for me. THOUGH, it is the kind of funk that could air out in a few months and if it did that it’d sit in the low B kind of range if that raw oak note stayed… higher if it also blew off.

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As the evening wore on more guests came and went and I saw a lot of familiar Los Angeles whisky scene folks. I got to hear what others thought of the whiskies and interact with the brand teams and get their takes on it.

There didn’t seem to be a clear winner or loser for the crowd and for each whisky I found at least one person who proclaimed it to be their favorite of the night and another their least favorite. Which just goes to show, there’s a whisky for everyone.


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