SMWS New Launch: Spirited Tastings – 09.08.17

Don’t book stuff when you’re knackered

You know when you’re exhausted. As in “I’ve just run twenty miles whilst feeding two energetic puppies, learning the 137 times table, and juggling four basketballs” exhausted…well that was BibCup last week.  Shattered.  

It turns out that one of the things you shouldn’t do when you’ve been absolutely wrecked by an 80 hour work week is try and book a whisky tasting. Interestingly if you do this you are (in BibCup’s experience) one hundred per cent. likely to actually book a Cognac, Rum and Gin tasting. Yeh.

Regardless, here at BibCup we don’t turn down a drink if it is freely offered (nor if it is offered for £1.90) and so with an indomitable spirit and the mantra of ‘adapt and overcome’ echoing in our minds we set to work.

The book of drinks (August 2017 edition)

The tasting took place at the Greville St branch of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, just round the corner from all those lovely jewellers on Hatton Garden.  SMWS have branched out from their single malt roots and are now offering a range of other spirits (BibCup bloody wishes this had been made more obvious).  You pay your money (£9.50) and then get to choose five spirits to try.  It’s an unguided tasting so you’ve just got the tasting notes and your own increasingly befuddled senses to guide you.  

The other unguided element common to all of the SMWS’ offerings is the lack of specific labelling.  The SMWS are believers in your senses telling you what you like rather than the natural prejudice that comes when you know a certain dram comes from a certain distillery.  It’s this creed that informs the proprietary labelling system of a number that applies to the distillery, followed by a number that applies to the cask, so number 6.54 is the 54th cask that the SMWS have bought from distillery number 6.  Admin done, let’s go drinking.

The Drinks

Chosen beverages number one (C5.1) and number two (C4.1) were the cognacs.  The sheet provided said that cognac was similar to brandy and the taste of these two supported this.  Neither drink was particularly mind blowing and certainly neither ever threatened to tempt yours truly away from Scotland’s finest.  However, both tasted firmly of what the notes suggested and it was a pleasant 15 minutes spent in their company.

Notes upon notes

The third drink was a rum from cask R7.2.  BibCup’s experience of rum stretches no further than a Malibu and Diet Coke which was covertly consumed at some house party sometime in the mid 00’s.  Armed with this wealth of knowledge we dived straight in…to a plastic taste sensation that conjures lurid thoughts of all those chemicals that you read about on the back of your girlfriend’s shampoo.  Seriously, we don’t know what they were doing in Jamaica on 30 September 2000, but burning some sort of cheap plastic toy and shoving it into a rum barrel is fairly high up the suspect list.  We’d have rather have had another glass of Malibu.

The fourth drink was also rum.  Trepidation filled the air as the memories of cask R7.2 echoed round the room.  However, Cask R10.1 proved to be the alpha to that omega, the yin to the earlier yang.  In all respects this was the drink of the night: rich, peppery and with a smooth texture like soft butter in the mouth this rum really stole the show.  At £195 a bottle (only 108 bottles available) you might reasonably expect this drink to be good, but BibCup did not expect it to be “sitting by a Caribbean beach watching an Instagram bikini model play in the surf” good.  Honestly, if you like rum, can justify the price tag, and want to retreat to a Caribbean island then this is the bottle for you.

Rounding out this boozy quintuplet was a gin (cask GN1.1).  It was a gin and there’s really not much else to say.  Even the barmaid admitted that is wasn’t much cop.  So we move on.

Thank God for Speyside

To a proper drink. After all that French and Caribbean fun we just had to grab a whisky.  To be precise we chose a 13 year-old Speyside aged in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel that’s been cheerfully and optimistically named “Strolling in Paradise”. The words in the description included ‘orange’, ‘incense’, ‘sandalwood’ and ‘malt loaf’.  All of those notes were present and more.  This is a dram that has two parts.  At first it is soft and fruity, tantalising the tip of the tongue and then working its way towards the back of the throat.  In the second phase those woody notes came through and there is a long and complex finish in which the flavours tussled and wrestled as they faded.  All in all this is a delightful dram from bottle 9.125. At £57.50 it isn’t a cheap bottle but given the flavours available this is excellent value.

Speyside to the rescue!

The SMWS Spirited Tastings experience was a surprise but not an unpleasant one.  If you’re looking to broaden your horizons beyond whisky but want to do that in a safe place where you won’t be laughed at (or judged for drinking straight gin) then it’s well worth the £9.50 (£12.50 for non-members) entrance fee.  However, after all that cognac, rum and gin BibCup would still take home the Speyside every time.


SMWS run regular outrun spirits tastings for both members and non-members. Further details can be found here –

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