SMWS 3.243 'Dark, Smouldering Flamenco Gypsy' 57.1% abv
Single Cask Single Islay Malt
I haven't made my pilgrimage to Islay yet, it's something I really must get round to soon. It was an Islay malt that started me off on this path I decided to travel along, but I don't think it's going to happen this year unfortunately.
Every year, in the last week of May The Islay festival of Feis Ile is held. It's origins date back to 1984 when the first Gaelic Drama Festival took place, In the early days it was more of a traditional music festival and it wasn't until 1990 that the first ever whisky tasting took place. The islands distilleries started getting more involved in 2000 and introduced their special Open Days and ultimately their Special Feis Ile releases.
The Feis Ile is the charitable organisation from which this now huge Festival of Music & Malt has evolved. The Island population triples during the week of the Festival which means it's no longer something you can simply turn up to, forward planning is essential nowadays with many making their plans a year in advance.
This years Feis Ile runs from Friday 22nd May until Saturday 30th May and if you're thinking about making plans for 2016 the dates are Friday 20th - Saturday 28th May. You can find out more details at the Islay Festival Feis Ile website
This year The Scotch Malt Whisky Society will be, for the first time in their history, will too be hosting an open day on Friday 22nd May, when Islay House becomes their home for the day and in celebration they're releasing a their own limited edition Islay Festival bottling, and it will be available to members and non-members alike.
If you're not a member of the SMWS then you might not be aware of their bottling and labeling specifications. Every release comes in the same green society bottle and labeling never refers to a distillery directly, with every release bearing a pair of numbers separated by a decimal point. The first number referring to the distillery, and the second referring to the cask number that the society has bottled from this distillery, i.e. 3.1 would be the first cask ever bottled from distillery No.3
Each release has a quirky name which is put together from the notes of a tasting panel, as are the tasting notes printed on the label. Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy's notes read as follows:
Wow - so much on the noise - sherry, tarry wood, clean smoke, dates, figs, roasted chestnuts, Christmas spices, egg custard, maple syrup-glazed pork ribs and HP sauce on bacon rolls. The palate was substantial - liquorice, treacle toffee, coffee and chocolate, with caramelised onions and Demerara-smothered, clove studded ham over embers. The reduced nose suggested spiced prunes, Branston pickle, fig rolls, treacle tart, duck in plum sauce and warm welly boots by a drying bonfire. The reduced palate's smoke and sherry combination gave us interest and pleasure - the toffee and oloroso, toasted almonds and barbecued meats gave it a dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy personality.
It goes on to give this drinking tip: Between dances at a Spanish barbecue party
SMWS 3.243 is from the Bowmore Distillery that has spent 17 years maturing in a refill ex-sherry butt before being bottled at 57.1%. Sherry butts have a capacity of 500 litres, and allowing for 2% Angels Share over the 17 years I'm calculating that there will only be around 500 bottles available
So what Did I Think?
I've tasted a number of superb Society sherried Bowmore's and this certainly does not disappoint. After typing out their notes while writing this post and comparing them to mine, I can say I agree wholeheartedly with them! My notes as below are exceedingly similar.
Lovely sherry notes immediately on the nose, woody, nutty and the peated spirit giving notes of tarred parcel paper alongside a sweet alluring smoke. Barbecue sauce features heavily as the nose develops and there's that sweet meatiness to it; roast duck in Hoisin sauce (honestly, I never read the 'official' notes until after I'd finished writing mine!) A drop of water brings out the sherry fruits and Christmas cake notes I was expecting to find.
Superb! and I'm hoping I can get my hands on one from the London HQ later this month fingers crossed.
Many thanks to the society for thinking of me and sending me this sample. If you want more information on the SMWS's Islay trip, visit www.IslayHouse.co.uk