Monday, 28 May 2012

First trip to the SMWS London

A well stocked bar, in numerical order of course, awaits visitors to the SMWS
I joined the Single Malt Whisky Society earlier this year at The Whisky Lounge Midland Fest in Stratford upon Avon. I think it had been on the cards since first meeting John McCheyne at Whisky Live in March.

The first (and only, so far) opportunity to visit the London headquarters of the SMWS came up on a lovely warm May afternoon after Kat and I had visited the London International Wine and Spirits Show in the London Excel. After having a quick run around the show, meeting the lovely Alwynne Gwilt (@themisswhisky) and tasting a couple of delightful Glen Moray single malts, (Whisky Discovery #131 & Whisky Discovery #132) we headed across the city to Greville Street to meet up with John McCheyne. The London branch of the SMWS is right opposite Farringdon Station, very easy to get in and out for us – Bedford First Capital Connect straight link. simples! Nowhere could seem further away from pure air and splashing highland burns than Hatton Garden, London.

19 Greville Street, London is a classic Victorian building, refurbished in a light and contemporary style to make members feel at home. Nestled in the heart of the City. It's ideally placed to mix business with pleasure.

Kat, having studied the 'whisky menu' is tweeting her first choice

When we arrived we were met by both Joe McGirr (@SMWSLondon) and John (@SMWSambassador) and started off our introduction to the with a cold beer while inspecting the 'whisky menu'. 

Arriving at just after four o'clock on a Thursday afternoon meant that we almost had the place to ourselves until members started arriving for an after work drink. Being situated directly above the Bleeding Heart Restuarant, and not having eaten properly all day we decided to take advantage of not moving from our seats and order our dinner, which was duly brought up to the lounge, a sensible arrangement for quality dining within.

We caught up with Sam MacDonald (@DramForSam) and Joel Eastman (@dramologist) who were both working that evening, although Joel has since moved on from here (although still tweeting whisky!

We sampled three drams during the early evening, three new experiences and all very worthy of new whisky discoveries.

Whisky Discovery #134

SMWS 50.47 18 Year Old Bladnoch
SMWS 50.47 Sweetly Appealing and Refreshing (57.2% abv)
Lowland Single Malt Whisky

Our first dram in the stylish London Headquarters of the SMWS was this 18 year old from the Bladnoch Distillery was distilled in October 1992, and matured in anex-bourbon hogshead, yielding just 262 bottles at 57.2% abv

The label read:
The nose offered sharp, citric fruits (lemon, green apple, gooseberry, green Jolly Ranchers), then dusty cereal and biscuit notes (shortbread, hob-nobs, dough); eventually sweetening to vanilla, barley sugars, honey and milk chocolate. The palate was sweetly appealing but refreshing at the same time – sherbet lemons, refreshers and dark chocolate. The reduced nose turned to lemon meringue pie, straw, ciabatta dough and sourdough pretzels, before bouncing back to the previous character. The palate had fruity, energizing, summertime fizz – eventually developing Gewürztraminer, mango, passion-fruit and lychee – definitely improving with time. The distillery was closed in 1993 but reopened in private hands in 2000.

Drinking tip: To celebrate or evoke the summer

Whisky Discovery #135

SMWS 35.66 Laundry in a Bakers Shop (59.5% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky

Our second dram was this wonderful Glen Moray, quite a fitting dram after the two Glen Moray's we'd tasted at the London International Wine and Spirits Show earlier.

This ten year old was distilled on 11th December 2001, matured in a first fill barrel yielding 253 bottles at 59.5% 

I didn't take any notes of this bottle and my photgraphy skills are so poor that I'm unable to read the label from that either! This was released as part of the May out-turn, but was only available as part of a pair or other special grouping, and was not able to be purchased on it's own.

Whisky Discovery #136

Marshmallows in a Duffle Bag
SMWS 64.36 (Mannochmore)

SMWS 64.36 Marshmallows in a Duffle Bag (60.3% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky

For our final dram before heading back up to Bedfordshire we chose this offering from the decription alone! I later found out that this was from the Mannochmore Distillery, one I'd never heard of before which needed some investigation when I got home.

A distillery originally built by John Haig to supply malt whisky for the Haig blends, is now owned by Diagio. There are very few releases under the Mannochmore name although I found a 12 Year Old listed, and it released the Loch Dhu Single Malt (the black malt whisky), but there are a number of independent bottlings listed.

This seven year old was distilled on 26th May 2004, matured in a first fill barrel yielding 257 bottles at 60.3% 

The label read:
On the nose, photocopy paper, paint and wood shavings gave way to jammy dodgers, buttery creamy Victoria sponge, icing sugar, banana loaf and ‘marshmallows in a duffle bag’ – also flowers, tea, vanilla, cedar, mint and eucalyptus. The palate was undoubtedly sweet (red spangles, dark marmalade, strawberry jam, vanilla cream) but with a tongue-nipping cardamom and chilli kick. The nose turned fruitier with water – rhubarb crumble, plum compote, gooseberry fool, peach and bergamot, while the reduced palate softened up and smoothed down to pleasant tart fruitiness and gentle pink rose soap. The distillery name apparently means ‘place of the holy man’

Drinking tip: With afternoon tea

A window of interesting cask samples! Can't wait for my next trip

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