Hidden Gems: December 2019
December has been full of surprises at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. In celebration of the holiday season, not one, not two but three Outturns were released to kick off the festivities. Never before have we seen this many whisky options available to Society members in the USA and I’ve been amazed by how many hidden gems have emerged from our vast collection of casks.
What fascinates me most about Society whisky is that oftentimes the casks that turn out to be the most memorable are the also the most unexpected. They frequently come from lesser-known distilleries or appear relatively unassuming on paper. Yet when finally uncorked, the spirit will thrill and delight unlike anything before it. This month I’ve taken on the oh so trying task of tasting through the various Outturns and identifying the hidden gems of December.
What a name on this one! Cask 13.77 ‘Foraging the forest floor’ is a 12-year-old Highland whisky matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. It offers a wonderful array of bright, juicy orchard fruits, dampened moss and a whisper of sea salt, beach wood and brine. It is both warming in the mouth yet evocative of a cold, winter sea breeze at the same time. You don’t often see casks from Distillery 13 categorized in the Oily & Coastal flavour profile but this one certainly is. The result? A bold and complex dram far different (and more interesting) than anything I’ve seen from this distillery.
This is what I call a classic reimagined. Cask 37.125 ‘Austrian treats’ spent the first 11 years of its life maturing American oak, evolving into what I suspect would have been a soft, lovely Speyside whisky. Oak of sheer curiosity and desire to have a bit of fun, we decided to transfer the contents of this cask into a new oak hogshead with a heavy toast and medium char for a final 3 years. The result is an orchestra of cinnamon, sage, honey, pistachio marzipan, and confectionary sugar. It’s an absolute stunner that I find to be ever so satisfying this time of year.
Where are my peat lovers at?! Cask 93.116 ‘Dystopian cyberman lubricant’ represents everything I love about the little region of Campbeltown and if you couldn’t tell by now, I’ve come to love just about every cask bottled from Distillery 93. This one, however, is a cut above most. 18 years old and lightly peated, this whisky offers the kind of depth and satisfaction that one would desire on a special occasion. Smoked cod, dampened wood, brine, engine oil, the list goes on! It’s an overly masculine profile yet in a surprisingly soft and approachable package. A full 18 years in oak has mellowed the intensity of what would otherwise be a very intense dram. It’s a bit like watching a firework show but from a mile away. An overall fantastic whisky that I fear will only be harder to find due to the growing popularity of whisky produced in Campbeltown.