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Hidden Gems: March 2021

At The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, we are on a passionate pursuit of the world’s most unique spirits. Over the course of what has now been 38 years, we have uncovered thousands of remarkable casks from nearly 200 different distilleries, each with their own characteristics and individual story to tell. More than just bottling whisky of exceptional quality, it is the uniqueness of each cask and its contents that has excited me the most.

Each month I am tasked with the unique responsibility of tasting through the selection of casks available to Society members in America. The objective? To identify the “hidden gems” that may have been overlooked since their release. You see what fascinates me most about Society whisky is that oftentimes the casks that turn out to be the most memorable are 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.

So without further ado, I present to you my Hidden Gems of March:

Cask 12.49 Is this the way to amarillo?

Now this is something you don’t see every day. After nine years aging in an ex-bourbon barrel, this Speyside whisky was transferred to an ex-Tempest Old Fashioned IPA cask for a final year of maturation. The outcome is a full-flavour explosion of overripened orchard fruits and creamy vanilla with dried hops and bitter marmalade. I love how it becomes more herbaceous with a dash of water and continues to evolve throughout the tasting experience. It’s so rare to see a malt whisky partly matured in an IPA cask even more rare to see it work as well as it does here. 

Cask 138.5 Delicate masculinity

Cask 138.5 Delicate masculinity is an island whisky but not as you might know it. It comes from neither Islay nor Arran nor Orkney nor any of the Scottish islands we like to discover through tasting. This particular cask comes from Taiwan. Tawainese whisky has seen a meteoric rise in global recognition and I find this spirit justifies its newfound popularity. At 5 years old, it may seem young on paper but the high humidity of southeast Asia accelerates the interaction between the spirit and the cask it has aged in over time, imparting more flavour in that time when compared to Scotland for example. The outcome is a rich profile of toffee, dark chocolate and fig with a hint of gunpowder, brown sugar and bacon. It’s an exotic spirit with some familiar flavours and overall just a joy to experience. 

Cask 72.97 Royal nonsense?

There’s royal nonsense on TV and now there’s royal nonsense in my glass! Fortunately, this whisky is much more entertaining. A beautiful bouquet of springtime aromas from freshly cut flowers, honeysuckle and thyme with black pepper, basil and green grape skins. Dampened wood, earthen clay and rum-soaked raisins provide and added layer of depth and complexity to an otherwise bright and zesty spirit. Though these flavours can be described as delicate, the volume is dialed up to eleven! That’s in part due to the whopping 62.3%, which makes for a strong delivery and a long finish. Such a fun and uplifting experience.

Slàinte mhath!

Ben Diedrich