Attracting mentions in blogs is now an established marketing strategy and as a blogger, albeit very minor, I get invitations to various events and offered trial versions of products. I am very wary of these, in general, as I think freebies inevitably affect your judgment, however much you try to be unbiased. If I dislike something, I want to be able to say so honestly.
I was invited to a tasting event at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society as was my daughter Jane who blogs much more articulately than me at Edinburgh Etiquette. As I love malt whisky there was no possibility of me disliking the product so I decided that it wasn’t an integrity compromise to go along to the tasting with Jane.
The Scotch malt whisky society (SMWS) buys whisky in cask from various distilleries, bottles these and sells them to members. These are rare and unusual whiskies that you can’t buy in the shops. Rather than use the distillery names, whiskies are identified by number such as 26.115, where the first number identifies the distillery and the second the specific cask. However, if you want to know where the whisky comes from, you can google to find a list of distillery numbers.
Whiskies are cask strength, which is stronger than normal and often quite rare so don’t expect to pay high street prices. They are significantly more expensive so are for whisky aficionados or for a special occasion present.
Anyway, back to the tasting. There was an enormous range of whiskies on offer and we were invited to try as many as we wanted (with a sensible warning that we shouldn’t overdo things).
The tasting notes identified a number of ‘flavour profiles’ such as ‘Young and Spritely’, ‘Spicy and Dry’, ‘Juicy Oak and Vanilla’ and ‘Heavily Peated’ and so on.
The whiskies were given rather daft names such as ‘Grannies Behaving Badly (and Madly)’ and ‘A Comforting Hug in a Mug’ and there were panel tasting notes which were so over-the-top that you really had no idea what to expect. My favourite whisky was described as:
“…Ginger nuts, young rum and bananas gave way to a whisky sour cocktail and some melted brown sugar. One stirred porridge and honey on the stove whilst another discovered the more savoury edge of sautéed mushrooms….”
Silly but harmless. This 20 year-old whisky (35.139), which actually had a descriptive name – Punchy Spice Explosion, was superb. I’m no expert but I got cinnamon, ginger and Christmas pudding from it – definitely not mushrooms.
One of the things I most enjoyed about this experience was introducing my daughter to whisky and trying different types with her. Between us, we tried 14 different whiskies and made a point of each having the same ‘flavour profile’ at the same time, so we could make comparisons. The differences between different types, even within the same flavour profile, were remarkable.
I have always been of the opinion that there is no such thing as a bad malt whisky. Even cheap malts, such as Aldi’s £18 Glen Marnock, are perfectly drinkable. However, there’s a huge difference in depth and complexity between high street brands and the drinks that we tasted. If you want to experience the enormous range of whisky tastes and experiences, the SMWS is the place to go.
I attended the whisky tasting in Edinburgh as a guest of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.