Yesterday 30th of September was the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Global Gathering 2022 event. It’s virtual tasting with John McCheyne, SMWS’s global brand ambassador, and he was joined by five people who were part of the selection of the five drams of the night. Each dram was selected by a tasting panel from a specific country, and chose a name for it in their own language. Then, each dram’s tasting was led by the local brand ambassador, starting… in his or her native language. As it started with the whisky selected by the French panel, some people who joined a bit late were quite surprised to hear the tasting in French, before realising it would switch back in English a few minutes later. Obviously, I had ordered a tasting pack in order to join, so let’s go review those five whiskies chosen for the SMWS Global Gathering 2022.
Aultmore 2011 SMWS 73.144 Un Coin(g) De Nature Review
First up was an Aultmore selected by the French panel. Distilled in 2011, it spent all of its maturation in a First Fill ex-Bourbon barrel until it was bottled in 2022. The only Aultmore reviewed here was also an indy distilled in 2011, but the few Aultmores I’ve tried so far have always been pleasant to very good. Back to this one, the SMWS categorised it to their Sweet, Fruity & Mellow flavour profile. It clocks 62.5% ABV (nice way to gently start the evening!) and as usual with the SMWS is non-chill filtered and natural colour. This Speysider is still available from the SMWS EU store, for €82.20.
Neat: It starts on whiffs of vanilla and quince, melon, and a fresh and sweet sourness, like the lemon cream of a lemon pie. It’s a wee sharp, which is not unexpected with this high ABV. I also find some handmade redcurrant jam, crushed almonds and some floral notes.
With water: more quince, but strangely less sweetness now. It becomes more floral, with a bit of hay as well.
Neat: Citrusy and sharp, a bit woody, cough syrup, herbal notes, as well as very dark chocolate. Earthy notes, but also sweetness coming through with some fruity candies.
With water: Sweeter now, more candies (strawberry flavoured), but also a bit more peppery heat. Do spicy Tagadas exist?
Wood and dark chocolate bitterness and citrusy sourness linger one for a good moment.
Likeable dram, full of flavours, but maybe a bit too sharp, something that would have been mellowed with a few more years in the cask. I won’t jump on one of the remaining bottles, but I wouldn’t mind another dram some time.
Linkwood 2011 SMWS 39.251 A Sweet Tongue Twister Review
The second whisky of the evening was also in the Sweet, Fruity & Mellow flavour profile. Selected by the BeNeLux panel for the Global Gathering, this Linkwood was also distilled in 2011. It spent 11 years in a Second Fill Bourbon Barrel. It was bottled in 2022 for the Global Gathering, at 59%, unchill filtered and natural colour. At the time of writing, as for the Aultmore, a lot of bottles are still available on the SMWS EU store for €87.10.
Pale straw, maybe a tad lighter than the Aultmore.
Neat: Damp wood and vanilla, whiffs from a candies shop open door whilst walking on the street. You can imagine trays full of gummy bears and sour candies as well. Some yellow fruits.
With water: more damp wood, almost damp cardboard now.
Neat: Brighter than the nose. Yellow fruits, apples, raisins, with a slight citrusy sourness. We then have a mouthful of slightly sour candies, with wood and tarte tatin.
With water: more citrus notes, a bit peppery sharpness.
A bit of wood bitterness, apple caramel, hints of mint, a bit short.
It feels like the Flora & Fauna Linkwood cranked up a notch, especially on the sourness. We’re roaming around a candy shop, sometimes indulging with a mouthful of sour candies, but it lakes a bit of complexity and the damp wood or even damp cardboard notes on the nose make it lose a couple points. Once again it might have benefitted from a few more years in the cask.
Inchgower 2009 SMWS 18.46 Bandyportfölj Review
Third whisky of the night and third distillery owned by Diageo. Inchgower is a distillery we almost see nothing from as an official bottling, except for the 14yo in the Flora & Fauna range, so heavily coloured and reduced to 43%, and a rare appearance in the Special Releases or in the Rare Malts a long time ago. So if we want to try some, we have to rely on indy bottlers to get some not overly dressed in chill filtration and E150 colouring. This 2009 Inchgower was matured for 13 years in a First Fill Ex-Oloroso Sherry Hogshead before being bottled at 58.6%. NC & NCF as usual. We’ve changed flavour profile compared to the first two as we’re now in the Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits profile. The selection of the panel from Sweden is still available on the SWMS EU store for €94.40 at the time of writing.
Neat: we really get the usual Oloroso cask matured notes on the nose: some rancio, leather, old dusty books, and some mustiness. Chocolate with cherry liquor inside and some herbal old school notes.
With water: Some earthy notes like an old brandy, dry mushrooms, dry wood.
Neat: Spicy arrival, with some rich flavours of orange, chocolate, mulled spices, smoked meat, unsweetened barbecue sauce and a few drops of soy sauce.
With water: Dryer mouthfeel than neat. Spicier, with quite some heat on the tongue: chili pepper and tabasco sauce. More chocolate, milk chocolate, not dark.
The mulled spices linger on with orange juice and smoked ham. Milk chocolate and a bit of brown sugar at the very end.
This was surprisingly my first Inchgower ever, so unfortunately with quite an active Oloroso hogshead, it’s not like this I’ll learn too much about the naked Inchgower character. But nonetheless, this makes a quite nice combination, with a brandy-like earthy nose and a quite energetic palate. Quite some fun, and some margin to play around with water. A taste of going back to it.
Blair Athol 2009 SMWS 68.95 A Negroni Riff Review
Four out of four for Diageo for now. For… midable first sentence for this paragraph, I know. We stay on the Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits flavour profile with this 2009 Blair Athol. No same cask full maturation here, as this Blair Athol started its maturation in an ex-Bourbon hogshead before a finish in a first fill ex-Oloroso hogshead. Bottled at 58.1% ABV, this 13-year-old is unchilll filtered, uncoloured and… out of stock.
Neat: Brown sugar, toffee, tobacco leaves, ginger biscuits, orangettes, and some mango and exotic fruits.
With water: dark fruits jam.
Neat: tobacco leaves, burnt caramel, leather, brown sugar, and a bit of umami notes of sweet soy sauce.
With water: espresso martini! Cloves and aniseed.
Aniseed lingering on with dusty old books and a light Jaffa cake note.
Very good as well, not so far from the Inchgower in my mind, hard to separate. I would have loved to spend more time with it but unfortunately a glass spill accident made me lose part of my sample (facepalm…) and almost kill my keyboard. Anyway, good whisky, wouldn’t mind another dram or two.
Inchmurrin 2006 SMWS 112.109 Das Rennende Schaf Am Strand Review
For the fifth and last dram of the Global Gathering, we finally leave Diageo as we’re going to one of Loch Lomond brands: Inchmurrin. Inchmurrin is a single malt distilled using the quite atypical Lomond stills, which are a kind of pot still with its swan neck replaced by kind of a small column with a few rectifying plates. See my discussion with Michael Henry to learn more about these stills. What’s strange though is that distillery 112 is the code for Inchmurrin, which is usually unpeated, whilst the straight-neck peated single malt from Loch Lomond is usually called Inchmoan (though it can also come from a traditional pot still as well!). Anyway. This 15yo straight-neck Loch Lomond was selected by the German panel for the Global Gathering. It clocks a lighter 51.5% ABV compared to the first four whiskies, and is delivered without chill filtration nor colouring as usual. At the time of writing, about twenty bottles are still available on the SMWS EU shop for €108.80.
Neat: Light herbal and grassy peat, WD40, industrial grease, with light fresh citrusy and floral notes in the background. Shortbread and poached pears. A bit of maritime side to it, ever so slightly salted.
With water: Dirtier, with olive brine.
Neat: More peated than on the nose, medium to heavily peated. Citrus notes again, orange and grapefruit, some pepper, chilli pepper as well. Green apples, ginger and some wood spices.
With water: Sweeter than neat. The mouthfeel is a bit creamier, and the peppery heat is delayed but a few seconds but comes back stronger, without being excessive.
A light heat lingers on with a salted brine and green apples.
A nice fresh and peaty whisky, easygoing but lacking a bit of depth and craziness. There’s nothing wrong to it, but there’s nothing highly memorable I’d say. I definitely won’t refuse a dram if offered but I won’t actively look for one either. However, I think it should not have been bottled under the distillery 112 number, as Inchmurrin is unpeated Lomond-distilled Loch Lomond. We’re more in Croftengea or Inchmoan territory, so distillery 122.
A Few Thoughts
The first thing about this Global Gathering is that I was surprised there were not more people than that. When I checked, we were 87 people watching it live on Youtube, about 16-ish on Facebook. So just above a hundred people. From such a large society (more than 36.000 members I think the SMWS is?) to just a hundred people following this online, I was expecting we’d be more. But nonetheless, it was good fun. Having John McCheyne, always jovial, and accompanied by brand ambassadors from several countries, and even though not a brand ambassador, Tony Delcros representing France, was a good idea (maybe they always do that for Global Gatherings, but I’m quite a recent member of the SMWS), and each of them presenting the dram selected by their country’s panel in native language at first, was a good idea, even though for a few moments you can’t understand a thing if you’re not speaking that language. But there’s a good thing to this low number of participants as well: it was easier to interact, and I guess it made the job easier to Mads in the background to highlight the comments she thought were interesting. And on a technical part, it was flawless.
Now about the drams: even though the ratings I’ve given to some of them might seem low, for those in the low eighties, these were still nice to very good whiskies. And if they were selected by panels, that means they’re good ones. This blog, its reviews and its ratings are still my own view, with my own palate and my own taste, so obviously it won’t mean a whisky I didn’t consider magnificent is a bad one. Just that it was not as much to my taste as others I’ve tried and maybe reviewed. But there were no awful ones, no ‘let’s dump that into the sink’ ones, far from that!
If you want to try by yourself, about a hundred packs are still available and are even on offer compared to the price I’ve paid, as it’s down to 33€. And if you’re not a member of the SMWS, consider doing so because there are some gems each month, in each outturn. And if you’re ready to join, consider asking me for my member number so that you can get 20% off your first subscription cost!
All bottles pictures courtesy of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Lead image by myself.