You should know by now that we like to do things a little differently at the Society. If that hadn’t crossed the minds of our three volunteer members for a tasting of May’s Outturn bottlings before, it certainly has now.
The mission? A blind tasting to try and identify each of the Society’s 12 flavour profiles from the Outturn, and find their favourite. But how well do they know their Old & Dignified from their Young & Spritely?
SMWS ambassador Tom Rofe is on hand in the Tasting Room at The Vaults to provide some guidance, but otherwise it’s up to Jan Penrose, Hamish Kallin and Louise Young to cast aside any preconceptions based on distillery numbers, bottle names or any other clues. All they need to do is nose and sample the 12 glasses in front of each of them.
Turns out it’s not easy – but it’s an eye-opening experience. Identifying the variously peated profiles of Cask Nos. 66.143: Steam trains and puffers, 53.289: ‘Speck-tacular’ and 10.170: Cooking for Hades is less challenging. But there’s plenty of debate about whether 29.260: A visceral, elemental experience belongs in Old & Dignified, or Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits. Or whether 113.17: Fruit cream delight and 44.102: Nose healing for hippies are Spicy & Dry or Spicy & Sweet.
“I feel like I’m in a weird exam,” says Louise. “I think I’m going to have to drink a lot more whisky, to get better at this!”
Hamish feels like he’s gaining in confidence as he works his way through the selection, but finds himself stumped in identifying a clear difference between the Young & Spritely 77.54: Zesty, zingy, zippy and zappy and the Old & Dignified 36.158: Hessian delicatessen. “If there’s one thing the SMWS has taught me, it’s that young whiskies can taste amazingly good,” he says. “It’s also shown me I can enjoy whiskies from anywhere on the flavour profile chart – I used to think I only liked peated expressions, but when I was introduced into so much complexity across the favour profiles I thought it was stupid to just drink one, when I could drink 12!”
Long-term member Jan admits she has always tended to seek out Society bottles by distillery number first, but finds herself pleasantly surprised by this evening’s experience.
“Some of these are a revelation, especially with the difference in flavour profiles from the same distillery such as 10.168: Cuquillo black olives and 10.170: Cooking for Hades,” she says. “After this experience I’ll go with flavour profile suggestions much more – I’m always open to change!”
The debating over which glass belongs in which flavour profile continues, but that’s all part of the fun, says Tom. “Obviously the Society’s flavour profiles are there to provide guidance, it’s not an exact science, so there’s no right or wrong – but the discussion and exploration adds to the experience.”
We’ll drink to that – now over to you…
DOWNLOAD OUR SOCIETY FLAVOUR PROFILE CHART AND TRY YOUR OWN BLIND TASTING AT HOME WITH A VARIETY OF DRAMS FROM DIFFERENT SOCIETY FLAVOUR PROFILES
Find your own whisky with character
Our members took the flavour profile challenge using bottlings from the current May Outturn as well as our Islay Festival bottlings, which will be available on Friday, 24 May. Visit www.smws.com or your local Society website for availability of bottles outwith the UK and EU and line up your own selection of drams from across our 12 flavour profiles, and find out more about our Whisky with Character here.
Check out the wonderful diversity of SMWS whisky, with the contrasting characters of this duo from distilleries 53 and 35, introduced by ambassador Dean Marinello at The Vaults