What would your ‘spirit animal’ be? SMWS spirits manager Euan Campbell delves into the May Outturn to find the perfect pairing of dram and the natural world – but finds comfort close to home

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It’s an interesting proposition – if you were to find your ‘spirit animal’ what would it be? I’m intrigued by wildlife expert Nick Baker’s pairing of the Society’s 12 flavour profiles with his selection of exotic animals, from the Sweet, Fruity & Mellow elegant trogon bird to the Lightly Peated fire salamander.

What's your kindred spirit from the animal world? Are you laid-back and relaxed like Euan's cat, Frankenstein? Or do you see yourself as more of an Old & Dignified African elephant?

Personally speaking, I think my own animal personality would be a house cat – they really know how to chill out and relax, with the kind of laid-back vibe I love in a Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits flavour profile dram. In a comfortable place, taking your time to savour and enjoy it – that puts me in mind of my own mog, Frankenstein.

Whether you’re more like a placid house pet or a someone who prefers the wilderness and extreme elements, you’re sure to find something to match your particular personality from the flavour profiles in this month’s Outturn.

First stop is Speyside, and a trio of bottlings that we created for this year’s Spirit of Speyside festival to showcase the best of that region’s style. Unfortunately given the circumstances we’re not going to be able to be there in person this year, but hopefully you’ll get the chance to try this selection of exceptional old-school sweet and fruity Speyside whiskies.

Cask No. 36.172: Orange oil and wine corks is Spicy & Sweet but at 23 years could just as easily have come from our Old & Dignified flavour profile, full of polished wood, pipe tobacco and chestnuts. Our other two Spirit of Speyside festival bottlings are all about classic Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits flavour profiles, with this trio seeing sherry casks at some point, but heading in slightly different directions. Cask No. 35.254: Pure decadence spent nine years in an ex-oloroso butt before we transferred it into a new oak, heavily charred puncheon, while Cask No. 7.223: A syrupy sweet tale of romance spent all of its 14 years in a first fill Spanish oak sherry butt. All of these are a truly sumptuous taste of classic Speyside.

Heading to the Highlands, we bottled Cask No. 52.32: Highly entertaining! for the Highland festival, which unfortunately was also cancelled – but the whisky is well worth tracking down. We wanted to showcase some of the region’s slightly more robust style, and if you were sticking to the ‘classic’ definition of regions, this is a great example of a rugged Highlander, with an Oily & Coastal flavour profile, sweet chilli heat, langoustines and crab claws.

If it’s rare sightings that get you excited, check out an interesting lesser-spotted wood type with Cask No. 54.81: Rumbustious revelry, a Spicy & Sweet Speyside bottling that spent 16 years in an ex-bourbon barrel before we transferred it into a Guyana navy-style rum barrel from which we’d previously bottled a single cask rum. It’s very fruity and the rum funk really comes through to complement the Speyside fruitiness and creamy spirit that’s typical of a bottling from distillery 54.

On the flip side, we have Cask No. R11.8: Big and bountiful, a Jamaican rum that we matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead for five years before being transferred to a second-fill barrel for another two years. This was a custom cask that we had made for us by Kelvin Cooperage, using new American oak which was air seasoned for 24 months and then had a number four char and heavily toasted heads applied to the cask. That has brought out aromas of rhubarb, custard, crème caramel and roasted nuts and makes for a great comparison with 54.81: Rumbustious revelry, where we have a Speyside whisky matured in a navy rum cask and then a navy style rum matured in a toasted oak Speyside whisky cask.

Another hard-to-find flavour profile is Heavily Peated, but we have one in this month’s Outturn with the appropriately named Cask No. 122.30: Proper phenol party. At six-years-old it’s a feisty youngster that has retained a lot of its phenol content without lengthy maturation or oak influence working to minimise its big blast of smoke, fire and ash. Definitely one for embracing the elements.

If you want to compare that with a slightly more tamed creature, try it next to Cask No. 53.327: Keeping the fire stoked – a Lightly Peated flavour profile from Islay that brings to mind peat-smoked lobster tails and honey and nut cluster muesli.

A couple of other rarities to track down: Cask No. GN3.8: ‘Berries with attitude’, a gin from Hawick that we’ve matured for more than a year in a lovely second fill barrel, giving it time for the flavours to develop and mellow beautifully.

And finally, we tracked down an exotic creature with Cask No. 138.6: Taiwanese tutti-frutti, an unpeated expression from this Taiwan distillery that brings notes of fresh fruit, lychees and pineapple typical from full-term maturation in a tropical climate.

As for me, like everyone else (at the time of writing) I’m not venturing too far from home, but here in Edinburgh there’s always the chance for a quick foray up Arthur’s Seat with something Sweet, Fruity & Mellow in my hip flask.

Then it’s back home, to see if can achieve the same level of relaxation as Frankenstein.

Good health to all,

Euan