The SMWS is going back to its roots this October, celebrating our founder Pip Hills’s ethos of sharing unique discoveries with like-minded friends. Here’s Pip with his pick of the October Outturn bottlings

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When the Society approached me to taste the bottlings from the October Outturn and write a few words about them, I agreed – I’m never one to refuse a civil request, especially if it involves tasting whiskies. Then I thought about it for a few moments and asked: “What sort of words? Do you want me to write the Tasting Notes?”

“No,” I was told. “We’ve already done that: give us your impressions. Say which ones you like, and why. And anything else that comes to mind. You might like to say something about The Book while you’re at it…”

Ah, The Book. It’s called The Founder’s Tale and it’s a very personal account of events connected with the rise (and later of the near-foundering) of the Society. It also has a lot of stories about friends of mine and, of course, about whisky. No doubt it will be available from the Society if anyone wants to read it.

Pip Hills with his new book, 'The Founder's Tale', about the origins of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and his life of whisky-fueled adventures.

I was presented with a formidable array of bottles. Obviously, I couldn’t write about them all – you have the Tasting Notes for that – so I will restrict myself to three. A self-denying ordinance, as Oliver Cromwell put it.

Cask No. 46.82: A journey from light to dark is from one of those Speyside distilleries which rarely bottle their product as a single malt. It’s a pity, for on this showing, it would have no problem competing in a crowded market. The cask was a refill hogshead, so the mature spirit is, if anything, understated. The nose is high, fruity and floral; with water it shades to richer tones of dried fruits and nuts – and then a leather note. It is sweet on the palate, which is surprising for such an ethereal nose. And a dry finish. An addictive combination.

Pip conducting his tasting for the October Outturn along with SMWS spirits manager Euan Campbell at The Vaults.

Cask No. 1.215: Formidable chocolate is simply lovely. If you know anything at all about the Society, you won’t need telling where it’s from: the whisky which began the whole enterprise. If you don’t know much, read The Book, and then you’ll be in no doubt. The spirit has been in sherry wood, a matter which is perfectly apparent to the most cursory inspection; but cursory is the last thing your inspection should be, for this is a whisky which is deep and complex. Its origins – as regards both distillation and maturation – are apparent to the first sniff. Thereafter it’s a bit like diving into a deep pool: a pool full of celestial pleasures – and if oblivion were to be the consequence, well, what a way to go! See the Tasting Note for details.

Cask No. 66.151: Tiffin in a blackhouse is a curiosity. Easy enough to identify without bringing down the wrath of any offended distiller, for it is one of the very few mainland distilleries which historically made a practice of peating its malt. The Tasting Note is a bit cryptic, for it’s a fair bet that not one reader in a million will have had soup in a blackhouse. Blackhouses were the dwellings of most of the Scottish population a millennium ago. They had low roofs and no chimneys and their only source of heat other than the domestic animals quartered in the same room was the peat fire whose smoke found its way through a hole in the roof. So imagine what a pot of vichyssoise would taste like made over that fire. Well, this whisky tastes nothing like that, I’m pleased to say, apart from the peat smoke, of which there is plenty. There are other things too, most of them very pleasing, once you have become acclimatised. A Presbyterian whisky: you don’t get to enjoy it unless you are prepared to work. It is then most enjoyable.


Here’s Pip with his pick from the October Outturn

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