It's been a while since I reviewed a bottle from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, so let's do two! And since it's getting cold, what better way to keep the chills at bay than by slurping two crackers from Islay?
I've never been a big fan of Bowmore, but the single cask stuff from the SMWS has been consistently good in my opinion, and as for Caol Ila - it's one of my favourite distilleries.
SMWS 3.244 - 58.8%
Film Noir - 19-year-old Bowmore. Ex bourbon refill hogshead.
Distilled May 7, 1996 - 211 bottles - from the August 2015 outturn.
Nose: Sweet black liquorice, strawberry laces, baked plums, sloe gin, sherbet dib-dabs - and the hard-boiled strawberry lolly. Wet autumn leaves, earth, flat Irn-bru and Pepsi. Wait, there's more: Coffee beans and raspberry yoghurt. With water, more fruit, confectionary, vanilla sponge and cheap lemonade.
Palate: Lots of dried fruit, plums, blackberries and baked apples dusted with sugar. Strawberry laces, dry oak and blackcurrant Chewits. With water, added citrus and vanilla.
Finish: Sweet peat and more strawberries, burning twigs, peat smoke and smoky bacon crisps. Sugar-coated chipotle chillis and charcoal bricks. Water adds more smoke and white pepper.
SMWS 53.227 - 56.8%
Sweet, Salty & Smoky - 18-year-old Caol Ila. Ex bourbon refill hogshead.
Distilled March 3, 1997 - 248 bottles - from the September 2015 outturn.
Nose: Cardamom, slight curry powder, lemons, liquorice wheels, vanilla and salted white fish. Chilli flakes, American Cream Soda, white pepper and celery salt. Some dried fruit, too. Water brings out stronger vanilla and adds grapefruit rind.
Palate: A sweet and salty arrival (natch!). Lemons, vanilla, cinnamon. Spicy but mouthwatering. Lovely peat. Water tames the flavours and adds sour citrus. Even at cask strength, I prefer this one neat. Small sips, mind!
Finish: Oaky vanilla, cinnamon and paper (!). Chilli heat with green twigs, campfire smoke, Edinburgh rock and mint. Water increases the peat and adds more sour citrus.