Would you fancy a bottle of Chow Mein On A Workbench? What about a dram of Two-Wheeled Beach Cruiser, Chimney Sweep’s Romantic Barbecue, or Carefree Contentment? If you’re wondering what all these are, well, they’re whiskies. Or more specifically, the taste profiles of whiskies bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS).
But what are the names of these whiskies? Well, they’re called 55.23, 29.205, and 42.30, and 7.164 respectively. So, what’s with all the numbers? What distilleries are the whiskies from? And what age are they?
Therein lies the beauty of SMWS, one of the world’s best-known independent bottlers of whisky.
As the name suggests, the Edinburgh-based SMWS is a members-only whisky club founded in 1983, with 25,000 members in 20 countries all around the world. SMWS was recently named 2017’s Independent Bottler of the Year in Whisky Magazine’s Independent Bottlers’ Challenge competition.
According to Heidi Kluender, SMWS’ business development consultant for South-East Asia, the society specialises in single cask whiskies only.
“We source and buy casks of whiskies and mature them in our own warehouses. We then monitor the progress of each cask, and they are evaluated by a tasting panel of independent connoisseurs and experts,” she said.
“Each bottle is from an invidual single cask only. We bottle at natural cask strength, un-chill-filtered, and with no added colouring. We believe that this makes it a purer form of whisky,” she said, during the launch of Malaysia’s SMWS branch this week.
At the event, members of the media and a select group of whisky lovers from Facebook-based whisky group Dram Full got a taste of just how unique the SMWS whiskies are. The three whiskies we tried were Carefree Contentment (7.164), All Toasty And Cosy (11.31), and Peat Smoked Candied Angelica (29.201).
A quick look at the labels on the bottles revealed that there is no mention of where the whiskies are from. Instead, there is a code that consists of two numbers, the first indicating the distillery’s name, and the number of the casks from that distillery that have been bottled.
In the case of Carefree Contentment (7.164), for instance, the number 7 represents the Longmorn distillery, and this is the 164th cask from that distillery that has been acquired by SMWS.
However, while it is easy to Google the code numbers to find out which distillery the whisky is from, Kluender says the reason they don’t put the name on the bottles is that the SMWS would prefer you to focus more on the flavour of the whisky rather than the age or region it is from.
The whiskies are selected by a tasting panel that consists of independent connoisseurs and experts, who are not provided with any information about age or distillery name, and make their decisions solely based on the merits of each individual cask. A whisky is chosen for bottling when the cask is ready, not because it has reached a certain age.
“We want people who drink our whiskies to focus on flavour profile, and not where or when the whisky was made,” she said. “We think this will also make it easier for novices to understand whiskies better.”
To enjoy these whiskies, however, you’ll first need to become a member of the SMWS. Fortunately, SMWS memberships – and whiskies – are now available in Malaysia, thanks to craft spirits distributor Wholly Spirits.
An annual full membership (RM436) gets you a membership card, and allows you exclusive access to purchase the SMWS bottlings, gain entry for you and up to three guests to the Society’s four Members’ Rooms in Edinburgh and London, and get discounted dram prices at all SMWS partner bars around the world. The Whisky Bar KL at Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur is currently the only SMWS partner bar in Malaysia.
You can also go for the Pioneer Welcome Pack (RM999). On top of all the benefits of the standard membership, you’ll also get a gift pack that includes three 100ml bottles of exclusive SMWS whiskies, an SMWS journal, and a club lapel badge.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the official website.