Taste and Chat with Georgie of SMWS

I had an amazing opportunity to do a private tasting with SMWS’s global brand ambassador – Georgina Bell. Georgina secured a table at the always lovely Raines Law Room for us. She had three unopened SMWS bottles for me to sample. Without further introduction let’s jump straight into my tasting notes.SMWS tasting

77.28 Tropical Nights (Glen Ord 25)

One of 236 bottles, this lovely spirit was distilled on August 13, 1987 and aged in a new charred oak second fill hogshead. It was bottled 25 years later at a robust 54.9% ABV. On the nose there is candlewax and tropical fruits – mango, papaya, pineapple. Additionally there is some dark chocolate, marzipan and cardamom seeds. The palate is full of tropical fruit flavors with a strong note of passion fruit. It’s full bodied, waxy, yet smooth. What an amazing way to start off the tasting. This dram is ridiculously good and the bottle would probably not last too long on my shelf at home.

66.44 New Balls Please (Ardmore 10)

The refill ex-sherry butt produced 688 bottles of this 10 year old spirit. Bottled at 56.9% ABV this is a dirty sherry bomb which lives up to it’s namesake. On the nose you get hickory, caramelized onions, plum sauce and dark red fruits (cherries, grapes). This dram is not for the faint of heart. It’s quite a mouthful and you can literally chew on the dram. It sort of tasted like leftover blueberry pie that had been reheated on an open charcoal grill. This dram is unrefined and rough around the edges, but that is exactly what makes it so unique and intriguing.

29.139 Why do fools fall in love? (Laphroaig 18)

Only 167 bottles of this spirit exist! It was aged 18 years in a refill bourbon barrel and bottled at 59.9% ABV. I did not know this was a Laphroaig upon tasting, but guessed that it was from that famous Islay distillery due to the unmistakable signature medicinal, salty and peaty nose. The palate is ashy with hints of toffee, apples and that material they stick in your mouth before you get x-rays at the dentist office. Other it’s abnormal brightness, it’s not unlike any Laphroaig I’ve tasted. Laphroaig is definitely one of those drams that you either hate or love. I liked this one, but I think the proprietary Laphroaig 18 might be just as good if not better.SMWS tasting 2

After the tasting I got the chance to ask Georgie a few questions. Below is an edited transcript from the Q&A:

What’s your role as global ambassador for SMWS?
Georgie: We have 26,000 members globally split across 15 intentionally branches spread across 19 countries. I’ve been in my role for about a year and travel around the World as a supporting actress to the international branches which are the lead actors. I spend about six to seven months on the road looking after the branches. During my travels I conduct tastings, trainings and build awareness about the brand.

What will you be during this trip in the US?
G: I’m here spending a month traveling from East to West Coast. After one week here in New York I’ll be visiting DC, Chicago, Seattle, Napa, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. Along the way I’ll be doing various tastings and trainings. I’ll also be visiting our three partner bars (El Gaucho – Seattle, Drumbar – Chicago, Jack Rose – DC). I’ll also be at a few of the SMWS Whisky Extravaganza tours (DC, Seattle, LA). My main goal is to introduce people to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and really build the brand.

Could you describe the flavor output from different casks (1st fill, 2nd fill, refill)?
G: A first fill cask doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. Every cask is different (essentially made from a different tree because of the way the staves have to be cut). First fills – 70% of flavor comes from the wood, 30% is the new make spirit shining through. In certain cases you may want more of the distillery charm to come through so you’d age it in a second fill cask which is a 60/40 breakdown or a refill cask which is 50/50. It completely depends what you’re looking for. First fill casks will have more wood flavors impacting the flavor, but it isn’t always better than a second or refill cask. You shouldn’t judge a whisky based on the cask, but rather on the end product.

What’s the best part about your role and worst part?
G: Best part of the job is introducing new people to the brand and seeing that WOW moment when people try out whisky for the first time. I really enjoy traveling and seeing the World since I studied geography in University. The worst part of the job is leaving friends behind in Edinburgh – but with skype and facetime the World is just one click away. So if that has to be the worst part of the job, then I’m lucky to have this amazing opportunity.

What’s your favorite dram of the moment?
G: Definitely depends on my mood. Right now since it’s Autumn outside I want something a bit more warming as the air gets a bit colder. I’m a big fan of grain whisky which I think is very overlooked. We have a whisky out called G5.7 (Invergordon) – All day American breakfast. 18 year, newly charred oak cask. It’s stunning, spicy and big.SMWS tasting 3


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