Madness Reinspired


It’s the first week of November and, surprise-surprise, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has a brand new outturn ready. And it’s the biggest one yet apparently. Out today.

So it happens that they quite like us and we quite love them and on the back of these mutual feelings we sometimes get to taste stuff before it is released, which is very nice and handy. And that’s exactly what happened last night!

But before I jot down some tasting notes, a few words about what you can see in the picture above.

The Society has a specific approach to naming their bottlings. As you probably know they give their whiskies discriptive names so that you don’t have to worry too much about the funny numbers. Now they have decided to go a step further and release three bottles with labels bearing artistic impressions of the taste of the whisky inside. The series is called Far Flung Flavours and is a highly limited, highly collectable one-off thing.

Last night a few members of the online-whisky community were gathered in SMWS Queen Street, the bottles were circling the room and the judgements were being passed. I was shell-shocked to discover that most people didn’t like the idea and the execution! Some found it “too jazzy”, some just didn’t care and only wanted to know what was inside. Fair enough. But I absolutely love it. Packaging is a vital part of any high-end product and I am delighted to see SMWS trialing new stuff, being innovative and a bit controversial. Personally I find both the idea and the execution stunning. The bottles look much better in real than in the picture by the way. Tell me what guys think!

Oh, almost forgot. The price of the full set of three is £176. Available only to members and likely to be gone in no time.

Now as to the whisky from the new outturn, we tasted 5 last night: 37.45; 26.63; 35.32; 28.22 and 10.70 – the numbers look really scary when you line them up like this, eh? I’m not too much of a numbers person…

Instead of boring you dead with tasting notes for all of them, I’ll tell you about our winner.


37.45 Slap and tingle
distilled 1987 (22yo)
re-fill hogshead
56.5% ABV

Nose: To me it was marzipan potatoes straight away (they sell them every year just before Christmas at the German market in Edinburgh). Macadamia nuts, coconut shell, floor polish. With a touch of water (even) more nuts and maple syrup. Fresh and crisp for the age. Intense, clear and focused. A cracker!

Palate: Big and salty. Nutty and woody. Pretzels and oranges.

Finsh: Fruity and aggressive.

Overall: It comes from that distillery in Speyside which begins with Craggan- and ends with -more (Did you guess correctly? Are you sure?) and it is not what you expect from them! I have never been their greatest fan, mainly because of the Distiller’s Edition port finish disaster, but I guess I have to revise my opinion now. 37.45 is mature but clean and bright. It’s intense and it’ll keep you busy for a long time. A belter.


  1. This seems to be what happens when LVMH/Glenmo gets its hands on something. OK, I have never tasted any SMWS bottling. But after these turns (naming of bottlings, bottle reshaping and now this lollipop graphics) I can assure everyone that I have zero interest on SMWS nowadays. This is not for one in his early 40′s and conservative opinions of certain things in life :) Actually the numbering scheme itself is not bad at all. Just hate this high school level productisation.

  2. In theory, I like the idea of demystifying whisky in order to attract a broader market, but the execution is a bit crap. I doubt your average Joe is looking for an SMWS bottling anyway. The labels look more like some of the flashier wine or microbrew labels than Scotch. There is some really fantastic package design in the industry these days. This is not it. Like a dowdy librarian, its the beast inside that ultimately matters though. “Intense and it’ll keep you busy for a long time” is good endorsement. It happens to be the best qualities to look for in dowdy librarian as well.

  3. I fully second Abinash’s sentiments. I was even thinking about joing the SMWS, but this has convinced me to stay away.

    The original purpose of the SMWS was to invite whisky lovers to enjoy single cask bottlings with fellow club members. Now with the LMVH takeover, it has become just one more marketing channel after Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. “Packaging is a vital part of any high-end product” says it all.

    There may be great whisky in the bottles, but I am always hesitant to give my money to companies who prefer to use it for marketing instead for improving their whisky.

  4. I have to disagree with Fuddy (Abinash) and Duddy (Oliver) and concur with the authors of this blog. These bottles are different and challenging. Early distillers were entrepreneurs, exporting whisky all over the globe. Most whisky packaging is a pastiche of over a 100 years of old design. These aren’t. I think rather ironically the very distillers that some of you guys identify with if they were alive today, would be doing exactly the type of thing that you hate now.

  5. Owen, thanks for inspiring me to learn a little English ( I can recognise myself in #2 (normally old person who is old-fashioned) and am not shy about it. Maybe you see yourself in #3? I admit that “hate” was perhaps just a bit too heavy word from me. But still, I will let others than me enjoy SMWS in its current state. I am not interested. One reason is the ownership thing, which “Duddy” mentioned.

  6. I am indeed a fuddy-duddy who has learned over the years that it pays not to take everything at face value, same site, just a few pages in, a better definition and more me I think:

  7. [...] of the distilleries than on the SMWS. But the latest bottlings, recently presented at the Edinburgh Whisky Blog, clearly showed that a wind of change began to blow. Colourful and “artsy” new labels, [...]

  8. I can’t seem to see what the problem with LVMH is? They inject money into Glenmorangie, rebrand and release some of the best bottling’s to come from that distillery in years. With regards to the SMWS, they now have access to single cask Glenmorangie, something that virtually no other Independence bottler has which can only be a good think. This is also not the first time the SMWS have released slightly wacky bottles, does anyone remember the ’26 malts’?

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