Enter the unassuming door of the Georgian townhome on Queen Street in Edinburgh, and you enter the world of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. In these hallowed halls, whisky is nosed, savored, and enjoyed in dram portions designed to introduce guests to new flavors and encourage tasting.
Unlike a traditional bar in which advertising dominates decisions, the Society offers a unique approach to enjoying spirits. By concealing the identity of the distilleries, no preferential treatment is given to push one brand over another. As they describe in their publication Outturn/Turnout, “The Society only bottles whisky of the finest pedigree – single cask single malts.” Whisky is numbered, and many of the bottlings come with individual tasting notes developed by a panel of connoisseurs within the society. Bartenders understand their spirits and will take your personal preferences into account when making perfect suggestions. Ask for their expertise and be willing to try new bottlings. I guarantee you’ll go home with at least one new favorite!
So what does a tasting note accomplish? It provides the region of Scotland which produced the whisky, cask number, age, colour, date distilled, alcohol percentage and outturn. The outturn reveals how many bottles were produced from that single cask – and are available for members to purchase. Sometimes the notes are downright humorous and they always stretch your imagination!
Allow me to share a tasting note for my favorite of the evening, as depicted in the February ’10 Bottling List in Issue 155 of Outturn. This note is for Cask No. 105.13. priced at 66.50 pounds per bottle with an outturn of 319 bottles:
“The neat nose was powerful with naphtha and hot treacle on cut grass; Dr. Pepper, Cherry cola and cough syrup; milk chocolate coated Brazil nuts and leather saddles. The neat palate was flavoursome with rhubarb and treacle pudding, red cherries and chocolate coated Brazil nuts. With water, the nose became multi-faceted; smooth with toffee popcorn and macadamia nuts; savoury with gammon steak and baked pineapple. The reduced palate was of chewy pecan tart and juicy peaches. one panellist commented “it tastes as good as the distillery looks.” The distillery was constructed in the 1950s and has a distinctive Art Deco design. Drinking tip: Last drink of the evening – for self-indulgent moments.”
Colour: Colheita tawny
Cask: First fill sherry hogshead
Age: 26 years
Date Distilled: September 1983
Outturn: 319 bottles
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
28 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JX
0131 220 2044
Memberships and day passes to the Society are available.
Additional locations in London and Leith.
Light meals are served in the lounging rooms, as well as multi-course offerings in the more formal Dining Room. Private function rooms are open for hire. Be sure to celebrate the occasion with good friends.
Thanks Ian and Diana for introducing us to this great experience!