Whisky writer Olga Varvarova joins The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s tasting at the Spirit of Speyside festival, sampling six drams in the company of whisky enthusiasts from around the world.
What is the best way to get acquainted with unexpectedly bold and uniquely flavourful whiskies? Or, perhaps, get introduced to a brand you’ve never tried before? Whisky tasting is my answer!
I got an amazing opportunity to join whisky enthusiasts from all over the world for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s tasting at a charming Dufftown as part of the Spirit of Speyside festival. Sat in a cozy room at the Royal British Legion, I tried six different drams, each full of character.
The tasting was led by SMWS’s ambassador Bob Wenting, the self-proclaimed whisky geek from The Netherlands.The first whisky of the day was 18-year-old Cask No. 7.280: Coconut And Guava Paste Popsicle. The light and mellow dram with distinct exotic fruit flavour and a peppery kick was a very pleasant start. My taste buds detected chocolate as well, which I really enjoyed.Then, we moved to dram #2 – a 15-year-old whisky with a peculiar name Cask No. 68.108: The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same. Its Spicy & Sweet flavour profile was paired with an unexpected light smokiness that was achieved by toasting the inside of the cask. I’ve never tried a wood-smoked whisky, which, for me, was much gentler and lighter on the palate than a peaty one.
The third dram, a 15-year-old Viscous Velvet, was a rare release small-batch bottling for 2023’s festival season. Very smooth yet quite peppery, it smelled much older than it actually was. I enjoyed the sweet and earthy notes that reminded me of a fruit cake, generously covered with caramelised orange peels.
The fourth whisky, another rare release for 2023, was my absolute favorite. Warming, smooth, classic Speyside dram, 14-year-old Massive Oak Extraction felt like having a Christmas party in my mouth. The dram had a distinct sherry influence that immediately made me think of juicy cherries dipped in dark chocolate – that’s the winner in my books!
Drams number five, Cask No. 1.282: Endlessly Revealing, and 6, Cask No. 108.56: Supper On A Puffer, were the lightest in colour of the bunch. Both were 10 years of age, came from Speyside distilleries, and had a surprising light peaty taste.
Supper On A Puffer was the dram that evoked the most debates. When Bob asked what it tasted like, one participant shouted: “Like fish that’s gone off.” Indeed, it had a smoked fish flavour with an ashy aftertaste and a pleasant burn. It was the second whisky of the day that I would gladly take home with me.
What I liked about the SMWS’s tasting was how Bob guided us through this adventure, encouraging the discussion and letting everyone be a part of it. It was inspiring to see how he was interacting with the people who shared pure passion for whisky that matched his own.
I caught myself thinking that for me the best way to drink whisky is when you get to share it with others. There’s nothing more exciting than engaging in a conversation with a friend or a complete stranger and learning about their experience that can be completely different from your own.
Thank you SMWS for a wonderful time and a fantastic tasting!
Find out more about the Society's Flavour Hunters festival this May at https://smws.com/may-flavour-hunter-festival/