SMWS 150.1 ‘Let’s Go West’

So when I was made aware that the SMWS were releasing their first ever release of a single malt from West Cork Distillery my immediate thought was that this could go one of two ways....either surprisingly good or tragically awful. I have you see, a past with West Cork Distillers. They being the first company I ever bestowed a 1 out of 10 too. You can read about that joyous occasion here.

If you take the time to read the review you will also see that they garnered some pretty decent scores too and a fair amount of praise, it was really that just that one 'wrong 'un' that got to me.

Anyway as I've alluded to with The Silkie whiskies, just because I've encountered something that I dislike, that doesn't mean that I will forever and a day deem said distillery or producer to be assigned to the scrapheap. No distiller or producer ever gets it right all the time.

My good pal over in the land of skirt wearing men, Whisky Rover, contacted me initially to alert me to this release. Of course I procrastinated and subsequently lost out on the chance to purchase the bottle. However all was not lost.

Last June I held an online tasting with the theme of Rum & Rye. On the tasting menu were whiskies from Shortcross, Method & Madness, Cadenhead's and Killowen. As this particular SMWS release was finished in a Rye cask one of Rover's friends offered me the bottle at cost for the tasting! So, if you are reading Malcolm, thanks again.

So what do we have inside the glass case of emotion? It's a single malt distilled 12/12/13 initially matured in an ex-bourbon cask before an undisclosed finishing period in a 1st fill Rye cask. It's 7 years old and bottled at 58.7% abv. It's of course non chill filtered and natural colour. It cost £75.

On to the notes!

Nose: There’s an immediate creaminess to this followed by wood driven notes of spicy oak, caramel and vanilla. Cereal notes come through too alongside digestive biscuits. A little orange citrus, eucalyptus plus some pine resin. A little grilled pineapple comes to the fore also. Water brings out marshmallow, coconut shavings and milk chocolate.

Palate: Citrus and spice on arrival. Clementine, lime then pepper followed by fresh nutmeg. This is followed by vanilla fudge and brown sugar. The casks kick in now with oak shavings, rye spice and clove. It turns a little herbal towards the end with a slight menthol tang. Water brings out more clove spice and pepper heat along with aniseed.

Finish: short to medium length with rye spice and oak tannins lingering alongside sharp citrus too.

Score: 7 out of 10

Overall: I’ve had some interesting experiences with West Cork releases in the past, ‘interesting’ being the operative word. Certainly not everything they’ve released has been a roaring success, but then again, which distillery always gets it right?

This one piqued my interest upon release just to see how the SMWS would treat the base spirit and how an ex-rye cask would interact with the malt. Thankfully the rye cask has not dominated the malt but has added top notes of clove and peppery spice that integrate pretty well with the malt. It is also quite well balanced between the nose and palate. 

Well £75 for a 7 year old Irish whiskey may seem a tad steep but compare it to the Glendalough 7 year old Mizunara cask single malt, which incidentally is also sourced from West Cork before the finish is added, costs £72 and is bottled at 46% rather than cask strength and the SMWS bottle looks a much more attractive proposition. Having tasted the Glendalough I can tell you that in terms of taste the SMWS blows it away too.

I look forward to seeing what 150.2 from the SMWS brings.

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