Wednesday, 6 May 2015

SMWS does Feis Ile

SMWS 3.243 Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy - 57.1%


May is upon us. In the mind of the peat-head that can mean only one thing - Feis Ile, the Islay festival of malt and music. For it is at this time of year the phenolic faithful descend upon the Queen of the Hebrides to visit her distilleries, sample her wares and snap up a few of the distillery-only festival bottlings on offer.


Such is the popularity of this annual pilgrimage that over the past couple of years, a few of the better known independent bottlers have got in on the act and put out their own releases to commemorate the festival, and this year is no exception.

This year those marvellous chaps over at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (Declaration of Interest: I'm a member and a huge fan) will be holding their own Feis Ile open day on Friday 22 May at the Islay House Hotel, Bridgend. Open to members and non-members alike, the event will play host to, amongst other things, a couple of SMWS Masterclasses and the release of their very own Feis Ile bottling. Sourced from Islay's oldest distillery, the whisky has been matured in a refill sherry butt for over 17 years and bottled at its cask strength of 57.1%.
I have to admit that official bottlings from this specific distillery can leave me a little underwhelmed, although some of the best independent versions I've tried have come from the cellars of SMWS (Mermaids at play, anyone?). This is going to be interesting.
Fruity! A robust hit of prunes and caramelised apples with menacing wafts of smoke and bitumen. Molasses, scorched timber and crispy, sweetcure bacon. A little time to bloom produces dry varnish and buffed mahogany. The nose strikes an excellent balance between peat and sherry without sacrificing the finer points of each.
Initially powerful, although the initial blast fades quickly and leaves a medley of jammy fruits and peat. Thick, chewy mouthfeel that opens up into plums and figs with ginger and cinnamon lending support.
Long and warming. Doesn't overload the senses with heat and spice on the way out, even at full strength. Leaves the mouth coated with a mixture of burnt maple bacon and the dying embers of a wood fire.
The society puts out a lot of bottlings from this distillery, some less to my tastes than others, but when they get it right, they can be spectacular. This is very good indeed. The flavour profile screams autumn/winter rather than spring/summer but there's no denying the quality in the glass. Someone grab me a bottle while you're over there.
Sample provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

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