Whisky Review #53: SMWS Australia Mystery Sample

In late April, I received a Facebook message from Mr Matt Bailey. At that time, I hadn’t previously interacted with him and so the message took me by surprise. Matt mentioned that he worked for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) of Australia and asked if I was keen to write an article regarding the upcoming Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship (AMWTC) on the 23rd of July.

I graciously accepted and Matt asked for my address so that he could send over the press release as well as a mystery sample of whisky for me to review. As I’m living in Singapore but my folks were in Melbourne at that point of time, I arranged for the items to be delivered to my sister’s address over there so that my folks could bring it back to Singapore with them.

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The padded bag from SMWS.

The padded bag arrived a few days after and my folks brought it back to Singapore with them the following week. In the padded bag, I found the press release showcasing details of the event as well as a bottle which was marked with the SMWS logo and the words “Mystery Sample”.

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Mystery Sample!

Before I delve into the review of the sample itself, let’s first look at the AMWTC event which is coming up on the 23rd of July.

Whisky enthusiasts from all over Australia will be invited to congregate at Madam Tussauds Darling Harbour on the day for the annual Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship, which has been a major event on the whisky calendar since 1989.

Participants will be invited to put their tastebuds to the test in order to find out who will be the newly-crowned Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Champion in an all out battle for single malt tasting supremacy and the bragging rights that comes with it.

The prizes are rather incredible and include the following:

First Prize: 2 x return airfares to Tokyo, Japan where the 2016 Champion and a friend can stay at and sample from the SMWS Bar at the Park Hotel.

Second Prize: 1 x Cask Strength Survival Kit with a rare single cask Japanese single malt encased along with all the tools one would need to go on a wild SMWS adventure.

Third Prize: 1 x $500 voucher which can be used at The Oak Barrel on Elizabeth Street to stock up on whisky, wine and/or beer.

More information pertaining to the event can be found at the following website: www.amwtc-smws.com and tickets can be obtained from the AMWTC2016 link.

The SMWS in Australia has been active since 2002 and has held extremely popular and well-attended whisky tasting nights in each of the capital cities around Australia throughout the year for both its members and the general public.

More information on the society can be found at the following link: www.smws.com.au

Getting back to the review at hand, Matt presented me with a mystery sample and the press release mentioned that it was a single malt bottled at a standard abv of 40% and was one of three choices:

  • Starward Single Malt Solera
  • Highland Park 12 Years Old
  • Laphroaig Quarter Cask

So, let’s get right in and try to decipher where this mystery sample is from!

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SMWS Australia Mystery Sample!

SMWS Australia Mystery Sample (40% abv)

Colour: Amber

Nose: There is an element of sea salt from the very beginning, coupled with a honeyed sweetness. Stewed plums and toasted oak make an appearance along with just a whiff of smoke. Citrus elements, with orange in particular, emerge after some time and give this dram a rather complex nose. It is also rather familiar.

Palate: Sweet and salty are the dominant characteristics initially, with sea salt and and the orange notes from the nose intermingling beautifully. There is a hint of cinnamon coupled with honey and an oaky dryness that does become more pronounced over time. A whiff of smoke is apparent towards the end and once again this dram tastes somewhat familiar.

Finish: Medium finish with hints of honey, cinnamon, orange and oak along with a sprinkling of sea salt. The oakiness in particular is rather apparent and becomes dominant towards the very end.

Balance: A relatively well balanced dram in terms of the sweetness and saltiness and the mouthfeel is oily initially but with a pronounced drying note at the end due to the increasing oakiness.

If I had to pick one of the three, I would immediately rule out the Laphroaig Quarter Cask as this dram does not exhibit the briny peated note that one would expect from the distillery. The familiarity of the notes and the sea salt in this dram makes me think that it is likely to be the Highland Park 12 Years Old, although I have yet to try the Starward Solera expression and might be wrong.

However, for the sake of this review, I am going to go with my gut feeling and say that this particular mystery sample is the Highland Park 12 Years Old.

I would like to thank Mr Matt Bailey for giving me the opportunity to take part in this mystery sample tasting and I look forward to how the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship progresses and will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings on the 23rd of July.

Until the next review, have a great week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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