Whisky Review #119: SMWS 44.79 “Pandora’s Box”

Merry Christmas and surprise, bloody surprise!

Another review the day after the last one?! I believe that this is fairly unusual behaviour on my part. But when there are things to be reviewed and the backlog is starting to cause a fair bit of concern, I guess it is best to move things along in order to ease the madness.

This week’s review focuses on another expression from the SMWS which was sampled during my visit to the Kaleidoscope Bar in London back in June and it is a rather interesting one!

This expression is from a Speyside distillery which has recently received a fair bit of publicity, with one of its official expressions having taken top honours at the World Whiskies Awards 2017 (hint hint).

This expression is somewhat different from that one of course, but no less engaging. It was distilled on 27th June 2003, was initially matured in a refill Oloroso sherry butt before being transferred into a heavy toast medium char virgin oak hogshead for a period of finishing, before being bottled at a cask strength abv of 57.4% by the SMWS.

So, let’s jump right into the review!

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SMWS 44.79 “Pandora’s Box”

SMWS 44.79 “Pandora’s Box” (57.4% abv)

Colour: Deep gold

Nose: Initial entry presents a melange of sweet, savoury and spicy elements. Cinnamon, oak and bbq spare ribs emerge early on and are complemented by green chili, wet slate and flint. The sweetness of the bbq spare ribs are complemented by hints of rancio and a handful of raisins, but it gives way to the spiciness soon after. (22/25)

Palate: Initial entry presents more of the sweet, savoury and spicy elements detected on the nose. The elements detected in the nose filter through to the palate as well and it is a rather well-rounded, yet spicy beast. Brown sugar develops later on the the savoury bbq spare ribs and rancio really stand out. The wood spices inevitably take over the proceedings and cinnamon, oak and green chili exert themselves later on. (23/25)

Finish: Medium to long on the finish, with the sweet, savoury and spicy elements showing signs of great integration. Oak, sherry, bbq spare ribs and cinnamon bring the proceedings to a close. (21/25)

Balance:  A well-balanced dram which exhibits some classic savoury notes which are quite representative of this distillery’s style. The sherried nature does bring out some of the meatiness in the spirit, while the finish in the virgin oak hogshead has increased the intensity of the spices. The mouthfeel is initially oily but becomes increasing drying with time. (21/25)

Rating: 87/100

This expression surprised me somewhat as I didn’t know what to expect from it. While I’ve tried the official bottling, which was also bottled at 13 years of age (HINT HINT), I definitely feel that this expression provides a larger amount of complexities as well as enjoyment for me.

A dram that is definitely out of left field, but sometimes we need to savour them as they come our way. Worth a shot if you’re at Kaleidoscope!

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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