I truly have come to love my “A Night in Chicago” series. For one, it means I drank more whisky, but more importantly it indicates that something special happened with special people in a very special city. The cold ass weather that is rudely closing out 2017 here in the states (well at least the Midwest, South and East states) has me longing for the easy going seasons of times past, where a couple whisky fanatics could enjoy their single malts outside – say around Springtime. On a rooftop. In Chicago. On an evening… sorry… a night, well… in Chicago. Below you will find fond memories of such a night. A night that I will hold near and dear to my dram filled heart, as I recently moved back East, away from the beautiful whisky city that is the Windy City.
Once one has plunged themselves into the world of whisky, and there has been a decent amount of exploring what the popular distilleries offer for their core ranges, it’s natural to
want fiend for more. The palate has matured, the eye has better vision towards what the mouth may like, and the brain desires more exposure. In this moment, a whisky drinker usually begins to stray towards their favorite distilleries further from the core range, beginning to search for lesser known gems, or to inquire about independent bottlings. As if the traditional offerings from a distillery couldn’t take a lifetime trying to taste, the world of independent bottles opens up an entirely new universe for the whisky enthusiast. One of the leaders in this sector is The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). A society of distinction and honor, this independent bottling company gives a unique and modern distinction of community and, well, whisky.
On one late, spring, Chicago night, along with some fellow whisky crusaders, I finally became knighted into the SMWS.
Those fellow crusaders? The gents over at Axis Of Whisky and The Single Malt Alliance. Together we were introduced to 3 Excaliburs that anyone who has aligned themselves to the kingdom of whisky should have in their arsenal.
The Single Malt Alliance assembled this meeting where we would have a formal introduction to the SMWS. His (only those in the know can speak his name) ingenious idea was for us to go through the 3 different offerings that he selected for us, based on… well based on being just a great guy and knowing what we would admire. Going along with the whisky society theme, we came together with all the excitement in the world to taste the one of a kind whisky that came from some pretty great distilleries. As the sun set majestically behind the heroic Chicago skyline, we could not have picked a better time for our ceremony to commence. At our rooftop makeshift round table, we each cracked open our respective weapons and went around tasting the delicious and intriguing drams of the evening.
4.222: “Ginger and honey sweet tea” (Highland Park, 16 years old, first-fill bourbon cask, 56.2% ABV)
First off, I have never had Highland Park like this. Ever. This take is so unique. By using first-fill bourbon casks which aren’t usual ingredients for Highland Park, the Orkney peat that we love so much from the distillery gets a new, spicier, sweetness that steals the show – I mean ceremony – for me. This is truly a gem that leaves me searching for an appropriate way to articulate its greatness. I’m still going through Rosetta Stone looking for a language with worthy words to form a noble sentence. This was fantastic!
29.201: “Peat smoked candied Angelica” (Laphroaig, 17 years old, refill bourbon cask, 58.9%)
How can one go wrong with Laphroaig? I mean, I guess if you don’t like peat… we’ll give you more time, but Laphroaig’s track record is basically Jordan in the finals.
This is Laphroaig in all its glory with a crispness that would make any fan of peat happy. With some floral hints, the smoke in this creates Laphroaig “Spring Time”. O.K., who am I kidding? Laphroaig “Early Fall Time” is more appropriate because there are few drams that pack a smokey punch like this great Islay distillery.
73.72 “A Ray of Sunshine” (Aultmore, 18 years old, refill hogshead, 57.8% ABV)
I cannot continue this piece, without humbling myself and giving a tremendous thank you to Single Malt Alliance and fair maiden, Brianna Ross of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America for inviting me into the brotherhood for this experience. Along with his graciousness came this bottle which I can’t stress enough how much it is true to its name. One of the most Spring and Summer appropriate drams I have ever had, this beauty is extremely floral. Very pleasant, dry almost like a white wine, caramel, and taffy. BUT, do remember that is still 57.8% of unapologetic alcohol, making for a very intriguing dichotomy of softness and strength! I’ll try, but this might not make it past August.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society sure knows how to pick ’em! It is a natural progression to be intrigued about independent bottlings but can be a head scratcher to figure out which series to go through and why. There are many great options to choose from and The SMWS is definitely one of them. With their more than entertaining titles and the sense of community that they provide, SMWS is well worth the membership if you are looking to see your favorite distilleries in a new light.
It’s safe to say that as these months have passed, I am pretty comfortable as a member of the SMWS. As any good community member should, I would like to bring some of my fellow society members something to make their lives a little better. A gift that will help in the exploration of all things the SMWS has to offer as the year of 2017 comes to an end. For fellow members, you can head over to your SMWS website and apply any of the promo codes below to help bring some warmth to the cold ending of December:
Exclusions: Only on bottles 29.214 & 100.16