Review: Smouldering Hickory Wemyss Bunnahabhain

The essence of capturing the spirit of a whisky in just a few words is an effective and emotive marketing tool. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of course lead the field often rambling from dentistry to cartoon references; so much so that common sense and sign posts can become distorted. 

We must not overlook that this tactic is just a bit of fun so can forgive the latest Flintstone inspired naming amidst the SMWS March 2015 outturn. Wemyss in comparison tend to keep their naming more realistic thereby hoping by highlighting what it says on the bottle will attract interest for its contents. The downside of this approach is that someone who doesn’t like hickory isn’t likely to take a chance on this particular bottle.
A strong brand and presentation means that these Wemyss single cask malts don’t hang around for long when they reach the market place. I can still fondly remember the Glen Scotia dubbed the Merchant's Mahogany Chest that featured in a Twitter Tasting I participated in; a bottle that I’d quite happily pay for and enjoy. This Smouldering Hickory bottle will be out of reach of many as it is exclusive to the Kingsbarns distillery, which I visited recently and you can read about that here. Bottled especially to celebrate the recent opening of the distillery. 

To recapture as a new start up distillery, Kingsbarns won’t be able to sell its own whisky for 3 years if it is ready to be bottled, but to give the distillery an exclusive aspect 5 casks were bottled by Wemyss. These range from Mortlach to Clynelish and Glen Grant plus an impressive Glen Scotia. The cask that really stood out during my tasting experience is from Bunnahabhain and christened Smouldering Hickory.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled: 1997
Bottled: 2014 (17 years old)
Strength: 46%
Edition of: 365 bottles
Price: £68 from the distillery

Colour: pecans

Nose: a sprinkling of sea salt that casts me back to standing outside Bunnahabhain with a storm coming in and the waves ramming the pier. Vegetative now, the residue of autumn leaves as you rake them off the lawn. More Highland heather then the classic pineapple cube sweeties before a thick layer of moss. 

Taste: gentle smoke oh yes those hickory splinters I throw on the barbecue when those rare rays of sunshine bless Scotland. Gentle with its characteristics that are mostly savoury in nature, lovingly caressing with a pinch of salt again, maple cured bacon and aniseed. Then all I can say is a lemony ash cloud descending across the palate.

The standout dram from my tasting that just pipped the more expensive Glen Scotia. I'll be coming back to this bottle until we hit rock bottom. Ok,lets be frank I'll probably end up buying all 4 as that just tends to be what happens!

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