For the first time in several years, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has bottled a cask of bourbon. As their characteristic numerical system confirms, this is only the third bourbon distillery they’ve bottled since being founded in 1983. The previous two distilleries for the record are Heaven Hill (B1) and Bernheim (B2). Given the boom Stateside in bourbon and craft distilling, it’s a surprise that this third distillery hasn’t come around sooner, or been bolstered by further releases.
Colour: red suede brogue
Nose: strong bourbon characteristics with the wood dominating; like being caught amidst a sawmill sandstorm. Beyond this dominant force, huge measures of vanilla. Patience is the key to this whiskey. Left to stand and with some prolonged nosing leather, beeswax, baked oranges, playdough and fennel come through. A very interesting nose that shows more character than bourbons twice its age.
Taste: more sawdust snorkelling with vanilla and baked Alaska. For bourbons of this age that normally is it from my experience with the virgin wood lacking any opportunity to add extra layers. Perhaps its the charring or distillation but there is a surprising vegetative twist on the palate and autumnal notes. Cinnamon awaits and of all things gherkins!
A word of warning when it comes to adding water. We did this at the London SMWS using a pipette to reasonable effect. Less is more with this B3.1, as add just a little too much and the dram becomes so muted its frankly remarkable. I’ve never experienced such an extreme reaction with so little water. This fella is extremely taut. Open up those robust muscles too much and the whole thing becomes a flimsy puppet.
In saying this I know both of us were impressed by this bourbon especially given its age. Further tasting at home confirms what an interesting experience this truly is – I’m looking forward to B3.2 already.