On Wednesday night we were at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Kaleidoscope bar on Queen Street for a tasting hosted by Society Ambassador Jeremy Antonson.
As we settled into a booth next to the window, it was great to see that the bar was busy. It has been steadily gaining in popularity since opening last summer, with Jeremy saying that the Six Nations weekends had proved particularly busy (before and after the games) along with various promotions which had been run for both Kaleidoscope and The Dining room upstairs.
For our selection of samples, Jeremy had selected three bottles from the April 2017 Outturn which meant we were getting an early preview of what is being released.
37.85 – Eastern Promise
We started with a 14 year old Cragganmore which had matured in Bourbon cask.
The tasting notes referred to Thai street food and this was definitely a good description. Rich honey and citrus notes on the nose, with just a hint of savoury appearing in the mix. “Thai Lemon Chicken” was mentioned and that seemed to cover it well.
On the palate, started off sweet but then became surprisingly dry with a hint of spice, slightly salty and lemon peel in the finish. The taste lingered for an age, but despite being cask strength at 56%, the alcohol never overwhelmed.
Adding a touch of water changed things again, becoming slightly more floral with a different combination of flavours on the nose and palate, but still the same character.
On balance I think we preferred it neat, but a very good whisky in either case.
77.43 – Japanese omelettes with Dunkelweizen
Next up, we moved to the Highlands with a 14 year old Glen Ord which had been finished in a Sherry Butt.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the introduction of ‘finishing’ casks within the Society as it seems at odds with the way things have been done e.g. single cask; unique flavours. Ultimately however it can only be judged on the final product and if the whisky produced is good, then it’s hard to argue with that.
On the nose, the 77.43’s sherry finish was clear with rich fruit being prominent. Notes of ginger and orange were also detected, but the original cask influence was still present, with creamy vanilla and victoria sponge sweetness.
The palate was much more savoury, with cured meats, darker fruits and just a hint of rubbery sulphur all appearing. As you held it in the mouth, it becomes peppery before going in sweet and savoury finish.
A little odd in flavour, but not a bad whisky at all.
29.181 – Salty sweet peat smoke
I was looking forward to tasting this one, as SMWS Laphroaig bottlings are always good in my experience.
A 20 year old whisky from a Bourbon cask; this one was no exception.
The nose was recognisably Laphroaig, slightly oily, briney and citrus. It was however a bit more restrained on the nose than some with buttery vanilla sweetness also present.
A big punch of smoke opened the palate before subsiding to reveal lemon and rich salted butter. There was a lovely sweetness to the flavours, which balanced out the peat and carried on into the long finish.
Very, very good.
You wouldn’t be disappointed with any of these whiskies, but for me the 29.181 just edged it over the 37.85 as an outright winner.
The latter is incredible value though, and would be the one I’d probably buy the bottle of.
Finally, since Kaleidoscope also does whisky cocktails, it seemed only right that we should try them.
An ‘Old Fashioned’ for Adele and a Bloody Scotsman for me finished the night off on a great note.
Our samples and drinks were provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, so thanks to them and Jeremy for hosting us.
Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar, 28 Queen Street Edinburgh, EH2 1JX
Tel: 0131 220 2044