The wonder of wood and other adventures

It’s mission impossible to keep all of the people – or in our case, all of our members – happy all of the time, but we like to give it our best shot. That means offering up as wide a range of whiskies as we can, and using different cask types to mature it. By the most recent count, the Society’s warehouse is home to whiskies from more than 130 distilleries; these are maturing in 65 types of casks, whether that’s different species of oak, different levels of toasting, or in the different kinds of wine or spirit they previously contained – enough to provide endless choice and variety for the society’s passionate and adventurous members.

If the Society has a large number of similar casks from a particular distillery run, and they all come to the warehouse in ex-bourbon hogsheads, it makes sense to take a portion of those and experiment with them – by transferring some to a sherry cask, others to port, but keeping others in their refill hoggies. It’s a way of working with the stock and making sure to have a large choice and variety.

Any form of additional maturation is monitored carefully and tasted at regular intervals to gauge the cask’s influence and to make sure the whisky heads in the right direction. Of course, nothing is bottled without the final approval of the Tasting Panel.

This month we introduce you to Cask No. 37.117: Royal fruitcake. This whisky has spent the majority of his maturation in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being transferred into a first-fill Pedro Ximenez hogshead.

If you feel more adventurous, then we can offer two different options: with Cask No. 138.1: All in the game a journey to Taiwan. This peated whisky will surprise you with seaweed, kelp-strewn seashores before moving into carbolic territory with iodine, saline antiseptics and smoked peanuts. Add a couple of drops of water and you get hints of old furniture, cracked leather chairs, sports car upholstery and maybe even some engine oil. Big, sweet, wood ashes and umami.

Option two takes you to the Caribbean with Cask No. R13.1: Deep, dark and brooding. This rum was produced by a legendary Trinidad Distillery that closed down in 2002 and coming across such old bottlings has become a small miracle. Dark aromas as treacle, tar, soot, black olives, damson jam, Demerara sugar and black pepper appear at first, followed by barbequed beef ribs with black garlic and chilli accompanied by roasted artichokes and finishing into strong sweet Turkish coffee.

The only downside, we have just 12 bottles each of 138.1 & R13.1 – so hurry, as we will sell it first comes first served.

If that sounds like an experiment too far, rest assured there are plenty of traditional refill hoggies in the mix, which let more of the distillery’s character shine through. That’s the beauty of whisky – and the Society’s approach to maturation. You’ll see, something for everyone.


Patric Lutz
SMWS Switzerland llc