Review: SMWS “Bee-All and End-All”

Some months back I purchased this bottle of bee-all and end-all, a bottling of society cask no: 108.42 from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.  Today marks the fifth anniversary of my honey and I bee-longing together and to celebrate this occasion she surprised me with the SMWS advent-calendar! So, how perfect does it fit to do a wee review of this 14-old-offering from Allt-a-Bhainne today?

Before I jump into the review though, I’d like to give a special shoutout to Soraya Hamming. Who helped me create the scrapbook-art you see in the background. Yesterday me and my fiancée visited her for a workshop, and we had an amazing time. If you want to see some truly stunning art, be sure to have a look at her website: https://artbysoraya.nl/.

Tasting Notes: SMWS Cask 108.42 “Bee-All and End-All”

Stats:

ABV: 58,5% (117 proof)

Age: 14 years

Bottled by: SMWS

Distillery: Allt-a-Bhainne

Category: Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Setting:

After being surprised with that SMWS advent-calendar, I find myself very much in a SMWS mood today. But since I need to wait another six weeks before I can start the calendar, the choice for a review landed on this offering today. Because of my anniversary and the amazing gift my mindset is great, and I’m also well rested and eager to dive into this review. So, I poured this dram neat in my trusty old glencairn and I find myself set to go!

Nose:

The nose instantly reminds me of walking into a hot kelo-sauna, where the wood aroma’s coming off the red pine logs come wafting at you as soon as you open the door. Behind that initial blast of wood, the honey starts to seep through while being infused with softer notes of vanilla. A little yellow grape tries to peek its head above the edge of the glass as well, but it’s very subdued. A couple of drops of water really amplifies the honey notes and makes them shine. The nose becomes wonderfully sweet, without being overwhelming.

Palate:

Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is that this is a dram that needs a few drops of water. It’s a cask strength dram of course, but not one of those cask strengths where you barely notice the ABV. In this one it really hits you in the face. I’m getting loads of sharp red peppers, thick with honey and pine resin. Adding water has a drastic effect on the dram. Suddenly there’s baking spices, apple, raisins, and the sharp red pepper turns into a more cinnamon-like heat. But above all, it really helps to bring the honey notes front and centre stage. I fully understand why they incorporated bees into the name now!

Finish:

On the finish the high ABV is very noticeable as well, it leaves the tongue numb for quite a while and only some bitter oak notes are strong enough to shine through. Here the drops of water also completely change the experience. The roaring fire that once was becomes the dying embers of a campfire. One where somebody threw fresh young pines on the fire, making the resin bubble and boil. Honey remains thick on the tongue and some cloves make their way into the dram as well.

Verdict:

Usually, I don’t mind pouring a dram at cask-strength. As a matter of fact, it’s often my preferred way. But with this dram it’s very clear that it needs some water to make it shine. With a few drops of water, it suddenly becomes an exceptional dram. It’s perhaps not the most complex you’ll ever taste, but it gives a wonderfully comfortable feeling. It holds a certain warmth that makes me want to pour a dram after a long walk in the cold rain, while sitting by the fireplace. Just like you would do with a cup of hot chocolate or a nice bowl of stew. And that’s a feeling that I’ve always loved.

Rating:

87/100

Click here to learn more about how I come up with my tasting notes and how I determine my rating.

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