SMWS Advent Calendar: Day 19

The last week of advent is already upon us, which in my case meant doing Christmas shopping all day. After the stress of finding gifts that will make everyone happy, I’m in dire need of finding a moment of relaxation. Thankfully I still have the SMWS to accompany me for some nighttime meditation. Just like yesterday there was another 17-year-old dram waiting for me today. This time around it’s a Balmenach finished in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel. Bearing the name: Secret Snacks in the Wardrobe.

Tasting Notes: Society Cask 48.134 “Secret Snacks in the Wardrobe”

ABV: 61.1% (122.2 proof)

Age: 17 years old

Distillery: Balmenach

Bottled by: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Category: Single Malt Scotch Whisky

SMWS Flavour Profile: Spicy & Sweet

Chill-filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes


The nose is quite light for a 17-year-old. The ageing in an ex-bourbon barrel is apparent. There are hints of brown sugar and vanilla. But the bourbon influence is balanced out by lighter more grassy notes. It gives me a sense of walking in the forest in springtime. There are some wet leafs, a little bit of fresh pine, and if you imagine stopping at a little wooden shack for a small cup of bourbon, I think you’re getting quite close to the essence of this dram’s nose. Water cranks up the sweetness on this nose, adding some sweet pine resin.


Oh wow, the palate is so much more intense than the nose. There’s sweetness, spice, and a roaring fireplace. The sweetness is all caramel and vanilla, like delicious Haagen Dasz ice cream. The spice is an ever so odd combination of cinnamon and red pepper, but I really do quite like it. And that fireplace, that’s glorious. The smoke of damp logs, and the charred wood of the remaining coals of yesterdays batch. It’s all there in this dram. And it makes me feel like sitting to close to the fireplace on a cold winter’s eve. A feeling of comfort I’ve always adored. On the palate water especially turns up the heat of the spice. With the red pepper becoming more powerful than the cinnamon this time around. It also adds a slight sense of ashtray to the mix. Or perhaps a relit cigar (since that’s a flavour I’m actually familiar with, and I’ve never licked an ashtray).


The finish is long and has quite the numbing effect on the palate. There are some bitter tannins here that remain, but also some of the cinnamon spice. I find the cinnamon rather pleasant. Especially when whisps of vanilla ice cream start floating by from time to time as well. The bitterness can become a bit overwhelming though, which does hold my praise for the finish just a little bit. All-in-all it’s still pleasant enough though. The finish loses some of its power when adding water. Taking it more in the direction of the burnt wood I also found on the palate. But it makes the cinnamon and vanilla ice cream go missing, which is a shame.


This is a wonderful dram, with once again a rather disjointed nose to palate experience. But that’s not a bad thing at all. I like it when a whisky takes me on a little flavour trip. There was plenty to love in this dram. With the palate being the standout of all it’s parts. But throughout enjoying this dram I also kept finding things that held it back a bit, flavours that just weren’t my cup of tea. I appreciate getting to try this dram, and I wouldn’t mind trying it again sometime. But I’d pass on buying myself a full-size bottle of Secret Snacks in the Wardrobe. Which means it won’t make the cut on my Christmas list.



How did I know this was a Balmenach? Just look at the code and find it in my SMWS bottle codes list!

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