SMWS Advent Calender: Day 1

On the 16th of October my fiancée and I celebrated our fifth anniversary. That morning she surprised me with quite the gift: The SMWS advent calendar. What followed was a month and a half of eagerly looking forward to the first of December. The day I could finally start my journey through 25 whiskies from the society.

To celebrate advent – and all the festivities in the coming month – I decided to share my tasting notes with all of you for every dram, every day. In hopes to share with you the joy of whisky. And the wisdom of whether you should get yourself a set of your own the next holiday season.

Tasting Notes: Society Cask No: 68.38 “Butchershop Quartet”

ABV: 57.9% (115,8 proof)

Age: 9 years old

Distillery: Blair Athol

Bottled by: the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Category: Single Malt Scotch Whisky

SMWS Flavour Profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla

Chill-filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes


Its youth is very present on the nose, the ethanol layer has not yet been covered by the nuances of age. Especially a hint of nail varnish gives it away. Letting those notes fade into the background a bit more and applying more focus on what else is in there, vanilla is the note that starts to shine. And strangely enough I’m also getting cucumber. Cucumber slices covered in Aromat, to be precise. A treat that was always spoken fondly off by my mother when I was a child, but never found a resonance in me. The feintest hint of cinnamon lingers in the background, giving the nose some much needed complexity. A drop of water seems to subdue more than it reveals with this one.


Once again, its high ABV hits you in the face. But this time around it’s in a much more pleasant way. There’s plenty of sweetness, with a mixture of honey and a more chemical Jawbreaker kind of sweetness fighting for their place. There’s some green tea mixed in there, and some grassy influences as well. It has a pleasant oily thickness, which at times almost hints at becoming syrupy. My mind keeps wandering back to that Jawbreaker though, especially the rainbow flavoured kind where the colour would change for every minute or so that you kept it in your mouth. A hint of nostalgia definitely came to mind here. A drop of water propels the palate away from the honey and brings to mind Fristi, with a raspberry note that I do appreciate.


Unfortunately, this is a bit of a miss for me. The sweetness of the Jawbreaker turns into aspartaam, like sweeteners for coffee. On the sides of the tongue tannins appear with a bold bitterness. A bit to bold for my liking. If I apply some real dedication and focus, I can find some lemon in there as well, almost like a limoncello. But it’s not enough to save it’s face in my book. It has a rather long finish, but in this case, I wouldn’t exactly describe that as a good thing. The drop of water doesn’t really fix this for me, it does make it a bit more tolerable as it mutes the harsher flavours a bit.


With a rather uneventful nose, a decent palate, and a disappointing finish, this offering will not be making the cut for my Christmas list. I also have a Flora & Fauna bottling from Blair Athol in my collection, and I’d pick that over this one any day of the week. Seeing as I truly like that bottle, my expectations here were higher. Especially the artificial flavours I got from this dram put me off. This all might seem very negative, and I surely won’t be giving it a very high grade, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a bad dram. It holds some surprises (like that cucumber note) that were fun to experience once, but personally I wouldn’t choose it for my daily dram.



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

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