[And this is the fourth of five reviews (in this batch) of current offerings from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Check out the beginning of this other post for more on these reviews. If you want to find out more about the SMWS or their bottlings, visit www.smws.com]
The SMWS 85.23 opens with a moray eel, reeking of coral, smoking a handrolled “Drum Tobacco” cigarette. You may wonder how the eel, having no hands and cursory fins, accomplishes this feat. I wondered, too. (And just how is a raven like a writing desk?) Also, a herd of cloven-hoofed oranges, or maybe it was just a cloved ham whimsically enrobed with a duck à l’orange sauce. Light chevril notes, too. (Was it a French eel? All signs point to “yes.”) Pouring the 118.8 proof dram gingerly into my mouth leaves me with few tastebuds with which to form an opinion. The finish is like heartburn, but after eating foie gras, beef wellington, and ostrich medallions. (Thank you, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.) Cinnamon red hots mellowed by Luden cough drops, koala droppings, and the onset of gout.
Adding water changes it to a sprat in room with red velvet divans in which clove cigarettes and hashish lately had been smoked. Also: lemon cake frosting, made from buttercream churned by frogs, and lemonade in oak bark drinking vessels. On the mouth, pussy willows, sandal wood inkstands, nephrite shaped into kidney beans, hobo slumgullion (with leeks braised in California-style Chardonnay vinted in Australia), and the cherubic-scented intimations of immortality awaiting a true believer. The finish, like an old soldier, never finishes; it just ever-so-slowly fades away, like an old soldier. [John: Bill! You already wrote that!]
The SMWS 85.23 is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–This puppy is all Mr. Hyde until you add water, and then it’s the worldy and inquisitive Dr. Jekyll; the kind of guy you’d happily vote for alderman or appreciate as your deacon.