The Scotch Malt Whisky Society made a name for itself by bottling whisky at its purest. Straight from the cask, without much trickery, at cask strength and non-chill filtered. They’ve played an important historic role in the emergence of single cask and cask strength whisky.
Since its inception in 1983, not much changed in the first three decades or so. Yes, the bottles received a bit of an overhaul coinciding with the 25th anniversary, but that’s about it. Some would argue that standing still is going backwards, which in some cases it is. That’s certainly what a private consortium must’ve thought when they acquired the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2015.
More has changed in the last four years than in all other years of the existence of the society. Some like it, others don’t. What’s certain is that the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has been much more vocal and commercial. There’s more ambassadors spreading the gospel in different countries. Marketing is playing a much bigger role than it ever did.
The approach to whisky has changed somewhat as well. There’s still the single cask bottlings, although we’ve seen all kinds of cask finishings. I do like that they now bottle world whisky and bourbon, as well as other spirits. And a few years ago they also introduced their first ever blended malt.
Which brings us to today’s review of that blended malt, called Exotic Cargo. Distilled in 2006 and fully matured in ex-sherry Spanish oak casks. Not bottled at cask strength but still at a respectable number, this was rather well received at its release. About time I try it.
Exotic Cargo 10 Years Old (50%, SMWS, 1937 bts.)
Nose: The sherry influence is abundantly clear. Actually, if not for the noticeable high-alcohol content and oakiness, this might as well have been a Pedro Ximenez. A nice gentle sweetness with lots of raisins, plums, cherries with a just hint of leather and burlap.
Taste: Surprisingly spicy and fiery, given what I found on the nose. Plenty of coffee notes, leather and cloves, as well as almond paste.
Finish: Lingering spices. Chili pepper, oak shavings, cloves. Extremely dry. Finally hints of caramel and fudge.
An interesting discord between the nose and palate — I’ve not had many whiskies like this before. More of a nosing whisky, as the palate has redeeming qualities but lacks a certain fruitiness to balance the dry and spicy character.