Worth the Wait
Smoked and Salted Toffee Apples
It’s been quite the journey for us since this spring, and so far we have reviewed over 36 whiskies and hope some of you have been inspired to try a few. If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you know we joined the Scotch Malt Whisky Society to get access to their incredible selection single cask spirits. We thought their unique bottlings would give us something which would end the year with a statement. When trying to decide on our final whisk(e)y, we wanted to complete our year with a memorable bottle.
A while back, the SMWS revealed that they had won several, coveted double gold awards at the San Francisco Spirits Competition. Among the winners were two bottlings from SMWS distillery 29, which happens to be one of our favorites. 29.234 is a pricier bottle beyond what we typically spend, but there was something alluring about this whisky that fit the bill to have for the perfect special occasion or celebratory dram.
We have always been a fan of distillery 29 (Laphroaig) as a classic representation of Islay whisky. Peated, with tons of maritime aroma and a diverse range of flavors, this distillery continues to produce a full range of expressions. We even considered purchasing one of their own varieties to finish our year of reviews, but when we saw this combination of distillery, cask, and age in 29.234 we could not pass it up.
SMWS Cask 29.234 ‘Smoked and Salted Toffee Apples’
29.234 has been aged 27 years in a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask. While Laphroaig uses a wide variety of casks, the company typically employs sherry oak as one component, or the finishing cask, of an expression. We also don’t often see whisky from Laphroaig aged over 15 years. To have a bottle of Laphroaig spend almost three decades in sherry oak is quite unique. We also often present the idea that age does not necessarily indicate quality, but there is something unabashedly alluring about opening a whisky that was distilled in 1989.
On the Eyes: 29.234 pours a deep amber color with copper undertones. The dram is more on the opaque side and is very rich in texture and leaves long lasting legs in the glass.
On the Nose: We let our dram sit for several minutes to open up. At first, we picked up notes of fresh toasted cinnamon raisin bread. Underneath the sweet aromas was a layer of smoky, salty ocean air mixed with freshly cut Granny Smith apples. Water brought out more starch aromas, giving the effect of a fresh baked cinnamon roll. The peat smoke became more pronounced, and the aroma of oak was more present.
To the Taste: The first few sips were dominated by a heavy amount of sea salt. But 29.234 had many layers of flavor as the we worked through the dram. Buttery caramel, tart fruit flavors and an oily texture and mouthfeel dominated the mid palate. The peat smoke was delicate and sweet, a bit more like that of a peated Highland whisky. With water, the bread and grain flavors were more pronounced and the dram became more dry.
And the Finish: The tart fruit flavors returned, with a lingering taste of oak and smoke. The finish was very balanced. Water accentuated the fruit flavors and brought more of the notes we typically associated with sherry aged whisky back to the fore.
Of all the SMWS bottles we have tried, the name and description of 29.234 matched our tasting experience most accurately. We held off on reading the flavor notes until we had made our way through the dram so as to not be overly influenced when formulating our review. Nonetheless, the flavors really did resemble caramel apples with a helping of smoke and salt. But this whisky has a lot more layers than even the title can portray. Possibly our all time favorite from distillery 29, we felt this whisky was a fantastic example of the product of peat smoke, sherry oak, and time.
As this is our last review for the year, we want to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and wonderful New Year!