SMWS Exotic Cargo Review

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society are best-known for their ever-changing range of unadulterated, high-quality single cask Scotch whiskies. Whiskies that have been bottled straight from the cask with no dilution, colouring or chill-filtration. That’s been their ethos since they started back in 1983 and little has changed since.

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In more recent history they’ve branched out slightly, bottling grain whisky, Japanese whisky and Bourbon and in recent years they’ve even increased the number of non-whisky spirits they’ve been bottling, including rum and Cognac. But no matter what they’re filling into their iconic green bottle, there’s always been once central theme that’s never changed. Everything the Society bottles comes from a single cask and is bottled at cask strength. That’s always been the case – that is – until now.

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Say hello to Exotic Cargo, the Society’s first ever blended Scotch malt whisky. To quote the Society, Exotic Cargo is made up of “a selection of pre-blended Scotch malt whiskies, distilled in 2006 and matured from birth in exceptional first fill ex-sherry Spanish oak hogsheads for their full term”. The team responsible for its creation tasted the blended malt at a dozen different strengths before settling on 50% ABV, which they felt really brought out the best flavours in the whisky. It was then bottled at its natural colour without chill-filtration.

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The Society’s National Ambassador for Australia, Matt Bailey, tells us that the intention is for this to be part of an ongoing series, pointing out that the label proudly denotes that this is ‘batch number one’. As for the general profile of future incarnations? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

SMWS Exotic Cargo Review

Exotic Cargo is described as having “a deep yet delicate nose of warming nutmeg and cinnamon spice, followed on the palate by an intense sweetness, rich with moist ginger cake, treacle toffee, dark chocolate, marmalade and Turkish Delight, together with tannic wood, chilli spice, liquorice, walnut and leather”.

Being a big fan of ex-sherry cask whisky – and the Society in general – I was very eager to try the new Exotic Cargo and was fortunate to have the opportunity ahead of its official Australian release when Matt Bailey hosted an intimate gathering at Sydney’s best Society partner bar (in my opinion), Archie Rose. The intention of the get-together was to seek honest feedback from real members, so here’s what I thought:

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The nose was all things sweet and rich; sugared candy, frosty flakes, spun sugar, sweet juicy raisins and muscatel grapes. It’s deep, really juicy and syrupy, with notes of honey, treacle and maple drizzled over pancakes.

The excitement continues on the sweet and creamy palate. It’s just as clean as the nose, with loads of bright, juicy Oloroso notes. Big plump raisins, a touch of chocolate and some burnt brioche bread, all coated in sweet salted caramel. The faintest spice emerges on the finish, but it never turns overly drying or tannic – something you often find with heavily sherried, ex-European oak whisky.

In three words: Juicy, Sweet, Fun.

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I love single cask whisky, especially big sherry heavy-hitters, but generally speaking, with single casks something always gives slightly. Maybe the palate doesn’t quite live up to the nose, or the nose is hot and takes a long time to open up, or the finish turns overly tannic and highlights flaws. Whatever the case, single casks – while super fun and tasty – are rarely harmoniously balanced the whole way through. But that’s where Exotic Cargo excels. They’ve managed to take the best parts of multiple casks and deliver an overall package that works marvelously and is almost too drinkable.

The bits you need to know

Exotic Cargo from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is limited to just 1,937 bottles worldwide, with around 120 being made available to the Australian and New Zealand market. It will be released in the first quarter of next year, exclusive to members of the Society, at a very reasonable price (I’m guessing somewhere in the region of $120 – $170 but final pricing is to be confirmed by the Society). Oh, and one last thing. The queue for a bottle starts behind me.

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