The SMWS New Wave Whisky Series

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s 40th anniversary celebrations continue in the form of an exclusive ‘New Wave’ whisky series. A series of ten bottles has been released around the world, which all have an illustration by Bob Dewar, the artist who created the original artwork 40 years ago. If you have ever visited The Vaults in Leith, you may have noticed his stunning artwork on the ceiling as well.

New Wave Whisky

The ‘New Wave’ whisky series celebrates both new and old. It is all about new distilleries and those hidden treasures, yet still binding it together with the story of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. As you probably know, there are some really exciting young whiskies coming out from new distilleries these days. An older age statement doesn’t guarantee quality, and these distilleries are really showcasing the complexity and range of younger whiskies. All the ‘New Wave’ bottles range from five to seven years.

The SMWS has selected these ten bottlings from three of the UK’s latest distilleries. Four of these bottles have recently been released for the EU and the UK market. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to disclose the distilleries, but I can give you a clue… I visited two of these distilleries last year and have since been a huge fan of both, especially all their funky cask finishes and peaty flavours. So, if you are familiar with my whisky journey, you may have some idea. Or not… I always find that it’s better to try the releases without knowing the distillery to allow you to sample with an open mind.

“The distilling scene is vibrant and it’s a pleasure to work with distilleries old and new. Trying new whiskies has always been part of the endless discovery journey for Society members, and that’s as true today as it has ever been.”

Euan Campbell, SMWS Head of Whisky Creation

Read more about the Vaults – Spiritual Home of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

When the SMWS first started out in 1983, Bob Dewar’s artwork played a key part in creating the identity of the Society. As I mentioned at the beginning, a series of detailed illustrations can be found at the Society’s spiritual home, The Vaults. The artwork covers both sides of the ceiling. Bob Dewar was originally commissioned by the SMWS to illustrate their first bottling lists in the early 1980s. The Society had already designed its unique coding system to identify its bottlings, but they also wanted to capture some other aspect of the characters of their whiskies as well as the Society itself. That’s when they found Bob. He was well known as a political cartoonist for The Scotsman newspaper and was introduced to the Society by his colleague Tony Troon.

The Vaults
the new wave whisky release

The full list of ‘New Wave’ releases is:

149.3 A Walk in the Woods (6yo)

149.4 A Tasty Morsel (6yo)

156.2 Smoke Devils and Tipsy Angels (5yo)

149.6 Spanish Sweet Smoked Paprika (7yo)

149.5 Fire Festival (7yo)

156.3 Christmas Conflagration (5yo)

146.2 Join the Great Tumult (6yo)

156.1 Peat Fried in Olive Oil (5yo)

149.7 A Coal Scuttle of Jam and Treacle (7yo)

146.3 Toasted Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich (5yo)

The Society has also released a special Maverick 40th anniversary whisky.

the smws new wave

And the four released for the European market:

156.3 Christmas Conflagration, 61.3% ABV

The Society kindly gifted me a bottle of this one for which I have added my own tasting notes below. For the other three, I’ve added notes from the SMWS website. 156.3 is a peated release from the Lowlands (from one of my favourite distilleries…). The maturation took place in second-fill ex-Bourbon barrels.

Colour: Very light golden yellow

Nose: Starts off quite punchy and smoky but mellows with air, walk in the pine forest, sweet dried apricot, caramel wafers, marshmallows toasted over bonfire, some freshness there reminiscent of toothpaste

Palate: Overly salted roasted potatoes with burnt rosemary, sweet liquorice, burnt caramel, chewing gum freshness

Finish: Fairly short, bread with sesame seeds

It’s definitely young and lively. Very much in your face at the beginning with smoky fumes and the high abv but mellows nicely with time in the glass. I find the Christmas description a little misleading, but I take it refers to the pine aromas. I look forward to returning this dram to see if I can get any of those kippers as pictured on the label.

Christmas Conflagration

149.3 A Walk in the Woods, 60.6% ABV

This Highlander goes under the ‘Young & Spritely’ category. Aged in first-fill American oak PX butts. It is described as having aromas that remind us of a walk in the pine forest, mushrooms, and toasted marshmallows with various berry jams. On the palate you can expect black olives, chocolate éclair, treacle toffee and liquorice. The finish brings out notes of gingerbread and aniseed.

146.2 Join the Great Tumult, 62.2% ABV

This English whisky goes under the ‘Sweet & Spicy’ category. You can expect an array of tasting notes. It was matured in first-fill STR barriques. The nose is tropical with vanilla, nougat, salted butter croissants and something reminiscent of spiced rum, or perhaps bourbon… The palate delivers chilli-infused dark chocolate, Japanese fruit sandwich (whatever that is…), cardamom-spiced Turkish coffee, all finished with marmalade on rye bread with a sip of extra dry vermouth.

149.5 Fire Festival, 61.7% ABV

This ‘Oily & Coastal’ Highlander provides aromas of burning hay, linseed oil, smoked mackerel and BBQed prawns. It was aged in first-fill ex-Oloroso butts, which explains the nuttiness. There is nutty smoke on the palate, sugared almonds and bonfire embers together with maritime salt spray and kippers with some black pepper spice. Sounds like a tasty medley of frutti di mare with a touch of sweetness.

Join the Society

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is offering a 5% discount on memberships until the end of April 2023. Use code NEWWAVE5

Applicable on memberships, gift memberships and the membership portion of any Membership and Mystery Malt bundle. Available in both the EU and the UK.

Whisky glass
156.3 smws

Are you ordering any of the New Wave whisky release? How are you celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Society?

Disclaimer: This post has been created in collaboration with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and includes some affiliate links.

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