I belong to a couple members-only whisky clubs, now, and my one barbed criticism of them overall has to be the shipping. I’ve bought bottles from public storefronts in England that made it to my door in four days without expediting the package, yet a bottle from a member’s-only club in the US can take up to a month.
At the risk of inciting a debate about Federalism, part of the problem lies with individual state’s rights. The repeal of prohibition saw some states choose to require extra licenses, moderate the quantity that can be sold, or place other restrictions on how and if alcohol can be delivered within their borders. It’s no easy task to navigate the labyrinth of individual regulations, three-tier distribution systems, and Alcoholic Beverage Control boards. Here, the SMWS has a wholesaler mail the whisky to a retailer when you order, and then you wait for that retailer to mail the bottle to you. Bureaucracy, saving us from the terror of economical shipping.
Slow shipping times are not entirely a state induced problem, though. Clubs like these tend to be staffed by very small teams of people. You might find yourself waiting ten days or more for the next batch of orders to come together before your bottle ever makes it into the first box. Even the package of three 100mL samples that the SMWS sends you when you join is preceded by a welcome letter, a week after joining, warning you it might take another four to six weeks for the samples to arrive. If there are small hold-ups over the many legs of the journey, they’ll quickly add up, so they give themselves a wide window. That can really take some of the luxury shine off of it, especially if you’re planning to buy a bottle for a special occasion and expect it to arrive before 11% of the entire year has passed. Understandably, they don’t advertise this detail before you join, either.
Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in six weeks. You can grow radishes from seed in six weeks. You could sleep for 14 hours a day and and still walk from New Orleans to New York City in six weeks. There are few things more delicious than a muffaletta and the idea someone could deliver one from Central Grocery to New York on foot before a world famous club can deliver a single bottle to Connecticut makes me feel bad for myself. Thankfully, the first order took just under three weeks to arrive (the muffaletta would have only made it to Virginia), but my third order took almost seven.
Now, is it worth the wait? Let me say that this whisky right here is freaking awesome! In food, flavor rules. The best tasting preparation shouldn’t be determined by the length of time it takes to execute, it should be determined by the end result, and that tenet could easily be translated over to mail order whisky. Quality matters and there are few other operations selling stuff this good.
This 9 year old Glen Scotia from a refill barrel is top tier stuff. Plainly put, it doesn’t get much better than this. My love for the whisky juxtaposed with the excruciating delivery times has certainly put in me in a quandary and made me spend more time than I’d like to, wondering if it’s all really worth. It is, but I still wish I lived in the UK where it only takes two weeks.
Nose: Sultry iodine and calamari coddle the sweet and tangy peat. Clean but with heaps of kiwi fruit over sun-baked asphalt and a few, melted chocolate chips. Minerally, like ice cubes that have been sitting in your freezer for a little too long. Gentle, pecan and cherry wood smoke, clean-burning, deep and inexplicably rich like it was lit and maintained by a true pit-master with an affinity for chewing mint sprigs as they patiently waited, thanking their lucky stars that great barbecue doesn’t take 6 weeks. It’s a bit like the reclaimed rafters in an ocean side barbecue hall filled with lemon candy wrappers.
Palate: Well-mannered and exceptionally sweet at first. Words can’t describe the balancing act that unfolds; it changes and politely slips around your senses as you indulge. Despite the reserved demeanor, the sweetness still gives the peat the fight of its life for control of the palate. Ocean detritus and sweet berry tarts with creme anglaise duke it out before letting mild pepper and subtle oak quietly clean up the finish.
Another stunning expression. Kudos to the tasting panel! I feel extremely privileged drinking whisky like this; like I’m a member of some sort of exclusive club of whisky drinkers privy to special bottles which very few other people get to enjoy… oh, wait. Yea.
Thank you, Gabrielle Shayne and the US branch of the SMWS, for the sample!