By Richard Thomas
With The Smooth Gentleman, Wemyss Malts steers its vatted malt line away from the lighter side of Islay malt whiskey and spicy concoctions, and towards mellow Highland malts matured in first-fill bourbon casks. Like everything else Wemyss Malts does, The Smooth Gentleman 8 Year Old is blended and bottled, but not actually made by the company. Wemyss is instead a “negociant,” or an outfit who chooses select casks of whiskey from the distilleries, making them a solid example of why the term “whiskey-maker” and “distillery” are not interchangeable. Wemyss also has a 12 year old expression of this whiskey, whichThe Whiskey Reviewer will tackle in the near future.
The Smooth Gentleman 8 Year Old comes in the standard Wemyss packaging: a squat, rounded clear glass bottle with a high-end, but nonetheless farmer’s market-style label that emphasizes the company’s artisanal qualities. The scotch is bottled at 40% alcohol. The the key scotch in the blend is from Altmore, the prime supplier for Dewar’s.
In the glass, The Smooth Gentleman looks like a glistening cup of mid-gold apple juice. Taking a sniff, the scotch is malty and musty, plus a little fruity, with underlying notes of woody caramel (from the bourbon casks, no doubt).
The taste of this scotch is mildly oaky, just as the name promises. The old bourbon casks make their contribution again, with a slight caramel sweetness trailing the oaky flavors, along with hints of a spiced, fruity sweetness. It’s elusive, so I found it hard to put my finger on, but the dash of cinnamon and fruity sweet note made me think “baked apples,” although that might be just because I made some bourbon baked apples two weeks ago.
Above all else, The Smooth Gentleman 8 Year Old is mellow, almost to the point of being sedate. The finish is of mid-length and light, with a very slight spiciness and trailing into a little warmth at the end.
When I think of what I might do with a whiskey like this, I’m struck by the fact that while it is undeniably smooth, it is also only slightly complex, and therefore not the sort of thing I’d define as a “sipping whiskey.” However, that sleepy, silky, laid back lack of definition that characterizes the Smooth Gentleman might make it a great aperitif. It’s pleasant and flavorful, but not domineering in any way, and that’s not a bad thing before a fine meal. Bring out a bottle of this over appetizers at your dinner parties, and it will be a big hit.
Wemyss Malt 8 Year Olds like this expression of the Smooth Gentleman are supposed to retail for $40 across the board, but I have seen them marked up to anywhere from $50 to $80.
Awards and Press
Smooth Gentleman 8 Year Old made the Top 50 Spirits List of the Wine Enthusiast in 2009, and then scored 90 to 95 from the Spirit Journal in 2010. In 2011, it bagged a silver at the International Wine and Spirits Challenge.