Forming a Tasting Panel

After a recent Woodrow’s Tasting, we headed to the Vaults for a couple, and were eventually joined by one of the SMWS Tasting Panel (NB I don’t quite know how this came about, but it did!). We got chatting about how they come up with their tasting notes and bottle names, and with an SSWC whisky club coming up, I thought it was a great theme for the evening. It ended up boiling down to, “what creative ways can we use to come up with SMWS-style bottle names?”

SMWS Tasting RoomForming a Tasting Panel

The plan was to use a couple of party games – namely Scrawl and Pictionary – to get our creative bottle-naming juices flowing, then use our new-found skills to blindly ‘re-name’ an SMWS bottle and see how close we can get to the official one.


First up, we tried a Glenlossie with a group of 3 coming into a separate room to taste it, then each draw a picture of what it represents to them – basically what they thought it tasted like but in a fun, pictorial way. Scrawl then works by giving the first in a chain of people the picture, who writes down a description of it and passes it to the next, who draws the description etc. It’s like pictorial Chinese whispers. The results from the end of the chain are the options presented below, and the decision was made by the tasting group:

1) Glenlossie 14yo Picolit Finish (Scrawl)

Nose: Light and floral, lemon. Really fresh detergent (in a good way – squeaky clean), fresh cut grass, a bit of butterscotch too. A sunny day – fresh and light.

Taste: Fresh, now tending towards spicy. White pepper butterscotch too, no? Is a peanut butter brittle? Strawberries and Cream boiled sweet (or Rhubarb and Custard?). It’s very smooth – as in it’s spicy but very easy drinking. Very chuggable for its strength – a building heat, I think?

Finish: Short finish, “up here”.

Option #1: Box of Cornflakes in a cornfield on n almost cloudless day
Option #2a: Salted caramels in a carrot field
Option #2b: Dandruff-sprinkled bowties in a radish swimming pool
Option #3: A children’s book about farmers meeting a week cake girl called Sophie

Decision: “Dandruff-sprinkled bowties in a radish swimming pool

Forming a Tasting PanelForming a Tasting Panel

Next, we tried an Ardbeg and got the same size group to taste it and formulate a concept for translating their opinions into Pictionary form. The loose concept with this one was each person had 1 minute to get the group to guess what they were drawing with only those who managed allowed into the pool of potential names. In truth, the easier two were got reasonably easily so we allowed more time for the extremely tricky, “Tattoo parlour inferno Bovril memory” – which was still managed within ~2 mins. From there, it was an executive choice by the Pictionary artists.

2) Ardbeg 8yo Committee Release (Pictionary)

Nose: Elastic bands, an Esso forecourt, TCP, Camembert, ‘IRON BREW’, well-worn gym shoes.

Taste: Boat engine oil, Bovril, a bit of Fanta (‘fan’), stale lunchbox, bike shop smell (as a taste) – rubber, WD40, all of that – a heady mix. Amazon boxes.

Finish: “Don’t think it is very long actually” – not long for a peated whisky. A carbonated burp. Green peppercorns.

Option #1: A sharp exit from a bike shop
Option #2: Petrol in a men’s locker room
Option #3: Tattoo parlour inferno Bovril memory

Decision: “A sharp exit from a bike shop

Forming a Tasting PanelForming a Tasting Panel

Finally, it was time to put our skills to the test and see if we could name a (blind) SMWS bottle as a group. We discussed what noses, tastes etc together, then a new group of 3 took those to concoct a variety of options for the final bottle name. These were whittled down until a final choice was arrived at – with a back-up option as it was extremely close and there was some debate, which more sober people would resolve amicably but this group wisely chose to avoid friction and be inclusive:

3) Glenburgie SMWS 71.94 (SMWS panel)

Nose: Mint humbugs, fake money, (“that mint humbugs one was right on the money”), a newly-washed damp dog, Petrichor, long range darts, Atomic Fireballs, felt, tea (maybe green? started with earl grey). A Florists, pear drops, cut hay (farmy, but cut fresh), smelly fart, marshmallows.

Taste: Aniseed, touching on Fisherman’s Friends, upside-down apple sponge, pre-packaged fruit salads (like the ones you get on an aeroplane), cut dry hay now. Lightly stewed apples, grapefruit rind and quite consistent from the nose – it carries through. Grass and pepper. Rapeseed, fennel (Fentanyl?), sweet shop amnesia. “Was going to say marmalade, but sweeter” – orange jam. Bobbly licorice all-sorts. Bonjella.

Finish: Spicy, Biathlon, the feeling half an hour after having mouthwash. Red aftershock (“Red aftershock?!”), like a toffee apple? Malinga the Slinger. Are you saying it tastes round? Like a spherical cow?

Option #1: Raindrops on Peppermint field
Option #2: Appley / fruity bits
Option #3: Medicinal theme (alternative?)
Option #4: Fairground sweets / highs
Option #5: Aniseedy things
Option #6: Bonjella Highs?

Decision: “Fairground Highs” (with Atomic Fruitballs as a close 2nd / back-up)


The official SMWS bottle name was “Orchard Enchantment”. I feel like the combination of the 2 names is pretty close – the highs / atomic give a sort of enchantment vibe and the Fruitballs suggest an orchard. I might be reaching, but it’s not too bad! Are party games the new method for SMWS bottle reviews? Probably not. Was it fun? Totally.

Finally, one other outcome of this was the SMWS Bottle Bot – a trained AI / LLM bottle-naming robot. The Maltiply crew were challenged to make a Twitter bot that produces AI-generated SMWS bottles names – we looked at each other and knew it would happen, and it did! You can follow it on Twitter @smwsbottles, or read more about the process here.


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