Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dining (and Drinking) at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (Edinburgh, UK)

Scotch Malt Whisky SocietyThe Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a members-only club where you can enjoy specially bottled and rare whiskies from around the world. While a membership will cost £100, it turns out that the Edinburgh location (their first location) has an attached restaurant that is open to the public. Getting an affirmative answer to whether or not we can get their society whiskies at the restaurant, I booked a table of twelve to celebrate a colleague’s birthday.

Celebrating your birthday in Edinburgh drinking whiskies? Lucky dog.
Our party was big enough to warrant getting their private room (we feel special!)

The food at SMWS is indeed expensive, especially considering the currency conversion, but apparently if you come early enough they have a special 3-course menu that’s reasonably priced. Alas, we didn’t make the cut and had to order a la carte.

We each started with a wee dram our server had recommended: 21 year aged Glenkichie, cask strength.


Then, amuse bouche. Where else would your amuse bouche comes with a glass of whisky?

Our complimentary amuse bouche (chicken with crispy celery and chutney) was served with a 22 year old Glen Ord.
Amuse Bouche

I had a huge lunch at The Kitchin so I skipped appetizer, but some did and the portions seemed pretty generous. For my entree I ordered the Olive oil poached salmon, crab cannelloni, vine tomato reduction (£18.95)
Olive Oil Poached Salmon

I loved the salmon which was poached perfectly, melted in my mouth and was very flavorful. I should've eaten more salmon while I was in Scotland! The tomato sauce worked well with the salmon and was not overpowering. The creamy sauce on the crab cannelloni I found a little too rich however, and masked the crab flavor somewhat.

One of my friends ordered the Wild Mallard, beetroot, cabbage hearts, consomm√© with buckthorn (£19.50)
Wild Mallard

I had a bite of this and it was very gamey. Game meat in Scotland and the US seem to be on quite different levels. None of us have had buckthorn before and while some disliked the tartness, I thought it worked pretty well with the mallard.

At this point, people were ordering Laphroaig and other commercially available whiskies, but I wanted to see their whisky list. Wow. The sense of humor was unexpected.

“October Outturn. A Voyage into the Unknown.”
October OutturnYep, that’s what their October list was called. Oh, and how they “name” their whiskies. Well, they don’t quite go by the names, but the cask number. Still, the descriptions were rather entertaining.

Here’s what I ordered: Cask no. 85.21 distilled in 1999, “Fruitcake in an old theatre” is a 10-year old whisky aged in refill ex-sherry butt from an Elgin distillery. The notes mentioned words such as "grandma's syrup sponge pudding" (whatever that may be), sweet tobacco, leather (hence the old theatre?), and Jaffa cake (again, not sure ...).

(Other orders included one described as a "medicine cabinet").

I had to have dessert and ordered the Blackcurrant poached pear, pistachio olive oil cake, vanilla mascarpone (£6.95)
Poached Pear, Pistachio Olive Oil Cake
This also did not disappoint, from the moist pistachio olive oil cake to the sweet and refreshing poached pear.

We had a great celebration at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society with good food and a great selection of whisky. Of course, everyone had a blast reading the October cask list. Paying the annual membership fee is probably not reasonable if you're only visiting UK, but I found The Dining Room provided great access to the members' whisky perks. Well, minus taking home bottles.

The Dining Room at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

28 Queen St.
City of Edinburgh, EH2 1
(0131) 220 2044
The Dining Room on Urbanspoon


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