Single Cask Single Malt: You May Just Want to “Dab it Behind Your Ears”

Updated: January 19, 2018

So, it seems BC Liquor & Licensing Control doesn’t share Eric and Allura’s appreciation for Single Malt … As of yesterday:

Eric advises (via Facebook): “At 10 am three government agents showed up with the police to conduct a prohibition style raid. The government inventoried, catalogued, sealed and removed 242 bottles of whisky from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society worth about $40k. The same raid was conducted simultaneously at The Grand Hotel in Nanaimo, Little Jumbo and The Union Club in Victoria. All 4 establishments are SMWS Partner Bars and the only whisky taken at each location were the Society bottles.”

“Every cocktail bar in the province has a few specialty products in their shelves yet only these 4 bars were raided and the only product removed was the SMWS bottles.”

“… Eric Fergie …  the products came through the proper channels and all excise and duty paid, the problem is we did not purchase from a government store.”

There’s more on Eric’s Facebook page, plus plenty of response in the comments. 

Once again, the enforcement arm of the province’s liquor licensing branch abuses its all powerful authority with a ridiculously heavy handed approach to a minor, essentially bureaucratic question.


(Original Post)

Single malt always gets my attention.

Eric and Allura Fergie, the convivial owners of Vancouver’s Fets Bar & Grill, have been after me for some time now to drop by and check out their new bar—which is certainly  impressive. After all, with some 360 whiskies on offer, how could it not be—except, perhaps, when viewed from the sliding library ladder after a flight of single cask single malts? I survived…

Fets - a dram for every taste and budget

Fets – a dram for every taste and budget

(It’s also dutifully sustainable, being fashioned from trees downed in the great Stanley Park storm of 2006, as well as salvaged pieces from a Fraser River mill.)

However, I’m glad I waited for the chance to attend a West Coast Single Malt Society tasting, co-hosted by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—named by Whisky Magazine  as “The 2012 Independent Bottler of the Year.”

Some witty brains—and palates— at work here

Some witty brains—and palates— at work here

My friends know it doesn’t take much to get me to try a single single malt, let alone six at a single sitting. However, to put it mildly, I was blown away by this tasting and what the society has to offer. No, I didn’t embrace every individual one poured, although I did appreciate the range that the organisers chose to show. One even had me thinking of Oloroso sherry.  There were some very intriguing tastes here. And I’ll admit, I don’t consider myself a sufficiently experienced taster to score them, so I haven’t.

Sometimes it’s tough to be objective. I just happen to be partial to Islay malts and this probably explains why I gravitated to those drams. Although the “Welsh” was a real revelation.

No, these are not cheap drops by any means. But I love the idea that each release is unique. And I’m still getting a serious chuckle out of the deliciously irreverent tasting notes.

SMWS Ambassador Georgie Bell is a fun and knowledgeable presenter, who knows how to get the heart of the matter with a splash of humour.  I hope she makes it back this way again soon.

I the meantime, there may need to be more research conducted at Fets!

Here’s our take on things as it appears in this weekend’s North Shore News


Single Malt Whisky is the Star of Recent Event

By Tim Pawsey, Special to North Shore News

The Hired Belly confesses a weakness for the occasional single malt, so when an invite showed up to attend a tasting of single malts at Fets Bar & Grill (arguably Vancouver’s most well stocked whisky bar) there was little hesitation in accepting.

The occasion was a West Coast Whisky Society  tasting, featuring six single cask ,single malt whiskies, presented by ambassador Georgie Bell from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Calgarians Rob and Kelly Carpenter brought the SMWS to Canada

Calgarians Rob and Kelly Carpenter brought the SMWS to Canada

The SMWS (which arrived in Canada only a couple of years ago) is the largest of its kind in the world—and (perhaps no surprise) is also the largest independent bottler of single cask single malts in the world. The distinction of ‘single cask, single malts’ is important, as each (numbered) release is unique, a single cask selected from one specific  distiller (also numbered) among 129 from whom the society buys.

The Canadian effort, kick-started by Calgarians Rob and Kelly Carpenter a couple of years ago, is gathering considerable steam, as evidenced by the full house of enthusiastic sniffers and sippers on hand for this event.

Much of its success, I suspect, is due to the dynamic Ms. Bell, who wrangled the nights’s events (and kept a fair degree of on hand testosterone in check) with admirable ease. In short, she’s more than just a pretty face.


SMWS Ambassador Georgie Bell—Making the connection between geography and single malt, Tim Pawsey photo

“I represent international branches all over the globe, help carry the society’s spirit and ignite single cask culture,” she says.

So how do you get a job like that?

Bell became interested in single malt when she was bartending her way through university—including a tour at Edinburgh’s much heralded Tigerlilly.

A passion for spirits (“I wanted to like every single spirit on my back bar”, she proclaims) she soon found a way to overlap her studies and new-found fascination for malts.

“I started to wean myself onto whisky because—let’s face it, whisky is not something you’re born to like. It takes time, effort, hard work and perseverance!”

A geography major, she wrote her dissertation on whisky, its regional identity and creation of place and image, focusing on Islay, and the evolution of the culture and commercial market over generations.

Based on the malts Bell chose for this event—which traversed the stylistic spectrum—if you’re interested in truly serious single malts, I wouldn’t hesitate to investigate a membership. First stop: a chat with Crystal Coverdale, general manager of Edgemont Fine Spirits (604-984-9463).

No, we didn't...

No, we didn’t…

But it’s not all serious. Indeed, much of the society’s appeal lies in the tongue in cheek packaging and often hilarious tasting notes, which suggests the last thing these folk do is take themselves too seriously. After all, who wouldn’t be intrigued by a bottle emblazoned with the invitation to “Dab it behind your ears”—though (sadly, one can assume—not poured at this event).

We’re also reassured by the Society’s motto, “To leave no nose upturned.”

One of our faves turned out to be quite the surprise: 128.3 (“Chestnut purée & new hiking boots”) was a pale yellow-gold, (not overt) vanilla toned,  surprisingly smooth five year old from Penderyn (Welsh! From that country’s sole distillery; along with a couple of killer Islays (3.193 “A baby faced arsonist”) and 53.168—”elastoplast on a roasted tongue”— to wrap things up. **

Too bad they’re likely all gone now. But that’s precisely what makes it all so appealing, isn’t it?

Indeed it does!

** Actually, I’ve been advised these Islays are still available, and were just released on Friday. Two good reasons to join…



Fets’ Allura Fergie: Showing the (Balvenie) label on the ladder, TP photo

By | 2018-01-21T15:05:29+00:00 February 3rd, 2013|Uncategorized|3 Comments

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.


  1. Single Malt Scott February 9, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Really enjoyed your post on your single malt tasting. The single malts bottled by the SMWS looking pretty interesting, I’ll have to try and get my hands on one of those.

  2. Refilled Hogshead Bob March 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Tim, yes very good article. Guess I’ll drop by Edgemont Fine Wines and Spirits tomorrow after hiking Grouse as well as look for an excuse to drop by Fets. I’m not looking for promotion of any sort but I am in the process of building a group of like minded people interested in learning about whisky and whisky tasting. I host tastings at my home at this point (Cambie Village sort of) and am particularly interested in finding people in the area (or easy public transit access) who want to explore the word of whisky. So I guess, consider this an invitation of sorts? Prices are ridiculously low at this point as I am building a pool or pools of people at similar levels of ‘interest’. Perhaps over time I will transfer my energies to one of the established groups or societies but for the moment am having too much fun doing it at home. Again thanks for another good article.

  3. Tim Pawsey April 2, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Hi HB, I’m sorry I took so long to respond. Crazy times. If there’s any way in which I can help, just let me know. Cheers, Tim

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