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"The scorpion surprised me - it was a bit like a salty Pretzel"- SMWS continues 40th anniversary celebrations with whisky and insects pairing event

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society recently delighted members with an insect and whisky pairing event.

Published: April 19, 2023

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) have been celebrating their 40th birthday with a range of event so far this year, with one that paired insects with whisky.

Guests, which included Scott Begbie -a lifelong arachnophobe with a fear of creepy-crawlies - discovered a taste for edible insects at an unusual whisky tasting in Edinburgh which saw the flavours of crickets, mealworms, locusts and scorpions matched with different types of Scotch.

Scott, from Aberdeen, was one of three adventurous whisky fans taking part in a special event called ‘A Pairing With Legs’, which was hosted at The Vaults in Leith, the home of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Previously, the Society has paired whiskies with unusual items such as ice cream and also staged a tasting on top of a Munro.

After the event, Begbie, who was given the tasting experience as a present for his 60th birthday, said: “I’ve always had a phobia of spiders and creepy crawlies generally, so I was initially pretty nervous. Seeing the insects and picking them up was quite tricky at first, but I ended up enjoying it.

“My favourite flavour pairing was the smoked crickets with a blended malt featuring smoky whiskies from Islay and Orkney. That pairing of smoky, salty flavours worked really well.

“The mealworms were crunchy and tasted like Bombay Mix with less spices. The locusts were challenging but they reminded me of Twiglets. The scorpion surprised me - it was really good, a bit like a salty Pretzel.”

The insect and whisky flavour pairings

At the event, the first flavour pairing saw mealworms matched with Disco Diva, a 12-year-old whisky from Speyside described as tasting like “an all-singing-and-dancing karaoke of icing sugar-coated biscuits, dried coconut and hot cross buns”.

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The second pairing featured locusts paired with Raspberry Fields Forever, a whisky described as having a palate of “creamy custard with juicy raspberry sorbet on apple crumble”.

Finally the smoked crickets were paired with Smokus Fruticosus, a sweet, rich and intensely smoky blended malt featuring whiskies from the islands of Islay and Orkney.

SMWS insects
Picture: Mike Wilkinson

The scorpion was a surprise bonus with the participants trying it at the end of the tasting with a whisky of their choice.

A second ‘A Pairing With Legs’ event is taking place in May with the Society working with Dr Vladimir Blagoderov, the principal curator of invertebrates at the National Museum of Scotland, to explore different types of edible insects.

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40th anniversary adventures

This year, the Society is celebrating its 40th-anniversary and is approaching 40,000 members around the world.

To mark this milestone in its journey, a series of special releases, events, collaborations and happenings, all inspired by founder Pip Hills’ unorthodox outlook, will continue throughout the year.

Helen Stewart, head of brand marketing and membership, said: “Whisky and insects? Precisely. This type of tasting personifies what the Society is all about. Our 40th anniversary year is going to be our most adventurous yet.

“‘A Pairing With Legs’ is just one of many unconventional tastings taking place this year as we continue bringing adventurous whisky fans together to explore the flavours of whisky and enjoy interesting sensory experiences.”

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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