Professor Brendan Walker helps The Scotch Malt Whisky Society explore extraordinary new chilli-infused spirit that you can mix in cocktails, sip if you’re brave enough, and even cook with!
This summer, a maverick whisky club is turning up the heat with the release of Exp.01, a limited-edition new chilli-infused drink resulting from an experiment that saw 100 fresh red Scotch Bonnet chillies matured in a cask of Scotch whisky for 17 years.
For the experiment, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) added around 100 sliced chillies to a cask of 10-year-old single malt – in doing so, stripping it of its title as a Scotch whisky. The curious concoction was then left to mature for a further 17 years before being bottled as the spicy spirit it is today.
At 55.6% abv and bottled in 10cl hot-sauce sized miniatures, Exp.01 packs a peppery punch with hints of ‘sweet paprika’. The Society is encouraging adventurous flavour explorers to continue the experiment at home by adding the spicy spirit to summer cocktails, cooking with it like a hot sauce or marinade, or sipping it neat.
The SMWS, which is based in Edinburgh but has members all over the world, created the experimental spirit as part of its 40th-anniversary year celebrations, during which it is staging various events and releasing special editions, all inspired by the maverick attitude of its founder Pip Hills.
Professor Brendan Walker, the world’s only ‘Thrill Engineer’ – who focuses on examining and constructing emotional experiences – was called upon to investigate the Society’s unusual experiment and the tasting experience.
Walker, whose previous work has included designing theme park rides such as Th13teen at Alton Towers, said, “After around 17 years of infusion, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society asked me to investigate their experiment. What could be more exciting than being asked to explore two components of known high quality – a Scotch-in-the-making plus 100 fresh red Scotch Bonnet chillies?
“The methanol and aromatic higher alcohols found in whisky immediately trigger the release of dopamine. Chilli contains capsaicin, and in small amounts, capsaicin has a pleasurable, warming, peppery effect. Capsaicin can also trigger the release of endorphins for endurance and dopamine to reward surviving such an ordeal.
“This concoction of whisky and chilli has the most psychotropic thrilling potential. My initial tasting made me say ‘Wow!’ and then smile – a genuine mini-euphoric moment for any connoisseur of thrill. There’s a whole roller coaster of experience being played out on a micro scale, over milliseconds, right there on your tongue.
“It’s not just the resulting liquid of Exp.01 that I find amazing – with its smooth, sweet consistency and initial peppery chilli kick. What’s most exciting for me is the Society’s spirit of experimentation. This captures my imagination. Try it in a cocktail, splash it into a creamy sauce for haggis, or pipette a single drop onto your tongue, then feel your mind and body explode with excitement.”
James Freeman, the Society’s Executive Chef, has also created special recipes that showcase the spirit’s culinary potential, including mussels with tomato, anchovies and Exp.01, a teriyaki salmon dish and an incredible chocolate and Exp.01 tart.
Meanwhile, SMWS ambassador Logan Shaw recommends mixing the spirit with tonic water, ice, lime and sea salt to create a fiery highball cocktail.
No stranger to the Society, Professor Brendan Walker collaborated with the SMWS in 2022 for their Memory Box campaign, in which tasting Society whisky evoked fond memories and happy moments.
The campaign was unveiled to wide-eyed whisky fans at London and Glasgow whisky festivals, with Walker present to guide guests through their journey of nostalgia.
Helen Stewart, Head of Brand Marketing & Membership, said, “In our 40th and most adventurous year yet, this kind of cask experiment is a great example of the fun we have with whisky. We did this simply for the thrill of it to discover what would happen – and we’re excited to share the results of the experiment with everyone, and we’d encourage people to have fun with it whether using it in cocktails, cooking recipes or simply sipping it.
“Brendan’s expert knowledge of how people react to thrills and excitement was key to this experiment. His investigations have helped explore the tasting experience and explain what’s happening in the mouth when people taste it.”
Founded in Edinburgh in 1983 by maverick whisky-lover Pip Hills, the SMWS is now the world’s largest whisky club, with close to 40,000 adventurous and discerning members globally, all united by a passion for flavour and exquisitely crafted liquid.
Exp.01 is available while stocks last from 26th July as part of a special new Society membership offer: https://smws.com/complimentary-exp01-offer/.
Photography by Dave Parry and Mike Wilkinson via The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
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