Monday, 8 February 2016

Whisky Discovery #1565

Wemyss Malts 'Fallen Apples' 1989 Glen Garioch (46% abv)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £110.00 70cl
Glen Garioch 1989
Independent bottler, Wemyss Malts, announced their first Single Cask release of 2016 towards the end of January with six casks selected to showcase the best of Speyside, Islay and The Highlands and, ranging in age from 13 to 25 years old.

The full list from this tranche of single casks released:
  • "Sizzling Charcoal" 1997 single cask from Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay,
  • "Coastal Confection" 1996 single cask from Bowmore Distillery, Islay, Cask Strength
  • "The Highland Mariner 1997 single cask from Clynelish Distillery, Highlands
  • "Fallen Apples" 1989 singe cask from Glen Garioch Distillery, Highlands
  • "Barrista’s Dram" 2002 single cask from Craigellachie Distillery, Speyside
  • "Toasted Anise" 1996 single cask from Glenrothes Distillery, Speyside
Each cask has been selected and named by the Wemyss tasting panel, under the watchful eye of industry aficionado Charlie Maclean, and Dave was one of the few who received a review sample of the Glen Garioch 'Fallen Apples'

There are only a few hundred bottles from each cask and the suggested retail prices range from £55 to £110. These bottlings will be available in selected retailers in the UK, EU and key Asian markets.

So What Did I Think?
When I saw the press release, two of the six single casks interested me a little more than the others; the 1997 Clynelish and this 1989 Glen Garioch and cheekily asked if there was a sample available to review.

In 1989 Glen Garioch still had their own floor maltings, hence my immediate interest when I saw this list. When the floor maltings were in operation, the malt was peated, albeit to a very low level, at circa 8-10 ppm.The practice discontinued when the distillery was mothballed in 1995, and like most distilleries these days, all the malt is brought in from independent maltsters. 

'Fallen Apples' bottled at 46% abv at the end of last year was distilled in 1989 and just 266 bottles are out there so when it's gone, it's gone!

As with so many of their single cask releases, the Wemyss Malts team are bang on the money with naming this one as an Autumn apple harvest was my first impression when bringing the glass up to my nose. With a drop of water, it's baked apples covered in glazed brown sugar, while a herbal heather note brings up the background. There's also an elusive hint of smoke, not an earthy peat-like smoke, but more like the smoke from a blacksmith's forge (anthracite) and some charred wood.

Apples dominate the palate flavours too, with stewed apples initially, which is followed by apple wood notes, freshly cut at first, seasoned and polished later. The gentle wood smoke comes through right at the end of the spicy finish.
Verdict: I really enjoyed this traditional Highland malt, it's a little over my £100 budget but for a little piece of history, this gently peated 25 Year Old Single Cask Glen Garioch is good buy. Many thanks to Wemyss Malts for the sample (any chance of a sample of the Clynelish too?)

Slàinte! Dave

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Whisky Discovery #1564

Japanese Whisky has been very much in the news over the last twelve to eighteen months and we were very excited about our invitation to the UK launch of the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Edition
Whisky Discovery
We'd missed out on the previous release which made all the headlines after being crowned the world’s best whisky by Jim Murray in his 2015 Whisky Bible. A friend and fellow Bedford Whisky Club member who had bought one before the announcement now had a predicament to consider as to if or when he should open it. He actually bought two, one for his Father-in-Law who did open it, and it all went down very well! The second bottle is now in a safe place while he decides if he's going to 'cash in' or wait for a significant 'life event' to open it, but anyway, I digress....

The launch event, organised by Thrsxy was held in London's Savoy Hotel and Suntory's global brand ambassador, Mike Miyamoto, was on hand to take us through the company's philosophy and history, as well as a tasting of three core expressions before introducing us to the 2016 release. Mike Miyamoto joined Suntory in 1978 and is well qualified for the position of Global Brand Ambassador having spent time in all areas of whisky making; from running a cooperage in the USA, running distilleries with Morrison Bowmore, to the blending rooms working alongside the Master Blenders creating their 'alchemy' with both masterpieces and experiments that didn't make it to market. 

The 2013 release was a very limited edition and by the time it was announced as the world’s best whisky, it had all but sold out. The 2016 release is again a very limited edition, the UK allocation of 2,000 bottles will be available from Monday, February 1st from Selfridges, The Whisky Exchange and Harvey Nichols. Priced at a little more than twice the price of the award winning 2013 release, at £200 for a 70cl bottle, it would appear that Suntory has either decided to trade on their previous success or have made the move to reduce the incidences of 'flipping' by speculators.

The birth of Japanese Whisky
Whisky Discovery
Global Brand Ambassador Mike Miyamoto
Before the tasting began, Mike took us through a brief history of Japanese whisky that will be celebrating it's centenary in just seven years.

Shinjiro Torii 'The founding father of Japanese whisky' established the first Suntory whisky distillery, now known as the Yamazaki, the birthplace of Japanese whisky, on the outskirts of Kyoto 1923. The stills first ran in December 1924, and initially, Japanese whiskies copied the then current Scottish styles. The Suntory branded 'Shirofuda' released in 1929 did not go down to well being too smoky for the Japanese palate, but just eight years later they got it right when they released 'Kakubin'. It's smoothness and balance was a big hit in Japan. Shinjiro who had a knack for blending whisky, remained master blender up until 1960. The following year, he passed the role of president and master blender on to his adopted son Keizo Saji. The Third and current master blender, Shingo Torii took the helm in 2002, maintaining the family bond, the basic philosophy of the Suntory business.

Unlike Scotland, Japan only has a handful of distilleries, and trading between distilleries just doesn't happen. Suntory has just three distilleries, two making single malts and one making grain whisky and in order to create the range of whiskies, they have had to become a little more resourceful. Yamazaki, for example; has two types of fermenting vats; wood and stainless, 16 pot stills, with seven different types and using both direct firing and steam heated. Then for maturation, they have oak casks of various types, ex-bourbon, ex-wine, ex-sherry and of course, Japanese oak. The variety within this distillery alone allows them to be able to make a number of different whisky styles.

In 1972, Suntory opened their Grain distillery, Chita and it wasn't until 1973 that their second single malt distillery, Hakushu was established. Hakushu, located in the foothills of Mt. Kaikomagatake, is known as Japan’s Southern Alps, where cool, clear waters flow through a bountiful forest environment. Suntory launched Yamazaki as a single malt whisky in 1984, followed by Hakushu in 1994, while their blended whisky came to the market with the creation of Hibiki in 1989. With the introductions over we moved onto a short Masterclass with three current expressions, one from each of the two single malt distilleries and their blended whisky Hibiki before moving on to the reason we were all there.
Whisky Discovery

Whisky Discovery #89

Yamazaki 12 Year Old (43% abv)
Japanese Single Malt Whisky
circa £120.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
This, a favourite of Mike Miyamoto, is now getting difficult to find, even in Japan, and it was good to revisit this delightful single malt. First discovered fairly early on in my personal journey, at The Whisky Loung London Fest in 2012, I wish I'd brought a bottle or two! The nose came across fruity with plenty of zesty grapefruit at first. Soft peach and ripe pineapple follow along with fudge and vanilla while hints of Amontillado Sherry balance the flavours with a distinct nuttiness. The palate is soft with a gentle sweetness and subtle spices.

Verdict: Fabulous! Unfortunately due to the current trend with Japanese whiskies this is very difficult to find and it's not currently available from either The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt

Whisky Discovery #1563

Hakushu 12 Year Old (43% abv)
Japanese Single Malt Whisky
circa £75.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
Whilst I've tried a few from the Hakushu Distillery, the 12 Year Old was a new Whisky Discovery for me. The nose comes across clean and fresh, with menthol, pine forest notes and an almost 'sanitised note' initially but with time the forest smoke starts to develop in the glass. Herbal with thyme and dried pine needles interplaying with each other. The palate is softer than the nose suggested but still reminded me of a pine forest, although a little more smokey, Lapsang Souchang sprung to mind but the spices that follow remind you that it's whisky, not tea your drinking! The smoke lasts long into the peppery drying finish

Verdict: Lovely fresh smoky Hakushu. This one is currently available at The Whisky Exchange but for how long who knows? It is out of stock at Master of Malt

Whisky Discovery #168

Hibiki 17 Year Old (43% abv)
Japanese Blended Whisky
circa £100.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
In Japanese Hibiki means Harmony, and the Hibiki range is a blended whisky, but unlike Scotch, all of the whisky in this blend brings together the many styles of matured malt and grain whisky from the companies three distilleries. I'd forgotten just how lovely this whisky was after first coming across it at Nickolls and Perks Midlands Whisky Show. This is so easy to drink and I was able to go back for seconds of this! The nose comes across clean with a sanitised note initially, perhaps the Hakushu showing it's colours first? Creamy caramel notes follow after some turn in the glass, buttery but again with a herbal oregano note. The palate is smooth and creamy with caramelised banana. Spicy oak flavours develop towards the end

Verdict: I could drink this all night, but, unfortunately, it's not currently available from either The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt

Whisky Discovery #1564

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 (48% abv)
Japanese Single Malt Whisky
circa £200.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
One of the oldest casks at Suntory was the Sherry Cask. As with all good whisky makers nowadays Suntory select their own oak from the forests of Northern Spain. With the wood seasoned, they work with the coopers to create their own sherry casks, shorter with more girth (puncheons) so they still hold the same capacity as a butt. Oloroso sherry is matured in these casks for three years before they are shipped to Japan for whisky maturation. The new 2016 Yamazaki Sherry Cask release has spent three years longer in oak than the 2013 release, and Mike told us that it contains some 25 Year Old Yamazaki too

So What Did I Think?
Of course, this falls into the sherry monster category, the nose is thick with liquorice, aniseed, and clove initially. Once settled the chocolate notes start to develop, and whilst there is a rich fruity raisin note, there's also a meatiness to it too, a very savoury dram.

Moving onto the palate, the quality of the balance is immediately evident with a velvet-like smoothness. My initial note written was Black Forest gateau, rich with chocolate, and dark cherry while the woody notes start to build, clove and woody cassia dominating the spices for me. As expected, it's drying, and you can almost feel it starting to suck the moisture from your mouth as the body builds! On second sip a sour cherry note was more evident, reminding me of the Chinese dried plums/cherries I used to love in the Far East, but the savouriness continues reinforcing the meatiness I noted on nosing.

Verdict: It would have been amazing to be able to try the new 2016 release against the previous release, I don't suppose there are many that will get the opportunity to do this though.

I used to be a big fan of Sherry monsters, however, some bad experiences over the years with some real woody drams, I'm a little more apprehensive with them nowadays. I must admit, this recent release from Yamazaki is something special and there's not a hint of 'struck match' sulphur. I'm fairly certain this will be another Jim Murray hit, but by the time the next release of his Bible comes out it'll be all gone! In fact, if you're umming and arh-ing like I am on whether you should get a bottle, you're probably too late as well!

Splendid stuff! Now can I really afford £200 for a bottle of this?

Slàinte! Dave

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Whisky Discovery #1560

Glenmorangie Private Edition 'Milsean' 46% abv
Highland Single Malt
Circa £76.00 70cl

Private Edition
Candy stripes on the bottle seal but wait till you see the box!

We always look forward to marking the start of the year with a Glenmorangie Private Edition release! On cold grey Tuesday afternoon in mid-January, we sneaked out from our respective 'day jobs' early in order to make the 1700 train into London and headed down to Browns Hotel Ablemarle Street to join Dr. Bill Lumsden and his team for the launch of the latest release in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition series.

Milsean (pronounced ‘Meel-shawn’) meaning 'sweet things' in Scots Gaelic, marks the seventh release in this range, and follows Tusail in 2015, Companta in 2014, Ealanta, Artein, Finealta and Sonnalta PX from previous years.

In a packed room, dressed with jars of Flying Saucers, Dolly Mixtures, Sherbet Lemons and icing sugar dusted Bon-bons (both strawberry, and lemon flavours) to remind you of an old-fashioned sweet shop. Dr Bill Lumsden commenced proceedings with a dram of The Original, the single malt that almost all of the Glenmorangie releases start from.
I wish all sweet shops looked like this!
OK, perhaps the sweet shop was a little stretch of the imagination with the back wall lined with alternate bottles of The Original and the new Milsean, but there were plenty of sweets to go round, and we all had at least one bag of sweets to take home with us. Dr Bill explained his love of old-fashioned sweets before going off piste for a short while, telling a story of the state of teeth in Scotland, and his relationship with his dentist!

Back on script Dr Bill went on to explain how the Private Edition series came to be. Prior to the first release, Glenmorangie had released some single cask editions that were very well received (and now highly collectable) but single casks make each release very limited, and exclusive, and a wider release was desired.

Extra-maturation is a process pioneered by Glenmorangie. Whisky is first matured in one type of cask (such as ex-bourbon), then is transferred into a different type of cask (such as ex-wine casks) where it spends additional years gaining further layers of flavour. With a greater outturn the risk is higher, so for the first Private Edition release Dr. Bill decided to stick with a known 'finishing' cask, Pedro Ximenez Sherry.

Milsean is the first Glenmorangie expression to be extra-matured in heavily toasted Portuguese red wine casks. Milsean, draws on the effect of charred wine casks, unlocking an unusual dimension in extra maturation.

Created from Glenmorangie first matured in ex-bourbon oak casks, Glenmorangie Milsean then spent a number of years in casks which had contained Portuguese red wine. Yet before they were used to create a Glenmorangie Private Edition, the casks were heavily charred to enhance the sweeter notes of Glenmorangie, which has created a whisky with such attractive hints of sweetness, that it has surpassed even his expectations.
Tthe Douro valley is said to be one of the most distinctive terroirs in the history of world viticulture
Before presenting the Milsean, Dr Bill had a glass of the Portuguese Red Wine for us to adjust our senses while introducing future successor Brendan McCarron who played a major part in creating this new release.

Dr Bill told us: “A glass of Glenmorangie Milsean transports me straight to an old-fashioned sweet shop with its sweet and spicy bouquet, with hints of sugar cane, ripe fruits and fudge. Extra-maturing Glenmorangie in heavily toasted red wine casks for the first time, has allowed us to create a whisky recalling a bygone era. I hope its deep tastes of cherries, angelica, candied orange peel and unusual intensity of caramelised fruits, will surprise and delight whisky aficionados and malt connoisseurs.”

Bottled at 46% abv, and non-chill filtered for extra body and texture, Glenmorangie Milsean will be available from specialist whisky shops worldwide, including The Whisky Exchange, Soho’s Vintage House, Selfridges and Royal Mile Whiskies from 19th January 2016

mmmm Flying Saucers and even a hint of giraffe!

So What Did We think?

Kat says: The difference with this year's release that interested me was the way the cask was toasted. The wine cask was re-toasted over a brazier of oak chips before the whisky went in, instead of the whisky going straight into a wet cask. Their plan was to make a whisky that smells and tastes like old fashion sweets. This explains the red and white stripped packing resembling the striped paper bags you get in the older or traditional British sweet shops. It's very cute, very playful.

Nose: Begins with a full on sugar hit, full of fudge, Dolly mix sweets, sticky sweet tobacco and figs. With some time in the glass, the more familiar house style of orange zests starts coming through with more aromatic notes specifically picking up bay leaves. Lacing between all of this, more robust notes of toasted coconuts and sesame seeds, adding some good depth. The general feel is sweet without feeling sticky or clinging, the sweetness being uplifted by the zesty notes, and the toasted aromas offering dryness offering some balance to the sweetness.

Taste: It came as no surprise that the sweetness carries on through into the taste. Found it to be a straightforward sweetness of white caster sugar, with the same consistency as watered down sugar syrup. Following on is orange zests, providing a nice all-round light coating of orange essential oil, same as the nose, this provides a balance to and lifting the sweetness stopping it becoming sickly sweet. As time goes on, other notes that were picked up on the nose is pretty much mirrored in the taste and in a similar sequence. Leather notes and toasted coconut emerges with some welcome dryness, allowing spice notes of mace and nutmeg to come through. Subsequent sips still begin with plenty of sweetness but turns more complex, becoming more of Dolly mixture sweets and fudge.

Finish: Here surprisingly, it’s not overcome with sweetness but of toasted oak and coconuts. Some of the essential oils are also here, with some spices that vanish a bit too quickly for me. Would say a medium finish but only because I wished it would linger for a little longer.

Dave Says: Well not quite as much as Kat! When someone is waxing lyrical about something they are passionate about, it's easy to be led through the power of suggestion, especially when you're in a room dressed as a sweet shop, with open jars and bags of sweets that we were 'expected' to find during the tasting. It had been an awfully  long time since I'd had 'Flying Saucers' and these made a very happy food pairing with Milsean for me! Fortunately not only did we get to enjoy this at the launch event, we were also sent a review sample to follow up on.

Whilst this is a very sweet dram, something I picked up on both at the tasting and at WDHQ, was that the distillery character certainly comes through and much more evident than the previous four editions that we've tasted.

Nose: There really is a great deal going on in here. The sweet shop notes are all here as initially directed, Dolly Mixtures and Sherbet Lemons for me. The bags of sweets given to us at the beginning of the tasting made a great reference point for candied fruity notes. I picked up some summer fruit notes too though, raspberries in particular. The 'house-style' orange notes were clear but there was also an interesting toasted coconut flavour.

Palate: This is a definitely a dessert whisky. with soft fudge leading the flavours, before a cornucopia of sweet fruits evolve, with ripe cherry, golden plum, melon, mango and a hint of BBQ'd pineapple, alongside citrus, which was more grapefruit than orange for me. The sweetness is balanced by the spices that follow, ginger predominantly but hints of cinnamon were noted, and I found that toasted coconut coming across towards the short and sweet finish.

Finish: As mentioned above, short and sweet is most apt. There are so many interesting flavours, both on the nose and on the palate, but once swallowed, it seems to finish abruptly.

Verdict: Definitely moreish! Compared with the previous two releases, this stayed much closer to the house style and flavours of The Original. It is a seriously sweet dram and those without a sweet tooth, this is not the whisky for you. Dr Bill and his team set out to make a whisky that resembled the smells and tastes of an old-fashioned sweet shops and Milsean pretty much did that.

This was also the second time we had met Dr. Bill Lumsden, and was very happy that we managed to have a good chat with him. We discussed the flavour profile of the previous release Tusail and what the Maris Otter barley brought to that whisky. Kat told him how she would be interested in doing a side by side comparison with Tusail and The Original, and Dr. Bill agreed this would be an interesting comparison. Something they carried out at the time, with The Original acting as a control.

Having been fortunate to taste the last four Private Editions we'd really like to run a tasting with them all alongside each other with The Original acting as control. At the time of the release of Ealanta, I wasn't a huge fan. I'm not sure 'I got it' then, so would really love to revisit it. Now to get my hands on a bottle of Ealanta…

Slàinte! Dave and Kat

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Whisky Discovery #1546

Karuizawa 33 Year Old Cask No.136 (55.3% abv)
Japanese Whisky
Only available at Auction
Karuizawa Cask 136
My first Whisky Discovery of 2016 and what a way to start! A single cask release from the now legendary Japanese Distillery Karuizawa, which ceased all production in 2001 when the distillery was mothballed.

Distilled in 1981 this has spent 33 years in a Sherry butt before being bottled in 2014 at 55.3% and thanks to French Whisky enthusiast and blogger Franck Debanardi for this very special sample. Cask 136 was a single cask release for French whisky specialist La Maison Du Whisky and just 595 bottles were released. Whilst not a cheap buy at the time of release, at a recent auction a bottle of this sold for over £2,500!

So What Did I Think?
I must admit that I'm no longer a huge fan of 'Sherry Monsters' as there have been a few that have put me off over recent years but I was pleased to say this one did not disappoint.

Of course, the nose is full of rich sherry notes, but there's a rather pleasant sourness of Chinese preserved plums, a dried fruit snack I particularly enjoyed during my time out in the Far East. There are hints of liquorice, waxy furniture polish and leather. With a drop or two of water, the sour cherry notes sweeten giving cherry liqueur, hints of orange peel appear and eventually some floral notes come through too.

On the palate, the woodiness comes through strong and a little waxy, but not overpowering as it's balanced by the slightly sour cherry/dried plum flavours and a pleasant hit of peppery spice. As found with the nose, a drop of water sweetens the palate too, giving ripe plums and liquorice which last long into the woody finish.

Verdict: Gorgeous and a great way to start the Liquid log off in 2016. Unfortunately with auction prices forever climbing, getting the chance to try anything from Karuizawa is getting more and more difficult. Thanks again to Franck Debenardi - why not follow him on Twitter @lacaveducobalt and check out his blog

I'm looking for a sample of another Karuizawa release that I was hoping to get onto a bottle share, with but just missed out! If you have an open bottle of The Whisky Exchange release 1984 Vintage Cask #3663 56.8% abv I would love a sample, please!
Karuizawa Cask 136
Slàinte! Dave

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Whisky Exchange Single Cask Exclusives - English Whisky

Head Distiller David Fitt and Kat and the two Whisky Exchange Single Cask exclusives at the show
We caught up with The English Whisky Company's Head Distiller, David Fitt, at this year's Whisky Exchange Whisky Show, who as usual blew us away with their new releases (as well as a rather exciting 'under the counter' experiment). David took us through the new triple distilled Chapter 17, which we followed with the 2015 release of Chapter 10 before moving on to two single cask releases that he was immensely proud of.

Two casks personally chosen by Sukhinder Singh, founder of the Whisky Exchange, bottled as exclusive releases and launched at the show. We were mightily impressed with both of them on the day and were delighted to receive a pair of review samples a few days afterwards, to revisit them.

These are only available from The Whisky Exchange, and being single cask releases, only a limited number of bottles are available.

Two review samples at WDHQ  (no I didn't blend them into one glass)
Whisky Discovery #1438

English Whisky Classic a TWE Exclusive 53.4% abv
English Single Malt Whisky
£59.95 70cl only available from The Whisky Exchange
This Whisky Exchange exclusive release from The English Whisky Company is one of their favourites that they've produced. Soft and fruity, despite being bottled at cask strength, it's a perfect example of how great whisky from the distillery is.

The specially commissioned packaging features a red telephone box which has been a feature on the streets of England since 1926, becoming an iconic sight across the country. As time has moved on, most of them have vanished, with the few remaining saved for posterity through private ownership.

Just 270 bottles were filled

So What Did I Think?
Nose: A gorgeous soft candy nose. There's dusted milk bottle sweets, candied lemons and shortbread biscuit. These biscuit and lemon notes in time give lemon drizzle cake notes while floral notes bring up the backdrop
Taste: A very creamy mouth feel and again reminding me of milk bottle sweets. There's vanilla creams, the biscuit notes coming through before the peppery spices push through and hints of pencil shavings
Finish: Vanilla ice cream with a hint of chilli comes in right at the end

Whisky Discovery #1439

English Whisky Peated TWE Exclusive 53.4% abv
English Single Malt Whisky
£59.95 70cl only available from The Whisky Exchange
Only a small amount of the whisky produced at St George’s distillery is heavily peated, adding a thick layer of smoky flavour to their fruity spirit.

The telephone box theme is repeated, but in black. In the 1980s, a few of the UK’s red telephone boxes were painted black as the telecommunication industry moved into private ownership. While the iconic shape designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott did not change, these telephone boxes were stood in stark contrast to their red counterparts.

Just 290 bottles were filled

So What Did I Think?
Nose: My first impressions when revisiting this was Citrus peel and charcoal ash. The lemon peel notes coming across at toasted and a sweet smoke follows. There's even a 'beach feel' to this with sea spray and driftwood before some hedgerow fruits of blackberry and blackcurrants
Taste: A very chewy dram with a great mouth-feel which seems to thicken over time, with a liquorice sweetness, enriched with cloves while an underlying earthiness that slowly builds into the long peaty finish.
Finish: Long peaty earthiness, gentle smoke with just a hint of candied peel.

We're both big fans of English Whisky, it was the first ever distillery I'd visited and these two single cask releases are simply superb. At circa £60 each won't  break the bank either. If I had to pick a favourite and only had £60 to spend? I'd pick the peated cask, and then ask Kat to buy me the Classic cask for Christmas.

Slàinte! Dave

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Whisky Discovery #1470

Littlemill Private Cellar Edition 2015 25 Year Old 50.4% abv
Lowland Single Malt
Price tba

The Littlemill distillery was founded at Bowling to the west of Glasgow on the banks of the river Clyde in the 1770’s and laid claim to being Scotland’s oldest distillery. That was up until 1992 when it stopped production. Triple distillation was practised at Littlemill until around 1930, when new equipment was installed. The stills had rectifying columns and were also isolated with aluminium. Their goal being to produce whisky that would mature faster (Malt Whisky Yearbook 2016). The distillery was dismantled in 1996 and part of the buildings demolished, the remaining buildings were destroyed by a fire in 2004.

Michael Jackson described the house style as 'Marshmallow-soft'. A restorative, or perhaps with dessert

All that's left is the ghost of Littlemill and the last remaining drops of this Lowland whisky, once gone, an important piece of Scotch whisky's heritage will be lost for ever

I've only tried three releases from the Littlemill distillery previously;
and so the opportunity to taste this new and rare limited release from The Loch Lomond Group was a very special treat indeed.

The Loch Lomond Group's Master Blenders John Petersen and Michael Henry have selected ten of the remaining casks from 1989 and 1990, which they believe to best represent the style of Littlemill to create this 2015 release. The spirit was originally laid down in American and European oak casks on 17th December 1989 and April 1990. For this special release it has been married together and has been finished in first fill Oloroso Sherry casks from European oak. Just 1500 numbered bottles will be available, each packaged in a premium bottle with ornate stopper and collar house within a bespoke wooden box. Each box contains a miniature of the the whisky too.

So What Did I Think?
I know I've often mentioned this before, but a whisky with an age statement takes me back to that point in time. From what I remember 1989/90 was a bit of a wild time for me so we won't dwell on that here, but I can tell you a few stories of the shenanigans that I was up to if you pour me a drink or two!

We're told that this has been made with locally grown peat kilned barley and blended with spring water from Auchentorlie Burn. When I first poured my sample into the glass, bread dough notes came through initially but these were quickly masked by the sherry notes - a first fill Oloroso cask will do this! The light delicate Lowland style I was expecting has been covered up by the dark fruity Sherry with notes of blackberry and cherry. A drop of water brings the malty notes which is followed by dark chocolate, with that slight bitterness from a high cocoa content.

Tasting and the 50.4% abv comes across as quite punchy  and I felt benefited with a drop or two of water just to open it up. The water brings a silky chocolate note and texture, balanced with a woody maltiness. Gentle spices of cloves and just a hint of ginger are here too. Both the chocolate and spices linger for the long finish, which concludes with the slightest hint of smoke.

Many thanks to Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire and to Loch Lomond Distilleries for sending me this review sample

Whilst this is a pleasant enough dram, I was a little confused as to why this little piece of history needed to be finished in a Sherry cask. The renowned 'Lowland Style' has been completely masked by the Sherry in my opinion, and I would have preferred to have tasted this in its unfinished state. The cynic in me thinks that perhaps these 10 casks were not quite up to scratch for single cask releases. With such a high perceived 'book value' these rare casks (there can be no question about their rarity as no whisky has been laid down since 1992) needed some 'work' in order to make the book value into commercial value.

I once spoke to a spirits buyer and master of cask selection who told the owners of a large stock of old maturing whisky that the majority of their perceived book value had to be written off, as quality was not good enough for single cask releases and was therefore sold off for blending stock. I'm sure this story brought on this recent bout of cynicism. Writing off 10 casks of a closed distillery would be hard to swallow (no pun intended) and I too would try anything permissible to rescue and retrieve it’s value. 

Finishing in a first fill Oloroso cask will impart a significant flavour profile. My cynical mind says that this has lifted what was perhaps a mediocre whisky into something the master blenders would be happy to put their name, and reputations on. But perhaps I'm completely wrong and it has simply been done to update the whisky to align with today’s taste.

That said, I did enjoy the chocolatey notes the Sherry cask has imparted, and this release should interest a Littlemill collector as I'm sure Sherry cask finished releases have been few and far between.

Slàinte! Dave

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2015

The UK’s largest dedicated whisky exhibition, The Whisky Show, will return to the capital for its seventh year this weekend and is once again demonstrating its unparalleled collection of whiskies. Working alongside exhibitors, The Whisky Show will present a range of Dream Drams exhibiting rare, exotic and discontinued expressions.

As with previous years, all visitors to the show will receive a Dream Dram token to redeem against a range of outstanding drams from the exhibitors. With some expressions costing thousands of pounds to purchase, the Dream Drams offers visitors a once in a lifetime chance to sample some of the finest whiskies ever created.

Dave Broom, award-winning whisky writer: “I was blown away by the organisation and attention to detail which makes this the best whisky show in the UK by some distance”

Serge Valentin, Editor of “Impeccable as always. Whiskies, company and atmosphere – and I mean it. And a great opportunity to taste the newer bottling.”

The Whisky Show 2015 theme is ‘Whisky Legends’ and will be held at Old Billingsgate, London, EC3R 6DX

  • Saturday 3 October 2015: SOLD OUT
  • Sunday 4 October 2015, 11.30am – 6.30pm

Tickets for Saturday are sold out but there are still tickets available for Sunday (at time fo writing this post!) Day tickets £99 | Weekend tickets £165

Tickets are available from and for The Whisky Show packages:…/whiskyshowgiftpacks

Your ticket price includes:

  • All food and drink (apart from ‘Dream Drams’, see below) 
  • One token to try a rare ‘Dream Dram’. Additional tokens can be purchased at the show for £10 
  • A two-course whisky themed meal
  • Access to the food pairings, including Ibérico de Huelva jamon and cocktail confectioners Smith & Sinclair


The exclusive tasting opportunity aims to educate and excite guests with a collection of ultra-premium whiskies from some of the most famous distilleries, brands and regions of whisky production in the world. Highlights of the offering includes Scotch whiskies such as the extra-matured Glenmorangie Pride 1978 (RRP £3,900), The Macallan 1965 25 Year Old Anniversary Malt (RRP £2,500) and Benromach 1976 (RRP £495) as well as Japanese Single Malt, Yamazaki Sherry Cask.

Particular specialities exclusive to The Whisky Exchange’s stand include drams from the now silent distilleries, Karuizawa and Hanyu. Karuizawa Noh 31 Years Old 1981 Cask #4676 (RRP £2,000) and Hanyu 2000 will both be available to sample, as well as the new release of limited edition Karuizawa 1980.

Premium Japanese whisky distiller Karuizawa boasts one of the world’s most sought after whisky collections. Since the closure of the distillery in 2001, whisky aficionados have celebrated and held in high esteem this scarce, supremely crafted liquid and it has become one of the most lauded and treasured whisky brands amongst investors and collectors alike.
Matured in sherry casks, Karuizawa Noh 31 Year Old combines maraschino cherries and warm leather on the nose with rich bitter chocolate and damp oak notes. It’s strength reveals intense liquorice, soy sauce, damp earth, dark polished oak and burnt raisins. With a powerful berry, oak-laden spice finish, this is a dram not to be missed.

HANYU 2000
An exclusive bottling from Hanyu’s final vintage, this rare and exquisite whisky is the embodiment of Japanese elegance. After silencing the distilling back in 2000, this highly sought after whisky is now available exclusively at London’s ROKA and ZUMA restaurants.
A combination of toffee and toasted orange gives way to oats, raisins, sawdust on the nose, complemented by pine resin, sweet cinnamon, polished oak and stewed sultanas. The palate is delicate yet rich and intense with woody oak tones perfectly balanced with sharp green fruits. The flavour intensity develops as it sits on the palate, culminating in a focused apple and oak punch finishing with a lingering buttery spice.

Further Dream Dram tokens are available to purchase at the show for £10 each, get your tickets soon!

Check out their website here:
You can also find them on Facebook here: : and of course you can follow them on Twitter: @TWEWhiskyShow

The Whisky Show is run by The Whisky Exchange, who will have a shop on site where customers will be able to purchase the exclusive premium malts. The Whisky Exchange also has a shop at Vinopolis, Borough Market.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Whisky Discovery #1368

Hyde No. 1 'Presidents Cask' 10 Year Old 46% abv

Irish Single Malt Whiskey
circa £51.00 70cl
It wasn't that long ago that almost all Irish Whiskey came from either the New Midleton Distillery (Jamesons, Powers, Redbreast, Midleton, Greenspot and others) or Bushmills in Northern Ireland.

Cooley were the first of the new distilleries coming on line in 1987 producing Connemara, Michael Collins, Tyrconnell, and others. It wasn't until 2007 when the next distillery re-opened with Kilbeggan followed by West Cork Distillers in 2008. The next group of start-ups followed four years later, and they're still coming. Irish Whiskey is riding a wave of optimism and every month there seems to be news of a new distillery either coming on-line or new plans are being drawn up.

Hibernia Distillers are one of the latest new names in Irish Whiskey and has recently launched its Hyde Irish Whiskey onto the Irish and international markets, as this demand for Irish whiskey continues to grow. Hyde is a single-malt Irish whiskey, made from 100 per cent malted Irish barley and aged for ten years, named to celebrate Ireland’s first president, Douglas Hyde, who served as the first President of Ireland from 1938 to 1945.

There's no distillery just yet, but they have ambitions, with plans to start their own production in the near future in West Cork. So the casks for this release were sourced from the Cooley distillery (as read on and had been distilled in traditional copper pot stills from 100% malted Irish barley, aged in flame-charred oak first fill Bourbon barrels for 10 years, and finished off in toasted Oloroso Sherry casks from Spain for a further 10 months. It is non-chilled filtered and cut with West Cork spring water, and then bottled at 46% abv and limited to 5,000 bottles, all of which are individually numbered and comes in a bespoke wooden box.

Official tasting notes:
Nose: Delightful peaches & cream, vanilla, slightly custard, barley malt softness, with citrus, sweet, honey, caramel, vanilla, chocolate, orange, lemon, banana, & infused with spices.
Taste: Wonderfully smooth yet complex, creamy yet fruity with notes of caramel and manuka honey, apricot, plumb, and a silky malt texture.
Finish: Rich, Spicy, & Oaky. It lingers in the mouth with a long rich finish.

So What Did I Think?
Colour: Rich Gold
Nose: Sweet with a creamy peachy type flavour initially.It feels unmistakably Irish to me, but would I have said that in a blind tasting? Probably not! Foam bananas come later along with a gentle orange note and lots of lovely ripe grains
Taste: Very smooth and creamy. Tinned peaches and evaporated milk (a tea time trat as a kid!) A soft orange note comes across later along with milk chocolate. The spices come late leaving a sherbet like tingle in the long finish. The empty glass the following morning yeilds plenty of malty chocolate notes.

A nicely balanced Irish whiskey and I'm looking forward to hearing more from this new company. Their next release, HYDE No.2 ; a 10 Year Old Rum Cask finished version will be ready to launch in September, however it will be a long wait until we get to see their own 10 Year Old release.

Slàinte! Dave

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Whisky Discovery #1367

The Dalmore Distillery Exclusive 2015 NAS (48% abv)
Highland SIngle Malt
£150.00 Only available from the distillery
The Dalmore recently announced the release of a Distillery Exclusive and Dave has been fortunate to receive a sample to review. This latest bottling, The Dalmore's Master Distiller, Richard Paterson, has hand selected a collection of Port, Moscatel and Madeira casks to mature this whisky in, before finally being finished in first fill bourbon barrels.

Richard Paterson Master Distiller for The Dalmore commented: “The Dalmore Distillery Exclusive 2015 is a stunning whisky. Our artisanal approach to whisky making bestows this bottling with a bold, rich, sweet amber gold colour with aromas of caramelised orange, forest fruits and marzipan, and on the palate macerated plums, almonds and pecans.”

Only 450 bottles have been made available, each individually numbered. Priced £150 The Dalmore Distillery Exclusive 2015 is available from The Dalmore Distillery.

So What Did I Think?
This sits in the glass, a rich amber gold and colour of my favourite Amontillado Sherry. The nose is rich and sweet with a distinct orange oil note that's been softened with caramel. There are wood notes too, a new cedar wood cigar box, followed by a slightly sour note of tart fruits and just the faintest hint of parma violets

There's an underlying sourness to the sweet entry, reminding me of stewed plums. An almond/marzipan note follows and on my second sip found dark cherry and that hint of parma violets found on the nose comes across on the palate. Spices linger on the long finish.

I enjoy visiting distilleries and always look out for a 'distillery only' release which is often in the form of a single cask, 'fill you own' affair. It's a great idea and a just reward for those who make the pilgrimage to the distillery. However I find £150 a little steep for a distillery exclusive. Don't get me wrong, it's a smashing drop of whisky that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I don't feel value for money at this price - it's a great deal more expensive that their 18 Year Old and King Alexander III releases that I also enjoyed.

Slàinte! Dave

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Telegraph Whisky Experience

Another Whisky Show, but one we haven’t been to before. At 5.30 pm we arrived at The Telegraph Whisky Experience where we were greeted with a goody bag, and by the host, drinks author Charles MacLean. He gave a talk to a crowd of mainly newcomers to whisky, explaining how to maximise their tasting experience. Discussing how you should take your time to nose a dram, sipping the spirit, and importantly enjoying it how you like – straight, mixed, in cocktails, and adding water. Charles made it clear he doesn't agree with adding ice to neat drams because it kills the aromas.

To begin the experience, Charles took us through a mini tasting – a comparison of Wemyss Malts’ latest release of The Hive and Craigellachie 13 Year Old. We decided that both were equally as good as each other, a view that most would agree on if judging by the empty glasses (which were perfectly pocket sized mini Glencairns).
The 'goodie bag' contained a miniature of The Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

The atmosphere was alive with many discussions and questions from an enthusiastic crowd. All of the exhibitors remarked at how refreshingly it was to be able to talk to so many people at the start of their whisky journeys. Other shows usually lean more towards a larger percentage of experienced drinkers; here many tasted core ranges for the first time.

Due to the show being held over a Monday and Tuesday, the feel was less about a going-out-drinking-party vibe, really setting the tone for drinkers wanting to be educated instead of being full of alcohol. Many purchased bottles of drams they really enjoyed, The Whisky Shop stand was certainly busy, running out of stock of certain bottles due to sales were being higher than they had anticipated. 
Dave about to get his nose into something!
One thing I did notice that left me feeling a little disappointed is the crowd was still made up of older men with just a few ladies peppering the room. A clear lack of under 35s too I'm not sure if this was any different on the other day but I was expecting a more mixed crowd. 

We found ourselves revisiting many drams we had previously tasted, for example the Highland Park 18 year old, Talisker Skye and Mortlach Rare Old. There were only a handful of drams that were new discoveries. Most of the non-standard drams where being poured in the master classes which we did not attend, so can’t comment. 

The full dram list enjoyed as follows, with only two Whisky Discoveries to add to Dave's 'Liquid Log'
  • WD #1219 Wemyss Malts 'The Hive'
  • WD #1149 Craigellachie 13 Year old
  • WD #1030 Mortlach 'Old and Rare'
  • WD #395   Highland Park 21 Year Old
  • WD #1274 SMWS G7.8 'Sweet Seduction in a Car Wash'
  • WD #951   Wemyss Malts Glenrothes 1988 'Aromatic Orange Tobacco'
  • WD #1218 Wemyss Malts Bowmore 1987 'Sweet Peat Posy'
  • WD #1301 The Arran Malt Sauternes Cask Finished
  • WD #533   The Arran Malt Amarone Cask Finished
  • WD #1302 The Arran Malt Port Cask Finished
Just two new Whisky Discoveries to add to the Liquid Log this time
There were two masterclasses to choose from, one a tasting of The Macallan 1824 Series consisting of Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby with an added special dram of The Macallan Rare Cask. The second masterclass was led by Charles with a selection of drams chosen by him under the title of Charles MacLean’s Taste of Scotland.

Lastly the food at the show was the best that we have tasted out of all the shows we have been to – a two course meal was included in the ticket price. It’s a great intimate show, not too crowded giving more opportunities for people to have one-to-one chats with the brands, all set in a beautiful and historic surroundings. 

You can find more about the Telegraph Whisky Experience and their next event in December here:

We would like to say thank you to Wemyss Malts for inviting us as their guest. You can find out more about Wemyss Malts here:

Slàinte! Kat

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Midlands Whisky VIII

We've been to all but the very first Midlands Whisky Show, and it's getting close to our next hop up to Stourbridge for Nickolls and Perks' eighth event held at Stourbridge Town Hall

You can read how our day went at each of the previous events here!

Each event has been getting bigger and better and we're looking forward to seeing what the line up will be this September.

Once again there is a Friday evening show, tickets are £30.00
Entrance at 6:00pm, all drams on taste free inside venue, souvenir tasting glass, show programme

The Saturday event has a number of ticket choices:
  • Standard Ticket £40:00
    entrance at 12:00pm, all drams on taste free inside venue, souvenir tasting glass, show programme 
  • Premium Ticket £75:00
    All standard features, early entrance 10.45am, free masterclass, 2 x dream dram tokens, complimentary canapés 
  • Devotee Ticket £150:00
    All standard features, all premium features, selection of dream drams to take home, £10 food voucher
Tickets are now on sale for their September Show now - so don't delay, get yours now by clicking through the links below:

Monday, 8 June 2015

Three Ships Whisky

The James Sedgwick Distillery in South African sunshine
The James Sedgwick Distillery has a long history in South Africa, being founded in 1886 when Captain James Sedgwick, captain of the clipper 'Undine' purchased the distillery that would go on to become the oldest on the African continent. Set in the picturesque region of Wellington, about 45 minutes drive from Cape Town, best known for the spectacular Bainskloof Pass, and an economy centred on agriculture such as wine, table grapes, deciduous fruit and a brandy industry. The James Sedgwick Distillery is now owned by the Distell Group Ltd after the merger between Stellenbosh Farmer's Winery and Distillers Corporation in 2000. The company produces a huge range of wines and spirits including the popular cream liqueur Amarula Cream.

The whisky distillery produces both malt and grain whiskies on the same site and handles the entire whisky making process – from milling the raw ingredients through to maturation and blending. Our latest copy of The Malt Whisky Yearbook informs us that the distillery has undergone major expansion recently and is now equipped with one still with two columns for their grain whisky production, two pot stills for their malt whisky production, two mash tuns and 23 stainless steel washbacks. 
23 Stainless Steel Washbacks are hiding in here

Malt whisky is only produced during the winter months , just two months of the year in July and August. Fermentation is approximately 72 hours yielding a wash for distilling in the copper pot stills of circa 9% abv. Grain whisky is produced for nine months (one month of the year is for annual maintenance) and the wash is continuously fed into the column still which results in a lightly flavoured spirit of 94.3% abv which is reduced to around the industry standard of 65% before being filled into oak casks.

With more than 150,000 casks of whisky in maturation any given time, the James Sedgwick Distillery has been the home of South African Whisky since 1990, but the Three Ships story starts some thirteen years earlier.

The Three Ships brand of South Africa was launched in 1977, the brainchild of Irish marketing guru Francis Naughton. It couldn't be called a whisky at that time as the initial product was a blend of South African Grain spirit and Scotch malt whisky, but in 1981, when the South African grain had been matured for three years, Three Ships Whisky was born. It was certainly a bold and pioneering move to create a South African whisky to compete against the iconic Scotch Whisky blends that were available at that time, especially when the spirit of choice was still Brandy.
Distillery Manager - Andy Watts

We first met their sixth and current Distillery Manager Andy Watts at Whisky Live London a couple of years ago and we've kept in touch via Twitter and email ever since. We bumped into him again at this years show and asked him how he came to be involved with Three Ships Whisky, as well as why we weren't able to find it in the UK yet.

Andy's involvement started when he was appointed as the Spirits Blending Manager for the Stellenbosch Farmers Winery (SFW). At that time they were still receiving Scotch Malt Whisky in bulk and blending it with their own grain whisky, distilled at the Robertson & Buxton (R&B) distillery.

A technical relationship had been established with Morrison Bowmore Distillers and Andy had been volunteered to be sent to their distilleries to learn from them with the aim of improving the quality of South African whisky going forward. Andy was promptly packed off to Scotland and spent the next four years regularly travelling back and forward with extended experience working at all three of their distilleries, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Islay's Bowmore which was then under the leadership of now legendary, Jim McEwan.
The Still Room at The James Sedgwick Distillery

Following a trip to Scotland in 1989, Andy was tasked with closing down operations at the R&B Distillery in Stellenbosch and move the business across to the James Sedewick Distillery, which up until then had been a brandy distillery. By 1991 the transfer was complete and Andy was given the Managers role at the James Sedgwick Distillery holding total responsibility for all whisky related activity excluding bottling.

It wasn't and easy start though, Andy had inherited stocks of both South African malt and grain which were a bit 'hit and miss'. There had been no 'wood policy' back then and Andy had been given all of the casks nobody else wanted. He had red wine casks, brandy barrels and some very old American whiskey barrels, blending was still a major challenge!. However, Andy remained positive and began a program of change, making small enhancements to their processes and equipment, and the quality of the new make spirit started improving.

During Andy's last spell with Morrison Bowmore he spent time on Islay and fell in love with the island, the people and their whiskies and returned to South Africa wanting to make his own peaty blend. Allowing some South African grain whisky to age a further two years, and purchasing five year old Bowmore malt whiskies in bulk, he created the Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select. However, when Suntory took over Morrison Bowmore in 1994, the bulk purchases were no longer an option and Andy had to find replacement components in order to continue the range.

Andy had already set up their own malt program, importing British barley each year, peated to his specifications for the different styles of malt whisky produced. Over the years he has been slowly replacing the Scottish malt content of the of the blends with South African malt whisky, but there still is a slight Scottish component to both the Select and 5 Year Old Premium Select, probably a marketing decision with a nod to the history of the brand.
The James Sedgwick Distillery sure looks a great place to work

When Distell was formed following the merger, quality improved significantly; a wood procurement policy was put in place, controls on fermentation were completely revamped (a necessity due to their high ambient temperatures) and in 2009 completely revamped and installed new equipment throughout the distillery for the next step in their young whisky making history. It is no coincidence that since the mid 2000’s and after all of the the major improvements had started making their impact on the maturing spirit that the international awards started to come.

Although the malted barley is imported, it is where the product is distilled and matured which gives it its origin, and Andy tells us that they have some amazing work in the maturation warehouses just waiting for the chance to be released to the market. The Three Ships Single Malt, released in 2003, Bourbon Cask Finish, released in 2005 and Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky are 100% South African. All of the new releases going forward will also be 100% South African and there are some exciting things on the horizon which includes the re-launch of the 10 Year Old Single Malt in September this year.

Andy is now into his 24th year in charge of the distillery and blending and says that it's been an amazing journey with no two years being the same. Whilst Andy is in the twilight of his career, South African whisky is only at the dawn of theirs.

Dave first came across South African Whisky at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in 2012 where a bottle of their limited edition 10 Year Old Single Malt was on the table. It's the only time we've seen it and stocks have long since sold out. Searching for South African whisky online in the UK only brings up Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky, their 5 Year Old single grain release that has eluded us to date! Over the last ten years sales of their whiskies has more than doubled with about 97% of these sales within South Africa itself, but is this about to change? We were recently given a miniature pack containing one of each of their current range allowing us to make these discoveries.
Whisky Discovery #184

Three Ships 10 Year Old 43% abv
South African Single Malt Whisky
circa £50.00 70cl a while back
The 10 Year Old I tried at TWE Whisky Show 2012 - Why did I miss that Bain's?
South Africa's first single malt whisky was another pioneering first for The James Sedgwick Distillery. First launched in 2003 as a limited release, it wasn't until autumn 2010 that the next batch was released. It sold out quickly and a further 8,000 bottles were released in October 2011 and a fourth batch followed in in December 2012. These three releases commemorated the pioneering voyages of Bartholomew Diaz, Vasco da Gama and Jan van Riebeeck in a special collectors' series. 

Dave 'discovered' this at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in 2012, it was his first dram of the day and initially noted 'light and floral'. Looking at the release information it was likely that this was from their third batch from October 2011 unless early release bottles of batch 4 were at the show. The photo taken that day doesn't show the release information, but the tin packaging that it came with featured the ship of the pioneering voyager. He certainly wishes he'd bought a bottle then!

The chaps at Master of Malt gave these notes:
Nose: Sweet honey up front on a fresh nose. Almond notes give way to sticky toffee pudding.
Palate: Spicy and mouth-coating. Vanilla and hints of greengages.
Finish: Fairly long and warming with plenty of lingering oak.

Stop Press! Dave found a bottle of their first 10 Year Old release in London at the weekend and it has been safely stowed in the WDHQ Whisky Vault - we'll bring it out one day soon I'm sure!

Whisky Discovery #1263

Three Ships Select 43% abv
Blended Whisky
Not widely available in the UK yet
Three Ships Select is where it all started, a three year old blend of malt and grain whiskies, first introduced in distilled in both pot and column stills that have been left to mature for a minimum of 3 years. It still contains a 'token' amount Scottish malt whisky. If you search carefully you should be able to find this in the UK for around £30 a bottle delivered, however it's not widely available. In South Africa this retails at circa R120-R135 which equates to around £7.50 for a 750ml bottle. Astounding value!

So What Did We Think?
Kat says (a lot more than Dave): The nose begins with a sweet salty savoury note reminding me of Serrano ham. Not overly sweet on the nose, very subtle. There’s also a hint of floral and spicy notes, as to the exact notes, I can’t quite put my finger on. Overall a great balance of sweet, spicy, and dryness but with a noticeable crisp clean quality.

Taste:  The sweetness hits you first, compared with the nose it’s sweeter than anticipated but not overly sweet. Sweetness comprises of dried fruits – specifically dates, raisins, sultanas, later turning into something more refined sugars - specifically demerara sugar. The texture is that of light syrup. Next spice notes come through mainly of cinnamon. The dry crisp and clean feel to this dram continues from the nose, resembling that of a Fino or Manzanilla sherry. Subtle floral notes are also present. Towards the end a toasted nut quality appears with the sweetness returning, reminding me of peanut brittle or sesame brittle.

Finish: Spicy with hints of dryness, and a lovely toasted oak note which lingers.

Dave says: I found this quite oily in the glass, with a floral, yet spicy nose. On the palate it was both sweet and spicy with fruity barley sugars. The empty glass the following morning gave rich barley sugar notes. I obviously didn't go into the depths Kat went into, however I was very much enjoying this very sippable blend.

Whisky Discovery #1264

Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select 43% abv
Blended Whisky
Not widely available in the UK yet
First introduced in 1991 following Andy's Islay adventure, it was named the World's Best Blended Whisky in 2012. This too contains a token amount of Scottish single malt.

In South Africa this retails at circa R135-R150 which equates to around £8.00 for a 750ml bottle. More astounding value!

So What Did We Think?
Kat says: (far more than Dave!) The nose of this also begins with a similar sweet savoury note, this time more of caramelised BBQ meat with gentle cold wood smoke coming through.  I feel there’s enough Peat here to keep the Peat heads happy and will still be acceptable to non-Peat heads who occasionally fancies a hint of smoke to get that extra roundedness and depth to their dram. Floral spices then starts to come through – black pepper and cloves. All of this reminding me of black pepper covered salami.

Taste:  Sweeter than the previous dram, plenty of clear runny honey here and dried fruits – specifically of figs and sultanas. Again very well balanced with distinctive wood charcoal smokiness, spicy floral black pepper, as well as a hint of floral notes, again can’t quite put my finger on the exact note. Whole coriander seeds maybe?

Finish: Spiciness lingers throughout, dry and smoky yet retaining those sweet notes. Really reminds me of the overcooked dried out bits of glazed honeyed BBQ ribs.

Dave says: Another easy sipping blend with a little added interest with the peated malt in the make-up. This is no smoky beast, but it does show itself towards the end. It's fresh and fruity initially with some warming spices along with the hints of peat smoke.

Whisky Discovery #1265

Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish 43% abv
Blended Whisky
Not widely available in the UK yet
First introduced in 2005, Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish is the first 100% South African blended whisky, with the malt and grain components distilled in both pot and column stills and then all matured at The James Sedgwick Distillery with a three year initial maturation followed by six months marrying in first fill bourbon casks.

In South Africa this retails at circa R155 which equates to around £8.50 for a 750ml bottle. Bazinga!

So What Did We Think?
Kat says: A little different from the two previous drams, this begins with a sweet sour and savoury note to the nose. Next you get spicy floral notes of freshly milled Rainbow peppercorn mix. Now, unlike the other two drams, there are lots of creamy vanilla notes that you expect from Bourbon casks, starts to really shine through. Reminding me of vanilla Pana Cotta without the heavy cream feel, as to balance this out, the crisp clean notes and hint of dryness is again present.

Taste:  Lots of demerara sugar and hints of bitterness like that of muscovado sugar. It’s also slightly smoky and savoury, with some dried fruit notes, all a bit like mixed dried fruits with warm toasted walnuts. Towards the end bitter sweet notes are more noticeable – specifically dark chocolate covered coffee beans. Throughout there’s a spicy back note of cinnamon.

Finish: Roasted sugar covered walnuts with the same dryness at the end like the other drams.

Dave says: This disappeared much quicker than I was expecting it too. Lots of creamy vanilla as I was expecting, but with some black pepper and cinnamon spices - another easy drinking blend and a true spirit of South Africa!

Whisky Discovery #1267

Three Ships 10 Year Old 2015 Cask Sample 66.4% abv
South African Single Malt Whisky
Patiently waiting for news of this release!
At Whisky Live London in March, Andy slipped us a sample of his latest 'work in progress', the next release of their limited edition 10 Year Old. The success of the first release took the distillery by complete surprise and there was no stock for single malt bottlings as the production all went into their blends. It wasn't until 2005 that planning for future releases was started and this should be the first release from this forethought.

The 'Angels Share' in South Africa is around 4 to 5% a year which is over double that of Scottish single malts. At 5% loss after 10 years 40% of the original spirit laid down has been lost to the Angels, but due to the warm dry South African climate, the Angels sip more water than alcohol and the alcohol content actually increases over the period. This cask sample was at a whopping 66.4% abv but the final release will be a quirky 46.4%.

With such a high loss through evaporation, the casks are are re-vatted after a period of time under Customs and excise supervision.

So What Did We Think?
Kat says: Because of the very high ABV, I’ve had to add a good slug of water to this dram. The others have had no water added.

Initially there are lots of fresh apples and pears on the nose. Next darker notes start to come through. Notes of damp wood, black and white pepper also present similar to the other drams but a lot spicier, fresh chili heat is there too, with the fruitiness it’s reminiscent of Habanero chilies, however might not be detectable depending on how much water you add. Lastly towards the end there are dry straw notes, citrus zest, cinnamon, and cloves.

Taste:  Completely different beast to the nose. It’s full on high impact flavours. Beings with some sweetness – dark honey, chili spice, as well as those cinnamon and clove notes (leaning more the clove end for me). Next toasted oak/wood notes then starts to come through, turning into a mahogany note, with some bitter dark chocolate and dark dried fruits – dates and prunes. Similar to the drams before the dram doesn’t feel heavy even though there are plenty of richer darker notes, and all of the flavours are still fairly balanced after ageing.

Finish:  Toasted oak/mahogany notes, dark chocolate, cloves and cinnamon, and dark fruit notes lingers.

Dave says: Initial nosing revealed a citrus burst with lime tangerine and sherbet lemons. With water creamy vanilla notes develop

This was quite challenging to sip at cask strength, but very enjoyable with water added, I probably took it to below 50% and closer to it's final bottling strength and it came across as a perfect summer dram, very refreshing! This has a long lingering finish with sweetened limes

Kat's verdict: All three blended whiskies are very well balanced drams, showing great balance between sweet and savoury notes whilst still having a crisp clean feel. I was surprised to find that when I compared my tasting note to the official tasting notes on their website, they were pretty similar for all three drams. This doesn’t often happen so a nice surprise.

For those that don’t know I always write my tasting note without reading official tasting notes from the distillery or any marketing material, as I don’t want this to have any influence on my tasting notes.

I love all four but if I had to rank them in order of which one I liked most it will have to go Select, Bourbon Cask,and 10 Year Old leaving the Premium Select last. Personally the Select could easily become a session dram as it is really easy drinking. I really like that the crisp dry feel leaves the palate feeling clean. Can also see this going great with many different foods, and from what I’ve writing, leaving me yearning for a BBQ.

Dave's Verdict: If you're travelling to South Africa on your holidays, or business, make sure you bring back your full quota of South African Whisky, and bring one back for me too please! I found a bottle of the 10 Year Old halfway through writing this post and had to have it. Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky is next on my list!

When are we going to see more South African Whisky in the UK?

Slàinte! Dave and Kat