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That Boutique-y Whisky Company is an independent bottler of single malt, single grain and bourbon whiskies, sourced from renowned distilleries in Scotland and beyond. It is part of the Atom Group who own the famous Master of Malt and various spirit brands including Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin, Drinks by the Dram, The Character of Islay and Darkness whisky as well as sister subsidiaries That Boutique-y Gin Company and That Boutique-y Rum Company.
Boutique-y Whisky launched in 2012 and quickly caught people’s attention with some intriguing bottles, beautifully decorated in unusual, graphic novel-style labels, designed and illustrated by the extremely talented Emily Chappell.
In this review I will be trying out a selection of small batch bottlings, each produced at Diageo-owned distilleries that spend a large proportion of their time churning out liquid for blends…
*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample pack so that I might take part in an online tasting hosted by That Boutique-y Whisky Company brand ambassador Dave Worthington. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Teaninich 11 Years Old (Batch 2)
The Teaninich distillery was built on the estate of Hugh Munro in 1817. Munro was blinded whilst serving with the 78th Highlanders during the wars with Revolutionary France but nevertheless returned home to spearhead the development of his land. One of many such projects, the distillery was intended to provide employment and a reliable buyer of grain crops grown by his tenants. Munro eventually sold the estate (distillery included) to his younger brother and by the turn of the century it had been taken over by Robert Innes Cameron. When he passed away, Teaninich was sold to Scottish Malt Distillers, a forerunner of Diageo, where it has remained ever since. Even today the malt remains a key component in the Johnnie Walker Red Label blend.
Bottled at 47.9% and retails at £42.95.
Smell: Malty nose with lots of grain notes. Cereal. Bread. Straw. Pencil shavings. Also honey, apple and pear. Lemongrass and vanilla.
Taste: Breakfast cereal. Butterscotch. Werther’s Original sweets. Vanilla. Apple and citrus – orange and tangy lemon. Gentle warming spice and slightest touch of oak.
Value for Money: Reasonably priced though it must be noted that all of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s liquid comes in 50cl bottles, which I must confess to finding rather irksome. Having said that, you still get a very decent malt for £40, so not too many complaints.
A nice little dram, though nothing particularly unique. Indeed, independent bottlings of spirit-led whisky from Diageo’s workhorse distilleries seem to be ten-a-penny at the moment. What it lacks in originality however, it makes up for in execution. There is good depth of flavour and a pleasing length to the finish that elevates it above mediocrity.
Auchroisk 12 Years Old (Batch 7)
The youngest of the distilleries featured, Auchroisk was built in 1972 by Justerini & Brooks as a means of boosting their production capacity. The site was chosen after the discovery of Dorie’s Well, a water source that shared many properties with that used to supply the company’s Glen Spey distillery. After a test batch of whisky was produced using the new source, the distillery was given the go ahead and the first spirit run took place in 1974. Whilst official bottlings of Dufftown now carry The Singleton name, it was in fact Auchroisk that was first given that title, on account of the relative difficulty in pronouncing it. The distillery continues to produce its distinctive malt today, whilst also acting as a hub for vatting the highland components destined for the J&B blends.
Bottled at 47.9% and retails for £38.95.
Smell: Malty with apple and honey. Lemon. Vanilla. Toffee. Dry grass and some light wispy smoke.
Taste: Honey and malt with a pleasing saltiness. Orchard fruits. Vanilla. Touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Creamy toffee and a dry woody finish with a subtle whiff of smoke.
Value for Money: A decent age statement on the label and a rather tasty dram in the bottle. Even at 50cl, £40 makes for pretty good value for money.
Like the previous dram, this is very much spirit-led, with only the slightest impact from the cask. There is a little added complexity from that hint of smoke though and the overall experience is very well balanced. Nothing revolutionary but a satisfying dramming experience all the same.
Dufftown 10 Years Old (Batch 4)
Dufftown was founded when Peter MacKenzie and Richard Stackpole travelled to Mortlach in 1895 to inspect a sawmill, with a view to converting it into a distillery. The following year they partnered with local solicitor and mill owner Charles MacPherson to form the Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery Co Ltd. It would be the sixth distillery in the town, contributing to the oft-repeated phrase “Rome was built on Seven Hills, Dufftown built on Seven Stills”. The business suffered throughout US Prohibition however and in 1933 it was purchased by Arthur Bell only for Bell’s to be taken over by Guinness in 1985, a move that would lead to the creation of Diageo, the world’s biggest producer of scotch whisky.
Bottled at 47.8% and retails for £43.95.
Smell: Lots of grain and straw. Grassy even. Also apple, grapes, lemon and pineapple. Vanilla and honey. Salty – almost coastal, which is an odd thing to say about a malt produced 20 miles from the coast.
Taste: Malty biscuits. Baking spices. Pepper. Apple. Salted caramel and chewy toffee. Subtle touch of oak.
Value for Money: Diageo’s 12 year old Singleton of Dufftown bottling usually retails for £35, and comes at the diluted strength of 40%. Even considering the 50cl bottle, £43 doesn’t seem too excessive for a small batch release bottled at a far more satisfying strength.
Nothing particularly extravagant, just good spirit, carefully aged and bottled at a strength that allows it to shine. Simple yet effective and very, very drinkable.
Linkwood 10 Years Old (Batch 7)
Linkwood distillery was founded in Elgin in 1821 by Peter Brown, though the commencement of production was delayed until 1825. When the founder passed away, his son William took over, replacing the distillery with a new construction on the same site in 1873. In 1902 Innes Cameron joined the company and became managing director and the largest shareholder. When he passed away in 1932 the company was sold to Scottish Malt Distillers which in turn was bought by United Distillers – later to become Diageo.
Bottled at 48.2% and retails at £38.
Smell: Lemon drizzle cake… lemongrass… digestive biscuits. Pear. Salt and pepper. Touch of citrus and slightest hint of oak.
Taste: Lots of pepper to begin with. Then orange and cinnamon – very pleasantly spiced in fact. Apple. Malt and honey. A little nutty.
Value for Money: The only official release of Linkwood comes in the form of a 12 year old Flora and Fauna bottling at 43% that will cost you around £45. This Boutique-y expression meanwhile fares reasonably well at ten years old and 48.2%.
Possibly my least favourite of the pack but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t find a place for it. Like the others, it does the simple things well and offers the drinker balance and pleasing depth.
All four drams are rather a testament to the benefits of higher strength bottling because in my experience this flavour profile can become rather anemic when diluted to 40%. That Boutique-y Whisky Company don’t go for full cask strength however, instead they arrive at what they believe to be an ideal drinking strength, and based on this little lot I’d say they got it about right. There’s enough to give the desired fullness of flavour without searing the old taste buds. So although there’s nothing ground breaking here, they are the kind of bottles you crack open with friends only to quickly realise that you won’t be needing the cork again.
Learn more about That Boutique-y Whisky Company here.