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An Introduction to Watt Whisky
Watt Whisky is the independent bottling arm of the Campbeltown Whisky Company Ltd, founded by husband and wife team Kate and Mark Watt.
Prior to establishing their own firm, the pair have jointly amassed more than 40 years experience in the whisky industry. Kate worked in sales and marketing at two of Scotland’s finest family-owned distilleries, first at Springbank in her home town of Campbeltown and latterly at Glenfarclas in Speyside. Mark meanwhile began his career behind the Quaich Bar in the Craigellachie Hotel before moving to Edinburgh, where he worked at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Royal Mile Whiskies. Later he headed up the sales team at Duncan Taylor before moving to Campbeltown to become director of sales at William Cadenhead Ltd. That experience should provide the new company with an impressive reservoir of knowledge to draw from.
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Kate, but did spend an afternoon being led round the Cadenhead’s warehouse by Mark back in early 2016 and it remains one of my fondest distillery memories to this day. So whilst you never know quite what to expect from a new bottler, Watt Whisky seemed to promise much and on paper at least, their first batch contains an interesting selection of drams…
*Full disclosure: I was sent these samples free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Mannochmore 12 Year Old Single Malt. 54.8%
Mannochmore was founded in 1971 by John Haig & Co. The distillery is perhaps most known for the production of Loch Dhu, a single malt infamous among the whisky community for its excessive use of colouring and for being, well, not very good. In a perfect example of the ridiculousness of the modern whisky market however, this apparently awful whisky is now deemed collectible and changes hands for ridiculous sums on the secondary market. Today the distillery is one of dozens owned by Diageo, with most of its output serving their blended scotch brands.
Matured initially in a pair of hogsheads, the whisky was then transferred to a brandy butt for a finishing period of three months. Bottled at 54.8% it retails for £62.
Smell: Robust almost meaty nose. Caramel and honey. Almond. Baking spices – ginger and cinnamon. Wee bit of struck match / burnt toast. Vanilla fudge. Aromatic and enticing.
Taste: Honey. Nutty with caramel and milk chocolate – like a mashup of Snickers and Crunchie Bars. Apple juice. Vanilla pods. Some dried fruits and gingery spice.
Thoughts: Currently available at the Whisky Exchange for £62 – a great price for such an interesting single malt. You’ll want to slowly savour every last drop but if you’re anything like me, you’ll find your glass empty far sooner than you’d like.
A bottle that hits the sweet spot between quality and price. That brandy finish is interesting as well but crucially it hasn’t been overdone, instead its influence is well integrated with the spirit character and that of the hogsheads. I don’t tend to buy bottles after reviewing a sample, simply because my resources won’t allow it – publishing two reviews a week, every week, means I can’t afford to spend money on drams I’ve already reviewed. Despite that, I’m seriously considering a bottle of this Mannochmore. I don’t think I can give a bigger compliment than that – I’d be willing to waste blog resources just for a chance to savour a few more drams.
Caol Ila 11 Year Old Single Malt. 57.4%
Another Diageo owned distillery. Caol Ila is named after the Sound of Islay – the body of water that separates the island from neighbouring Jura. Founded in 1846, the original distillery was almost completely demolished and rebuilt in 1972 to a design by George Leslie Darge, in much the same style as his work at both Clynelish and Linkwood. Only a small range of official bottlings are available but Caol Ila is the largest distillery on Islay, and its single malt is a common feature among the output of independent bottlers.
This 11 year old was matured in a single hogshead before being bottled at 57.4%. Retails for £65.
Smell: A great big blast of smoke. Charcoal. TCP. Liquorice. Lemon. Vanilla. Breakfast cereal and honey. Water tones down the fire and brimstone a little.
Taste: Agave syrup and lots of peppery spice. Malt. Grilled meats and barbecue sauce. Vanilla. Green apples. Long finish full of wood and smoke. Some fruit jam notes with water.
Thoughts: You know exactly what to expect from cask strength Caol Ila and the price here seems reasonable for the quality of experience you’re getting.
It sometimes feels like every release from the indie bottlers has a Caol Ila. For such a common occurrence, however, the quality is almost always high and this Watt Whisky offering is no exception. It’s got the sort of character that you can smell from four rooms away and delivers wave after wave of tastebud-destroying flavour that lingers for what seems like hours after it’s gone down the hatch. Another day, another cracking Caol Ila.
Watt Whisky Blended Malt. 19 Years Old. 44.9%
Not much information about this one, other than that it was distilled in 2001 and matured in a sherry butt for 19 years. Bottled at 44.9% it retails for around £80.
Smell: Lots of sherry. Christmas cake… Raisins, orange zest and cinnamon. Maple syrup. Dusty oak. Petrichor. Water freshens it up a little with apple and pear.
Taste: Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Cinnamon and clove. Raisins and sultanas. Raspberry and blackcurrant. Salted caramel and then oak.
Thoughts: On paper this appeared to be one of the standouts of the range and I’m happy to report that my opinion hasn’t changed after sampling it. £80 may not be bargain basement stuff but its perfectly sensible for a whisky almost two decades in the making.
One of the better sherry-led drams I’ve come across lately. This is old sherry. Interesting sherry. Sherry that’s integrated with the spirit over many years in the cask, as opposed to the kind that’s thrown over a youthful spirit to smooth its rough edges. Its depth is really quite superb and at £80 a bottle you simply cannot go wrong.
Highland Single Malt. 10 Years Old. 58.4%
A 10 year old single malt from an undisclosed Highland distillery. After 10 years in a hogshead it was bottled at a cask strength of 58.4%. Retails at £80.
Smell: Apple & lemon. Malty biscuit. Candlewax. Pepper and cinnamon. Heather honey. Wee bit of brine. Water releases a bit of oak.
Taste: Big arrival! Lots and lots of honey with a touch of zingy lime. Lots of peppery spice though water tones it down a little. Orange juice. Dark chocolate. Oak and brine on the finish with a bit of apple. Nice oiliness to the mouthfeel, good length on it too.
Thoughts: £80 seems on the steep side for a 10 year old malt, especially when the point of origin is withheld. Having said that, it is an absolutely delicious dram and may still be worth some consideration.
With the trend for cask finishes continuing unabated it is sometimes nice to see an example of how wonderful a whisky can be when simply left to do its thing. Here we have a malt that spent the last ten years slumbering in a “boring” old hogshead but certainly came out pretty damn well. A great dram but you’ll have to pay for it.
Watt Rum. 13 Year Old Belize Rum. 57.1%
The Travellers Distillery began producing in 1953 and earned its name over the years by serving those who traversed the main road to and from Belize city.
This first Watt Rum bottling spent 8 years ageing in its native Belize before being shipped to Europe where it remained in a bourbon barrel for another five years. Bottled at 57.1%, it retails for £80.
Smell: You can certainly feel the 57% on the nose. Hazelnut and almond. Lots of caramel and musty oak. Touch of citrus. Fresh mint and maybe a wee bit of smoke?
Taste: Lots of oak upfront. Liquorice. Salted caramel. Chocolate orange. Cinnamon and clove. Spirit heat settles down fairly quickly and it becomes really rather drinkable.
Thoughts: I confess to being unsure what sort of price a bottle like this should be going for. I did a bit of research though and the price doesn’t seem out of the ordinary when you take origin, age and limited number into account.
In truth I have no business reviewing this because I’m not particularly well versed in Rum. I’ve tried a few over the years though and this certainly stands up pretty well. You can smell and taste the age of the thing, but it hasn’t gone too far. A thoroughly enjoyable sip, at least to my uneducated palate.
For more on Watt Whisky (& Rum) visit here