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Earlier this year That Boutique-y Whisky Company announced a slight change in direction. Where previously their single cask and small batch whiskies were released as and when they were deemed ready, there would now be a more structured approach, with bottles released in themed collections at set times throughout the year.
The first of these collections comprised of a series of whiskies from distilleries all over the world including Armorik of France; Copperworks of Seattle, Penderyn of Wales, Nantou of Taiwan, Elsburn of Germany, Langatun in Switzerland, Millstone from the Zuidam Distillery in the Netherlands, Mackmyra from Sweden and Paul John of Goa, India.
Jen Ghosh, global brand manager for That Boutique-y Whisky Company said: “This new way of releasing Boutique-y whisky hopes to whet the appetite of drinkers looking for discovery and whisky adventure. Whilst also allowing us the opportunity to delight them with collectability, live tastings and digital content. There are no strict rules (of course), our themed releases might be grouped by producer, region, style, flavour or like this inaugural series, by the way we see the whisky category: as a world of limitless potential and delicious possibilities.”
*Full disclosure: I was sent this tasting pack free of charge. 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.
Armorik – Batch 1 – 7 years old
The Distillerie Warenghem was founded by Leon Warenghem in 1900 in order to produce liqueurs. France is one of the largest consumers of scotch whisky in the world yet despite this appetite for the spirit, they never produced their own, until the Warenghem family decided on a change in direction in the late 1980’s. Today the distillery produces both peated and unpeated spirit, all of which is matured on location in Brittany.
Matured in a unique Breton oak cask and bottled at 50%. Retails for £62.
Smell: A bit of burnt toast at first. Then caramel and orange zest. Honey. Walnut and almond. Wee bit of oak char.
Taste: Honey. Lots of orange. Granola. Woody spice and oak char on the finish.
Value for Money: £62 for 50cl of such a young whisky may be problematic for some whisky drinkers. Official releases from this distillery are bottled at 46% abv and start around £45 – £50. Here, the slightly higher abv and limited numbers have pushed that price up a little. I don’t think £62 is unreasonable and independent bottlers themselves have little control over the cost of the cask in the first place but we must always bear in mind that we’re dealing with 50cl bottles here, so you get considerably less for your money.
The flavour is perhaps a little one-dimensional, though what there is, is certainly full and satisfying. The little bit of woody spice at the end is particularly endearing and the finish lasts well.
Nantou – Batch 1 – 4 years old
The Nantou distillery was founded in Nantou Hsien, Taiwan in 1978. Initially developed by the Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation it wasn’t until 2008 that they began to distil whisky. In the early days, wash was produced at a nearby brewery but in 2010, mashtun and washbacks were installed to allow the entirety of the process to be carried out on the main site. With an angels’ share of around 5%, spirit matures at a rate considerably faster than in Scotland, meaning young whiskies of 3 or 4 years old can taste significantly older than they are.
Matured in an ex-bourbon cask and bottled at 49%. Retails at £70.
Smell: Fresh bread. Pineapple and mango. Vanilla and honey. Wee bit of pepper.
Taste: Lots of honey. Mango chutney. Orange and pineapple. Caramel and oak. Dry, peppery finish.
Value for Money: Hmm. I’ve got a bit of an issue here as well. Admittedly, other bottlings from this distillery seem to cost a decent chunk too but I’m just not sure that the quality of experience is enough to warrant paying that. I’m always happy to support whiskies from outside the “traditional” areas, but it feels like the prices here are a hindrance to finding new audiences (I note however that the whisky was sold out by the time I got round to publishing so what do I know?!).
A pleasant dram with good balance and wonderful tropical fruit notes but you’d either have to be a big Nantou fan or be really, really curious to take the plunge.
Millstone – Batch 3 – 4 year old
Zuidam Distillers was founded by Fred van Zuidam after he had spent almost twenty years with De Kuyper Distillers in Schiedam. Troughout his time there he began to dream of running his own company and in 1975 he bought land in Baarle Nassau and began work on his distillery. Originally intended to create Dutch liqueurs, the company now produce gin, rum and the first Dutch whisky, Millstone.
A marriage of two peated first-fill PX Hogsheads, aged for a total of four years before bottling at 49%. Retails for £50.
Smell: Full of aromatic spices = Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger… Also caramel. Green apples and pear. California raisins! Generous waft of smoke too.
Taste: Raisins and sultanas. Caramel and milk chocolate. Cinnamon and pepper. Thick peat smoke that lingers into the lengthy finish.
Value for Money: Now we’re getting somewhere. Perhaps it’s just the introduction of peat into proceedings but this feels like there’s more going on in my glass. At £50 a bottle it’s also the most reasonably priced.
A dram full of character and long lasting flavour with a nice weight on the palate. The cask influence is relatively bold but the peated spirit can take it. The first time in this tasting pack that I’ve felt the dram lived up to, if not exceeded, its price tag.
Elsburn – Batch 1 – 7 year old
Hammerschmiede distillery was founded in 1985 by husband and wife Karl-Theodore Buchholz and Pirrko-Helena as a restaurant, situated in a 13th century blacksmith’s workshop. Soon they began to produce their own herbal liqueurs and by the late 1990’s, the premises had been converted to a distillery in order to produce a range of spirits. In 2002 they became the third distillery in Germany to produce whisky which they would later release under the Glen Els name. It wasn’t long however before the Scotch Whisky Association took issue with the use of the word “glen” in the brand, feeling that it may lead some consumers to presume the spirit was Scottish. After a lengthy battle the SWA won, and Hammerschmiede rebranded their single malt as Elsburn.
Matured first in an ex-sherry butt and then transferred to a sherry octave for a combined total of 7 years. Bottled at 48.5% and retails at £140 – with only 137 bottles available.
Smell: Sulphur. Dark honey. Juicy raisins and sultanas. Cinnamon. High cocoa content dark chocolate. Almonds.
Taste: Thick caramel and red berries. Blackcurrant. Cinnamon, pepper and oak. Raisins and sultanas.
Value for Money: There’s not much you can say really. I haven’t seen this whisky around much so it has rarity on its side and being from a quarter cask it also comes in very limited numbers. It’s a lovely whisky but I think the price would be off-putting to a lot of people.
Score: 82 – should be much higher but price is a weight around its neck.
Prior to this dram I had never experienced the Elsburn malt before. To be honest, even afterwards, I don’t think I could tell you much about the distillery character. This is all about sherry and oak and as such it will always find fans. When you’re in the mood, nothing can satisfy like the big old blast of a sherry bomb. Such limited numbers has pushed the price up though, which maybe explains why it is still available to purchase almost three months after I was sent the sample. Sherry-matured single casks don’t usually hang around that long. A shame really, because it’s thoroughly enjoyable.
Copperworks – Batch 1 – 3 years old
Copperworks is a craft distillery, tasting room and gift shop in the waterfront area of downtown Seattle. Founded by craft beer brewers Jason Parker and Micah Nutt, the distillery was developed in order to produce fine spirits from high-quality craft beer.
Aged for 3 years in a newly charred American oak cask, it was bottled at 50.7% and retailed for £65.
Smell: The oak char is there straight away. Also peppery spirit heat with caramel and cinnamon. Ginger too. With water there’s apple, some pear and some cereal notes.
Taste: Woody arrival with some gentle spices then thick toffee and butterscotch. Vanilla. Sherbet-like fizz at the finish. Apple and grape. This reference will mean nothing to just about everyone but the finish reminds me a lot of the Ruthless “Grape Drank” e-liquid.
Value for Money: You don’t encounter a great deal of American single malt whiskey in the UK. On this evidence, that’s a bit of a shame because even at 3 years old this is really good. Another challenging price point though for a smaller bottle.
Like everything else in this pack, the Copperworks offered something a little bit different. The newly charred cask means you get something a bit like bourbon yet it is also noticeably not bourbon. I admit I found it fascinating – right up until I emptied my glass. Even taking the 50cl bottle into account I would have considered a purchase. No surprise then, that it has apparently sold out at time of publishing.
If you do have a curious palate, not to mention a generous sum of money burning a hole in your pocket, you can still find a couple of the whiskies reviewed in this article at Master of Malt.
Buy Armorik Batch 1 here
Buy Elsburn Batch 1 here
*Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page.
**Other retailers are available.