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Watt Whisky is the independent bottling arm of the Campbeltown Whisky Company. The business was established in early 2020 by husband and wife team, Mark and Kate Watt. With two batches of single cask whiskies released before the end of their first year, Watt Whisky have already established themselves as one of the most exciting new independent bottlers in an increasingly busy market.
Spring 2021 sees the pair ready to unveil their third batch. Comprising of five whiskies and a rum, there’s something for all palates. Mark and Kate very kindly sent me samples so that I might share my thoughts with you. I’m trying to keep the length of my reviews down a little these days, so I’ll cover the first three drams here, then post a follow-up in the coming days.
For further information on Watt Whisky, visit here.
*Full disclosure: I was sent these samples free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the drams and the value for money they represent.
Arran Single Malt. Aged 10 years. 59.2%
Distilled at the Arran distillery in Lochranza in 2012. Aged for 8 years in a bourbon barrel. 173 bottles available.
Smell: Lots of fruit and vanilla cream. There’s orange and peach, lemon and lime. Fresh oak. Little touch of ginger.
Taste: Much bigger arrival than the nose would have you expect. There’s honey and orange creams. Wee bit of cocoa powder. Ginger again. Black pepper. A splash of water tones down the spice and allows some more fruit to come through – like apple and mango.
Thoughts: This dram would seem to be priced quite sensibly at £60 a bottle. It’s young certainly, but that’s all part of its charm.
A dram of two halves. The nose is quite typical of Arran but the palate is surprisingly big, with a pleasantly creamy texture. At almost 60% abv, it can take a bit of water, so don’t be afraid to add a few drops. The distillery character is there but it’s somewhat feistier than usual. This is a robust, spicy take on the Arran that might take you by surprise.
Caol Ila Single Malt. Aged 10 years. 58.2%
Distilled at Islay’s largest distillery back in 2010. Matured in a hogshead for 10 years before bottling at 58.2%. 326 bottles available. Retails at £67.95.
Smell: There’s no messing around here. This is undiluted Islay in all its maritime glory. Putting your nose in the glass is a bit like sticking your face in one of those touch pools in the Sea Life Centre. It’s what I expect starfish and sea snails would smell like if you were to barbecue them over a peat fire and serve them up on a bed of seaweed. There’s medicinal smoke, pepper, liquorice, tar and old rope. You name the Islay cliche, it’s in there. A big splash of water brought out some apple and subtle lemon.
Taste: Lots of liquorice. Pepper too. The big briney character of the nose is in evidence here too. Smoked kippers and crushed sea salt. The acrid smoke is like the last few puffs of a bonfire that’s been doused in sea water. With water, there are some citrus and oak notes. Even a wee touch of malt.
Thoughts: It’s a little pricier than the others featured in this article but that’s Islay for you, unfortunately. Single cask Caol Ila isn’t exactly rare, but the prices are still going up all the time. This one hasn’t gone into silly money at least and 10 years is a decent age for such a coastal dram. Especially considering how intense it is. At 5 years old it must have been like standing in the way of a tidal wave.
It should come as no surprise that I liked this. I’ve said countless times now that Caol Ila is almost always good when bottled at cask strength. It’s almost pointless describing the dram because you know exactly what you’re going to get. Although this does feel like a particularly good version.
Caol Ila must be one of the most consistent distilleries in all of Scotland. It can sometimes feel like indie bottlings of the stuff are ten a penny but given how hard it is to get hold of anything else from Islay, we should perhaps be grateful that Caol Ila has remained so accessible. Accessible, and for the most part, affordable.
Blended Scotch. Aged 10 years. 56.5%
A blend of malt and grain whiskies from undisclosed distilleries. Aged for 10 years in a bourbon barrel and bottled at 56.5%. 232 bottles available.
Smell: Big bourbon nose with lots of toffee and caramel. Under all the oak there’s stewed fruits – plum, nectarine, even cherry. There’s some milk chocolate in there too.
Taste: Big summer fruits arrival. Develops into some warming spice and then shifts to deep, dark oak before recalling those fruity notes. Red berries. Cherry. Orange and peach. Plum. Cinnamon and ginger. Chocolatey finish. Water brings out some honey.
Thoughts: This one is a bit of an anomaly. Which makes it rather exciting, really. How often do you see cask strength blended Scotch? How often do you see cask strength, single cask blended Scotch? It’s also a bit of a bargain at £45 a bottle.
It certainly wins the bang-for-buck category. In fact, it does pretty well in the flavour stakes too. I like to see wee quirky bottles like this. Who knows what purpose it was originally intended for but you can bet it was never meant to be bottled in this state. That makes it quite unique and all the more interesting. Of course, none of that would matter if it wasn’t actually any good, but it is. It’s full of flavour and it develops really well the longer you leave it in the glass. Lovely weight for a blend too. For me, this is the stand-out dram in this half of the batch.