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Watt Whisky is an independent bottling label, run by the Campbeltown Whisky Company. It was established in 2020 by husband and wife team, Mark and Kate Watt. Successful careers in the Scotch whisky industry have given the pair a sturdy base from which to build their business but the job they’ve made of it so far has still been quite impressive. Some of their success, I’m sure, is down to their likeability as people, but the rest is based on the quality of the booze they’ve put out.
So far, there’s been an array of single cask whiskies from distilleries as diverse as Caol Ila, Dailuaine, Mannochmore and Arran. There’s also been single grains, blended malts and rum too. Diversity without compromise of quality is the dream formula for any independent bottler and these guys seem to be nailing it.
Watt Whisky’s 4th batch of drams launched in summer 2021. I’ve reviewed three samples below. I’ll cover the rest in a follow-up post.
Linkwood 13-Year-Old Single Malt (59.3%)
Linkwood is based in Elgin, in the famous Speyside region. Owned by Diageo, it spends most of its time producing whisky for blended Scotch but independent bottles are reasonably common.
Distilled in 2007. Aged for 13 years in a hogshead. Bottled at 59.3%. Retails at £67.
Smell: Malt. Toffee. Honey. Vanilla. Butter pastry. Apple, orange and lemon. Cinnamon buns. Wee bit of pepper. Fresh oak. Nose is fruitier with water. More wood spice, too.
Taste: A nice honeyed malt character on arrival. Beautiful texture struck me immediately. Oatcakes. Bourbon-y vanilla notes. Some oak tannins and a touch of pepper. Gentle woody spice on the finish. With water, the dram becomes even more rounded and fully flavoured. There’s some fruit coming through as well. Orange. Lemon. Maybe even some chocolate.
Thoughts: This was a fine way to open up this latest outturn from Watt Whisky. In many ways, it underlines exactly what it is they’ve been doing so well up til now. Linkwood produces a quality spirit and Mark and Kate have very sensibly left it alone to do its thing uninterrupted. Now, at 13 years it’s showing magnificently. It’s wonderfully weighty on the tongue, it’s got great depth of flavour and it elevates to another level with the addition of water. An excellent example of the simple things done well.
A great option if you’re looking for a well-presented Speyside dram without any fussy cask finishing.
Campbeltown 7-Year-Old Blended Malt – The Local Edition (57.4%)
Watt Whisky’s first Local Edition is a blended malt available exclusively to buy in Campbeltown. At only 66 bottles, there isn’t much to go around.
There’s only three distilleries in Campbeltown and we know there’s at least two of them in here, we just don’t know which. Not that it matters, they’re all good.
This young blended malt was aged for 7 years in a hogshead before bottling at 57.4%. Interestingly, a quantity of this whisky was kept back and filled into an ex-rum barrel. Look out for the result of that wee experiment in a future batch of Watt Whisky.
Smell: Quite a funky nose. Malty with vanilla. A bit bready. Baking spices, cinnamon especially. Apple. Pepper. A tiny wee bit of oily smoke.
Taste: Intense arrival. Toffee and caramel followed by more of the fresh baking notes. Apple turnovers. Cinnamon. Pepper. Honey. Hobnob biscuits and oatcakes. Peppery finish with some dry oak. With water it turns wonderfully rich and chocolatey. Then there’s some oak and a gentle wisp of smoke.
Thoughts: North Star Spirits bottled a couple of young blended malts from Campbeltown a wee while back. After reviewing one of them I spotted a comment on social media somewhere questioning my judgement. I was still scoring the drams back then and they wondered how a 5-year-old Campbeltown could possibly have earned a high score. I wish I could have passed them a dram because their line of questioning would have ended with one sip.
This Watt Whisky bottling is of a similar standard. It’s intense, complex and sort of… dirty, in the best possible way. It’s so good, the eight hour round trip to Campbeltown that’s required to get a bottle doesn’t actually seem like such a bad idea.
Ardmore 9-Year-Old Single Malt (57.6%)
Ardmore is a highland distillery, built by Andrew Teacher in 1898. A small range of single malts are available but it is in independently bottled single casks that Ardmore really shines.
Distilled 2011. Aged for 9 years in a barrel. Bottled at 57.6%. Retails for £72.
Smell: Quite a young nose. It’s malty with a touch of new make about it. Frazzles (a bacon flavour corn snack – for those who don’t know). Honey. Lemon juice. Wood smoke. Water settles the youthful spirity notes.
Taste: Honey. Then smoky bacon and pepper. Sea salt. More honey. Spicy, barbecue, charcoal finish with a touch of oak. With water, the spice reduced and I picked up some citrus notes.
Thoughts: Ardmore is a fantastic single malt but official bottlings are pretty limited. Certainly, their Legacy bottling, commonly found in supermarkets, fails to do the distillery justice. To really see this dram at its best you need something like this Watt Whisky release. It hasn’t been tampered with in any way, simply allowed to do its thing in the cask for a decent amount of time. It’s wonderfully smoky, though not in the Islay way. There’s no iodine, TCP notes. Instead, there’s chargrill and barbecued meats and bacon snacks. It’s absolutely delicious and the oily mouthfeel helps to deliver that flavour in an extremely effective way. Another fantastic dram. My favourite of the batch, thus far.
For more on Watt Whisky visit here.