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Watt Whisky is an independent bottler of Scotch whisky and other spirits. After amassing impressive levels of experience across the whisky industry, Mark and Kate Watt decided the time was right to establish their own company in late 2019. It would be no exaggeration to say they picked the worst possible time to strike out on their own. However, despite the effects of Brexit and international tariffs, not to mention a global pandemic that felt like the end of days at times, the couple have somehow managed to make it work. The key to that success, I suspect, is their ability to select great whisky.
Full disclosure: Mark and Kate very kindly sent me a batch of samples from their latest out-turn. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
*This is part one of a two part review.
Orkney Single Malt Aged 8 Years (57.1% abv)
Single cask Orkney whisky has become surprisingly common in recent times. I’m not sure what the reason for that is, whether some serious over-production was going on in the far north or if they just produced a batch that didn’t quite work with the distillery profile. Whatever the case, it’s nice to have all these indie bottlings around.
This particular offering was aged 8 years in a Hogshead before bottling at 57.1%.
Smell: Some fresh orchard fruits. Heather honey. Malt. Shortbread. Lemon juice. Vanilla. Fresh oak. A little peppery prickle.
Taste: Creamy. Honey and lemon. Vanilla. Black pepper – a bit hot at first but water tones it down – then there’s a touch of orange peel and a maybe the lightest wisp of smoke on the finish.
Thoughts: A good all-rounder, especially after water has been added. It seems to cover all the bases. It’s wonderfully fruity with a little bit of spice and only the faintest hint of smoke. New flavours develop as it coats the tongue, without any gaps, or lulls in the experience. Good arrival, interesting development and a pleasant, subtle finish.
Value for money: At £60.95 the quality easily justifies the price.
Blended Scotch Whisky Aged 18 Years (56.3%)
Not much known about this one other than it’s a blended Scotch, which means both malt and grain components.
It was aged for 18 years in a hogshead and bottled at 56.3%.
Smell: Quite woody at first. Almost a varnish note. Honey and orange zest. Apple. Cinnamon. Vanilla pods. Bread baking in the oven. Walnut.
Taste: Brambles and blackcurrant. Raspberry. Sultanas. Caramel. Honey. Orange. Toffee. Touch of pepper and oak on the finish.
Thoughts: I’ve really enjoyed the blends Watt Whisky have put out so far and this one is another cracker. It has a lovely feel on the palate and turned seriously cloudy with the addition of water. It’s quite interesting how different I found the nose and palate too. It was almost like two completely different drams. Two for the price of one!
Really like the wee bit of spice just before it goes into the finish, it’s like it ends on a little flourish. A rounded, fully flavoured dram with a little bit of personality. Great stuff.
Value for money: At £70 I’d say the Watts have got their pricing pretty spot on again. It may be a blend but it’s 18 years old and bottled at cask strength. It’s also delicious. A good buy.
Lochindaal Single Malt (Bruichladdich) Aged 13 Years (57.1%)
Lochindaal is a heavily peated single malt distilled at Bruichladdich on the Isle of Islay. It’s peated to around 50ppm and was matured for 13 years in a bourbon barrel before bottling at 57.1%.
Smell: Big smoky nose from the off. Malt. Tablet. Cereal. Stony beaches and sea breeze. A squeeze of lemon. Peat smoke is obvious throughout but not overly pungent. Also some vanilla and buttery pastries.
Taste: Honey. Apple and pear. Orange. Salted caramel. Sea salt and black pepper. Little touch of brine. Around the middle of the palate things go a little woody before shifting into a charcoal and smoky finish.
Thoughts: As a long-time Bruichladdich fan, I was keen to try this. Of course, I tried to approach it critically, determined that my own personal bias wouldn’t get in the way of my honest opinion. The simple fact of the matter, however, is I bloody loved it. Maybe I’m biased to Bruichladdich or maybe it genuinely is a fantastic dram. Or maybe both those things are at play.
50ppm is a fair old peating level but those narrow Bruichladdich stills have produced something remarkably complex. Interestingly it feels very much like a sibling of Octomore. No bad thing.
I’ve always enjoyed all styles of whisky but peat is my first love yet sometimes I think maybe my palate is changing and maybe I’m moving away from the smoky character. Then something crosses my path that reminds me just how bloody good peaty whisky can be. This is one of those drams.
Value for money: £134 may seem excessive for a 13-year-old malt but there’s other factors at play. Firstly, Bruichladdich is a very popular distillery. Secondly, Lochindaal isn’t being made anymore and casks don’t appear all that often. When one does become available, it comes at a cost. Perhaps for a bit of context, you could compare it to the price of a 5-year-old Octomore. It may not look so crazy then.
For more on Watt Whisky visit here