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The last couple of years have brought something of an eruption in new independent bottlers. That’s not a complaint, right enough. More independents means more interesting single cask whiskies for whisky lovers like me to get their hands on.
Watt Whisky are one of the more interesting arrivals of the last year or two. Established late in 2019 by husband and wife team, Mark and Kate Watt, the Campbeltown-based bottler has already released some cracking drams.
With their latest batch about to drop, Mark and Kate very kindly sent me a set of samples. I’ve already covered three of them in an earlier review, which you can check out here.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the samples featured in this review 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.
Tormore 10-Year-Old Speyside Single Malt
Tormore was established in 1960 by Long John International. The distillery has a unique look and is now considered a listed building. Over the years, it has largely produced malt whisky for use in blended Scotch but single malt bottlings pop up occasionally from independent bottlers.
Unusually, this Tormore has been finished in a cask that previously held an Islay whisky. It’s bottled at 57.1%.
Smell: Quite malty at first. Biscuit and baking spices. Lemon. Apple. Orange. Some peppery prickle on the nostrils. At first there isn’t much suggestion of that Islay cask, other than a slightly maritime quality. Slowly but surely the pungent whiff of peat comes through, albeit in a fairly subtle manner.
Taste: Lots of honey on the arrival. Backed up with biscuity malt. Hobnobs and salted caramel. Dry oak as it goes down the hatch. Like the nose, the peat doesn’t leap out at you but it comes through eventually. Some nice, gentle, peppery spice on the finish.
Thoughts: This is a much more complex affair than you would perhaps expect. It’s got that malty, fruity Speyside thing on the nose but the peat slowly creeps up on you. It’s got nice weight on the palate too and carries some nice variety in its flavour profile. First honey, then fruit, then malt, then oak, then spice whilst there’s a gentle undercurrent of subtle peat running throughout.
Value for money: It’s always fascinating to taste a combination of Speyside and Islay. Especially when it’s as tactfully done as this. A unique single cask experience for £65.95. Well priced.
Glen Spey 13-Year-Old Speyside Single Malt
Glen Spey began life as the Mill of Rothes Distillery in 1878. Prior to that, the building served as an oat mill. Today the distillery is owned by Diageo and produces spirit for their blended Scotch brands, most notably, J&B.
This 13-year-old single malt was rested in an ex-sherry hogshead prior to bottling. It comes in at 53.6%.
Smell: There’s some serious funk going on here. It’s almost cheesy. Like a waxed Red Leicester. Caramel and peanuts. Then some cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Dark chocolate. What an odd whisky!
Taste: An absolutely bonkers arrival. Sherry to the fore. Balsamic vinegar. Molasses. Sultanas. Prunes. Even soy sauce. Lots of drying oak with woody spices that gently prickle the tongue.
Thoughts: I’m not quite sure what to make of this, to be honest! To begin with, I like the palate more than the nose, although it rather takes you by surprise when it first arrives. Once you’ve sort of acclimatised, however, it’s actually very pleasant. It’s certainly fully flavoured. Quite what you should make of those flavours, however, I’ll leave up to you.
When you taste a lot of whiskies on a weekly basis, I think you come to appreciate the drams that surprise you – the whiskies that offer something a wee bit unique. For that reason, I think this one probably counts as a win for me. However, I don’t pretend for one second to have fully got my head around it. It seems to somehow straddle the line between fascinating and foul. For me, it’s more to the former but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people came down on the other side. Great conversation starter though.
Value for money: I’d say it’s definitely worth trying, at least once. Just to experience it and if you are feeling adventurous, £65.95 isn’t a lot to pay for one of the more unusual malts you’re likely to come across this year.
Imperial 25-Year-Old Speyside Single Malt
The Imperial Distillery operated from 1897 to 1998 with several periods of closure in between. The buildings were completely demolished in 2013 to make way for Pernod Ricard’s new Dalmunach Distillery.
Limited stocks of the spirit remain. This 25-Year-Old version has been bottled at 53.6%.
Smell: Another one with an unusual nose. Smells like varnish or some sort of wood stain. Agave syrup, as well. Apple juice. Lemon curd. Sponge cake.
Taste: Big honeyed arrival with that Agave note again. Good body. You can really chew on it. Digestive biscuits. Toffee apples. Cinnamon. Pepper. Wee touch of citrus. Woody spice on the finish.
Thoughts: Where the last two drams could be filed under the “weird and wonderful” category, this one feels a little more traditional. Not only is it from an old distillery, that isn’t around anymore, it’s also been left for its full 25 years in one cask. You get the impression it was a good cask, too, because it’s created something rather extraordinary. No smoke, no sherry, no trendy wine finishes… Just characterful spirit that’s been in a good cask for two and a half decades.
Value for money: At a price of £225 it’s not exactly budget-friendly but it was never going to be. Any 25-year-old malt is going to cost a fair old sum. One from a closed distillery, even more so. However, were I in a position to spend a couple of hundred pounds on a bottle of whisky right now, I’d certainly consider this one. A great old whisky that would make you question the sanity of demolishing Imperial distillery in the first place.