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Three Ships began life as a blended whisky, made in South Africa using imported Scotch whiskies. It was the first whisky ever to be produced in the country but that’s only part of the story. To get to the beginning, we need to back to 1833, when James Sedgwick began his career as a midshipman with the British East India Company.
Sedgwick was promoted through the ranks before he retired in 1850. Rather than opt for the quiet life, however, he established J. Sedgwick & Co, purveyors of quality liquor, tobacco and cigars. He ran the business until his death in 1872.
When Sedgwick passed away, the family firm was taken over by two of his sons. In 1886, they bought some buildings on the banks of the Berg River in Wellington, South Africa. Soon the site had been converted into a brandy distillery.
Jumping forward to the 1970s, the company was under the ownership of Stellenbosch Farmers Winery (SFW). In 1977 they began to blend and bottle their own brand of whisky using imported stocks. It was named Three Ships, in honour of Sedgwick (apparently one should never sail into uncharted waters without three ships – one to navigate and set the pace, one to carry supplies and one to sail into shallow waters).
By the 1990s, the company was named Distell and had moved the production of Three Ships to the James Sedgwick Brandy Distillery. As well as continuing to blend imported stocks, they began to make their own spirit. Today, the Three Ships range includes genuine South African single malt whisky. Distilled, matured and bottled in South Africa.
*I received this sample as part of my paid subscription to Whisky Pioneer
The Three Ships 12-year-old single malt is matured in American whiskey casks and bottled at 46.3%.
Smell: Lovely notes of corn and cereals. Straw. Then there’s heather honey and fresh fruits. Vanilla. Fresh oak and sawdust. Touch of olive oil. Fresh citrus. Pear. Apple Danish pastries and croissants. Some soft fragrant smoke too.
Taste: Caramel and oak. Runny honey. Nutty with prickly white pepper and lots of new wood. Malted barley. There’s a slight ashy note and a soft hint of smoke on the finish.
Thoughts: I didn’t really know what to expect from this single malt but I was impressed with its quality. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise – what else should you expect from the owners of Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory? The Three Ships 12-year-old has a heady, fragrant nose and a warming palate with a pleasant whiff of smoke.
Value for money: At the time of writing. the bottle was available online for between £40 and £45. That’s an excellent price for a 12-year-old whisky bottled at 46.3%. A recommended purchase.
For more information on Three Ships visit here