WhiskyReviews.net is a free service and always will be. However, if you would like to support the author you can do so by subscribing for just £1 per month. Alternatively, you can make a one-off donation of your choice. Thank you for your support.
For this review I’m turning my attentions once more to the world of independent bottlers. These small companies can be a bit of a mystery when you’re relatively new to the world of whisky but it’s really not that complicated once it’s explained to you. In short, an independent bottler doesn’t distil spirit themselves. Instead, they buy stock that was produced at various distilleries and bottle it up under their own, unique label.
Watt Whisky are one such company and they’re a fine example of what makes the field so interesting. Indie bottlers can release whiskies we might otherwise never get to try. Spirit could come from distilleries that normally pump out blend fodder. Or they could get hold of a cask that didn’t fit a particular distiller’s house style. Whatever the circumstances, bottlers like Watt Whisky provide more choice, more diversity and ultimately, more excitement to whisky drinkers.
Check out my thoughts on some of their latest releases below…
*Full disclosure: The samples featured in this review were sent to me 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.
10-year-old North British Single Grain
This is an interesting wee dram to get things started. North British is a large grain distillery on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Unusually for grain whisky, this one has been matured in a sherry butt. It’s 10-years-old and comes bottled at a cask strength of 57.1%. Should retail around £45.
Smell: Grain-forward to begin with. Wheat-based breakfast cereals. Actually, there’s a bit of Corn flakes in there, as well. Honey with a wee floral note. More depth than you’d perhaps expect from a young grain. Some hot spice prickling the nostrils. Straw and dry grass. Touch of citrus. Fresh oak and solvent. Vanilla. Butter.
Taste: It’s quite weighty for a grain. Almost a meatiness to it. Straight away there’s that woody solvent note from the nose. Chilli powder. Allspice. New wood. Breakfast cereal – Weetabix with honey. Brown bread. Vanilla. Pouring cream. Malty finish.
Thoughts: It’s rare these days that a grain whisky catches my attention but this one is really interesting. It’s quite robust and the nose is surprisingly complex. It’s funny, it doesn’t feel like the whisky is doing anything particularly unusual for a grain, it’s just doing all the usual stuff rather well. I have a soft spot for bottlings that challenge preconceptions and this one demolishes the notion that grain whisky has to be 20+ years old to be any good.
Value for money: A whisky that will probably be different to most of your other bottles… and it’s only £45!
21-year-old Highland Single Malt
The origins of this malt are somewhat shrouded in mystery but we know it’s a good old age at 21-years and we know it’s been matured in a sherry hogshead. It’s also bottled at 55.2% and retails around £90.
Smell: Confectionery – Love Hearts sweets! Oak casks. Toffee. Caramel. Some sherry but this isn’t a sherry bomb. Nutmeg and coriander. Furniture polish. Walnut. Leather. Shortbread. Honey. Water increased the sherry character. Some dried fruits now.
Taste: I’ve always wondered what eating a dunnage warehouse would taste like. A big, woody arrival. Lots of oak tannins. Old sherry. Currants and sultanas. Water brought some juicy raisins to the fore and toned down the tannin a little. More oak on the finish which seems to linger for ages.
Thoughts: The nose is about sherry. The palate is about oak. That may be over simplifying the situation but it gives you an idea. It almost doesn’t seem like a Watt Whisky style of dram because I’m so used to them veering towards the spirit-led rather than cask dominated. That said, there’s a pleasant old-fashioned quality to this whisky. It has a certain dirtiness that’s about as far removed from the trend for overly clean, high-ester whiskies as its possible to get. That sensation of dirtiness was only enhanced by the insane clouding that occurred when I put water in the glass. It won’t be for everyone but I rather enjoy that. Pour this for friends and you’ll be guaranteed of a stimulating conversation after it. Some mature whiskies taste remarkably fresh for their age but this Highland malt tastes of all 21 of its years and it’s worth trying for that very reason.
Value for money: A RRP of £90 is quite impressive for a 21-year-old single cask. It won’t hit the mark for everyone but others will find it utterly fascinating.
15-year-old Dailuaine Single Malt
The Dailuaine distillery lies just outside the village of Aberlour in Speyside. This single malt was matured for 15-years in a hogshead before being bottled at 56.2%. Should retail around £67.
Smell: Fruity. Apple. Bit of citrus. Malty bread. Touch of sulphur. Burnt toast. Vanilla. Lemon meringue pie. Sulphur turning ever so slightly eggy. Flaky pastry. With water the burnt toast evolves. Almost comes across a little bit smoky. Charcoal.
Taste: Lots of fruit on arrival. Apple, pear, lemon, pineapple… Then some runny honey. All underpinned by some peppery spice. Nice maltiness on the finish with a touch of fresh oak. Sulphury note from the nose almost completely absent from the palate. A splash of water brought out more oak and rounded things off a little. Seemed to improve the mouthfeel a little, as well.
Thoughts: This is much more what I would consider a typical Watt Whisky dram. Even at 15-years-old the cask influence is fairly subtle. Instead, it’s the spirit character that provides all the interesting quirks. The sulphury note veers close to, but stops short of, becoming unpleasant and seems to lift after some time in the glass. As time goes on the whisky becomes fruitier, more typically Speyside. It’s almost like the whisky matures in the glass. It starts a little raw and anti-social before softening and becoming all the more welcoming.
Value for money: £67 is a great price for a 15-year-old single cask. Don’t be put off by those early notes. Give this dram time and you’ll be rewarded.
3-year-old Milk & Honey Israeli Single Malt
The Milk & Honey Distillery is Israel’s first malt whisky distillery, established in 2014 in Tel Aviv. This particular single malt was aged for 3 years in a Shaved Toasted and Recharred (STR) red wine cask. It’s bottled at 57.1% and should retail around £63.00.
Smell: Lots of caramel and toffee. Vanilla. Loads of aromatic spices – coriander seeds, cumin, cinnamon sticks, cayenne pepper… There’s also some heather honey, peach and a touch of citrus. Chocolate orange. Apple and pear. Wee hint of strawberry maybe.
Taste: Big toffee arrival before a big load of oaky tannins come in. As the liquid coats the palate the toffee comes back. Reminds me of toffee popcorn actually. Red apples. Fresh orange. Lots of woody spice on the finish… cinnamon, paprika.
Thoughts: The nose is wonderfully complex and the flavour satisfyingly intense. The STR cask is interesting and doesn’t really come across like any of the others I’ve tried. Turns out maturing in Tel Aviv produces different results to maturing in Scotland – who knew? Well, everyone actually but let’s move on. There’s a nice oily texture to the spirit that works well with the gentle prickle of the spices. As you’d expect from maturation in a warm climate, there’s been a lot of oak interaction but the spirit isn’t lost under the wood. It all comes together to make a rather wonderful little dram.
Value for money: I’ve seen some crazy prices quoted for young single casks from some of these exotic new distilleries but £63 is remarkably reasonable. Sure it’s only 3-years-old but it doesn’t taste that way. Worth a buy.
Conclusions: Another impressive selection from Watt Whisky. The grain is a bargain at £45, the Israeli single cask is delicious and well-priced and the Dailuaine is a great example of the unusual spirit produced at that distillery. If I had to pick a favourite, however, I’d go for that 21-year-old Highland. It’s the most expensive of the range but still reasonably priced for what it is. That said, I’d have no hesitation in buying any of them.
For more on Watt Whisky visit here