February 20, 2013 in Reviews
Early last year, I came across boutique spirits company Wemyss Malts through an interview done with then regional sales manager Susan Colville. They hadn’t come onto my radar prior to that but, soon after the interview with Susan, I had the chance to try some of their whiskies and I was very impressed.
To give you some background, Wemyss – based in Edinburgh – is owned by the Wemyss family, who also own estates on which barley for various whisky producers is grown. They make some blended whiskies – some of which I reviewed here – and as a company own three other spirits businesses: Rimauresq cru Classe, a wine producer in Provence; Darnley’s View gin; and, Lord Elcho, a standalone blended Scotch. Additionally, the company bottles single cask whiskies, which they name only after the style of flavours they believe are in the bottle, in an attempt to make it easier for consumers to easily understand what that whisky might be like. The company has recently been in the news due to its decision to build a new single malt whisky distillery at Kingsbarns in Fife (seen in the photo below).
I have recently had the chance to try three of the four new single cask whiskies that have just been released: a 1989 Glen Garioch named “Fruit Bonbon”; a 1997 Bunnahabhain named “Billowing Embers”; and, a 2000 Linkwood named “Summer Orchard”. There is also a fourth dram – a 1992 Ardmore named “Mellow Mariner” – which I’ve not sampled. All have been bottled at 46%
Here’s what I made of them:
Summer Orchard: 12-year old Linkwood:
This was a very light coloured whisky – almost similar to when sunshine hits water: very crisp and clear.
On the nose, it was full of butterscotch candies and candy floss, with summer fruits (apricot and peaches) that was evocative of a warm summer’s day.
On the palate, it was surprisingly gentle for the strength, with no alcohol bite coming in until long into the sip. It had a strongly fruity taste (strawberry cream chocolates and peaches candies) with some floral (almost violet) notes later on in the sip.
With water, everything softened beautifully – it was delicate and floated across the palate with apple blossom and peach notes.
This was a lovely dram and would be perfect to drink outside on a warm summer’s evening.
Billowing Embers: 15-year old Bunnahabhain:
Similar to the Summer Orchards release, this was almost clear in the glass with just a hint of colouring edging on the sides.
The nose was smokey but with a lemon and vanilla undertone. One of the tasting notes is: “extinguished beach bonfire”, which I very much agreed with. There was the scent of salty sea air, citrus and campfire: all very appealing.
However, on the palate, it wasn’t one for me. There was an acidity to it and a sweet, pear drop and meat smoke that wasn’t terribly appealing, though I’m sure many of you will enjoy it. You see, while I love a tamed smokey flavour, I usually prefer this to be muted with the addition of a sherry finish. For some reason the smoke and sweet in this release just didn’t come together for me.
Fruit Bonbon: 23-year old Glen Garioch:
To start, this was an attractively coloured whisky (I’d liken it to Quality Street toffee coins).
The nose was very vegetal to start, but not in a bad way. It reminded me of fruit stems, in this case blueberry ones. There was a note of red apple peel, a hint of earth and a nuttiness akin to hazlenuts.
On the palate, there was a dash of fruit crumble before a huge burst of unexpected blackcurrant and chocolate darted their way in – it was an absolutely lovely shift in the flavour profile that I really loved. It finished on a stewed berry and blackberry wine note.
With water, there was an even richer bramble berry flavour that made me feel like I was immersing my head in a fruit crumble. Delicious!