Tuesday, January 22, 2013

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

That Boutique-y Whisky Company is a new(ish) independent bottling venture from the innovative online retailer Master of Malt. The first batch of four whiskies were released back in September 2012, with two further batches following since. The concept behind the bottlings is to release a set of bespoke whiskies without age statements and the restrictions of being a single cask. Each whisky is constructed from a selection of casks and then bottled at whatever the natural cask strength is. The 50cl bottles also feature a series of eye-catching cult comic book style labels which feature people from around the whisky world or stories connected to the featured distillery.

Many people think of Master of Malt as a recent phenomena, but they have been retailing since the mid 1980s when a small shop was set up in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  However it is over recent years that the company has risen to prominence, mainly through their online retailing.  This has seen them become one of the most successful and recognisable spirits retailers in the UK and across the world.  Their continual innovation, such as the Drinks by the Dram, Blend Your Own Whisky kits and most recently the Whisky Advent Calendar, has seen them win many awards

We have to admit that we have been a bit snowed under with day jobs and this has had an impact on our ability for reviewing samples received of late – for example, we first received the three samples reviewed below back in September. All were limited in number and unfortunately look like they have now sold out. However, we are still reviewing them so as to talk about the concept and quality of the whiskies on offer. Very similar products to some of those below are also available in the later batches that have been released.


That Boutique-y Ardbeg - Batch 1
The label portrays arguably the world's most fanatical Ardbeg collector called Geert Bero, who is seen lovingly stroking the stills at the cult Islay distillery.  There were just 293 bottles in Batch #1 and it was bottled at 51.9% ABV for this batch, retailing for £54.95 each.

The colour is a rich golden yellow and the nose is instantly intense and vibrant with a feisty mix of vanilla, lemon zest, malty cereals, acrid peat smoke and brine.  On the palate, the nose is recreated with the salty brine and earthy/mossy peat more prominent.  These are accompanied by lovely notes of honey, oatcakes, lemon, butterscotch and some red chilli-like heat.  The finish is warming, long and intense - it seems to become very peaty and salty especially towards the end, making it quite dry.

That Boutique-y Caperdonich - Batch 1
This label depicts the legendary pipe that ran between the now-closed Caperdonich and its sister distillery of Glen Grant.  Legend has it that whisky was smuggled using it, but it only ever carried recycled water.  There were just 36 bottles of this in Batch #1, bottled at 45.6% ABV and priced at £99.95.

The colour is golden yellow and the nose exhibits a highly aromatic set of aromas including vanilla custard, green apple and pear, gristy cereals and loads of wood spices (especially nutmeg) - the combination is reminiscent of a classic tarte tatin.  On the palate, there are plenty of vanilla and juicy fresh green fruit notes.  These mix wonderfully with other notes of crumbly brown sugar, shortbread, malted cereals and drying wood spices (think of cinnamon and nutmeg).  The finish is mouth-wateringly delicious with the drying wood spices, green fruit and gripping cereals fighting for your attention.

That Boutique-y Macallan - Batch 1
This label plays on Macallan's self-proclaimed 'curiously small stills' and sees an inquisitive giant (looking suspiciously like Ben Ellefsen from Master of Malt) looking into the still house 'curiously'.  There were just 312 bottles, bottled at 40.9% ABV in Batch #1 and they retailed for £48.95 each.

The colour is a deep golden amber and the nose is immediately sweet and rich – there is a heady mix of fudge, dried fruits (think of raisin, sultana and prunes), cinnamon, dried apple and spiced orange. On the palate, this is thick and viscous with many of the sweeter, rich notes from the nose present, especially the dried fruits and fudge, although this seems more butterscotch-like now. Some pleasant wood spices come through late and carry on into the finish, which stops it becoming too sweet.

As mentioned there have been subsequent batches released in this series since we received the above samples last September.  From this it seems that what Master of Malt are trying to do with the That Boutique-y Whisky Company range is retail bottlings from a mix of established, cult and little known distilleries.  The latest batch also includes a single grain whisky and all are reasonably priced.  The labels also introduce a bit of fun to proceedings and as long as the quality remains as high as this initial set of releases, then they look on to a winner.  Check out the current batch releases by clicking here.

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