Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review - Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky

Bain's Cape Mountain is a single grain whisky that is produced at the James Sedgwick Distillery in South Africa.  It is named after a pioneering Scotsman engineer named Andrew Geddes Bain.  In the 1850s he was responsible for designing and building the Bainskloof Pass, which cuts through the mountains near to the distillery. The whisky is made using only South African grain and was the first ever South African single grain whisky to be released.  It was first released in 2009 and has since racked up a large amount of awards from competitions across the globe.

The James Sedgwick Distillery was founded in 1886 by J. Sedgwick & Co - a company that sold fine wines, spirits and tobacco to the local aristocracy.  It is currently owned by Distell Group Ltd.  They own a large number of wine and spirits brands - this includes the Amarula Cream liqueur and multi award-winning Three Ships whisky.  They also own the Scotch whisky company Burn Stewart, who include the single malts of Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory amongst their portfolio.

The James Sedgwick Distillery has been producing whisky since 1990 and is located in the town of Wellington, which sits in the foothills of the Hawequa Mountains and is around 45 minutes drive from Cape Town.  The Bain's single grain is produced in a traditional column still at the distillery and then undergoes a double maturation - this sees it matured for around three years in first-fill ex-bourbon casks before being mixed with other similar casks and re-filled back in to first-fill ex-bourbon casks for a further couple of years.

Bain's Cape Mountain whisky is bottled at 43% ABV and is now available in 40 countries around the world.  A bottle should cost around 200-250 Rand in South Africa.  A couple of retailers have it in the UK for approximately £30.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep golden yellow and the nose is packed with immediate notes of vanilla and fresh green fruit (think of apple and melon especially).  Aromas of butterscotch and dried orange peel follow, and these are complimented by earthy wood spices (cinnamon sticks in particular) and some distinct nutty almonds.

On the palate the whisky has a superb mouthfeel and is soft, gentle and creamy.  There is plenty of initial vanilla notes and this is soon backed up and complimented by some warming wood spices - these are most reminiscent of cinnamon again, plus some increasingly influential oak and a hint of earthy ginger.  Underneath are further notes of golden syrup, toffee and bittersweet cereals.  The fresh green fruit from the nose has evolved in to something more reminiscent of dried fruit now (think of dried apple with a hint of dried tropical fruits, possibly mango?).

The finish is decently long and develops to be quite warming and dry, especially once the butterscotch sweetness and fruitiness has subsided.  This allows the cinnamon and ginger to come to the fore.

What's the verdict?
The Bain's Cape Mountain whisky is a highly impressive whisky that gives a most of the Scottish single grain whiskies on the market a good run for their money.  This has been proved by its consistently good performances in international competitions.  The quality, flavour and balance is superb.

This is the first South African whisky that we have ever sampled and it makes it easier to see why they win so many awards.  It makes us want to try some of the other South African whiskies on offer and see how they compare.  This has been a great beginning for us on that journey.  We recommend buying this if you can find it, especially as it seems a bargain for the price.

1 comment:

mijlee said...

Had some of this at the weekend and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Do you know if they are planning anything with more time in the barrel? My only comment really was that it lacked the depth, but think that’s just because it was bottled too early.