Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wemyss Malts Week - Part 3

Over the last few months we have received a series of packages containing whisky samples from Wemyss Malts. As a result of various circumstances, we have not been able to review and taste them ... until now.  We have decided to put all of these samples together and review them in one week - our very own Wemyss Malts Week.  This will be a four-part series which showcases some whiskies from the companies ever expanding range.

Welcome to the third part of the series.  Yesterday, we covered three of the whiskies in Wemyss' 12 years old blended malt range, while on Monday we covered the eight years old blended malt range plus a run down of the company's history and ethos.  Click here to read any of this information from Part 1, to save us covering old ground on each of our posts this week.

In Part 3 we are turning our attention away from the blended malts and towards Wemyss' range of single cask bottlings.  These are specially selected by the company, with the help of whisky industry legend Charles Maclean, and the range covers different regions of Scotland and different ages of whisky.  As with the blended malts each single cask has been given a name which reflects flavour profile and style of the whisky, rather than the distillery where it was produced.  The single casks are all bottled at 46% ABV and are priced differently according to their age.  The price, plus other cask information, is included in each review below.  Today, we kick off with three single casks from the 1990s.

Well Mannered Mint - Islay
The colour is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is light in body but powerful in aroma. It is feisty, bracing and very smoky.  The smokiness has a distinct vegetal quality to it and is reminiscent of heavy bonfire smoke mixed with surgical bandage.  Other aromas are difficult to get, but with a bit of work you can battle through the peat smoke and find lemon zest, oatcakes, vanilla, fresh green fruits (think of pears and apples) and brine.  On the palate, the acrid smoke has that bonfire/bandage feel again, with plenty of chilli heat and spice.  The smoke becomes distinctly ashy and dies away slowly to reveal other notes - vanilla, sweet honey, malted barley, tangy lemon, crisp green apples and a good pinch of salt.  The finish is long, drying and very smoky and salty with some lovely vegetal earthy notes underneath. No mint really anywhere, just a hint of menthol maybe. Good stuff but one for the serious peat lovers only.

Distilled 1999, bottled 2011, cask : ex-bourbon hogshead, no. bottles - 307, price £45, rumoured to be - Laphroaig

Vanilla Summer - Highlands
The colour is golden yellow and the nose seems delicate, but highly scented with initial notes of honey and vanilla.  Underneath are lovely aromas of sweet malty barley, ripe peaches and honeysuckle. With time, some further aromas of green apple and the faintest whiff of gentle peat smoke are detected. It is very promising.  On the palate, this is instantly more smoky than the nose suggested.  The peat smoke is soft and gentle, and quickly mingles with plenty of vanilla, honey and wood spice notes (think of oak, cinnamon and nutmeg).  It feels a little waxy and creamy in the mouth and a distinct creamed coconut element develops with time.  A zesty lemon tang rounds things off. The finish is on the short side and continues with the honey and wood spice theme, with the green apple note returning. This is clearly from a cask of excellent quality. A delicious dram.

Distilled 1997, bottled 2011, cask : ex-bourbon hogshead, no. bottles - 363, price £61, rumoured to be - Clynelish

Honey Spice - Islay
The colour is dark amber and the nose is immediate and very expressive.  There are the classic ex-sherry cask aromas present - imagine caramel, dark dried fruits (especially raisins), cinnamon and some candied orange peel.  However, there is much more than just these classic aromas going on. There is some brown sugar, burnt butter, rich malted barley, leather and a lick of tobacco smoke. The combination is lovely.  On the palate, this feels silky but with a slight spicy, peppery twist.  There are again plenty of notes fighting for attention once this pepper begins to fade - raisins, spiced orange, caramel, burnt brown sugar and dark chocolate, plus a savoury leathery element that combines well with some integrated soft peat smoke.  The finish is long and rich with the caramel and spiced orange particularly prominent, along with the tobacco-like smokiness which takes ages to fade.  Another excellent and very enjoyable whisky.

Distilled 1991, bottled 2011, cask : ex-sherry butt, no. bottles - 743, price  £69, distillery named as - Bunnahabhain

Join us tomorrow for the final part of Wemyss Malts Week, where we sample and review three of the older single casks bottlings from their range.

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