Adventures at sea in Africa. I’ve had a few, but one of the places I haven’t is South Africa, apart from sailing past Cape Town. It isn’t really a place you would tie into whisky production. This year and last I’ve worked with a couple of South Africans who could only name Bains as a a whisky coming from South Africa. They were surprised when I told them of another. They should hang their heads in shame as the distillery in question makes both the Bains brand and the Three Ships whisky I try today.
The James Sedgewick distillery was founded in 1886, and is now owned by Distell. The distillery was named after a former seafarer of the same name, who after hanging up his sea boots became a pioneer of the South African spirits industry. Their current master distiller, Andy Watts, should be well known to Scotch whisky geeks as they also own Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory distilleries.
This distillery as far as I can find out is the only commercial whisky distillery in Africa. Having seen some of the hooch proffered as I’ve travelled through many countries on the West Coast of Africa, I’d tend to believe this is true. There is whiskies made by Copper Republic and Qualito Craft Distilleries, although these are not solely whisky distilleries as they make other spirits too.
Due to my backlog of reviews and lack of any decent stories about this whisky, I’m going to do what I’ve done in the past and refer you to the brand websites so you can get the full picture there.
This dram was bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company, and is batch 1. The sample was bought from Master Of Malt.
Three Ships Batch 1 (TBWC)
Region – South Africa Age – 6 y.o Strength – 53.7% abv Colour – Auburn (1.5) Cask Type – Bourbon / PX Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No
Nose – Raisins, almond nougat, honey, vanilla, oak char, dark chocolate. Slight floral note.
Palate – creamy mouth feel. Luxurious. Quickly into oak spices. Honey and liquorice, aniseed. Dried fruits and dark chocolate
Finish – medium long finish with chocolate and raisins. I detect a leathery note too.
Nice enough. Nothing I’d abandon Scotch for, but a decent dram from overseas. The palate for me was the high point, and had I bought a full bottle I’d feel I was getting my moneys worth. However I have to factor in the fact that TBWC only release 50CL bottles, so would have to consider buying an original bottling should I wish to buy in the future
What is the first thing you think of when you think of the Germans?
It’s unfortunate that most people think of the Second World War, but Germany is much more than that. You can’t tar them all with the same brush because one Austrian goes mental and tries to take over Europe. I’ve just finished working with a German supervisor and on the one night we had nothing to do, it was suggested that we watch a movie. I had asked my colleague what he fancied watching, adding “I bet you don’t want to watch a war movie!” I was right. I followed it up a couple of days later by replying when asked what was happening that day “I don’t know – I was thinking of invading Poland.” Yes, the Germans aren’t known for their sense of humour, but this is a mistaken stereotype. So is the idea that Germans don’t have a word for fluffy; they just don’t use it much.
I like Germany. Nearly every German I’ve met has been very friendly and extremely hospitable. The country has many really beautiful sights and it’s unfortunate that many fixate on something that happened in the last century. It truly is worth going out and about and seeing what surprises Germany has to offer.
You might also be amazed to find out that Germany has more distilleries than the UK. It surprised me to find out that Germany has some 29,000 distilleries. Most of these distilleries produce fruit spirits, but they surprisingly have more whisky distilleries than Scotland. There are up to 800 dealing with whisky in Germany, far surpassing the Scottish total, though according to deutschland.de, 130 of these are expressly whisky distilleries, slightly short of the Scottish number.
I’ve always been tempted to try whisky made in Germany, but haven’t been able to get a full sized bottle, as well as not wanting to risk the money on something I may not like without trying first. Thankfully Drinks By The Dram have come to the rescue and I’ve been able to get a mini of German whisky, this being from the Slyrs Distillery and bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company.
The Slyrs Distillery is based in Bavaria, to the south east of Munich in a town called Schliersee Neuhaus, and is owned by the Stetter family who have a connection to the Lantenhammer distillery to the north in Hausham. This is due to the marriage of Anneliese Lantenhammer and Sigfried Stetter. It was their son, Florian Stetter who founded the Slyrs distillery. He had joined the Lantenhammer distillery in 1985. The distillery made brandy, but it was during a study trip to Scotland in 1994, had noticed similarities with his home in Bavaria – Mountains, fresh spring water and clean air. He felt that it would be possible to produce a whisky in Bavaria.
Florian had bet his friends a crate of beer that he could distill a Bavarian whisky and by 1999 his dream had been realised and the first whisky had been distilled. The result was a release of 1600 bottles of whisky in 2002. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Slyrs distillery was completed and a mountain store warehouse was completed on Mount Stümpfling.
Nobody I know personally has tried a German whisky, other than people I have met online through my blog and social media interactions, so I thought it best to just go ahead and try for myself.
TBWC Slyrs Batch 3
Region – Germany Age -3 y.o Strength – 52.6% Colour – Russet (1.3) Cask Type -American Oak, Crocodile char Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Apricot jam, vanilla, fresh croissants, mandarin peel, coconut. Palate – Sweet arrival, honey, coconut, butterscotch, orchard fruit – possibly pear slightly nutty note too. Finish – Still a bit sweet but hot on departure. Honey with peppery heat, Sichuan peppers possibly. Sense a wee bit of the char coming through. Honey
I have to say that I have enjoyed this whisky. Despite being at what I suspect is an undiluted cask strength, it was an extremely easy drinker. It was on the fruity side with a funk to the nose, but sweetness continued throughout the dram, with various flavours coming through, with no note particularly overpowering any other.
There was a bit of heat that started in the mid palate which continued through to the finish and didn’t overpower the sweetness. All in all quite pleasant. Water subdued the heat a bit and allowed the honey to show on the finish which was of mid to long length.
This is still available at the Master of Malt Website for £74.95. I won’t be buying one right now, but would recommend if anybody was thinking of trying a German whisky, then this is one I’d recommend to try. It won’t be around forever, as only 395 bottles were produced, but I’d imagine TBWC will have more casks in waiting. If you want to dip your toe in before you commit to a whole bottle, 3cl samples are available for £6.90.
The next world whisky in my sights is a bottling from the Netherlands. It’s not a country that you’d instantly associate with whisky distilling, but why not? After all, the busy wee cloggies aren’t just keeping their fingers in Dykes, chasing mice in windmills and making large red round cheeses. They distill a plenty considering all the genever and gin they make, so why not whisky?
I’m not the world’s biggest gin fan, and the only Dutch drink I miss is Advocaat, that having been a regular drink for the underage drinker at Grandmas every new year coupled with lemonade to make a snowball. Yummy! I notice a few of you on social media were enjoying a snowball or two at the time I was drafting this, so perhaps it’s coming back in fashion.
The sample I have to try today is a Millstone 6 y.o whisky. The Zuidam distillery was started in 1975 and is one of the few independent distillers in the Netherlands. The malted barley is milled by windmills, which is pretty cool and traditional. I was gifted this sample by SmileySmoggy, a fellow member of the Whisky Twitterati.
Millstone 6 y.o (TBWC)
Region – Netherlands Age – 6 y.o Strength – 48.9% abv Colour – Russet Muscat (1.3) Cask Type – Not Stated Colouring -Not Stated Chill Filtered – No Nose – Coffee, Chocolate, Red Apple, caramel, slight hint of liquorice. A floral note is present but I can’t place it. Palate – Quite creamy and peppery, orange peel with cloves, slightly sweet but spicy. Medium mouthfeel Finish – Quite long, spicy. Peppery and sweet. Slightly drying towards the end. With water, there was a continuation of the chocolate theme, but for me water really shortened the finish.
I like the Dutch. While they can appear arrogant, (and sadly some of them are, but us Brits can’t throw stones in that greenhouse) the vast majority of them are really open and friendly as well as being direct. You always tend to know where you are with the Dutch. They also have some awesome food, even just the basic French fries and mayonnaise based saus. Don’t get me started on the food that has come from their imperial conquests in the Far East such as Loempia and Nasi Goering or other street favourites such as shawarma and Frikandel sausage with the sweet curry ketchup. If you haven’t tried these things then you need to.
That’s the same with Millstone. It wasn’t the same style as I am more used to, but it grew on me. I would recommend you try some if you see it on the shelf. It wouldn’t be a go-to whisky for me, but I’d be delighted to receive it as a gift and would drink again.
The only downside is that the That Boutique-y Whisky Company only bottle in 50cl size. This RRP of £54.95 I feel pushes the sense of value, so it wouldn’t be a regular purchase should I be tempted.
I’ll start this review with some apologies. I’m sorry to Mr Nicoletti of Dublin, a follower of Scotty’s Drams almost from the start. I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to taste and review this whiskey.
And I’m going to continue with the apologies, as I am sure I am going to offend people from both sides of the debate regards this review. But you should really know me by now if you are a regular reader of my social media interactions – I really don’t care. If you feel the truth is offensive, then perhaps you need to review your choice of blog.
Waterford has been controversial from the start. The man at the top has been fond of courting controversy for quite some time, starting with his tenure at Bruichladdich, where the team he was at the head of successfully reinvigorated a run-down distillery which it would be fair to say had seen better days. Innovation was needed, care was given to the ingredients and their origin and it is at Bruichladdich we see the word Terroir come to the surface within the whisky world. It is something that Mark Reynier would be very familiar with given his time within the wine industry. And thanks to his vision, the distillery really went on to see better days than before, being so successful it was only a matter of time before somebody bought them out – and in July 2012 Remy Cointreau did just that.
So, with some money in his back pocket from the sale of Bruichladdich, it was time for Mark to consider his next move. I was personally not surprised when he decided to buy a former brewery in Ireland and convert it into a distillery. And this wasn’t to be any old distillery – this one was going to develop on the concept of Terroir in whisky that had been started in Bruichladdich.
Mark tells Irish Central – “For years folk have been hoodwinked on where whisky’s quality truly lies – once stills, then water, now wood. We want to shine the light on what really makes malt whisky the most complex spirit in the world,, the primary source of all that extraordinary flavour; barley.”
Terroir in drinks is not a new concept. For those of you reading this who do not know what it means, it essentially is the environmental factors that affect crop growth, and in turn will make a difference to the quality of the crop. Such factors could be the soil, the mirco-climate, the type of land the crop is grown on, how much sun it gets. This look is just a very small part of what terroir is about, just to give you an idea. The concept behind Waterford is a positive one where the barley for distilling is grown on individual farms and is used individually, thus producing a single farm origin whisky. The terroir is recorded and can be seen online if you type in your bottles ‘Teireoir’ code. Apparently thats Irish Gaelic for terroir.
Scoff all you want, entering this code in gives you access to all sorts of information about how the barley was grown and how the whisky was made, detailing all sorts of information that you desire to know about your whisky. It gives rise to another T word – transparency.
There were all sorts of arguments on whisky social media about the existence of terroir. It escalated so much that there was a couple of spats on Twitter which basically seemed precipitate the dissolution of the original Malt-Review website team. While Malt is still on the go, think of it like Glasgow Rangers Football Club. They may play under the same team name, but they are entirely different companies. (Sorry Bears, as a Dons supporter I couldn’t resist. All in jest!). There were arguments over whether or not Terroir existed, what it meant to the whisky community and would Waterford be the best single malt whisky in existence?
You can’t escape the existence of Terroir. As much as you may try to deny it, Terroir does exist and you cannot escape this. If you want a good example of this, think about the situation that you’d be in should your neighbour build an extension to his house that blocks out the sunlight from your strawberry plants. While your strawberries will still grow, they might not be as juicy and tasty as before. That my friends is terroir in action.
What we need to know is whether or not Terroir matters in whisky? One way of finding out is to drink some!
Waterford Bannow Island 1.2
Region – Irish Age – 3 Years Old Strength – 50% abv Colour – Jonquiripe Corn (0.4) Cask Type – Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Dry white wine, Malt, floral notes, red berry fruit, a hint of dusty seed barn. Peach. Palate – light to medium mouth feel, slightly oily. Breakfast cereal – a sweet one at that, malt, green apple, vanilla, ginger, a tingle on the tongue but no strong spirit hit. On swallowing I got a vegetal note, leafy. Finish – Short to medium, drying like white wine, vegetal note continues, chocolate digestive at the end. Was left with a lingering burn.
With water, the alcoholic tingle on the tongue subsided as did the ginger. It led to an increase in creaminess, more vanilla notes and an increase of vegetal notes in the finish. The finish increased in length with water but was still subtle.
First things first – there are a couple of things I really detested about this whisky. While I used to think the bottling was pretty smart, things change when you get to handle the bottle in person. That stopper is bloody awkward to open compared to a standard cork. The second time I opened it, I ended up spilling a bit of whisky on myself. Not good.
Secondly – is that ribbing on that bottle really necessary? It reminded me of a product that you can get from vending machines in gentlemen’s toilets that had the selling point of being ‘For Her Pleasure.’ Somebody else mentioned this and now I cannot get it out of my mind. Can somebody please make it stop? It’s kind of putting me off. However at least it helped me get a better grip of the bottle to get that sodding awkward stopper off.
I am sure that I am going to maybe feel a slight bit of derision from my peers in whisky social media circles as I am going to say that I kind of liked this whisky. It was certainly inoffensive, tasted of whisky, albeit noticeably young spirit with a degree of complexity, but nothing stunning. I personally found it a lot better than expected, as young whisky does not mean rubbish whisky in every case. While I would happily drink this again, would I buy it? No, I wouldn’t because to my palate it wasn’t exciting enough. I’ve had some whiskies over the past year that I only managed one nip of (and it was more than I’d normally pay) but I’d give my right bollock for to taste again. Scrub that, I’ve had all the children I want, I’d give both bollocks for that Linkwood Darkness 19 year old. But not for this whisky – my testes will remain intact. It was pleasant enough to sip along with and while I’d also be interested in tasting other Waterford bottlings, this one didn’t light my fire enough to want to go out and buy them yet.
Does Terroir Matter?
And here is where I earn my hate mail. Does Terroir matter in whisky? In my opinion, not really. While this whisky is said to be terroir (barley driven), I wonder if it was released so young to make sure that the lumber that the cask was constructed of would have no discernible impact on the spirit? Smoke and mirrors perhaps? You certainly taste the barley impact, even on a palate as abused as mine, but to me it tastes of nothing special.
The kicker is for me though that to be able to discern the true impact of terroir, I’d have to taste Bannow Island 1.3 and compare it to this one. Would I be able to discern a difference? Possibly. But then to narrow it down to solely the terroir, and looking at it from an engineers perspective, everything else apart from the barley would have to be the same. The same casks in the same position in the warehouse in the same climate as the previous editions. Exactly the same yeast, the same fermentation times. Each one of these things can have an impact on the maturing spirit. Certainly thats how I fault find electronic systems, as if you change more than one thing at a time, you will never really know what had most effect on the final outcome.
And that is it – I’m not going to be buying multiple bottles of Waterford or any other whisky to see if Terroir really matters. Whisky from each brand does change over batches, however subtly and different people will pick up these changes differently and interpret them differently. At the end of the day, all they want to drink is a tasty whisky. And I suppose by drinking Waterford, many people will get just that; it’s all subjective.
But it wasn’t only ever really about Single Farm Origin (although I do think this is a laudable and interesting concept). It seems the main aim was to produce a Cuvee, a practice similar to what exists the wine industry that Mark Reynier hails from. Basically a blended whisky, but not a blend likes of Bells or Grants. It’s a vatting of whisky of all the Single Farm Origin whiskies, so in reality is no different to any other major brand which may take its barley from a variety of sources. So to me, it sort of makes the Single Farm origin a bit pointless. I suppose people go for that sort of thing, just like they do for wine, but to me it’s just another way of persuading me to continually purchase Waterford, and that ain’t happening.
The best way to purchase Waterford if you want a bargain is at auction where even first editions are selling at below RRP. At an average of around £70 to buy from a retailer, for a 50% whisky, it isn’t the worst value you could achieve. Personally for the experience I had with this one, I’d not say it’s worth £70 but that’s another individual opinion and others may have a different point of view.
I want to end this on a positive. I do like the way transparency is addressed using the Teireoir Code. That way I can see more information about my whisky. It will be good for when I have my geek moments, or if I do actually taste more Waterford and want to compare. While I have opinions about who cares about all the information; it’s whether or not the whisky tastes good but at least the information is there for you to do your own personal geek out.
Mark Reynier as I have said before often courts controversy. It’s not quite any publicity is good publicity, but it amounts to the same thing. Waterford has got people talking and whether or not you buy into the ethos behind the whisky (to me it’s a massive marketing gimmick), the spirit itself is worth trying at least once. All said and done, I think I would buy Waterford for myself, but perhaps I’ll wait and see what the older editions taste like. If they let the casks sit for more than 12 years.
Yours In Spirits
Thanks to Michele who gifted this lovely bottle. It was greatly appreciated and I sure I will get enjoyment out of it. It was a nice easy drinker, I just don’t think it deserves the hype.
Seeing as I am doing a review of world whisky and have already reviewed an Australian whisky, I thought it a bit rude to miss out New Zealand.
I can’t say I know a lot about New Zealand. It’s the other side of the world and I’ve never been. However everybody I’ve met from there seems to be a good laugh. They are also famous for playing rugby, and regularly pump the Scottish Rugby team, although they aren’t always invincible.
One small fact about New Zealand that has always stuck in my head has been the ratio of sheep to humans. It’s quite impressive. From a population of around 5.084 million, there was estimated to be around 26.16 million sheep in New Zealand. That’s better than a ratio of 5-1. Being from the north east of Scotland I can appreciate a decent ewe. In fact I once dated a girl who ran a sheep farm to which I once joked that if she fell out with me, there were 500 other options outside.
Of course, I’m joking. I did say that, but the intention was never there. Besides if you’ve ever been near a sheep, the back end is usually covered in sharn (that’s Doric for sh*te) and their eyes are creepy like goats. I’ll stick to watching lambs frolick in the field on the other side of the fence and wait until they grow up to be a kebab or a decent curry.
But enough about that and let’s move onto todays world whisky. It’s the Thomson Manuka Smoke single malt. The distillery is located in Riverhead, North West of Auckland and was founded in 2014. This whisky uses barley that has been malted using Manuka wood. The distillery only uses ingredients from New Zealand.
Thomson Manuka Smoke
Region – New Zealand Age – NAS Strength – 46% abv Colour – Pale Straw (0.2) Cask Type – Bourbon Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Wood smoke, Honey, sweet Liquorice, Rubbery, Cloves. Palate – Smoke, burnt toast, slight astringency, yet sweetness is allowed to keep its head above water. Orchard fruit. Light to medium mouthfeel. Finish – Short. Sweet liquorice and peppermint tea. Slight smoke.
Pleasant enough. Had smoky and sweet flavours throughout. You get the sense of a young whisky with a very light mouthfeel. Nothing wrong with this whisky, but I didn’t take to it until the last couple of sips. At 46% and all natural presentation, I felt this dram benefitted from added water.
I wouldn’t rush out to buy this but would think a few more years in the cask would improve it. I’d certainly try it again.
When I thought of doing a wee run of world whiskies for review and to expand ones horizons, one of the natural choices was Indian whisky. This is most appropriate at the time of writing I am currently working offshore the east coast of India, working from the port of Kakinada.
India is for me one of these countries of extremes. It can be filthy, yet colourful. It has many rich people within, yet sees the extremes of poverty when you do an excursion around the Dharavi slums, made famous by the film Slumdog Millionaire. You can experience the mountains of the North, leading onto the Himalayas, or have a beach holiday in Goa, and everything between.
When I last worked in India during 2009, we used to fly from an airport called Rajahmundry, about an hours drive from the port of Kakinada in Andra Pradesh. The journey between the two towns was in a rural area giving the opportunity to see some very pastoral scenes. The city sits on the eastern bank of the sacred Godavari river, and we’d often get a night in a hotel there before flying out the next day. One of the hotels I remember sat on the riverside and we used to have our well deserved beer after 6 weeks of abstinence. Forget the ideas of Kingfisher lager – we were in India and the brands we were offered were Haywards 5000, Royal Challenge, Knockout and Maharaja. If you know the Scottish sit-com Still Game, you’ll understand when I say images of Fusilier lager came to mind!
And so it comes to pass that Indian whisky has always been in my head as an unknown quantity. Totally incorrect I will have to admit. As I am writing this, I don’t have any facts and figures to hand, but I’m sure that I remember that Indian whisky is the largest seller worldwide. You’ll need to check the Malt Whisky year book to confirm, but I’m sure Johnny Walker is the highest selling Scotch brand but only manages third place. So, if Indian whisky can sell so much, it can’t be bad, eh?
Because I didn’t want to invest in a whole bottle that I may not take to and I already have a surplus of open 70cl bottles, I chose to buy a variety of world whiskies using the Perfect Measure from The Whisky Exchange and Drinks by the Dram from Master Of Malt. The Indian sample I chose was from The Whisky Exchange and is Amrut Fusion.
Amrut Distilleries started out in 1948 after the British Colonising forces withdrew the previous year. Based in Bangalore, the current distillery was built in 1987. It came to more attention when whisky ‘expert’ Jim Murray gave their whisky a 82 out of 100 in 2005 and 2010. These were in the days when many Indian whiskies were made up of cheap imported Scottish whiskies blended with local spirit, so the bar had been raised for Indian whisky.
Maturing spirits in a hot and humid climate is totally different to doing it in Scotland. The higher temperature gives a much higher evaporation rate of around 10-12% compared to 2% in Scotland. Therefore I doubt we’ll ever see significant age statement Indian whiskies in quantity.
The whisky I chose was Amrut Fusion. This was originally launched in 2009 and it is made with 25% peated Scottish barley and 75% Indian unpeated barley. While some of the ingredients have Scottish provenance, it is very much still an Indian Whisky. So let’s see if the fusion of Scottish and Indian barley makes a taste sensation on my palate.
Region – India Age – NAS Strength – 50% abv Colour – Chestnut Oloroso Sherry (1.2) Cask Type – Oak Colouring – No Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Barley, wood shavings, light smoke, peaches, orange peel, runny honey, barley sugar. With water added got an ozone note of distressed electrical equipment. Palate – gentle arrival, light / medium mouth feel. Pineapple, wood, barley, chocolate (?), smoky peat. Creamy caramel. Orange rind. Finish – medium / long. Peat smoke, astringent, brine, woody taste (oak). Fades into a marmalade-esque sweetness and a bit of a spicy burn. Water takes away most of the spicy finish.
Not too bad is my conclusion. I’m not a regular drinker of world whisky, so my experience of this is limited. I’d drink this again, but not sure if I’d buy a bottle. I’d say I much preferred this with a drop of water.
I don’t understand how Jim Murray can say this was the third best single malt whisky in the world in 2010, as I can think of many more that I’ve enjoyed more than this, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad whisky at all. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to pick some Indian whisky up on the way home…