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Two Wemyss Malts Whiskies

Wemyss Malts

Certainly Wemyss Malts are in my top 5 independent bottlers, for the simple reason that they sell good whisky at good prices. Interesting whisky, too. I’ve written about their single malts a few times before. They also do a very good range of blended malts, the best of which was the Velvet Fig.

Today I have samples of two new whiskies from their spring 2016 release, both of which I’m rather excited about. They’re single cask whiskies bottled at 46% ABV, which I often say is perhaps my preferred bottling strength. One is a venerable 35 Year Old Caol Ila, which costs about £270 a bottle, and the other is a 20 Year Old Mortlach for around £80 (that’s the price you should be paying for a Mortlach of this age, not the £150+ for the official 18 Year Old).

“The Admiral’s Beacon” 35 Year Old Caol Ila, distilled 1980

Admiral's Beacon Caol Ila

Colour: old gold.

On the nose: gorgeous. Caol Ila can sometimes go one of two ways, dry and ashy or luscious sweet peat, and it’s the more favourable latter here. Briny. Victoria sponge cake. Syrup. After a while what gentle smoke there was vanishes into something intoxicating: bonfires on the sea-shore, distant waft of grilled sausages. Blood oranges. Ever-changing. Needs time, a lot of time, to get the most results.

In the mouth: thick, viscous texture. Any potent peat is subdued here: much as in life, time will do that to a whisky. This is indeed more coastal than anything else. Vegetative notes of the shoreline. Salt spray. Earthy peat, but very little, so instead it develops into this very old malty-woody quality that’s rather pleasant. Just the slightest touch of sweetness. Leathery with just a hint of tobacco. Herbal. Oily. Subtle, so much so that it would have been interesting to try at the original strength. This is a grizzled, old thing of a dram that has in its old age become something wise and stately.

“Flambé Fruit” 20 Year Old Mortlach, distilled 1995

"Flambé Fruit" 1995 (20 yo) single cask from Mortlach Distillery

Colour: deep copper.

On the nose: intensely fruity, but more fresh red apples and pears. Vanilla notes. Moving into grassiness in a most un-Mortlachian manner. Scents of the garden: ripened tomatoes, old-fashioned roses.

In the mouth: that’s more like a Mortlach: a game food quality, pan-fried grouse, an edge of sulphur towards the vegetative end. And then come the fresh fruits, more apples, blackberries, gooseberries even. Tinned fruits with a drizzle of syrup, and dark chocolate, before it turns woody. A lingering note of tannins on the finish. Quite dry in the mouth.

Conclusions

As usual, very good whiskies from Wemyss Malts. The Caol Ila was the more remarkable whisky: not merely because of its age, but because it was all about subtleties. And it was almost mystical in its sense-shifting qualities. The Mortlach didn’t feel quite as balanced on the finish. But I’d be very happy with either of these in my cupboard.

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Mark

I've written about (and reviewed) whisky for Whisky Magazine and The Scottish Sporting Gazette among other publications. I do other writing too: several mass market genre novels, a few short stories, including for BBC Radio 4. For my day job (I know, I don't get out much) I work in digital content. Follow me on Instagram.com/maltreview/ or Twitter.com/MaltReview.

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