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
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
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.
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.