Today, we have a couple new releases from Wemyss Malts in the form of the Blooming Gorse and Flaming Feast that fit snugly into their Wemyss Family Collection range joining Vanilla Burst and Treacle Chest, which Mark reviewed in 2017. Rather than being single malts as such, Wemyss are flexing their blending muscles and giving us what are effectively blended malts.
Fans of the single malt dynamic might be slightly disappointed by this news, but I am somewhat pleased to be sitting down with a blended whisky; whether it has grain or is comprised of malts exclusively. I’ve gone on record as saying there are too many single malts being released that frankly are not up to scratch. The frenzy of a whisky boom has provided the excuse and reward for every cask owner to bottle regardless of the contents.
These last 5 years have seen an explosion in single malts being released but not a rise in quality, or even treading water. The emphasis on quality has slipped and the constant stream of bottles from many independents (in particular the Scotch Malt Whisky Society) highlights the promotion of business over actual quality. Dubious short-term finishes to lift up inadequate casks seem the norm as the industry tries to place a wooden band aid over the inadequacies of their distillation and cask regimes. Therefore, ideally, we should be seeing more blended creations or vattings. Take the limitations of a cask (or casks) and combine these to potentially create something more viable and worthwhile.
Except, we’re not seeing that many new creations hitting the market. Simply because people are buying without thinking and making that purchase as an investment rather than a drinker. I should whisper it, but fools are easily parted with their money, which the current market demonstrates. The casks that make up these 2 new releases could have easily been released as single cask entities and potentially generated more revenue, but speaking with the odd Wemyss representative now and again, they do actually value their emphasis on quality.
Wemyss have in recent years has demonstrated that they can put together a tasty product. These are often affordably priced and go down well with enthusiasts looking for a liquid experience. Given that Compass Box (or Corporate Box as I refer to them as) have lost their way of late with some overpriced releases and lacklustre offerings; there is an opportunity in the marketplace. One that isn’t wrapped up in a fancy label or packaging. One that isn’t overpriced for the actual liquid experience, or aimed at foreign markets who – whisper this – can be more easily parted with their money.
Releasing consistently pleasing and affordable blended creations will be a fruitful venture. The company, or blending house that gets it right, will clean up. Such success will be based on their skill as a blender and the inventory of stock that they can summon. Corporate Box are slightly tarnished and have lost some of their dayglo sparkle in recent times. Wemyss, or another independent, could in theory take advantage and show us there is more to blending than adding Clynelish to 97% of the recipes you release.
The devil is in the details. Thankfully, Wemyss do provide us with some background to these concepts and their heritage. Sadly, not to the proportions that we’ve seen from Compass Box who have pushed out the transparency boat as their big selling point.
Occasionally, I’ve used gorse as a tasting note in a whisky and I know from feedback that many international readers don’t actually know what gorse is. It is a plant that is widely seen throughout Scotland and is colourful and hardy. It has an especially rugged, floral and almost homespun woollen fabric aroma. Hence the name of the Blooming Gorse, which symbolises the colourful displays we often see when driving throughout the Highlands. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the whisky draws upon distilleries from this region; with the Northern Highlands being cited. Comprised of 15 1st fill bourbon barrels and 4 1st fill hogsheads, this has resulted in an outturn of 6900. Bottled at 46%, it is naturally coloured and non-chill-filtered. It’s available from Master of Malt for £45.95.
Whereas the Flaming Feast numbers an edition of 6000 and features casks from the East Highlands and a Highland Island. Again, 15 1st fill bourbon barrels form the bulk of creation, topped off with 2 recharged hogsheads and the same emphasis on natural presentation. It’ll cost £47.95 via Master of Malt.
Wemyss Malts Blooming Gorse – review
Colour: stripped pine.
On the nose: plenty of vanilla and wood chip influence. A buttery apple quality with pears provides some spark with white chocolate. Freshly baked bread, a little lemon and crackers, then, the oddity of freshly washed china. Water delivers more fruit and a sappy nature.
In the mouth: toast and a rugged nature, which doesn’t go anywhere or do anything. This just sits with stewed black tea, apples and water removes the edges but leaves the sense of something very simple.
Wemyss Malts Flaming Feast – review
Colour: apple juice.
On the nose: fresh apples, flour and a touch of smoke. Creamy vanilla, liquorice and freshly laid tar. Coastal elements with salt, wet Tweed and smoked haddock. Toasted pine nuts and barley drops follow. Water delivers petrichor and cream soda.
In the mouth: an oily mouthfeel, honey, sea salt and a spent campfire. Dried orange peel, rock candy, peanuts, apples and a coarse vanilla. A long salty finish endures but water isn’t beneficial here and should be avoided.
The Blooming Gorse is slightly underwhelming, it has that Highland rugged style but then fails to build upon a forceful entry and frankly go anywhere. A sudden puncture forces you to pull over into a layby and end the sense of fun that the road promised. Not the winner that I had expectations of, given the introduction. Price-wise it isn’t too bad, but I’d rather pick up a supermarket exclusive over this and save a couple of quid. However, I’m pleased to see a marriage of casks hitting the market and offering some variety.
Meanwhile, the Flaming Feast is solid and a step up. The nose is fun although the palate somewhat youthful and fragile with the addition of water. Difficult to recommend with the Cadenhead’s 12-year-old blended Scotch whisky, sitting within my eyesight and comes in slightly cheaper, whilst offering more complexity and enjoyment.
Is there lesser blending skill here from Wemyss? I don’t think so, but maybe a reflection that inventories are filling up with casks, but sadly, very average or meh vessels that produce a very average whisky. A blender is only as good as his or her tools clearly.
Both images kindly provided by Wemyss as were the whisky samples. There are commission links within this article if you wish to use them.