The Watt whisky journey reaches a new chapter with the debut of their own independent bottling company. A new label in the market, but for many enthusiasts, an altogether familiar name.
Mark’s departure from Cadenhead’s came as a surprise to many, including the Malt team. Especially given the ascending nature of the bottler in recent times. However, there’s a wonderful symmetry with the opening of this new chapter. For someone who has spent all their career within the independent sphere of the whisky industry, it seems a logical step to actually create your own independent bottling brand.
We mustn’t overlook the role of Kate Watt in all of this, as together, the couple have over 40 years experience in the whisky industry. And that ladies and gentlemen is not to be sniffed at with the turbulent currents that run through whisky.
So, given this opportunity, what does the Watt independent brand stand for? In their own words, good, honest whisky, priced for drinking rather than collecting. Something we can all relate to given the madness we’re seeing around new releases and projected values. And a natural presentation, which isn’t a surprise, with the rum within this debut batch being slightly reduced in strength. In Mark’s words:
“With Watt Whisky, rather than trying to take over the world and potentially spreading ourselves and our whiskies too thinly we decided to work with only a few key partners. These are people I’ve worked with for many years and know that the working relationship with them will help to cement our brands in these markets for many years to come. We’re planning 3 or 4 releases a year, which will allow us to focus on the quality of the whisky and minimise repetition in bottlings – choice and variety is something that we feel our customers will demand and that’s what we plan to offer.”
From my perspective, this all makes perfect sense. And apart from an appreciation of past efforts, the reason why I signed up to the Crowdfunder drive to assist Watt Whisky. I say this openly, as it won’t affect any scores below or my thoughts on the liquid. Reputation aside, another reason for donating cash was the independent bottler malaise. The armchair bottlers as Gordon & MacPhail referred to them as at the turn of the millennium, have exploded in number and diversity. There’s so much choice! But in my opinion, there are too many casks reaching the market, which do little to enhance the single malt format.
That malaise includes the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which has prompted a brief sabbatical for the remainder of 2020. All the effort poured into those monthly articles, highlighted, in the words of Lloyd Charmers, you’ve done too much, much too young. The flaws of a monthly outturn when you don’t have the inventory and churn out young, mediocre product. Prompting my tombstone motto: less is more.
So, I welcome the concept of indies who are less constrained by monthly urges. Able to bottle when they have a clutch of releases that in their mind matter. No need to plug a gap, or fill a corporate spreadsheet with projected sales and members. Instead, let the whisky do its thing, as we’ve seen with established brands such as North Star Spirits and Chorlton Whisky. People trust their judgement and buy almost without question. That’s a level a trust you don’t see much of nowadays and hopefully, we can add Watt Whisky to that list. But in essence Mark and Kate are starting again, armed with much goodwill. It always comes down to the liquid and if you can pick a cask…
Watt Whisky 19yo Blended Malt – review
Bottled at 44.9% strength, this was distilled in 2001 and matured in a sherry butt. This is available via The Whisky Exchange for £79.95.
Colour: dulled gold.
On the nose: cohesive and elegant. Not sherry forward in the slightest. Rubbed brass, aged and worn oak timbers, toffee, red grapes, raisins and raspberry jam. There’s also the presence of golden syrup and brown sugar.
In the mouth: very refined and integrated. It feels content and complete. A hint of cherry, toffee and cinnamon bark all gently come and go. All spice, chestnuts, leathery, wholemeal with red applies and a little wax.
Watt Whisky 12yo Caol Ila – review
Bottled at 57.4% strength, this was distilled in 2009 and resided in a single hogshead. The Whisky Exchange have this for £64.95.
Colour: very little cask influence, a tinge but almost clear.
On the nose: a clean and pure spirit, totally coastal and peated. Wet rope, a salty brine, vanilla cream, seaweed, struck flint and bacon. There’s also apples, pear drops, icing sugar and lime juice.
In the mouth: peated of course, bacon fat, driftwood and coastal. Pine needles, cask char, peppery, well-fired toast, a twist of lime and an enjoyable long finish.
Watt Whisky 10yo Highland Malt – review
Bottled at 58.4% strength from a hogshead. This is a mystery Highland whisky and retails for £79.95 from The Whisky Exchange.
Colour: a light haze.
On the nose: creamy, oily with a sense of density. Biscuits, faint lemon, floral in parts and crackers. Greenery from apples and a twist of lime, enhanced by a touch of smoke. Oats, saline, Kendal Mint Cake, a bar of waxy white chocolate and honeysuckle.
In the mouth: sweet, tasty and very moreish. Fresh ripe pears, tablet, a lovely oily texture with pine needles, caramel and beeswax.
Watt Whisky 12yo Mannochmore – review
Bottled at 54.8% strength, this matured initially in a pair of hogshead, before the whisky was finished for 3 months in a brandy butt. This release is £61.95 from The Whisky Exchange.
On the nose: sunflower oil, chocolate, an open apple flan and brown sugar. The brandy butt has brought sweetness but not dominated the event. Honeycomb, a creamy vanilla, marzipan, caramel and Werther’s Original.
In the mouth: honey, a sweet cigar, blood orange and apricots. Golden sultanas, marzipan, marmalade and a hint of rubber on the finsih.
Watt Rum 13yo Travellers Belize – review
Bottled at 57.1% strength, this 2007 rum has been slightly watered down and was matured initially for 8 years in Belize, before the bourbon barrel was transported to Europe for the remaining 5 years. This is available via The Whisky Exchange for £79.95.
Colour: bashed copper.
On the nose: keep meaning to say red sugar, but there’s not such a thing. There’s sticky toffee pudding, pine cones, custard, vanilla sponge and blackcurrants.
In the mouth: tart in places, brown sugar, rhubarb, treacle and leathery in places. Red berries, Ribena, tobacco and all-spice.
We’ll do these in the order that they were reviewed. I have to state this is an impressive debut outturn. It just goes to prove there are casks out there if you know where to look and possess the ability to distinguish good from bad, and pleasant from mediocre. Plus only one finish in sight!
The blended malt is dangerously drinkable. I expect I could smash a bottle in an evening with friends; if we were allowed to have house guests. Yeah, ok. Maybe some out there might be expecting more bravado and style for almost 2 decades. Point taken, but there is an elegance and satisfying nature to this whisky. I may have scored it a 6 if this was nearer £100, which some independents would charge. However, the price here is great for a pour and pour again whisky.
A good Caol Ila as always, continuing the trend of robust form and the bookies favourite. I cannot remember the last bad Caol Ila that passed my lips. Its been that long. And this one gives you the essence of Islay, the coast and the peat that so many lust after. Everything you would want from an Islay at this price point.
The Highland distillery is a lovely thing, not too rich or detailed, satisfying and wholesome. Watt a whisky should be. The only issue I kicked around before scoring was the price. For a 10 year old it seems on the wrong side of £65, but then I thought what distillery in the Highlands comes at a premium and won’t let most independents utilise its name? Just a few miles north of Dornoch if you’re still struggling is my guess.
The Mannochmore? Certainly one of the better whiskies I’ve had in recent times from this variable Diageo distillery. The finish brings a flash of inspiration and interest. Thankfully, it hasn’t overstayed its welcome and the end result is a very drinkable whisky that fits into the company ethos extremely well.
The Belize is a very easy drinker and not too-rummy if you catch my drift. I’ve had rums from this distillery before and at times they can be too hot, so this being taken down a notch is a wise decision. Yeah, it’s not hugely complex which fits in with the distillery at this age. On the upside, it’s a rum that almost everyone can appreciate, including whisky drinkers.
That’s the first release done and dusted. Speaking to Kate recently, the second release is already locked down and will feature a grain. So, something to enjoy and that’s watt whisky is all about at the end of the day.
Whiskies and photographs kindly provided by Watt Whisky. There are commission links above, which never impact our opinion and we’d also like to point out that these releases are available from Hall’s of Campbeltown, the Ardshiel Hotel and The Whisky Shop Dufftown.