Everybody loves small packages, wrapped up with string, with a cherry on top and the warm glow of a handmade feel about it. In the whisky world, the single cask bottling has traditionally typified this approach - a 'when-it's-gone-it's-gone' approach always gets the whisky writer hot under the collar and our cupboards our full of the damn things from all over the world. Hell, I once spent what seemed like 30 minutes in the Yamazaki distillery shop waiting for a special bottling to be lovingly wrapped up in layers of tissue paper, wax seals and silk.
Closer to home, our friends at Master Of Malt are pretty adept at putting these little beauties together; consider the beautifully packaged Drinks By The Dram sets - wax dipped, with Japanese-style paper labels, each concealing a mouthful of happiness. Recently, they've upscaled the boutique feel to create a new series bottled under the banner of That Boutique-y Whisky Company - and nailed a small but perfectly formed collection in the process.
These 50cl bottlings are all very unique specimens of some classic distilleries - The Macallan, Caperdonich, Ardbeg and Port Ellen each with minuscule outturns. However, the most remarkable thing here is their labels. Each one creates an elaborate cartoon scene - the Port Ellen and Ardbeg perfectly representing the cultish following both distilleries have. The Macallan and Caperdonich play on both distilleries' unique characteristics; The Macallan's 'curiously small stills' and the label of the now long-since closed Caperdonich depicting the legendary 'whisky pipe' that ran from the distillery to neighbouring (and sister distillery) Glen Grant.
The releases made us think just how boring whisky labels have become. So come on bottlers - let's see you start having a bit of fun here and there - how hard can it be?? (As I type this, the phone starts ringing... Ah. The Fun Police, sorry SWA are breathing heavily down the receiver... )
Anyway - the bad news is that 3/4 of these bottlings are already sold out now, with only The Macallan remaining. As with every whisky, the label is clearly only skin (or paper) deep and what's inside is really all that counts, so will this boutique Macallan measure up when it's naked and in a glass?
Master Of Malt - That Boutique-y Whisky Company - The Macallan - 40.9% NAS
Nose: A firm backbone of sherry wood (as expected) with spicy Oloroso notes, cocoa powder, oat cakes, juicy raisins and brandy butter. Dig a little deeper and some fruity notes of the softer variety (strawberries and raspberries) start to develop. Lovely and very well rounded.
Palate: The spice from the nose continues into the palate, with dried ginger, slightly bitter cocoa, dried apple slices, some winey notes (think big Italian Barolo) and bonfire toffee. It's dry, but conceals some lovely notes, reminiscent of classic Macallan.
Finish: Lingering sherry wood notes, with a little hint of sweetness (golden syrup) and espresso coffee diving in at the very last minute.
Overall: Some youthful notes, backdropped with some very nice cask ageing. If you like your Macallan hugely sherried, this isn't the best example, but if like us, you like balance, spice, fruit and depth, then look no further.