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Monday, 4 April 2011

You Miss Malts? Wemyss Malts!!

Apologies for the weekend's absence but after our last post, both Joel and myself were dragged off to the Tower Of London to await a fate too evil to fully describe - needless to say, it involved a large quantity of rough Sainsbury's 'Basics' blended whisky, some goose grease and an industrial-sized pipette. Fortunately in the nick of time, we smooth talked our way past the Beefeaters guarding our fetid cell and walked off with a year's supply of Ermine topped capes.

We're back at our own towers now and the post was piling up - with some unusually shaped polystyrene boxes blocking the letterbox. On closer examination they revealed themselves to be samples from an independent bottler who we've yet to feature on caskstrength, but on enjoying their contents, we'll be bringing you more of, no doubt.

Wemyss Malts (pronounced 'Weems') are a family run company, whose history dates back to the imposing Wemyss Castle, the family seat in Fife. It was apparently on Wemyss land that John Haig built his first distillery and for centuries, barley grown on the family estate land has been used by numerous distillers to craft their whiskies. The name Wemyss also means caves in Gaelic and one would suspect that the myriad of them around the castle were used to hide many an illicit still from the prying eyes of the exciseman.

The company bottles a range of single cask releases from the Highlands, Speyside and Islay, as well as blending a small range, which are growing in popularity- one of our favourite bars, Bramble in Edinburgh has used their wares in a few innovative cocktails. Rather than dwell on distillery name or style, Wemyss have decided to focus on the inherent character of each cask - something which has obviously worked extremely well for the SMWS and blender extraordinaires- Compass Box.

The 3 samples we were sent are all early-mid 1990's single casks so lets see how they stack up.

Wemyss Malts - Single Highland Scotch Whisky - 'Mocha Spice' - distilled 1990 - bottled 2011 - 732 bottles - 46%

Nose: Sweet spices (nutmeg and vanilla) dance around the nostrils, along with woody cinnamon bark, oak shavings, grated dark chocolate and the merest whiff of tinned tropical fruit salad. Detailed and very open, given this is now over 20 years old.

Palate: Very creamy (highland fudge immediately springs to mind) with sweetened coffee notes (ah! there's the mocha from the name) more of the oak, but tempered with some nice green apple fruit flavour, some fresh butter, sweetened cereal and a dusting of cinnamon. In fact, there's a real hot cross bun thing going on, which is timely, as I fancy one!

Finish: The apple notes lead into a drying oak, with a touch of vanilla, which clings to the palate for a fairly lengthy finish.

Overall: Nicely done chaps- this is highly drinkable, well aged and not too dominated by the oak- a fine balance of fruit, sweet goodies and age is always a winner in my book.

Next up: Wemyss's latest Speyside release.

Wemyss Malts - Single Speyside Scotch Whisky - 'Ginger Compote' - distilled 1996 - bottled 2011 - 767 bottles - 46%

Nose: A big caramel note hits you before anything else, with buttery mashed potato, dark thick cut marmalade and some crystalised ginger.

Palate: Stones Ginger Wine. There it is- massively prominent, with a backbeat of menthol, cloves and dark honey. I'd say this would make for a very flavoursome Whisky Mac.

Finish: The spiced notes linger and rather like the Highland bottling, a sliced green apple note creeps in on the death, for a very fruity, spicy finish.

Overall: Well rounded with detailed malt balancing out the other flavours, this is a much more warming dram and really worth seeking out if you like your drams erring on the side of spicy.

The final dram from Wemyss' new batch of single casks comes to us from Islay, immediately bringing back memories of the great times we've spent there... Not long till Feis Ile now... ;-)

Wemyss Malts - Single Islay Scotch Whisky - 'Smoke Stack'- distilled 1996 - bottled 2011 - 294 bottles - 46%

Nose: Quite citrus'y at first, with plenty of orange zest balancing against a very mild medicinal /lint bandages style peat. Dive in and you'll find Terry's Chocolate Orange, some very pleasant malted almost toasted cereal. Not like some of the more overpowering Islay malts - this has some real subtlety at its heart.

Palate: The peat is far more prominent on the first sip, but still backed with the oranges. given a little drop of water some vanilla sweetness to come to the fore, which can only be a good thing.

Finish: lingering notes of peat on the death with a very mineral note drying on the palate, but balanced with subtle, sweet and delicious.

Overall: Another triumphant bottling from the company and again well worth seeking out if you like your peat without the loudness button pressed in.

For more info on these and other Wemyss bottlings visit their website here: