So I know that I usually do a scotch every other week, and I tried. I did. But then I tasted this and had to tell you about it. Also I figured that a fitting first post-Tariff single malt review should be from a South African malt instead of a scotch.
I was approached, recently, by That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC), an awkwardly-named independent bottler owned by my former favorite UK retailer, Master of Malt. (Former, because after acquisition by spirits giant AB InBev, they stopped shipping to the US for the foreseeable future.) Any long-time reader of this blog knows that a majority of my tasting samples come from 30ml Master of Malt Drinks by the Dram miniatures that I periodically order (and pay for) from the UK. Maybe they saw this and wanted to reward my slavish long-time loyalty. Maybe they missed all of my ranting after the AB InBev shipping debacle. Whatever the reason, they asked if they could send me 5 tasting samples to review from their That Boutique-y Whiskey Company bottling arm. I agreed. I rarely turn down free whisky.
Aside: I DO turn down free whisky, if it’s for a specific release that has a suggested retail much in excess of $150. Sometimes I’m weak. Sometimes I stand my ground. Either way I always give you my honest opinion, even if I got my grubby paws on the whisky for free. Believe me, or don’t, really I don’t care.
Three Ships is a single malt whisky from the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, South Africa, made by master distiller and former cricket star Andy Watts. James Sedgwick is a shockingly old distillery, in operation since 1886. It’s known for Three Ships as well as Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky. This release (batch 1) from That Boutique-y Whisky Company – is the first ever independent bottling of Three Ships. The whisky was aged in American oak and then was filled into a Pedro Ximénez sherry butt(s) for a combined total of 6 years of age.
Note that That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottles are 500ml in the UK and other markets that allow that size. The few batches that reach the US are either 750ml or 375ml. Consider that when comparing prices from different retailers. Also note that this whisky should not be subject to the recent US tariffs, as it is not made in Scotland or Ireland. A warning though: if you can find it it’s probably around £77.95 per 500ml which works out to something like $139 US per 750ml. Ouch.
Thanks to Ros Frame at That Boutique-y Whisky Company Dram Club for the review sample!
Nose: Cured leather, dark roast coffee beans, dark cocoa nibs. Balsamic vinegar that’s so old the fruit has left the building and it has to be scraped out with a putty knife. A rest in the glass turns those cocoa nibs into honest-to-God dark chocolate. Dry, but deep.
Palate: Thick, syrupy body. The same notes from the aroma, but OH MY GOD MY TONGUE IS ON FIRE. OK… Ok, I’m Ok. I can’t taste anything, but I’m Ok. Did I say the whisky is a little hot? More balsamico, more chocolate. Maybe it’s the pain-induced delirium, but this tastes just like Aztec hot chocolate with chili in it.
Finish: Long. Dusty cocoa continues through the finish. This stuff is the film noir version of single malt. Fades ultra-slowly, with the chocolate notes slowly being replaced by mint. No bitterness.
With Water: More than a few drops of water somehow make the aroma drier. Dusty cocoa nibs, Egyptian mummies, etc. The palate is mercifully easier to handle (could be the water, could be my dead taste buds from earlier). I highly recommend the water, not because it adds any flavors (it doesn’t) but because it tames the tongue burn, just a little.
Overall: Wowza. So, Ok, here you’re paying top dollar for something you just can’t get anywhere else. South African whisky that isn’t available in the US, with a PX sherry finish, at cask strength. That’s worth whatever the exchange rate currently sets it at. The chocolate notes are unreal, and they are perfectly – I mean PERFECTLY – balanced with the remnants of super-old PX sherry left in this cask. The 53.7% ABV is serious business, and is so concentrated I feel like I should be drinking it from an eyedropper instead of a Glencairn. I’m going to call this “Must Try”, which is ridiculous, because good freaking luck, but it really is an experience if you see the opportunity.
Note that it reminds me of Westland American Single Malt, but the profile is different. Less “mountain man” more “ancient empty streets”. Aaaand now I have Bob Dylan in my head.