I had the privilege, during the holidays, to be invited to a Twitter tasting for That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC) and was sent one of their Whisky Advent Calendars. (A 12-day calendar, not the full month.) The perks of being a whisky blogger! Some people think it means free vacations to distilleries and events with lots of free booze. It doesn’t, at least not for me. Still, I’m very happy with the occasional free tasting samples.
The calendar – which I’m still enjoying despite it being far past Christmas – had some nice gems in it. Even though Master of Malt is still not shipping to the US, it is possible to get their Advent Calendars via other online retailers in the US. We only picked three of the drams from the calendar for the Twitter tasting, which was a joyful chaos with no real conclusion except that we all agreed that interesting whisky was to be had in these Advent Calendars. It probably didn’t help that as one of the few ‘Yankees’, I was doing the tasting at 11 AM on a work day. At any rate, I picked my favorite of the three and it was this one.
An undisclosed Speyside distillery referred to only as “Speyside #3”, this is an 8 year-old Speyside single malt bottled at 50.7% ABV. A fellow Twitterer… Tweeter?… suggested that it might be ex-bourbon Glenrothes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nothing will teach you how little you really know about whisky than tasting blind or semi-blind. In hindsight it almost definitely is Glenrothes, because the label shows several ghosts sharing a dram, and one of the quirky traditions at Glenrothes is their “toast to the ghost”.
Note that this whisky doesn’t seem to (yet) be available for purchase. Maybe for once (once!) I’ve managed to review a whisky BEFORE it’s released, instead of after it’s all sold out. There’s a first time for everything…
Nose: Aroma is spicy! Star anise, cardamom, and a touch of spiced apple cider. A rest in the glass adds a layer of gooey caramel, ginger tea, and a touch of light brown sugar… reminds me of ‘blondie’ brownies.
Palate: Thin body, with a robust tongue burn. Ouchies. 50% ABV is well represented. Already some mouth-drying tannins, dark cocoa, coffee grounds, burnt caramel syrup, and a dose of dry oak.
Finish: On the long side. Still spicy. Café latte, scalded milk, nutty in a slightly bitter way – bitter almonds. Pretty long and lingering.
With Water: This dram seems like it can handle some water. Aroma has fewer spices, more nuts. Palate is much softer even with just a few drops. Chewy toffee. Otherwise the same.
Overall: Intriguing – it tastes like a candied café latte, and the bitterness seems to come from that almost-burnt caramel rather than from oak. The bitterness is well-distributed and well-balanced so it doesn’t distract, although I found the whole experience is a little too dry. Still, it’s shockingly good at 8 years of age.
This is one of the many good examples of the kind of excellent whisky that can be found via independent bottlers, and yet another good example that whisky doesn’t have to be old to be good.