You could say that my love for whisky, how I choose to enjoy it, puts me in the ‘whisky snob’ category. Put it to you this way, I will not judge you for how you drink your whisky. Having said that, I will not serve you the whisky I buy, if you are going to put ice in it! This may come across as a ‘not so friendly’ introduction I know, but I wanted to set the ground rules before we venture off into my imagination and tasting notes.
If you are reading this far, then I’m glad I have not offended you and lost you and your time. It’s possible, you may be asking yourself what the big deal is with drinking this The Three Ships Pinotage Cask Finish Whisky.
Growing up, having little knowledge about whisky, I had enough in my artillery to be aware that there was no premium status to Three Ships Whisky. That is an important piece of context, particularly if you are South African, and are a whisky drinker. The James Sedgwick Distillery, established in 1886, is a known name. The name was never associated with the finer things in life for me.
My introduction to a limited edition 10 year old single malt by Three Ships changed how I viewed the James Sedgwick Distillery. It became clear to me that the distillery was not simply pushing volumes of grain and malt whisky. They were now experimenting in every sense, with the craft of making whisky.
I get the sense that the arrival of Andy Watts as Master Distiller was the catalyst. I did particularly thank him on social media for not being an over achiever on the cricket field. He is the game changer, as they build the distillery to world class ranks.
This 15 year old daring blend, finished off in a pinotage cask, is a premium whisky. I don’t only love it because it is made in South Africa. I love it because it is a mighty fine dram. For me, the whisky compares with the world’s best at that price point. I have the Jozi Whisky Club to back me on that opinion.
The colour, is a rose gold. It is unlike any whisky colour I have seen. On swirling the glass, the slight legs are barely moving. As the legs eventually form, they come down the glass slowly. With time, as the formation of the legs takes more shape, I would say they moved down the glass at a moderate pace. That gave me the expectation of a presence of body. The legs did not move slow enough for me to expect a bold body. This was the first drink of the day. In other words, I had no external influence to cloud my judgement of the whisky.
The whisky is a malt and grain blend. Those in the know, tell me it is 30% malt and 70% grain. The maturation was in American and European oak. Aging and the wood is an important element in the whisky making process. This whisky has gone through 15 years in these casks, with the ex Pinotage Cask being used in the finish.
It is 46.2% in alcohol volume, but on sipping it, you would never guess that high. Then the nose; I picked up spicy aromas with some vanilla. I didn’t read the tasting notes before tasting it, and had no influence of the crowd. It will be interesting to compare my notes to what the professionals have to say. The scent to my senses is one I would associate with whisky from the Speyside region. Very soft and sweet to the nose.
The taste was a fruity one, consistent with the nose. I thought I picked up citrus fruits, an orange derivative of sorts. It will be interesting what I pick up, when I sip on this after this blog post.
I am a fan. It’s a bonus that this is a South African Distillery. I chose to blog about it, as I find the whisky literature biased and not recognising what is happening at the bottom of the continent, dubbed Darkest Africa. I am hoping to get my hands on another bottle. The next one will be a liquid asset to hold as an investment. That will be a difficult task, as it is a limited release.
To appreciate what I am talking about, you have to drink whisky neat. A drop of water (room temperature) can be added to see what further flavours you release, but ice is a deal breaker. Ice changes the structure completely of the whisky. If you are going to do that, then I would suggest you not spend more than R400 on a bottle of whisky.
This won’t be the last whisky I share on this blog, where I will give you my tasting notes and perspective. I hope it was useful. Like a good whisky, I can only get better with time.