I’ve not really kept track of it, but as far as I am aware, the following five whiskies were the second batch of bottlings that were made available recently. An easy check of their website says the following whiskies are all from the November 2020 release.
Of course, Mark Watt is quite well known from his time at Duncan Taylor. Even more so from his time at Cadenhead until he started his own whisky company quite recently.
With someone this popular becoming a bottler there’s always a lot of excitement, but also a bit of apprehension. Will the whisky be good enough? Will prices be acceptable? And specifically, will it be able to compete with what came before at Cadenhead?
With Mark’s palate being quite renowned, I think that we can have some confidence in the whisky itself. In today’s market, prices can go in any direction so we’ll have to see where that goes in the future. So far, it doesn’t seem all that unreasonable.
But let’s dive into the whiskies, shall we?
Allt-a-Bhainne 23, 1997-2020, Bourbon Hogshead, 51.3%
A lot of fruit, dried apple and even a whiff of dried pineapple. Quite a mature scent, with gentle oak and mellow barley. Tree bark, mulch, the tiniest whiff of of glue. Some minerals to make it even more like you’re in a forest.
The palate has a bit of a sharp edge, but that’s just some alcohol heat. Not overly peppery, so to say. Quite some oak, with more yellow fruit, both fresh and dried. A hint of coconut husk, some minerals. Quite old fashioned. The wood is quite mulch like.
The finish continues down the same path with oak, old yellow fruit like apple, pear, some dried pineapple, some coconut.
This is very similar to the WhiskyNerds bottlings of a little while ago, and it’s just as good. Lots of fruit, very foresty and with some minerals. It’s surprisingly mature for a 23 year old, with a very balanced nose and palate.
Dailuaine 12, 2008-2020, Bourbon Hogshead, 57.8%
Wow. Not entirely sure what’s happening here, but there’s some heavy leather on the nose, as well as a massive load of vanilla. Old oak and dunnage warehouses. Walnuts, too.
The palate is hot and dry, with oak and alcohol. Chili pepper like heat, with lots of leather and some orchard fruit. Apple and pear. A hint of rubber, like All-star shoes. Old walnuts. After half a minute or so (that’s a challenge with this heat) it gets a bit more sweet with some sugar syrup.
The finish continues to be very heavy, weighty. Notes of leather, gym shoes, some fruit syrup.
I don’t even dislike the flavors too much, but it’s a bit too heavy. Generally there’s some fruitiness or other bunch of flavors to offset that weight, but this one lacks that.
Available for € 70 in Belgium
Girvan 19, 1991-2020, Bourbon Barrel, 56.5%
The first thing I notice is a typical grainy sweetness with lots of barley sugar and vanilla. There’s a whiff of mint and licorice too. Some marzipan too.
The palate is a lot more dry than the nose suggests. Quite some oak, peppery heat, sambal. Licorice, peppermint, vanilla and some creamy richness.
The finish is surprisingly mellow and nicely warming. Some wine gums, pastry cream with vanilla. Some licorice with oak and a whiff of black pepper.
Pretty decent and quality grain, but it’s just too narrow, a bit too sweet. Also, I generally don’t care for grain whisky all that much, so that does not help.
* Keep in mind that people who really like grain whisky will probably rate this higher.
Inchgower 13, 2007-2020, Bourbon Hogshead, 56%
Old oak, with some moldy scents. Old apples, a whiff of heather. Soil, shrubs, moorland in general. The moldy, old scents give it a bit more maturity than its 14 years would normally. It’s quite heavy because of it, though.
The palate is more fresh with some crisp apples and unripe pears. Heather, oak, shrubs, some peppery heat later on. It gets some thickness because of a syrupy flavor that pops up after a while, honey like.
The finish is a bit of a mix of the palate and the nose. A tad drying because of the alcohol, with shrubs, heather, some honey, highland earthiness.
This is a decent dram and a bit better than I expected from Inchgower at this age. It shows some quite typical Highlands flavors, which I think is a good thing. But, after all is said and done it stays in the middle of the road. A good drinker, but not a whisky I will remember.
An Orkney 14, 2006-2020, Port Barrique, 60.9%
It’s very fruity, but not overly Port like (except the color). It has a whiff of smoke along old wood with dunnage warehouse dirt floors. This is very typical for port casks, but it’s not too forced. There’s a bit of honey and heather too. Some barley in the background.
The arrival is very fierce, even though I had a sip of a warm-up whisky. Very dry with the alcohol. Some pink peppercorns and old, dry oak. Dried red fruits, with some dried plums too. A bit of honey sweetness, and more dryness like heathery shrubs.
The finish is a lot more mellow than the palate, although quite warming still. More focus on oak and barley, a bit of smoke and heather. Almost like the cask takes a step back to show more of the typical Highland Park flavors.
Holy shit, this is a hot whisky. I bet I feel it burning all the way until it’s in the toilet. Apart from that it’s a bit of a weird one, which is not strange thing from a whisky finished in a Port cask. With only five months in Port, it’s not overpowered and there’s a surprising balance between the cask and the spirit. I am liking this more than I expected.
If this is the level of whisky that we can expect from Watt Whisky, I bet they’re here to stay. Of course, the challenge is to keep this up, and also not overextend.
Comparing this to what Cadenhead has been up to the last couple of years is not entirely fair since they’ve been around for over 175 years. This means their stocks should be impressive. However, they’ve changed gears since Mark Watt left and I’ve not been able to verify where they’re at now. The newsletters do not make me thrilled to spend money there.
But, back to this batch. The Allt-a-Bhainne is the more impressive of the bunch, but with this being so similar to the WhiskyNerds one, that’s not too surprising. The rest is a bit more middle of road, but still quality booze.