Whisky Works is Whyte & Mackay’s innovation arm. Established by whisky maker and blender Gregg Glass, the aim is to “create experimental, compelling whiskies for people to explore.” I believe it was founded in 2019 — or at least that’s when the company’s first (and so far only) releases hit the market.
Innovation is a loaded term in the whisky industry. When used in marketing or communication it often refers to finishing and experimentation with different cask types. However, finishing whisky has literally been done for decades, while there’s hardly a cask type left that hasn’t been used before. So, I find it hard to accept that cask experimentation qualifies as innovation. And indeed, looking at Whisky Works, cask experimentation if basically the name of their game.
They’ve released two products as part of their Classic Whiskies, a range of “rare vintage expressions, including single malts and grains from closed distilleries.” One is a 20-year-old Speyside finished in Cognac barriques for 7 months. The other is a 29-year-old single grain whisky matured in American white oak barrels. How is that groundbreaking?
The other two Whisky Works releases are part of the company’s Modern Experiment range, which “is crafted from innovative production processes and taste experiments.” One of these actually is rather interesting. King of Trees initially matured in standard bourbon barrels and American white oak casks, but was finished in Scottish oak casks, which is rather rare — maybe even unique?
Quartermaster, the second in the Modern Experiment range and the one I’ll be tasting today, is just not very experimental at all. It’s rather just an 11-year-old blended whisky that has matured in sherry casks, American white oak and rum barrels. No doubt skillfully crafted, but far from novel or fresh.
Quartermaster 11 Years (46.4%, Whisky Works, 2019)
Nose: Sweet, tinned fruits like apricots with a sprinkle of cinnamon, as well as figs. Touches of cherry wood and furniture polish, but also apple compote and creamy vanilla custard. Just a hint of glue and coffee. Taste: The palate is partly a continuation of the nose. A whisper of raisins but mostly sweet fruits as well as a somewhat tannic quality and straw. A whiff of mocha, cardamom but also roasted nuts and dark chocolate. Finish: Short to medium in length. A tad dry and some lingering spices. A whisper of aniseed as well. Finally a touch of ripe apple. Rather enjoyable.
Plenty of depth and intrigue, the Whisky Works Quartermaster provides a nice drinking experience. However, I’m not convinced it is worth 75 quid.