Watt Whisky First Release (2020)
Watt Whisky is a newcomer on the whisky scene but one with almost unprecedented experience. Together, husband and wife team Mark and Kate Watt have over 40 years of experience in the whisky industry at companies such as Glenfarclas, Springbank and Duncan Taylor. Mark especially endeared himself to whisky geeks worldwide during his tenure at Cadenhead’s, where he lifted the company to great heights.
With plenty of industry contacts in their Rolodex they’re surely able to source some quality casks. They’re looking to deliver ‘good, honest whisky, priced for drinking rather than collecting.’ It’s all about taste, which is why they’ve chosen an abstract tastebud as their logo.
Watt Whisky’s first release consists of four whiskies (and one rum); a Sherry Cask 19yo Blended Malt; a 10yo Highland Single Malt from an undisclosed distillery; a Mannochmore 12yo from a single brandy butt (there’s some interesting background here); and a classic 11yo Caol Ila.
Classic regional profiles have been cast aside, and instead Watt Whisky uses coloured labels. Why? Because Mark has a mild form of synaesthesia, which means he smells in colour. And this is not a made up thing apparently. To be honest, I’m contemplating a self-diagnosis right now, because every so often I associate aromas and tastes with colours. Certain whisky is green, other yellow or grey. I just never knew it had an official name.
Anyway, Watt Whisky plans on releasing 3 or 4 batches per annum. And if the median quality of this first batch is anything to go by, it promises great things for the future.
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 19 Years (44.9%, Watt Whisky, 2020)
Nose: A dry, chalky, mineral kind of sherry influence. Quite earthy indeed with notes of tobacco leaves the highlight, but also sultanas, raisins and chocolate truffles. Finally some strawberry syrup, soy sauce and aceto balsamico.
Taste: A little juicier and fruitier than expected, with a lovely gentle spiciness and soft tannins. Raw sugar, chili dark chocolate, leather and just a touch of cherry. Somewhat dunnage-y.
Finish: Tingly spices, milk chocolate and dried fruits. Medium in length.
Secret Highland Distillery 10 Years (58.4%, Watt Whisky, 2020)
Nose: A slight waxiness at first. It’s kind of hoppy and lager-like in a way, but also somewhat sour AND with the sweetness of an amber beer. These beer-y notes die down after a little while though. The light fruitiness (green apples, white grapes, underripe banana peel) balances out vanilla and floral notes. Rather intriguing.
Taste: Sweet and creamy with spicy notes and beeswax, this is really good. A hit of white pepper followed by pickled lemon, but also cardamom and even a pinch of salt. Maybe even a touch of smoke.
Finish: A lingering sweet and spicy finale. Green and herbal after a while. Long.
Mannochmore 12 Years (54.8%, Watt Whisky, 2020)
Nose: A touch of Calvados and red apple skin at first, followed by old oak, hints of sultanas and even some honey. Finally a hint of Grand Marnier and grape husk.
Taste: Nice creamy mouthfeel. Sweet notes of dark caramel and fudge, but also freshly cut apple parts sprinkled with brown sugar. Some soft spices and orange peel round things out.
Finish: Cracked black peppercorns, citrus and a touch of chalk.
Caol Ila 11 Years (57.4%, Watt Whisky, 2020)
Nose: Grilled pineapple to start, underpinned by brine, wet rocks and a touch of band aids. Gentle wood smoke, a whiff of sauerkraut and a fair amount of smoked barley husks. Finally some dried seaweed.
Taste: Quite peaty supported by plenty of soot, charcoal and tar. A pinch of salt, some white pepper and charred, bitter lemon peel. I don’t like using coastal in a tasting note—it feels a bit nondescript—but I suppose it’s apt here and I can’t think of anything better right now.
Finish: More of the same but with a slight medicinal edge now.
I’m not really a fan of reviewing a batch of whiskies in the same post. For some reason I always feel the pressure to rank and differentiate them. I didn’t succumb to that pressure this time though. Simply put, they are all excellent—and very diverse as well.
Sherry lovers will gravitate to the Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 19 Years, and rightfully so. It has a balance and level of complexity that’s you won’t soon find at this price point. And a certain style of sherry influence that deviates from most modern sherry matured whiskies.
The Secret Highland Distillery 10 Years (wouldn’t we like to know its provenance?) is a wonderful ex-bourbon matured, spirit-forward style that often gets overlooked or pushed aside in favor of darker-colored or more obvious intensely flavoured whiskies. This has loads to offer in itself and didn’t need an overt cask influence to reach a high level.
The Caol Ila will go down a treat with those that like their whisky heavily peated. How great is that distillery! Consistency has become a swear word almost, but I’m in awe of how singularly good each and every cask of Caol Ila is these days.
Finally, the Mannochmore is a bit of a wildcard with its finish in a brandy cask. It’s good and enjoyable and the cask probably elevated the whisky, but I suppose we’ll never know. I’d say it is not as coherent as the other three, but a rewarding whisky nonetheless.
Overall a compelling debut by Watt Whisky and a big congratulations for Mark and Kate’s convincing start to their journey as independent bottlers.
Samples provided by Watt Whisky
Photos: The Whisky Exchange
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.