Watt Whisky’s first release was received very well, not just by me but other reviewers as well. That’s fantastic for Mark and Kate Watt and I’m glad to see a new bottler off to a very good start. However, it also brings along a certain pressure. Like Mark Watt told me in a recent interview I did for a Dutch magazine, “You don’t want the first thing you do to be amazing and then taper off—everything needs to be solid.”
Now we’ve arrived at that point. This is Watt Whisky’s second batch of releases, consisting of mostly lower tier distilleries such as Allt-a-Bhainne, Inchgower and Girvan. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it also means they won’t sell simply based on reputation. The only A-lister isn’t allowed to be named, but you can bet your @s$ that Watt Whisky’s secret Orkney is distilled at Highland Park. So, the ultimate question here: Is it a case of Second Album Syndrome, or are these whiskies worthy successors to the company’s excellent first releases?
Girvan 1991 29 Years (56.5%, Watt Whisky, 186 bts.)
Nose: Whisper of coconut shavings, lychees and triple sec liqueur, but also pine sap, caramel and melted butter. Some furniture polish as well, followed by darker notes of cappuccino and raw sugar. Taste: It’s pretty much a continuation of the nose. There’s creamy butter and caramel, as well as sweet citrus notes. Maybe just a tad oakier, complimented by gentle spices such as cloves and black pepper. A whisper of menthol too. Finish: Peppery and charred oak, as well as burnt caramel.
I’m not the biggest fan of single grain whisky’s, but this is honestly a good, decently interesting offering from Girvan. Maybe a little too oaky at times, but otherwise satisfying,
Allt-a-Bhainne 1997 23 Years (51.3%, OB, 241 bts.)
Nose: Sweet floral notes, grassy and gomme syrup, but also chalky with milk chocolate and plenty of red apple skin. Some honey and menthol too, as well as a layer of sweet breakfast cereals and vanilla custard. Finally some galia melon too. Taste: Creamy and plenty of orchard fruits, like peaches and pears, with a spicy pinch of white pepper. Touches of menthol and gingerbread, as well as fairly distinct clove notes. Water brings out some of that galia melon again. Finish: Ripe yellow fruits and a whisper of menthol. Medium in length.
Inchgower 2007 13 Years (56%, Watt Whisky, 297 bts.)
Nose: An immediate note of lemon yoghurt and honeyed cereals, this hits the right spot. I get some marshmallows and baker’s cream too, as well as a touch of celery, freshly cut grass and roasted nuts. It’s slightly weird and funky, but I like it. Taste: Oily mouthfeel and a chalky arrival highlighted by Granny Smith apples, pomegranate and caramel, quickly followed by cracked black peppercorns and roasted peanut skins. Water brings out some of that lemon yoghurt, but also a drier mouthfeel. Finish: It returns to fruitier territory with pears and apples. Whisper of chocolate and barley skins. Medium in length.
Somewhat of an academic whisky and probably not the most approachable, but I’m personally very taken by this profile. It’s quite singular, which is an achievement in itself these days.
Dailuaine 2008 12 Years (57.8%, Watt Whisky, 312 bts.)
Nose: A very green whisky indeed. Slightly herbacious, but also moss, green olives. Whisper of white pepper, puff pastry and almonds, and some acidic rhubarb and a touch of lemon pith. Taste: Quite hot and intense with plenty of chili heat and some earthy orris root and charred oak as well. Whispers of apples, white grapes and aniseed too. Finish: Fruitier and gentler with a touch of olive brine. Medium in length.
A difficult release that’s not always as cohesive as I would like. It’s big and yet lacks some depth. For a very specific audience, I would say.
An Orkney Distillery (60.9%, Watt Whisky, 307 bts.)
Nose: Hemp rope, peanuts and chocolate combined with juicy red berries and plums as well. These notes are underpinned by an earthy, barbeque-esque smoke, dark honey and a slight minerality. Taste: The nose if fairly integrated and more subtle than the ABV suggests. The palate seems to be the other way around. An aggressive arrival if I’ve ever experienced one. Water is absolutely obligatory and brings out dried red fruits and honey, as well as black cherries a touch of earthy smoke. Finish: It’s only now that it really becomes more approachable. Soft peat and lingering dried fruits.
It’s been long since I’ve encountered such an intense and aggressive whisky. The nose is fine, but the palate doesn’t just need a few drops, but a bit too much water to my liking. I think this is one of those whiskies that might’ve been really good when reduced to 46% ABV.
Good but not as convincing as Watt Whisky’s first release, this second batch has one unexpected gem (the Allt-a-Bhainne), one unusual single malt of high quality (the Inchgower), a very decent aged whisky that will appeal to single grain drinkers (Girvan), and two single malts that don’t entirely convince me, but I’m sure many consumers will mop up the Orkney purely based on looks. It’s the Dailuaine that I find the hardest sell here (although Serge doesn’t agree), all the others will surely (and probably quickly) find a loving home.