Concluding my first exploration into this label, I guess now is as good a time as any to talk about the bottler. There are lots of independent bottlers that bottle single cask whiskies. There are lots that blend whiskies as well, but not many that bottle multi-cask blends from a single distillery as unofficial single malt bottlings. That’s precisely what Master of Malt set out to do with this new label. For some that don’t release very many official bottlings, like Aultmore, this makes their brand suddenly accessible. For others, like Highland Park, it gives their fans a new outlet to explore.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company doesn’t post age statements, though, and they don’t share that info anywhere else, either. They say it’s partly because of the ephemeral nature of how they purchase the whisky, but also to not mislead you when you have a large dose of something much older than the youngest whisky in the mix. Now don’t get me wrong, age isn’t everything, but transparency is still important to me. If you can make a breath-taking three year old single malt, people will know it’s good and you’ll change the market for the better. People will begin to look at age statements differently. A great example: Bruichladdich’s Octomore label. Sure, they’ve taken a few shots about the paradoxically high price and young age, but it still sells quite famously and in greater numbers. Even better for distillers like them, when I look at peaty whisky now, the age isn’t quite as important to me.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company doesn’t tell you very much about the casks or make-up of the whisky, either. I’m not sure exactly what’s holding them back. Compass Box opens all of that information up to the consumer, and they make a damn fine whisky, too. They open that dialogue because they know that they’re good at what they do and they’re proud to educate the consumer about their product. Master of Malt’s blog would be a perfect platform to disburse that information, but at the moment it is a resource untapped.
That the masterminds behind this label keep these details a secret kind of bothers me. What is the motivation to keep this information under wraps, and is it Master of Malt pulling the strings or the distilleries themselves? I believe in information. I believe in education. You can’t really appreciate what you don’t understand and you can’t learn how to understand if someone is purposefully blinding you. Whisky can be a beautiful thing, or it can be dark and evil; often, the only thing that separates these two possibilities is knowledge, and here I have lots of unanswered questions.
Most of their whisky is available in anywhere from 24 to 486 count, numbered releases of 500mL bottles. A traditional hogshead holds around 250L and a sherry butt can hold around double that. So each Boutique-y release holds anywhere from 12 to 243 liters. You lose some to the bottling process and then there’s the angels share, but that doesn’t even total one whole hogshead of whisky. And 12 liters?! Who had 12 liters of Port Ellen lying around, mixed from different casks? If these are blended from several casks, where’s the rest of the whisky going? Are these leftovers from their single cask line-up? Are they smaller, experimental casks from the distillery? Maybe they’re just re-bottling leftover stocks that were previously bottled by other bottling agencies? Who can say?
So why is this Highland Park delicious? What makes it different? Why should I buy this half-liter bottle for $115? Those who can say aren’t and I can’t help but wonder why.
Nose: Lightly peaty with dried mushrooms peeking in at times. White ver jus marinated raspberries and peaches on a buttery cracker. Flowering heather. Mint scratch and sniff stickers. Cedar and coconut suntan lotion. Sour orange candies in your pocket. Bales of sweet hay.
Palate: Very fruity for a Highland Park. Citrus and a tiny bit buttery with drying apricots. The smoke is mild, but typically beautiful for Highland Park. It’s like a clove spiced marshmallow over hardwood charcoal. Notes of the ocean are nicely integrated as well and very easy to miss. Toasted nuts, caraway and chive flowers in the long end of the finish.
Thanks, again, to Master of Malt for the mysteriously delicious sample! If the only bad thing I can say about your brand is that I don’t know more about it then I’d say you’re doing just fine.