Category Archives: That Boutique-y Whisky Company

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – Highland Park Batch 1 (44.7%)

Highland Park Batch 1Concluding 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.

Puglock Holmes solving the mystery

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.

Rating: Recommended

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.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – Springbank Batch 2 (53.1%)

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Springbank Batch 2That Boutique-y Whisky Company features a series of cartoons on their labels. Some are geared towards specifics about the bottling, like Invergordon’s juxtaposition of a Coffey still and a coffee machine, while others are pure madness, like Aultmore’s velociraptor escaping a shipping container to attack a great white shark near an exploding oil rig. I liked the style so much that I designed my own Boutique-y label. Since they already made a label for the Springbank releases I chose a distillery they had not yet bottled.

It’s a self-portrait with my two most disparate childhood-heroes, Fred Rogers and Kurt Cobain. Kurt and I are in Hell for obvious reasons and indulge in the fire and brimstone of a delicious Laphroaig. Fred, being a vice-less, ordained Presbyterian, sips on a juice box and is most likely just visiting us because he’s a good neighbor. Both of these characters were around for important, formative years of my life and both were surprisingly talented musicians. I think both would also make for interesting company if they were still alive today. I’ll probably never do anything even one-tenth as awesome as either of them, but I still like to think my world-view sits somewhere between the two.

boutique-y label request

I would love nothing more than to see this on an actual bottle…

What does all of this have to do with the sample of Springbank Batch 2 that the kind folks at Master of Malt sent me? Nothing. I just wanted to play around with Photoshop and kill four hours of my day, so let’s get to the notes already.

Nose: Pine needles, juniper berries and blue cheese towering over a base of sweet malt.  Sleek and sexy with wafts of brined thai chile peppers and pasta water. Kerosene and cloves. Caramel popcorn and a little chocolate.

Palate: Gin lights the fire that smolders into waxy smoke. Subdued peat with a little pine sap. Bright juniper in the finish, lingers for a good run. A spectacular palate. Hot and velvety sweet underneath with lime and a tiny bit of chocolate that coats the tongue.

Rating: Highly RecommendInstead of my final thoughts on this senselessly delicious Springbank, I’ll pose you this question. If you could have lunch with any two of your childhood heroes who would it be, why and what would you serve?

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – Aultmore Batch 2 (56%)

Aultmore Batch 2A little information about myself: my parents met overseas while serving in the USAF. Consequently, I was born in a small Spanish bedroom-community just outside of Madrid. My parents divorced shortly after and I moved to England with my mother. A few months after that, we landed in Indiana, so by the time her service ended and she finally decided to settle down with family back in Connecticut, I was no stranger to air travel. My father stayed in the service for most of his career, which gave me lots of opportunities to get back on that plane and visit whatever corner of the world he was touring. Some of my fondest memories were of being alone in an airport, surrounded by strangers and weird 80’s art installations. The noise, the bustling, the unusual accents and languages, the change in scenery and never having to take your shoes off for security… it was all very romantic to me.

Airplane MaltThis single malt brings me back to those days. It reminds me of the way airplanes used to smell. A cocktail of chemicals, polyester, gin and smoke. That might not sound like a very traditional whisky, and it surely isn’t. Unless you grew up flying unattended minor you may not find it as nostalgic as I do, but this is really good stuff.

Nose: Juniper. Chewing pen tubes on airplanes and plastic kiddie wings. Lime Rickeys and cranberry juice. Buttered pasta with cardamom. Kiwi sherbet muddled with mint. Crunchy, packaged chocolate chip cookies. Salvaged barn board with bath salts. Just a touch of waxed leather and old library books.

Palate: This one has a little gin in the first sips but the smoke and old books chase that out pretty quickly before getting hot and spicy. Melon liqueur, bay leaf and lemon malt. Waxy finish with allspice, cassia cinnamon, chocolate chips and the soot from an extinguished candle flame.

Rating: RecommendedMost of Aultmore’s production gets swallowed up by blenders like Dewar’s, their parent company, but every now and then a bottling with extremely noble karma breaks the cycle and makes it into something much nicer, like this. Cheers to the chaps at Master of Malt for the sample!

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – Invergordon Batch 1 (41.6%)

Invergordon Batch 1The elusive single grain Scotch! In Scotland there are single malts, blended malts and just plain ole blended whiskies, all of them abundant on any shelf, but the fourth category, single grain whisky, doesn’t have many contenders yet. A fifth category, blended grain, has even less.

This is a curious category in the whisky world. If they’re operating a column still, the distiller can use any mash bill at all, so long as there’s a little bit of malted barley in there, too. If they use a pot still then they can’t use pure malted barley, either. Because of this, single grain scotch can use Bourbon, wheated Bourbon, and Rye style mash bills, and can emulate the Irish or Canadian styles as well. This is, perhaps, the most flexible of all the Scotch whisky styles but doesn’t have a marketable enough designation to merit extreme popularity.

There’s probably a lot of rye in the Invergordon Batch 1 mash bill. That or maybe it sat in an ex-rye or a heavy rye ex-Bourbon cask along the way. Whatever the case may be, there’s definitely some spicy American influence. The folks at Master of Malt were tight lipped about the details, but any American whisky lover will find a lot to be familiar with in this single grain Scotch. Canadian whisky fans may find a few notes they’re familiar with, too.

Nose: I thought this was a Bourbon or Rye at first. Citrus marinated green olives and rye spice. Smoke and spiced chocolate. Mildly coppery with lots of grassy notes. Squid funk and vanilla frosting. A little earthy with perfumed dryer sheets from a few houses down the road. Subdued almonds and a touch of rounded bitterness.

Palate: Pumpernickel and tons of caraway with bitter pleather and guava. Slight copper with tangy apples. Coconut husks and cherry bark with a touch of rum and chocolate. Pleasant smoldering match-head sulfur and Bourbon vanilla beans in the vapors.

Rating: RecommendedYou don’t see a lot of rye flavor coming out of Scotland. This is a boundary pushing whisky for the British Isles.

Thanks, Master of Malt, for the neat samples! Be sure to check them out if you’d like to give this single grain Scotch a try.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – Clynelish Batch 2 (50.6%)

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Clynelish Batch 2I was super excited when the delivery guy brought me these samples and even more so when I opened the box and saw that they were from Master of Malt’s new Boutique-y Whisky Company label. Independent bottlings are an adventure, sometimes awesome, sometimes terrible, making the victories all that much sweeter. As he handed it over and asked for my signature, he had a look in his eyes like he knew what was in the box. It was as if he secretly wished I wasn’t home so he could forge the signature, steal the package and run off into the woods with it.

grumpyClynelish is already a covetable distillery, but this one? It made me whole again… and then it made me angry. I felt like a junky that just overdosed. Things were warm and soft for a while. Then there was some half-attended panic. I stopped breathing and felt the warm embrace of that god I was never quite sure about envelope me as the oxygen left my diseased brain. I felt like everything was finally going to be alright… and then some sadistic asshole with a defibrillator brought me back to life. Back to this cold, terrible world. They only sent a 3 cl sample?! For my metric-illiterate American readers, a single, lonely ounce?! It should have come with a disclaimer: Warning! Do not consume. May cause existential crisis. Gah!!!

Nose: Fig jam and plump, gold raisins covered in honey are first. Frozen bananas dipped in chocolate make appearances here and there between the classic Clynelish hay. Perfectly sweet malt and succulent crab meat poke around, bearing gifts of fennel, ginger powder, coriander and strawberry.

Palate: Golden syrup and coriander. Black pepper and apples with a cooling vapor on the back of the palate. Hot first and then the sweetness unfolds afterwards. Dig for the pear. Wonderfully hot and stony. Mildly leathery. Smoked tomato in the long gone echoes of the finish.

Rating: Highly RecommendBetter than lolcats and grumpy cats combined. Thanks to the lovely folks over at Master of Malt for the sample!