Back in June, I caught in Cape Town, South Africa a rather unpleasant version of COVID. It not only knocked me flat for weeks, it also robbed me of my olfactory senses – a complete disaster for a whisky aficionado!
I’ve often described the experience as akin to seeing only in shades of grey instead of a burst of brilliant rainbow colours. Gradually over the months, some sense of smell has returned but it remains muted compared to the previous clarity – where I could usually easily discern distinct elements, today it can be trickier and I often know there is something more a layer deeper that I just can’t quite penetrate or surface enough to describe. Frustrating indeed… but I’m at least grateful some sense has returned!
This brings me back to colours – in a recent impromptu tasting in Germany, I shared that when first exploring different types of whiskies, one idea is to consider what colour one would associate with that particular whisky profile? This is a great technique to start processing more creative impressions – Does it remind you of a hot and fiery red? A verdant cool green? Or more seaside in style, bringing hints of blue to the fore? What about sunshine yellow?
I’ve seen some “colour coding” before – most recently Gordon & Macphail’s discovery series uses green for ex-bourbon casks, purple for ex-sherry, and grey for peaty drams. However what if the colour wasn’t according to such strict logic?
Enter Watt Whisky – a new independent bottler started by a husband / wife duo Mark and Kate Watt in Campbeltown. As Kate shared, they both came from the industry and decided to set-up their own range with a view to bringing interesting affordable whiskies to the world. The colour approach comes from her husband’s synaesthesia, where he literally smells colours!
We were tipped off that the Paul John was worth checking out, so this was the 1st we sampled.
Intrigued by Kate’s story of how they began their independent bottler journey in challenging times (2019 then….COVID!) with this being their 1st big whisky event, we continued on to the Dunbarton 21 year followed by the Belair Athol 13 year.
We were highly tempted to continue, however, this was getting into the later stage of our whisky wanderings where you know you need to become highly selected else every impression will simply blur together, losing its magic of discovery!
Well worth exploring more another time… enjoy our quick impressions from a small sniff, swish tasting at The Whisky Show London 2022!
Paul John 4 year (2016 / June 2021) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 1 of 279 bottles
- Nose – So incredibly tropical – taking the normal PJ tropical fruits and ramping them up several degrees
- Palate – Intense spice, a bit of a flavour bomb, tropical fruit bowl, chocolate
- Finish – Ahh… there is that spice shifting into bitter
- Water – Yes, please!
Fully matured in an underground warehouse in Goa. Tropical fruits, spices, cloves & plums.
We shifted from India back to Scotland with a discontinued Lowland distillery – Dumbarton is a Lowland grain distillery, which also housed Inverleven and Lomond malt distilleries. Previously used primarily in Ballentine’s blends, the distillery closed in 2002 and is now demolished.
Dumbarton 21 year (2000 / June 2022) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 222 bottles
- Nose – It started off quietly, gently unfurling, caramel, light smoke
- Palate – Clearly a grain, what was a light peat influence on the nose became a full-fledged smoke bomb…. frankly more like sipping an ashtray
- Finish – Closed on more smoke
Wow! I don’t know what exactly I expected. One normally thinks of Lowland grains as being either gentle or harsh alcohol. I think this may be the 1st that I’ve tried which was finished in an ex-Caol Ila Hogshead,
What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:
Finished for 9 months in an ex-Islay cask. Light, dry smoke, butterscotch, syrupy, ashy and medicinal.
We then moved on to the Highlands with the Blair Athol 13 year (2008 / Sep 2022) 56.7% (Watt Whisky) 301 bottles.
- Nose – Nice! Extra berry, jammy
- Palate – Well rounded
- Finish – Dry and peppery
What a brilliant contrast to Dumbarton! Kate shared it was matured in a Hogshead and then finished in an ex-Red wine cask.
What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:
Rested in a red wine barrique for 16 months. Strawberries, jelly sweets and cured meats.
This pair – Dumbarton and Blair Athol – had the same coloured labels and yet could not be more different in character! Fascinating.
What fun being introduced to another interesting independent bottler. Wishing Kate & Mark the very best with their venture!
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