That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Three Ships: Batch 1 (South African Single Malt Whisky: 6 Years: 53.7% ABV)

Visual: Deep, rich gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Stewed dark fruit. Waxy leaves. Partially melted brown sugar. Slightly oily and slight smoke. Waxy in general. Banana skins. Water brings out cake sponge. Toffee and light peppercorn.

Body: Thick and oily. Kind of oily peat. Stewed apricot. Golden syrup. Shortbread. Brown bread. Charcoal touch. Water adds fudge. Charred oak. More waxy,

Finish: Stewed apricot. Milky chocolate. Slight banana. Charcoal and charred oak. American bread. Water adds noticeable alcohol. Slight apples. Treacle. Golden syrup. More milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Wow, this is thick and chewy, but despite that and a high abv this comes across far smoother than the low number of years ageing would indicate. As mentioned in the background, I’m guessing this is at least partly due to ageing in high temperatures. This has such a smooth mouthfeel, especially considering the over 50% abv, but you can really get your teeth into it.

Flavour-wise it is very different to most whiskies I have encountered out there. It feels like it hints at a waxier take on a sweet and big Highland whisky at the base, but far chewier, and even has what tastes like a decent amount of oily smoke underneath it (I have no idea if this is peated at all, but something definitely gives an oily peat like character in there – the whole thing is a bit outside my standard set of reference points, so I’m working without a net here).

It is a very gripping, kind of waxed leaves feel and even hints of flavour, and that grip means that all the other flavours stick around as well. The highland like impressions come across as a heavy, weighty sweetness – burnt brown sugar, fudge and what tastes like a relatively restrained sweetness version of golden syrup. These become especially evident with water – the alcohol is never burning, and never really obscures, but it does open up brilliantly with just a few drops, and can cope with a lot more.

Its unique character is that waxy greenery, an element I don’t recognise from any other whisky and adds a real savoury weight to this, mixing well with the oily, charred notes to make for a dark, savoury undertone.

A lovely mix – Highland meets a dash of Islay, meets elements I have only previously encountered in Indian whisky and makes for something really rewarding, multifaceted, recognisable as whisky but different. Well worth trying.

Background: This caught my eye a while back at The Hideout. I’d not tried any whisky from South Africa before, and I wondered what it would be like. So after an amazing Paul John whisky tasting held there I grabbed myself a measure. Was very impressed so went back later to do notes on it. This has been aged in American Oak and PX sherry casks (or so a quick google tells me). Six years is not old for a whisky, but I’m guessing that similar to ageing whisky in India (as the Paul Johns guide told us) the higher heat means a much higher loss to the angel share, and a much more rapid ageing. Three Ships is one of the brands of whisky from the James Sedgwick Distillery that also does the Bain’s single grain whisky. Again, so google tells me.

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