A giant moves slowly, carefully, because it knows that each step has a major impact on its surroundings. Over the past few years local whisky lovers have been treated to superb whisky coming out of the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington in the Cape. Distell own the distillery and a whole lot more. It is a giant in the liquor world. And it moved, giving South Africa something new, perhaps changing the face of whisky in South Africa.
We’ve enjoyed single grain, single malt, bourbon cask finish and wondered what was coming next. Master Distiller Andy Watts said he and his team were working on a few things but couldn’t give us details.
The hashtag #Distellareyoulistening was coined during a conversation on twitter between Marsh Middleton and Mark Hughes, @letstalkwhisky @fr1day respectively. Whisky lovers wanted Distell to do something different. The Scottish whisky world has a history of a few hundred years it can look back on, but South Africa has only been producing whisky for 40 years. It does not have the whisky heritage Scotland has, nor does it have the shackles of the past. It can innovate, and it has.
The result (and the first of a few new products, I hope) is a 10-year-old Three Ships whisky, with the spirit drawn from different bourbon casks and then finished in a Pedro Ximinez cask for 14 months. Maturation in a cask that previously held a sweet, dark, dessert sherry gives the whisky rich fruit flavours and a deep colour. I was fortunate to have a taste during lunch at the Waterfront, where Andy took us (personally and by video) through his thought process. The whisky is complex but not overly so, which makes the whisky accessible to a range of whisky lovers.
The whisky is being sold in a unique way, from noon on the 27th October, online. There are only 800 bottles. I think they will sell out tomorrow. Visit http://www.themasterscollection.co.za/ to register. The details are below in the official press release.
This is a major step in the history of whisky in South Africa and South African whisky. Well done Andy & Distell. Now…what’s next?
LIMITED EDITION THREE SHIPS SINGLE CASK LAUNCHED
Three Ships Whisky, the pioneer of the South African whisky industry, has made history yet again with the launch of a rare single-cask single malt whisky to showcase the extraordinary whisky crafted at The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington.
Only 800 bottles of the Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt Single Cask PX Finish whisky, bottled by hand and numbered, have been released by master distiller Andy Watts. Distilled in 2005, the whisky was initially matured for eight years and ten months in American oak where after a small quantity was selected to spend a further 14 months in a cask in which Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry had previously been matured.
Presented in its purist form, the whisky is un-chillfiltered, natural in colour and bottled at 46.2% alcohol by volume to enhance the complexity and flavours of this elegant malt.
Says Andy: “Local whisky lovers have long been asking me to produce something extra special and while cask finishes have been produced for many years around the globe, it was time for Three Ships to make history for the South African whisky industry. Although the challenges presented by different cask finishes have occupied us for a number of years, we didn’t want to release a new whisky just to satisfy the demand. The product had to be right in every aspect and I believe what we have here was certainly worth the wait.”
Andy experimented with various casks for a few years before selecting the PX for the particular effect it has on whiskies with a presence of smoke and peat. “Pedro Ximenez is a white Spanish wine grape varietal used for the production of a sweet-style sherry. The raisiny richness it imparts to the cask was the perfect finishing touch I wanted to complement the smokiness of our single malt with some sweet, nutty flavours.”
Andy selected only a small percentage of the limited edition Three Ships single malt he had been working on at the time (due for release in 2016) to spend a finishing period in a single PX cask.
“The end result has not disappointed and the decision to produce only one cask has turned this whisky into a very rare collector’s item.”
The Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt Single Cask PX finish is complex with delicate sweet notes from the sherry cask which lifts the nose with prunes, dates, figs and fruitcake and combines effortlessly with the elegant smokiness of the malt. The whisky is powerful and lingering in its taste and finish.