This article first appeared here.
There was a lot of hype about this whisky. Distell’s marketing muscle got behind the launch of the second release in The Master’s Collection series, the platform for the limited releases from Three Ships. Social media went wild with #PinotageCaskFinish trending during the media launch last week and yesterday’s online sale.
The whisky community in South Africa speculated about the content of the bottle. Some members of the whisky fabric were nervous. Whisky lovers around the world have seen prices skyrocket, often with a decrease in quality. We’ve seen some distilleries use smoke, mirrors and crystal decanters to market over-priced limited releases. Here was a limited release at nearly double the price of any other whisky produced in South Africa.
The media launch had the required WOW factor. An empty shell of a warehouse was converted into a reception and dining area with a dazzling array of audiovisual features. After welcome drinks and nibbles we sat down, put on headphones and from above a video showing an animated scene of the whisky production process projected onto our placemats. I had the pleasure of sitting with a few serious whisky people. We were there for the whisky, not the hype, not the glitz, not the glamour. And we were impressed.
Ok, we thought – now for the whisky.
Here’s the thing: this particular whisky; yes, this limited release at R 1 500 a bottle; this whisky launched with great fanfare – is simply the best South African whisky ever released.
If you know me you know my whisky philosophy: the primary function of whisky is pleasure. It must taste and smell great. Everything else is secondary.
This Three Ships 15 Year Old Pinotage Cask Finish whisky is delicious.
You also know that I think tasting notes are good guides but the best thing to do is try the whisky yourself. However, with a gentle nod to traditional reviews…, here we go. If looks matter to you, the whisky looks like a kiss from a beautiful person. It starts off tasting the same, classic Pinotage notes of red berries and stone fruits. It develops with understated earthiness and moves to whisky influenced banana split ice cream, then perfectly balanced woodiness. There are layers upon layers of flavours and aromas, each visit to the glass producing more complexity. The mouthfeel is rich, as expected from a whisky carefully matured for 15 years in the warm Wellington climate.
Whisky has another use: it aids contemplation. It helps one think. I got to thinking about South Africa, our heritage and our whisky. South Africa does not have a 100-year or longer legacy in the world of whisky. Over the past decade, Andy Watts and his team have taken Three Ships from a quiet town in the Western Cape to winning awards around the world. They’ve achieved this by recognising the past and with dedication, skill and integrity, slowly gone about the business of producing great whisky. I glanced at the cufflinks I wore on the evening, “Strength”, from Legacy Collection, the story of the Robben Island fence, and thought about how far we have come in the world.
Our whisky is now taking its rightful place at the main table in the whisky world. It is something of which we should be proud. We produce some of the best whisky in the world. Whisky lovers here send bottles around the world, where whisky lovers rave about the products and want more.
The future of whisky in South Africa depends on the people who produce it, and whisky fabric in South Africa. I’m very fortunate as I am invited to most of the whisky events around the country. My brothers and sisters in the whisky fabric need more seats at the table. They add value. They talk whisky.
Purchasing info: 4000 bottles produced. 3500 for sale to the public, and of those, all 500 available were sold out yesterday via the online sale at www.masterscollection.co.za. You can purchase from https://www.whiskybrother.com, www.vinoteque.co.za, the distillery and at Duty Free. There are 3000 bottles left. Move quickly…
Whisky anorak info:
- 46.2 ABV
- 13 casks (American / ex-bourbon). 8 finally selected.
- 10 year old malt revatted in July 2011 into Pinotage (European) casks.
- 15 year old grain revatted in May 2014 into Pinotage casks.
- Then – happily married.
Catering by Andrea and Oscar Foulkes of Dish Food. Class. Professional. Always.
PR – as always, the efficient, effective, nothing is too much trouble Linda Christensen of Jigsaw PR
Marketing – the woman who markets outstanding whisky exceptionally well, Ebith Jurgens.