Frequency

Posted 26 May 2021 by Matt / In Group Tastings
Frequency

Once a month, once a week, once a day, or several times time a day? Don’t worry, your parents were lying – you won’t go blind. But if you’re purchasing whisky with a frequency which exceeds the rate that you’re drinking it, you’re going to be accumulating bottles. So, to manage this accumulation do you a set number, set budget or set a physical storage space? Or are you just going to think about that later down the line and hope that your other half just doesn’t notice the continuous courier arrivals and the strange bumps under the bed that are starting to lift the mattress?

Regardless of the regularity we all have a rhythm to our whisky buying habits. Sometimes events will alter these (visiting distilleries, attending festivals….being locked inside for the best part of a year), but naturally, over time there tends to be an even keel to our acquisitions once we’ve settled into being part of the hobby and moved out of the early years “buy everything” mentality. And so too is there a tempo to releases from both distilleries and bottlers – and this is as much dictated by their physical abilities to bottle and sell whisky as it is by the economics of supply and demand.

The number of new whiskies being bottled has grown exponentially since the turn of the millennium. But over the last few years we’ve seen an explosion – not just in the number of independent bottlers, each with their own drum beat of frequent releases, but from the distilleries themselves.

Take a look at Ardbeg for instance – whilst we’ve come to expect the annual festival release (in both its Committee and ‘standard’ forms) – over the last two years this has been supplemented by a new core range entry (Wee Bestie 5 year old) and new annual batch release (Traigh Bhan 19 year old). And this year it was joined by one-off Arrrrrrrrrr-too-many-rrrrrssss-beg. Whilst the number of bottles added to the distillery's annual outturn is not many magnitudes higher for at least two of these three new sightings, it is still substantive in terms of the distillery’s release cycle and the internal processes required to support this.

Then look at the other end of this spectrum – Highland Park. A distillery which has traditionally released a reasonable number of expressions each year, but that not all that long ago went berserk on single cask bottlings to a point where even local aerodromes might have been expecting their own exclusive. Granted – these all were delivered in the same glassware and with the same sack cloth which required but few updates for each individual release – but nevertheless there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done behind the scenes to produce these and get them to market. A small distillery would be unlikely to have the resource to be able to meet this style of frequency of releases.

Pace is an important consideration. No one wants bottles languishing on shelves months after being released – distilleries and bottlers alike want to capitalise on the nascent demand that exists within the market. And that balance is often very hard to strike.

Working for a distillery who cannot produce product fast enough, this comes into clear focus. And it’s a very similar situation as one might find with releases from the in-demand indy bottlers. Releases come and releases go. Very quickly. And then the rest of the time there’s nothing available for consumers to purchase. Of course, that’s a good problem for any business to have. But nevertheless, it is still a problem.

When a distillery or bottler has nothing to sell, it is both not capitalising fully on the demand which exists in the market, nor is it spreading its wings as far as it could to introduce its wares, ethos and values to a wider number of customers. Sure, this issue is self-fulfilling. And has its positives – demand begets demand. However, once a company has set up its stall within a certain frequency and size of releases it is likely very hard for it to break out of that cycle. Producing larger or more regular releases might shift more product – but equally, it might also reduce the future FOMO should bottles all not sell on impact. Folks notice when things don’t sell out just as much as when they do.

It's a fine balance, and few get it perfectly right enough to sate both the ever-growing demand of whisky drinkers, or to a level where they can scale their business quickly upwards. However, whilst there seems to be an ever-largening number of ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ releases, there is and likely always will be more whisky (™) – as such, judging the frequency of releases is a crucial consideration for all distilleries and bottlers. As is judging how many bottles you're going to hiding around your house.

Watt Whisky released their third batch of releases last month – five whiskies and a Foursquare Distillery rum (which unsurprisingly didn’t last very long). Their first release in September 2020 was followed fairly swiftly in November 2020 with their second. But this recent batch has had a five-month gap since the last.

Mark and Katt, whilst far from new from the whisky world (indeed the contrary) are still finding their feet with their Watt Whisky imprint – and without a doubt they are watching to see how quickly both individual releases and whole batches sell out. To my mind, when following the batch approach there will naturally be a tempo to releases which will suit both their small operation, and what the market wants from Watt Whisky throughout any given year. Regardless – this is another quality selection of expressions and once more they’re proving that they’re on the correct wave length.


The Dramble reviews Watt Whisky Arran 2012 8 year old

Bottle Name: Arran 2012 8 year old Watt Whisky

ABV: 59.2%
Distillery: Arran
Bottler: Watt Whisky
Region: Islands Age: 8

Watt Whisky’s first trip over to the Isle of Arran produces an 8 year old single malt that has spent its life maturing inside an ex-bourbon barrel. 173 bottles (not a huge number for the cask size and spirit age it has to be said) have been produced at 59.2% ABV and are available via The Whisky Exchange for £59.95.

Nose: Expressive and punchy. Tart apple slices and neat orange liqueurs meet shortbread and digestives, whilst gentle notes of alluvialness (gravel, shingle and shale) sit alongside stem ginger. The addition of water offers a softer ride – freshly peeled satsumas alongside a developing creaminess from milk toffee.

Taste: Big and muscular on the arrival. Orange segments spiced with ginger and pepper – which grow in intensity throughout the development before softening into crème caramel, burnt toffee and assorted spiced orchard fruits. Reduction is again beneficial revealing a variety of orange oils and cordials together with buttered brioche.

Finish: Rather long and with sustained ginger spiced oranges joined by notes of split chilli pods.

Watt Whisky’s first Arran bottling is sure to liven the senses - whilst fairly narrow in focus, the selection of aromas and flavours are defined, animated and impactful throughout. Dilution may or may not feel necessary depending on how succinct and spicy you enjoy your whisky - but it certainly responds nicely to it - offering both improved integration and a pillowy softness which belies its natural fierceness.  

Review sample provided by Watt Whisky

Score: 84/100

The Dramble reviews Watt Whisky Blended Scotch Whisky 2010 10 year old

Bottle Name: Blended Scotch Whisky 2010 10 year old Watt Whisky

ABV: 56.5%
Bottler: Watt Whisky
Age: 10

A noteworthy release from Watt Whisky in the form of a high (cask?) strength blended Scotch. Matured in a “barrel” (whether from birth or combined at some point who’s to say) which produced 232 bottles at 56.5% ABV. This one is available via The Whisky Exchange for £44.95.

Nose: Sultana loaf cake and chocolate sponge sit with air-dried apricots, delicate asides of leafy berries and a squeeze of lemon. Running throughout – grainy cereals, freshly planed wood and sprinkles of desiccated coconut. Dilution brings the cask forward with sticky toffee and nougat alongside buttered corn.

Taste: Malt and grain are both well-defined but stand fairly apart and distinct. Milk chocolate buttons and café latte develops into raisins and dried stone fruits assertively spiced by stem ginger. Cereals and nail polish sit with lacquered fence panels, spun sugar and crunchy biscuits. Water reduces the overall distinctiveness of the elements but does result in their improved amalgamation – additions derive from the cask – fresh vanilla and toffee popcorn.

Finish: Medium in length with earthy chocolate and lingering cereal notes.

It’s a very rare day that I find myself drinking blended Scotch at 56.5% ABV. And as such, the individual elements of this Watt Whisky concoction take a little while to fully compute. Both malt and grain are jostling for centre stage throughout – and that results in some tautness (at least until reduced). But it is nevertheless a fascinating union that offers something fairly uncommon outside of blending labs and warehouses. I’m not totally convinced by the competitive nature of each element, but I can’t deny being equally and oddly captivated by it at the same time. Different.

Review sample provided by Watt Whisky

Score: 82/100

The Dramble reviews Watt Whisky Tomintoul 2010 10 year old

Bottle Name: Tomintoul 2010 10 year old Watt Whisky

ABV: 56.7%
Distillery: Tomintoul
Bottler: Watt Whisky
Region: Speyside Age: 10

Over to Tomintoul for a 10 year old that has set its time inside a refill butt. 246 bottles at 56.7% ABV is the result. And you can pick one up from The Whisky Exchange for £66.95.

Nose: There’s rather the Christmas cake going on here with icing, amaretti biscuits and fruitcake generously filled with candied fruits and nuts. Whipped cream provides softness, whilst lemon jelly joins baked brioche scattered with chopped almonds. Reduction adds herbal asides and touches of alluvialness with gravel, putties and clays.

Taste: Tart lemon buttercream is joined by overt liquorice allsorts ‘jelly spogs’, whilst tea cakes sit with toasted almonds, crunchy toffee and a building earthy pepperiness. Dilution favours herbal aspects with pine needles, steeped tea and star anise.

Finish: Medium with spiced fudge and herbal liqueurs.

Watt Whisky’s 2010 Tomintoul is nicely eccentric. Whilst the core of the Ballindalloch-based distillery’s distillate is still present and correct this refill butt has twisted it into something that’s thought-provokingly different. Not complex, but eyebrow raising all the same. Like it.

Review sample provided by Watt Whisky

Score: 85/100

The Dramble reviews Watt Whisky Highland Distillery 2005 16 year old

Bottle Name: Highland Distillery 2005 16 year old Watt Whisky

ABV: 57.1%
Distillery: Undisclosed Highlands
Bottler: Watt Whisky
Region: Highlands Age: 16

Mystery Highland whisky that The Whisky Exchange have listed within the Glenmorangie section of their website. Hmmm. This Watt Whisky release has been matured since 2005 in a refill sherry butt – 628 bottles at 57.1% is the result. Currently available from TWE for £87.95.

Nose: Highly appealing. Fresh and leafy sherry is at the same time tart and piquant – stewed plums and chopped cherries alongside pink peppercorns, aniseed and cloves. Loaf cake and Kik Kat wafers are joined by background touches of mint chewing gum. Reduction takes things in a different direction – chestnuts and reduced pan jus alongside cotton sheets and dark chocolate covered walnuts.

Taste: Rich toffee and a combination of milk and dark chocolate are slathered atop of syrupy stone and dark fruits. More chopped walnuts, and baking spices (cinnamon, anise and cloved) are joined by Halls cough sweets – cherry flavour. The addition of water takes this up another notch revealing earthy asides of cellared fine wine, spent coffee grounds and scattered, dried fruit peels.

Finish: Quite long with mentholated and vegetal sherry alongside shaved chocolate.

An excellent mystery Highlander which offers a fresh and leafy character when enjoyed neat and a deeper, darker more earthy profile when reduced. Both perform exceedingly well, and as such, this is an easy pick for ‘best of the bunch’ from what is a now typically solid selection from Watt Whisky.

Review sample provided by Watt Whisky

Score: 88/100

The Dramble reviews Watt Whisky Caol Ila 2010 10 year old

Bottle Name: Caol Ila 2010 10 year old Watt Whisky

ABV: 58.2%
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottler: Watt Whisky
Region: Islay Age: 10

Wrapping up the April 2021 Watt Whisky releases is a 2010 10 year old Caol Ila. Matured in a hogshead which produced 326 bottles at 58.2% ABV – this one will set you back £67.95 from The Whisky Exchange.

Nose: Very medicinal right from the off. Surface disinfectant, tinctures, treated bandages and a spent log fire. Supporting is smoked Chantilly cream and selection of ready salted and pickled onion crisps. In the background, fruitiness peeks through with both apples and pears offering just the right amount of natural sweetness. Dilution offers curry leaf and cream tarts offset against coastal asides from rock pools.

Taste: Quaffable – and instantly ashy. Very ashy. A fire hearth packed full of ciders joins lemon juice, sea water and langoustines served with a rich, buttery bisque. Medicinalness still runs throughout with plenty of antiseptic and iodine whilst in the back-palate coal dust and creaminess converge and merge perfectly. The addition of water retains the vibrancy of the composition – focussing more on archetypal Caol Ila cues – lemon, salinity and peat. It brings with it further digressions into maritime with chalky cliffs and sandy beaches.

Finish: Long with menthol and medicine in equal measure and ending with a perfectly judged progressive dryness.

Caol Ila is rarely anything less than rock solid – and this Watt Whisky bottling is well on the correct side of that rather limited quality continuum – it’s very good indeed. Highly drinkable at its bottled strength and with a selection of interesting and worthwhile diversions – and then very representative of the distillate style once reduced. You can’t really go wrong.

Review sample provided by Watt Whisky

Score: 87/100

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