There’s rather a lot of mystery (not a mystery) Orkney floating around right now. But this Watt Whisky example comes with a spin on it and a vivid pink hue. 14 years of age, bottled at a still fairly potent 60.9% ABV with its final five months spent in a ruby port barrique. This one seemed to sell out quickly in the UK (pink whisky oft-times does). But you’ll still find it over in Belgium at Top Malts for 80.99. Just be wary of current customs charges post Brexit (and regardless of the direction of purchase) – things have got even more expensive if you’re buying whisky for import sadly.
Nose: Strawberry syrup, raspberry compote, Ribena and hot chocolate all express directly from a vigorous port influence. But at the core, the HP character is still very much alive and kicking here – heathery, inland, vegetal smoke from smouldering leaf mulch and smoked dried wildflowers joins wild honey, hay bales and a bite of steely minerality. Dilution offers Cadbury’s Crunchie bars (chocolate honeycomb) together with additional earth cues of soils and mosses.
Taste: No let up for the port barrique here. Jammy redcurrants, blackberries and blackcurrants provide a dense, fruit-forward opening, whilst thin, earthy smoke pervades throughout. Chocolate ganache sweetens before gradually turning more bitter and is joined by touches of aniseed and liquorice. Water here is rather the good thing – offering a less dense composition of strawberry milkshake bottles, bootlaces and Nesquik powder alongside toffee and winter spice.
Finish: Medium to long with moist soil and persistent fading jammy red and black berries.
This is the sort of whisky that I can’t score too highly from a technical viewpoint due to the port cask influence being arguably heavy – but that I can heartily recommend from a drinking perspective for those already partial to the combination of peat and port. Whilst the barrique’s impact is substantial throughout, the distillery character hasn’t been subsumed by it – and the amalgamation of sweet peat and earthiness most certainly works. Similarly, reduction is highly sympathetic here, offering delicious soft fruitiness throughout without losing either the inland character or the gentle wispy peat smoke. For me this is rather likeable – but for anyone naturally adverse to this style of composition, reduce the score by a couple of points.