ABV: 51.4% Distillery: Locher Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Region: Europe
The tendency to try to classify and categorise absolutely everything is deeply ingrained into human nature. Over the 200,000 years of our existence we have used classification in order to survive – this mushroom is poisonous, this one is not. Fast-forward to less hunter-gatherer times and you will still see this trait in modern life. Even within the whisky world. We compartmentalise bottles by comparing them to others - by style, age, country of origin, cask type, base grains, good distillers, evil corporates – the list goes on. But, whilst it’s helpful to try to contextualise expressions – pigeon holing can be highly limiting. Everything in moderation.
Regional categorisation has long been customary to promoting Scotch malt whisky – the geography seemingly telling the consumer something about the liquid – a sense of terroir that somehow applies over vast swathes of land and differing production methods. But, which in modern practice actually has little real application to helping to describe the inherent styles of spirit being produced.
Similarly, most enthusiasts will have preconceptions around peated and sherried expressions – how they’re ‘meant’ to nose and how they’re ‘meant’ to taste. Naturally, all based off past experience. The same is also true of youthful vs. mature whiskies. We have expectations. They too become ingrained. Our peers and the marketplace itself help reinforce these over time. Whilst we might be more experimental we’re also more judgemental as a result.
You’ll often come across whiskies which defy conventions and groupings – either through their production methods, or through their diverse and hard to pinpoint flavours. If you’re not careful, reasonable comparison can easily slip into unreasonable compartmentalisation. It’s all too easy to either disregard the new (as not meshing neatly into your pre-existing catalogue) or to seek to pigeon hole too eagerly. The market place is more than happy for you to categorise away – after all they want you to buy into their classifications which don’t just cut across regional lines, but also include concepts such as ‘premium’, ‘super-premium’ and ‘limited’.
Perhaps as enthusiasts we should try our hardest to develop a more wide-ranging mind-set – not everything has a neat box to be put into – there’s not always an obvious structure to how a whisky’s profile and proposition fits in to the marketplace. Sometimes it doesn’t need over thinking. Sometimes it just isn't that neat.
Which brings us onto today’s review – A Boutique-y Whisky Company bottling or Santis Malt – and a very hard whisky to categorise aroma and flavour wise…..
Santis Malt is produced by the Locher distillery located in Appenzel (north of Liechtenstein) Switzerland. The distillery was founded in 1999 by Karl Locher who’s family had over 100 years of brewing experience. 1999 is an important date for the emergent Swiss spirits scene as it was when government ended an national ban on the distillation of grains and potatoes. Santis immediately got to work and released their first expressions in 2002 – using locally sourced beer casks – and drawing water from the nearby spring of Alpstein (which would go on to become the namesake of their main line of finished whiskies.
Boutique-y’s Santis is one of very few (3 or 4) current independent bottlings of the Swiss whisky. It’s also right up there with the oldest expressions produced to date by the distillery. Whilst the cask composition is not stated (it never is with Boutique-y sadly), it’s a fair guess that this whisky has seen some sherry influence similarly to the distillery’s proprietary Alpstein Editions. Batch 1 is delivered at 51.4% ABV with 916 bottles available. The price is £117.95 from Master of Malt for a 50cl bottle. Far from a bargain, and considerably more expensive than the distillery’s OB’s – which are also delivered in 50cl bottles.
Nose: Brown sugar sweetness is enriched with burnt toffee maple and golden syrups. Cooking apples and orange segments are joined by macerated cherries whilst the cask delivers vanilla and cereals alongside wood lacquer and bung cloth. Sweet spices run throughout – sprightly cinnamon and pepper. Reduction adds short-crust pastry and chopped almonds whilst transposing the wood quite aromatically towards cedar and juniper oils.
Taste: The arrival is unctuous and full – sugars lead off once again – demerara and dark chocolate with a vein of nougat. Spicing is more prominent now –– cinnamon, clove and something akin to angostura bitters – all wrapped up in dusty sun-dried earth. Orange liqueurs are joined by dried apple and peach slices whilst brown and rye breads sit with popped corn and freshly sawn wood. Dilution softens the arrival and development, adding a touch of creaminess in the form of crème brulee and caramel panna cotta. It also expresses gingerbread, rosewater and charred oak.
Finish: Medium to long in length with leather rags, sticky burnt toffee and drying wood tannins.
This Boutique-y Santis 10 year old is quite the chameleon. It noses rather like a bourbon (sweet and cereal like) and tastes rather like a rye (prickly spices and earthiness). And yet it’s neither of those things. The cask influence has added layers of complexity and sweetness and resulted in something rather unique and hard to categorise in isolation. Nevertheless – and this is the important part – it’s all rather tasty. If only that price was more accessible…
But don't take our word for it..
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