I do love when my post-box has something more exciting in it than bank statements or takeaway menus, so a recent care parcel of samples from knowledgeable whisky lover Alistair Mateer (@SpiritAndWood) more than brightened up my day. Included in the delivery was the The Maltman Secret Speyside 14 year – a whisky Alastair said “rocked his world” – effusive praise from Alastair always gets my attention, so this has quickly been parachuted into The Dramble’s tasting schedule for an immediate test drive.
The Maltman is one of the brands produced by relatively new independent bottler Meadowside Blending who are based out of Glasgow. The range focusses on cask strength single cask whiskies from a diverse range of distilleries (There’s also single cask grain expressions made under 'The Grainman’ brand – see what they did there?) and has been joined in 2017 with two ‘Secret’ bottlings. Independently bottled whisky that doesn’t provide the distillery of origin is not an uncommon sight in the whisky world – Meadowside have produced two so far, one from Orkney and the other from Speyside.
The Secret Speyside 14 year old was distilled in the middle of 2002 and matured in a first fill sherry cask. Given that this is from cask #007 I’m expecting it to be slightly rugged but with an air of sophistication. It’s bottled at a cask strength of 55.2% and is one of 378 bottles. A little research all but confirms that the secret distillery here is in fact Macallan, so that’s how we’re going to log it.
Nose: Dense and deep, interlacing sweetness with savoury. Raisins, plums, dried berries, orange peels and sour cherries provide some sweetness, but they’re highly compacted and concentrated lending themselves to an almost brandy-like delivery with nutty rancio along for the ride. These are reinforced with a wide selection of aromas which would not be out of place on the Antiques Roadshow – leather chairs, polished mahogany, dusty bound books and the remnants of a long forgotten smoked Calabash pipe. Beef stock, demi-glace, balsamic vinegar and cola cubes provide yet more interesting nuances to explore. The addition of water brings out some herbal characteristics – menthol and eucalyptus - and also further reinforces the tobacco note.
Taste: Viscous, spicy, quite tannic and initially rather devoid of the saccharine sweetness that you’re probably expecting this to delivery. Instead, heavily stewed stone fruits – plums, damsons, greengages are joined by a smattering of dried berries and a sharp bite of citrus. Into the middle palate and intense cask influence takes over – marked cinnamon and pepper, with ginger and a dash of salt joining in. These are accompanied by the darkest Peruvian chocolate, liquorice, steeped black tea, leather and polish. Sweetness arrives near the end, swirling up from a dark void of oak and spice to lift the dram back into a sweeter daylight – toffee, cherries, and more than a suggestion of chocolate fruit cake. Water really helps diminish the high level of wood tannins (a particularly active cask I dare say) and brightens the fruitier elements of this whisky allowing all the depth and character to shine through with excellent poise and balance.
Finish: Incredibly long with lingering wood spice and fruitiness.
The Maltman Secret Speyside 14 year old is a total cracker. Delivered in its unaltered 55.2% form the aromas and flavours are deep, profound and to my palate a hark-back to a style of sherried whisky which is less frequently seen nowadays. Complexity, intense flavour and a lack of initial overt sweetness make for a big and bold experience that’s a far cry away from what one might consider easily accessible. Nevertheless, the journey is incredibly rewarding and well worth taking. Exceptional.
With many thanks to Alistair (@SpiritAndWood) for the sample.