ABV: 51.5% Distillery: Strathmill Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Region: Speyside
We’re into the last third of the 2018 Boutique-y Whisky Advent calendar, and a quick check in on the dram list shows that there’s quite a few big-hitters to come over the next week. Door number 16 delivers Boutique-y’s fifth batch of Speysider Strathmill. The distillery is like many from Diageo’s vast portfolio – woefully under-represented with official releases – but, a case in point that despite perceptions, blends still rule the roost.
Virtually all of Strathmill’s delicately made new make goes into Diageo’s blended selection of whiskies – particular into Justerini & Brooks (J&B Rare). Only a 12 year old Flora & Fauna bottlings is regularly available, and the distillery’s last unique OB was back in 2014 when it made its one, and presently only, appearance in the Special Releases series as a 1988 vintage 25 year old. But, as is often the case, this where independent bottlers step in to help broaden your horizons. That said, there’s still not all that many indy bottlings of Strathmill – around 20 each year for the past half-decade – compare that to Caol Ila with close to 130 indy bottlings over the last 12 months alone.
Nose: Starting at a bakery with honey pastries - baklava and sopapillas, tart bases and burnt vanilla cream, this swiftly moves into a garden orchard with tart green fruits – apples, gooseberries and greengages. In the background – damp earth and gently charred oak. Reduction reveals some of the underlying maltiness of the Strathmill spirit as well as adding both pear juice sweetness, and a sharp alluvia-ness.
Taste: The arrival is forceful and highly spiced – tart and sour apple and lemon peels with a punchy kick of pepper. As this subsides, you’re presented with a whisky that has a malty core and has taken on some vanilla pods and fruit tea infusions. The addition of water feels highly needed and thankfully reduces some of the spirit aggression. As with the nose, it emphasises pear, and introduces both cinnamon and chiselled steeliness.
Finish: Medium, with tangy apples and citrus and plenty of pepper.
This Boutique-y Strathmill almost feels like a trap – the nose lures you in by being sweet, soft and delicate before the antagonistic palate beats you over the head with a knuckleduster of sharpness, tartness and overwrought peppery spice. Potentially fun for a masochist, but a little too bellicose for my tastes.
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