It won’t have escaped anyone that it’s time for this year’s annual celebration of George Romero-eque consumerism. Indeed, 2018’s Black Friday started over a week ago for many retailers – a single day of end-of-line and loss-leading bargain hunting not being enough for the modern day shopper. It seems that even my household has been unable to escape the inevitability of the ‘good deals’. I came home the other day to find that my wife had installed a near army of cut price Amazon Dots – in what she described as her last ditch attempt to remind me of the time of night when I’m locked away nosing and tasting whiskies till the small hours. “Alexa tell Matt it’s time to stop drinking”. Honestly, she’s just a traitor to the cause.
Whisky Exchange’s Black Friday 2018 Edition follows the pattern set by 2017’s 16 year old Speyside bottling – only this time we have an 18 year old hailing from Orkney, and, sensibly, there’s a lot more of it to go around. All 582 bottles of the Black Friday 2017 Edition sold out in 25 minutes, so with 1,400 bottles of the 2018 version, you should be able to finish reading this review, nab a bottle and put the kettle on before venturing out to join your consumer stampede of choice. The liquid is delivered at 54.6% ABV, costs £69.95 and is on sale from 6am this morning via Exchange’s Black Friday webpage.
Nose: Initially softly spoken – much more expressive after unravelling in the glass for a few minutes. An abundance of hillside aromas – heather, gorse, moss and thistle. These sit with sweetness from wild honey, apple turnovers and cocao nibs. There’s minerality throughout – part coastal with steeliness, part sooty with coal briquettes and long disused hearths. Outright smokiness is on the down-low – burnt twigs and singed autumn leaves – earthy, inland and delicate. In the background, baking spices, lemon peels and olive oil. Reduction adds plenty of freshly baked patisserie – hot cross buns and short crumbly pastry as well as further floralness in the form of cotton.
Taste: Bolder than the nose suggests, the arrival has a chewy texture that mixes toffee and orchard fruits (apples and pears) with steeped fruit tea and teak furniture woodiness. Sweetness is derived from sponge cake and rich dried fruits and berries (orange, cranberry, sultana etc), but is tempered by baking spices – a touch of cinnamon and white pepper. Smokiness is more prevalent than on the nose, though still drifty rather than forceful – it’s sooty, slightly alluvial and has a salty minerality – particularly on the back-palate. The addition of water (which is not necessitated by the ABV) adds hot chocolate powder and juiciness to the fruit elements. It also transposes the heathery smoke, emphasising chalkiness and burnt pan sugars rather than more overt heathery peat.
Finish: Medium with stewed apples, hillside florals and sooty minerality.
This year’s Black Friday bottling is pleasingly different to the last (the ‘family owned’ Speyside distillery is currently being represented by TWE’s recently released Christmas Malt). It’s a solid offering from this Orkney-based distillery with plenty of underlying spirit character and oomph on the palate. The nose is more restrained, and benefits from a little patience and/or dilution to tease the most out of it. Comparisons to the official 18 year old bottling are bound to be considered by some – though to my mind these are entirely moot given the widely different cask compositions. But, contrasts with the price of other independently bottled equivalents are certainly worth nothing – TWE’s offering comes in around 50% cheaper (and in some cases much more) than many recently bottled examples. If this sounds like a good deal to you, it’s because it is.
Review sample provided by The Whisky Exchange