Independent bottler That Boutique-y Whisky Company is practically a household name in the whisky world these days, so much so that it is easy to forget that it is very much a youngster in the company of other big name bottlers. Just five years ago TBWC burst onto the scene casually releasing batches from Ardbeg, Macallan, Caperdonich and Port Ellen as its first releases – as you do! In the five years since they have gone from strength to strength establishing a diverse range of single malts, single grains, blended whiskies, bourbons, ryes and many world whiskies from both established and new world countries. In my opinion the last 18 months or so in particular have seen some very solid and interesting releases come out of Boutique-y HQ, hopefully this trend continues!
To celebrate reaching the ripe old age of five, That Boutique-y Whisky Company decided to throw a birthday party hosted by their very own Dave Worthington. Generous as ever, Mr Worthington curated a set of 5 Boutique-y whiskies from over the last year or so which showcase some of their best and most interesting releases. Looking at the volume and diversity of whisky coming out of TBWC these days, this must have been some task in itself! 20 birthday boxes were sent out to some very lucky drammers – myself included – with the familiar Twitter tasting instructions to tweet our thoughts from 19:30 on Wednesday 11th October. Pizza and birthday cake were not officially included but judging by the pictures flowing through the #TBWCturns5 hashtag most of the revellers had picked up some suitable birthday pairings.
Speyburn Batch 1: 7yo, 49.5% ABV
Taste: Starts with fresh and sweet notes; spring meadow, crisp pear with floral honey, a kick of vanilla. The spice begins to dominate the mid-palate. A drop of water sharpens the floral aspect, bringing refreshers sweets.
Finish: There is a youthful edge towards the finish, spicy with slightly savoury and botanical notes.
This Speyburn certainly had the delicate complexity of an older Speyburn, although it did concede its youth towards the finish. This was TBWC‘s 100th different line and was released to some fanfare, disappearing rather quickly. When available it retailed around £45-£50, reasonable value all-in-all (remembering the 50cl-70cl upscale for comparison since Boutique-y bottles are smaller than standard).
Irish Single Malt #2 Batch 1: 14yo, 48.6% ABV
Taste: Struck match in an old bodega. Blackberries and burnt sugar with a touch of roasted coffee which grows in intensity.
Finish: Espresso with brown sugar, served with a square of dark chocolate.
With an RRP of around £55-£60 this was the second of two new secret-distillery Irish single malts released earlier this year (the other had a fantastic Father Ted reference on the label!). I found this quite drinkable and nicely balanced; my limited experience of Irish single malts has found many to be over-weighted in one direction but that is not the case here.
Blended Scotch Batch 3: 23yo, 48.2% ABV
Nose: Rich salted caramel with cranberry and orange peel – a very festive nose initially. There is some gentle baking spice lurking in the background. Given some time in the glass the nose becomes lighter and more floral – parma violets become apparent.
Taste: Lashings of toffee salted caramel, vanilla and other wood spice. On the mid-palate things become more earthy with cocoa and similar spice.
Finish: The hints on the label are accurate here, this is a long finish with plenty of cocoa, molasses and a hint of tobacco leaf.
This whisky has everything you want from a blend: complexity, drinkability and a superb finish. My dram of the party so far, £80 for 50cl initially feels steep until you consider similar blend pricing (think Chivas 25).
Invergordon Batch 11: 43yo, 48.2% ABV
Nose: Toffee and bounty bars in abundance. Behind this lies plenty of winter spice, then surprisingly some floral freshness to balance things out. With water the nose becomes distinctly more nutty, pecan tarts was an accurate descriptor most party guests agreed on.
Taste: A liquid bounty bar, in both taste and texture! A beautifully creamy palate delivers lots of milk chocolate and toasted coconut, with richer notes of toffee and hazelnut behind this.
Finish: A slightly floral note on the finish keeps things light, with lots of wood spice present.
Yet another quality Invergordon from TBWC, this was a big hit amongst party goers. This batch retailed at around £100 but is long gone, however I have found most batches to be of similar quality so the latest whenever found will likely be worth a shot.
Macallan Batch 6: 29yo, 43.5% ABV
Nose: Afternoon tea in a glass! Red cherries and strawberry jam with vanilla cream. In the background lies a touch of crystallised ginger. For a 29 year-old the fruit notes are surprisingly ripe, no dried fruit here! Given some time, some sweet floral notes of heather honey appear.
Taste: The lively fruit from the nose is immediately tempered by the tannic influence of the oak, giving a pleasant balance of jam and dark earthy spice. In the background are classic old notes of leather and old library books.
Finish: The earthy spice eventually wins the battle with the fruit, leaving cinnamon, cocoa and tobacco.
Some party-goers were a little underwhelmed with this whisky but I was very impressed with the complexity, the ripeness of the fruit was unexpected for its age and worked very well with the tannic spice and old character. Not exactly a pinch at around £550 for the bottle, but relatively speaking this is solid value against the eye-watering prices of similarly aged distillery bottlings!
With the dramming complete it was time to sit back with a celebratory slice of cake and contemplate the first five years of a new independent bottler in what is becoming a rather busy scene. The whisky on offer here has cemented my opinion of TBWC releasing some top quality whisky at the moment – let us hope this continues for the next five years and beyond!
My utmost thanks and gratitude to That Boutique-y Whisky Company for inviting me to their party, and to Dave Worthington for curating a very solid selection of spirit worthy of any fifth birthday party!