Dave Worthington, or Boutique-y Dave to you and me, is back once again to tell us all about a new range from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Independent Bottler of the Year, no less, at last week’s The Spirits Business Awards, while Blender of the Year went to the man behind the whiskies, Sam Simmons (AKA Dr. Whisky). A hugely successful period that is now being followed by a whole glut of glorious new bottlings. Good times all around. Now let’s hand over to Dave who has got a real smoke show here for you folks.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company introduces a World of Smoke
From a plume of billowing smoke, our brand-new range of whiskies and rums rise like the opening sequence of an American rock concert from the 1980s.
“Oh here we go, it’s That Boutique-y Whisky Company releasing 24 different Islay whiskies”, I hear you say. We may have dabbled in one or two, but no, this is a celebration of smoke we’re embarking on! Ever drunk birch-smoked whisky aged in a Chateauneuf de Pape cask? No? Ever heard of smoking malt with nettles? Not until now. The phrase “bottling smoke” is used figuratively to describe the idea of trying to do something impossible or futile because smoke is intangible and cannot be captured in a bottle.
So sit back, gather around that real or metaphorical fire you made and immerse yourself in a World of Smoke.
But first, back to basics, and a little history lesson
There are two different methods for drying germinated grain: air drying and fire drying.
With fire drying, it was unavoidable that the smoke from the fire penetrated the malt and gave it a smoky aroma. There is archaeological evidence showing that fire kilns have been around since the Bronze Age some 5,000 years ago.
In the moist climates of central Europe, the fire kiln often was the only feasible way to dry the grain sufficiently. Cooking was also done over an open fire, so a smoky flavour would have been present in all foods and of course also in beer. In short, smoked malt and smoked beer have been around for at least 5,000 years.
That started to change during the Industrial Revolution in England. A patent was granted in 1635 to Sir Nicholas Halse of Cornwall, for a new type of kiln: “for the dryinge of mault and hops with seacole, turffe, or any other fewell, without touching of smoake, and very usefull for baking, boyling, roasting, starchinge, and dryinge of lynnen, all at one and the same tyme and with one fyre”.
It was now possible to produce smoke-free malt in any climate and with any fuel. The new production method was much more cost-effective than the traditional smoke kilns; for the smoke kilns, high-grade wood and good smoke aroma were, and still are, important.
Today hot air is used to dry the malt, but smoke is still used to flavour the green malt.
When one talks about smoky whisky, one automatically thinks of the big Islay hitters, but there’s a lot more to smoky whiskies than the Islay peat monsters. There are many different types of peat across Scotland, from Islay to Ardnamurchan on the west coast, to the highlands of Speyside around Tomintoul, to the East coast near Brora, and right up into the Orkney Islands.
While traditionally, peat has been used for flavouring malt in Scotland, the new world has been using other, local organic matter, to flavour their malts. Smoked malt for beer brewing has been around for a very long time. It’s often referred to by its German name of Rauchmalz and is usually based on two-row spring barley and is invariably smoked over hardwood. Softer woods, such as pine, are too resinous to produce a pleasant-tasting smoke. The favoured fuel for beer-malt smoking is beechwood, which imparts a slightly bacon-y flavour to the malt.
Our headliners span the globe once again with ten malts from across Europe, the Far East, and America, each using something different to introduce a smoky flavour to their whiskies; be it Scottish peated malt, ex-islay casks, local peat, hardwood; Alder, Birch, Beech, and Mesquite, or even Urtica dioica (stinging nettles)…
Every themed release is also accompanied by some bangin’ Scotch whiskies and we certainly won’t be disappointed with this release. Our Scotch collection brings a further nine smoky single malts from the Highlands and Islay, ranging in age from six to twenty-nine years of age. Elsewhere, That Boutique-y Rum Company turned five years old last month. It’s not a super significant age – but we couldn’t let the moment pass without something special; two special Anniversary Blends, and four fab long-aged expressions of rum.
This is Boutique-y’s World of Smoke
A welcome return to Suffolk’s brewery/distillery for our second batch of Adnams single malt whisky. This release has spent its time maturing a second fill French Oak cask, followed by an Islay Cask finish, so while not a smoky malt in itself, the ex-Islay cask brings a smoky dimension to this English malt. I’ve been a fan of what this distillery has been quietly making, and this is lovely.
Nose: Caramelised malt, with sweet smoke trails. Malted grains with oak and vanilla, spicy, with notes of overripe apples and an underlying charred wood note.
Palate: Nutty chocolate with hints of coffee. There’s rich malt, honey, oak spice and some stewed apple with cinnamon spice.
Finish: The Islay cask makes itself known with a smouldering smoke in the finish.
Here’s a single malt from the German distillery that has given us those wonderful ‘Elsburn’ releases we’ve really loved. While Elsburn is their original single malt whisky, Emperor’s Way is their peated Hercynian single malt whisky. German peat is used to smoke the traditionally peated malt to about 28 ppm. The distilled spirit has then spent 4 years maturing in a first-fill Mizunara cask. This is something really special, being one of just two Mizunara oak casks in the distillery’s possession. It’s another beautifully crafted single malt from this German distillery.
Nose: Fragrant, with vanilla pods, sandalwood, and sweet clover honey. Digestive biscuits, a hint of coffee, and gentle wood smoke follows.
Palate: Light and delicate on the palate. Honey sweetness is balanced by the woody spices.
Finish: A soft earthy peat reek lingers and there’s some chilli heat in the finish.
England’s first modern-era whisky distillery is back with a new batch of single malt whisky, but this is a little special. It’s a single cask of triple distilled peated malt that’s been matured in a first-fill Jim Beam barrel. This started life just like any other heavily peated malt wash from the distillery – double distilled. Once the spirit had been collected off of the spirit still it was redistilled again, further refining the spirit. This is really elegant!
Nose: Vanilla custard and fudge, with a gentle drifting charcoal smoke and crisp green apples. Very elegant!
Palate: There’s an immediate sweet peat reek to a creamy butterscotch note
Finish: There’s a hint of mint that lingers right through to the long finish. This is wonderful!
Denmark’s Fary Lochan distillery is a small family distillery, run by three siblings, and their mother. Founder Jens-Erik Jorgensen found inspiration from memories of smoked cheese from his mother used to smoke over fresh nettles. With these memories in mind, he picked up some fresh nettles and did the first tests of smoking his whisky-malt in 2009. Our second release from Fary Lochan is one of those rare nettle-smoked malts, There’s a very short window of opportunity for harvesting fresh nettles for smoking, so this process is very limited. This has been matured in an ex-rum Cask, too! While a little unusual initially, it gets really interesting. I love it!
Nose: Carrot cake, complete with butter icing! Herbal brambles, nutty malt, rum-soaked raisins, and there’s a hint of tangerine too. This is pretty amazing to nose!
Palate: Oily and herbal, and even a little salty, initially. Before turning sweet, with ripe greengages, golden plums, gooseberry fool, maple syrup, fragrant grasses, and pine nuts. Wow!
Finish: This is superb!
Here’s our second batch from the Finnish distillery, Kyrö. It’s another single cask of rye malt, but this cask uses their smoked malt. 90% of the rye malt in this cask was smoked in a 100-year-old riihi barn using alder wood, then the whisky was matured in a new charred American oak barrel. I’ve been really impressed with the whisky being produced in Finland, and I was immediately drawn to this as soon as I opened the initial sample bottle.
Nose: Oily hemp rope, and canvas, brings memories of traditional wooden sailing yachts. Charred sourdough, burnt crusts, rich dark chocolate alongside charred black cherries. Glorious!
Palate: Nutty rye malt loaf and dark fruits. Roasted hazelnut, black cherries and dried plums.
Finish: Campfire smoke with some roasted spices: coriander, cumin and some bitter chocolate.
Switzerland isn’t one of the first places you’d associate with whisky but there are at least 10 distilleries making malt whisky today. Our Langatun has been distilled from malted barley smoked using birch wood during the kilning process. It’s been mature in a Chateauneuf du Pape cask too… Delicately delicious – a superbly crafted malt.
Nose: Sweet green grapes, candyfloss, birchwood sap, chamois leather fragrant sandalwood, and a subtle, sandy, earthiness. Delightful!
Palate: Gentle, light, with fresh malt, green grapes, sweet birchwood wine, melon, summer meadow.
Finish: So moreish!
We are huge fans of this Dutch distiller – everything they make is delicious, and they make quite a few different styles of spirit, from malt whisky to genever, and just about everything in between, grain, rye, rum, and gins. This is a 4 Year Old, heavily peated malt, 55ppm, and matured in one of Patrick’s first fill PX hogsheads. Their long ferments and distillation process, which takes an incredibly narrow cut, subdues that expected smoke. This is such an elegant single malt.
Nose: Elegant with fragrant wood smoke and woody spices; liquorice root, cinnamon and clove with hints of fennel tool. Caramelised orchard fruits, and some wild strawberries.
Palate: Deliciously mouth-coating. Oily malt leads to rum and raisin ice cream and there’s a hefty hit of spice.
Finish: Smouldering embers and earthy ash are lifted by a touch of strawberry laces, and rhubarb and custard sweets.
Here’s a new release from Taiwan’s Nantou Winery, and distillery. These seem to be very popular, as previous releases seem to disappear in minutes! This is another 5-year-old, distilled from their weepeated malt (imported from Scotland, of course) and has matured in a bourbon cask. We’ve bottled this at a natural cask strength of 55.4% ABV and it’s a classic peated Nantou.
Nose: Cloudy lemonade, sweet vanilla, apricot and ripe apple, alongside chalky grist, salty seaspray, and some sooty peat smoke. You could be forgiven for thinking this was coastal Islay.
Palate: Mouth-coating, oily malt leads the way for a hefty hit of spice.
Finish: Smouldering embers and earthy ash are lifted by a touch of sweet apricot and citrus zest.
Santa Fe is a Scotch-inspired single malt, smoked with local Mesquite, by an Englishman in New Mexico. 30% of the malted barley is smoked with Mesquite which brings an aromatic, earthy balance, and as we learnt previously, Mesquite is the smokiest of cooking wood, beloved for its distinctive, sharp flavour. The Mesquite smoked malt adds a sweet fragrant resinous note to malt which is rather enjoyable.
Nose: Fragrant. Stewed and spiced apples. Baking spices and caramel. There’s a fragrant polished rosewood note too, followed by an almost incense-like sweet smoke.
Palate: Big bold, fruity, spicy, and woody. A big pepper hit on the palate initially, followed by dark plums, toffee apples, ginger, cloves, and hints of liquorice.
Finish: Pepper lingers in the drying finish.
St. Kilian is one of the few German distilleries designed to make only whisky. It’s also the largest in the country. Founded in 2015, it’s equipped with copper pot stills from Forsythes of Scotland, and wooden washbacks from Joseph Brown of Dufftown. Beechwood has been used to impart its smoky flavours to the malt during the kilning, and the whisky has then been matured in a cherry wine cask. Delicate wood smoke and ex-Cherry Wine casks make for a delicate, yet tasty introduction to this German distillery.
Nose: Fruity and herbal; Dried fruits and raspberry leaves Bright cherry notes alongside fragrant wood, with a gentle woodsmoke in the background.
Palate: The fruitiness comes across on the palate, with Cherry tunes, complete with a malty touch of menthol.
Finish: There’s a drying woody finish to this too, with menthol lingering.
How could we not include a selection of Scotch whiskies in our ‘World of Smoke’ series? We have nine smoky whiskies from the Highlands and Islay to satisfy your Scottish peat requirements!
Highlands and Islands
I think you’ll find something to satisfy your smoky whisky fetish with our World of Smoke series; from the delicate wood-smoked malts of the new world distilleries to the big peaty ‘palate slappers’ from Scotland. Has anyone invented a handy ppm meter yet?
Boutique-y Dave x