Mar 302015

My affinity and curiosity (and often disappointment) from vatted malts is well known to my readers, as making a really good vatted malt, one that truly highlights what each of the different malts brings into the blend is a true feat of art. Also well known is my disdain for the inevitable “best ____ whisky of 201X” prize-fests, especially those that don’t come with a detailed reasoning of the reasons for the particular selection versus the other contestants.

On another front, Wemyss' Kingsbarns Distillery recently opened. Photo Credit:

On another front, Wemyss’ Kingsbarns Distillery recently opened.
Photo Credit:

So with all those caveats in mind, I got to taste Wemyss’ Velvet Fig, quite a long time after a friend sent me a sample of it. Incidentally, that week Velvet Fig also won Whisky Magazine’s Best Scotch Blended Malt at the World Whiskies Awards, making this post doubly timely.

In Velvet Fig, Wemyss changed their entire approach to vatted malts (or malt blends, as they should be legally referred to ). The previous editions of the three regional vatted malts -The Hive, Peat Chimney and Spice King – were bottled at 40% ABV, not stated to be unchill filtered, and were age stated with both 8 and 12 year old versions available. Velvet Fig, on the other hand, is NAS but is bottled at 46% and is non chill filtered (the press release says “natural mahogany color” so I’ll assume there’s not coloring added). Right off the bat I’d expect a much richer flavor profile, and being a heavily sherried whisky, it can probably get away with being somewhat younger. So on that front, Velvet Fig is a step forward. The only thing to be sorry about is not keeping the age statement on it.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig Vatted Malt (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep bronze, very slow legs.

Nose: Dried fruit jump out of the glass at you, cinnamon and cloves with a deep sherry sweetness, wood spices and orange peel under the sweet layer.

Palate: Sweet and syrupy, with sweetness washing over the tongue, sweet and hot spices intertwine with the tiniest hint of salt.

Linger: Light dryness on sides of cheeks plays with a latent sweetness on the tongue. Notes of espresso and chocolate mix with gentle spice.


They nailed it! They really did with this one. While I wasn’t all that enthused with Peat Chimney (reviewed here), this vatted malt is a whole new ball game.

It feels like Aberlour A`bunadh with a touch of Talisker and a western Highlander for the Salt (like Old Pulteney), and the malts work beautifully together. The bottle says that this is a limited edition, and if so, and sherry is your thing, you might want to get a bottle.

Sep 292014

We continue our peated blends sojourn, today with contestant number two. Wemyss are both independent bottlers (see my review of the outstanding Glen Scotia Single Cask “Merchant’s Mahogany Chest” bottling) and blenders, with a line of three blended malts representing a sweet Speyside Style (The Hive), a spicy Highland style (Spice King) and a peated blend, all of whom are created using 16 single malts. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of Spice King or the Hive to sample, but did manage to get a sample of Peat Chimney.


Peated Malt Blend #2

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Photo Credit:

Wemyss Peat Chimney 8 Years (40% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, fast legs.

Nose: Honey and peat, with some faraway sea kelp and notes of peanut butter (that’s a first…).

Palate: Light on the palate somewhat watery, peat and sweetness on the tongue, leaving behind some dryness.

Linger: Very short in the mouth and gullet, some smoky dryness remains on the inside of the cheeks.


This would be an excellent introduction to peated whisky for the uninitiated. It’s very close to the Islay Mist blend in its mouth feel, and lacks depth of flavor. Not a bad whisky, just rather non-complex and straight forward. I said that malt blends intrigue me because of their potential to be very complex or to be disasters. This expression is neither.

Personally, I think that at 46% it might have had more depth to it, possibly making it more interesting. In fact, being that there’s a 12 year old version, maybe I’d make that one 46% and leave this one as the introductory blend and make the 12 a whisky that would be of interest to maltheads.

Jun 102014

Double BarrelI’m tasting all manner of vatted malts for a feature post, and received three samples from Douglas Laing: Two Double Barrel expressions (Ardbeg & Aultmore and Caol Ila & Tamdhu) and a sample of Big Peat. The Big Peat sample will be tasted with some other Islay vatted malts, but I don’t have to wait to try these intriguing combinations.

While a traditional vatted malt will have several malts, looking to combine into something else – usually moving each individual single malt to the background, the blenders at Douglas Laing took a very different approach. Two single malts, of very different characters combined to give you an interplay between these two distinct malts.

Ardbeg is a well known peaty Islay whisky and Aultmore is a Speyside distillery owned by Dewar’s (Bacardi) and producing whisky for blending. I have recently tasted an Aultmore, but it was a single barrel SMWS sherry bomb, so I won’t draw my notes from that tasting, but the whisky is basically floral and fruity – and these notes come out  in the blend. The concept is interesting, the blending is good – as one would expect from such a reputable company, and I still have the Caol Ila & Tamdhu to look forward to later this week.

Douglas Laing Double Barrel Ardbeg & Aultmore (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Color: Dark Straw, thin and quick legs

Nose: Powerful peat overpowering at first, but there’s something subdued about it, despite the robust peat. Underneath it come melon and red apple. I left the glass on the table for about 10 minutes, and nosed it without agitating the liquid and got a whole lot more of the Aultmore fruity character with the addition of cookie dough, graham crackers and sweet confections.

Palate: Comes in stinging on the tongue, with a spirited and young feel. There is a real interplay between the fruit and the peat, and between sweet, bitter and smoky notes.

Linger: Very short with gentle peat and a sweetness left on the sides of the tongue. Underneath the smoky finish lies grapefruit peel.

Small note: My son, who doesn’t like peated whisky and prefers sweeter Speysiders, took a sip of this one and came back for more saying “it’s peaty but it’s good”….

My thanks to Cara at Douglas Laing for the official sample.