Category Archives: South African Whisky

Three Ships 15 Year Old Pinotage Cask, Blend, 46.2%

I’d heard a lot about the James Sedgwick Distillery in South Africa – mainly positive – so I couldn’t let this opportunity pass.

A glass of Three Ships 15yo was duly ordered in a packed Dick Mac’s pub at Dingle after the fabulous Irish Whiskey Awards 2019 event.

I got chatting with some American tourists – as you do – and they asked a pertinent question.

‘If you’ve heard a lot of good news regarding a whiskey – does that raise your expectations?’

‘Certainly’ I replied ‘But the proof is in the drinking.’

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I saw Three Ships & took a glass. c/othewhiskeynut

So I gave Three Ships a good nosing – and beamed a broad smile.

There was a richness & depth to this whisky that captivated me.

Notes of dark cherries – a juicy fruitiness – the warmth from years in wood and a touch of oaky spice. It reminded me of a good port finish – yet this was a South African Pinotage Wine cask. Works for my palate!

Those dark –  almost heavy notes – followed through into the taste. My mouth burst with flavours before a pleasing punchy alcohol kick set them alight.

The finish had those flavours gently falling back into orbit with a gorgeous warm oaky spice tinged with prickly juiciness.

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Three Ships aft label c/othewhiskeynut

I was so impressed I insisted my American friends took a swig.

They likened the punchy quality to a good rye – no bad thing in my book – although the luscious fruit juiciness of Three Ships was in contradiction to the dry peppery spice of a rye.

Even after tasting the Irish Whiskey Awards winners – this Three Ships 15yo certainly won me over!

Sláinte

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Many thanks to the kindly American tourists for sharing their time & displaying the whisky for my snaps. Hope you had a great time in Ireland.

 

Best Classic Whisky, Blend, 43%, Nigeria

A good friend brought me back a selection of whiskies from a trip to Lagos recently. I wonder if he flew Afrikan Airlines?

Contained within the group was the delightfully named Best Classic Whisky.

Best is actually a bit of a misnomer. Even among the wider selection of brands in this style of whisky I’ve tasted before – Best is a bit rough & ready.

There is a very big range of locally produced & marketed brands of whisky around the world that generally use imported Scotch – shipped out in bulk – augmented by ‘spirits’ of an undefined source to make these blended expressions.

It’s a big market for Scottish whisky. The volumes these brands sell would be enough to swallow up the entire output of at least a few of the 120 or so Scottish whisky distilleries – even allowing for the possibly small percentage of Scotch in the blend.

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Scotland and South Africa c/othewhiskeynut

Being a self confessed whiskey nut – I get just as excited cracking open a bottle of Best Classic as cracking open a bottle of the latest Irish release or Scottish malt.

It’s the thrill of finding out what’s inside. The taste, the flavour, the mouthfeel and possibly the story behind the brand too.

The  Best Classic – to differentiate it from other releases in the Best range – would be their entry level offering.

The nose has that familiar hit of cloying caramel. I don’t believe the dark colour has come about by a long maturation alone.

Heavy caramel on the taste – with a slightly oily mouthfeel – soon morphs into a straight forward high alcohol heat which isn’t entirely unpleasant – just a bit devoid of any real flavours ageing in wood could have added.

The heat slowly fades on the finish with a rather unnatural chemically note.

Not exactly ‘Premium Product’ in my book – but I’ve tasted worse.

It’s an ordinary no nonsense added caramel laden blend that’s only real character is the warming alcohol heat.

So what’s the story?

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Bottled under license c/othewhiskeynut

A bit of digging seems to show BenRiach provide the ‘Finest Scotch Whisky’ element as mentioned in a Kenyan website here as well as Westside Distillers website here.

The ‘Premium Grain Spirit’ is from South Africa. At least that’s what it says on the label.

Now I thought the award winning Sedgwick Distillery – Bain’s Single Grain anyone? – was the only distillery in South Africa. Interestingly they also started out making blends mixing local spirit with imported Scotch. A truly acorns to oaks tale there I think.

But a quick internet search reveals a few other contenders; Durbanville Distillery, Silver Creek Distillery & Qualito Craft Distillery being some I found. There could be more.

Any one of these producers – even the company behind Best Classic Whisky – could go on to win in the international sphere too.

But as it stands at the moment – Best will have to get better.

Sláinte.

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