There’s something very self-consciously ‘cool’ about That Boutique-y Whisky Company (henceforth to be known as TBWC, or “te-ba-wuk“). From the funky name to the “cultish graphic novel-style” labels, it all makes the craft beer movement look staid and veers dangerously close to hipsterism.
All this would normally leave me cynically expecting it to be a pure marketing exercise from some huge faceless multinational, used as a vehicle to charge a premium for a distinctly average product – but in this instance, nothing could be further from the truth.
The folks behind the label are none other than the Master of Malt, who know a thing or two about good whisky. Each edition is part of a small batch – a few hundred 50cl bottles at best, which suggests it’s often a single cask they’ve managed to hunt down. There is deliberately no age statement provided, and although the majority of the range is single malt there are even blended malt offerings (perhaps a result of tinkering with their own Blending Kit?!)
The Caol Ila Batch 1 is one of the larger batches I’ve seen, producing 732 bottles. They’ve all been sold now, although there are still ‘Drinks by the Dram’ samples available. At 45.8% ABV it’s on the gentle side – many of TBWC’s offerings are well into the 50s.
It’s a pale straw coloured dram, with a equally light nose – initially sea spray and a touch of lemon sherbet, but as it sits in the glass a light oily character develops, old resinous wood and cold bonefire ash.
Watered, the resin and ash is more obvious along with a slightly chemical peardrop edge.
In the mouth it’s unexpectedly sweet and fruity – rum-soaked raisins fading into a touch of brine and a black pepper heat, with a warmth that slips right down into your belly before you even realised that you’ve swallowed. The finish is lingering but gentle; a memory of sweet spice.
Water radically alters the flavours, depriving you of those sweet notes and bringing out a beach bonfire; driftwood smoke, a hint of seaweed – it’s like two different whiskies, and both of them delicious.
Caol Ila rarely disappoints, and this bottling is a cracking example – 4 stars.