Three Ships 15 Pinotage Cask Finish

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In case you haven’t noticed by some of my more recent posts, I have been very excited about what Andy Watts & Co.have been up to at James Sedgewick distillery as of late. One of the things I was most excited about was this glorious creation. At 15 years it’s the oldest South African whisky released to date. But what makes it even more special is the finish.

This is the second of a series of annual releases of Three Ships that come out in very small amounts and have undergone some special treatment. Last year’s had a PX finish, and I remember saying to a friend how awesome it would be if they released a Three Ships finished in pinotage casks. And then I found out about this, serious willy wobble territory.

Pinotage is a grape varietal developed in South Africa by cross-breeding Pinot Noir and Hermitage/Cinsault grapes. The result is a very tannic, earthy, fruit-rich wine which I love. So what better to use to finish a South African whisky?

This is a blend of malt and grain whisky, all distilled at James Sedgwick.  As far as I understand it was made up of three separately aged components, 1 malt and 2 grain, all spending varying amounts of time in pinotage casks, from a few months to several years.

Aged 15 years. 46.2%ABV. Matured in bourbon casks and finished in pinotage casks. No colourant added and non-chill filtered. 

Nose: The aged grain components shine through here for me. Woody vanilla, old varnished wood. Caramel toffee. Along with that there’s some magical grapey spicy loveliness. Red fruits, strawberry cheesecake. Blood orange. Cinnamon. A hint of cloves. With some glass time chocolate notes develop along with some very vegetal earthy notes (think mulch).

Palate: Delicate vanilla and woodspice at first and then an intense rush of very rich fruits. Plums. Grapefruit. Nutty wood. Marzipan. And then iced cinnamon buns all the way down.

Finish: Long. Quite dynamic. The cinnamon and marzipan died off pretty fast and on my first sip I thought that was it, but then I got this wave of bitter wood and cinnamon alternating with citrus and peppermint creme.

Would I buy this: Yes

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 4/5

Wow, what a whisky. The grain character is apparent here, but it’s in no way a bad thing, it’s very evident that top quality stuff went into this. The notes are, like a pinotage, big and bold, it’s a very lively whisky and I found the profile to be quite dynamic. It did feel a little bit weak on the palate, but I think had the ABV been higher the nose and finish would have been too intense. Really an amazing piece of craftsmanship here.

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