While Blended Scotch continues to be the “bread & butter” of the Scotch whisky industry, Blended Malts, or “Vatted Malts” as they were once referred, continue to rise in popularity alongside Single Malt Scotch. This is for good reason, as Blended Malts are exactly that; a blend of single malt whiskies – no grain whisky involved.
There are a couple of blenders in this category that have really been hitting it out of the park. Compass Box and Big Peat by Douglas Laing are a couple examples and Wemyss is of course another fine example. I must say, though, that one of my go-to blended malts was none other than Johnnie Walker Green Label. Although it was no doubt the best value in the range, it has unfortunately been discontinued. It can of course still be found out on the shelves, but who knows how long that will last. Another blended malt that I found to be enjoyable is Monkey Shoulder by William Grant & Sons – an easy going anytime sipper.
Wemyss (pronounced ‘weems’) Malts is one of four sister companies committed to producing fine spirits and wines. The other three are Rimauresq Cru Classe wine estate, Lord Elcho Blended Scotch and Darnley’s Gin. Lord Elcho was added to the portfolio in 2012 and is named after the son of the 5th Earl of Wemyss who supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
The Wemyss family’s connection with the whisky industry dates back to the turn of the 19th century when John Haig’s first distillery (Haig Distillery) was built on Wemyss land. Even today, barley from their estate in Fife is grown for many of Scotland’s leading distilleries. The Wemyss Malts blended malt whisky range is comprised of Spice King, The Hive and Peat Chimney, which can all be found in 8-year-old and 12-year-old form. Moreover, the company also produces a single cask bottling range where each cask is a celebration of the unique and contrasting appeals of the different whisky regions.
Another connection to Wemyss Malts that is worth noting has to do with Charlie MacLean, who watches over the family’s cask selection process as the chair of the Nosing Panel for both the family’s Single Casks and Blended Malts. Just like its two sisters, Peat Chimney is comprised of 16 different single malts, and as it can be guessed by its name, is an “Islay style” blended malt whisky.
Recent big news surrounding the Wemyss family has to do with the new Kingsbarn Distillery, a single malt distillery located in Fife – one of a decent number of new distilleries being built within this rising industry. Doors are expected to be open to the public in late 2014. As for right now, we’ll go ahead and see how this young blended malt stacks up.
Price: Approx $35/750ml
Nose: Light and restrained peat with a honey-like sweetness, smoked cheddar, green apple and pear. With a little time the smoke seems to pull back giving way to sweet, lightly smoked malt and wet newspaper. I guess we could say there’s a little chimney in there, too 😉
Palate: Again, easy going and kicks off with a gentle smokiness that’s a little more prominent compared to its aromas. With that there are hints of pepper, brine and ash that are pretty well mingled with a honey-like sweetness and what I would call dirty toffee…
Finish: Moderate with gentle peat smoke, ash and spice.
Overall the whisky is medium bodied and drying. Its youth is somewhat noticeable and it is rather simple, but I must say it’s quite tasty for a young blend – clean, fairly balanced and definitely a step up from some of the lightly peated blended Scotches I’m familiar with. Definitely drives my curiosity for the 12-year-old Peat Chimney. I’ll have to give the other two in the family a try as well.