Whisky Review: K5 Himalayan Whisky - The Whiskey Wash

Whisky Review: K5 Himalayan Whisky

By Will Meek / September 14, 2016
K5 Himalayan Whisky

image via Will Meek

Bhutan is a small, mountainous country tucked between India and China, and K5 Himalayan Whisky is the first whisky blended and bottled in the country. The product is named “K5” after the 5th king of Bhutan, HM King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, who came to power in 2006.

The story of this whisky is that an “ancient recipe was discovered in an old distillery deep in the Himalayan Mountains” and then assembled by distillers at the The Gelephu Distillery in Bhutan. This distillery is actually part of the Bhutanese Army Welfare Project, and some of the funds from sales go to help veterans of their armed services.

One thing which is rather strange about this release off the bat is the mash bill. 65% of it is a blend of 8- and 12-year-old malt whiskies which are distilled in Scotland and aged in bourbon and sherry casks. The remainder is Bhutanese grown, organic grain spirit which has been triple distilled with “Himalayan mountain spring water that runs down from the Kingdom of Bhutan’s towering peaks.” It is all then bottled at 80 proof.

Tasting Notes: K5 Himalayan Whisky

Appearance: Pale straw in color, leaves a thin skyline on the glass as I turn it.

Nose: The aroma has green/vegetal notes up front (hay, raw potato), then powdered sugar, freshly cut oak, and a hint of smoke.

Palate: This is a very easy drinking whisky, pretty smooth, and certainly no water is necessary here. I’m getting notes that accurately reflect the aroma with the green aspects in focus on the first wave. These give way to Bartlett pear, and a noticeable but restrained smoke. The finish is somewhat lengthy, with the legacy of the sherry casks and a distant note of sake holding steady. No heat to be found.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately I was hoping for a bit more out of this. The more I went back to it, the less interesting it seemed, and occasionally even seemed bland, flat, or watered down. You have to really sit with it to find the parts of interest. In the overall experience, it has much more in common with a very young whisky (0-1yr) than anything claiming to have 8+ years on it. I’m thinking that cutting the aged product with all of that neutral spirit really diminished whatever was there to be more deeply enjoyed.

However, I can appreciate the economics of that choice knowing that money is not easy to come by in Bhutan, which is one of the world’s least developed economies. Stretching the investment in the aged stuff by cutting it with the cheap stuff is the oldest trick in the book, and if that gets more social services for people who need it over there, then this can easily be overlooked and forgiven, and makes for a nice story to have in your collection.


Shop for Whisk(e)y on Zachy's


Subscribe to our newsletter