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New Velvet Fig Whisky A Holiday Treat Aged In Oloroso Sherry Casks

Editor’s Note: The Whiskey Wash welcomes John Helmrich into our drinking and writing circle! Also, due to an internal workflow error, several other writers had been assigned this piece accidentally and turned in related copy. To be fair, credit goes to the following as well: Will Dwyer, Brady Greenawalt and Tony Mazelin.

I got lucky. My first article here at the Whiskey Wash is an exciting one; not only because I get to research a new and interesting Scotch release; but I get to stare one of the biggest debates in spirits directly in the face:

To Distill or To Blend/Bottle?

Wemyss Malts (pronounced “Weems”), or Gaelic for the monolithic caves that stem from the legendary Wemyss castle in Scotland, answers this question straight out – a pleasant relief from the prevalent branding shenanigans currently going on in spirits worldwide. They transparently state they are “…in effect what the wine industry calls a ‘negociant’- choosing, blending and bottling a small number of very fine casks…”. The casks which they receive from other distilleries around Scotland. This confidence in being forthright most likely comes from their roots that extend deep into the wine industry, where blending is simply a process in the wine making.

As Wemyss admits themselves, “blending” can often be a dirty word in whiskey, but they aren’t afraid and shouldn’t be. This independently owned estate has won a long list of awards and gold medals. While many global and independent brands try to skirt the laws of bottling and labeling, intentionally leaving a blur as to whether they are indeed a distillery handling everything in-house, or a bottler that sources outside barrels, Wemyss answers the question quickly so that we may move on to enjoy their delicious end product.

Velvet Fig specifics

Their most recent release, Velvet Fig blended malt, is no exception. Wemyss names their releases after the whiskey itself; the hue, the nose, the palate. The subtle expressions used to determine these bottlings are discovered by their “Nosing Board,” the comittee that creates their blends. I might add that this comittee is led by Charlie Maclean, a James Beard winner (on the topic at hand) and arguably the world ambassador for Scotch. He also wears a mighty fine handle-bar mustache which is worth noting. Anyhow, back to the Velvet Fig.

Velvet Fig begins with specially selected single malts sourced throughout Scotland. Once the mash take their runs through the copper pot stills that are used in distilling Scotch, all Velvet Fig is matured wholly in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, evoking rich autumn and winter fruits and spices. Quite fitting for the holidays, don’t you think?

The natural mahogany color has a depth and richness that comes from these barrels. I’m personally a huge fan of whiskey that spends any amount of time in wine casks, let alone the entire maturing period. Now due to the fact that this is a blend and for the bottler’s own reasons, there is no aging statement provided. However with Scotch law we know it’s at least three years. After aging, the whisky is non-chill filtered, which will generally impart a smoother flavor after any unwanted esters are removed. This spirit is bottled at 46% ABV, giving it that nice extra kick that may prove a little water or ice will help release some hidden flavor profiles.

A limited release, only 6000 bottles will be sent out to spirit retailers, so make sure to call your favorite store and ask if they have received a shipment. The market price on Velvet Fig is 40€ or $50USD, reasonable for a limited release. Tasting notes for it are below.

velvet-fig

Nose: The generous nose is abundant with rich fruits bound with sweet mead and warm leather.

Palate: The palate has luscious golden sultanas, soft fig and Medjool dates, spiced with nutmeg and ginger and yielding sweet chestnut and toasted walnuts in the finale./

Finish: Ends with a ginger and fig linger.

If you are a fan of Wemyss, or newly turned on to them after this bottling, I have good news. The family is building a single malt distillery at Kingsbarns, near St. Andrews in Fife, which just opened in the beginning of December 2014 and they are now accepting distillery tours. Maybe after all, Wemyss will end up releasing some estate-distilled juice. Either way, they’re doing just fine.

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