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  1. #1
    Connoisseur
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    South African whisky

    Some of these whiskies have been showing up at the LCBO, and since I can't resist something new and unusual I had to try them. I thought I would share my opinions and see if anyone else has any thoughts on these.

    Three Ships 5 year old: Blended whisky from the james Sedgewick distillery (43%). Contains South African grain and Scotch malt. Pretty hard-tasting with a strong peaty note and a nice rich body. Tastes a little young but pretty good for the price.

    Bain's Cape Mountain whisky: another 5 year old from James Sedgewick, this one is a single grain whisky double-matured in first-fill bourbon oak (also 43%). Canadian in style, very nice with vanilla, toffee apple and cinnamon spice. Smooth, silky body with a surprisingly rich taste. With so many countries copying the Scottish method it's nice to see a foreign take on the Canadian style.

    Pretty impressed by these guys so far.

  2. #2
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    Re: South African whisky

    Interesting! How much are they going for?
    bibamus, moriendum est
    Sipology Blog

  3. #3
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    Re: South African whisky

    Looks like $35CDN and $49CDN respectively.

  4. #4
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    Re: South African whisky

    Yup. I'm actually enjoying this young grain whisky a lot more than the South Island 18 year old single malt from New Zealand. Totally different whisky but it goes to show you that age isn't everything, and that malt doesn't always trump grain.

  5. #5
    Advanced Taster
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    Re: South African whisky

    There's a video on their website where they outline their distillation process. It's essentially a wheated bourbon mash (corn & wheat) column distilled to a fairly high proof (~188), then cut to 130ļ and aged 5 years in used bourbon barrels. I grabbed a bottle of this and had a few glasses last night. It's OK. It tastes almost exactly how you think it would taste, based on how it's made: young, spirity, fairly sweet and delicate, not too complex.

    Itís interesting because itís something new for us (Canadians). The Scotch bloggers are all over it because they donít really know what to make of it.

    Those of you who can buy Mellow Corn for $15 are unlikely to be blown away.
    trying to walk a straight line,
    on sour mash and cheap wine

  6. #6
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    Re: South African whisky

    One would think they could simply analyze it for what it is, just like you did.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  7. #7
    Advanced Taster
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    Re: South African whisky

    It may have something to do with how it's named. They call it a "Single Grain whisky," which may be confusing to some. They're using the word "Single" in the "Single Malt" sense, i.e.: it comes from a single distillery. Confusingly, it's not made from one single grain, but from a mashbill of (at least) two.

    For Scotch Whisky snobs, "Grain Whisky" is what blenders use to make blended Scotch (to dilute and cheapen the "superior" Malt Whisky). They are confused when confronted with a young grain whisky that actually tastes pretty good. They seem to be rating it very high. Even Ralfy got sucked in, scoring it a 90. (Megawatt - none of what I'm saying here is directed at you or your notes. I've just been searching the internet and finding some over the top positive reviews.)

    I feel like most Bourbon Enthusiasts will see this for what it is. A pretty good young whisky that would have to work a bit harder to justify its price. Searching a bit more, I see that Kickert has already written a review right here on this very forum (third post down). I would pretty much echo everything he said about it (and you can see that he was also misled by the "single grain" designation).

    But apparently it's taking the world by storm, so what do I know?
    Last edited by Smithford; 04-07-2014 at 14:26. Reason: spelling
    trying to walk a straight line,
    on sour mash and cheap wine

  8. #8
    Virtuoso
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    Re: South African whisky

    I don't mean this to sound like a criticism of the whisky because it is not meant to be, but rather a curious inquiry due to the distillation proof and use of used cooperage:

    How different would 5-yr old vodka aged in new charred oak taste? Or stated another way, if you added vodka or grain alcohol to a wheated bourbon in order to mimic that distillation proof, does that approximate the flavor? Is it similar to some of the blended whiskies you see in the U.S. or Canada?

    Thanks
    Mark

  9. #9
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    Re: South African whisky

    Yes, I see, by Scottish definition it is a single (one distillery) made from grain (not malt) yet from the description it seems to me more of a Canadian style.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  10. #10
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    Re: South African whisky

    That Canadian-like vibe is probably because the Bains is made the same way as the base spirit in most Canadian whiskies. It's the same style that's also used as the base of blended scotch and Irish whiskies, that is distilled from multiple grains to a proof higher than a single malt/pot still/American straight, but still below neutral spirit level, and aged in used barrels for a few years. It's also called, in US regulations at least, "light whiskey". It's light in character, with only a bit of grain flavor, shows the barrel more, but less than bourbon. Canadians add to that lower proof corn and rye based whiskies for flavor.

    What throws the SM scotch snobs off is that they thought the flavor in blended scotch came only from the malt components. They consider grain whisky flavorless filler, not realizing the base actually has some significant flavors of its own, and is very much whiskey in its own right. It's not neutral spirits.

    (As an aside: That's what bugs me about people who call Canadian whiskies "adulterated"; everything in that bottle is whiskey, dang it! I may prefer bourbon, but that's no excuse to denigrate a legit whisky style!)

 

 

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