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Ship Ahoy! Cutty Sark Whisky Arrives in South Africa

Cutty Sark Available in South Africa

The Cutty Sark blended whisky has been around for a while – created by the Berry Brothers way back in 1923. It’s hard not to miss the white ship on the bright yellow label when glancing at the selection of whiskies at the bar or on the shelves at your bottle store. It turns out that the label was originally intended to be beige in colour but due to a printer’s mistake a bright yellow sample was sent to the makers and they liked it so much the yellow stayed.

I got in touch with Nick Havers, Cutty Sark’s Brand Manager for South Africa, and Candice Baker, the Cutty Sark brand ambssador in SA and asked them a few questions about the move to bring Cutty Sark to SA:

WTF: Why has it taken so long for Cutty Sark to reach us in South Africa?
NH: Cutty Sark was in the market approximately 15 years ago. It was bought in by a key account as Berry Brothers had no footprint in South Africa. In 2010 The Edrington Group (TEG – owners of prestigious brands such as The Famous Grouse, The Black Grouse, Highland Park and The Macallan) did a deal with Berry Brothers and Rudd and exchanged The Glenrothes for the Cutty Sark brand. TEG reworked the brand and gave it a makeover. Rgbc is TEG’s distributor locally and we feel there is a strong need for Cutty Sark in a market like South Africa.

WTF: Who is the target demographic for this whisky?
NH: Cutty Sark is a refreshingly light and easy drinking style of whisky. As a result we would like to target new or younger whisky consumers and of course novice female whisky consumers. The smooth accessible taste makes it a very easy whisky to drink and very easy for new whisky consumers to get into the category. This will also offer a refreshing alternative to seasoned whisky consumers as Cutty mixes incredibly well with water, soda water, lemonade and Appletiser.

WTF: Can you tell us which whiskies go into making the Cutty Sark blend? And at what ratio/percentage?
CB: The lead malts that are featured The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and Tamdhu. (The ratio is a secret that remains with the master blender Kirsteen Campbell.) Maturation wise: we use a high proportion of American Oak casks in our maturation – these casks have previously held bourbon or sherry – which gives Cutty it’s light flavour profile dominated by caramel, citrus and vanilla. The ratio is 4:1 (American:Spanish).

WTF: Will we be getting more of the Cutty Sark range into SA, like the 12, 15, 18, 25 year old and Tam O’Shanter? If so, any idea when?
NH: Not at this stage. The focus remains purely on the Cutty Sark original as the brand develops and build equity we will look to bring in the higher aged expressions in time.

WTF: As you stated, Cutty Sark stands well on its own, but is also suited for cocktails. Can you give us a few cocktail ideas for those new to whisky?
NH: Cutty Sark is perfectly suited for the South African sun and is made to be mixed. Offering whisky drinkers an extremely refreshing alternative, Cutty is best served with Soda Water, Ginger Ale, lemonade or Appletiser.

CB: Here are 2 whisky cocktail recipes which work really well:

2 shots Cutty Sark
1 shot sweet vermouth
1 dash Bitters
1 shot dry vermouth
Perfect: ½ shots sweet and dry vermouths
Stir all ingredients with cubed ice for 20 seconds, strain into chilled cocktail glass.

2 ½ shots Cutty Sark Scotch Whisky
½ shot Drambuie Liqueur
Stir all ingredients with cubed ice for 20 seconds, strain over fresh cubed ice in short glass.

My Tasting Notes

Colour Very pale. Straw coloured
Nose Grassy and floral – almost perfumed. I picked up a citrus twist and some green apple too.
Palate A hint of vanilla from the American Oak casks the whisky was matured in and traces of the citrus once again.
Finish Short, crisp finish that dries quickly. Quite refreshing.

Being a big fan of the peated Islay whiskies and more full-bodied drams I found the Cutty Sark to be a bit too light in flavour for my liking. This would have to be a summer dram for me, enjoyed around the pool when having friends over for a braai/barbecue. It will, however, make a decent introductory whisky for those wanting to start their whisky journey without totally overwhelming their senses or someone looking for a gentle whisky to enjoy with a mixer.

I hope that Cutty does well here in South Africa so that they start bringing in the aged expressions from the range – that’s where I believe Cutty Sark will really shine and come alive for me.

You should be able to find Cutty Sark in most bottle stores nationwide and sells for around R119 for a 750ml bottle. A few Rand more than the really cheap whiskies, but then it does taste better too.


(Thanks to the folks at rgbc for sending over a bottle of Cutty Sark for review. The source of the sample in no way affected the objectivity of my review.)

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