Good things come to those who wait. And boy, have I been waiting… It has been almost two years since I wrote this post asking/pleading/demanding that Distell let Andy Watts release some of the treasures hidden away in the warehouses at the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, Western Cape.
And then earlier in the year, during a late night Twitter conversation with Marsh Middleton, where we were petitioning Distell to release some single cask offerings, I launched the #DistellAreYouListening hashtag on Twitter which generated a fair amount of activity. And I’m glad to say that they HAVE listened!
Three Ships has launched its very first Single Malt, Single Cask release! You can’t even begin to imagine how ecstatic I am about this. I’ve been very fortunate over the last few years to sample one or two work-in-progress samples from the distillery and they have been spectacular. Now the wait is over and whisky lovers everywhere will be in a position to taste sheer magic.
One Special Cask
The marketing team at Distell created this video, starring our favourite master distiller, which gives a great overview of how the Single Cask PX Finish came about.
Three Ships 10yo Single Malt Single Cask PX Finish
Once Andy had received the green light to go ahead with a Single Cask release he then had the difficult task of reviewing his experiments at the distillery and selecting the one that would bear the title of South Africa’s first Single Cask whisky. Eventually he settled on the whisky being released today.
The whisky for this release was taken from some of the Single Malt stock that Andy had been working on for the 2016 release – yup, read more about it further on. The whisky was distilled in 2005 and spent the first eight years and ten months maturing in American oak and then spent a further fourteen months in a Pedro Ximenez sherry cask, hence the monicker “PX Finish”.
My Impressions of the PX Finish
Caught up in the launch proceedings, I did not take detailed tasting notes of the PX Finish, they will follow later. But let me say this…
The 10 year old PX Finish is a superb whisky! All the components are so well integrated – the use of older American oak casks, the vibrancy of the PX cask, the accelerated aging process thanks to our South African climate. All of these factors, under the guidance of the brilliant master distiller, have been woven together to produce a single malt that is in perfect balance. The subtle smoke doesn’t dominate, the dryness helps focus the flavours, the finish lingers impressively long for a PX, the mouth-feel is full. It is sweet, but not cloyingly so, with stewed fruits mingling comfortably with the oak and smoke.
The Japanese have the concept of “Wa” which roughly translated into English means “group harmony”. The definition on Wikipedia reads as “It implies a peaceful unity and conformity within a social group, in which members prefer the continuation of a harmonious community over their personal interests.” And that is what you have in this whisky. All the components work together to create that “Wa” – none dominate, instead they integrate together to form something beautiful.
Facts and Figures
Number of bottles: 800
Maturation: 8 years 10 months in American oak casks, then 14 months in a PX sherry cask
Age Statement: 10 years old
Alcohol strength: 46.2% ABV
Colour: Natural colour
Chill Filtration: No, it is un-chillfiltered
The Master’s Collection
Things get even better! The Three Ships brand are introducing what they call The Master’s Collection. Each year a new, limited edition version of Three Ships will be released. Will it continue with different single cask finishes? Like a Pinotage Cask Finish for example? Or will it be a different age statement? Time will tell.
Where To Buy
These bottles are going to fly off the shelves! As news broke on Twitter of the release, the queue of folks wanting to get their hands on a bottle has grown longer. This is one whisky you shouldn’t “Umm” and “Aah” about for too long.
Release Date: 27 October 2015 at noon online
Recommended Retail Price: R850
Where to Buy: Initially only online at www.themasterscollection.co.za and www.vinoteque.co.za. Then it will be available at the Whisky Brother shop in Hyde Park, and Norman Goodfellows in Illovo.
Three Ships Single Malt Here To Stay From 2016
More good news! Unlike the limited releases of 2003 and 2010-2012, the Single Malt will now be a permanent addition to the fleet, rounding out the Select, 5yo, and Bourbon Cask expressions. It should be released around March 2016 at a recommended retail price of around R500. And here’s a scoop:
The new Three Ships 10 year old will be released every year as a vintage, starting with the 2005 vintage. Every year, a new vintage will be released -containing only whisky distilled in that year – each differing slightly from its predecessors, no two vintages will be the same.
I am so very glad that #DistellAreYouListening has transformed into #DistellAreListening. It gives me a good feeling knowing that as large as they are, they do appear to be listening to what their consumers are asking for. Now the doors have been opened and I truly hope they stay open and we get to see a steady stream of Three Ships single cask releases over the next few years. I know that I’ll be at the front of the queue, asking Andy & Co to take my money!
To the team behind the whisky, led by Andy, I raise this dram to you all. Keep on pioneering…