Water of Life – Vintage Malt Whisky Company
It is an age old practice for distilleries to sell barrels of their emissions to blenders and independent bottlers in a bid to create an additional revenue stream, with some distilleries eventually solely existing for that very purpose and others passing on casks, the particular flavour of which would not align with the characteristics of the brand.
Independent bottlers may or may not disclose the origin of the whiskies they use and while they are some dabbling in the creation of questionable bottom shelf quality, there are some fantastic independent bottlers with a varied portfolio and a quality approach. The latter of which get me excited when they go for more niche products and bottle their drops at full-flavoured cask strength, which often offers the opportunity to sample rarer variations in an affordable manner.
Vintage Malt Whisky Company was founded at the beginning of the nineteen nineties with the objective to source selected drops to distribute them via independent wine and spirit importers throughout the world – an approach that proved to be successful and lead VMWC to establish itself on the forefront of Scotland’s leading independent bottlers.
VMWC piqued my interest as they have a few Islay expressions with quite declamatory names. Case in point: The award winning Smoke Stack, which is – as the telling name suggests – a richly peated blend of drops from both Islay and the Highlands, with smokiness being the common denominator.
What tickles the nostrils is a nice melange of sweet Ardbeg-esque peat, which then takes a left turn into iodine territory with citrussy highlights.
On the palate, I quite like that in terms of peatiness, the spectrum from sweet to oily is displayed with a smoky backbone that is pierced by floral notes and honeyed ginger. The elongated finish simmers the drop down to its essence, i.e. oils and smoke.
Despite the heavy hitting name, I found the Smoke Stack to be a nice introduction for the uninitiated to forage into the beauty that Islay has to offer.
Islay Storm is another peaty expression, the nose of which is firmly on the phenolic end of the spectrum, counterpointed by a maritime saltiness. On the top of mouth, a lovely balance between sweet peat, vanilla, spicy nuances and iodine is achieved, which seamless transitions into a fantastic finish, with waves of smoke reverberating and leaving one lusting for more.
Vintage Malt Whisky Company’s flagship brand is Finlaggan Islay Single Malt, bottlings of which have incarnated in many different expressions.
The Finlaggan Old Reserve is more complex compared to the aforementioned two expressions as the bouquet is more subtle when it comes to medicinal notes weaving through honeyed nutty highlights. The aromas hint at the complex melange that manifests on the palate, which peat smoke serving as the foundation on which malty cereal flavours dance with gingery spices before seamlessly transitioning into a bittersweet finish, which bookends the experience with a toasty oakiness, menthol and minerals. Delicious, affordable and a great daily sipper, which I can see to be a gateway scotch for peat lovers to be.
The Finlaggan Port Finish is an example for the variations the Vintage Malt Whisky Company produces, with this expression resulting in adding a wine-like sweetness which blends in with the smoky, coastal peat that forms the DNA of Finlaggan and on the nose, adds nice nuances of red berries to the mix.
Flavour-wise, the Port Cask dominates the palate and borderline overwhelms the peatiness, which adds another interesting dimension. The finish is satisfyingly smoky and seals a complex experience rounded out with raisiny highlights and slight notes of dark chocolate.
Cannot wait to try Vintage Malt Whisky Company’s other expressions.
image from company website