Bain’s Cape Mountain Whiskey

Maker: James Sedgewick Distillery, Wellington, Cape Winelands, Western Cape, South 2016-02-05-22.26.42.jpg.jpegAfrica

Style: Single grain whisky (100% maize)

Age: NAS (4-5 y/o)

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $30

Appearance: Medium gold with medium, evenly spaced legs.

Nose: Roasted sweet corn, corn syrup, sweet hay, cardamom.

Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Caramel, amaretto, then burn. Opens up and gets fruity with water. Wild cherry, candy fruit slices.

Finish: Bubblegum, plum, then burn the rest of the way. A little less fruity and hot with water but otherwise the same.

Parting words: “World whisky”, i.e. whisky made outside of the five traditional whisky-making countries (Scotland, Ireland, Canada, US, Japan), is getting a lot of attention. New distilleries in Sweden, Australia, Taiwan, India and elsewhere are launching their products in the US and getting written about. James Sedgewick distillery is getting attention too, but it’s hardly new. It was founded in 1886 in the heart of South African wine country. Their Three Ships line is what they are best known for, but Bain’s appears to be their only product available for sale in the US.

It was a surprise to me. Before opening, I had expected it to taste like a Scotch grain whiskey or an Irish blend but it didn’t resemble either of those. The nose was very similar to a Canadian whisky but the palate was closer to a high rye bourbon with its bubble gum and caramel flavors. I bought it as a novelty but I could see Bain’s easily entering my regular rotation. It mixes OK, but I like it too much neat to use it for cocktails too much. Unlike many other world whiskies entering the US, Bain’s is very affordable at $30. All that adds up to a big recommendation.

The Exclusive Malts- Cambus, 1988

Maker: Cambus, Cambus, Clackmannanshire, Scotland, UK (Diageo)

Style: Grain whisky

Age: 26 y/o

ABV: 48.1%

Price: $180 (K & L)

Thanks to Marshall for this sample.

Appearance: Old gold with thick, very slow legs.

Nose: Old oak, butterscotch pudding, serrano chili, alcohol

Palate: Banana pudding, then burn. With water the burn and banana fades into creamy vanilla custard.

Finish: Sweet and custardy, banana cream pie. Similar with water but with oak on the back end.

Parting words: Cambus was one of the first grain whisky distilleries in Scotland, and possibly the first to use a column (aka Coffey or patent) still. Its early history is fuzzy, but it may have been founded in 1806. What is known for certain is that it began at its current site in 1836 and was one of the founding members of Distiller’s Company Limited (DCL) a corporate ancestor of Diageo. When UDV (one of Diageo’s parents) was formed in 1993, Cambus was shuttered. This being Scotch, Cambus-distilled grain whisky has hung around for a long time.

A little ironically, The Exclusive Malts bottled this grain (not malt) whisky as a part of a big batch of vintage single cask Scotches they released last year. This one is the oldest. The others are all mid 1990s vintage. They include casks from nearby Deanston, Ben Nevis, Glen Keith, Glen Garioch, and Allt-A-Bhainne (no, that last one isn’t made up).

I love Twitter. One of the reasons is that it enables me to meet whiskey enthusiasts from all over the world and chat with them. One of the persons I’ve met that way is Marshall. We met in person back around Christmas (or was it Thanksgiving?) and he generously gave me a sample of this at that time. Earlier this week I was thinking of a special Scotch to review for the Friday before Burns Night and this one seemed perfect. It is delicious. It’s also surprisingly bourbon-like, specifically it’s like old bottles of Old Taylor, Very Old Barton or Old Charter Proprietor’s reserve (slope-shoulder Louisville version) that I’ve had. Big butterscotch and tropical fruit flavors, but perfectly balanced with wood, sweetness and vanilla. $180 isn’t chump change but it’s not unreasonable for a whisky of this quality and age from a closed distillery. Cambus 1988 is recommended.


Maker: Compass Box, Edinburgh, Scotland, UKwpid-hedonism_bottle.jpg

Distillers vary by batch but often includes whisky from : Cameron Bridge (Fife), Carsebridge, Cambus , Port Dundas or Dumbarton.

Style: Blended Grain Scotch Whisky

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $110

Appearance: Light gold with long moderately thick legs.

Nose: Vanilla, woodruff, white pepper, persimmon.

Palate: Medium sweet and full bodied. Vanilla pudding, alcohol, toffee, caramel, pecan.

Finish: Medium hot, creamy and herbaceous. Lasts a long time and gets sweeter as it goes.

Parting words: Grain whisky is Scotch whisky made from a grain other than malted barley. That grain can be anything, but wheat and corn are most common. It is distilled in a column still to a higher ABV than malt whisky, which is distilled in pot stills. Grain whisky is most commonly used to blend with single malt whisky to create blended Scotch. The malt component is used to give flavor to blends, while the grain is used to fill it out and round it off to create a very drinkable spirit.

Scotch grain whiskies are rarely bottled on their own, but Compass Box has decided to make this one a part of its core range. It’s round and rich with lots of character, giving the lie to the assertion that column distillation only produces bland, thin whisky (of course, bourbon gives the lie to this assertion as well). Aged mostly in ex-bourbon casks, it is a rich and complex as most single malts, if not richer. This is a wonderful whisky that is delicious all the way around. It’s expensive, though, and that keeps it out of the highly recommended category. Compass Box Hedonism is recommended.