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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish blended whisky

I'm in the mood to empty out my world whisky samples this month. So the only bourbon or scotch posts will be within the next several days. After that it's all India, Spain, Sweden (not Mackmyra!), and American malt. But I'mma start out with South Africa.

Kristen's previous job as [REDACTED] used to require international travel, which of course required me to request that she visit Duty Free shops. But by 2014, there wasn't much of interest being sold via Travel Retail. This resulted in easier, cheaper requests. In December of 2014 it was simple: something from Three Ships and Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition. And because she tolerates this shit, she is awesome.

I'd tried Three Ships 10 year old single malt in 2013, and had enjoyed it. By 2014 it had sold out. So the Three Ships options were very limited that year. There was a 5 year old blend and a Bourbon Cask Finish blend. I went with the latter, probably because it was cheaper. I opened the bottle promptly, then kept it at my in-laws' home, where I enjoyed it slowly over 3 years. Today's sample was taken from the bottom third of the bottle.

Though the distillery has mixed scotch whisky into its products, this is the "first 100% South African whisky" according to the official website.
Distillery: James Sedgwick Distillery
Brand: Three Ships
Ownership: Distell Group Limited
Region: Wellington, South Africa
Age: 3.5 years
Maturation: 3 years in (probably refill) American oak casks, then six months in first-fill ex-bourbon casks from Louisville, KY
Bottling date: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

I'm out of bubbly water, so in lieu of a highball I'm drinking the whisky neat in a tumbler. There's less heat and a lower turpentine quotient than Dewar's White, JW Red or Cutty. Plenty of grain whisky bumping around in the glass, but it's all softened by those bourbon casks. Lots of vanilla and sugar.

As expected, the whisky gains structure once in a glencairn. The nose has butterscotch, Nilla wafers and almond extract. Smaller notes of lime juice, flowers and salty broth float about. It's the crossroads between blended scotch and blended Canadian whisky. Lots of vanilla in the palate, as well as peach candy and Milk Duds, but it's not too sweet. It has actual mouthfeel, and an alcohol bite throughout. The lightly candied finish shows more caramel than vanilla. But it also has a sour/bitter blendy note that doesn't mix well with the heat.

Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish (3SBCF, because I'm lazy) is a simple thing. It has more heft than a Canadian blend, while fully flexing that BCF. The nose is the highlight. The palate is fine, probably comparable to Chivas 12, but the finish is where it starts to unravel.

It's doubtful that 3SBCF was designed for the glencairn experience, but it does fare decently in a tumbler and/or on the rocks which is important for its product type. James Sedgwick Distillery can design a $20 blend as well as the scotch behemoths. That may sound like faint praise, but consider the size of the $20 blend marketplace, and know this is no small accomplishment.

Availability - South Africa and the Pacific (maybe?)
Pricing - ~20USD
Rating - 75