We are back at Cut Your Wolf Loose. As well as being the best venue in town, CYWL is also the UK’s distributor [and effectively the UK’s only retailer] of Scotch Universe bottlings.
Michel is also the man behind [at least] three independent bottlers. In chronologically established order, they are:
- [Keeper of] Best Dram [WB]
- Scotch Universe [est. 2018]
- Old Friends – ‘exclusive single cask bottlings‘
Scotch Universe typically deploys astronomical-like number codes on its labels to indicate [potential] distillery, age, cask type etc.
Scotch Universe is known for its tasteful cask finishes. Of tonight’s six whisky flight, one has seen a rum finish whilst the other five have enjoyed wine/grape finishes.
[Blair Athol] 2013/2021 08yo Scotch Universe Box Nebula I 55.5% WB85.13
Finish: 1st-fill amontillado sherry hogshead.
- N: The [subtle] amontillado effect makes me think this would go well with food.
- T: There’s some carbohydrate sweetness, but ultimately, this is a sour mash-bill affair which brings an appealing crisp fresh oily grain-faithful savoury-sour chew.
- F: The least cask-invasive whisky of the flight, that crisp sour freshness is retained. This has a good shape to it also.
- C: It might play hard to get in relation to the sweeter offerings to come, but there are no whisky faults here. This one sticks in the memory.
Scores 85 points
Finish: 1st-fill rioja wine barrique.
- N: Not dissimilar to the Blair Athol albeit sweeter with a subtle pong. A strong example of Scotch Universe’s considered cask flavouring program.
- T&F: More easygoing than the Blair Athol with a greasy grapey raisin arrival and a continuation of that subtle cask pong.
- C: An approachable malt and another great example of ex-wine cask utilisation.
Scores 85 points
[Tobermory] 2008/2022 13yo Scotch Universe Pegasus VIII 56.5% WB86.48
Uncle Bulgaria’s favourite tipple, this Tobermory saw some maturation time in a 1st-fill Caribbean rum barrel. Due to trade politics, we are told, rum casks tend to go from the US to Scotland & Europe first before ending up in the Caribbean – typically tired – for rum maturation. As a result, it’s harder to source decent rum casks directly than it is whisky casks. To get around this, many companies source rum and age or finish them in Scotland/Europe.
- N: Tropical fruits promoted by the cask.
- T&F: Grassy, oaky, and malty, the rum influence is observed throughout. With [Famous Grouse-like] column still/blend vibes at times, there’s a sustaining warmth, not heat.
- C: Worth having if you haven’t got a rum-cask-matured single malt on your shelf.
Scores 85 points
[Knockdhu] 2012/2022 09yo Scotch Universe Monoceros II 57.5% WB85.77
Port tends to work with whisky and be received more favourably than ‘straight’ non-fortified wine.
- N: First-fill ruby port cask finish? No shit! If the aromas don’t give it away, the salmon-pink colour should.
- T: This is a tad overly sweet for my liking but a soft funk helps its cause.
- F: A fun one that tips the spirit/cask balance somewhat yet holds up to further scrutiny.
- C: Typically and rightly popular.
Scores 85 points
Is it any surprise the most popular dram of the night is also the sweetest? To be fair, there’s a similar quality bar throughout the whole flight.
[Teaninich] 2010/2021 Scotch Universe Theia I 52.8% WB86.09
In the spirit of ‘I Am A Distillery‘ game as featured on Dramface podcasts, ‘I am situated next to a castle’ could be one clue. Another could be ‘I’m the only distillery with an operational hammer mill & mash filter’ – in other words, no mash tun [SW].
- N: ‘Paper’ is my first note. Cutting to the chase, we’ve all sorts from a single malt with a tasteful finish in a 1st-fill PX hogshead. “You can smell Johnnie Walker Black”, is an observation I made in hindsight, but still,…
- T&F: Firm, vegetal greasy, and resinous, plus we’ve the usual suspects that a fairly active PX cask can bring, and yet Teaninch’s distillery traits are also in evidence – fresh caramel leathery sherried nutty [nut oils] peppery maltiness.
- C: I’ll stick with the conclusion I came to the first time I tried this [WLP86]: ‘This would be a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with this idiosyncratic distillery. An ideal release with which to set your Teaninich profile bar to‘. I’ll stick with the same score too.
Scores 86 points [again]
[Clynelish] 2010/2021 11yo Scotch Universe Orion I 52.4% WB85.72
Finish: 1st-fill bordeaux wine barrique.
- N: Sulphur is of course divisive, typically when borne from [sherry/grape] casks, but it’s a different ball game when it comes from the spirit. Note-wise all I wrote was fruity barley and red onion? I shall have more to say about this bottle another time as I grab a bottle [£102].
- T: Initially, I observe this one’s youthful spicy pancake quality yet there’s some fair ageing here too. Spot on neat, water is not required with dram #6.
- F: Transitioning from distillate to cask, beyond the [bordeaux] wine flavouring, you can pick up on the distillate-derived waxiness though the barrique won’t completely let up.
- C: A spin on your typical Clynelish and more wine-on-whisky success.
Scores 87 points
The Clynelish was the stand-out dram of the night [for me], but all of tonight’s whiskies have been of similar quality.
More? There’s always more.
Glasgow Distillery 2018/2021 03yo Ob. Distillery Exclusive Sauternes Barrique #18/994 [btl #457/486] 53.7% WB74.75
Why did I choose this? First of all, I was suitably impressed by the first Glasgow release I tried earlier in the year [WLP83]. Furthermore, I’ve long been a fan of sauternes cask influence on single malt.
- N, T, F: We start with a very pleasing peated [50ppm] sauternes-sweet bouquet. It doesn’t possess the most convincing body and is top-note-reliant but greater/longer ageing, in general, will rectify these issues. It’s a crisp peated spirit, mind, and this cask ain’t bad either.
- C: With quality peated spirit underlying, wise cask management, and a selective approach, the future looks bright.
Scores 83 points
With thanks to Paul at CYWL.
Further reading: scotch-universe.co.uk