WhiskyBrother is the “Royal Mile Whiskies” of South Africa. What started as a small, boutique whisky store in Johannesburg is now an internationally recognised whisky destination, with a world-class bar and some of the best selection this side of the equator.
When they’re not scooping up awards and making it look easy, they’re wooing the local whisky nerds with exclusive bottlings from Scotch heavyweights like Highland Park, BenRiach, and The Arran, with a few surprises from newcomers Kilchoman, Wolfburn and even Kavalan.
This time around I got my greedy mitts on something I couldn’t pass up, particularly when I still shoulder the burden of being Compass Box’s biggest fanboy on the African continent: A single cask edition of Great King St. Artist’s Blend. Essentially the same concoction as the original, but married for 14 months in a former Clynelish (!) cask and bottled at a much more exciting 49% ABV. Cannot wait!
Ha ha ha, oh dear. There’s no chance I won’t be accused of cheating here, given prior knowledge of that Clynelish cask… but just like the original Artist’s Blend, this stuff positively reeks of Clynelish.
Wax? Check. Zest? Of course. Whipped cream? Yup! Marmalade – oh, that’s new. This version of the beloved ‘Blend is fruitier and richer, not surprising given it’s dancing near 50% territory. Where the original is a sort of “Glenmorangie-orange with grain”, this one has a lovely, apricot spiciness that dominates on top of those beloved Clynelish notes.
Oh yes… yes. This is a real wax monster. I found it quite surreal pouring from a bottle so familiar and then being greeted with a liquid this strong. And the first few sips really are thunderous, slapping your tastebuds out of sober complacency.
You get a lot of the same experience as the original, but again dialed up to eleven. A dry orange rind, rich vanilla, coriander and pepper – and the fruit on the nose manages to bulldoze its way to the back of the palate.
To nobody’s surprise, the whisky that was made for mixing handles water just as well, if not better, in the form of its stronger African cousin. The spice dissolves away, leaving that marmalade behind – and becoming dangerously sippable at lower strength. More floral, less waxy. A different drink, really – I could have it either way.
Just perfect. Endless without the water, and remarkably oily – with a leather mustiness that reminds me of… old whisky 🙂
At worst, this expression could be described as a more generous version of The Artist’s Blend, clocking in at an extra 6% for added punch. At best, it’s the Artist’s Blend with a dash of rich, fruity potency, a more luxurious texture and a really fantastic, leather-and-wax finish. Excellent selection by WhiskyBrother.
I did some due diligence and promptly turned a dram into a Highball, which is likely the best highball ever made (if I do say so myself) – again, great for mixing assuming you can resist just drinking it neat!