In my previous post where I outlined what value in whisky means to me, as well as in previous videos on the channel, I’ve always been honest and pretty realistic about my whisky budget. I try to stick to no more than £75 for a particular bottle where I can and historically have kept this below £50 as recently as 5 years ago.
I still feel that budgeting in whisky is important; saying that it’s pretty important in any walk of life. Debt is never going to be a fun ride so I don’t overstretch my means and I’m OK with that. I’ve still fallen foul of FOMO this year despite saying I wouldn’t, and have now officially entered a self imposed 3 month whisky buying embargo. This is in part due to a purchase driven by the aforementioned FOMO. This not only stretched my whisky budget, it pummeled it into a fine powder which was then reformed into a paste and used to sculpt a copy of Michelangelo’s David – before finally being smashed with a wrecking ball.
I spent the most that I have ever spent on a single bottle of whisky. Ever. I’ve been lucky enough to have been gifted special and costly bottles by relatives and colleagues previously for various life events that otherwise would have been out of my reach, but this time? This time it was all me and my debit card.
The whisky in question is the latest release from Wemyss Malts, ‘Untold Riches’ a 28yr old sherried single Malt from Bunnahabhain distillery. Wemyss (pronounced Weems) are a well renowned blender and independent bottler. Whilst ‘Untold Riches’ does make me think of piles of cash á la Scrooge McDuck, it does give you a sense of what’s to come too.
A Bunnahabhain of such an age is always a joy to see. Come to think of it any whisky of this age will always get some attention. They’ll also be at the higher end of a pricing spectrum that in itself has increased considerably in the last 5 years. Let’s first take a look for a second at some other Bunnahabhain releases from an official bottling point of view which theoretically is where aged stocks will be found more consistently. The closest age comparison is the 30yr old. The 30 retails at an eye-watering £500. ‘It’s 2 years older though’ I hear you cry. In that case remove 3 years and the 25 sits around the £270 mark.
So based on the above what does Untold Riches cost? £250? £300? £400? No – Untold Riches retails at £149.95. One hundred and forty-nine pounds and ninety five pence. Now that (comparatively) is a bargain and another example of why I prefer using independent bottlers.
So yes I landed £150 on a bottle of whisky for the first time in my life. I broke out into a cold sweat as I hovered on ‘Pay Now’ and was positively shaking when the confirmation email came through, but there was also a thrill that I’ve not experienced for a while. I’ve played it safe for a while in terms of budget and bottle buys, sticking to what I know and who I know does it well for what I know is a good price. But let’s be frank, £150 is still a huge sum of money for a bottle of whisky and isn’t always going to be within everyone’s ability to purchase. I feel lucky to currently be in a position to do so and I had the gut feeling that I couldn’t overlook this.
Untold Riches marks a significant milestone for Wemyss. This is their first ever vatted single malt release on any scale. Their core range consists of blended malts such as the Hive, and Spice King, but they also bottle single casks under various descriptive labels. This 28yr old does in fact have whisky from casks from as far back as 1987 which even precedes my own birth year (just). A vatting of 31 casks across hogsheads and sherry butts bring together this deeply copper hued single malt which has been bottled at 49.1% and is non-chill filtered and presented at natural colour.
When the bottle arrived I was sorely tempted to bury it in a cupboard and forget about it for a while given how many other open bottles I have on the go at the minute. If I did this with every new bottle I’d end up being some sort of whisky Smaug, so I decided to live in the moment and pop the cork.
The packaging and bottle itself look very nice and I like how the exact cask breakdown and % they contributed to the final product is shown. One thing to point out (that you may have noticed already either from the pictures here or online) is that there is a slight mistake on the labels. Mistakes are part of human nature and that Bunnahabhain has been misspelled as ‘Bunnahabain’ is an example of that. The importance of proof reading is key and possibly amplified for such a high profile release, but genuinely; I don’t care. Not one bit. Bunnahabhain is difficult to spell at the best of times and I’ve got to give credit to Wemyss how they’ve handled it. They’ve decided not to throw all of the labels and boxes away and live with it. If they’d had everything reprinted and re-shipped, this would have an impact on both their carbon footprint as well as a wider environmental impact.
Wemyss Malts ‘Untold Riches’ Bunnahabhain 28yr Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Natural Colour – Non Chill Filtered – RRP £150
As mentioned above, this release has been put together using a parcel of 31 casks made up of hogsheads and sherry butts.
The colour is a deep copper. A bit reminiscent itself of old but well looked after wooden furniture, which considering how much old but cared for wood was used in the making of this dram it seems quite appropriate.
I hope you’ve bought your ticket because we’re boarding the sweet train. The nose is initially very rich and instantly comforting carrying with it a really rich and oily sweetness that reminds me of fresh fairground/seaside doughnuts, still warm and covered in sugar. There’s also old, worn and softened leather. Briefly back to baked goods there’s Chinese cocktail honey buns too which I’m now craving as I write. Over time it opens up to browning butter in a hot pan. There’s something of a comforting kitchen vibe here with polished wood, warm chocolate chip cookies, walnuts and Bakewell tart with it’s marzipan and tart cherry too followed by orange zest.
There’s a lot going on here but the layers are so well aligned that the richness doesn’t overpower or overlap. This is the kind of dram that you can sit and nose for hours, which in this case I did.
The consistency on the palate is lovely and oily and already slightly warming.
Back to the bakery where we’ve picked out some cinnamon buns from the counter. That chocolate is back but this time it’s a good quality dark chocolate alongside black earl grey tea, and in a different beverage direction – a flat white coffee. This coffee note comes in at the same time as some more traditional sherry flavours including fruit cake, brandy butter and honey roast nuts. Finally there’s treacle tart or possibly treacle/bonfire toffee.
I’m smiling as I write this as my gums are still warm and tingling many minutes into the long and warming finish that continues with that lovely ensemble of honeyed nuts and toffee from the palate.
This whisky is quite frankly a triumph. This is amplified by the fact that this is Wemyss’ first larger scale single malt release. This isn’t a small feat given the scale and skill required to put such a release together.
This was a joy to drink and screams quality from start to finish.
Fancy some tunes? The Malt Music for this dram is comes courtesy of Glaswegian post rock group Mogwai. Their music is all about deep and rich tones with an underlying bass led sense of presence. This song is one of their more recent releases – Dry Fantasy.
Holy Grail – Indiana Jones himself can only hope to find such a treasure.
Unbelievable – Among the best I’ve ever had. Must be tried at all costs.
Outstanding – One you should try to get hold of. Qualities in abundance.
Very Good – One to have on the shelf regularly. Provides consistent enjoyment.
Good – I’d happily drink this. One to buy at the right price.
Solid – No particular flaws but no wow factor either.
Fine – There to take the edge off. Good for highballs and won’t need much thought.
Meh – Somewhat flawed. More of a chore than a pleasure.
Oh Dear – Consistent flaws. Gets you where you’re going at the speed you want to get there.
Please Make it Stop – Not one to seek out. Hope for a gift receipt.