Review: Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select South African Single Malt Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

5 Years
Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distillers James Sedgewick Distillery (Wellington, South Africa) & Scottish Distiller

Three Ships Whisky is produced at James Sedgewick Distillery, in Wellington, South Africa. It’s the only South African whisky I’ve tasted, and it caught my eye because won some great awards at the IWSC and the WWA…the malt and the grain are distilled separately– the malt whisky in a copper pot still and the grain whisky in a continuous column still, and then combined and aged. The whiskies are aged separately and then combined, a bit like 40 Creek. This 5 year old version has a blend of both South African and Scotch Whisky.

Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: what a nose! Strong peaty character, with rich caramel and fruit – pear dominates. There’s also a bit of sour apple, likely a combination of the fruitiness and some of the sourness from the grains which are lingering in the background. Also present are vanilla, of a slightly creamy sort – almost like over-whipped cream. There are also slight spices….The nose makes me want to jump right into tasting, without even giving the nose a full appreciation. The peat is quite present and bold, yet controlled and integrated into the rest of the nose beautifully.

Taste: sweet start before the flavour ramps up, with the mouth heating as the peat gets bigger and becomes integrated into some oak spice. The fruitiness is integrated as well, as apples and pears appear, and dominate more as your mouth becomes accustomed to the peat. Finishes with some spice and heat – white pepper and cinnamon- before the peat fades, and then the fruit remains. It’s sweet, rich, full…superb.

Usually, before my tastings, I condition my palate with black coffee. However, during one of my tastings I had ice cream before -which resulted in less enjoyment of the whisky as the sweetness was sapped out – but it made me realize that the whisky, was, in fact, slightly salty. During my subsequent tasting the saltiness was also unmistakeable, which was an unexpected twist. The other interesting thing is that there is a bit of a sour character, almost like lemon, which tugs at the inside of your mouth. The whisky leaves the mouth with a bit more peat and a touch of oak tannin. Overall, it’s a great taste, although as I’ve drunk more I have wished for a touch more depth.

Finish: the heat dies down, the peat fades, and I am left with more of a fruity than a peaty character, contrary to what I expected. However, the fruit soon fades and remaining is nice peat lingering in your mouth. The finish is certainly evident in the mouth…chewable and enduring. I also love finishes that seem almost to cleanse the mouth once you’ve tasted the whisky, as this one does.

Certainly worth a dram or two!

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. $35? Yes please.