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Whisky Reviews

First Dibs At Two Wildmoor Blends: Wildmoor 23 Year Old Dark Moorland & Wildmoor 30 Year Old Rugged Coast

 

Wildmoor is going to be something special - just mark my words. Sometimes you can just feel it. Or it could also just be how much a highly regarded Scotch brand like William Grant & Sons have dedicated to its new blended Scotch creation Wildmoor.

William Grant & Sons has long focused on its sterling Scotch portfolio that counts renowned producers such as Balvenie and Glenfiddich, to smaller batch and more artisanal ones like Kininvie and Ladyburn, as well as newer distilleries such as Ailsa Bay - also keep in mind legendary's like Convalmore that has a seriously dedicated fanbase. Staples like Tullamore and Girvan also fill up its stables. Quickly you see that William Grant & Sons has a seriously stacked house with any number of heavy hitters each with its own profile. 

It's eye-catching then and also pretty telling that within just over a month after the Wildmoor brand was announced, its been a full rollout - the cadence of which is entirely impressive. This is a first for William Grant & Sons, and if you thought for a second this was on a whim - they've been squirrelling away seriously well-aged Scotch for decades in preparation for Wildmoor. Again, this is no side project - it's full focus.

 

 

And who do we have here today to guide us through the launch of Wildmoor but the very dapper Jyri Pylkkänen, the man in the tan suit. When I was asked if I would be interested in heading down to try the new Wildmoor - again, with all the weight mentioned above, it was a definite yes for me. What would this first foray for an established Scotch producer be like, curiosity certainly got this cat.

With full introduction underway - Wildmoor was inspired by the Scottish wild lands, with vast and diverse terrains, all of which work to shape Scotch as an iconic spirit enjoyed the world over. Wildmoor is thus a love letter to the home of Scotch. The idea here was also to shake things up - everyone's well aware that single malt Scotch has been having a field day, call it a field several decades even. But the origins of Scotch have always been rooted in the creation of blends - to skilfully layer various parcels of single malt and single grain in producing a single harmonious flavour that would be the essence of all that is Scotch.

And in this market, let's face it, it's not easy going against the grain and pushing blends. But with the sort of portfolio William Grant sits on - they figured they could nail it. After all, with an assortment of single malt and single grain distilleries - all that was missing was always a blended expression. And thus we have Wildmoor. Now who better to head up the blending than Master Blender Brian Kinsman, who has thus far had an impeccable track record with the likes of Glenfiddich. 

  

   

And so each of Wildmoor's 7 expressions would pay homage to an aspect of Scotland's terrain. Together, they would serve as a liquid flavour map of Scotland. Very romantic! For posterity, 3 of these Wildmoor's will form the core range - that's the 23 Year Old Dark Moorland, the 30 Year Old Rugged Coast and the 40 Year Old Black Mountain. Two more will be GTR exclusives - the 23 Year Old Waking Forest and 30 Year Old Tropical Coast; with the last two being Taiwan exclusives - 21 Year Old Heather Valley and 23 Year Old Ancient Moorland (also available in China).

Again, we're talking some serious blends here ranging from 21 to 40 years old, composed of Scotch from William Grant's stables. Like I said, this is going to be a serious contender, so the folks over at William Grant are rightly excited.

So today we're going to try the 23 Year Old Dark Moorland and the 30 Year Old Rugged Coast - let's go! 

Wildmoor Dark Moorland 23 Years Old, 42% ABV - Review

First up - Dark Moorland, this was blended from Highland and Speyside malt whisky as well as Lowland grain whisky. It's also aged in American and European oak, finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. 

 

Tasting Notes 

Colour: Golden Amber

Aroma: Nice hefty richness weaved in with some dried fruits of black raisins, plums and dates. It's backed up by a creme sweetness - this classic dried fruits and cream aroma. More on old leatherbound books, a honeyed quality too with just a few scribbles of magic marker. It's velvety and pretty expressive.

Taste: Medium-bodied sweetness - we've got caramel, little bit of spiciness, some soft peat to contrast with that. Touch of shoe polish, with also a light herbaceous mossy touch. The spice starts off unassuming but gradually builds into the finish. It's got a nice complexity here.

Finish: Clean and lightly dry which gives a nice contrast to the richer flavours from the palate. There's a subtle black tea note as well as some earthiness of mushrooms.

 

My Thoughts

Very nice! We're off to a good start - what stood out here was it's moderate richness that also came with balance and complexity. It's got big and bold flavours but delivered on a relatively lighter body, which makes it flavourful but at the same time not too heavy, keeping it very friendly and approachable. It's got presence but is still very much an easy and daily drinker.

It's exactly what a blend ought to be - cohesive interwoven layers that takes a new unified form of its own, but at the same time you don't want it to be too challenging or something you've got to think too hard about - do we really want something that has to be acquired taste? This is going to go down well with most anybody.

My Rating: 7.5/10 

Wildmoor Rugged Coast 30 Years Old, 42% ABV - Review

Next up, we've got the 30 Year Old Rugged Coast - this one's also finished in Oloroso Sherry casks, and is composed of Islay and Speyside sherried malts, amongst other things.

    

Tasting Notes

Colour: Amber

Aroma: Gentle aromatic peatiness, filled in with the sweetness of stewed peaches, and then topped with some clove spice. There's a good bit of power here, as well as some acidity.

Taste: More citrusy here, with some sweet liquorice candy and sweet black tea. The Islay peat is definitely here with some coastal sea salt. It's spicy with notes of dark chocolate - are we getting salted fudge here? Caramelised peaches too, with quite a bit of estery fruitiness that comes through aromatically as well. Really distinctively reminiscent of cream soda.

Finish: More of those earthy black tea notes, with a touch of tobacco leaves.

 

My Thoughts

This pounds in more richness, but again still very approachable. Who doesn't like salted caramel fudge and cream soda? This also nails that crowdpleaser profile, but what stood out was this added smoky Islay accent that elevated its complexity and gave the confectionary sweetness a smoked dimension. That said, this isn't one of those peat monsters that's medicinal or bitter - not even in the slightest. This is rich, sweet and with good depth, with some added complexity from the acidity and soft peatiness (if you're a peathead then you might want to put this through a smoker).

Again, it's demonstrated what a blend ought to do - take parts of various regional styles, and reconstruct them into something else altogether. To that end, this has done just that. It's big and rich, with more power and complexity, whilst remaining friendly and likeable.  

My Rating: 8/10

  

 

To complete the introduction, we were also given a trio of illustrative component malt and grain whiskies (note that this wasn't exactly what went into the Wildmoor, these were just illustrative of the blending process!) that helped to demonstrate that process of identifying specific single distillery profiles, and then how they would be deconstructed and reconstructed to create an entirely new profile that is at once vaguely similar but different.

 

Girvan Single Grain, 63.3% ABV - Aromas of green grass, field strawberries, pepper, a light banana candy, vanilla cream; gentle and bright on the nose. Punchier on the palate, heaps of vanilla, spices that linger, reminiscent of creme brulee. Finishes with light grassiness and wheatgrass.

Undisclosed Speyside Malt, ex-Bourbon, 54.2% ABV - Pretty fruity on the nose with apples, sweet lemons, lemon hard candy, malt, Christmas spices, and some muscat grapes. On the palate there's light honey notes and some pepper; it's more nuanced and layered here. Finishes with a hit of minerality and vanilla cream.  

Undisclosed Speyside Malt, ex-Sherry, 63.2% ABV - On the nose, spices, ripened red fruits, dates, slight peatiness and pepperiness. On the palate it's punchy but rather interesting with red fruits and a hit of polished oak, very minty too. Finished off rather bright.

The Last Word

All things considered, I was pretty impressed with both Wildmoor expressions - they both reminded me why we can't overlook the unique value of blends. The reality of the matter is that most blends we find today don't quite deliver that ability to create a completely distinct and singular profile that is at once tasty, cohesive and unidentifiably similar to any particular single malt or grain. But with some skill and quality components, it's possible to produce something not only unique, but also layered and full in flavour.

The two Wildmoor expressions shared that common trait of being unique and complex, but also approachable and with much potential as crowdpleasers - I really can't see anyone not enjoying them. They're big on flavour but easy on the palate. The 23 Year Old Dark Moorland would be more go to daily drinker, while I think the 30 Year Old Rugged Coast makes a nice gift.

   

@CharsiuCharlie