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Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky

Average score from 4 reviews and 5 ratings 83

Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky

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Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky

A single grain from South Africa, launched in 2009. In March 2013 it even won the title of world’s best single grain at the World Whisky Awards. It is produced by the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, by means of column stills. Then it matured for five years in first fill bourbon barrels. That is to say it matured for three years before being recasked in first fill bourbon barrels for another two years to extract extra flavours from the wood. The name is a reference to Andrew Geddes Bain, the man who built the Bains Kloof mountain pass in Wellington.

The nose is honeysweet as is to be expected from a single grain. Loads of vanilla and lemon zest. Toffee and some coconut, but also a basket full of almonds. A bit spicy. I would say rye bread. Warm custard.

It is wonderfully creamy on the palate with a wonderful spiciness that warms the mouth. Then the tastes arrive that I have just discovered as aromas on the nose. Vanilla custard and coconut (make that coconut milk) return. It reminds me of the better bourbon, in fact. Especially the spices.

On the (somewhat short) finish, the lemon zest returns, followed by the almond. But those spices! Those speak the longest.

A nice single grain best drunk with a cube of ice (I know, I know) when the sun shines or neat on a chilly autumn night.


I like a little variety in my single malt diet so I'm always on the lookout for expressions that are off the beaten path. Recently I was invited to a friends' place for a World Whisky tasting which was attended by a bunch of enthusiastic noobies.

In my role as overall whisky brand ambassador for the evening I had to do a bit of reading up on the expressions for the evening lest I got blind-sighted.

This expression is the first single grain whisky from South Africa out of The James Sedgwick Distillery located in Bainskloof Pass in Wellington (45 minutes from Cape Town).

Made from 100% wheat distilled in column stills the spirit is then matured for five years in first-fill bourbon casks. It's named after Andrew Geddes Bain, South Africa's most famous road engineer who was responsible for building the first roads in Wellington and bottled at 43%

Nose: Quite sweet. Bit bourbony. Must be all those first-fill casks. Licorice. Chocolate. Soft dates. Clove. Cinnamon. Oak. Banana. Men's aftershave. Candy floss. It's not bad. Column stills really produce some strong aromas. The chocolate is the strongest here.

Palate: That same mild chocolate. Marzipan. Cinnamon spices. Apricot. Assorted berries. Some wild. Some red. Some blu. Overall the palate's a bit weak in my opinion. I think a few additional percentage points would have really hit the spot.

Finish: Medium. Oily. That same mild chocolate.

It seems to have won a lot of awards. Maybe it was for earlier batches or I have no idea what a great whisky tastes like. I think it's not bad. Worth a try, that's for sure.


Now, this is something I never thought I'd find at the LCBO - a single grain whisky from South Africa! Then again, since they brought in the Three Ships 5 Year Old, I should have expected this one as well (though strange that they haven't brought in any Three Ships single malts?)

Both Three Ships and Bain's come from the James Sedgwick distillery in Wellington. It is named after Scottish-born Andrew Geddes Bain, who constructed the Bain's Kloof Pass, which the distillery is located near to. The water used at James Sedgwick flows through Cape Mountain.

This was launched in 2009, marketed to appeal to women, who were a growing consumer demographic in South Africa. The whisky is 100% corn (locally grown), matured for three years in first-fill bourbon barrels, then transferred to a second set of first-fill bourbon barrels for another two years.

The colour is a deep gold. On the nose, vanilla icing on a chocolate cake, with Mackintosh toffee, vanilla extract and buttered popcorn. Reminiscent of a Canadian whisky. Quite gentle, but a little one note - though water brings out more floral and herbal qualities.

On the palate, some mocha, more toffee and lots of honey. A wee bit of orange in there. Some spices, but again, they are gentle. Sweet - but not too sweet, it has some bite to it - and easy to drink. Water smooths things out even more.

The finish is smooth and chocolatey, with some mint and leather notes. I would love to try this side-by-side with the Century Reserve 21 Year Old, a Canadian 100% corn whisky, which this reminds me a lot of. I'm not a huge grain whisky fan (I generally find them rather sweet, unless they are very, very old) but this young five-year-old is quite nice. Winner of the World's Best Grain Whisky Award at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards.

Read your review and did the side by side with Bains and Century 21 as we speak. On the palate it would appear the C21 will kill the Bains, no, not so fast. Very similar, problem is about half way through I could not tell the difference with the exception that Bains is sweeter than the spicy C21. Interesting that both have the same price point (I picked up the Bains over a year ago discounted for $35 at the time) Your thoughts that they are similar are right on the money.

Conclusion...unless you are bottling the corn at 45% (H90) or more why bother aging it for 21 years?

@Astroke, well that's the question any master blender might ask themselves: at what age is the right time to bottle? Perhaps the Century 21 wasn't ready before 21 years old. Or maybe the age statement helped dictate a certain price point. Whereas, perhaps the South African was ready to blend and bottle at some other indeterminate age? Who can say? The magic of whisky is a conundrum.


Bain's is a single grain whisky from South Africa, a first for the country. It is double-matured for a total of five years in first-fill bourbon casks.

Nose: vanilla, toffee apple, accents of cinnamon spice. Quite a lot of fresh oak. Warm and inviting. One could be forgiven for mistaking this for Canadian whisky.

Taste: medium-bodied, supple and silky, become thick and tangy in the middle before some gentle spice picks up. Wonderfully smooth, yet there is an oily richness to the taste and mouthfeel that makes it more rewarding than is first apparent. A subtle yet complex flavour development.

Finish: All oak here. Long-lasting and consistent with the flavour.

Balance: A well-made whisky that rewards patience in the drinker. May be too subtle for some Scotch and bourbon drinkers. Lovers of Canadian whisky should find it very nice.

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