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Three Ships 5 Year Old

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Three Ships 5 Year Old

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Three Ships 5 Year Old

The Three Ships brand comes courtesy of the James Sedgwick distillery in Wellington, South Africa. Captain James Sedgwick sailed into South Africa in 1850, set up a trade business and purchased this distillery in 1886. This particular blend, launched in 1991, is an unusual mix of both South African and Scotch whiskies - we rarely see whiskies from different countries blended together.

The colour is a bright yellow gold. On the nose, some very sweet peat with citrus and brine. Red apples, lemon/lime, heather honey, strawberry cream and Mackintosh toffee. Coal and tar in the background creating a slightly medicinal profile. Very meaty and complex. A drop of water brings the peat forward (which is less Islay and more Highland).

On the palate, the peat takes a bit of a backseat to caramel and vanilla, but there are loads of spice here (black pepper); it gets hotter the longer you hold it in the mouth. Mocha with salted caramel! Again, more lemon. Extremely complex, almost challenging. Water smooths out the spice and brings everything together very nicely.

The finish keeps the spices rolling with the peat - it's a little chalky (and maybe slightly sulphurous?) and very long. This is one of the most celebrated world whiskies available, winning World's Best Blended Whisky in the 2012 World Whiskies Awards, and scoring 93 from Jim Murray. It's pretty unforgettable: peaty and rich while still retaining a youthful vibrancy. At times it feels like the different elements are crashing together a little too clumsily, but nevertheless this is a rewarding dram.


This is an interesting whisky, blended from Scotch and South African spirits. The nose is peaty and a touch sweet, with caramel, dusty grain and slightly juicy grape and apple. Very subtle and not terribly complex, but appealing nonetheless.

Good presence in the mouth, with juicy malt and hard, spicy grains overlaid by a sheen of peat. There's a surge of late bitterness that takes some getting used to. Keep in mind this is a 5 year old blend; expect it to have some bite and be somewhat rough around the edges. It finishes with a nice peaty fade

Balance-wise, I feel this will be a lot better after a few more years. The bitterness at the back of the tongue holds things back. Good mouthfeel, though. Interestingly, I added half a shot of Auchentoshan 12 to a glass of Three Ships and the result was far better than either whisky was to begin with.

Overall, this is a nice peaty blend. It would be interesting to compare it head-to-head with Islay Mist 8 year old. Comparing from memory, Islay Mist is smoother but Three Ships has a bigger body.

I have a bottle but haven't cracked it yet - looking forward to doing so and comparing my notes with yours!

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