Cape Whisky Club: Back to Basics

It seems inevitable for whisky nerds to eventually move towards big, heavy whiskies – sherry bombs, peat monsters and cask strengthers. Which is fantastic – the tastebuds need a greater challenge, and the flavours that once were tastes to acquire become tastes to desire.

But I’ve been threatening to get “back to basics” for a while now. Which is to say, remembering what real Scotch whisky is all about – the foundations of what makes a solid dram without a heavy cask or peat or alcohol influence. That beautiful, magical, malty amber liquid that tastes like a little slice of Scotland, crisp and clean.

So this month we took a deep dive into some lighter, simpler whiskies that put malt and grain forward without the theatrics. And with a great mix of die-hard members and first-timers attending, the timing was perfect. Hit it!

The lineup

Aultmore 12 (46%), my absolutely favourite “clean and light” malt, and a first of the distillery for the Cape Whisky Club. Aultmore goes out of its way to remind you of the expertise that go into making a great Scotch. Utterly delicate, delicious and moreish.

Dewar’s 15 (43%), another Bacardi owned dram still fairly new to our shores and woefully underrated in face of stiff competition. A 15-year-old blend that doesn’t trade quality grain and malt distillate for gimmicks and drippy casks, Dewar’s 15 is unbelievable value and an absolutely buttery smooth drink.

Glenmorangie 18 (43%), a mature, thoughtful version of the much loved Glenmorangie 10. Not quite as malt-forward as its younger brother, but conservatively sherried (30% Oloroso casks) and expertly blended, making this a thick, oily dram with light flavours all around.

Highland Park 10 (43%), the surprise comeback album from nerd-approved Highland Park. A moderately peated expression from a distillery not known for being heavy on the peat, Highland Park 10 has become one of my go-to daily drivers. Forgoing sherry casks in favour bourbon barrels and their brilliant, heathery peat make this a real case study in moderation, malt and attention to detail.

Octave’s Girvan 9YO (51.7%), a powerful single grain whisky from one of Scotland’s grain powerhouses. While this one broke the “no cask strength” rule, it is nevertheless a fantastic example of a beautifully aged grain spirit, the foundation for not only terrific Scotch blends but bourbon itself.


Emile, one of our dedicated die-hards brought along a special little bottle for us to try – Floki Icelandic Young Malt, Smoked Sheep Dung Reserve. I’m not joking. Bottled at 47%, this is… truly awful truly an acquired taste 😉 Your mileage may vary. Regardless, always an honour to try something exotic and interesting – thanks Emile!

Join the Cape Whisky Club!

Every month the Cape Whisky Club hosts whisky lovers from all over the mother city to join in a shared whisky tasting. Anyone is welcome to join! If we like you, we’ll invite you to the private group and start sending you invitations for whisky tastings.

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