Consider the mighty Whisky Sponge, ladies and gentlemen. To some, the site is a haven for humour in a notoriously serious industry. To others, the Sponge is “a witty little s**t who I’m scared to take on because he’ll destroy me” (do sponges have genders? Hmmmmm…).
Whether you treat being renamed by the Sponge as the modern-day whisky equivalent of having a Spitting Image puppet moulded in your likeness or you want to wring every last drop of moisture out of its filthy, overused pores, you can’t deny that the Sponge has become an institution within whisky. Always funny (apart from 1st April), never shying away from controversy, not scared to trample over any area where the “do not tread on the grass” sign is and, most importantly, “The pseudonym of an individual who clearly knows their onions”.
The Aquavitae Porifera is here, and it’s not going anywhere.
To add to all that, the absorbent one has now fixed its gaze on bottling its own whisky, with its own livery and everything. Surely it won’t be long until world domination, a cure for the common cold, and maybe even a toaster design that accommodates a full slice of bread is achieved. Or is it? Lets see if this Sponge juice lives up to the hype…
Whisky Sponge Edition No. 2: Triple-Distilled Campbeltown 1997, 21yo, 55%, £225
Only 178 Bottles available here
Maturation – Bourbon
Background: Since I don’t officially know which of the three Campbeltown distilleries that this comes from, I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. However, it’s the triple distilled one, so I can tell you that you don’t see many of this age or vintage, and I’ve not had either before. Oooooooh….
Colour: White Gold
Nose: Initial luxurious waves of Creme Inglês (yeah, custard – but not the stuff you get out of a packet), thicken to moist Victoria, well, Sponge (sorry), complete with just the slightest drop of freshly chilled icing. There is some far-off fruit somewhere – some of it recognizably grapefruit – but the hallmarks of quality bourbon oak balance it nicely.
Palate: Medium mouthfeel as we enter the outskirts of fruit town, well-balanced and delicate notes of banana, coconut and white stone fruits with a fresh citrus slicing through, threatening liquorice that thankfully never arrives, then a faint suggestion of sherbet lemon resolving with a silky coating reminiscent of the promise from the nose.
Finish: Reassuringly longer than I thought it would be, the single cream luxuriousness clings with candied citrus and those white fruits weaving and washing their way through the fade.
Overview: A part of me wanted to hate this, just so I could give it some “Yeah, Sponge talks the talk, but the walk is a challenge. Sponges don’t even HAVE the ability to walk…”. I don’t hate it, it’s a great example of an unnamed triple-distilled Campbeltown to be honest. Which I suppose is just as well, considering I broke my own rules and bought one without trying it a couple of months ago!
Whisky Sponge Edition No. 1: Glen Moray 1981, 38yo, 49.1%, £400
Only 123 Bottles available here.
Background: I’ve thought for a long time that Glen Moray is an underrated dram. Maybe it’s a victim of its own success, being readily available in most supermarkets etc… Maybe it’s not perceived as a so-called ‘premium’ product as far as the general public is concerned. But my experience is that they’re more than capable of delivering great whisky and have been doing so consistently for some time. Let’s see if the Sponge can prove me right…
Colour: Polished Copper
Nose: Mmmmm, sweet breakfast in the bakery, with thick, syrupy, cereally tropical fruit to boot. This one is deep, brothers and sisters…
Palate: TESTIFY! Bloody hell, it’s like taking a rollercoaster ride in a Rolls Royce. All kinds of welcome surprises: Chinese herbal tea, sweet waxy honey, bitter dark cocoa, spicy aromatics, even some roasted nut notes that almost ask for your permission before over-delivering on flavour.
Finish: Medium fade, a little dry, underlining the more herbal and spice notes with a pleasant damp haze, leaving the palate wanting more.
I haven’t got any more. Bugger.
Overview: Well… Bollox. I love it. Almost begrudgingly, given the Sponge’s satirical nature, but it’s bloody great whisky. In all honesty, the best I’ve reviewed on this blog. No doubt, there will be the predictable cries from some onlookers of “HOW MUCH?!” etc… to those persons I say this: “Bollox. I love it. Almost begrudgingly, given the Sponge’s satirical nature, but it’s bloody great whisky.”
Well done, Whisky Sponge Meister, whoever you are. Bastard.