By Richard Thomas
Each label in Wemyss’s bread and butter line of vatted malts points straight to its own particular emphasis, whether it be the smoky Peat Chimney or something sweeter, like The Hive. While I have yet to encounter a product coming out of Wemyss that I didn’t like, I think sometimes a particular expression of their vatted malts doesn’t quite live up to the title it carries. For instance, Peat Chimney 8 Year Old was a clever, subtle twist on a peaty scotch, but the 12 Year Old version became so understated as to lose most of its peaty, smoky value.
I think something similar happened with The Hive 12 Year Old. The name implies honeyed sweetness, and while the whiskey is a good one, that is perhaps the one thing I found lacking.
The Hive 12 Year Old, like the rest of the Wemyss vatted malt line, is bottled at 40% and comes in a squat, rounded clear glass bottle bearing a charming, farmer’s market style label. In the glass, the scotch has a mid-toned yellow gold color, the closest the whiskey gets to being actually honey-like.
I found the nose floral with an oily texture, bearing notes of woody vanilla, toffee and fudge. I suppose the oily texture could be termed “waxy” instead, which would bring us back to the honeybee theme. The flavor packed a two-punch combo of woodiness and spicy cinnamon and pepper, with a sweetness underneath that I thought was silky, rather than thick and honeyed. The finish unfolds out of the peppery bite, rolling out with warming spice, and ultimately leaving behind a slightly ashy aftertaste.
I don’t mean to say that The Hive 12 Year Old is a bad scotch, very far from it. It has good character, and makes for pleasant sipping whiskey. However, if you are looking for something with a big emphasis on whiskey’s sweet side, this isn’t it. Sweetness, let alone honeyed sweetness, simply isn’t the biggest part of its makeup.
In the United States, expect The Hive 12 Year Old to retail in the mid-$50s, although I did find a Canadian store listing it for $80, and the US dollar is about even with the Loonie these days. In Europe, expect to pay about €42 or £35.