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World’s ‘first’ Pinotage-finished whisky released

South Africa’s Three Ships Whiskey has released what it believes to be the world’s first whisky finished in ex Pinotage casks, with its distiller calling its release the “pinnacle” of his career.

Just 3,500 bottles of Three Ships 15 Year Old Pinotage Cask Finish will be made available to the public, which is also the oldest whisky to date launched in South Africa.

“Whisky finishes are nothing new, but never before has a Pinotage cask ever been used”, said master distiller Andy Watts. “The idea first came to me in the early 2000s but back then our industry was still very young and the world wasn’t quite ready to accept such innovation from South Africa.

“But I had never let go of my dream so some years later I had laid grain and malt whisky to rest in American casks for the purpose of finishing the blend in Pinotage casks. That was 15 years ago. Seems like half a lifetime has passed since then! This moment of being able to stand with the finished product in my hand is, in 25 years as a master distiller, truly the pinnacle of my career. I’m literally on cloud nine!”

The grain and malt whiskies were first matured separately in American casks before being finished in eight casks previously used to make Pinotage.

The result is a whisky with hints of the typical characteristics of Pinotage – red berry fruit and a slight earthiness which Watts said “softens the malt component and complements the sweetness of the grain”.

The Three Ships 15 Year Old Pinotage Cask Finish is the second release in the Master’s Collection series which, over the next few years, will see a limited edition being launched each year under the Three Ships brand.

Retailing at R1,500 per bottle (around £83), consumers will be able to purchase one of the first 500 bottles on 5 October during a live, online sale at The remainder of the whisky will be available from 8 October, World Pinotage Day, until stocks last from selected retailers,, at The James Sedgwick Distillery and from Big Five Duty Free stores.

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