The Whisky looks and paddles fresh. Unlike so many new kayak models coming out these days, it is the result of some creative design work and is far from being a retread of other models already in production.
The most “gimmicky” thing about this kayak is the 6 x 6 inch round “whisky hatch” just in front of the cockpit. I put flares, binoculars, sunglasses, and sunscreen in mine — and still had plenty of room for a handful of energy bars. The hatch doesn’t interfere with my knees and is easier to access than a knee tube or underdeck bag — not a bad gimmick!
After paddling the boat for 2 days while guiding a trip in the Great Wass Archipelago in Downeast Maine, in everything from a dead calm to rock gardens to 4.5 foot swells to confused seas off “Red Head,” I’d say this boat is a winner. It is now unequivocally my boat of choice for all kinds of guiding, as well as for surf play, and rough water work.
The layup (mine is the standard fiberglass) is of excellent quality if on the slightly heavy side, the hatches (3 plus the whisky hatch) are tight, the deck lines are adequate. The seat works well and provides good thigh support. Excellent thigh bracing is provided by the keyhole cockpit and the contour of the deck in front of the cockpit. Even without added foam, the fit is comfortable and secure.
The hull is moderately rockered with hard chines and the shallowest of shallow arches underneath. The bow and stern are slightly upswept and the boat carries a fair amount of volume in both bow and stern. The somewhat unconventional appearance (snub nose, hard chine, flattened hull under the cockpit) really works well in the water. Even without putting the boat on edge, a couple quick sweep strokes turns the boat 180 degrees. Dropping the skeg just an inch or so keeps it on course in most conditions. It’s a solid boat in rough conditions, and is a blast to paddle in rock gardens or along a rugged, irregular shoreline.
Initial stability is a little loose but the secondary stability kicks in very quickly. Easily leaned and probably the most solid boat I have paddled when on edge. Overall provides a very secure ride in varying conditions.
The Whisky will probably fit a range of paddler sizes from small to medium large.
It compares very favorably with the VCP Avocet, which is a similar boat in terms of dimensions and design intentions. The Avocet may be a shade faster but does not turn as readily. The Whisky has added features, can accommodate larger paddlers, and has more storage space for gear.
The Whisky doesn’t have the glide or top end speed of a svelte 18-footer, and that’s really the only way it falls short of being “the perfect kayak.” Unless you are racing, doing point-to-pint touring over long distances, primarily paddling flat water, or trying to keep up with ultra-fit paddlers in svelte 18-footers, you’ll be having so much fun in the Whisky you’ll forget all about the fact that with a longer boat you might be going half a knot faster.
–As of 8/16/08, the Whisky is available for test paddle and purchase at our shop in Belfast, Maine.