Dear friends, followers and supporters alike! Two weeks ago, on the 4th of May, the spirit in the casks included in the cask collaboration project between Swedish distillery Agitator
and myself turned 2yo (!). And so, today it is my great pleasure to share with you all my tasting notes of samples from four of the casks!
In order to read up on what makes Agitator such an interesting and groundbreaking whisky distillery, as well as exactly what our collaboration entails, please do click here
and read this previous article of mine and you will get a good introduction to it all. The general details are as follows:
New make recipe used for collaboration:
Peated barley (30ppm), 58% from the High Reflux stills, 42% from the Low Reflux stills, went into Bourbon barrels 111-116 with a filling strength of 55,1% ABV on the 4th of May 2018.
The details of the samples reviewed are as follows:
Sample no.1: Drawn 200504 from 1st-fill Bourbon Barrel no.113, 56,4% ABV.
Sample no.2: Drawn 200505 from cask no.1532, a 32 litre 1st-fill Oloroso American Oak cask, 56,4% ABV. (Spirit transferred 191031 from 1st-fill Bourbon barrel no.111).
Sample no.3: Drawn 200504 from Cask no.1531, a 130 litre Virgin Chestnut (“quarter”) cask, 56,4% ABV. (Spirit transferred 191031 from 1st-fill Bourbon barrel no.111).
Sample no.4: Drawn 200505 from Cask no.1530, a 32 litre 1st-fill Oloroso Chestnut cask, 56,4% ABV. (Spirit transferred 191031 from 1st-fill Bourbon barrel no.111).
|Casks no.1532, 1530, 1531, and no.111 on the fork lift|
So, the way I went about analyzing the samples are as follows: after considering what might be a good order in which to taste, I figured that the chestnut casks (sample no.3 and no.4) were the "heaviest" ones; the ones most influenced by the wood. And so I placed them in the order listed above. I spent around one hour nosing the four samples, and then around 1,5 hours tasting them. Ok folks, here are my notes and impressions!
Sample no.1, nose:
Medium peat, sweet liquorice (and/or polypodium), and a burnt/earthy saltyness are all in the centre of the scent. Above this layer we have lemon curd with a touch of pear-flavoured popsicle (piggelin). Almost something like a carbonated lemon drink; carbonated lemon curd? In the base, the bottom layer, there is soft almond paste resting on a foundation of big vanilla, almost vanilla custard actually. The carbonated feeling in the top layer probably has something to do with the relatively high ABV. The alcohol is there but it’s not too much. The vanilla custard base mediates maturity and signals an age of around 8 years old.
Sample no.2, nose:
The ABV feels slightly amplified (whilst the carbonated feeling is subdued). Peat and sweet liquorice is in the background. After only six months maturation/"finish" on this small cask there is already quite evident notes of sherry; we have red currant peel, a faint touch of raisins, and definitely dried figs. In the base vanilla fudge intermingles with peat-infused milk chocolate, medium rich leather and an evident touch of a calm campfire. The top layer has some acidity to it but not as much as in the bourbon cask. In terms of age I’d say that it feels very similar to the bourbon cask but here all of the scents are more integrated, more composite, meaning more mature.
Sample no.3, nose:
Wow! So many scents, so many impressions! Lots of more things going on than in the previous two samples (while they can perhaps be described as ”calm”, this one can be described as ”eventful”). It’s like a european oak sherry maturation on steroids; lot’s of dryness, lots of dried fruits (dark dried fruits), rich/bold peat, new leather, and medium-heavy to heavy dryness from the wood (tannins). At the core of the peatyness there is an earthy and forest-y mint going on. At the heart of the scent is both a big, big vanilla and something like a ”carpenters home-y cabin in the woods”-thing and/or carpenters workshop happening. I suppose this has to do with the fact that we are talking aboout a virgin chestnut cask, but somehow it does not seem virgin at all. Hmm, very hard to explain… In terms of age this one seems quite a lot older than the previous two samples. It’s hard to specify an age but say 10-12 years old!
Sample no.4, nose:
OMG! While this small cask does have many similarities with the previous one, the scents are more accentuated and compact. The dried fruits are now red rather than dark, and the leafs from a black currant bush has turned up! I suppose wine gum candy (bassets) is a good description, and there is an intense presence of the candy pieces with red and purple color. The mint has been dialed up and the peat feels very present but somehow subdued or mellowed. Spicy sherry cask. There is also luke warm coffee and a whiff of vanilla infused chocolate chip coockies. Mmm…
Sample no.1, taste:
Mmm! Salt (almost sea salt), dry peat and sugary sweetness in a wonderful combination. Bourbon maturation works soo good for this new make recipe! We have smoky vanilla with sugar sprinkled slices of lemon coocked in a frying pan (caramelized). A quite distinct and dry almond paste takes over which morphs into peated whipped vanilla cream and sundried lawn ("hay"). A spicyness lingers.
Sample no.2, taste:
Wow! I would really like for you my dear readers to taste this one and share this wonderful taste with me, but at the same time I would kind of like to keep the whole cask for myself. You get the point; this stuff really is really good! I can’t belive that this is only 2 years old! The peat and the sherry is perfectly integrated. The sweet liquorice stands out in a beautiful way! Lots of medium dark flavours in the midrange. Warm peated vanilla, like liquid peated vanilla fudge… There is also something earthy/nature-y going on, maybe oven baked peat-infused parsnips drizzled in butter. Forest infused dried figs and mellow gunpowder lingers on and on and slowly fades away.
Sample no.3, taste:
Once again, wow! Virgin chestnut cask could easily be mistaken for a heavy european oak oloroso sherry maturation. The core of the taste is both sweet and salt, and has a concentrated peat and tanninic dried fruits; dried figs, dark raisins, and oven baked apple slices. In the background, we also have chocolate infused dried slices of orange. The flavours are semi-calm and at the same time intese/concentrated. While I usually find virgin swedish oak overpowering (and having too much fir/christmas tree in it), virgin chestnut to me is nothing of the sorts, not too much wood, just intense/concentrated. The vanilla is indeed big, just as big as on the nose, and whilst I found the peat to be rich/bold on the nose, I find it to be subdued on the taste. This new make recipe and level of peating works really good with chestnut cask and brings out a mouthwatering touch of milk chocolate in the peat. In terms of age, my mind definitely says the same as on the nose: 10-12 years old. Simply unbelievable.
Sample no.4, taste:
Dude! Now we’re talking. This is really like an accentuated, amplified, and enhanced super-version of the previous. Whilst the previous one was tanninic, this one is really, really dry. My impression of 1st-fill oloroso on chestnut is that it tastes kind of like a port pipe ”on fire”; burnt port/heavily roasted port. The dried fruits from the nose have almost transformed into something like chilli and spicy. It’s heavy on the spicyness and it teases my tounge in an intriguing way. There is an intese feeling of peel from black currants. We also have peat-infused bramble marmalade. In the background dark chocolate-y vanilla fudge cubes calls for attention. The aftertaste closes with lurking peat and intense vanilla slowly, slowly fading away. Wow, what a whisky! Sorry, I mean what an incredible 2 year old spirit!
Some reflections to sum up:
Alright folks! The maturation sure is moving along at a very good pace. Already the spirit tastes soooo good and I can't wait to taste these casks again further down the line. Out of samples no.2-4 my favorites are definitely no.2 and no.3. But, they are all really good and are all of very interesting and different character, to say the least. Having reviewed these samples in this phase of the collab, some ideas have definitely emerged regarding how (in what form) it might be interesting to bottle them. Big thanks to Håkan, Oskar, and Christian for the amazing opportunity that this collaboration is! And last but not least, big thanks to all of you my dear readers and I hope you've enjoyed this article. Sláinte!
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