Dear friends! On Friday I received a package from Swedish Distillery High Coast
which contained a sample of an upcoming release named Solera 01
. As the name clearly reveals this whisky is the first release in a series of forthcoming editions matured in a Solera system. But hey, what’s Solera?! Let’s consult wikipedia:
”Solera is a process for aging liquids (…) by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. The purpose of this labor-intensive process is the maintenance of a reliable style and quality of the beverage over time. Solera means ’on the ground’ in Spanish, and it refers to the lower level of the set of barrels or other containers used in the process; the liquid is traditionally transferred from barrel to barrel, top to bottom, the oldest mixtures being in the barrel right ’on the ground’ (…) In the solera process, a succession of containers are filled with the product over a series of equal aging intervals (usually a year). A group of one or more containers, called scales, criaderas ('nurseries'), or clases are filled for each interval. At the end of the interval after the last scale is filled, the oldest scale in the solera is tapped for part of its content, which is bottled. Then that scale is refilled from the next oldest scale, and that one in succession from the second-oldest, down to the youngest scale, which is refilled with new product. This procedure is repeated at the end of each aging interval. The transferred product mixes with the older product in the next barrel. No container is ever drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each container. This remnant diminishes to a tiny level, but there can be significant traces of product much older than the average, depending on the transfer fraction. In theory traces of the very first product placed in the solera may be present even after 50 or more cycles”.
Very exciting indeed, a swedish whisky matured in a Solera system, this is going to be really exciting to taste!
So, the recipe for this whisky consists of 100% unpeated whisky matured in a Solera system that in total consists of 60 casks; 50 bourbon barrels (200 litres each) divided into five criaderas, and ten 250 litre swedish oak casks on the ground level, the solera casks. The swedish oak has three different origins: five casks have been made from oak grown in Skinshult, three from oak grown in Visingsö, and two from oak grown in Tararp. The whisky drawn from the Solera casks for this batch is 6,34 years old. It has been watered to 56% ABV. 2490 50cl bottles has been produced, and here in Sweden 1500 of them will be available at the state monopoly on the 15th of december. The product can be viewed by clicking here
|The Solera system at High Coast.|
Photo from dear friend and fellow blogger
Jonas Gyllenpanzar Stjerna.
[Edit] Curious for some more info/details I sent an e-mail to my good friend Lars Karlsson, the Quality Manager at High Coast Distillery, wondering about the specific maturation process for Solera 01. And this is his reply:
”Solera 01 is more a Swedish Oak finished whisky than it is a Solera system whisky. We filled the Solera casks with whisky previously matured in the Criadera casks for 4,5 years, and let it get extra yummie before bottling. We chose to bottle this whisky under the Solera name since batch 1 is the starting point for what we hope will be a recurring and longlived product here at High Coast Whisky. Batch 1 most of all showcases the taste of Swedish oak. The forthcoming batches will differ from each other, and that is part of the concept we wish to mediate by using a Solera System”.
Well folks, now we know more so let’s analyze! [End of edit]
Lots of things going on at once. I find it rather hard to pinpoint which of all the scents are the strongest ones (the scents that dominate the other scents). So at first glance my overall impression is a sprawling scent. Nosing at a distance I first find basic ”white wine”, minerals, there is also a sweetness (light honey?), raisins, a whiff of yeast and/or dairy product mold (the moldy surface of brie), and burnt vanilla. Nosing with my nose in the glass this whisky is quite powerful on the alcohol. I find obvious tannins (thankfully not over the top), spruce resin, and something fruity that gives me a vibe of a yellow fruityness, sort of like a mix of honeydew melon and mango with a sparkling citric touch (fizz) to it.
Intense, very intensive indeed! The first thing that strikes me with the taste is that there is an evident saltyness! For me this is highly unusual when it comes to non-peated whisky, so a very interesting feature. The saltyness is followed by violet candy, liquorice something something, a ginger bread spicyness, quite heavy tannins (almost as if being tannins in a rich red wine), and a warm vanilla that in the aftertaste develops into a silky creaminess.
|This photo also from Jonas Gyllenpanzar Stjerna.|
Some reflections to sum up:
I feel a little split about this whisky. As I’ve stated previously I’m not really a big fan of whisky matured in Swedish oak (full time, or finishes). When reading about the recipe and then analysing this whisky I did my best not to let that influence me and rather, as I always do in my reviews, simply write and describe what I pick up on the nose and the taste. Having said that I do find the nose to be sprawling and the taste too heavy on the tannins. It is however not a bad whisky and those of you out there that do like swedish oak will most likely love it (especially the taste). So what do I like about this whisky? On the nose I enjoy the sweetness, the rasisins and the fruityness, and on the taste I absolutely love the initial saltyness, the warm vanilla and the creaminess. So I guess that I can conclude that I don’t like the core style of this whisky, meaning the swedish oak elements, but that there are obviously other things that I am attracted to. Having said all this I do actually look forward to the coming batches; it will be very interesting to see what happens along the way when the swedish oak calms down and some components/parts of the whisky slowly gets older and older.
Finally, a big thanks to the nice people at High Coast Whisky for the great opportunity to review this whisky before it's release! For kind of weekly updates please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here
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