Unless you’re deep into the American single malt world, here’s something you probably haven’t tried. It’s a 100% single malt whisky, matured in virgin oak barrels and finished in ex-ruby Port casks. Before this review, neither had I.
I bought this bottle as I was really intrigued how the interplay between virgin American oak and the musty spicy European oak would play out. With ex-bourbon and port casks, you would expect the port to hold court, for the most part. Would the virgin oak be in more of a fighting mood? Would this be a Connors/McEnroe affair? Would I scroll through YouTube to see what that looked like? Would I later question how the heat affected my ability to write this today? Let’s find out.
Like the regular single malt expression and the peated malt, this Boulder Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey – Port Cask was aged for at least three years in virgin American oak before being finished in ex-ruby Port casks and bottled at 46%.
Nose: Compared to their straight up single malt I reviewed earlier, the heavy virgin oak notes are very muted. Not surprising given the port finish. After letting this sit for about 45 minutes, there is a very strong red grape note mixed with a little bit of grape bubblegum. It’s not overly spicy. Mostly cinnamon with just a touch of ginger and allspice. The European and American oak are nicely balanced. There’s a little bit of a milk chocolate fruit and nut bar. After nosing this for a while, I get a slight mustiness bubbling up from the background. I’m finally getting sponge toffee and some vanilla.
Pallet: Quite sweet and slightly tart on the entry. Definitely concord grapes with the tartness from the skin. There’s also a good dose of stewed rhubarb fresh from the garden. It’s also a little bit confectionery. Like a grape danish dusted with icing sugar. A little bit of creamy milk chocolate is in there as well. The development isn’t in a hurry here. Those creamy, tart, grape and rhubarb notes start to bump up against the oak barrels mid-development and are joined by some orange zest, especially when I smack my lips (That always seems to happen, doesn’t it?). At this point, the balance between the oak and the rest of this whisky is thrown off just a touch and doesn’t really come back into line. Some people may like this oak bite, but personally, it’s not to my taste. The spicing is a little bit of cracked black pepper and ginger, both in equal measure
Finish: Speaking of balance, the major thing thing the finish has going for it is a balance between the dryness of the oaks and the tart, juiciness from the port. The later definitely wins out and makes my mouth water quite a bit. To this whisky’s credit, as I sip it more and more, I get that ginger snap cookie note that I loved so much in the regular single malt expression.
With water added…
Now the nose is coming alive. It was a tad muted without water. The grape notes have been taken over by the spicy European oak. The sponge toffee is a little darker. Just how I like it. I’m also getting a faint black tea note as well. Orange pekoe, maybe? Like the peated malt, the oak dominates from the entry to the finish. There is still enough tartness on the finish in the form of grape skins and orange zest so that it isn’t overly drying. The ginger snap cookie note is still there at the beginning of the finish, but it’s been left in the oven just a touch too long. There’s some medium dark chocolate in there as well.
Whether you will like this whisky with water added will really depend if you don’t mind a good dose of oak or not. Personally, it’s not for me. What I do like about all three single malts that are available to us from Boulder Spirits is that each of them is vastly different, but they are tied together by the virgin oak. Each one displays the affect of this maturation to varying degrees, but they are all interesting.
Out of the three, I’m surprised to say that the regular single malt is my favourite of the three followed by the peated malt and the port cask. Their regular single malt, actually called American Oak, tops the list as it stood up against a few drops of water so well.
Stay tuned for the final expression that’s available in Canada at the moment. Their (not so regular) bourbon.