Love em’ or hate em’ The Macallan have made themselves known as a luxury brand in the scotch whisky world and it’s a concept they embrace whole heartedly. You may find that many offerings from their line are a little out of reach for us common folk as the prices can often seem more like a real estate investment. However, outside those locked cabinets filled with flashy decanters you may notice some more reasonably priced expressions such as various triple oak bottling’s and 12 year old offerings, each catering to specific tastes and budgets but mostly out of sync with their higher end expressions. As much grief as I give Macallan for their luxury vibe I have to give credit where credits is due, those luxury offerings are often quite delicious, whether you can afford them or not is irrelevant. With their special focus on sherry casks and sherry seasoned casks they’ve commanded a mastery over the oak they use and they keep a close eye on the influence it has on their spirit.
Insert today’s luxury offering, The Macallan Ruby. Being part of the much hated 1824 series may leave the weary wanderer a little skeptical as the entry level and unexceptional Gold really had drinkers turning up their nose at Macallan. “How dare you take our money” folks cried as this one differed so drastically from what we’ve come to know from Macallan, expensive… but damn tasty. The Gold was cheap and gross. Moving on to the barely tolerable Amber and people were spitting their Macallan on the ground, demanding refunds as their reliable favourite had become a stranger right before their eyes. Luckily, redemption was in sight and folks smiled from ear to ear as the stunningly delicious and subtlety spicy Sienna took the hearts of drinkers by storm. Finally, the delightfully dark and wonderfully scrumptious shining gem of the family, the very well received Ruby. These whiskies from the 1824 series are all named after the colour imparted on them by the oak barrels they were resting in, however, it didn’t seem to work quite as Macallan had hoped. Folks were not celebrating change, they were throughly unimpressed with the decision to move away from age statements. Unfortunately, Macallan was getting called out for the wrong reasons. People wanted age statements and it didn’t matter how delicious the nectar turned out to be, it still wasn’t enough for the uninformed. If it didn’t have an age stated on the bottle, no one trusted it and most refused to give it a chance. What can be said is that the colour reflects the perceived flavour, for the Ruby that is, as deep notes of leather and polish dominate the nose while beautifully long and lasting waves of sherry flood the senses. From nostrils to jowls you can expect a full and lustrous palate with notes of toasted oak and dried cranberries, a touch of nutmeg spice and sweet raisins on the finish. It’s lovely mouth feel paired with its enormous flavour had collectors rushing out to buy the last remaining stocks as secure investments for thirsty bellies. Even at 43% you can’t be mad, you want more ABV it’s true but you can’t be mad.
The Macallan found a happy medium between highly expensive and absolutely delicious and named it Ruby.
“Hell yeahs” ripple through the crowd as thirsty bastards nod their heads in approval.
Inchfad is the name of a certain style of release that comes from the Loch Lomond Distillery. It’s actually hardly ever used anymore and was only used by Loch Lomond for a brief time in the mid 2000s. It was always a heavily peated release that befit the Inchfad name and this one shows that side well.
This was brought to us by the independent bottler, Dram Mor, a company who have had their first outturn in Canada recently. Mostly young to teenaged whiskies, they are showing off some unique and interesting cask profiles along with some unique distillate character from a number of distilleries. I have been fortunate enough to have tasted through a number of previous and current releases from Dram Mor and one thing I can say is they always have interesting drams to taste.
This Dram Mor 14 year was finished in a first-fill PX cask and was bottled at 54.7%. A total of 274 bottles were produced with 42 of those making their way to Canada.
In the Glass: A darker maple colour, and a nice glass coating texture. A quick swirl reveals some slow legs that seem to hug the glass nice and tight. I am already getting a waft off the glass and I need to dig right in.
Nose: An initial note of peat smoke fills my nostrils. A smoke that seems almost like it’s coming from damp wood but not oceanic wood. Oh WOW, there is a funk on this nose as soon as the peat wafts and settles. An almost barnyard funk. Like wet hay after a rainstorm has passed and the sun is shining down and trying to dry out the bails. A slight touch of vegetal/barn funk as well. This is so intriguing and I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I love it. Bring me that funk!!! Digging down and now the sweetness shows up. Definitely PX sweetness showing through now. Syrupy caramelized apples, maybe a bit of raisins in a reduced brown sugar sauce, ready to pour over some sticky toffee pudding. Some toasted maltiness comes through near the very end of the nose. Man this nose has a bit of everything, the smoke, the sweetness and oh Billy that FUNK. I cant wait to start sipping on this.
Palate: Right from the start, it prickles the tongue in the way a peppered rim of a glass from a caesar would. Then surprisingly, the sweetness comes in full force. Orange peels and caramel come in, bringing along some tartness from a cherry-like note. The ABV does not show itself except for that initial hit. The smoke starts to come through and dances around the tongue with the sweetness, transforming into a touch of old leather. A bit of ginger and cinnamon shows up just as that peat smoke starts to awaken a bit more. The funk from the nose is tamped down a but, but shows up in a malty note, almost like an oatmeal with brown sugar dusted on top, but eaten next to the barn where the animals sheltered all night. The funk man….the funk. Upon a swallow, the cinnamon and malt notes stick around for a bit, I’d say medium to almost shorter, however that peat smoke and pepper cling on for even longer.
This one is interesting to say the least. I don’t think this one will be for everyone and definitely not for the faint of heart. That funk is everything special to me, in my heart, that I love finding in new whiskies. The nose and palate align but differ just enough to make this a thinker. A dram you wanna sit back with and sip over an hour or so with nothing on but some Righteous Brothers on the turntable and the lights turned way down. The dichotomy of that setting with this dram will awaken all the senses and truly let this wonderful whisky shine through.
When it comes to whisky, peated expressions, to most people, seem to be the biggest barrier to overcome. Some never do. And that’s totally fine. Everyone’s palate and preferences are different. That’s what makes this community so special.
I would argue that sulfured, sherry bomb-type scotch is another genre where people have a very black and white preference, both for and against. The burnt match notes you get off the strongest whiskies in this category are similar to the medicinal characteristics of some peated scotches. It’s something you either like or hate.
As for the whisky we’ll be reviewing today, I was making love-y eyes at this bottle for months before I pulled the trigger and spent almost $180 to get it into my greedy little hands. I did no research. It was from Berry Bros. & Rudd, it was matured in a single ex-sherry butt and was a store exclusive to Sierra Springs in Red Deer, Alberta. Many boxes checked there.
Then I did the research after I clicked on the “Pay now” button and my jaw dropped. This bottle elicited so much rage that the three reviews on Whisky Base averaged below 50/100. The reviews talked of notes of rotten eggs and multiple dead bodies (people, if this is what you want to write about a whisky, please just remove your fingers from the keyboard. It makes you look really silly).
Later, I heard that there were such vocal complaints about this whisky that the Berry Bros. rep had to get involved. Instead of backing away from my purchase, I decided to go ahead and take my chances. I was not disappointed. Yes, there a bit of a burnt match smell to it, but the bold flavours instantly melted away my regret.
In short order, a member of the local whisky community offered me his bottle for free, which I passed on to a friend of mine who loved it. Then another friend got hold of it and bought at least two bottles. A revival was in the offing. The moral of the story here is that sometimes whisky just needs to make it into the right hands before it is truly appreciated.
The bottle in question was distilled in 2000 at an unnamed Speyside distillery and was matured for over 17 years in an ex-Sherry cask of unknown type (assumed to be Oloroso). It was bottled in 2018 at 58.9% abv and was sold exclusively at Sierra Springs Liquor in Airdrie, Alberta. Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky and one half of @thewhiskyheathens) and Sean Kinkaid (@seankincaid) of Park Whiskey Society are collaborating with this review.
Josh Ward’s review
I first caught wind of this gorgous secret Speyside from Sierra Springs when Paul and Sean directed me to some absolutely insane reviews, which posted notes of “ichorous discharge from the underbelly of an African wildebeast” and “bile, wildebeast, dead bodies (many of them), black eggs, snot, decay and rot”. Seems they were of the notion that this whisky was to be dumped and discarded because it was SO nasty that it couldn’t be consumed by any self-respecting individual. Much different for me, I’m looking for that nastiness and I fully embrace those oloroso style sulphur bombs. Much to my excitement a sample showed up on my doorstep and I was on the phone to order a bottle before I finished the glass.
Nose: The first note that hit my nostrils was of wood decay, beautiful and nasty with thick and pungent waves of sulphur and a distinct note of dry, abrasive sherry. Tucked away behind the powerful cask influence was a hint of sweetness, both sultry and alluring.
Palate: The taste exceeds anticipation with all the expected notes from the nose coming at you immediately. Sherry city was built in a sulphur spring and it’s a place I really love to visit. It’s brash and it’s heavy and it’s perfect for anyone who loves it raw and unapologetic.
Finish: The finish is slightly sour with meaty notes of BBQ and charred sherry wood that lasts and lasts and lasts and lasts.
With water added…
I finished the dram and poured a second but this time I added a healthy dose of water. Water certainly doesn’t hurt this one, especially at 58.9%. I’d say there were 15 drops in my 2 ounce pour. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe I’d have to add another drop or two of whisky, quite frankly the devil in my moustache encourages such blasphemy.
Once the water settled the sulphur did too. It’s tame now but still present with sherry sweetness shining through. A touch of burnt caramels swirling around the nose and mouth are wonderfully pleasant with beautifully moist and righteously magnificent notes of sweet and sulphuric sherry, it’s everywhere, just toned down and mellowed appropriately.
Something this unique only comes around every once and a while, I’ll definitely be grabbing another bottle.
Sean Kincaid’s review
This bottle has had an adventure already around these parts. From some absolutely horrible reviews that were posted online to a few of us actually trying this and loving it. This is the perfect example of not judging a whisky by other people’s reviews. So I will now go ahead with a review of this whisky for you all to judge it by.
That super dank delicious deep Oloroso goodness. Woody and bomb levels of sherry. This is the greatness that an active fresh Oloroso cask can impart on a spirit.
Nose: Deep dark fruits, nuttiness, dunnage warehouse, a touch of rubbery sulphur. A true sherry bomb whisky that makes me want to dive right in. Almost a dusty note. Dusty and savoury combined. Like smoked spare ribs with a smokey, but fruity rub and then left for awhile. Then eaten.
Palate: Even more of that dank Oloroso, from all sides. Spices, dark fruits, figs, plums, maybe a touch of cherry and chocolate. Leather, dunnage floor. Hefty sherry and at cask strength doesn’t need much water at all. This is what a dank sherry bomb can and should be.
Finish: Decent length. That Oloroso sticks in your gums and I just want to pour another and another. That dank sherry sticks around and leaves your mouth feeling coated long after you swallow.
What a whisky this is. I hope those that hated this learned their lesson and leave the glorious dank sherry bombs for those of us that love it.
Paul Bovis’ review
Nose: When I first poured this into the glass it was like a match where the wood was a sliver of a sherry cask stave, lit on fire and then doused in Oloroso sherry. More than anything, this is probably the smell that the people who hate this bottle found so off-putting. Like this year’s Kilkerran 8 year, there is a whiff of gasoline as well. Like peated scotch, this has some notes that might knock you sideways, but as you spend time with bottles like this, you learn to both appreciate what this adds to an experience while at the same time nosing past it to get at the other notes. The European oak that I get off this is musty and wet. Ever since I opened this bottle I got a good amount of dried cranberries. It’s still there, but dark chocolate has overtaken it now. Stewed plumbs lurk behind the cranberries. It’s also a bit nutty. Almond perhaps. Nailing down the spices is a bit of a challenge. After nosing around my spice bottles, I’m settling on allspice and a touch of ground cloves.
Palate: The entry is tart and sweet and extremely short-lived. Dark caramel, medium dark chocolate, dried cranberry, half and half creamer and a bit of orange peel. Then the oak and spice kicks in. Big time. The front end of the development is a little bit overwhelming with the oak, chili flakes, cracked black pepper and earthy nutmeg. A touch of sweetness from the dark chocolate and that tart cranberry and citrus help to cut through the intensity of it all. By the time you get to the back end of the development, your tongue acclimatizes to the heat and the dark chocolate really starts to shine through.
Finish: This is insanely long and is presented in three acts. The first is the fading spice and oak. It’s a little bit drying. The retreat of spice reveals the second act: rich dark chocolate. The third act takes a while to kick in. As the chocolate fades, that tart cranberry note is revealed, making my mouth water uncontrollably. No, not to the point of drooling because, you know,…gross.
With water added…
That burnt match smell is starting to come back on the nose, but the dark chocolate is rising up to meet it in equal measure. The cranberry note has faded significantly and I’m getting a decent amount of caramel now. Water hasn’t done much to tamp down the speedy onset of the development, the heat or the oak, but there is just enough sweetness to keep this ship from keeling over. The dark chocolate is much stronger here than without water. The first half of the finish remains unchanged, but the third act of cranberry is not as strong. Instead, this is a dark chocolate lovers dream. It’s lovely and bittersweet.
This is probably one of the strongest sherry bombs out in the wild today. If you love this kind of stuff, this is the bottle for you.
I personally would like to doff my cap and thank Sierra Springs for going out on a limb to bring in bottles like this as well as defend their decision, regardless of the people who hated on this whisky so intensely. Here’s to hoping more people discover this bottle.
Today, we’re reviewing the first in a series of Single Cask Clan bottles that are available to members only. Up to bat in this review is the first of two bottles from Roger’s Whisky. The Single Cask Clan is based in Canada, is free to join and gives you access to exclusive bottles from all over the world. DM @singlecaskclan on Instagram for more information.
Rodger’s Whisky is a friendly reminder that not all players in the scotch independent bottling space are based in Scotland. Roger Tan was born and raised in the Netherlands and has been in the world of whisky as a fan, investor and photographer for over 25 years. In 2020, he added independent bottling to his resume. His first release included two 12 year Caol Ila casks. The first was finished in first fill PX sherry octaves and other in first fill Oloroso.
This second set of releases includes the bottle we have poured today. This single cask six year, heavily peated Ben Nevis was exclusively matured in ex-sherry casks and bottled at a healthy 58.4%. Both Sean Kincaid and I are reviewing this bottle. See our thoughts below.
Nose: Sadly, my bottle is about 3/4 empty already, but as it was quickly drained, it has gone through a few phases. First, there was the bacon, then it got real sea-brine forward (Nicole, aka @blackcatwhisky suggested Oysters Rockefeller). Now it’s a glorious mashup of the two with a few extras thrown in. The brine note now, to me at least, is very much a low tide in an ocean marina kind of smell. The bacon starts to shine through as you let it sit in the glass. It’s a rich, smoked bacon that’s super crispy. There’s a little bit of a medicinal note that has started to crop up now. It’s not Laphroaig-like, but it is present. The European oak is rearing its head now as well. I’m expecting more of that with water when I get there. Getting back to the saltiness of this whisky, there’s some sea salt milk chocolate. The fruitiness is some cooked down plums. Finally there’s just a little bit of the Ledaig kind of burnt rubber, but not as much as I got when I cracked the bottle.
Palate: This is actually quite sweet and tart on the entry as well as very oily. This coats your whole mouth in a hurry. It’s honey, plum compote and orange zest. This lasts for about a second and a half and then it’s just a mountain of brine, peat, oak and sherry. The brine is like the juice from fresh cooked shellfish. Then the smoke and salt from the bacon overtakes that. Next in line is the peat. Citrusy with lemon and orange peel. Finally comes the European oak, coming in much hotter than when I first opened this bottle. Overlying all of that are the sweeter notes that I got from the entry as well as a healthy dose of earthy baking spices (cinnamon ad clove). Nothing wins out here. The balance is near perfect.
Finish: Long. The tongue tingles for a good, long while. Mostly a sourness from the peat, oak and dark chocolate at first. Particularly when I smack my lips and suck in some air during the development, the finish is dry at first, but the citrus zing that lingers helps to make my mouth water again. There’s just a touch of the sweetness that I got on the entry that helps to balance this all out. I should be getting a stopwatch out to time how long this finish is.
With water added…
The nose is now much more oak forward, as I was expecting. The medicinal note has faded and the bacon and sea brine are using a microphone to make themselves heard. The notes aren’t as varied with water, but the ones that remain are bolder. The arrival is much more measured and the transition to the development isn’t as sharp. The sweetness is more prominent during the first half of the development until the oak and baking spices kick in big time. As I swallow this, the spicing has some red chilli flakes and black pepper. It’s almost a little too hot for me. Still, this transition to spice is slow and builds gradually. The finish is just as long and the dark chocolate is very much at the forefront here.
It will depend what kind of preference for spice you have regarding adding water or not. If you want a dram with a lot of spice, add water. Otherwise, stay put. Either way, it’s delicious.
Nose: The very initial breath immediately picks up the peat notes. It’s also not nosing like a cask strength whisky at all. This is savoury peat. Meaty peat. The peat immediately reveals that sweet, syrupy Sherry note that I swear is PX but is simply stated as Sherry on the bottle. As the label suggests this is campfire style smoke and there’s something else in there. A touch of sourness (in the most appealing way possible), almost like a handful of copper pennies, or freshly sewn copper tubing. All I know is this nose makes me immediately want to sip and I found it really hard to nose it without sipping long enough to get proper notes.
Palate: This is opposite of the nose where I get the PX sweetness up front and then it welcomes in the peat and smoke notes. This is savoury in the best way. Let me set the scene. Breakfast is served. All on one big plate where you have cinnamon french toast (cinnamon and malty notes) dabbed with a dark red fruit compote (PX sherry notes), which is then drizzled with heavy, thick maple syrup. Also on the plate is a helping of Maplewood smoked bacon, fresh out of the oven (big savoury notes) and the syrup is running on to them. Lastly there are a couple fried eggs glistening and waiting to be devoured (touch of sulphur and that copper note). Now eat (drink) up and enjoy as this is one of the best young whiskies I have had in a really long time. Does not show it’s youth at all. In fact there’s almost a dusty, leathery note I find as well which on a 6 year old whisky isn’t usual. Damn that’s good!!
Darn it. I should have bought two of these. For those that have not drained their bottle their bottle quite as quickly as I have, I assure you that the best is yet to come. There is an almost perfect balance between sweet, salty, sour and spicy.
It’s hard to believe that this whisky is only six years old. There’s a depth of flavour and balance that is usually reserved for bottles that are twice this age or more. Roger’s next couple of releases sound pretty tempting already and it’s hoped that Canada will be able to see some bottles of this as well.
Nestled just east of the Rocky Mountains and a short drive northwest from Denver, Colorado lies the city of Boulder, where I was born. The backdrop is breathtaking and actually served as the opening scene for The Shining. It’s a hiking and nature lover’s paradise, home to Colorado University, is a burgeoning tech hub and has a thriving research community, particularly in the field of meteorology, my profession.
My parents came to Boulder by way of Libya, where they were working as ex-pats at the time. My dad as a teacher at Benghazi University and my mom as a secretary. They met on the tennis court and got married shortly after. In 1969, Gaddafi came to power and my parents fled to the USA, settling in Boulder shortly after.
Just as my parents came to Boulder seeking a new life, so did Boulder Spirit’s owner Alastair Brogan. After wearing a few career hats, he took the plunge and came to Boulder, along with his family and a copper pot still. Over the last few years, his distillery has been making waves both in the media and among bourbon and single malt enthusiasts alike.
In their bourbon expressions, they have been turning heads with their unique mashbill of 51% corn, 5% rye and a whopping 44% malted barley. This mashbill has led to their whisky’s unique flavour profile and sits between a traditional bourbon and a single malt. It’s really unlike anything out there and is a terrific gateway for single malt drinkers who want to dip their toes into the world of bourbon.
Sitting in the glass today is the Boulder Spirits Sherry Cask finished bourbon. This was aged for 2-3 years in #3 char virgin American oak barrels before being finished for at least six months in ex-Oloroso sherry European oak casks. This is bottled at a very healthy 47% or 94 proof.
Nose: This has such a unique nose. The high barley content gives me those malted cereal notes that I love in young Scotch and Irish whiskey. On the traditional bourbon/virgin oak side of things, I get lots of sponge toffee and a hint of cherry. The sherry cask finish has definitely pushed that to the background. The combination of European and American oak gives me a very Christmas cake vibe. Cinnamon and allspice predominately, but also a touch of nutmeg, ground clove and even ginger. After some time in the glass, a very rich vanilla bubbles to the surface. Plums and raisins from the sherry cask finish round this off. The nose is promising a lot of what the pallet will hopefully offer.
Pallet: The entry can only be described as a gooey cinnamon bun with raisins and a generous slathering of icing. Counterbalancing all this rich sweetness is the virgin oak, which makes it’s presence felt straight away. The oak influence usually doesn’t make itself known until the development, but that’s not the case here. This is mostly dark toffee and deeply toasted peanuts. For it’s age, this is very oily and mouth coating right from the start. The oak spice from both casks again helps to cut through the sweetness during the development. Smacking my lips to let in air gives me more toasted peanuts and a little bit of orange zest. As the development progresses , I get cooked down plums and even some dark chocolate.
Finish: This is surprisingly long for it’s age. Fading oak spice and dark chocolate predominantly, but that orange zest introduced during the development carries through the finish and counteracts the drying sensation of the oak.
With water added…
The nose becomes spicier with quite a bit of citrus mixed in. It’s drowning out quite a few notes that I got without water though. More than anything it’s transformed the nose into a slightly more traditional bourbon. The entry and development are much more oak forward. The increased oak influence from the ex-Oloroso casks makes for a spicier and drier development and reminds me far more of a sherry cask finished scotch than a bourbon. The finish is longer and a little more bitter with water.
If you are a fan of sherry matured or finished Scotch, you’ll be a big fan of this with water. If you love bourbon, I would probably recommend that you sip this neat. But, by all means, do try both. They deliver quite different experiences.
Let’s talk value. In Alberta, which is the only place in Canada this can be found at the moment, you’re looking at a price point of about $85 CAD. This may sound expensive, but you should consider two things. First, Boulder Spirits, like most craft distilleries, are not a high volume operation. Costs are higher. Also, good quality ex-sherry casks don’t come cheap these days.
Ultimately, if you decide to purchase this, you’re buying into an experience that really can’t be found anywhere else in bourbon today, which is a fascinating intersection between an ex-sherry cask finish and a unique high barley mashbill. Trust me, it’s worth the plunge!
Irish blended whiskey Bottled and matured by The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company
Lets start with the Whisky’s make up..
Bottled at 46% ABV
40% 9 year old Grain – Bourbon Cask
30% 17 year old Malt – Bourbon Cask
26% 13 year old Malt – Bourbon Cask
4% 28 year old Malt – Sherry Cask
Officially a NAS bottling but by definition this would be a 9 year old.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this review (see what I did there…Irish….potatoes), I will first add a bit of a disclaimer. I am a fervent lover and defender of the Irish Whiskey Realm. One of the earliest moments of my journey through the water of life was visiting the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland and inadvertently learning a lot of whiskey history on a trip around the Emerald Isle a few years ago with my wife. It ingrained a deep respect and growing love for whiskey produced from all corners of Èire. Now knowing a tiny bit about where I am coming from, I will start off by saying, this is one of my all time top Irish whiskies I have ever had.
Without further ado here….we…..go…
JJ Corry is not a distillery. It’s not an independent bottler in the most commonly known way. What they actually are, is known as Whiskey Bonders. An almost lost art in the whiskey business and one that was prevalent in pre 1900 Ireland. Whiskey Bonders fill or buy filled casks and mature them in their own warehouses or in this case, an old barn like structure built on a family farm. This allows for the micro climate significant to the region of County Clare where they are located right on the famous Wild Atlantic Way to play a unique part in the maturation of the whisky.
Nose This has a clean crisp nose. Starts off with a big whiff of grassy citrus notes – like freshly cut, dew kissed grass in an apple orchard. Oh, so fresh smelling! A bit of orange peel or peach tang shines through as well accompanied by a bit of coconut. A bit of sweetness in the way of honey shows, the longer you hold it under your nose. A touch of mature wood notes show up right at the tail end of the nose right before it eagerly forces you to tip your head back and get your first taste.
Palate The first thing you notice as soon as this enters your mouth is that it feels oily and not at all “light” like people generally find Irish whiskey can be. On the front there is a grassy, creamy and fruity flavour leaning towards the white or tropical fruit territory, like pears or peaches similar to the nose. Maybe even a bit of mango with that coconut note coming through again. This is just the first half of the sip. Towards the back of the mouth, right as you begin to swallow you get hit with a hint of pepper and baking spice. Like lightly buttered rye bread dusted with pepper and cumin. The way it evolves from beginning to end and never loses it power, while also maintaining somewhat traditional Irish whiskey flavours is probably why I love this whiskey the most.
Every single time I pour this for someone I let them sip it before saying a word. Then I tell them that to me “this is what Irish whiskey should be”. It’s old, triple distilled single malts blended with some younger grain in a ratio that allows all parts to shine and come together beautifully to create a strong yet nuanced, and balanced yet evolving glass of whiskey. I have had my eye on this company for a couple years, so being able to locate find their expressions in our part of the world is very exciting for me. I can only hope future releases find their way to me as well.
The 12 Year Quinta Ruban has always been a steady ‘go to’ for me. It’s one of those bottles that I put on the table for all occasions because it is as palatable a whisky there is. It is sweet, succulent and smooth from the nose to the finish and carries just enough depth to please the experienced whisky drinker but not complex enough that it becomes too much to unpack for the inexperienced consumer to enjoy.
The name Quinta Ruban is derived from the estates in Portugal the wine was produced; Quinta, and the type of Port; Ruby or Ruban as pronounced in Gaelic. The more interesting part of this to me is that, Ruby Port is typically the most extensively produced and most simplistic in character out of all the varieties of Port and it’s normally aged in concrete or steel tanks to prevent oxidation so the lively bright fruity colour and flavours remain. Its not often a Ruby Port is aged in oak casks so they aren’t widely used by whisky distillers which makes this expression somewhat unique.
This whisky is first aged in ex-Bourbon casks which gives it a nice uniform sweetness and a perfect foundation for the Ruby cask finishing. Both of which lend perfectly to one another, creating a balanced dram until you reach the height of the palate where you’ll find a beautiful facsimile of those bright Ruby characteristics we talked about earlier.
I don’t typically talk about he colour unless its a real stand out quality and with this one, it will solely draw you into buying it without knowing anything else. Its a vibrant amber with a beautiful ruby red glow. Colour can be very important and in this case, it is always a conversation piece and generates some excitement prior to the tasting.
Somewhat mellow so you really need to plant your nose in the glass it find its true character. Once you sinuses are firmly invested, you’ll find that rich port sweetness accompanied by some malty milk chocolate, citrus and oak spice.
I love the balance of fruit, chocolate and spice in this dram. It starts off fruity for me, full of peaches and sweet citrus followed by almond and mint chocolate before the baking spices and oak take over up to the finish.
The spice continues into the finish with a pleasant tannic wine dryness. In between are some lingering hints of the chocolate and citrus remainng from the palate.
All in all, a superb dram. I would prefer enjoying it as an digestif but it by no means should be type cast as such. As usual, it is a great value by as we know and love Glemorangie for always being, so get out there and put one of these on your shelves!
Comparison to Quinta Ruban 12
This tasting would be complete without doing a quick side by side with it younger version. I honestly wasn’t expecting a huge difference between the two, yet then found myself quite surprised. Don’t get me wrong though, the profile is almost identical but the vibrancy an extra 2 years of maturation attributed to this whisky is outstanding. Adding some needed life to the nose, more creamy maltiness, chocolate and oaky characteristics building some complexity and sharpness to the palate, and then subtly lengthening the finish. All great additions to an already solid drinkable whisky.
Another interesting thing is that they increased the volume to a 750ml bottle instead of the previous 700ml. Considering the Age increased and you get a few each drams out of the bottle but the price pretty much remained solidifies my earlier sentiment. Now, go get this bottle! Cheers!
How to age an Old Fashioned Cocktail in a Oak Barrel…? Good Question. I am by no means an expert but fortunately for me, my experience went great and the cocktail turned out to be maybe the best Old Fashioned I have ever had. So… that being said, I can certainly tell you how I managed to make that happen and try and help you out!
First thing first, I recommend you to read multiple people’s articles about different experiences because chances are, everyone’s barrel and ingredients are going to be a little different.
So… To start off, I used a 8 Litre (2 gallon) Ex-Sherry Barrel. Reason being, ordering a new oak barrel to Edmonton, Alberta is not an easy task as there are no reputable manufacturers close so by the time it was shipped to me, it would have been past the tasting it was intended for and I was not that proactive and also have a tendency to procrastinate and to try and accomplish things last minute. Luckily for me, when I reached out to some friends, it just so happened my pal, Whisky Joe had just ordered a handful of smaller barrels for a crazy Tullibardine aging experiment (we will get into that story another day). Anyways, the barrel that I was able to get my hands on from Joe, like I mentioned, is ex-sherry and not new oak, but because it had to meet certain health codes prior to being shipped here, it had already been thoroughly rinsed and prepared. As far as I understand, this allowed me to skip an important step of having to clean the barrel beforehand but, I still filled the barrel with warm water, letting it sit for a few hours to make sure there wasn’t any leaks. If you are using a previously used barrel then please search around for cleaning and rinsing techniques prior to dumping in your ingredients. If you are using a new oak barrel then there will most likely be some simple preparation instructions that come with it.
The Cocktail…. mmmmm
When it comes to selecting your whiskey cocktail, you want to stick to the ones without any perishable ingredients that will go bad during the aging process. Personally, I love a good Old Fashioned so it was a natural choice for me. Other good options are, a Boulevardier, Manhattan, Vieux Carre, Sazerac, Rob Roy or similar. You also have to be careful with using simple syrup, especially if it home made as the shelf life at room temperature isn’t a long one. Store bought syrup tends to last quite a bit longer or using maple syrup which is what I did, works a lot better. I wouldn’t recommend aging the cocktail longer than 3 – 4 weeks though when there are sugars in the ingredients. Also, keep in mind, you don’t need to use as much syrup as a recipe normally states. You will draw sweetness and complexity out of the wood and you will not want to mask those flavours with the extra sugar. For mine, because it was an ex-sherry barrel, I used about 1/2 of the quantity I normally would, knowing that the sherry was also going to contribute to the sweetness. I also matched my syrup quantity with water, pouring in equal parts of both so that the cocktail wouldn’t become too concentrated after the aging process.
From there, it’s just a matter of picking your favorite lower shelf whiskey and your bitters of choice. Calculate the quantity of ingredients according to the volume of barrel and start pouring it all in!
Make sure to set the barrel in a place slightly cooler than room temperature and out of the sunlight and then make sure to be taste testing you cocktail every 4 or 5 days to make sure you don’t miss the mark and over age it.
The reason I decided to do this in the first place was to pour out for our Park Whiskey Society members at our most recent tasting. Usually I am making cocktails for everyone after the tasting with the help of my buddy David, but the idea of just pouring it all out into a dispenser and having everyone pour their own drinks for the evening was a pretty awesome one. I was pretty nervous at first but also confident because lucky for me, I consume a lot of cocktails and was relatively sure that, if it tasted good for me then it was going to taste good for everyone else. Lets just say… it was a massive success! Well… at least the fogginess and empty barrel can suggest so. Like I mentioned, one of the best Old Fashioned Cocktails I have ever had. The sherried wood lent such a beautiful character, creating a bold flavoured, yet very smooth cocktail.
This was seriously a ton of fun and something I definitely recommend trying and will be doing again!
If you have any questions please reach out and I’ll be glad to help! Cheers everyone!
For our inaugural tasting we elected to start off with an internationally renowned Taiwanese Whisky from Kavalan. From the Solist series, this single malt, cask strength aged in Oloroso Sherry casks, possesses a completely natural and beautifully aphotic like colour and is a favourite for most from this distillery. Due to Taiwan’s humid and tropical climate, the maturation of their whiskies are accelerated which has afforded Kavalan the capability of producing some fairly high end juice full of rich aromas and flavours wonderfully complex. An essential edge for a young brand still in their infancy compared to the whisky giants around the world.
ABV – 59.1% / Age – 5-6 years / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Taiwan / Cask – ex-Oloroso Sherry
This bottle was probably the most controversial. Being a full flavoured and cask strength whisky, everyone’s tastes buds and palate maturity clearly varied as I witnessed the differing expressions light up the table while everyone felt this Kavalan out.
NOSE – I always love the nose at cask strength as the scents rush to you quickly and come easier to identify, especially the prominent notes. For me, a dense Sherry and some fennel/anise or black licorice is at the forefront, mixed with a low lying spread of chocolate, tobacco, raisin, assorted berries and vanilla.
PALATE – A lot of the same here on the palate. The Sherry influence is precise with a ton of dark fruity elements like black berries, raisins and prunes. Underlying when the fruitiness fades a bit is some slight baking spices and a bitter nut like taste.
FINISH – Spicy and warm as it finishes. Not a baking type spice but a fruitier spice like ginger and caraway. this coupled with a subtle note of tobacco and cocoa or even coffee like hints.
Overall, nice complexity and an array of good flavours and aromas. not crazy about licorice/anise/fennel notes which is a common thread but the mix of those with the other attributes married quite well. I really enjoyed this choice and have always enjoyed the Kavalan whiskies I have tried in the past so I gave it a 8.5/10.
The group was not as generous, averaging out at 6.7/10. Which the high proof may have been the microcosm driving the scores.