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Friday 3 February 2012

Braving The Elements

Next week, Caskstrength are off to Helsinki for the second annual Uisge Festival - Finland's first dedicated whisky festival. We'll be doing a talk on cask finishes so hopefully there will be plenty of discussion points - and some decent drams to analyse!

In preparation for the sub-zero temperatures and snow, we've bought some new clothing: Boots with big laces and thick soles (the Berlin brogues 'debacle' is still firmly in our mind), as well as some decent cardigans (somewhere in-between Val Doonican and Starsky) and new hats. As fur is a little bit non-pc, we went for the soft option of an ear hat, rather than this rather startlingly dressed gentleman!!

And rather like filling your car with anti-freeze, we're topping up the blood levels with whisky, so we don't freeze internally.

Fortunately, a brace of samples from BenRiach has just arrived, so without further ado, time to start warming!!

Benriach - 17yo - Rioja Cask Finish 46%

Nose: Fruit sherbet, whisky steeped raisins, dried cherries, a little waft of liquorice and some mint.

Palate: Ooh! A very nice balance between sweetened liquorice, some clove/all spice and more of the steeped raisins. Some thick malt extract notes develop, alongside a touch of burnt orange, but all in all, rather nice indeed.

Finish: Lingering notes of the raisin and dried cherry.

Overall: Surprising, as we have tried a few wine finishes recently and with the exception of Glenmorangie's Artein they were all quite sub -standard. This really works though - with enough of a balance between malt and sweetness to satisfy even the most demanding of palates.

next up: a heavily peated madeira cask bottling...

BenRiach - 13yo - Heavily Peated Madeira Cask - 46%

Nose: A blast of young peat on the first nosing- confirms the name of this whisky, without question. Some tweed, woollen notes develop and a deft sweetness, but the peat is without a doubt the domineering force here.

Palate: As expected, some bonfire-like smoke washes over the tongue, but brings with it notes of strawberries and cream, some dark toffee and a hint of Java coffee. There is more depth than the nose, but minus the slightly sweet fruit notes, you'd be hard pressed to tell this was matured in a madeira cask.

Finish: lingering sweetness and an ashy peaty coating.

Overall: Straight, direct and luscious peat. Elements of sweetness too, but one for the peat hounds out there for sure.

We'll bring you a couple more of these over the next few days - thus completing our warming preparation for chilly Finland! Stay tuned...