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Monday, 12 May 2014

Indie, Indie, Indie Part 2: Master of Malt DARKNESS! Collection

In our second look at some indie releases from retailers, it is the chaps over at Master of Malt who yet again throw their creative brains into a cask, add in a bunch of spirit and leave it to infuse.

Having stepped up their game in terms of their own bottlings (crowing their releases with a 60 Year Old earlier this year), some of the most memorable ones being an 18 year old Ardbeg last year and a very floral Bowmore before that, they have now released a new mini-series of whiskies which have all been additionally finished in a small, first fill sherry cask (50 litres).

The series, known as Darkness!, features spirit from Ardbeg, Macallan and Clynelish distilleries as well as two from Benrinnes.

Benrinnes 15 Years Old, Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish, 53.3% abv: A nose of rich fruits and oak, linseed oil and fresh leather. The palate gives a firm oak note, followed by dark cherries, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fruity and spicy. The finish is oaky and fruity with lasting spices. A big tasting dram.

Benrinnes 15 Years Old, Oloroso Cask Finish, 52.9% abv: A more subtle dram with less big oak and more fresh pine (as you would expect from the different style cask), raspberry and white chocolate. The palate is again more subtle with cherry pie and apricot jam. The finish gives sandalwood and old leather.

Macallan 15 Years Old, Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish, 52.3% abv: Ginger and mint, this is the most closed of the five samples we have but over time opens up to reveal vanilla and cream soda. The Palate is sweet and rounded, the most easy drinking of the bunch and feels a lot older in flavour, with a hint of sulphur and red apple. Finish plays with spent matches and meaty pulled pork.

Clynelish 16 Years Old, Oloroso Cask Finish, 54.9% abv: Wood polish/wax, butter beer, some sweet cure bacon and ghee on the nose. The palate is hazelnut praline, walnuts and crunchie bar. The finish is chopped chilli and milk chocolate.

Ardbeg 21 Years Old, Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish, 40.1% abv: Well, this shows that no matter what cask Ardbeg spirit has been sitting in, you always ‘come home’ to Ardbeg when you stick your nose in a glass of it. Classic Ardbeg smoke, this isn’t a meaty dram it is quite delicate for a PX casked whisky and at 21 years old comes from their lighter production period (in terms of volume) of the early 1990’s.  Apple pie with cinnamon and warm custard on the nose, followed by a palate of very delicate smoke, apple sours, some sour cherry, vanilla and lemongrass.  

Of these initial samples, the two Benrinnes showed up the best. The biggest curveball was the Ardbeg which we thought might end up somewhere in Lagavulin 16 territory but actually retains a huge amount of vanilla and green apple; a surprisingly easy dram to drink but not a ‘sherry monster’ like the others.

This range is due to spin off battings from other Scotch distilleries, including single grains (which we are personally looking forward to the most) and already has a North British, Dailuaine, two Aberlours, an Aultmore, a Glen Moray and a Tomintoul (all carrying age statements) in their stable. Obviously, coming from such a small cask, they are in 50cl bottles (the new ‘en vogue’ bottle size these days, don’t ya know) and bottled at cask strength.