The Weymss line of single casks all seem to be diluted down to 46% ABV rather than bottled at cask strength. While I tend to be a fan of cask strength whiskies (especially with single cask), I can understand some of the reasons to bottling at a lower ABV. Primarily, and from the customer perspective, a lower ABV can make whisky a little more approachable to the person just getting into whisky.
So, let’s see what this single cask has to offer.
On the nose — Brittle flat bread.
Sort of like poppadum.
Lots of bright notes but all seemingly restrained: lemon wedges, salted green apples, citrus infused honey.
Jaffa cake bread (less the chocolate).
On the mouth — Whoa, this is some exotic stuff!
Candied butter (if there were ever such a thing).
A host of light Indian spices, sweet verging on savory but not savory at all.
Imagine a bake shop (breads and sweets) and a Nepalese restaurant were combined. That’d be this.
Exotic and foodie and surprisingly different than most whiskies out there.
Finish — A touch of spice and lavender (?). Decent length.
In sum — It is whiskies such as this one that makes me LOVE the single cask. This whisky is like a spotlight on the odd, unique and lovely. A whisky well worth your time and consideration. This is a mid-summer whisky, one reserved for drinking in the heat with some ice water on the side.
What’s new this year is a now standard whisky: the 17yo DoubleWood. Essentially, an older version of the 12yo. At $40 (give or take) I’ve always found the 12yo DoubleWood to be one of the best buy whiskies out there. With this one jumping nearly $90 in cost, let’s see what it does; what the differences are…
On the nose – Kip Winger says she’s 17 but she don’t smell 17.
(Yes, I know that sounded a bit too off but, come on, you know who you’re reading folks!)
This juice has the youthful quality of light bright fruit upon first sniff (pears, which are slight, as well as green plums).
A touch of rain water and then some sherry notes pop in: dates, mainly, then a seemingly perfumed cola…
Nosing after a few sips and the wood starts to come through in a welcome way.
On the mouth – Packed full of light flavors: Honey (“The” signature Balvenie character), light wood spice, white/yellow cherries.
Insanely approachable whisky. Easy going. Almost too easy.
Sugared breakfast cereal (thinking Alpha-Bits, to be sure). Soft mouthfeel.
Not very viscous but again, easy.
Finish – Biscuits, buttered with honey and medium wood spice.
In sum – For my tastes, I think I like the 12yo DoubleWood over this 17yo. Both are fine whiskies to be sure but I think the 12yo is a more challenging whisky and I’m one that likes to be challenged.
For those in the audience that is looking for what is quite possibly the easiest drinking whiskies I’ve had in a while, this baby is for you.
So as to keep this post clean and more focused, I will try to do less talking and more reviewing.
There is one thing, however, that I need to point out regarding these two Arrans (as well as say the Devil’s Punch Bowl and more to come):
As you likely know, what’s being reviewed today are really special release whiskies from Arran. In years past, all of the special releases were reserved for the UK and other countries. Basically countries that would accept the standard 70cl (700ml) bottle. The one we here in the US of A will not accept. Here in the US, the 75cl (750ml) bottle is king.
Something happened, however, just over a year ago. Arran changed importers. I’m not really sure who they were with previously but for more than a year now, ImpEx has been importing Arran whiskies.
Disclaimer: It’s no secret that I have a little bit of a relationship with ImpEx. I announced that here. I’m not employed by them but I have poured their stuff before at events and I review the whisky samples they send me (like the ones below). I just wanted to put that out there before I spout on about them more…
ImpEx knows whisky. What’s more is, I think, they have their finger on the pulse of the US market and what the US market wants. The world is becoming a much smaller place, what with things like the interwebs and such and because of this (and other factors, to be sure), American whisky drinkers want what the rest of the world gets. We don’t want to be left out. I know I sure don’t…
This said, ImpEx seems to have made a point of working with Arran to bring in special casks, limited editions, etc… into the US. This is not a simple task as it’s likely easier for Arran to work with the 70cl bottle for these smaller runs/limited editions.
So, kudos to ImpEx for fighting for us American Scotch whisky lovers! Keep up the good work bringing over more limited hooch!
Wow, I carried on way longer than expected. Let’s review, shall we?
Islands region – 51.1%ABV – SherryCask #1979 – $130 (soon to hit US shelves)
On the nose – Chocolate covered espresso beans, heavy wood spice (Cocobolo wood to be specific).
Dark, damp wood shavings and a slight touch of gun powder.
This is a funny and insanely delicious smelling big bear of a whisky.
Some heavy cola notes.
On the mouth – Nose to palate, the same story is delivered. Starting off with the damp, dark wood but right behind it we find the espresso beans and chocolate.
Exotic wood spice becomes quite present.
Drying with leather toward the end as we get to the finish.
Finish – Long, drying with spice and leather strips.
In sum – This 16yo drinks more like a fully realized 25+ year old whisky. A fine choice of cask. Well worth your precious time.
Islands region – 52%ABV – SherryCask #2096 – $130 (soon to hit US shelves)
On the nose – This reeks of what I love about Arran: A forward pungency, bruised apple and a touch of brown spices.
This is a heavy style Ex-Bourbon whisky, not typical of most XB matured whiskies but similar to these XB Arran’s as they get older and older.
There’s something deep, dark and dang in here. I’m thinking fig cakes and more bruised fruit (in the form of strawberries this time).
Strawberry jam over butter cookies.
On the mouth – A bit shy/elusive upon first sip. Not as forceful in flavor as the nose suggested.
Actually, very light in flavor. The nose fooled me.
Initial thoughts: buttered water crackers; baked phyllo dough covered in quite rich butter.
Paraffin wax, light viscosity. Just a touch of sour apple slices.
Finish – Spice, pepper and milk chocolate, medium finish.
In sum – As Arran single casks go, this one delivers like an SOB on the nose. A bit disjointed from the palate but the finish helps to turn things around making the over all experience a fun little ride. I’d say this is an aperitif whisky. Have it on it’s own so that you’re able to experience all it has to offer.
We’re about to journey into the land of FUN… “What kind of fun?” you might ask… Single cask, cask strength rye whisky from Catoctin Creek. (Yes, Catoctin Creek spell “whisky” the same way most of the world does; without the “E.”) For a whisky geek like me, I think this is a $hit ton-o-fun!
So, what’s the make up of this concoction from Catoctin? Well, you may have heard the term “mash bill” before. If not, a “mash bill” is basically a mixture of grain(s) that distillers use when making a beer (or wash) that will then get distilled into spirit.
As far as rye goes, most rye whiskeys are made from a mash bill that has about 51% rye grain (the legal minimum to call said whiskey a “rye” whiskey) and the balance is often rounded out with corn, wheat and barley. Some distillers use a higher percentage of rye grain but Catoctin Creek is one of a handful of distilleries that use 100% rye grain. What’s more is Catoctin uses only organic certified rye grain.
What’s more-more is, even though the owners are not Jewish, Catoctin Creek one of a very few American distilleries that have their whiskeys kosher certified.
Here’s a video regarding Catoctin Creek and kosher certification:
Now, on to the tasting!
On the nose — Very youthful and a touch one dimensional in scent at first but after just a minute or so, it opens up. I mean it *really* opens up.
Fresh spring-scented fabric softener sheets notes mix with very light key lime pie filling.
Rye and citrus notes to be sure but I also detect pencil shavings and school-house pencil end erasers.
It’s evident the spirit character shines with not too much wood influence – an interesting play on rye whiskey compared to most brands out there – unique.
Fresh granny smith apples and apple sauce (home made, no sugar added, no cinnamon added).
Rye bread, lightly toasted with fresh, un-melted butter.
The addition of water seems to bring out more of the springy floral element but doesn’t change much else.
On the mouth — Aggressive attack filled with orange jujubes and baby aspirin notes. No, these are more than notes – pretty damn spot on (especially with the jujubes).
Spring-like again in flavor but with a focus on woodsy leaves from last autumn and new growth chutes.
Great mouth feel and, though aggressive, not really “hot” in any way. It doesn’t need water but I’m going to add a bit any way. Just for fun.
Adding water makes the mouthfeel massive & thick (like drinking Lou Ferrigno).
There is also a touch of spice now; right along the sides of the tongue.
**Caution, do not add too much water here. Initially I brought the whisky down to 50% ABV but in a 2nd sampling I brought it down to 54% (or so) and that was just right. Too much water and some of the flavors become elusive/shy. Just a touch brings out the mouthfeel but keeps the flavors generally intact.
Finish — A long, citrusy finish.
In sum — When going into this rye, forget what you know about the spirit in general. This will be a new experience.
I really enjoy their standard 40% ABV version of this rye whisky but tasting this in cask proof makes this whisky shine like a rye diamond. A wonderful springtime whisky. Fine whisky – kudos to the Catoctinians on this one!