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Water of Life Society (WoLS) meeting 13/03/2014 – Whisky Finishes

Water of Life Society (WoLS) meeting 13/03/2014

Whisky Finishes

This week the committee’s organised edutainment revolved around the relatively modern (well modern in scotch whisky history terms) concept of whisky finishing. We all know that whisky is matured in oak barrels, usually these barrels have held bourbon or sherry before the whisky was put into them, as soon as the whisky is in these receptacles are named casks. At the end of their maturation the whisky is then bottled, unless you want to play around a little with its flavour profile. Originating in the late 1970’s both Glenmorangie and The Balvenie distilleries starting finishing whisky in another cask. Who started it first is a hotly debated subject, but either way they were both onto a winning idea. From this simple concept cask-finishing has taken off with distillers using all sorts of different casks to impart new qualities into their matured spirit from the more traditional (i.e. bourbon matured followed by sherry finish) to the exotic such as finishing in rum-casks. In this tasting we were given an example of cask-finished whisky alongside a ‘dram’ of an example of the original finishing cask contents, allowing the members to taste where the influences arise from.

Finish 1: Macnamara Blend Rum Finish & SangSom Rum

Score: 77/100

I almost liked the rum more!

MacNaMara Rum Cask Finish Blended Scotch Whisky SangSom Rum

A blended whisky from the Gaelic Whisky Company, taking their regular MacNaMara and finishing it in Guyanese rum casks for an extra bit of soft sweetness. 40% ABV.
SangSom is a gold medal winning rum from Thailand, picking up awards back in the 1980s before disappearing from the international scene until the 2000s. It’s massive back home and is fortunately now getting out into the wider world again. 40% ABV.
Sang Som rum is produced from the finest molasses and then aged in oak casks before being blended to produce this drink. Itwas first introduced into the Thailand market in 1977. Now, 30 years on it is the most successful beverage in the history of Thailand’s liquor industry. Sang Som was created by Chula Kanchanakaksha who is widely acknowledged as the “liquor genius” of Thailand for his unique ability to balance both the art and science of spirit blending. Continuous improvement has been made to Sang Som via an ageing process of at least three years, resulting in a distinctly mellow flavour and aromatic nose.The complex taste and fragrance of Sang Som result in a unique partnership with soft drinks and fresh juices, making it the classic ingredient to any cocktail or blended beverage. In fact, it is a great favourite in the Khaosan Road area of Bangkok where tourists combine Sang Som and a mixer in a small bucket with ice, complete with a straw for each drinker – a lovely way to share the taste of Sang Som!1982 and 1983 saw Sang Som consecutively awarded with Gold Awards for taste in both Madrid and Dusseldorf. With these gold medals proudly displayed on each Sang Som label, the brand is now widely known among Thai consumers as “Sang Som Rianthong”, meaning Sang Som Gold Medals.

Finish 2: Tullibardine 228 Burgundy & Tesco Red Burgundy Pinot Noir

Score: 83/100

The superb Tullibardine 228 Burgundy finish – finally a red wine-finish making it into stable expressions, according to the distillery this one is selling like hot-cakes!

 Tullibardine 228Burgundy Pinot Noir

For about 12 months, Tullibardine Sovereign has been finished off in Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet Red Burgundy Casks, which are 228 litres in size. This creates a delightful ruby colour to this whisky with vanilla, light chocolate flavours, a creamy richness and hints of red summer fruit. 43% ABV.

Nose: Spiced, with notes of red berry fruit, vanilla and toasted oak.

Palate: Creamy, nutty palate entry with notes of sweet custard, apple peel, red berries and orange blossom honey.

Finish: Long finish with plum jam and allspice.

Overall: Spiced and rich with a delicious influence from the red wine casks.

Produced by Louis Josse  and Winemaker Bertrand Straebler, this 2012 vintage Pinot Noir from Burgundy offers the following: Ruby red with ochre tints. The nose releases nutmeg notes which blend with sweet plum and cherry pits. In the mouth it is flexible and round with softened tannins for perfect freshness. 12% ABV.

Finish 3: Glencadam 12 Portwood & Taylor’s LBV 2008 port

Score: 84/100

Best of the evening (both!), the delicious Glencadam 12 Port wood is up there with the Glemorangie Quinta Ruban as one of my favourite port finished whiskies.

Glencadam 12 PortwoodTaylor's 2008 LBV

Launched in late 2010, this 12 year old Glencadam was finished in port pipes and it was the first ever “finished” whisky from the distillery. Finished for 20 months in port pipes. 46% ABV.

Colour: Blush pink

Nose: Elegant balance of barley and port sweetness

Palate: Round and full-bodied with handsome port and whisky balance

Finish: Refined

Taylor’s Ports represent a three hundred year old tradition that began with the foundation of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman in 1692. Three centuries of independent family ownership and experience ensure that Taylor’s Ports continue to be made to the highest standards. Produced from rich fruity wines from single harvest, Late Bottled Vintage was developed as an alternative to Vintage Port for more informal occasions. Its longer wood ageing means that it is ready to drink when bottled, needs no decanting and will remain in good condition for several weeks after the bottle is first opened.

Tasting Notes: Deep ruby red colour, black morello cherry on the nose, great vibrancy and wonderful freshness of fruit. On the palate, cassis, plums and blackberry combine harmoniously with the well-integrated and tightly knit tannins. Long elegant finish.

Finish 4: Laphroaig Triple Wood & Emilio Lustau Rio Viejo dry oloroso sherry

Score: 82/100

The Laphroaig triple wood was OK, it is slightly salty and reasonably peaty but the sherry finish feels a little like an afterthought and was not well-controlled or integrated into the whisky. On the other hand the Sherry was a little nutty but more sour than sweet, with the peat of the whisky this was the least favoured combination of the night, for me the peat and sweet was just too harsh – though it was fun watching people’s faces as they switched between the two…if only they had the piece of mind to have been taking selfie’s with all those duck pouts!

laphroaig-triple-wood emilio-lustau-rio-viejo-dry-oloroso-jerez

This expression of our famous whisky, from the remote island of Islay in the Western Isles of Scotland, has enjoyed a triple maturation in 3 types of cask. Just as with our standard Quarter Cask expression, the first maturation is in American oak, ex-Bourbon Barrels. We then select the most suitable of these barrels, containing a range of different aged spirit and transfer into small 19th Century style Quarter Casks for a second maturation. The final maturation is in specially selected, large European oak, Oloroso Sherry Casks.

It is bottled at 48% ABV and is non-chill filtered for a depth of taste and texture.

COLOUR: Bright gold

NOSE: At 48%, straight from the bottle, the initial flavour is quite sweet with a gentle mixture of sweet raisins and creamy apricots with just a trace of the dry peat smoke at the back, the smoother nutty flavours combine all these flavours into one smooth, syrupy whole. With a touch of water the peat smoke comes to the fore and masks the gentler fruitier notes. Even with the maturation being carried out in 1st fill bourbons, quarter casks and sherry butts, the intense bonfire ash smell of the earthy peat cannot be masked

BODY: Powerful yet with a creamy consistency

PALATE: With no water, a large initial burst of peat belies the slight lack on the nose but is gentled on the tongue by the creamier flavours of vanilla and fruit with just a suggestion of sherry sweetness. With a trace of water the peat reek is gentled, allowing the more complex flavours of citrus fruits and spices to come through. A slight tang comes from the European Oak balancing the creamier American White Oak.

FINISH: Mouth filling and extremely long but balanced by the sweet smooth caramel taste

Oloroso sherry tasting notes: Roasted nuts, citrus and orange peel and licor, a hint of caramel and smoke… completely dry, but generous and mouth coating, with a long lasting, slightly alcoholic aftertaste.

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