Box Cask Sample Peated Bourbon Cask #A5808 54%

Filled 4 July 2012, bottled 6 February 2015, peating level 43 ppm, matured in a 40 litre ex-bourbon cask.

IMG_4247Nose: A bonfire that someone’s thrown some juniper branches on over which spareribs are being grilled. When I add water the sweetness and heat disappears and I am left with cold smoke, flint and juniper berries.

Palate: Cold smoke, in contrast with the heat on the nose, lemons and herbs. No significant development when water is added.

Comments: Wow, that’s a bit of a split personality on the nose. I liked both varieties, but preferred the hot and sweet undiluted character. The palate is perfectly fine and demonstrates how much can be disguised with a bit of peat, this they could easily bottle and sell as far as I’m concerned, something I wouldn’t advice doing with the unpeated variety. Another dram? Well, if you won’t need to twist my arm.

Box Cask Sample Sherry Cask #A682 53.8%

Filled 5 October 2011, bottled 29 November 2014, unpeated spirit matured in a 40 litre ex-oloroso sherry cask.

IMG_4245-2Nose: Butterscotch, a lot of butterscotch. A little roasted grain. With water, rubber appears on the nose as well; warm car tyres. And a hint of black pepper.

Palate: Burnt rubber, garden hose and a faint whiff of toffee. it’s all less intense with water, but the impression of chewing a garden hose lingers.

Comments: WAY too much cask influence, for my palate. I’d MUCH rather have the adolescent congenners of the bourbon cask variety. It’s interesting to taste this, especially in contrast with the other, as it’s a text book example of cask influence making all the difference, but unfortunately it’s not a drinkable dram.

Box Cask Sample Bourbon Cask #A747 54%

Filled 30 June 2012, bottled 8 January 2015, unpeated spirit matured in a 40 litre ex-bourbon cask.

IMG_4245Nose: Cumin and pine needles, vanilla and some congeners. A little lemon with water, more congeners and black pepper.

Palate: Black pepper, vanilla and spice, but also a little sulfur and congeners. The young age is emphasised with water, but the pepper stays, also on the finish, and I get some candied lemon.

Comments: Young, but promising. Definitely appears unfinished, not really ready for drinking, but then the point of these cask samples is not to sell drinking whisky (yet).

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon 50%

According to Edrington’s representative in Östersund, Knob Creek is made from the same mash as Jim Beam White, but it has been matured for 9 years (as opposed to Jim Beam’s four).

IMG_4235Nose: Vanilla, oak planks and slightly tart mango chutney. With water it acquires an unfortunate sour note that reminds me too much of vomit to be pleasant. It’s also got the dry icing sugar note, though.

Palate: Oak, a whiff of perfume and more oak. Icing sugar and oak with water, bitterness from the cask and, uhm, almonds, I think.

Comments: I’m not exactly convinced, and I actually prefer the younger version, if we can call the Jim Beam a version. This has too much cask and not enough of anything else for my palate.

Jim Beam White Label 40%

White in the background, in case you wondered.
White in the background, in case you wondered.

Nose: Vanilla and fresh birch twigs, some peppery herbs. With water the spice turns towards cinnamon and I also get a slightly metallic note and dry icing sugar.

Palate: Oak and vanillin. More spice with a bit of water.

Comments: Quite a good nose, and the taste is ok, though nothing to write home about. There is hardly any of the perfumy character which I normally dislike in bourbons, so this is a bourbon I could actually drink.

BenRiach 15 years Sherry Finish 46%

Matured in American ex-bourbon casks and finished in Pedro Ximenez ex-sherry casks.

BenRiach spirit still
BenRiach spirit still

Nose: Raspberry jam, dried fruit and vanilla. With water the jam turns more towards orance marmelade, and there is some burned sugar as well.

Palate: Burned sugar, plum preserves and oak. More bitterness with water, otherwise much the same.

Comments: A somewhat tame sherrymonster, I’d call it. Quite well balanced and not at all bad, but just too sweet for my palate to make the top grade.

Dieu du Ciel Solstice d’Hiver 10.2%

IMG_4188Nose: Dutch coffee bon-bons and a bourbon-y note.

Palate: Coffee, creme brulee and cognac. Dessert, coffee and avec all together i a glass.

Comments: This should probably be drunk after dinner rather than before, as I did, but it’s hard to regret drinking something this good. Highly recommended.

Consumed at The Bishops Arms, Östersund.

BenRiach 25 years 50%

Shhh, whisky sleeping! The warehouse at BenRiach.
Shhh, whisky sleeping! The warehouse at BenRiach.

Nose: Vanilla, sauna, orange marmelade. With water dried cranberries, black pepper, honey and lavender.

Palate: Wooden planks warmed by the sun, a bitter oak note, hints of dried fruits. Water opens for apricot and honey, and for toffee and a hint of liquorice on the finish.

Comments: Nice complexity, though it needs a little time in the glass to open properly. There is too much wood on both the nose and palate for my taste, but only just too much, so if you’re more into old whisky than I am, you should definitely check this one out.

Lagavulin 3 Years Cask Sample

IMG_1339Nose: A hint of barnyard on this one, too, but mostly quite clean smoke. Less fruity than its baby brother, but some pear peel and winter apples. The barnyard disappears entirely with water, and I’m left with smoke, iron, slate and a hint of sulfur.

Palate: Now we’re talking! Too much alchohol at this strength, but still smoke, roots and coriander seeds. A little fruit appears with water, but mostly there’s smoke and more smoke.

Comments: They could bottle this, but I think I will advise maturing it for another 9-13 years. It’s nice now, but it gets better.

Lagavulin Newmake

IMG_1873Nose: Sulfur, apricots and recently extinguished match. With water I find more tropical fruits, “grønnsåpe” (a traditional soft soap) and ashes, and a barnyardy note.

Palate: Barnyard, ashes and apple peel. The most intense barnyard character luckily softens with water, and I’m left with red apples, peat and ashes.

Comments: I can’t remember the rather intense barnyard notes from the last time I tried this, but then that was in the warehouse at Lagavulin and I don’t know how clear-headed I was (not that I’d drunk much, neccessarily, but just being on Islay can turn your head, you know). Once it’s softened on the palate after a sufficent amount of water has been added, this is a pretty good dram, but not so good that I wouldn’t rather have them mature it for a few years. I’ve tasted far better newmake (even this  week just gone) considered from a “drinking it as it is” point of view.