Sunday, 7 October 2018

Don't be fooled by the cask

I bought a 20cl sample of Bunnahabhain that had been matured for 14 years in a Pedro Ximenez Noe cask, at the distillery. It was in a dark bottle, so I could not see the colour of the whisky. I expected to see a dark coloured whisky like the Dalmore or Glendronach, but it was light golden. Andrew Brown, distillery manager at Bunnahabhain, told me that the cask was very old and used several times to mature whisky before Bunnahabhain got it. It turned out to be inactive.

So to a comparison between the Bunnahabhain and a Caperdonich 18 years old refill American oak hogshead matured whisky.

First some facts about the whiskies:
1) Bunnahabhain, cask 555, 14 years old, 54.8% abv., Pedro Ximenez Noe sherry butt, bottled 26 March 2018.
2) Caperdonich, single cask, Douglas Laing's, Old Particular, 312 bottles, refill hogshead, REF-DL9963, distilled June 1995, bottled August 2013, 18 years old, 48.4% abv.

The Bunna was slightly more golden than the pale gold Caperdonich.

The Bunna showed sweetness and custard overpowered by new make on the nose, while the Caperdonich was sweet with vanilla and fruitiness. The Caperdonich was quite gentel.

The Bunna had very little alcohol sting, while the Capardonich seemed a bit stronger with more sting even though it had a lower abv., but it was not overpowering.

In addition to the custard and new make, the Bunna showed some oakiness in the mouth. The aftertast was light and short.

The Caperdonich had a light and fruity tast. The aftertast was light and delicate, but short.

With water the Bunna lost the oakiness, but it didn't improve. The Caperdonich took the water very well and turned into pure delight - a candy store.

Conclusion: Both whiskies had the character of American oak. I could not find any hint of Noe sherry in the Bunna. The Bunna could have doubled for a three year old, while the Caperdonich had a lot of nice American oak fruitiness. A very good whisky.

One last comment: Gonzales Byass Noe solera casks are made of American oak. Without the charcoal the sherry cask was not able to remove the new make even after 14 years. In addition it was not able to give anything to the whisky to overpower the new make due to inactivity.

Even though I didn't find the Bunnahabhain any good, it was an interesting experience. I love the policy of bottling these 20cl samples. They give a good understanding of cask maturation.