Scotch Review: Assorted Cask Samples, Part I

Assorted Cask Samples: I / CS / Free

All are tasted starting neat, adding water if necessary, in a blender’s glass

These are samples of some various casks that are/were available for purchase on the secondary market. I will be taking a look at them from a different perspective than usual, more to understand the wood/distillery character over time, as all of these are quite young. I have also anonymized the sellers’ / cask-specific information as well; all of these are fairly young, and probably in the £4–12,000 range.

I will start these in order from lightest-to-darkest (barring a better random sorting system), and will use a compressed scale from 1–5:

(1) No good at all; ruinous; unsalvageable 
(2) Bad, but maybe it just needs more time
(3) OK; could be fine with a few more years
(4) Good; nice stuff, you could bottle it now, or give it a bit more time
(5) Perfect; why is this still in the cask??

Glenrothes 2009 ex-bourbon hogshead / 65%

The colour is extremely pale, like Chardonnay. Huge alcoholic nose, wood shavings, estery new-make character; grape drink. Taste is peppery, with hints of grain alcohol, some sweetness and vanilla into the finish.

Verdict: 2-: this is juice that is sitting in some 4th or 5th fill ex-bourbon cask, and could probably use a re-rack into a refill hogshead.

Benriach 5 year barrel / 60%

Colour here is better, a light pastry golden. Nose is floral, just a hint of ethanol; cacao and walnuts. The flavour is amazingly sweet, treacle, honey-covered peanuts, and banana bread.

Verdict: 4-: this is a great first or refill barrel, the distillery character really shines, and oakiness from aging is just starting to come along. This will be amazing now or in 10 years.

Glenrothes 2006 12 Yr / 67%

This is ex-sherry of some kind, the colour is reddish amber, much deeper. The ABV is insane and the nose comes out quite new-makey, rum raisins and moss. Flavour is much better than the last Glenrothes, nice fully integrated sherry, some oakiness, great finish. Raisins, stewed berries.

Verdict: 3+: this still needs a little more time to be perfect, especially to round off the hot feel, but it’s coming along quite nicely, and the ABV gives it legs to run.

Blair Athol 2012 / 58%

Light golden colour, like malted barley. Nose is interesting, lots of bread/yeast, citrus, and plum blossoms, altogether a very clean profile. Taste is fantastic, with baked pears, and icing sugar that opens up with a little water to highlight a butter-vanilla finish.

Verdict: 4+: this is already absolutely lovely stuff at 8/9 years old, and running it up to 12 or 15 would potentially be perfection.

Linkwood 2010 / 56%

This one is a little special, it’s my cask! Colour is dark gold, nose of varnish, sliced apples, and lemoncake. In the mouth, vanilla oakiness, creamy egg-tarts, and coastal salt spray. The finish is gorgeous, long, sweet, and sticky.

Verdict: 4: this is getting very nice, it might be ready in a couple more years.

Click here for the next installment: Cask Samples — Part II

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