Blair Athol is often positively associated with sherry cask maturation – mainly due to its weight spirit (shorter ferments), however over the last few years I’ve been seeing an increasing number of wine cask experiments released from indie bottlers. A far cry away from its usual sighting – as a 12 year old ex-bourbon featuring in Diageo’s Flora & Fauna series.
This Watt Whisky release was originally matured in a hogshead before being reracked into a red wine barrique for a finishing period of 16 months. Bottles (there were 301 originally) are still available over at The Whisky Exchange for £65.95.
Nose: Foam strawberries and milkshake powder alongside raspberry fool. Icing sugar, asides of liquorice, aniseed and a vinous leafy quality provide some additional support. The addition of water reveals some pastry notes however it also swiftly reduces the definition of the whisky.
Taste: A meeting of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries alongside wafer biscuits, shaved chocolate and green leafiness. The cask influence emerges strongly through the development – pepper, chilli and mentholated oakiness. Reduction introduces berry and vanilla yogurt creaminess alongside touches of char – but again there’s a loss of overall clarity. The chosen bottling strength offers far more shape and expression.
Finish: Medium with chalky tannins, effervescent oakiness and residual berry sweetness.
It will not come as any surprise to regular readers that this Blair Athol is not my tempo. But all-in-all it holds up perfectly decently at the delivered strength, avoiding commonplace wine cask tribulations such as over acidity and high tannic volume. However, reducing the ABV offers no benefit whatsoever - and whilst it doesn’t over-exert the cask influence, it does feel rather subtractive from the whole experience. Of course - wine cask perverts will likely score this higher.