Brain drain

Posted 22 April 2022 by Matt / In Blend
The Dramble reviews Raer Blended Scotch Whisky Oloroso Expression

Bottle Name: Raer Blended Scotch Whisky Oloroso Expression

ABV: 40%
Bottler: Raer Craft Spirits

Despite usually being a sponge for new information – it turns out that my brain does in fact possess a saturation point when it comes to whisky. And I’ve only recently discovered this. With just one Dramble post under my belt over the past two weeks (sorry readers – sorry brands) it’s high time I admitted to myself that writing about whisky whilst working within whisky is far more challenging than I expected it would be. This isn’t a case of being too busy – indeed, overall I’m less busy than I was when working two disparate jobs concurrently for the best part of three years. No – this is a realisation that my brain has a finite amount of whisky processing power and that the ‘day job’ is now (rightly) utilising a lot of this.

Brain capacities are interesting things. They cannot solely be equated to time spent. I know many of you almost permanently exist on either whisky Twitter or whisky WhatsApp (or both) – however as a divergence from the ‘norm’ – the processing power required of the whisky brain for this is far less than when it is continually engaged 9 – 5. In other words – when something is your job you need to take breaks from it.

Recognising this, and also acknowledging that a number of you have indicated that you’d like The Dramble to continue (thank you for your support) – there will need to be some changes. Whiskies require balance – and so too does my whisky brain.

Going forward there will be more Dramble posts. Yes more - not less! However, the bulk of these will be more ‘snack-sized’. There *will* still be longer, more discussive (rambling) pieces – however these will only get written when there’s the brain capacity to do so. To me this feels like a far more practical approach than working on a draft piecemeal for days on end during the times when I’m not feeling over-saturated. In essence, I’m of the view that it’s better to have more wee drams than periods with no drams at all.

And so for a first wee dram I’m turning to a blended Scotch whisky. A category that still at times struggles to engage as many whisky brains as much as it could or should.

Raer Craft Spirits are an imprint of Jackton Distillery – located in what looks like a disused badminton hall on a farm on the outskirts of Glasgow near East Kilbride. Laying down their first casks in February 2020 and using barley sourced from a neighbouring field – their plans to construct an onsite malting facility are certainly close to my own preoccupations over at Dunphail.

With a 5,000 litre and 2,000 litre wash and spirit still respectively, the site is small, but not diminutive (I’m guessing somewhere in the region of 150 – 200K LPA). We’ll have to wait until February 2023 at the earliest to sample Raer’s malt whisky – though I anticipate it could be a little longer for anything more than a small inaugural release as the distillery switched its focus to producing sanitiser for the local community for some time over the course of its 1st year of production. Hopefully now they’re back on track and utilising their capacity fully.

Like many others before it Raer’s initial whisky offerings come via sourced stock whilst they wait. There are currently two releases – A blended Scotch whisky and a blended Scotch whisky finished for 9 months in oloroso sherry casks. It seems likely (though it is not actively specified) that the Raer Oloroso Expression is created from the same parcel of liquid as the ‘base’ release. And therefore Raer acquired a shipment of sherry casks which they’ve utilised for this finishing period – thus quickly producing some desirable (IMO) refills which they can then utilise for their own laydown. The Oloroso Expression is bottled at 40% ABV and can be purchased directly from Raer for £35 (it’s in a much snazzier bottle than the non-sherry edition).

Nose: Strawberry bootlaces, Strawbs and raspberry coulis sit with frangipane, plump sultanas and a swipe of orange marmalade. Crisp golden pastry and walnut oils join milk chocolate buttons whilst an air of Playdoh provides a putty-like quality.

Taste: The arrival demonstrates a rather silky body for the ABV (the wonders of sherry tannin structure). It’s cask to the fore with pencil shavings and freshly sawn 2x4 leading into toffee covered berries (redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry) before orange peels, cinnamon raisin bread and a wealth of prickly pepper follow.

Finish: Quite long with toffee and cooling mint set against palpable piquant pepperiness.

Raer’s Blended Scotch Whisky Oloroso Expression inarguably delivers on the promise of its additional sherry maturation with an abundance of sweet, fruity wine flavours intermingled throughout. The grain elements are largely well integrated barring a touch of 'plankiness' on the palate. However, whilst the additional sherry maturation has lent an admirable structure, it has also wrought considerable spiciness that really takes hold through the mid-palate and into the finish. Modern stuff with plenty of character – but a little too hot and peppery for my particular tastes.

Many will and frequently do argue that sub 46% ABVs are inferior. I sometimes disagree – especially with older expressions. However, in this instance I too would be interested in tasting this release a few degrees higher – but not for reasons of either potency or mouthfeel. The delivery is just fine – but at the same time, the wood influence feels overexposed. And as such, a higher volume would likely express a little less of that cask spice and a little more of the spirit itself. As always it’s a question of balance vs. palate – but here at 40% minimum that equilibrium isn’t as good as I believe it could be.

Sample provided by Raer Craft Spirits

Score: 80/100


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