50 already. That’ll teach me to not keep up with reviewing Sponge bottles. An interesting maturation here. Filled into a refill sherry butt in 2003, but then at some point disgorged (spending time outside of the cask and in an IBC on imagines) before being put back into a different refill sherry butt. The net result – 17 years of maturation. 679 bottled were produced at an ABV of 53%.
Nose: Briquettes, concrete hearthstones, burnt parchment and floral aromatic tobacco leaves sit with prominent pine cones, reed and flax. Fruits develop – reduced, stewed and slightly singed – nectarines and plums – whilst touches of tarriness and suede leather add additional nuances. The addition of water offers ozone and damp hay alongside additional herbal touches of samphire and seaweed.
Taste: Notably smoky for this distillery’s usual style. Coals and coal smoke alongside brown sugar dusted stone fruits, mango and chocolate lime tarts. Salinity runs throughout offering a sharpness that is offset by liquorice, hillside florals, sap and mentholated oakiness. Reduction delivers a more ashy character with dried grasses and slightly medicinal sides of antiseptic.
Finish: Long with rocky/herbal smoke and salt sprinkled fruits.
Ah the wonders of refill wood. There’s a lot to unpick in this well-selected 50th release. In many ways the delicateness that sits outside of the rather pervasive peat smoke (particularly on the palate) is at ends with that character. And yet these asides never feel in anyway disjointed from the whole compositions. And that my friends is the sign of great cask. A fitting milestone Sponge release.