All distilleries have some elements of uniqueness – after all, what would be the point of a glut of homogenised liquid? Sites operate differing fermentation and distillation processes, divergent maturation regimes (a couple of days ago I visited a distillery where casks are being stored vertically on their heads?!), and sometimes have examples of one-of-a-kind equipment that either never took off elsewhere, or was superseded by history and progress. Edradour has plenty of uniqueness – it’s a beautifully weird place – but one thing which always stands out to me is its continued use of a Morton’s Refrigerator – the last one still in operation in the whisky industry.
Here’s an old advert for one – it’s effectively a device used for cooling milk, repurposed for cooling wort. It’s original installation at the distillery came at a time after shallow-based cooler tanks, but before the widespread adoption of more modern chillers or vacuum coolers. The wort runs the length of the unit, whilst the pipes which run perpendicular carry cold water – heat transference occurs and the wort is cooled as a result.
Interestingly, the original Morton’s Refrigerator at Edradour packed up after some 75 years of service – rather than moving to a modern cooler, owner Andrew Symington had a stainless steel replica of the original commissioned and constructed to directly replace it. This has been in operation at the distillery since 2013 – it still looks rather shiny compared to much of the equipment on site. Why stick to the past? Well, alongside maintaining consistency (of a previously inconsistent spirit), there’s also a sense of nostalgia when you’re the last person standing. Unique points of interest, such as the Morton’s Refrigerator add to the historic tapestry of a visit to Edradour – and likewise, are unlikely to interfere too much with the production cycle given the distillery’s generally small capacity.
Today’s Edradour Straight From The Cask has spent 10 years maturing in sherry butt #48 – Whiskybase lists it as a ‘dark sherry butt’ – which is a new one on me, but it’s certainly got a fair bit of colour to it. 975 bottles were released in May 2018 at a strength of 58.8% ABV.
Nose: An almost Armagnac-like nose – sweet, sugary and quite spirity. Cacao powder, brown sugar, dark chocolate and lacquered wood are joined by plums, damsons and plenty of balsamic vinegar – a rich compote of sweetness, sourness and tartness. In the background, herbalness with rosehibs, verbena and buttercups and piquant earthy ginger spicing. The addition of water opens things up in a wide variety of directions – beef finishing jus, raspberry petit fours, mince pies and marzipan covered Christmas cake. There’s a breadth to the intensity here which is pretty likeable.
Taste: The arrival is big and oily – almost like cough medicine. It’s fulsome, expansive and highly mouth coating. Rum raisins, molasses, chilli chocolate and a good dosing of pepper and ginger. Running alongside, chocolate cake, leather, balsamic sharpness, and lacquered teak furniture. The back-palate becomes quite wood-focussed with fresh, sappy oak that seems very focussed on pepper. Reduction offers less definition, but more of a fruit focus – an random assortment of stone and berry fruits in a juicy tinned form. Pleasant, but not nearly as distinct as its original form.
Finish: Medium in length and interplaying sweet sherry influence against bitter cask character – chocolate and berry fruit vs. pepper and oak.
There’s lots to like about this SFTC Sherry Cask Matured Edradour – least of all, it’s unapologetically huge. Whilst there’s a bundle of interesting diversions to explore, there’s also a ton of cask influence and piquancy – as such, this isn’t the most balanced of things I’ve ever tasted. But, I do think that the underlying heavy Edradour spirit does sit particularly well with intense sherry maturation – and this is certainly an example of that. If you like your whisky delicate and dainty avoid – otherwise….
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