There was a time when despite being a shuttered distillery, that Imperial was largely ignored by the bulk of whisky enthusiasts, and bottles could be picked up relatively easily. However, as stocks of the distillery have dwindled and the price of naturally weighty distillates has risen across the board, Imperial’s desirability has finally been recognised - and consequently the days of it flying under the radar are now long past. In particular, whisky lovers have recognised that similarly to another famously textured distillate, that parcels of Imperial casks from the mid-90s that have been left to age for a decent amount of time are habitually excellent.
The press release describes the refill ex-bourbon barrel used to mature this 23 year old Imperial as ‘inactive’ - which is likely doing it something of a disservice, at least in terms of those with fixed perceptions. There’s a lot of contention around both the ideal level of activity a cask should possess and the number of refills it's used for – one person’s knackered old cask is another’s sympathetic mellowing vessel. To my mind the dividing line is often not as cut and dry as is sometimes suggested, and can greatly depend on the personal taste of the imbiber. Regardless, all other things being equal, a long maturation in a less active refill cask should allow the inherent character of the spirit itself more room to shine – and if the overall balance is right, then you should be onto a real winner.
Another of the quick selling bottles from the latest batch of Whisky Exchange single casks. Imperial’s light has taken a while to truly shine – despite at one point possessing “closed distillery bargain” status for those in the know. None of that nowadays mind – Imperial is sought after and fought over and this 1995 25 year old comes from a wider batch of similar casks – all of which have been excellent thus far. Matured in a single ex-bourbon barrel and bottled at 50.1% - this had an RRP of £225 – eyes peeled.
The first show bottling from the Virtual Whisky Show 2020 is subtitled as ‘An Ever-changing World of Impossibility’. The label, designed by TWE’s Raj Chavda takes the concepts of Escher and the Penrose steps (after the father/son team of Lionel and Roger Penrose) and gives them a tab of acid. It’s a riot of illusion and impossible shapes. I keep staring at it as if it’s a Magic Eye poster – sadly it’s not. Maybe next year Raj?
Cognac is often thought of as one of the most carefully guarded of spirit categories. It is only produced in one rather small region of France, can only be made from a very limited number of grape varietals, and comes with its own in-built countdown clock, in that distillation, legally must be completed by 1st April (no joke) following the grape harvest. But despite generations of production that can be traced back to the 17th Century, the category is under increasing pressure to break with certain perceived traditions so that it can present a broader tapestry of aromas and flavours that will appeal to a wider number of drinkers. Some, producers (particularly newer ones) are asking the question – does Cognac need to be 100% matured exclusively in French oak?