Tasting notes highlighting “cedar” are far from infrequent. Cedar’s richness seems to cross boundaries – from essential oils and air fresheners through to carpentry. Its presence is highly aromatic, deemed pleasurable and altogether different from more predictable notes of vanilla and butterscotch. And yet as a descriptor its usage within drinks production is almost always linked to aromas and flavours that are *like* cedarwood – not necessarily derived directly from it.
Cedar is not the easiest of woods to work. You’ll find far more chests and cupboards crafted from cedar than you will barrels. I’ve seen cedar utilised in beer maturation on occasion – though this has nearly always come via chips or staves and not whole vessels (so called Quercus fragmentus!) Nevertheless, cedar barrels do have some historical usage – particularly over in Japan where “Tarusake” is sake produced from cedar barrel maturation.
Chemically cedar offers substantive differences to oak, containing both cedrol and cedrene – two classes or terpenes found in essential oils. These are not found in other wood types, and I dare say will have a marked influence when it comes to extraction through contact with alcohol. That said, I’m presently unable to find any substantive academic research into the transfer and transformation of cedarwood when utilised for maturation. As such, of all the woods used within the Method and Madness brand thus far – I would posit that this one is the most ‘out there’ in terms of great unknowns.
Similarly, to the M&M Chestnut Cask, the Cedarwood expression sees single pot still whisky matured in ex-bourbon and sherry finished for a little over a year. And similarly to the Chestnut cask this one also has an RRP of €95.
Nose: Exceedingly aromatic with orange zest, glace cherries and hedgerow berries alongside an abundance of unpolished yet still very naturally feeling diversions – hot house vines, clay, ferns and stale cigars. The combination is fascinating, but at the same time rather challenging to parse all at once. Dilution takes things further oddwards – balsamic, tree resin and boiled vegetables.
Taste: Opening with curry leaf and sandalwood before expressing eucalyptus and succulents. Pine needles, caraway and anise sit with intense dry earthiness whilst potatoes are spiced with clove, ginger and cardamon. Water offers notes of bay leaf, cedar (unsurprisingly) and steeped black tea. There’s some tannic presence and some alcoholic prickle also.
Finish: Medium, progressively dry and with persistent green pepperiness.
The extraction from the secondary cask has put its fingerprints all over this spirit creating something wonderfully inventive and most certainly unique. And in a world of repetitious cask usage that is to be both noted and commended. However, the cask selection hasn’t actually resulted in something that I’ll be rushing out to taste again. Worth sampling for its inimitability and conversation starting properties – but too fragmented to wholeheartedly recommend on a whole bottle basis.
Review sample provided by Irish Distillers