Day 12, the midway point, livin’ on a prayer. Whilst I don’t ascribe to the notion that barring a few exceptions, most whisky is either hurried, poorly conceived or poorly created (but rest assured some quarters most certainly do contend this) – I do believe that there’s an awful lot of spirit out there that tastes pretty analogous. Let’s be clear - analogous is not to be equated to bad….far from it. But when you’re tasting thousands of samples a year, there’s often a tendency for everything that’s in the middle, halfway there(!), to end up lost in a large heart that’s neither truly ground-breaking, nor shamelessly awful. You just don’t remember the typical and the conventional in quite such a memorable fashion.
I’m always interested in distilleries and bottlers who try to do things differently – to purposely create distillate and expressions that through their conception and delivery offer the drinker greater variation and shades. To my mind this is a fundamental tenet of the whisky journey. Sure – that makes for bumps in the road and strange detours off the beaten path. But this irregularity is what makes whisky worth exploring in the first place. If everything were of the very highest eminence – a) none of us would be able to afford it b) there would be no sense of quality or indeed of the diversity of that same quality.
Whilst whisky needs to be tasty, it also needs to be interesting – particularly when you’re wilfully exposing yourself to a lot of it. And I’ve found today’s whisky to be exactly that…
Boutique-y’s four expressions from Virginia’s Reservoir distillery all come with a cheeky un-rebrand. Corn, wheat, rye and bourbon companies are the name of the game for this quartet and each is delivered at 2 years of age – following the form of the distillery’s current OB line-up. And it's pleasing to see Boutique-y following their own rules and putting this on the label rather than leaving it to the drinker to decypher.
Under the microscope today is the bourbon – though looking at the mashmills, the corn would also be permitted to be classified in the same manner from a regulatory standpoint. Bourbon wise we’re provided with a composition created from 80% corn and 10% of both rye and wheat. The bottling is delivered at 46.6% ABV – a touch lower than most of the distillery’s own releases, but not in a totally different ballpark. 963 bottles have been produced and one will cost you £54.95 from Master of Malt.
Nose: Immediate syrup – thick caramel, vanilla and prune. This is joined by griddled waffles, sugar-dusted shortbread, vanilla latte and dusty, stale Happy Shopper cola. Wood is prominent throughout – freshly planed 2x4, sawdust and oak chips together with pepper and powdered cinnamon. Dilution expresses nail polish, chopped herbs, gingerbread men and chocolate wafer biscuits.
Taste: Right from the off char and spice are glaring – almost driving this whisky. Cinnamon, clove, cardamom and drying pepper are all in play and all tied to singed toffee, oaky vanilla and pronounced charred cask staves – almost charcoal, but still with the sweetness of the burnt wood running throughout. Reduction here offers orange peels and reveals a creamier aspect (potentially from the wheat constituent) – sweet/sour raspberry coulis with a spoon of vanilla ice-cream.
Finish: Quite long in length and playing cinema popcorn against sweetly charred oak and still comprehensively spiced.
Boutique-y’s Reservoir Distillery 2 year old is solid, impactful and pleasingly characterful. Each of the grain components adds something discernible and each feels nicely in equilibrium with the other. At a mere two years, what this lacks in roundedness and refinement it easily makes up with personality and charm. And that makes for something which I both admire and enjoy. Give it a shot.
For a different viewpoint - as always - time to visit Sorren at OCD Whisky
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