This Toberymory has spent most of its like in ex-bourbon, before being racked into an Allier wine cask for finishing. Don’t be attempting to look up who Allier are and what type of wine they produce – it’s simply a region within France responsible for producing one of the primary sources of oak for barrelling (alongside the better known Limousin and Nevers, Troncais and Vosges. Each of them have different characteristics – and each of them is treated differently depending on the winemakers requirements. Allier is notable for its particularly tight wood grain and its ability to impart spicy oak character into a wine.
Here the Allier finish (from cask #4) is unspecified in terms of its length (I’d make a punt of around 12-18 months). 357 bottles were produced. The original price from memory was around £100 (I bought it very soon after its release back in 2015), how you can still pick it up but you’ll be paying a premium of around £140 to one of the smaller retailers.
Nose: Straight out of the bottle – immediate cheese: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Philadelphia spread – severed with a scattering of week old socks. It fades after time in the glass, but never completely loses the feel of malolactic fermentation. Running throughout – red fruits, soured and tart – cranberries and cherries. Sweetness is brought from strawberry boot laces and sticky toffee pudding, whilst salinity and minerality from limestone cliffs provides a backdrop. Reduction moves things farmwards – hay and barns with a side of hedgerow berries.
Taste: Thick and quite viscous, irrespective of the reduced ABV. Soured stone and berry fruits – tart plums and well overripe blackberries are joined by salted toffee, stem ginger, chilli pepper and salt – a full array of cask spicing. It’s all rather two note – acerbic fruits with perky spicing. After some time resting, leather, car seats and glutinous pan fats. Reduction soften things up – and brings out some much needed sweetness – syrupy red and black berry fruits with a sprinkling of brown sugar and chopped almonds.
Finish: Quite long with peppering charred wood, beach shingle and path gravel.
It should be plainly obvious already that this whisky is not going to be for everyone. One might say that its left-field and far from predictable – another that is all over the place and imbalanced. I’m more in the latter camp here sadly. The initial composition with its huge lacticness and profound sourness feels more of a chore than a joy. That said, both resting and dilution are beneficial so it’s not a disaster by any means – but I’m still not enamoured that I’ve got the rest of this bottle to wade though. Nevertheless, this feels like a tightly wrought whisky that has had a misjudged wine cask rescue/experiment attempted.