A mystery bottling from an unnamed Islay distillery that has been finished for an unspecified amount of time in a red wine barrique from Chateau Palmer’s Alter Ego range – a left bank Bordeaux vineyard from the Margaux appellation. 306 bottles were produced by The Single Cask – they’ve available (2 left as of writing) from Master of Malt for £87.95.
Nose: Smoked berries – cranberry jelly, redcurrant preserve and cherry bakewells, alongside a heady and aromatic mix of sandalwood, cedar and fir trees. Smoke is partly vegetal with smouldering fallen leaves and partly coastal with wet gravel, whilst cured ham lingers in the background. The addition of water presents lemon curd and BBQ briquettes alongside marker pen ink and peeling wallpaper.
Taste: A light and controlled arrival with minerality from singles together with ashy smoke and tart syrupy berries. A dry saltiness runs throughout, whilst red hedgerow fruits are smoked over an open fireplace and burnt toffee and metholated oak are joined by rosehips and asides of sweet hospital antiseptic and floor cleaner. Reduction reveals a cereal note – oaty and toasted – alongside dried paper and ozone.
Finish: Quite long with a progressive dry oakiness, persistent salinity and background medicinal cues.
A mystery Islay malt with a discernible red wine influence, that has brought with it some rather unusual – almost juniper-like – flavourings. The finish feels both restrained and let loose – there’s few sticky wine cask tannins, but at the same time, the intense berry fruits have tamped down the underlying smokiness of the distillate. The result is certainly unique and thought-provoking – but to my palate a little blunt in places. Wine casks can be challenging and this whisky most certainly is that.