Wolfburn's core bottlings of Northland and Aurora are soon to be bolstered with the new peated expression Morven. In advance of that the alchemists from Thurso are presenting us with 'Wolfburn No.128' - their first small batch whisky. Matured in smaller casks from a lightly peated spirit, No.128 provides us with our first proper look at a smokier Wolfburn.
The lighted peated spirit of 128 has been matured in slightly unusual 100 litre (close to the size of a Quarter Cask) first-fill ex-bourbon casks. Smaller casks usually mature at a faster rate given the higher level of contact between liquid and wood. However, there are potential downsides to this with a higher rate of evaporation of spirit and possibly too much wood influence if left unchecked.
A recent cask sampling by Wolfburn found that a standard 1st fill ex-bourbon cask filled in 2013 had evaporated at a rate of about 2.5% a year and was sitting at 58% ABV (from an original fill strength of 63.5%), whereas an octave (very small at around 46 litres) had evaporated at over 8% a year and the ABV had dropped markedly down to 49% in only 3 years.
Wolfburn No.128 is named after the casks its composed of - they're all drawn from warehouse No.1, stow number 28. The limited release has an outturn of 6,000 bottles and will be available towards the end of July 2017.
Nose: Fresh out of the sample bottle in to the glass there's an initial big hit of tobacco smoke - this subsides very quickly and is no longer discernible after a short period of resting. Lemon peels are sweetened by toffee, honey and vanilla notes. Warming peat is ever-present, but never overwhelming and is part heathery, part smoky. There's an underlying earthiness and mild salinity, both of which I'd associate with Wolfburn's spirit.
Taste: Sweet honey first and then apples, and honey-dew melons make for a really fresh, crisp and clean experience. Light vanilla, and light smoke, as with the nose, the peating is very sympathetic. Again, there's quite some difference when rested with development lengthened and flavours deeper and more complicated.
Finish: Medium length finish with a well-judged level of tannic astringency from the increased contact with the smaller barrel.
I'm often championing the patience of leaving a well-aged whisky in the glass to rest - here's a young whisky where I'd offer the same advice. Wolfburn No.128 *really* benefits from a 10 minute chill out before drinking. The peating is highly sympathetic to Wolfburn's underlying spirit allowing it's natural expressiveness to still shine through, whilst offering up a new take on the Wolfburn experience. Fresh, clean and very drinkable, No.128 should get everyone in the mood for the upcoming Morven release, and future peaty bottlings from the distillery.