Some time ago I was talking with my in-laws about whisky. My father-in-law and both brothers-in-law are quite enthusiastic about whisky too, so we tend to end up drinking a dram and chatting about good booze quite often.
In this specific conversation I’m referring to, we started yapping about which kind of casks are used, and it was mentioned that there aren’t too many Cognac casks going around in the Scotch whisky industry. I know they exist, but they’re quite rare compared to other slightly less standard casks like fortified wines and such.
Of course, as fate would have it, the next day or so a newsletter dropped that had this Thompson Brothers bottling available, from a Cognac cask. A bottle-share was quickly arranged.
I think Tomatin is a good whisky to showcase different casks, since it’s a pretty high quality spirit, but one that does leave quite some room for the cask to shine. Let’s see what a 27 month finish in a Cognac Barrique does to a gentle spirit like Tomatin!
There’s a sharp oakiness, which I find on virtually all Cognac casks, as far as they exist. So, a lot of wood on a very gentle spirit. A scent of quill too (the wet-ish hay to feed animals in winter), and some copper. A bit of orange pith, and after a while it smooths out a little bit. The start is slightly harsh on the oak.
The palate has that oaky harshness too, but not in a bad way since the ABV is rather toned down at a nice 50%. Slightly creamy, hay. That orangy note too, with the bitterness. It does start building some heat after half a minute with hints of white pepper.
The finish is quite dry, and brings that same heat and bite that the palate ended with. Nice and warming.
It’s a strange whisky, that only slightly works because of the not-ridiculous ABV. A bit higher and this would have gotten too harsh. Now it’s not a very complex whisky, but I do think it nicely shows what a Cognac cask does to a gentle spirit.
On Whiskybase I see that not a lot of people like it, and some actively dislike it. While I think it’s not actually that bad, I do get the lower rating. Cognac casks are hard to work with, or so it seems, and you need a more forceful spirit to stand up to it. In this case, the oaky harshness doesn’t really work and there’s not a lot going on to counteract the bitterness.