A while ago I got some samples from Master of Malt again. They had just released the second iteration of their Reference Series, which could also be called Whisky Homework.
I’m still slightly in doubt whether or not Master of Malt sent me those samples because they like me to taste their whisky, or because they think my reviews suck and want me to improve. I’ll focus on the first of those, but I’m not adamant on that choice.
Anyway, I haven’t looked up what the difference are between Reference II and Reference II.1, so all is based solely on what I taste in the glass, instead of information I got of the interwebz.
I was a bit apprehensive about these samples since I’ve noticed quite often that Master of Malt’s blended whiskies, as in, the stuff they blend (which might also be blended malt) can get quite fennely, like they hadn’t cleaned their apparatus properly after running a batch of absinthe. I found it in some (mind: not all) That Boutique-y Whisky Company releases and in the first batch of Reference whiskies. A little birdy told me though, that the problem had been identified and taken care of. Which also means I wasn’t the only one.
On the nose I find the whisky smelling young and raw, with some oak to it. I get brown sugar, a rye like spiciness and a hint of fruit. The palate has the same sugar, but also pepper, malt. There’s some fruit and spices again. It’s still young, oaky and spicy. It’s pretty nice, to be honest, but not very ‘special’ yet. Maybe some peat? The finish has a hint of sweat. Not necessarily in a bad way. It’s not very long but it is consistent.
The nose comes off as a bit more peaty than the previous one. Not too sure though. It’s a bit more gentle too, which makes me think it’s a little bit older. A little less raw, so to say. The wood spices are tuned up a little bit with cinnamon and nutmeg. The palate doesn’t have this added gentleness, with more spices, pepper and oak. The finish is longer, again more gentle. I get the hint of peat here as well.
Well, this is embarrassing. I looked up what the difference is between II and II.1, but it seems there’s just an added finishing in mini PX-treated casks. A third of what goes into II.1 is finished in those Sherry casks, and it does make quite a difference. The extra oak contact has made it more gentle and more spicy. I haven’t been able to find the typical PX fruitiness and sweetness, though. This might seem strange but these expected flavors weren’t always present in their Darkness series either, which Surprised Ben Ellefsen too.
I expect the sense of extra peatiness I got might have come from increased oak flavors, but to be honest, this might have just been a figment of my imagination. It happens. That’s also why Master of Malt should send whole bottles so I can try again and again, to get those weird flavors properly determined and/or crossed off.
So, yes, there is quite a difference when even a little bit of the whisky in the bottle has been finished in miniature casks. In this case it is, however, difficult to determine whether or not the change in flavor comes from the PX that the cask contained, or from the increased wood contact that bit of whisky has had. Interesting and a thought for future releases?
To end the review: I liked both of them, they only had a little of the fennely flavor, but in this case that also might be the spirit and youthfulness of the whisky. I didn’t mind at all, this time. It’s fun stuff to taste! I think I prefer the II.1 over the II, in this case, so the sherry finish works in its favor.
Thanks to the chaps at Master of Malt for the samples! The next two will follow shortly!