My whisky buddy Martin was kind enough to give me a sample of this when I was at his place on Friday (see this post). We had a way too large whisky menu to go through on a single evening, so samples were in order.
Since I am quite the BenRiach fan, even though I don’t like everything they put out, he gave me this one too. The BenRiach single casks can be quite random and a 20 year old Virgin Oak finish certainly fits that description.
With this I expected a very wood driven whisky, with loads of American oak influences.
Well, that came true. This one screams American white oak! The crisp coconut flavors are almost comparable to some 40-something year old grain whiskies that have been in oak for about half a century. So, coconut, vanilla, neither is subtle. A very oaky kind of wood influence, as in, just the oak and barely any spices or other subtleties. Hessian too and tree leaves.
The palate is quite different, with a lightly bitter flavor. The oak is more sharp, more young. Some pepper, hessian. The flavors I would expect after nosing it take a couple of seconds to emerge. Coconut, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Quite bitter.
The finish is just bitter. The bitterness goes in overdrive. Way too much of it. Lots of oak too, dry tea leaves. Did I mention oak? Or bitterness?
It’s a strange thing. I like bitter drinks. Heck, I like absinthe, and lemon, and oak. But this one is something different. I think it’s over the top. I wonder what the thought behind this was when the decided to throw it in a virgin oak cask. Maybe the whisky wasn’t very good to begin with? Maybe the underestimated the activity of the new cask? We’ll never know.
It’s an interesting dram, for sure, but not one I like very much. Kind of a bummer, since I had high hopes for this one, especially after tasting the ‘other’ virgin oak BenRiach.
Thanks to Martin for the sample!
BenRiach 1989-2011, 20 years old, Virgin Oak Finish, 50.6%