A while ago, on ‘The Spirits Business’ there was an announcement for a bottling by the SMWS that was drawn from a gin cask. As far as I (and they) know that’s a first, and that peaked my interest. I decided to buy a bottle and bottle-share it. Mostly because I expected it to be more interesting than delicious.
I kind of like gin, and I also have tried some cask aged gins, to varying success. For this whisky to mature in a gin cask, the gin must have been in there first. My guess is that the gin went into a new oak cask which had previously not been used for any other booze.
Also, there is no information on whether this is a finished whisky, or one that matured on a gin cask. However, based on how this tastes and the way gin matures (quickly, in a few months) I assume that this was a finish of a year or so.
Very spirity with a lot of spiciness that reminds me of some rye whiskies I’ve had, like Old Potrero from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. Slightly grassy but mostly just very spirity. Lots of new oak and some lemon like scents.
The palate is sharp and tingling, with lots of bitterness and spices. Sweet citrus, that even adds to the sharpness. Slightly meaty too, somehow, with leafy herbs, new make spirit and a bit of oak.
The spirit is even more pronounced on the finish, with that crisp hint of gin (like the citrus notes from before). Some oak, with sweet sevillle oranges. Not very long.
I think to properly review this there has to be a bit of contemplation.
Since this is a first ever, from a gin cask, I think there’s a certain innovative value to this which I think is a good thing. Mostly because I think Scotch is a very stagnant industry and while that can be a good thing, it’s not used as such.
By that I mean that if the stagnation (in regards to innovation) would lead to better whiskies to the same recipe and production methods, that would be nice. And while the whisky produced is better for distillers (higher yield, more consistency), it does tend to make the experience slightly more bland for us consumers. We actually prefer the more rugged whiskies of yonder year, with more randomness and distillery character.
Unfortunately, the stagnation leads (from my perspective) to more marketing efforts trying to sell the same stuff in different guises, and whisky being less distinctive and individual than it could be. Also there’s far more generalization happening with almost all dsitillers switching to the same type of barley, the same type of yeast, malt from the same maltings, and so on.
This bit of innovation is therefore welcomed since it does something that is not done before, instead of recreating something that’s old hat.
However (there’s always a ‘however’), I doubt gin casks is the way to go. What has happened here, by assumption, is a new oak cask in which gin has sat to mature for up to a year or so.
This does two things to the whisky (and SMWS generally bottles stellar Glen Moray):
First, you undo a bit of the maturation, where alcohol and spirit notes get mellowed by time and oak and oxidation, by reintroducing it to an almost new spirit, like gin.
Second, because the oak is so new, the oak influence is much more rough and sharp than an ex-bourbon or ex-sherry cask.
So, a bit of maturation is undone and the whisky is therefore, I think, not as good as it could be. Although I find the gin influence very interesting, I’m not quite swayed with the result. This whisky is one to taste, maybe taste twice, and then move on. I, for one, am glad I don’t have the entire bottle for myself.
79/100 for flavor. 86/100 for novelty.
Glen Moray 13, ex-gin cask, 58.3%, SMWS 35.178 ‘The Dunnage Bakehouse’. Sold out.