Special Vatting 12, 2002-2014, Sherry Casks, 45% – Michel Couvreur

These whiskies by French bottler Michel Couvreur tend to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing. I am in the first camp, although that absolutely doesn’t go for anything they produce. I generally don’t get too thrilled by 4 year old grain whisky, so to say.

A bit of a problem for the bottler is the price of each bottle. Some are sort of affordable, but when things start having an age statement of 18 or more, prices sky-rocket, and availability plummets.

What I did love was visiting the bottler back in the summer of 2014. I was toured around the place by Jean-Arnaud Frantzen and shown the caves (both in the French and English sense) with various awesome whiskies maturing there. I remember trying 65 year old Sherry, and a 14 year old Highland Park which was one of the best I’ve ever had from the distillery.

A common misconception with this bottler is that a lot of their whisky is from Glen Garioch. It does say Old Meldrum on the label, but they have deals with several other distilleries for getting spirit, which they mature themselves in France. Hence the vague ‘product of Europe’ on the label.

Anyway, this one says ‘peaty malt whisky’ on the label, which suggests that there’s at least some Laphroaig in there, because that’s one of the other distilleries they (used to) get spirit from. Of course, my most recent information is eight years old, so things might have changed. However, this bottling is from before then…

What it doesn’t say on the label is ‘single’. It’s a blend of three different single malts from Scotland. Matured in Burgundy (which also means it couldn’t be ‘scotch single malt’ anymore), in their own sherry casks. Another thing I really like. They get spirit from distilleries, and use their own casks to mature it.

Image from Whiskybase

There is a lot of spicy sherry, with not so much sweetness. The dried fruits are there, but they are kept in check by the spices and the wood. There’s a bit of earthy peat, which smells different than your typical Islay style. It’s not even very old fashioned, but it just stays very close to the sherry that was in the casks before. Rather yeasty with some oloroso style funkiness.

The palate brings a nice kick. It’s not overly strong, but just strong enough to deliver a little bit of bite, in combination with the spices. A rather strong bitter note with date stones and plum stones, in combination with the sherry yeastiness. Dry with sawdust, tree bark, cinnamon and clove. There’s some sweetness behind it, but not a lot.

The finish is largely the same as the palate. The bitterness wanes a little bit, but so does the sweetness. This way the baking spices, the oak and the light funky notes linger longest.

I can imagine this not scoring too highly since it’s not an easy whisky. It is, however, something I really like. I tend to enjoy bitter notes in whisky, but this one combines it nicely with the spicy sherry and a whiff of dried fruits. Good stuff (for me).

But that peaty note that’s mentioned is very, very minor.



About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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