lördag 4 juli 2020

Springbank 12yo Cask Strength vs. Longrow Red 13yo – 2020 editions!

Friends! Recently I was contacted by swedish importer/distributor Symposion asking if I was interested in reviewing some of their upcoming whiskies. There was a bunch of whiskies on offer but as I have previously done I chose to (only) sign up for some samples from Springbank Distillery

The samples I chose are the latest editions of Springbank 12 yo Cask Strength and Longrow Red (both bottled 2020). The reason for choosing them was that I actually did a versus/comparison/head to head of them two years ago (click here to read that article), and I thought it would be interesting to do the same thing again :)

Here in Sweden, both the Springbank 12yo CS and the Longrow Red will be available for purchase at the state monopoly this thursday and you can view them by clicking here and here. When it comes to recipe for the two whiskies these are the details:

Provided by Symposion

Springbank 12yo CS (12-15ppm) has for the 2020 edition been matured to 65% in bourbon casks and to 35% in sherry casks. The ABV is 55,3% and Sweden receives 540 bottles (number of bottles produced in total not stated). 

Provided by Symposion

Longrow Red 13yo (50-55ppm) has initially spent 10 years on a mix of bourbon barrels and refill sherry hogsheads (ratio not stated), and has after that enjoyed 3 years of "finishing" in casks that previously matured Cabernet Sauvignon from the Chilean Mont Gras' Intrigue Estate (located in Alto Maipo). The ABV is 51,6% and Sweden receives 660 bottles out of 9000 in total. Ok folks, lets review!

Springbank nose:
Lots of sweetness going on here folks! There’s sweet peat, sweet leather (caramelized leather), and the sweetness hanging around in the air from when you’ve just squeezed some lemons, and hey, there’s even some peated lemon peel in here! And of course the peatyness is also rather “heavy”, moist, and soil-y as it usually is when it comes to Springbank, but, I really must say that this is a cask strength version of Springbank that is really, really delicate and rather smooth; the ABV/high strength is hardly noticeable! The sweet fruitiness calls for almost all of the attention and below the “heavy” layer this whisky shows a softness and a creamy richness that is to die for!

Longrow nose:
Very “closed” at first nosing… first I only pick up mould and plank (newly cut wood) intermingling with almond paste in a preserve tin (meaning notes of metal), strange. Then I swirl the glass firmly and vigorously and now the dram opens up. Out comes glorious notes of old leather, redcurrants, lingonberry jam, very dry almond paste, the purple wine gums in Bassets, orange marmalade/orange zest in peated full fat whipped cream, and very un-ripe green grapes. In comparison to the previous dram the ABV/high strength is definitely noticeable in this dram and has a bite to it (so watch out). On the downside, unfortunately, the plank (newly cut wood) returns in a sort of discrete way (once you’ve picked it up you can’t not feel it). Cool stuff on the nose but do remember to give the glass a good old swirl before nosing.

Springbank taste:
Oh, the perfect strength! First comes a generous amount of saltyness and the bitterness from licking lemon peel (why did I do that?!), and then bam! Dry peat, dry smoke, heavy tannins, lots of grape fruit and a tad of red chilli. It’s all very fast indeed. In the second wave there is vanilla cigarillo graciously moving on into peated almond paste and seaweed infused with mellow lemon. The aftertaste shows fading peat, watery vanilla sauce and a whiff of mint. Wow, that was very intense and quite eventful. A very interesting and surprising flavour journey!

Longrow taste:  
It all starts off with a really vibrant phase of sour-sweetness from the red berries on the nose, and lemon pulp that has been over the top sugared, and after that it’s on to old somewhat lurky peat, peated vanilla, watery leather and milky almond paste. Unfortunately, after this it all just morphs into a sticky and bland almond paste and faint peatsmoke and that’s it folks... While the 12 yo CS is fast and surprising on the taste in a good way, this one is fast and abrupt and nothing really happens after the two main phases. It just fades away to a rather... boring peat. That's just too bad. 

Some reflections to sum up
Well, this time around the Springbank wins the trophy for sure; both its nose and taste is far better, in fact superior, to the nose and taste of the Longrow. Sadly and unfortunately I’d say that this years edition of Longrow Red is a bit of a failure… Looking at the price level the Springbank has all the advantage and appeal. 799kr (around €80) is indeed a catch! Sláinte!

A big thanks to the nice people at Symposion for the opportunity to review and taste these whiskies before their release! For kind of weekly updates please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here, and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures and videos likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro [at] gmail [dot] com and when permission is granted by stating the source.
Borrowed from systembolaget.se
Borrowed from systembolaget.se

lördag 30 maj 2020

Swedish Whisky from High Coast Whisky – Cinco 50,5% ABV!

Dear friends, followers, and supporters alike! Today I bring you my review of a swedish whisky from High Coast Whisky (formerly known as Box Distillery). This whisky should have been released on the 2nd of april, but the release was postponed probably due to stuff relating to the pandemic. Anyways, this monday, the 1st of june, it is finally being released! Please click here to view the product.

The name of the whisky is Cinco, meaning five; the whisky is a mix of whisky that has been matured in five kinds of sherry casks, namely Oloroso, Fino, Pedro Ximenez, Amontillado, and Palo Cortado.   Ten of the sherry casks were of Spanish origin, and one sherry cask was of American origin. The whisky, made from unpeated barley, has however first spent time in bourbon casks (between 2,66 to 5,64 years), and has then been "finished" in either of the types of sherry casks until reaching the youngest age of 6,72 years and the oldest age of 8,68 years. Exciting!

Ok, let's review!  

The nose is really soft, velvet-y and silk-y soft actually (so maybe extremely soft is a more appropriate description). This whisky is absolutely drizzling with scents like toffee, melted butter, sugar syrup made from brown sugar, and a deep, deep dark and creamy vanilla. Being a sherried whisky I find it very interesting that these scents actually stand before the ”classic” notes of sherry maturation (dark raisins, dried figs, dreid dates, etcetera). The sherry-style leans more towards rich and juicy dark red grapes than raisins, and more towards dried apricots and melted butter than dried figs. Very interesting and an intriguing nose that I could nose forever. Mmm…

Cool! Actually quite dry in style! I thought it would be more creamy than dry but this is quite dry and medium heavy in terms of the tanninic-ness. We do have melted butter and toffee from the nose, and the vanilla is also here but influenced with coffe and… amaretto with a dash of pistachio! Alongside these flavours there is also something over-ripe-pear-ish intermingling with evident menthol/mint that actually reminds me of a light peatyness. A very more-ish and chewy taste!

Some reflections to sum up:
This is a really good tasting and interesting style of whisky. The interesting thing for me is that it’s not at all over-sherried; it’s not your ”regular” oloroso sherry matured whisky. When nosing and tasting I found myself thinking several times that I’ve never had a sherried whisky that has the style of this one, and I’ve definitely never had a swedish whisky that has the style of this one. In short, it’s a genius move to mix sherry styles like this and it has truly resulted in something new in its category. I highly recommend it!

A big thanks to the nice people at High Coast Whisky for the opportunity to review and taste this whisky before it's release! For kind of weekly updates please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here, and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures and videos likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro [at] gmail [dot] com and when permission is granted by stating the source.

Pic borrowed from highcoastwhisky.se

söndag 17 maj 2020

Cask Collaboration with Agitator – tasting notes of 2yo spirit!

Dear friends, followers and supporters alike! Two weeks ago, on the 4th of May, the spirit in the casks included in the cask collaboration project between Swedish distillery Agitator and myself turned 2yo (!). And so, today it is my great pleasure to share with you all my tasting notes of samples from four of the casks!

In order to read up on what makes Agitator such an interesting and groundbreaking whisky distillery, as well as exactly what our collaboration entails, please do click here and read this previous article of mine and you will get a good introduction to it all. The general details are as follows:

New make recipe used for collaboration: 
Peated barley (30ppm), 58% from the High Reflux stills, 42% from the Low Reflux stills, went into Bourbon barrels 111-116 with a filling strength of 55,1% ABV on the 4th of May 2018.

The details of the samples reviewed are as follows: 

Sample no.1: Drawn 200504 from 1st-fill Bourbon Barrel no.113, 56,4% ABV.

Sample no.2: Drawn 200505 from cask no.1532, a 32 litre 1st-fill Oloroso American Oak cask, 56,4% ABV. (Spirit transferred 191031 from 1st-fill Bourbon barrel no.111).

Sample no.3: Drawn 200504 from Cask no.1531, a 130 litre Virgin Chestnut (“quarter”) cask, 56,4% ABV. (Spirit transferred 191031 from 1st-fill Bourbon barrel no.111).

Sample no.4: Drawn 200505 from Cask no.1530, a 32 litre 1st-fill Oloroso Chestnut cask, 56,4% ABV. (Spirit transferred 191031 from 1st-fill Bourbon barrel no.111).

Casks no.1532, 1530, 1531, and no.111 on the fork lift
So, the way I went about analyzing the samples are as follows: after considering what might be a good order in which to taste, I figured that the chestnut casks (sample no.3 and no.4) were the "heaviest" ones; the ones most influenced by the wood. And so I placed them in the order listed above. I spent around one hour nosing the four samples, and then around 1,5 hours tasting them. Ok folks, here are my notes and impressions!

Sample no.1
Sample no.1, nose:
Medium peat, sweet liquorice (and/or polypodium), and a burnt/earthy saltyness are all in the centre of the scent. Above this layer we have lemon curd with a touch of pear-flavoured popsicle (piggelin). Almost something like a carbonated lemon drink; carbonated lemon curd? In the base, the bottom layer, there is soft almond paste resting on a foundation of big vanilla, almost vanilla custard actually. The carbonated feeling in the top layer probably has something to do with the relatively high ABV. The alcohol is there but it’s not too much. The vanilla custard base mediates maturity and signals an age of around 8 years old.

Sample no.2
Sample no.2, nose:
The ABV feels slightly amplified (whilst the carbonated feeling is subdued). Peat and sweet liquorice is in the background. After only six months maturation/"finish" on this small cask there is already quite evident notes of sherry; we have red currant peel, a faint touch of raisins, and definitely dried figs. In the base vanilla fudge intermingles with peat-infused milk chocolate, medium rich leather and an evident touch of a calm campfire. The top layer has some acidity to it but not as much as in the bourbon cask. In terms of age I’d say that it feels very similar to the bourbon cask but here all of the scents are more integrated, more composite, meaning more mature. 

Sample no.3

Sample no.3, nose:
Wow! So many scents, so many impressions! Lots of more things going on than in the previous two samples (while they can perhaps be described as ”calm”, this one can be described as ”eventful”). It’s like a european oak sherry maturation on steroids; lot’s of dryness, lots of dried fruits (dark dried fruits), rich/bold peat, new leather, and medium-heavy to heavy dryness from the wood (tannins). At the core of the peatyness there is an earthy and forest-y mint going on. At the heart of the scent is both a big, big vanilla and something like a ”carpenters home-y cabin in the woods”-thing and/or carpenters workshop happening. I suppose this has to do with the fact that we are talking aboout a virgin chestnut cask, but somehow it does not seem virgin at all. Hmm, very hard to explain… In terms of age this one seems quite a lot older than the previous two samples. It’s hard to specify an age but say 10-12 years old!

Sample no.4
Sample no.4, nose:
OMG! While this small cask does have many similarities with the previous one, the scents are more accentuated and compact. The dried fruits are now red rather than dark, and the leafs from a black currant bush has turned up! I suppose wine gum candy (bassets) is a good description, and there is an intense presence of the candy pieces with red and purple color. The mint has been dialed up and the peat feels very present but somehow subdued or mellowed. Spicy sherry cask. There is also luke warm coffee and a whiff of vanilla infused chocolate chip coockies. Mmm… 

Sample no.1
Sample no.1, taste:
Mmm! Salt (almost sea salt), dry peat and sugary sweetness in a wonderful combination. Bourbon maturation works soo good for this new make recipe! We have smoky vanilla with sugar sprinkled slices of lemon coocked in a frying pan (caramelized). A quite distinct and dry almond paste takes over which morphs into peated whipped vanilla cream and sundried lawn ("hay"). A spicyness lingers. 

Sample no.2
Sample no.2, taste:
Wow! I would really like for you my dear readers to taste this one and share this wonderful taste with me, but at the same time I would kind of like to keep the whole cask for myself. You get the point; this stuff really is really good! I can’t belive that this is only 2 years old! The peat and the sherry is perfectly integrated. The sweet liquorice stands out in a beautiful way! Lots of medium dark flavours in the midrange. Warm peated vanilla, like liquid peated vanilla fudge… There is also something earthy/nature-y going on, maybe oven baked peat-infused parsnips drizzled in butter. Forest infused dried figs and mellow gunpowder lingers on and on and slowly fades away.

Sample no.3
Sample no.3, taste:
Once again, wow! Virgin chestnut cask could easily be mistaken for a heavy european oak oloroso sherry maturation. The core of the taste is both sweet and salt, and has a concentrated peat and tanninic dried fruits; dried figs, dark raisins, and oven baked apple slices. In the background, we also have chocolate infused dried slices of orange. The flavours are semi-calm and at the same time intese/concentrated. While I usually find virgin swedish oak overpowering (and having too much fir/christmas tree in it), virgin chestnut to me is nothing of the sorts, not too much wood, just intense/concentrated. The vanilla is indeed big, just as big as on the nose, and whilst I found the peat to be rich/bold on the nose, I find it to be subdued on the taste. This new make recipe and level of peating works really good with chestnut cask and brings out a mouthwatering touch of milk chocolate in the peat. In terms of age, my mind definitely says the same as on the nose: 10-12 years old. Simply unbelievable.

Sample no.4
Sample no.4, taste:
Dude! Now we’re talking. This is really like an accentuated, amplified, and enhanced super-version of the previous. Whilst the previous one was tanninic, this one is really, really dry. My impression of 1st-fill oloroso on chestnut is that it tastes kind of like a port pipe ”on fire”; burnt port/heavily roasted port. The dried fruits from the nose have almost transformed into something like chilli and spicy. It’s heavy on the spicyness and it teases my tounge in an intriguing way. There is an intese feeling of peel from black currants. We also have peat-infused bramble marmalade. In the background dark chocolate-y vanilla fudge cubes calls for attention. The aftertaste closes with lurking peat and intense vanilla slowly, slowly fading away. Wow, what a whisky! Sorry, I mean what an incredible 2 year old spirit!

Some reflections to sum up:
Alright folks! The maturation sure is moving along at a very good pace. Already the spirit tastes soooo good and I can't wait to taste these casks again further down the line. Out of samples no.2-4 my favorites are definitely no.2 and no.3. But, they are all really good and are all of very interesting and different character, to say the least. Having reviewed these samples in this phase of the collab, some ideas have definitely emerged regarding how (in what form) it might be interesting to bottle them. Big thanks to Håkan, Oskar, and Christian for the amazing opportunity that this collaboration is! And last but not least, big thanks to all of you my dear readers and I hope you've enjoyed this article. Sláinte! 

For kind of weekly updates please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here, and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures and videos likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro [at] gmail [dot] com and when permission is granted by stating the source.
Sample 1-4

torsdag 9 april 2020

Swedish Distillery Agitator Whiskymakare – two drafts for core range!

Dear friends, followers and supporters alike! About a month ago I received a package from my friends at swedish distillery Agitator Whiskymakare. As you hopefully know by now I'm very happy to be engaged in a joint project together with Agitator, namely a cask collaboration. But before reading on, please do read up on what makes Agitator such a unique whisky distillery by clicking here, and to read up on what our collaboration entails please click here

So, the package contained two samples, both of them are be viewed as drafts for two core range bottlings. The first one is marked "Husmalt" (which is probably best translated into house style). The second one is marked "Rökmalt" (which translates to peated malt). 

Even though master distiller Oskar and distillery technician Christian are friends of mine and the distillery is, to say the least, close to my heart, the only information I have received about these samples are the following: 

The Husmalt draft has been composed from spirit distilled in both the High Reflux-stills and the Low Reflux-stills, has been matured for 13 months, and has been bottled at 46%. 

The Rökmalt draft has been composed from spirit distilled in the Low Reflux-stills only, has been matured for 13 months, and has been bottled at 46%. 

That's it folks. So let's see what kind of styles of whisky Oskar and Christian have in mind for the core range!

Husmalt – nose:
In the first layer I find honey sweetness and medium-sweet vanilla (kind of a light touch of vanilla cigarillo actually). The first layer and the vanilla in it is very light. I nose closer to the glass and in the second layer I first find smooth milk chocolate and coockie dough with lots of butter in it. But below that are some rather big notes; definitely a feel of medium-heavy peat, earthy peat in fact, soil, and moss, but there is also something fruity, pan fried lemon slices comes to mind. The body is medium big and the alcohol at it’s 46% ABV lurks perfectly below, hardly springing to mind. This 13 months old spirit smells rather like 8yo. No yeast, no fusel, nothing young. Just mature. To me, stylewise, this noses rather close to the NAS-version of Tyrconnell.

Rökmalt – nose:
While the previous had Tyrconnell on the nose, this one noses like a mix of Connemara and Caol Ila. Below the obvious vanilla sweetness in the top layer we also have white chocolate and something moving slightly towards mint leaves (in the distant) and just a tad of lemon jucie. This one has a lot more body, I’d definitely say it’s full bodied. In the second layer we have sharp salty yet chocolate-y peat, rather heavy peat with touches of gunpowder and ashes. The alcohol is a tad more noticeable in this one and calls for my attention. Here 13 months smells more like 5-7yo. Again no yeast. The gunpowder can however be associated with ”fusel”, and while it does not at all seem young the nose reveals that this should be a ”punch-in-the-face” kind of a dram.

The color of Husmalt
Husmalt – taste:
Starts off on a salty-ness, moves on swiftly into dry milk chocolate, dark vanilla fudge cubes, lightly burnt peat swooshes by, and then it’s on to a touch of light vanilla. After this the light peat returns for a second wave which morphs into a sherry maturation style combined with a slight touch (a sensation) of mulled wine (glögg) and likewise a slight touch of redcurrants. In the aftertaste there is almond paste and my chest feels warm. When the taste fades away my mouth is left with just a tad of dryness. The taste is, as is noticeable from my notes, quite complex indeed. From this perspective the dram is mature and shows no signs of being as young as it actually is. The immediate taste is however quite ”fast”, lasting somewhere between 45 seconds to 1 minute. And so, if the young age of 13 months is visible somewhere it is in the aspect of length of taste. 

The color of Rökmalt
Rökmalt – taste:
Oh gosh! A direct copy of some of the stuff from the nose; after a start on evident sea salt we have robust gunpowder and ashes intermingling with big peat. We also have the innertube of a bicycle tire. After that we have evident mint, peated lemon curd moving on into peated white chocolate vanilla, and in fact there is also some regular milk chocolate lurking around somewhere in the mix. Judging from it’s nose I thought that this would be a ”punch-in-the-face” kind of a dram. I was however deceived; all in all this is a quite soft/mellow dram and the alcohol is close to perfectly integrated and only shows itself slightly through a cough almost happening. The body is bigger in this one compared to the previous and it tastes even more mature. This is also transferred into a longer immediate taste, say 1,5 minutes to 2 minutes. The afteratste fades away with mellow peat and soft milk chocolate.

To sum up:
Given our joint cask collaboration project and the fact that I've visited the distillery a number of times now, I've been very lucky indeed to taste quite a lot of maturing spirit from Agitator before, including following the progress of "my" casks. Still, every time I taste their maturing spirit I'm always struck by how incredibly fast the spirit is maturing. And as noticeable from my tasting notes these two drafts are no exception. So to sum up I'm very confident in saying that if Oskar and Christian would want to bottle some of this stuff as soon as it is 3yo, the really could and you would all be amazed by the fact that the whisky was not older than that. And my fellow bloggers Tjeders Whisky, Whiskytower, and Sinnen och Nyanser seems to be thinking along the same lines in their reviews of these samples!

Finally, big thanks to Oskar and Christian for the great opportunity to taste and review these samples! Please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here, and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures and videos likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro [at] gmail [dot] com and when permission is granted by stating the source.

The vacuum-stills of Agitator

torsdag 13 februari 2020

Springbank 10 yo – Local Barley 2019 56,2% ABV!

Dear friends and followers alike! On friday last week I received a package from the nice people at Symposion containing a sample of the latest edition of Springbank Local Barley! As the name reveals this particular expression of Springbank has been produced using only barley that has been grown locally around Campbeltown. For this edition the barley (of Optic variety) comes from the High Cattadale Farm. 

The peating level is 12-15 ppm. Time of distillation is July 2009 and time of bottling is October 2019.  The whisky has been matured in a combination of bourbon casks (77%), sherry casks (20%), and port casks (3%). The whisky has been bottled at a (vatting) strength of 56,2% ABV. The number of bottles produced is 9000 out of which 522 has made their way to Sweden. Here it will be launched at the state monopoly tomorrow (the 14th of February) and you can view the product by clicking here.

Ok folks, let's review!

Absolutely wonderful! This dram definitely has something that reminds me of a Laphroaig at cask strength. The centre of the nose is rather salt-y and leather-y. There is also something farmyard-y in the centre (let’s call it "hay"). The centre is surrounded by medium creamy vanilla and smoked almondpaste. There are also clear whiffs of mint and eucalyptus, meaning there is a medicinal thing going on here. It’s not really right to compare this with a Laphroaig though, cause this one is way softer (softspoken), reserved and subdued on the peat as well as overall. In the deep layers I detect a fruity sweetness; kind of a mix between lemon peel and figs dipped in mellow red wine. The strength/ABV goes unnoticed, so very soft indeed.

Salty, salty, salty, mixed with peat! The leather from the nose is very much a part of the taste. Suddenly, passion fruit and mango flies by (!), it stays for less than half a second and then it’s gone (very fleeting indeed). When the saltyness and the peat mellows down we have a beautiful kick from the strength/ABV, this in turn evolves into dryness which evolves into a creamyness consisting of vanilla and melted butter (very slightly burnt), and all of the sudden a whiff of fruit flies by again (this time in the form of yellow kiwi). That’s strange! The aftertaste has quite a lot of dryness in it, reminding me of the taste/feeling of the peel from green grapes. The strength/ABV is present on the palate (the roof of the mouth) all the way through the aftertaste, manifesting itself as bubbles (carbonation) and black pepper-yness. The last thing in the aftertaste to leave my mouth and end the taste all together is ashes and a fleeting presence of elderflower syrup. 

Some reflections to sum up:
Even though it may seem otherwise from my notes on the nose vs. the taste, the nose is actually more complex than the taste; the nose is more deep than the taste is, and the different phases of the taste passes by quicker than what the nose indicates it should do, if you know what I mean. As far as my competence goes the taste does not really show any signs of the sherry casks and port casks used, but rather ”only” bourbon casks. On the nose there are however tendencies towards sherry cask maturation (ie. the figs dipped in mellow red wine) and that is absolutely a gret contribution in terms of bringing complexity to the composition. So, should you buy this whisky? Well, the nose itself is almost worth the cost, and the taste is (although not as complex as the nose) also very good. Definitely so for those of you out there who just love your drams salty and peaty.

Finally, a big thanks to Peter at Symposion for the great opportunity to review this whisky before its release! For kind of weekly updates please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here, and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures and videos likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro [at] gmail [dot] com and when permission granted by stating the source.

Pic borrowed from systembolaget.se

torsdag 30 januari 2020

Swedish Rye Whiskey (to be) – A cask sample from Blind Seal Whiskey!

Dear friends, followers and supporters alike! Today I bring you something very, very special. Exactly one week ago I met up with Tobiaz Forsberg (former brewer at Fjäderholmarnas Bryggeri, and today he is) the "Head Bootlegger" at the new and upcoming swedish whiskey brand Blind Seal Whiskey!

That's right, Blind Seal Whiskey is not a distillery but rather a brand. More precisely it's a joint venture between Nordic Whisky Capital and Tobiaz. NWC is as you know the owner of swedish Distillery Agitator. NWC owns 51% of Blind Seal Whiskey and Tobiaz, who is the (idea)man behind the brand, owns the rest. 

Blind Seal Whiskey is deeply rooted in the american designtradition of the 1920's, and is inspired by the speak-easy bars of the prohibition era. When it comes to the issue of producing Blind Seal Whiskey, it uses the competence, staff, and production capacity available at Agitator. The orientation of Blind Seal Whiskey is american style whiskey, and initially the focus is on rye as the main component. 

With that said, by now you all understand that the reason for me meeting up with Tobiaz was that he wanted me to review a cask sample of his work in progress Blind Seal Whiskey. Yay, very exclusive, very exciting!!!

So the need to know details for this sample is as follows: the mash is made from 60% malted rye and 40% malted barely. The Blind Seal mash holds an average strength of 7,3% ABV. The liquid for this sample is a 50/50 mix of maturing spirit coming from two 200 litre new american oak barrels (toasting level 3, wave staves). One barrel contained spirit from (distilled in) the High Reflux-stills,  the other barrel contained spirit from (distilled in) the Low Reflux-stills. The heart of the former held 72% ABV, while the heart of the latter held 67% ABV. The different hearts were then mixed together and by the use of water reduced to 55% (which is the filling strength most often used, and preferred,  at Agitator). This is batch number one which all in all was mashed throughout the 7th-23rd of January 2019, and distilled throughout the 15th-29th of January 2019 (in other words a fermenting period of seven days). The casks were filled by Tobiaz on the 11th of February 2019, and the liquid for this sample was drawn and blended by Tobiaz on the 20th of January 2020, at the time of sampling being a mere 11 months old. 

Ok, folks, that's enough details for sure, so let's review!

The top layer has soft/delicate honey sweetness intermingling with (an expected) vanilla sweetness, a moderately heavy vanilla sweetness. Whiffs of medium ripe banana, and a touch of orange zest/peel is saying hello to syrup. When nosing a little deeper, moving into the second layer, I first find a spicy-/herbyness mixed with maraschino cherries and deep violet, and then I find wood, kind of like a mix of firewood and oak/cask. There is actually something a bit toasted and/or barbeque-ish going on in the very bottom of the second layer. The bottom of the second layer is robust and has an ”industrial” feel to it (I’m thinking gundpowder and metal) that provides a medium heavy body which the top layer rests upon. There is absolutely no young-ish, new make-y, fusel-y, yeast-y stuff on the nose and it’s really hard to believe that I’m actually nosing spirit that is only 11 months old.

I actually start to laugh, because this tastes so damn good folks! It starts off with an intricate, smooth and moutwatering sugar syrup-y sweetness intermingling with almond paste, and some sweetness as from boiled carrots (!) topped with butter and salt. It moves on into burnt vanilla with wood spicyness and medium robust tannins. We have fudge cubes, dark honey and slightly burnt maple syrup, very old agave, slight touches of gunpowder and evident cocoa as well as sweet liquorice; this 11 month old spirit has real body, maturity and complexity folks! Whilst the strength/ABV was not at all something I thought of when nosing, on the taste it simply provides a beautiful warmth to my throat and breast/chest. The strength is evident (but not at all overpowering). The aftertaste lingers for quite some time and holds tannins, spicyness, dark raisins, and ends on a soft sugary sweetness.

Some reflections to sum up:
Well, as you can probably tell I really like this dram. To me, the complexity of both nose and taste, and most of all the body and maturity that this dram shows, is actually quite unbelievable. And I can’t help to be amazed by how this spirit already tastes this good. If it was up to me I sure would bottle a part of this batch right now and bring it to the market, so well done! And finally, a big thanks to Tobiaz for sharing a cask sample of some Blind Seal Whiskey at a work in progress phase! I'm so happy to have been the first blogger to try it! 

For kind of weekly updates please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here, and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures and videos likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro [at] gmail [dot] com and when permission is granted by stating the source.

lördag 23 november 2019

Cask collaboration with Agitator – The first big step!

Dear friends, followers, and supporters alike! On the 4th of May 2018 I did my first visit to Swedish Distillery Agitator. If you haven’t already read my article from that visit please do so by clicking here and you will not only get some background info for this article, but also learn a bit about what makes Agitator such a unique whisky distillery. 

During the end of that first visit I filled bourbon casks no.111-116 (barrels, 180L) with the newmake I had helped to produce. The new make was made from peated barley (30ppm) and the mix was 58% from the High Reflux spirit-still and 42% from the Low Reflux spirit-still. The filling strength was 55% ABV. Around one year later, Agitator and I made it official through social media that we were embarking on a joint project, namely a cask collaboration (click here to read the ”pressrelease” in swedish). 

Oskar, SamuelWhisky, and Christian with casks no.111-116
So what does the collaboration entail? Well, it will result in at least one official bottling taking the six casks that I filled as a starting point. I will be the one leading the collab and taking care of everything from maturation, to desicions on types of casks used, as well as bottling the whisky, doing the labelling, etcetera, etcetera. Of course the Distillery Manager/Master Distiller Oskar and the Distillery Technician Christian will assist me with their expertise and offer their advise as we go along.

As you can surely imagine dear readers, it is a true honor to be a part of this collaboration. The best way I can try and describe my feelings for this project is to imagine that I would ask the people at Laphroaig (my favourite Scottish whisky/distillery) if I could do a collaboration with them and that they would say: "yes!". It’s like a dream come true. And with Agitator it’s an even bigger dream come true! Why? Well, their motto is ”What if…”; they are the only known single malt whisky distillery in the world using vacuum distillation, their production process is green/environmental friendly, they are pioneers in breaking free from norms and stiff traditions of the whisky industry in using different kinds of grains (barley, wheat, oat), having great acess to interesting casks, are willing to experiment with maturation using different and new kinds of casks, all in the hunt for the best whisky possible. This is the context for our collaboration in which I have the opportunity to do precisely what I want. With that said I consider myself a lucky chap indeed.

Since my first visit I have revisited the distillery thrice. As you might have seen on my FB-page my last visit was just three weeks ago and this time around I visited both in order to check up on the maturation process of the spirit in the six casks, and most of all to really start the cask collab and take the first big step, which this article is about. But before I take you through my fourth time visiting Agitator, what we did during my visit, and what the first step actually was, let me give you some info on what happened before my visit. 

In the end of September I received an email from Håkan Jarskog, the CEO of Nordic Whisky Capital (the company that owns Agitator). He invited me to join in on a tasting of cask samples drawn from the maturing stock at Agitator! The objective of the tasting was for an internal tasting panel (Håkan, two other members of the company, and myself) to help evaluate the samples and to provide Oskar and Christian with some thoughts on and perceptions of the maturation process, and tasting notes of some of the stock at a work-in-progress state. Wow, what an honour! The tasting was held on the 1st of October at the NWC headquarters in Stockholm. 

The line-up consisted of 12 cask samples with spirit of different recipes (non peated, peated of different ppm, malted barley, different grains), drawn from a variety of cask types and cask sizes, at different filling strengths and ages. Among these 12 cask samples were two samples that got my attention; one was drawn from a 32 litre virgin chestnut cask that had been filled with newmake made from non peated barley from the High Reflux Spirit-still (at the time of the tasting being 9 months old and at a strength of 54% ABV), the other was drawn from a 200 litre virgin chestnut cask that had been filled with newmake made from peated barley at 40ppm from the Low Reflux Spirit-still (at the time of the tasting being 5 months old and at a strength of 57,5% ABV). Together with three other cask samples, it was the two chestnut cask samples that I gave the highest scores.

In the samples drawn from the chestnut casks I found nosing and tasting profiles/flavours that was especially interesting; grassy-ness, malty-ness, some kind of wine-yness, fruity-ness, notes of medium bold to bold vanilla, sweetness, powerful influence of cask/wood/tannins (for me meaning dryness and ”bitterness”), as well as medium bold to bold peatyness (yes, even the non peated one coming out of the HR Spirit-still was somehow peaty both on the nose and the taste). The best way that I can try and describe what chestnut matured spirit tastes like is kind of like a fusion of a bourbon cask and a european oak sherry cask, with added/extra tannins.  

Some weeks after the tasting Christian gave me a call with some great news; they had recently received a shipment of a bunch of 150litre virgin chestnut casks, and since they had seen my high scoring of the chestnut cask samples he wanted to know if I would like to come visit the distillery to transfer the maturing spirit from one of my bourbon casks into one of the chestnut casks. Enthusiastically I instantly replied: ”YES!”. Furthermore, since my bourbon casks are 180 litre barrels he also suggested that we could fill the remaining spirit (estimated to be approximatly 30 litres) from the bourbon cask I chose into a 32 litre chestnut cask that currently held oloroso sherry. ”Great idea!”, said I.

So, just a couple days later, on the 31st of October I arrived by train to Arboga, and Christian picked me up at the station. After a few minutes of chatting and catching up in the car we arrived at the distillery. First we had some coffee in the control room, after which Oskar and Christian gave me a very nice Agitator-branded zipper-sweater as a gift, now that’s what I call proper attire for working! 

After some talking, some more coffee, and some nosing of two samples of new style new make, we went into the warehouse. Aaaah, the scents in the warehouse… it's like coming home! In the warehouse we began with locating my casks and started to take them down from the shelves. I then took out a sample from each cask and it was time for some evaluation. 

The first time that I got the opportunity to try maturing spirit from all of the six casks I had laid down was during my previous visit (the third one). At that point in time the spirit was 1 year and 10 days old. By the time of this fourth visit the maturing spirit had reached an age of nearly 1,5 years old (or to be precise: 1 year, 5 months, and 26 days old). 

The evaluation (nosing, tasting, comparing of casks) showed that being barely half way to whisky, the spirit already has lots of cask influence, and the samples drawn from each of the six casks already nose and taste really, really good. In short: mouth watering peated vanilla sweetness, m-mm! 

No sings of yeast or fusel, meaning nothing young-ish to be found, at all. Since I found all of the casks to be equally great I decided that cask no.111 would be an as good candidate as any of the other casks would for being transferred into the two chestnut casks. With that decided, it was time for a lunch break. After lunch we had some coffee and then went back into the warehouse. We took a stroll to the part of the warehouse where the newly received chestnut casks were located. Christian suggested that I should nose/sniff a couple of them to see which one I liked best, so I started to rip off the plastic from a couple of casks. 

The one I chose had wonderful scents of autumn evening forest, green moss, fallen leaves, a tad of charcoal, and a touch of new wood.

I then carried the cask I had chosen... 

It might look heavy but actually wasn’t

and then placed it roughly in the spot were we would be doing the transfer of the spirit. 

Meanwhile, Christian used the truck to pick up cask no.111 

and when he had adjusted the height of the forklift so that the bourbon cask was placed slightly above the chestnut cask we used a very simple pump and started to pump by hand in order to create suction to be able to transfer the spirit. Yay! Such a great and exciting feeling to take this first step!

When I did the transfer, Christian emptied the sherry that was in the 32 litre chestnut cask, and when the big chestnut cask was as full as absolutely possible

I started to transfer spirit to the small one 

It was at some point during this transfer that Christian noticed something rather critical, the 150 litre chestnut casks they had received was actually not 150 litre, but rather… 130 litre, ooops! Now the original plan was in trouble since there would all of a sudden be something like 18 litres of spirit left over; spirit that had no cask to go into, damn... what to do

Oskar came into the warehouse to see how the transfer was coming along, and we all started to discuss and brainstorm about different possibilities and solutions. Luckily, after a while Christian remembered that they actually had a 32 litre american oak cask filled with oloroso sherry laying around somewhere in the warehouse, phew! He located the cask, and Oskar emptied the sherry that was in it, after which I filled it with the remaining litres of spirit that was left in the bourbon cask. 

So, all in all this is what the first step in our cask collaboration resulted in: 
Cask no.1531, a 130 litre virgin chestnut (“quarter”) cask
Cask no.1530, a 32 litre 1st-fill oloroso chestnut cask
Cask no.1532, a 32 litre 1st-fill oloroso american oak cask (filled with roughly 18L of spirit)

cask no.1532, 1530, 1531!
When we had moved cask no.111 and placed it in the part of the warehouse where empty casks wait to be filled, Christian placed all of my (big) casks back into the shelves: cask no.112-116, cask no.901 (the ex. Islay cask that I filled during my second visit), and cask no.1531. All of them are now located in the shelf closest to the door between the warehouse and the distillery, and on shelf nr.5 and 6 (the top shelves). 

While Christian took care of the big casks I moved the two small ones to a place in the warehouse where small casks sleep. 

To sum up, having taken this first big step in our cask collaboration feels really exciting! There are lots of possibilities regarding bottling of the three casks in this first step as well as regarding casks no.112-116; will cask no.1531 be bottled and released on it’s own, or should one or both of the small casks be part of that release? Or, should cask no.1531 be mixed with a bourbon cask or two and bottled as one release? Should one or both of the small casks be a bottling of its own? Or, should the small casks be used as spice components for one or more of the bourbon casks? Also, what will the flavour profiles of cask no.1530-1532 be like when they are 3yo? I have some ideas, but what do you think?! 

Oskar, SamuelWhisky, Christian
For kind of weekly updates please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here, and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures and videos likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro [at] gmail [dot] com and when permission is granted by stating the source.