Here we go, my first tasting note published on the blog! Originally posted november 4th 2011, to the Connemara Clan facebook-group.
First some information and backstory on Connemara ´Bog Oak´:
In november I received some nice pictures and info on the Connemara ’Bog Oak’ from the nice people at Cooley! In a previous letter to me Rachel wrote:
”Three casks of Connemara were carefully chosen and fitted with handcrafted ends made from Bog Oak unearthed on the famous coastal blanket bog of Connemara. Monitored religiously by Alex Chasko, the Bog Oak casks when bottled at cask strength [57,5%] produced the first and only 1000 bottles of Connemara Bog Oak”.
The oak that the ends of the casks were made of has been naturally preserved for over 5000 years and is the remains of the ancient Irish forests that were drowned as the bogs expanded. The Connemara ’Bog Oak’ is the first ever release, in the world, of whisky finished in casks partly consisting of bog oak.
The whisky being filled into the bog oak casks is a mix of different ages but the base is one cask of the Connemara ’Turf Mór’ at the time of filling being 3yo and at bottling circa 4yo (in other words; one third of the Connemara 'Bog Oak' consisits of Connemara 'Turf Mór').
This is what Alex Chasko (former innovation manager at Cooley) says about the productionprocess:
”There were a variety of ages that we used. Casks from 15 year old to 8 yr and some 6 yr were used. I don't have the exact cask numbers or volume at hand. I started with a cask of the Turf Mor and then sampled quite a few casks trying to develop the flavors from the bog oak and give the liquid some balance. (…) The whiskey spent on average 10 months in the bog oak casks. I think one was just under 10, but most were almost 12 months”.
This means that the peating level of the Connemara ’Bog Oak’ is a little hard to determine; the normal Connemara is between 15-20ppm and the Connemara ’Turf Mór’ above 50ppm, but as I felt when nosing and tasting it, it is definitely peatier than normal Connemara (should be some where around 35-40ppm).
Connemara ’Bog Oak’ was not released in the ”Small batch collection” as I first thought it would be, it is far more exclusive than that being the first release in a series called ”Connoisseurs Collection”. Considering the very interesting and complex productionprocess of this whiskey I sure get excited of getting to know what the future holds!
I have not yet received any info on retail price but unofficial sources say €250. According to Jeniffer at Cooley the Connemara ’Bog Oak’ will hit the shelves somewhere around the middle of december. When purchasing a bottle of Connemara 'Bog Oak' (see picture below) inside the wooden case you will find your very own cut of wood from the Bog Oak ends that crafted the whiskey.
For more info on the Connemara ’Bog Oak’ and some more words from Alex, take a look at this site:
Connemara ’Bog Oak’ (Connoisseurs Collection) 57,5% ABV
Bottle no. 12 (of 1000), batch U 11/07, bottled 111031
Colour: Light gold
Nose: Opening the bottle reveals a familiar scent of ”good old Connemara”. Trying it from my glass, it opens up wonderful on a soft citric note that interplays with a deep tender vanilla. The peat seems very soft (is it really 50ppm?) and well integrated. Putting my nose fully in the glass I find a really herbal touch that connects with some kind of almond paste (or marzipan). This Connemara is very citric and zesty in it’s core/in the center. What may seem as a high ABV does not disturb or bother me at all which is nice. Continuing I find some tocuhes of lemon curd and arrack and there is a slight kind of metallic note with touches of gunpowder. This is really mouthwatering stuff! When I warm the glass in my hands the whiskey really opens up and actually reveals it’s high ABV. The scents get more intense and a kind of ”carbonated bubblyness” apears that tickles my nose. (With water: If possible, even more citric and lemony)
Palate: My first thoughts tasting it makes me think about the peat level again, this is probably extra peated but it shure is well integrated! Comparing it to the ’Turf Mór’ (in my mind), the ’Bog Oak’ is soo much softer. It actually also tastes of ”good old Connemara” but much more firm and with a bigger body. At the moment the whiskey enters my mouth everything gets very smooth and honey-sweet but at the same time quite citric at the front of my toungue. Again, reminding us of the nose; this is some very fruity stuff with sugary lemons, the bitterness of orange-peel, lemoncurd, and all this is featured in the very top layer of the palate. Somehow all these fruity influences moves on to some kind of champagne-iness-ish taste, sort of like sparkling peated (white) wine (if there ever could be such a beverage). Oh yes, this whiskey must be extra peated but the earthy/peaty herbalness that burns just a little is balanced in a very nice way and stand well in contrast to the vanilla influences that simply has to come from the extra portion of wood, infused in the whiskey (probably originating from the bog oak itself…). Also, quite some bitterness but it is beautifully weighed out by a really nice vanilla. When the whiskey has been allowed to rest for a while in the glass (and my mouth has had some water) I get some big hints of quite dark chocolate and mocha (coffee). (With water: The citric influences mellows down in favour of herbs and almond paste in combo, also some gunpowder which dries out my mouth just a little bit).
To sum up: I thought that Connemara ’Bog Oak’ was going to be a hard punch straight in my face (since it is supposed to based on the ’Turf Mór whiskey) but that is not quite the story here. It is rather much more balanced and elegant which must be of compliments and coming from the Bog oak itself.
And finally, a big thanks to Stephen Teeling, Alex Chasko, Jennifer Graham, Rachel and all the other guys at Cooley who in 2011 let me be "the first one on the internet" to try Connemara ´Bog Oak´!