Tasting Notes

Tasting Notes: The English Whisky Co – Chapter 16 – Peated Sherry Cask

The English Whisky Co – Chapter 16

Okay, so for those of you who have read our previous post about the WU visit to the English Whisky Co’s new shop/café/chutney-outlet, you will know that we weren’t exactly blown away by their hospitality (see here, if not). Having said that, it didn’t stop the wallets coming out and bottles being bought.

After surveying the scene, I went all-in on the Chapter 16 Smokey PX Cask Matured chap! So let’s open the box… and the first thing we’re hit with is a message telling us to enjoy…good start!


Boom…no doubt we have a young’un here…phew I can tell from the nose that water is gonna be a necessary addition here, however like the whisky soldier I am I persevere. Yep there’s sherry here and it’s flowing through like mist through a valley of peat. (So poetic it hurts…) Smoke, yes, but not overwhelming. For newbies to peated whisky this isn’t one to fear. There is also a freshly harvested gain hint as well, especially if you rub a bit on your hands, yep I do that, weirdo I know! It’s fair to say that that could be it for the nose, but let it warm up and revisit it and there’s more depth, oak tones almost fruity red wines or, dare I say, a faint hit of mulled wine.


Okay so there’s the proof that water is needed, because it’s lively and even a little pokey but overall, satisfyingly tasty. Fruit cake, glacé cherries, a definite sherry hint and then there it is that smoke (obvs, as the kids would say). It’s not a thick whack around the head like an Ardbeg 10 or Bruichladdich Octomore but rather a wafting of smoke from the croft’s fire. I likey it’s a tasty chap that’s for sure.


It has a finish, and that’s a good thing! For me it’s a “more, more, more” finish. I instantly want to go in again for another sip. However, I resist and a short but pleasing warmth builds and the embers of smoke and a touch of sweetness hang around for you to enjoy.


So let’s sum this little English Whisky imposter up. I’m gonna say it…it’s too expensive. There…elephant in the room mentioned. I am not saying it’s cheap tasting because it certainly isn’t, it’s a quality spirit, but just not £49 worth. It is a perfect winter’s night, fireside companion. Its more-ish with plenty of flavour to keep you happy but it doesn’t have real depths like other peaty numbers. Then again, maybe it’s not meant to be competing with those big boys. Chapter 16 – Peated Sherry Cask is definitely still in short trousers, but who doesn’t still wanna be running around in short trousers…..?



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Tasting Notes: Kavalan – Concertmaster

Kavalan – Concertmaster

Whenever a new business is set up, it’s founders will have big aspirations. When Kavalan was set up in 2005, it was no exception. Their distillery even reportedly has a sign outside stating that it (and by extension, Taiwan) is “The New Homeland Of Whisky”. A pretty bold statement. It may not have come as much of a shock to them 10 years later then that their Solist Vinho Barrique was awarded World Whiskey Of The Year in 2015, but it did to a lot of other people. Proving that you don’t have to rely on an age statement, Kavalan have been focussing strongly on flavour, and this is no more evident than in their Concertmaster release. Branded as a port cask finished whisky, this young whisky (it has to be right?) has been part of the mainstay Kavalan expressions, and is also matured in wine casks ensuring that it pours in a rich, mahogany colour at 40% ABV.



Wow. There are some strong and deep flavours in battle for your attention here. Redcurrants and other red berries are the first to poke through and there’s a strong oak body to this. It has quite a firey boozy nose too, particularly down at 40%, but it is complemented by the sweetness of toffee/caramel and dark sugars.



Once it’s in the mouth, it is surprisingly soft textured and a lot less boozy than the vapours were letting on. It’s a lighter, softer melee of flavours too with summery red fruits (strawberries and raspberries) at play, offsetting the oak flavour (which is still quite present) and a hint of spice towards the end. After reading about the whisky in 101 Whiskies… I also can’t seem to avoid that liquorice note afterwards.



…and the fire is back! The alcohol returns to the flavour profile and warms you up pretty quickly. That oak spice is there again but the lasting flavour is that of raisins. Lots of raisins in fact. The final lingering flavour is a really satisfying juicy note.



Well, the notes that I have read talk a lot about the whisky’s balance, but in my experience, this was more about a tussle between robust flavours that each then break free from the complex combination as you enjoy the drink. It’s a battle between the extreme influences too, as the sweetness of the port and wine casks are offset by a savoury, spicy backbone from the oak. Considering its youth, (maybe 5-6 years old) the complexity of the whisky belies its years, and maybe it’s that younger, fresher alcohol that’s stirring the ingredient flavours so thoroughly. Overall, a very fruity whisky which could easily venture into liqueur territory if it wasn’t for the oak body and boozy burn reminding you that it is a single malt. That Art Deco packaging is pretty cool too, albeit this was courtesy of a Drinks By The Dram sample only. Definitely a great experience and certainly one to try if you can (and before you die, of course, finding itself at #59 in one such list)!

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Tasting Notes: Balcones – Baby Blue


Balcones Baby Blue

Hailing from Waco, Texas, Balcones are a relatively new distillery, having only opened in 2008, but have made quite a name for themselves from the get go. As a corn whiskey, this features at least 80% corn in the original mash, and also features hopi blue corn (which is actually blue, hence the name) and was the first whiskey to be LEGALLY distilled in Texas since the end of the Prohibition. Presumably the “baby” part of the name comes from this whiskey’s young age and,  the fact that the distillers got this unique first product out on the market as soon as they could. Bottled at 46% ABV, did that rush to start generating revenues compromise on quality?



Woah! Is this a whiskey or a liqueur? The first smells are very, very sweet, honeyed and so concentrated. There is a really fruity side to this too, with figs, damsons and sloes really dominating the smell along with a rich vanilla, rum-like sweetness before you are battered with corn, corn and more corn. It is potentially the sweetest smelling whisk(e)y I’ve ever experienced.



More sweet fruits follow, but more of a summer feel to the flavours: peach, pineapple, banana. There’s loads of vanilla and, of course, sweet corn fill this thick, syrupy, mouth-coating dram.



It has bit of a firey finish, but it is the fruit sensations that linger.



This is some crazy stuff. With all that fruit flavour, sweetness and intensity, this is more like a whiskey smoothie than something that I could cook up in the kitchen – a marketing plan that I hereby claim ownership to. There is so much going on and is so different that I can see why Balcones have been able to make such a name for themselves. At £70+ however (presumably due to rarity within the UK and import charges etc) this is quite a stretch but I would recommend anyone who could try this to do so, as it really is something completely different for the discerning dram dabbler to experiment with. I will also note that this is an entirely different beast to Mellow Corn (my only other foray with corn whiskies) that the spectrum for these whiskies must be so vast that I am really intrigued to delve further into what is out there. In answer to the question at the end of the preamble above then: “Absolutely not.” This appears as whisk(e)y #9 in my edition of 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die, and I would put it in my 101 too. Maybe even Top 10 To Try. Maybe.


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