Wednesday 6th April 2016. Blustery, blue sky day with showers and wind from the West.
Today, I tasted Bowmore’s self-fill cask. It is 13 YO 54% abv. abv means ‘alcohol by volume’.
This means there is 54 % of alcohol in the liquid in this cask.
This is called CASK STRENGTH. When this cask was filled with spirit the strength of the spirit would have been on average 63.5% abv. As this spirit has been maturing in the Oloroso cask for 13 years, the alcohol content has dropped to 54 % of what liquid remains in the cask.
The actual volume of liquid in the cask will also have decreased. This is what happens as the whisky matures. The cask breathes and air moves in and out through the wood. The liquid in the cask evaporates. The flavour molecules in the spirit and the actual molecules of the wood of the cask interact with each other.
In a dunnage warehouse or a racking warehouse, casks are stored on their sides. As they mature the liquid in them decreases. The top layer of spirit that is interacting with air increases in area as the years go by. But, if the cask is left long enough the top layer will decrease as it drops below the centre level of the cask. (See 40 YO)
The above schematic is for illustration only and is not to be taken as exact.
The liquid in the cask reacts differently depending on where it is in the cask. So, for instance, the layer of spirit on the top will interact with the air in the warehouse and inside the top of the cask.
The spirit around the sides of the cask will interact with the wood of the cask. The spirit in the centre of the cask will interact with itself, flavours mingling and marrying over time.
The colour is auburn tea or apricot and prune juice. Upon pouring we see big bubbles around the perimeter of the glass, an indication of high alcoholic strength.
This dram has fast-rolling legs, with a thin band of golden oils sitting on top of the spirit.
The first nose is musty raisins, woody, rubbery, black cherries. I am reminded of plimsolls from childhood. There is a smell of marmalade, of dusty flagstones in a shaded alley with the brightness and heat of the sun above. Initial big nose. Then, one has to work hard to find the dram.
There is a green, vegetal minerality underneath. Dusty & mushroomy again. Old wooden lofts with shafts of sunlight and dancing dust motes.
On the palate, it is very smooth. Very drying on the gums. The tannins are strong. A taste of honey, a sweetness. Earthy; like ploughed fields that have baked in the sun.
The second nose is more floral, with cashew nuts, orange, and maraschino cherries. Parma ham & some blousey flowers I can see, but don’t know the name. A whiff of American cream soda. Then, red currants. I am reminded of an old torn, green nylon fishing net. A smell of bubble gum. And white fish that has been cooked in tinfoil on a fire ring with stones, on the shore.
There is a maritime nose sting. The acrid peat smoke at the back of one’s throat.
Dark chocolate & honey. Raspberries.
A burn on the front of the tongue from the 54% abv. Not a big finish, but a long, lingering, warm smokiness in the chest for ten minutes after sipping.
The third nose brings erasers, and fishiness. A light, soft layer with a slight meatiness.
This is a flat, linear dram. The flavours balance with the abv. A grown-up dram for 13 years.
Kevin & Julia from Oregon fill their bottles for Kevin’s 30th Birthday. They use the long valinch. These valinches are made from old copper pipes from the distillery. This one could have been from the spirit still condenser.