After the Ardbeg Port Finish it was time for something new. Clearly, Ardbeg is a heavily peated whisky with a distinctive smoky character, and I’m counting on the fact that my cask will have retained some of these flavours for the next batch. The idea is to take an unpeated whisky, and impart it with some smokiness purely through the maturation process. This isn’t necessarily a new concept, as whiskies such as Glenfiddich Caoran, Scapa Glansa or Balvenie Islay Cask have all been finished in casks that previously held peated whiskies.
For this batch I have chosen Glen Elgin 12 year old. It’s a soft Speyside which I happen to like very much – partially because it’s the first malt whisky I ever drank – but also because it has quite a distinctive flavour profile. I selected a Speyside for this batch, since I think a whisky like this will be easier to ‘tame’. I reckon the peat influence from my cask will be quite subtle, which is why I need a soft whisky that easily takes on new flavours.
As I described previously, the small size of my cask means that the maturation process is incredibly quick. After continuously taking samples (not a chore at all 🙂 ), I decided that after just two weeks, my Glen Elgin Islay Finish was ready.
After one week, the Glen Elgin immediately displays more oaky notes on the nose, with the distinctive aroma I’ve come to associate with my cask. Through the vanilla puffs a faint whiff of smoke, which struggles to break through on the palate and only really appears in full force towards the finish. It’s an improvement over the original Glen Elgin, but needless to say, the transformation is not quite complete. When comparing the one week sample to both the original and the end result, it perfectly displays the transition between light, barley flavoured Speyside and the more robust, flavourful version that’s described below.
After two weeks, the oaky scents dominate, meaning the peaty fragrance is harder to spot. On the palate, the whisky has become full-bodied and creamy, with a really good mouthfeel. The bouquet of flavours is much richer, with notes of red fruit from the port and vanilla from the cask. The finish has more bite, as the smoke from the Ardbeg comes to the fore.
The result is a wonderful dram that’s neither Speyside nor Islay, but a delightful jumble of soft barley, gentle smoke, sweet port and oaky vanilla. While I would have wanted the oaky flavours from the cask to be a little more subdued for perfect balance, I am more than happy with the end result. While my Ardbeg Port Finish was interesting but not necessarily better than the 10 year old, this experiment definitely improves on the original Glen Elgin 12 year old. I could happily have produced another few bottles of this stuff, but unfortunately I am limited by the size of my cask (good thing too, it’s cheaper this way). So it’s on to a new experiment for the next batch. I am currently contemplating a quite unconventional sake finish, or perhaps the slightly safer option of a rum finish. Will keep you posted!
Interested to try it out for yourself? You can buy the cask here at Master of Malt.