Age: 3 years old
Whisky is matured in oak. That’s a given. Oak is easy to shape, not prone to cracking and abundantly available. Moreover, it’s got the right level of porosity, allowing the cask contents to evaporate and oxygenate, but not at rates that cause spoilage. Different types of oak can imbue a spirit with different flavour types, whether it’s European oak, American oak, or even Mizunara. The previous contents of the cask also significantly impact a whisky’s flavour, meaning there is an extremely wide array of flavours that distillers can work with. And yet… what if you were to use a wood other than oak? For the reasons mentioned above, it can be challenging to use other wood types, but whisky makers have started experimenting. Japan-based Kamiki offers a cedar wood and cherry wood finished whisky, while Irish distillers Method & Madness produce a chestnut matured expression. I’ve only tried the Kamiki Cedar Wood, but the results are astounding. Even a short finish in a different wood type offers up a wealth of new flavours to explore.
Yet these bottlings are far and few between, and it’s extremely rare to find a whisky that’s been matured in anything other than oak. So without even tasting it first, it’s safe to say that Flóki Birch Finish is a special sip of whisky. Eimverk already produce a distinctive range of whiskies due to the peculiarities of using Icelandic barley, and with the Birch Finish they’re taking the use of local ingredients to a new level. Oak doesn’t really grow well in Iceland’s harsh climate, meaning birch is one of the few native trees available. Flóki Birch Finish is therefore a logical next step on the journey to create something uniquely Icelandic. Not that it came without challenges… Birch casks are reportedly so porous that they lead to a very quick evaporation, meaning the maturation period cannot be too long. According to Flóki’s website, this expression was matured in American oak casks for 3 years and finished for 3 months in Icelandic Birch casks, whereas the bottle states that the whisky is matured with Icelandic birchwood. The latter has me wondering whether the distillery switched from using casks to sticks, but I suppose this is irrelevant. The real question is how the birch has influenced the spirit. Time to try this unique whisky!
Colour: A wonderfully dark hue of amber. Surprising given this whisky hasn’t had a sherry or port finish.
Nose: Extremely fragrant, like stepping into a greenhouse or a florist’s shop. Scents of green leaves mingle with heather and honey to produce a sweet, earthy aroma. Horseradish and ginger lend a spicy hand, as bog myrtle and mint provide a herbal counterbalance. This sure is different to what I’m used to. Captivating stuff!
Palate: The flavour profile from the nose carries over, as sweet, herbaceous notes retain the upper hand. Eimverk’s usually boisterous barley is very muted, now complementing rather than overpowering the other flavours on offer. Notes of allspice and thyme slowly make way for Flóki’s sweet side, as orange marmalade and caramelized sugar take hold.
Finish: Long and satisfying, with a distinctly herbal profile. Star anise combines with sage to produce a bittersweet aftertaste that lingers a long, long time.
Verdict: Flóki Birch Finish is an alluring whisky, packed full of surprising flavours. On its own it’s intriguing enough, but it’s not until you put it next to a few other whiskies that you realise just how different it is. This novelty factor is certainly part of Birch Finish’s appeal, but it’s not all there is to it. This is an incredibly smooth sip for a 3 year old, offering a finesse that’s not (yet) available in other Flókis. Would I want all my whiskies to taste like this? Definitely not, but Flóki Birch Finish is a very fun expression that expands the spectrum of flavours we’ve come to expect in a whisky. Well worth a try!
Value for money: 🤩🤩🤩