Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

Glenfiddich Fire CaneDistillery: Glenfiddich
Region: Speyside
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Fire & Cane is the fourth instalment in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series. Uncharacteristically for Glenfiddich, this bottling features some peated spirit, married together with unpeated stocks from ex-bourbon barrels. To top it off, this whisky then spent three months in rum casks, sourced from a variety of Latin American countries. So the name is apt, but why is Fire & Cane experimental? After all, there’s plenty of rum finished whiskies, and there are peated whiskies beyond count. That’s true, but the combination of the two is quite unique (only Kura and the upcoming Ardbeg Drum that I can think of).

Glenfiddich does have a rum finished 21 year old, and has in the past dabbled with peat in its Caoran Reserve. But Fire & Cane is a different proposition altogether. For one, the distillery actually uses peated barley to achieve its smoky notes, rather than casks that previously held peated whisky. The result is a much sharper, spicier version of Glenfiddich, which then mingles with the toffee notes offered by the rum casks. I think Fire & Cane is best described as a dessert whisky, sweet and indulgent, perhaps even a bit too much so. It’s nice to pair this dram with dark chocolate, to allow the bitterness of the cocoa to balance out the sweetness of the whisky, but I can imagine other pairings could work equally well.

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Kura The Whisky

Kura The Whisky ReviewDistillery: Helios
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

First things first: Kura The Whisky wasn’t actually distilled in Japan. So why does this bottle bear the label Japanese Whisky I hear you ask? Well, while many countries have strict regulations that govern the distilling and labelling of whisky, Japan is notoriously lax when it comes to such matters. To take just one example, Japanese whisky makers can get away with including up to 70% generic blending alcohol in their “whiskies”. But back to Kura The Whisky. Suffice it to say, the raw spirit in this dram was produced in Scotland. Okinawa-based rum distillery Helios then shipped it to Japan, stored it in their rum casks for a while, and proudly proclaimed it “Japanese whisky”. If this feels like Helios is jumping on the bandwagon of Japanese whisky’s success story, well… that’s because it is. Not that Helios hasn’t been in business for some time, having produced quality rum and awamori (a rice-based liquor) since 1961. While Helios did distil some of their own whisky in the past, they seem to have stopped production since 2001, half a decade before Japanese whisky started becoming liquid gold. Anyway, let’s not judge a bottle by its cover, it’s time to give Kura The Whisky a try!

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Rum Finish Tasting

rum-finish-tasting-01Rum finished whiskies are a bit of a rarity on today’s market. One reason may be that the marriage of whisky and rum is quite an acquired taste and does not sell as easily as the more traditional sherry or port finish. But it is of course also a matter of necessity. There simply aren’t so many good and affordable rum casks available for whisky to be finished in, and the reliability of supply for these casks is even more problematic.

This scarcity makes today’s tasting all the more fun, because I’ve been able to get together three different rum finished whiskies for a comparison. While these whiskies have all been finished in the same type of cask, let’s not forget that they each have a unique distillery character, which sets them apart from each other. Below is a short description of each of the whiskies, including a link to the full review.

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BenRiach 15 year old Dark Rum Wood Finish

BenRiach Dark Rum Wood Finish ReviewDistillery: BenRiach
Region: Speyside
Age: 15 years old
abv: 46%

There are not so many rum finished whiskies on the market, but luckily BenRiach is always willing to experiment with different casks. This 15 year old Dark Rum Wood Finish was part of BenRiach’s first Wood Finish Series, released in 2006. Since then, the series has undergone periodic changes, as whiskies have come and gone. The Dark Rum Finish now falls in the ‘gone’ category, as it is no longer being produced. This perhaps reflects a lack of popularity when compared to its sherry, port or Moscatel finished siblings.

After an initial period of maturation in American bourbon barrels, this whisky was finished in casks that previously held dark rum from Jamaica. The result is rather typical, with notes of brown sugar, vanilla and toffee.

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The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old

Balvenie 14 Caribbean CaskDistillery: The Balvenie
Region: Speyside
Age: 14 years old
abv: 43%

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask has been around for some time, but was
previously branded as the Cuban Cask (shh don’t let anyone know the Commies might have had anything to do with it) and Golden Cask (too nondescript). What all these different names point at is that the whisky has received an extra maturation in casks that previously held rum, giving it a sweet, spicy character. There are not too many rum finishes out there, so be sure to give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed!

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