Brenne 10 Year Old French Single Malt Whisky – Review

brenneten_2015Last fall, Brenne released a very limited 10 year old whisky. Based on the success and relative uniqueness of the Brenne Estate Cask, this new expression understandably generated a fair amount of excitement. I was excited about this one myself, but thanks to a “lifestyle” that tends to put exciting adult things on the back burner, I’m only getting around to it now…a year later. Just you wait, perhaps in a few years I’ll uncork my excitement about that Highland Park Viking series and Robin Yount’s 1982 MVP season.

For an insightful read on the process that lead up to this release, I’d recommend visiting The Coopered Tot’s interview with Brenne founder Allison Patel. For even further reading, in my review of the Brenne Estate Cask, I delved a little into the Cognac-specific process which makes this whisky somewhat unique. If you want to skip all that heady stuff, just keep keeping on right here. The important distinction between these two expressions is the maturation…and not just the difference in time. The Estate Cask is more or less a single barrel expression, made up of a whisky that’s been aged for five years in new French oak casks and then finished in ex-Cognac casks for two to three years before bottling. The Brenne 10 Year Old French Single Malt Whisky is a vatting of four distinct casks: one 10 year old matured only in new French oak, one 10 year old matured only in an ex-Cognac cask, and two barrels that received the combination treatment – 10 years total in both new casks and ex-Cognac casks. The 10 Year Old has also been bottled at a higher proof, 96 versus 80, than the Estate Cask. This first release of Brenne 10 was limited to 290 cases and was exclusive to the USA.

The Nose:   A more traditional feeling, and more balanced nose than the heavily ester-ed Brenne Estate Cask. The sweetness is certainly still there, but tempered; dark floral honey, caramelized apricots, juicy orange, passion fruit, and a bit of cotton candy. Behind that there’s malt syrup, vanilla bean, and toasted bread with pithy marmalade. Nicely integrated oak notes with cinnamon butter, candied ginger, and a bit of clove.

The Palate:  More oily, less airy seeming than the Estate Cask. The fruit is downplayed here comparatively. There are nice hints of orange and stewed stone fruits, but more dark sugars emerge – orange blossom honey, caramel and brûlée-d crème brûlée. Some faintly nutty chocolate and/or vanilla fudge leads to sturdy, mouth-watering, tannic oak notes with clove, cinnamon, peppercorns, and a hint of ginger.

The Finish:  Much fuller and longer, with caramel, burnt orange, tannic oak, and a bit of fine ground pepper.

Thoughts:  Oh the ravages of age! While I found the Brenne 10 Year Old to be a more solid, more balanced whisky, I also found it to be less distinctive and more akin to “traditional” Scotch malt whisky in comparison to the Estate Cask. The complex sweetness of both does help establish the “house style”. This one’s sweetness echoes its predecessor, but it’s now darker, richer, and more integrated. In general, this is a more muscular, less delicate whisky, but the trade-off is the oak has overshadowed some of that softer, estery, unique fruit-filled complexity. Still, this is good stuff…pricey, but good. The influence of the cognac process and casks makes for an interesting alternative to the more expected, stereotypical single malt style.

Brenne 10 Year Old French Single Malt Whisky, +/-2015                          

48% ABV

Score:  84




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