Sincere thanks to JJY, JH, and Single Cask Nation for the sample.
Roughly seven years ago, as a new whisky blogger, I was asked to join a Whisky Roundtable of other bloggers. Back then, I have to admit that I was surprised there were more than a handful of whisky bloggers out there, and was even more surprised that someone was reading my blog and thought my opinion worthwhile enough to join any shape of table let alone round. It was a good group, and we managed to generate some lively discussion even if at times it was only amongst ourselves.
Two of my fellow roundtable bloggers have succeeded in trading in their amateur status and have gone pro. Jason Johnstone-Yellin and Joshua Hatton moved from blogging to establishing a private whisky society, to leading a bit of whisky tourism, and now finally to being full-on independent bottlers. Under the Single Cask Nation banner, their first retail available offerings hit the shelves in early 2017. I’m big fans of these guys and have shamelessly plugged their wares before. I been lucky enough to have tried several of their society-only bottlings, and looking back at all of them as a group, my overall impression is one of high quality. Their picks are pretty much always dynamic, vibrant whiskies that manage to both show off the distillery’s character and tell their own unique story. So with every reason to believe these chaps have stayed the course and selected good casks for these retail releases, I’m eagerly (if not a little slowly) diving into their range…starting with the one I’m most leery of. Glenrothes has never managed to wow me, and the younger ones I’ve tried have managed to not wow me even more than the older ones. This Single Cask Nation 2008 Glenrothes 8 Year Old was matured in a refill sherry hogshead that yielded 318 bottles
The Nose: A fairly bracing nose of youthful malt and sherry. A tempered sweetness is full of malt syrup, dark orange blossom honey, and candied spice cake fruit. Subtle, complex notes of both sugared and salted nuts, baker’s chocolate, slightly farm-y hay, and a hint of beery grain. There’s some youthful, rough oak along with warmish cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean, and red peppercorns. Adding a little water tones down some of that sweetness, integrates the oak and spice with the youthful sherried notes, and plays up the distillate character a bit more.
The Palate: A lightly oily mouthfeel that quickly turns very zippy and numbing. There’s more honey here, a bit of tropical fruit, and more red fruits – brandied cherries, current jam, and those fruitcake nuggets. Evolving from the nose, a more saline nuttiness, a youthful rancio, and more pronounced dark bitter chocolate. Continued sharp, grippy oak, along with hot cinnamon, raw ginger, pepper, and clove. Water definitely tames the palate, and gives the sherry influence, oak, and spice a bit more space to show off.
The Finish: The sweetness fades somewhat quickly, leaving more numbing and mouth-watering slightly savory notes of tannic oak, salt, spice, and grain.
Thoughts: My initial thoughts on seeing this one were, “a young Glenrothes? Ambitious…risky, but ambitious.” As I mentioned, Glenrothes’ somewhat funky character rarely knocks me out, and the younger expressions I’ve tried usually feel under-realized and harsh. This one manages to reign in that funkiness with lively oak and spice, and balanced sherry influence, and still finds a way to be proudly youthful by showing off a bit of the distillate character. At strength the nose is sweetly complex and interesting, the palate bold and and a little reckless. A little water toned down the palate nicely, but also quieted an expressive nose a bit. Overall, a deft, confident pick from a mildly challenging distillery that manages to showcase the spirit, the cask, and the youth all at the same time.