Not all whisky has to be superstar, just tasty…
Anyone who’s sat down for a few drams with me will know that I have a certain affinity for Society single cask offerings where the distillery doesn’t get much core-range profile. This is often an exciting opportunity to taste something you’d normally never see, and in a unique flavour profile. These are Society offerings from distilleries where they either have no commercially-available offering, or a very limited footprint outside their work as a supplier to blends.
Make no mistake, I’m not giving any grief to blended whisky, and it’s still the backbone of the whisky industry worldwide while still being the most common entry-point into Scotch whisky for many newcomers. I’m merely taking a moment to appreciate the ‘sleeper casks’ we sometimes see on Outturn, our monthly offering to members.
A member recently messaged me asking with a certain tone of panic and trepidation “please tell me you have a bottle of 48.88 ‘Mimosa growing in chalky soil’ left?!”. I had to let them down, and they let me know it was by far one of the best Society casks they had the pleasure of enjoying their first bottle of. Such is the nature of single casks: once they’re gone, they’re gone. What’s distillery 48 you may ask? It’s Balmenach. How many of you can confidently put your hand up to say you’ve had heaps of Balmenach bottlings in the past? The distillery pumps out close to 1.8 million litres of spirit a year (!!!) and where can you find it? I’ve tasted a lot of whisky and I can confidently say I’ve tasted all of about 4 x Balmenach’s in the last 10+ years. It’s a distillery where the overwhelmingly vast majority of their spirit is used in blending from Inver House Distillers, which goes into mostly budget blends such as Catto’s, Hankey Bannister, and MacArthur’s. The Inver House parent company doesn’t even formally list Balmenach as a single malt scotch whisky on their website!
So that begs the question: just because they don’t have a super-star single malt brand, and most of their spirit goes into budget supermarket blends (which have their place), should you write it off as a single cask offering? Quite the opposite I would argue. The Society has gone into distillery 48 in this instance, picked out a single cask of their spirit that is showing enormous character and unique flavour, and the panel have approved it for release to members, at cask strength, as a single cask, non-chill-filtered, and natural colour. Their spirit is heavy, chalky, rich, worm-tubby (yes I made that word up) and exciting in single cask profile. It’s a ‘sleeper cask’ you’ll often find in an Outturn. A single cask from a non-celebrity distillery that might not have a core-range to compare to, which is a redundant comparison with Society offerings in the first place, with a fascinating profile.
So yes, cask 48.88 is long gong for now, or as we like to say it’s ‘dearly departed’. However, my point her is to not just pine for the rock star ‘codes’ or casks, not just lust after the comparison to a heavily marketed brand, but to often take stock and notice of the ‘sleepers’ on an Outturn and what amazing balance and intrigue might be found in them. These sleeper casks go through the exact same rigorous panel for approval after all. You never know, just like the member above, you might just find your ideal flavour profile in one of these sleepers.
Pictured: some freshly-delivered oak waiting to be coopered on site at a relatively ‘sleeper’ distillery 28 that I took last week in Scotland.
Single casks that could be best described as ‘sleeper’ offerings in our June Outturn out midday, Friday 1st June, only on smws.com.au:
- G14.3 ‘Light, fine and sculpted’ 30 years old
- 64.96 ‘Fruit and spice duality’ 9 years old
- A3.1 ‘Gravitas and sophistication’ 30 years old
- 63.42 ‘Fresh orange sherbet’ 9 years old
- 50.82 ‘Feel-good dram’ 25 years old