Colour: Pale Straw.
Nose: Floral and perfumy, honey, vanilla, apple juice.
Taste: Honey and white pepper, apples, vanilla and a hint of oak.
“You know what would be cool?” I thought to myself as I slowly and professorially rubbed my chin. “A whisky barrel.” My inner fun voice replied. I smiled, crossed my arms and nodded approvingly at my brilliant idea. Just then, my rational inner voice (I call him Buzzkill.) butted in.
“Hang on a sec. Not every distillery will sell you a cask of whisky. Plus, you’ll need a bigger suitcase to pack it in. Oh, and you’d better not pack anything else in with `cuz you’re sure to go over your 25kg limit.”
Dram it. I hate it when Buzzkill makes a point that I can’t just answer “so what?” to. In the end, I ended buying an empty whisky barrel and put a glass tabletop on it. Deep down, still, I yearned to sample that liquid sunshine from a cask that had been untouched. What could, what would I do. (Apologies. Looks like my melodrama detector just went off.)
Enter the Independent Bottlers. Companies that buy untouched casks and bottle the whisky with no chill filtering, no colouring and sometimes at cask strength. There are also some bottlings that have seen some time in finishing barrels. Today’s travels will take us through the Royal Lochnagar distillery via Douglas Laing’s Old Particular single cask series. Specifically, a 16-year old Highland Single Malt from a refill butt yielding 548 bottles (Typically, this malt finds its way into blended whiskies.).
Starting with an anticipated pour, a liquid field of pale hay colours my WQO Glen Cairn glass. Bringing my nose in for the next part of our journey, nice big jars of honey and bouquets of flowers come to the fore. It’s perfumy but not as intense and concentrated. Freshly made apple juice comes up along with supporting notes of vanilla. Playing whack-a-mole, elusive hints of malt and grass stick their heads up once in a while.
On the mouth, I half expected to taste those sweet aromas. Yes I did but bringing up those flavours was a bit of heat, with the 48% abv, and white pepper. Not overpowering but certainly not a shrinking violet. Still though, the white pepper doesn’t get in the way of letting the vanilla and honey do their thing. Just like malt and grassy notes description above, a note of oak does the same thing but on your tongue.
The finish is long with a warm, relaxing fade. Rather than racing by, it’s just taking its time saying goodbye. And why wouldn’t it? It does take a bit of time to say Douglas Laing’s Old Particular 16-year old Royal Lochnagar Single Cask Highland Single Malt. (That’s literally a delicious mouthful.
Owning an actual cask is still in my bucket list (Admittedly, it’s a rather large bucket.) Until then, I can keep my inner fun and rational voices from squabbling about it by a enjoying an independent bottling like Old Particular’s Royal Lochnagar. Actually, make it two – one for each inner choice. Cheers.