Something I particularly enjoy is the friendship between myself and my father-in-law-to-be, Tom. Over recent years our love of whisky and willingness to try new expressions has brought us closer together so when I received the latest Flaviar tasting set for review, it just made sense to go through these five samples, none of which either of us had tried before, together.
Taking it all a bit too seriously, I quickly mocked up a tasting sheet with images of the five drams we were about to try with spaces for me to rack up the vials when the time came to start our journey.
Flaviar, for those not familiar, is a membership site that sends members premium spirits samples every month for £24.99, each 45ml and each curated into a set of five themed flights (flights just means a set of whiskies that are somehow linked so should take you in a journey).
Recent themed tasting packs include:
Living the American Dram
Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1
Copper Fox Distillery…
George Dickel No. 12
High West Distillery Double Rye
Willett Pot Still Reserve
Peat it, peat it
Compass Box The Peat Monster
BenRiach Curiositas 10 Year Old
Connemara Peated Cask Strength
Whisky’s Big in Japan
Isawa 10YO Whisky
Taketsuru 12YO Whisky
Yamazaki 12YO Whisky
Nikka From The Barrel Whisky
Hakushu Bourbon Barrel Whisky
Our tasting pack was: In Finish Veritas (finished in wine). I’ve had a few Madeira finished whiskies before but no other wine finishes that I can recall, but that was all about to change.
When the pack itself arrives, a sense of mystery and intrigue starts to form.
It’s black, unassuming and concise design makes it easy to store ahead of your tasting event, especially useful if you’re holding your tasting event elsewhere as I was.
What sets Flaviar apart is how much information you get with your samples that helps to not only educate you about what you are about to sample, including tips on holding tasting sessions, but also to educate you on whisky at large, for example:
Here’s how wine cask-finishing works: After barrels used to age wine are emptied, some of the wine’s essence remains in the wood. When those barrels are refilled with a spirit, the spirit “chases” those vinous characters out of the wood, adding subtle flavours and colour to the spirit in the barrel.
Having made the journey to Manchester to visit my soon to be in-laws we got out ten glasses, five each, to be able to taste each without impurities creeping in them set up the tasting sheet I’d put together.
After having a lovely family meal and catching up, it was time to start.
To set the scene I reviewed the intro written by Flaviar:
In this pack you get the finest of both Worlds. We’ve assembled some of the best Scotch single malts that were finished in ex-wine casks which previously aged different red and white wine varieties; from wine made in France to the Portuguese isle of Madeira. Some of the featured Scotches were fully matured in these ex-wine casks, while others got their finishing touches in them.
All very exciting.
Dram one: Glen Moray 10 year old Chardonnay
Almost counter intuitively I expected big things from this one, being passionately anti-Chardonnay on the rare occasion I drink white wine due to the oakiness I thought it would really deliver when used to age a Speyside whisky.
This one has been fully matured (not merely finished) in ex-Chardonnay cask for a decade in Speyside but simply failed to deliver.
Both of us got strong wine notes on the nose as you’d expect but as we discussed them sipped it, there was a sense of it being softer than we had anticipated.
Tom: “Its pretty indistinctive, no real character at all”
Worth noting that despite there being no real body to it, tasting almost watery, there was a slight burn on the aftertaste.
With that we swiftly moved onto Dram two: Tullibardine Sauternes Finish
Both of us felt that whatever we had next would be a step up so this no age statement sample was naturally onto a winner.
This Scotch is made entirely from locally-sourced malted barley. After its first beauty sleep in ex-Bourbon American oak casks, it enjoys a one year finish in Sauternes casks from Chateau Suduirat, France.
If you’re not familiar with Sauternes, it is a sweet wine from part of the Bordeaux region and happens to be quote an expensive wine. I tried it at a wine tasting event with clients a couple of months back and have to say it is very sweet, not so,etching I would probably go out of my way to buy.
The nose on this one was, strangely, what we had expected from the first sample – heavy, woody strong oak notes.
The palette though lacked much substance, there was relatively little body to it but there was a slight burn on the after taste. In second sip it opened up a bit more to reveal quite spicy notes to both of us, like a mixture of white pepper and cayenne peppers.
Tom didn’t quite get as much pepper as I did, he did get some rum notes though on the nose and a longer lasting warmth post-dram.
Overall: Interesting but not quite ‘wow’.
Dram three: Dalmore 2000 13 year old Willi Opitz Homok Finish
Now we’re talking. I haven’t had much Dalmore over the years but Tom is quite the fan, this whisky became even more intriguing when we saw the notes say that this is ‘the Austroan maverick’s whisky’, whatever that means.
It of course relates to the chap, Willi Opitz, who’s sweet sherry-esque wine, Opitz One, provides the finish for this great Dalmore. As a limited edition of 289 and bottled at a powerful 56.3% we had higher expectations as we still waited for that ‘wow’ whisky from our tasting session.
Despite being apfinisjed in a sweet red wine cask, there is nothing sweet about this whisky as it’s increased ABV was evident straight away on the nose.
I got hints of glue, a bit like a white spirit whereas Tom was getting notes like Bacardi rum and an indescribable familiarity to it.
The palette was very spicy, powerful beginning to end.
Tom: “The nose is great, only bettered by the taste once you get into it, great stuff.”
Overall: Definitely the best so far and, once we finished the session remained top of our list.
Dram four: Edradour 10 Year Old 2002 Burgundy Cask Finish
Having never sampled any Edradour before I was especially interested in this one, not least because it is the smallest distillery in Scotland that is staffed by just three people.
To put this into context, Edradour is so small that is is capable of producing 12 barrels a week, their yearly volume is roughly equivalent to what typical distilleries produce in a month. Yep. This is small batch at its best.
The Edradour 10 Year Old 2002 Burgundy Cask Finish was distilled in 2002 and aged for 10 years in a hogshead. Then it was moved to and finished in a Burgundy wine cask for another two years. It is bottled straight from the cask at a hefty 57.3% ABV.
POW. The nose tingles on first sniff. Don’t get me wrong it is smooth but has presence and a strong scent of wood.
Once you get into the liquid there is a hint of sweetness there, smooth but with a subtle kick. It is definitely straight from the cask as advertised, no question there, but as Tom noted:
Tom: It is nice but does not stand out, quite similar to the Dalmore.
Overall: Powerful yet playful.
Our final dram: BenRiach 15 Year Old Madeira Finish
We start discussing the merits of different whiskies and how price means nothing in the grand scheme of whisky enjoyment as well as how, price aside, you really can tell the difference between high and low quality whiskies.
Another limited edition release here, and from a brand, BenRiach, that I have always admired as well as being finished in the Madeira casks I have enjoyed before.
I think this is the only one where our opinions differed somewhat on how we enjoyed the dram, Tom was getting lots of surgical, sterile notes on the nose whereas I was getting butterscotch.
Then, once we tasted the liquid, almost immediately our opinions aligned once more. Having been for dinner in the Hawksmoor a few weeks previous, we had both tried the ‘Full Fat Old Fashioned’ (also known as At The Drive In) which is quite a buttery, sweet whisky cocktail. And that is exactly what this tasted like.
Overall: Very sweet but not sickly sweet, this was a lovely dram with a great finish which is definitely more of a session whisky than a marquee whisky.
And with that our Flaviar tasting session was complete.
I’m a big fan of Flaviar, they have a great brand, a lovely tone of voice and a fantastic product. This tasting set was very interesting, it’s strength is in us trying whiskies we have not tried before with the first two being pretty average, drams three and four being powerful and interesting and dram five being a smooth finish. Maybe dram three or four would have been a better finish but that’s just my opinion.
One thing worth noting is that the ‘tasting pack for three’ is a bit misleading as 45ml of each is not enough to be able to sample, comment and revisit later, let alone adding water and whatnot so would say it is a comfortable tasting pack for two, even then we didn’t get to revisit any.
Thanks to Flaviars for providing the samples for this tasting. Why not think about conducting a Flaviar tasting event for Father’s Day, June 15th?