This evening’s tasting is courtesy of The Whisky Wire and their exciting #TweetTastings (which you may join as well), connecting me with some interesting and unique drams which I wouldn’t have otherwise picked out on my own. And today, I’m sipping on a few samples from Cù Bòcan. I was initially going to cover this entire experience in a single writeup, but then I decided to split it up into two individual posts – it is two drams per tasting, after all! As a result, I’ll take my time to explore a few experimental whiskies and learn a bit about their origin and jaunt. So let’s get into it, but first, you know that we need music! Now playing: A Winged Victory For The Sullen – A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
Cù Bòcan is an experimental Highland single malt from Tomatin, exploring “innovative finishes to create whiskies full of intrigue and surprise.” Distilled every winter from lightly peated barley in limited edition batches, this expression aims to extract the subtle flavours imparted by a variety of fascinating casks. Or so the story goes. Enticing the consumer to “unlock the unusual“, even the bottle design is twisted in a gorgeous, eye-catching campaign. So what about the whisky? We start off with the Signature bottle, which may become a baseline. This one is a marriage of three malts matured in different casks: bourbon, oloroso sherry, and North American virgin oak. The first two is a given, but it is the latter fresh and woodsy barrel that adds on a bit of fresh and zingy character. There is no age statement on the bottle, but the whisky, bottled at 46% ABV, is non-chill filtered and is of natural colour. And that’s a great start for a change! So let’s give it a go! I pick up notes of that caramelized ex-bourbon cask, mellow bananas, and just a hint of citrus on the nose. It’s floral and fragrant, sparkling and fresh. I don’t pick up the smoke, but we’ll see if it’s in the palate. It’s sweeter than I anticipated. Honey, dessert oloroso sherry, candied fruit and nuts, and yes, apple pie à la mode. The lemon scent is only on the rim now. There’s just a hint of smoke now, almost near the finish, coming around in slow, gentle waves.
Let’s move on to Creation #2. This one I am a little bit excited about. And why is that? Because it was matured in a combination of Japanese Shochu and European virgin oak casks. And that is something I haven’t experienced before. But let’s be kind and curb our expectations. First, let me tell you just a bit about shochu because I am a fan. I drink this spirit straight, sometimes with just a single cube of ice. It’s usually distilled from rice and barley, sometimes from sweet potatoes, but also from sesame (my favourite), buckwheat and even shiso leaf! It’s bottled at 25-35%, much lighter than a whiskey (or a vodka), but it is clear, gentle, soft and crisp. Now we don’t know where all the shochu casks have come from, or what type of shochu has been in them prior to hosting the whisky [for an unknown period of time], but we do know, once again, that it is natural in colour, non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46%. The “virgin” oak is now European, so now we’ll have a bit of that peppery spice in the mix. Fresh pear on the nose, light cedarwood, and lemon pie with cookie crumble. Some ripe bananas start to waft in from a far corner of the kitchen. And on the taste, there is indeed a little shochu on the edges post-arrival. Again, I feel as if I’m sipping from a cedar sake box. It’s fresh and satin and a little sharp in all the right places. The finish is oaky with just a bit of smoke.
I do feel that the age of bottled whiskies is a little young here. I do think that there is more marketing to target a new crowd. But the whisky is delicious, uncompromised, and nicely priced [you can find both of these online somewhere between £40 and £50, including via Amazon]. I did enjoy the shochu journey in my whisky – it was refreshing, new, and ultimately fun. The Signature was just a bit too sweet for me with veiled peat, which I was hoping to pick up somewhat upfront versus a corner. But overall, this was a grand experiment in casks, and don’t forget, there’s part two of this exciting tasting. With that said, I’ll proclaim that Creation #2 wins this round.