Some distilleries will sell off individual casks, either to producers like Gordon & MacPhail, or to separate parties like liquor stores, who bottle it themselves. Such was the case here, a single barrel from Ace Spirits of Hopkins, MN. Single barrel expressions like this offer a unique expression of the spirit, as each barrel can be slightly different from another due to all the factors that go into the whiskey making process. Normally, Scotchology likes to review whiskies that are generally available and not exceedingly rare or expensive; the thought being that if you’re interested in what you see in the review, you can go out and get one for yourself. This is not one of those reviews, as the contents of a single cask are quite limiting. Rather, this review can help recommend the choice of seeking out single barrel expressions, and help shed a little light on what one of those barrels from Corsair is like.
If this whiskey (and distillery) looks familiar, it’s because we’ve reviewed their standard release as part of our World Whisky Day 2016 lineup. It was a unique experience being able to sample both a single barrel and the standard release of the same whiskey side by side. We heartily such side-by-side comparisons, as it can heighten differences you might not otherwise notice.
Barrel: N30-14-0336 (Bottle 108/123)
Location: Nashville, TN and Bowling Green, KY
Nose: Cinnamon, cherry, smoke, vanilla
Palate: Smoke, vanilla, tobacco, syrup, caramel
Finish: Smoke, tobacco, campfire
Comments: You’d think water would be essential at 62.7%, wouldn’t you? But it’s not. Feel free to experiment, but the wrong amount of water can add some aggressive burn until you get it just right.
Adam – The smoke is not so noticeable on the nose, with some nice syrupy sweetness that is almost cloying. I’m surprised by how complex the nose is. The first sip is dangerous, not because it overpowers you with alcohol but rather that is relatively smooth for being so strong (unless you hold it in your mouth too long, then the fire sets in). I am continually surprised at its intensity, a density of flavors that does not overwhelm you but rather forces you to take notice. As nice as it is at full strength, I want to explore what this is like with water. The warmth of the finish is pleasing too. While I’m a fan of Corsair’s funky creativity, I wonder what more they could do if they let some of these barrels sit a little longer. Whiskey is an industry that shows good things can come to those who wait, after all.
Jenny – Like a nice big vanilla stogie.
John – Overwhelms a little in the nose. A London fog of smoke. All the experiences of it are more condensed. On the palate, the alcohol doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors. The aggression comes out in its warmth, not in any rawness of flavor. I have no interest in watering it down.
Margaret – For me, it fills my lungs and spreads out and then it comes back and finishes in my upper chest. Isn’t that a weird thing? It takes a while. It has a lovely caramel coloring.
Meghan – Such lovely smoke. It is not quite as easy to identify the separate woods on the cask version as on the standard since the alcohol content blurs things a bit. This whiskey is a beautiful mahogany color with a rich, deep nose. The smoke on the nose is sweeter. The peat smoke waits until the end to give a bit of smack. If you have been following us since the start, you may have noticed that my views on peat have changed over time. It has certainly grown on me. I still do not love a super-peated whiskey but I do enjoy the peaty aspects of an Islay much more now. But, my love is still in the smoke, so the Cosair is right up my nasal passages (not really – see our original Westland post for that literal experience). Works out that this is technically my bottle, received as a gift. It is a heady whiskey, just a whiff can put you back in your seat. But, why would someone stand while drinking whisky? This is not a can of beer guzzled between mowing the front yard and the back. It is not a fruity cocktail to slurp at the bar until you reach optimum small talk stage. It is a big, potent whisky to sip slowly and to indulge in. It expands in flavor past your palate as the cherry wood blends into the peat. I do agree with Margaret that it fills your chest cavity and then backs up a little. Watering helps the back burn but cuts the richness. I get torn on whether or water or not and how much to add. But, at over 60% there is a lot of room to play with until worrying about over-dilution.
Henry – My first reaction to tasting this unique American single malt is a deep desire to taste the individual batches of barley with their different wood smoke influences that the gents at Corsair used to create this very pleasant and intriguing dram. Of course, I’m a purist, preferring my single-varietal wines and locally-sourced this and that, trying to really get my palate around a very specific flavor component before trying to appreciate each element in a blend and the beautiful emergent properties of the new product. Glenfiddich’s 14 year Bourbon Barrel Reserve and Balvenie’s Doublewood expressions impress me with their ability to craft a product that clearly and elegantly evokes the character of its components while still creating a harmonious blending of ideas. There’s too much going on in this Corsair for me to appreciate the individual threads, but that’s OK. What the resulting tapestry creates is a lovely nose of spiced plum compote with only subtle hints of hardwood campfire. The smoke, piquant and unusually layered, comes in later, and is a welcome guest.
Michael – It’s like a reduced whiskey. This reminds me of bourbon. Something caramel-y and partially syrup-like at full strength that brings bourbon to mind. This has a lot of elements that I see in bourbons in terms of caramel flavor and coloring. Even at cask strength, it’s a very full flavored whiskey but you’re not overwhelmed by it.