What a year it’s been – with more choice of single cask, single malt whisky than ever in the Society’s (almost…) 35 years of existence. But as 2017 draws to a close, and Christmas creeps ever closer, we’ve also released our second offering of Single Cask Spirits, with a new selection of rum, bourbon, cognac and armagnac.
All of our bottlings are from a single cask, and have been selected in association with experts in each of the categories. Rum ambassador Ian Burrell collaborated with the Society to unearth an incredible selection of rums from Barbados, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Panama, with a range of styles running from sweet to smoky to Jamaican bottlings with a little touch of funkiness. All the rums are all bottled at cask strength and work either for sipping or in a cocktail – such as the Society’s very own creation, the San Cristobal, made with R8.4 Autumn campfire in Nicaragua.
Our bourbon B5.2: A powerful concoction is from a distillery in Tennessee, and works beautifully either straight or with ice – or why not try it as a “Boilermaker”, accompanied with a beer. Bourbon also shines in the cocktail world as a go-to bottle, as the basis of classics such as the Old Fashioned, Boulevardier and Mint Julep.
The new, charred white oak casks used to mature bourbon produce a rich, decadent flavour, with loads of vanilla and toffee as a standard, but also tropical flavours such as coconut and banana, along with pineapple, mango and lychee. Dark complex notes often come in the form of peppercorns and leather.
Cognac is a classy drink at any time of year, but if you’re looking for something different for a Christmas digestif, it doesn’t get much better. Although cognac’s governing body the BNIC doesn’t allow age statements on the bottles, our cognacs are all designated as XO, or Extra Old. That designation applies to cognacs that are at least six years old, but we can tell you that our outstanding C3.1 A fragrant ramble, for example, is 30 years old.
At these ages, cognacs develop a balance and complexity to savour as you would a treasured old whisky, with floral, fruity and spicy notes developing into muscat, cherry and orange blossom, sandalwood and cigar boxes. Then there are the ‘rancio’ notes of mushrooms or walnut oil that increase during the long ageing process and grow in intensity with the years – perfect to savour with your Christmas celebrations.
Last – but absolutely not least – in our new release of Single Cask Spirits is our armagnac A2.1: Amarena amaretti. You’re going to be hearing a lot more about armagnac and how the Society has fallen hard for this underappreciated brandy from the south-west of France.
Armagnac is still predominantly produced on single estates by families rather than larger houses or conglomerates, on a much smaller scale to cognac. That means there is a huge amount of variation across the region, but with the guidance of SMWS member and armagnac expert Edward Bates, the Society has been busy on the ground unearthing some absolute gems.
Armagnac is also ideal on its own as a digestif, but don’t add water or ice – its lower strength means it’s unnecessary and won’t improve it.
Generally speaking, armagnac can be considered big, bold and robust, with a complex, full-grape flavour. That’s certainly the case with A2.1: Amarena amaretti, which draws you in with sweetness and fragrant fruits – stewed plums, ripe figs, Amarena cherries, dark chocolate, marzipan and plum jam – followed on the palate with a lively orangey tongue tingle and woody spices, including nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and anise.
Sounds like Christmas in a glass. Take your pick!
Find out more about our new Single Cask Spirits release with Society ambassador – and massive rum fan – Olaf Meier.