...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Edradour and Ballechin twins! Same bottler, same year, same cask type.

First, Hazelburn and Longrow. Now, Edradour and Ballechin. My original intro was five paragraphs long, let me just outlineify it here:
  1. Edradour distillery produces unpeated single malt (Edradour) and heavily peated malt (Ballechin)
  2. Edradour distillery is owned by the independent bottling company, Signatory.
  3. van Wees, a Dutch indie bottler (allegedly) draws its single barrels from Signatory's warehouses.
  4. van Wees releases a few Edradour and Ballechin single casks each year.
    1. Usually ex-sherry casks for Edradours
    2. Usually ex-bourbon casks for Ballechins
As soon as I spied a sherry cask Ballechin, I swooped in and got semi-matching samples: Ballechin and Edradour, both distilled in 2008, matured in sherry butts and released by van Wees in their The Ultimate series.


Check the photo for the stats. Note the very similar ABV. Also the butts had very similar outturns: 696 and 694.

To the tasting!

NEAT

--NOSES
Edradour (8yrs 1day) - It starts off with oranges, cinnamon and dried apricots. Then raspberry jam, fudge, cardamom, nutmeg and a whiff of butterscotch. And, yes, plenty of alcohol.
Ballechin (9yrs 178days) - Smoked fish, eucalyptus and clementines. Dried cranberries, ocean air, ham and charred peat. With time in the glass it picks up baked pears with cinnamon and sugar.

--PALATES
Edradour - Dried fruit, especially cherries and golden raisins. Very salty. Tart lemons and raspberry jam. Sweet and heat. Thick mouthfeel.
Ballechin - Massive mossy peat. Charred veg and not-charred dried fruit. Lightly sweet, lots o' heat. Cinnamon and Tabasco sauce. Develops some bitterness with time.

--FINISHES
Edradour - Sweet. Berries, fresh and dried. Tart lemons and a hint of woody bitterness. But its the ethyl heat that lingers longest.
Ballechin - More of that huge peat. Chili oil. Very little sweetness. Similar heat and bitterness to the Edradour.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or <2tsp water per 30mL whisky

--NOSES
Edradour - Fudge and flower blossoms. Lime peel, prunes and raisins. Very big even at this ABV.
Ballechin - Ledaig, is that you? Seaside, peaches, cinnamon, peat and citronella.

--PALATES
Edradour - 
Plum wine, tart berries, ginger ale and cream soda. It's very peppery and drags along some woody bitterness.
Ballechin - Somehow the peat feels even bigger and darker. Quite a tar note. Well beneath the peat is a balance of sweetness (brown sugar), salt, savory and moderate bitterness.

--FINISHES
Edradour - A mix of cayenne pepper, grape jam, bananas and bitterness.
Ballechin - Char, dark chocolate and salty ham.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or ~1Tbsp water per 30mL whisky

--NOSES
Edradour - Very manageable. Mint leaves, ginger, anise, blackberry jam and Macallan 12.
Ballechin - Just char, mint and brine.

--PALATES
Edradour -
 It has become creamier, with fresher fruits (think plums and pears). Ginger powder.
Ballechin - Still plenty of punch to it. Peat and pepper and salt. Tart citrus and oak spices.

--FINISHES
Edradour - Pepper, berries and bitterness.
Ballechin - Identical to the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
You may read quotes from "experts" that the cask is 2/3s or 3/4s or 70% responsible for a whisky's final character. Well, the Edradour is 100% cask. It is at times a very good cask. At other times it's too aggressive, held only in check by the high alcohol content. It seems to be doing its best Orphan Barrel Bourbon imitation with all that woody bitterness. But it gets better the more it's diluted.

The Ballechin is all Andrew WK. With peat levels that would embarrass southern Islay, heat levels that rival Stagg Jr and sherry levels comparable to, well, the Edradour, this 9 year old Ballechin a whole lot of too much. Which works. If you're into that sort of thing. If it could shed the bitterness, I'd love to see it arm wrestle one the many murderous SMWS Port Charlottes.

At full strength, Ballechin's outrageousness wins. Yet as the whiskies are diluted, the Edradour reveals more stamina and complexity......even though it's all cask. But, in the end, it's all combustion.

EDRADOUR 8yo 2008 van Wees, cask 118
Availability - continental Europe
Pricing - €50-€60 w/o VAT
Rating - 85 (with water)

BALLECHIN 9yo 2008 van Wees, cask 189
Availability - continental Europe
Pricing - €50-€60 w/o VAT
Rating - 84 (neat)