Edradour Gaja Barolo Cask Finish
Review: Edradour Gaja Barolo Cask Finish (1996) 75/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 21, 2012
Edradour holds the distinction of being the smallest distillery in Scotland. It is also the last original farm distillery in Perthshire. The same wooden equipment is used to mash and ferment the whisky today, that was purchased by the distillery 170 years ago. They use the smallest copper stills in Scotland, and in fact they are the smallest permissible by Scottish law. They also use the only working model of a Morton refrigerator (used in the distilling process) in the industry. You’ll find this unique distillery nestled in a small glen above Pitlochry in the Southern Highlands. A truly unique distillery, making truly unique single malt whisky.
The Edradour Gaja Barolo Cask Finished Whisky is a fully aged 12-year-old single malt. The whisky was aged for 12 years in American Oak and then finished in a Barolo wine barrel from Angelo Gaja, an Italian wine producer from Piemonte. This is a ‘cask strength’ offering bottled at a whopping 57.1 % alcohol by volume. I expect this to be a bit of a beast in the glass with strong flavours and aromas.
In the Bottle 4.0/5
The Edradour Gaja Barolo Cask Finish Whisky sits in a small wooden box reminiscent of an old style wooden granary. There is even some sort of burlap or gunny sack material glued to the walls inside the box to remind you of the sacks of barley that used to be stored in such granaries. Things are small, just like the distillery. The bottle is only 500 ml, I liked the presentation, but found the boxy container to be a little cumbersome to get in and out of.
In the Glass 8/10
The whisky displays a bright golden amber in the glass with more of a hue towards yellow than orange. The aroma from the glass is not as strong as I was anticipating. It begins with light caramel/butterscotch and vanilla. There is also a real sense of freshly harvested grain rising from the glass, the smells of fresh-cut straw, chaff from the grain stalks and freshly ripened barley all are persistent in the breezes above the glass. Some spices come to the fore (nutmeg and allspice), and behind it all, some faint cherry like aromas develop.
I allowed the glass to breathe, and those scents and smells of the grain harvest seem to deepen. I also begin to notice a lightly floral character similar to lilacs and heather nestled in the background of the breezes, and some mixed berries (gooseberry, elderberry, and blackberries) seem to flicker in and out as well.
There is a lot to like about the nose, but to be honest, I was hoping for more assertiveness in the glass such as I would expect from a 57.1 % abv. spirit.
In the Mouth 45/60
That assertiveness I was hoping for on the nose is all there on the palate. The flavours are strange though, and in fact the whisky has a bit of a soapy almond taste. (I immediately tried another glass but that soapy taste is present regardless of the vessel which I choose to pour the whisky into.) Impressions of poplar tree sap and willow bark cross my tongue, and I swear I can taste an old candy-bar from my childhood called a Turkish Delight. That candy-bar flavour stems no doubt from the Barolo cask, but the origin of that soapy flavour is a bit of a mystery.
The whisky of course carries a lot of heat in the mouth, and it is very difficult to sip without water or ice. The ice mutes the sharpness better than the water, and so that is how I proceed. With the ice added I taste butterscotch candies, some underlying marzipan, and a distinct maltiness, but despite these obviously great flavours, the whisky is thwarted by a lingering bitterness and that strange soapy flavour.
In the Throat 10.5/15
At full strength the finish of this whisky is no fun at all as the spirit carries too much heat to be comfortable, and one is left with a lingering bittersweet burn. With a healthy splash of water the whisky burns less; but the bitterness of the finish continues unabated. Lots of ice is the only remedy; but even with ice, I would not call the finish pleasant.
The Afterburn 7.5/10
My feeling is that I spent too much time (and too much money) on this one. I did not enjoy the flavour, and in the end the whisky was relegated to my ‘mixing’ shelf. My suspicion is that the Barolo cask finish is to blame. These ‘wine finished’ whiskies are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are great, and some are shall we say, less than the sum of their parts.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)