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Victoria Caledonian Mac na Braiche (Cask 21 – 108 days)

Review: Victoria Caledonian Mac na Braiche (Cask 21 – 108 days)   (84/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted March 26, 2017

The Caledonian Distillery has been on my radar for a while now. I first heard of it when founder Graeme Macaloney invited me to an information seminar and whisky tasting several years ago. At that time the distillery was just in the planning stages and Graeme was touring the country raising money to build his distillery.

In the fall of 2016, word reached me that the Victoria Caledonian Brewery & Distillery had began to produce and age new make spirit.

Twin Pot Stills at Victoria Caledonia Distillery and Brewery

Twin Pot Stills at Victoria Caledonia Distillery and Brewery

Then in January of 2017 Andrew Walls, Sales Manager and Brand Ambassador for the distillery reached out to me asking if he could share some samples for me to review. He, in fact agreed to come all the way to my house in Edmonton and provided a private tasting for my tasting group. We tasted three spirits, Victoria Caledonian Clearach (new make bottled at 50%), Victoria Caledonian Mac na Braiche (a single malt whisky in progress from cask 21), and Twa Cask Islay (a two-distillery, regional Scottish whisky pairing (hence Twa, Scots for Two) of Caol Ila & Bunnahabhain, each matured in Bourbon casks with the final whisky bottled at 56.7% alcohol by volume.

Victoria Caledonian Mac na Braiche is an upeated single malt ‘whisky in progress’. My sample was drawn from Cask 21 on the 108th day of maturation and bottled at 50 % alcohol by volume. I believe that this is a ‘test’ spirit designed to undergo only a short maturation yet, have a smooth round flavour despite its youth. To accomplish this feat, the distillers cut was unusually fine to capture only the heart of the heart. The cask it was rested in, (cask 21 – an ex red wine cask) was selected by the late whisky guru, Dr. Jim Swan.

Mac na Braiche is said to mean ‘Son of Malt’ and is a Gaelic way of saying Single Malt. The spirit is non chill filtered and non-caramelised.

Normally in my spirit reviews, I give some attention to the bottle which houses the spirit. However, the sample I received was a whisky in progress drawn from a particular barrel on a particular day, but not given a particular bottle. So for this review I will omit my score for the bottle and adjust the scoring giving a little more attention to the nose than I normally do.

mac-na-braiche-sam_3038In the Glass 13/15

As you can see from my photo, Mac na Braiche has achieved a nice light golden colour from its 108 day stay in the reused red wine barrel. When I tilted that glass and twirled it, I saw that the spirit had a light oily texture which deposited a slick film on th inside of the glencairn. The crest was surprisingly stubborn and releases medium-sized leglets only after waiting for about 12 seconds.

The nose carries both the signature of the ex red-wine cask and of a single malt whisky. I notice a ribbon of cherry-like turkish delight in the breezes wrapped up in fine oak spice and a malty sweetness. There are some impressions of dry raisins as well as canned pears and yellow-green apple slices. Bits of almond, vanilla, ginger spice and a light grassiness rounds out the aroma.

I like what I am sensing in the breezes above the glass. There is very little astringency despite the youth of the spirit and its high alcohol content. The aroma is perhaps not as ‘full’ as a fully aged whisky; but it is impressive nevertheless.

In the Mouth 51/60

My tasting notes mirror my notes from the nosing. There is that same ribbon of cherry-like Turkish delight within the dram, although perhaps it is set into the background somewhat with malt and grain spice taking a larger starring role across the palate. The spirit is also quite fruity with flavours of pears, apples and raisins all combined nicely with complementary flavours of vanilla and almond. Perhaps we have a few hints of wood spice mingling within the malt and grain.

I am of two thoughts as I sip the spirit. My first thought is that I am amazed at the smooth flavour I am encountering which seems full of light nuances. My second thought (which is really just a niggle in my brain) tells me that although the spirit has a flavour much like its nose suggested (smooth and nuanced), it is not necessarily as ‘full’ as I would like a whisky to be. This is just a niggle because the spirit is not a whisky yet, it must rest for another 900 days or so before it can properly be called whisky.

In the Throat 12/15

When Victoria Caledonian Mac na Braiche is swallowed the youth of the spirit is revealed as a spicy (but mild) burn does affect the back of the mouth and throat. Yet again I am impressed as I would have expected far more burn from such a young spirit especially one bottled at 50 % alcohol by volume. There is a nice sweetness of malt coupled with impressions of vanilla and almond which linger in the finish.

The Afterburn 8/10

At the tasting held for the Rum Chums, Andrew Walls asked everyone to guess the age of the Mac na Braiche spirit. Most of my group seemed to believe they were tasting a four to eight year-old spirit. The fact that the spirit was only 108 days old speaks volumes with respect to the craftsmanship displayed by the Victoria Caledonian Distillery And Brewery. I can hardly wait until they have crafted their first whisky.

You may check out this link for more reviews of similar spirits if you would like a few comparative reviews (Moonshine and Other Spirits).


You may (loosely) interpret the scores 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 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)

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