Another “est” Factor – Edradour – The Smallest Old Distillery and The Game of Wood

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Not technically about the size or shape of the stills, this post will focus on the “smallest distillery in Scotland”.

The reason I put that title – so proudly etched on the distillery’s sign – in quotation marks is that it’s, quite simply, no longer true. Typical for boom times in the industry, new distilleries are being established in Scotland, and some of them are really small craft distilleries, even compared to Edradour, which is really small. Such are Wolfburn, Daftmill, Strathearn and Abhainn Dearg. Of these, only the Isle of Lewis based Abhainn Dearg has some limited editions out there (see here), but I have, however, yet to come across it in the flesh. So for the time being, limited as it may be, I’ll treat The Edradour as the smallest distillery in Scotland, with an output of just 130,000 liters per year (compare with Glenfarclas’ more than twenty fold capacity at 3.4 million liters) , and a really impressive wood policy.

The small core range includes the 10 Year Old and the 12 Year Old Caledonia Selection which is sherry matured, and is expected to grow at the end of this year with another permanent additon.  What sets The Edradour apart is the very broad selection of wood maturation and finishes which is untypical of large distilleries and astonishing for such a small one, considering the work and expense involved in sourcing quality barrels.

The distillery has a colorful history with American mafia connection, sunken ships and a novel written based upon these occurrences (Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie), but has really hit its stride (and became really interesting wood wise) since 2002, when Signatory Vintage  bought the distillery. At that point, a plethora of wood finishes and full maturation in special casks appeared, and you can find “Straight from the Cask” series and some regular bottlings of whisky finishes in sherry butts, port casks, Chardonnay, Ruby Port, Marsala, Burgundy, Barolo and Gaja Barolo, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Sauternes, Moscatel, Bordeaux, Madeira, Sassicaia red wine, Super Tuscan wine casks, Cotes de Provence, Tokaji and Grande Arome rum cask together with a bourbon cask release straight from the cask. Obviously, some of these were received better in the marketplace than others, so some were available from only one cask (about 450 bottles of 50cl) while others have enjoyed multiple releases of casks in the SFTC line. Nevertheless, this is a mind boggling richness of wood for any distillery, especially one producing only about a dozen barrels a week, and much exploration can be had with this series.

Another direction the distillery is taking is the heavily peated Ballechin line, with about one fifth of its production. There have been eight releases so far in Burgundy, Madeira, port, oloroso, Marsala, bourbon, Bordeaux and Sauternes casks. It’s expected for a 10 Year Old Ballechin to become part of the core range from the end of 2014.

Which sets the stage for tonight’s tasting of the 18 Year Old 1993 Sauternes Finish:

Edradour 18 Year Old 1993 Sauternes Finish (52.7 ABV, uncolored, non chill filtered) 

Edradour 18 Year Old 1993 Sauternes Finish

This whisky was distilled on December 20th, 1993 and transferred to Sauternes wine casks from Chateau D’Yquem for a 42 month long finish. It was bottled at cask strength in April 2012.

Color: Deep gold with a yellowish hue I attribute to the Sauternes. Legs are slow, thin and close

Nose: Tangerines, orange toffee candies, nutmeg,  fresh peaches and cream overlying a layer of malt.

Pallate: Sweet and mouth coating, like biting down on that orange toffee with an alcoholic filling. Ever so slight lacticity and Cointreau over orange and vanilla ice cream.

Finish: Slightly metallic sweetness, giving way to a somewhat dry mouth feel. Long linger all the way into the stomach.

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