We Discover if the Cask is King with BlackAdder Whisky
When it comes to independent bottlers, there’s always an element of curation and creativity expressed by the bottler when it comes to cask selection, what they choose to do with the casks, and how they choose to bottle the whisky. These little variations make things more interesting for the whisky drinker, and this certainly rings true for BlackAdder, a family-run independent bottler.
BlackAdder was started by Robin Tucek in 1995, who runs the bottler with his son, Michael Tucek, and his daughter, Hannah Tucek. While BlackAdder started out as an independent bottler of whiskies, they have also expanded their range to include other spirits such as rum and gin.
We spent an evening at Samsu Huay Kuan, an intimate and cozy fine spirits bar that’s perfect for savouring a good dram and good conversation, together with a delicious range of BlackAdder whiskies for our tastebuds to explore through. Our tasting flight included a range of 5 drams of BlackAdder whisky, wonderfully accompanied with a platter of Izakaya-style small bites. Michael Tucek and Robin Tucek, the team behind BlackAdder themselves, were also present via Zoom to guide us through their story, the BlackAdder philosophy, and the little details behind each unique bottling.
The BlackAdder Philosophy
Michael shares with us BlackAdder’s commitment to keeping their whiskies and the process as natural as possible, hence the motto that captures their philosophy – the Cask is King. All of BlackAdder’s whiskies are bottled from single casks and most at cask strength, and their whiskies are never chill-filtered, heavily filtered or have caramel colouring and flavouring added to the spirit. The is allows the whisky to express the characteristics and flavours of the cask as naturally as possible.
The natural characteristic of BlackAdder’s whiskies is also expressed tangibly through the cask sediments that are present in the bottles of whisky. We certainly noticed the sediments at the bottom of the bottle!
Now, on to the tasting!
BlackAdder Chimera 2017 Blended Malt Whisky, 46%
The BlackAdder Chimera is a Blended Malt Whisky that is blended from Single Malts. Michael also shares that no two Chimeras are the same, so this blend that we’re trying here is pretty unique in its own right.
Nose: Honey and caramel notes.
Taste: Sweet notes of honey, apple, and vanilla. Light and smooth mouthfeel.
Finish: Lightly burnt sugar sweetness on the finish.
My Take: A really light, sweet, smooth, and easy drinkable dram – a great way to kick-off this tasting flight!
Black Snake Vat No. 4 Third Venom Single Malt Whisky, 60.3%
Michael shares with us that in bottling the Black Snake, BlackAdder uses whisky from three 5-Year Old first-fill Bourbon casks from an unspecified distillery, then transfers the whisky into a first-fill Oloroso or PX Sherry butt. The whisky is then left in these casks for a year, after which two-thirds of the whisky in the cask is bottled. Following that, two more 5-Year Old first-fill Bourbon Casks of whisky are transferred again on top, which is then left for another year and bottled again. The idea behind this process is that in the long term, you would still get the flavours from the original whisky that helps to build up the flavour profile over time.
The Black Snake is a Single Malt Whisky, meaning that the whisky is all from one source. This dram that we’ll be tasting is the third bottling from this vat, hence the name Third Venom.
Interestingly, Michael also shared with us a little on why they chose the black snake as the symbol for this bottle. Black snakes were often found to be present in whisky distilleries of the past, and the Tuceks are quite fond of snakes themselves – Michael even keeps a pet snake of his own, who slithered over and greeted us our zoom chat!
Nose: Vanilla, honey, apply
Taste: Toasted bread, vanilla, sherry notes, slight salinity, light oily texture
Finish: Dark cherries, light spice, long finish
My Take: Deliciously smooth and well-balanced. This dram goes down dangerously easily and keeps us reaching for more.
Milton Duff 2008 12 Years Old Single Cask Whisky 58.2%
This Speyside Malt Whisky from Milton Duff Distillery is bottled under BlackAdder’s Raw Cask Label and is one of 287 bottles drawn at cask strength from Hogshead Cask no. 1001.
The Raw Cask label is BlackAdder’s leading brand and the key focus of the company that truly encapsulates its “Cask is King” philosophy towards whisky bottlings. Whiskies under the Raw Cask label are drawn from the cask the old-school way, without being chill-filtered or heavily filtered. This ensures that the whisky and the process is as natural as possible, retaining the natural-occurring oils and esters from the whisky. The process is so natural, that you’ll probably see some of the cask sediments at the bottom of every bottle of whisky from the Raw Cask brand!
Nose: Brown sugar, raisins, truffle
Taste: Caramel, sugar, truffle mushrooms, with a slight hint of delicious funkiness
Finish: Black tea, light spiciness, slightly tannic finish
My take: This is a dram with a rich depth that reveals its layers to you – rich, sweet, flavourful with a slight funkiness.
St George’s Distillery 2009 8 Years Old Single Cask Whisky, 63.4%
Yet another bottle from BlackAdder’s Raw Cask Label, this is an islay whisky distilled from St George’s Distillery. St George’s Distillery is owned by The English Whisky Company and is based in Roudham, Norfolk. This 8 Years Old Single Cask Whisky is a heavily peated islay whisky, and was distilled on 6th August 2009.
Nose: Peat, herbal notes of thyme and oregano, charcoal smokiness
Taste: Smoked meats, herbs, peat, earthiness
Finish: Long, savoury finish
My Take: A well-integrated whisky and thoroughly satisfying dram for the peat lovers who love classic Islays.
Jura 1988 30 Years Old Single Cask Whisky, 50.2%
Last but certainly not least, we approach a much-anticipated dram in our tasting flight of BlackAdder whiskies – the Jura 1988 30 Years Old Single Cask Whisky. Jura Distillery is Scotch whisky distillery located on the island of Jura where it gets its namesake from, and this 30 Years Old Single Cask Whisky from the distillery is bottled under BlackAdder’s Statement label – what BlackAdder calls the “King of Kings” among their ranges.
This Jura whisky is one of 208 bottles drawn at cask strength from a single oak hogshead cask, and we can see some of the cask sediments at the bottom of the bottle as well, much like the bottles of whisky from BlackAdder’s Raw Cask label.
Nose: Green apple, Kyoho grape, slight hints of bread,
Taste: Juicy green apples, Kyoho grape, and a nostalgic Qoo green grape juice drink
Finish: Citrus-y and sweet finish
My Take: The juicy green fruit notes that came through in this whisky was a pleasant and welcome surprise – a definite crowd-pleaser!
The Cask is King
In a time of over-marketing, hyped-up releases, and whisky bottles that are bought and sit on the shelf, never to see the light of day, we can certainly appreciate the touch that an independent bottler like BlackAdder brings to guarantee a good drink through their commitment to delivering good whisky. Getting to chat with Michael and Robin was a treat for us as we discovered a little more detail behind each bottle, and their journey with BlackAdder. If the Cask is King, each dram in the King's court was a true expression of BlackAdder’s philosophy and commitment to quality - we really couldn’t ask for more.
Till the next time, happy sipping!
If you would also like to discover more unique fine spirits, explore your palate, or even discover novel brands, there’s no better way to do so than through a tasting session. Follow Samsu Huay Kuan to be in the loop for more of their upcoming tasting sessions you won’t want to miss!
Stay on schedule with upcoming guest shifts and events at Asia’s Best Bars at @BarHopAsia on Instagram!
Filling a bookshelf? We picked these for you.