This week, we managed to get our hands on an interesting range of Blackadder Raw Cask expressions from local spirits curator INTERCO-MLE.
Founded by Jeremiah Kee- a fellow whisky enthusiast, dog lover and ex-naval officer (find him on Instagram at @interco.mle and @keemochii)- INTERCO-MLE is exclusive distributor for a cool range of rums and whiskies, including the Blackadder brand and Shizuoka Distillery’s whisky (more on Shizuoka in a following post!).
The name “Blackadder” might bring to mind Rowan Atkinson’s old historical sitcom that aired on BBC a few decades ago.
Somewhat to my childish disappointment, there is no connection between Mr Bean and Blackadder International Ltd. Our independent bottler was not named after Rowan Atkinson’s character, but rather after a 14th century Scottish bishop, John Blackadder, who stubbornly continued to preach despite being banned from doing so by the Scottish Episcopal government.
The independent bottler was created by Englishmen Robin Tucek and John Lamond in 1995. Blackadder’s philosophy is rooted in delivering as much taste from the whisky’s cask as possible, to the bottle. Almost all of its whiskies are single cask expressions, and neither chill-filtered nor coloured.
The Raw Cask Series
Blackadder’s aversion to filtering has led it to create the “Raw Cask” series of whiskies bottled directly from the cask- without any filtering of the charred cask sediments and wood flakes.
As you can see, this Raw Cask is completely unfiltered- hence the ridiculous amount of charred cask sediments in this bottle.
Blackadder’s unique feature and rejection of any form of filtering is really grounded in the belief that filtering a whisky removes from it a lot of compounds that add to flavour and richness including oils, fatty acids and glycerine. The whole idea is really to deliver the most natural state of the whisky to your glass. Blackadder claims that the whisky industry on average loses 2% to 3% of the whisky to “over zealous filtering”, while Blackadder only loses 1%.
Is this just offering a clever excuse for the company to skip a step in its bottling process and cut cost? Not at all. Tucek has noted that it was necessary for Blackadder to ensure that every bottle of Raw Cask expression has an even distribution of cask sediments. Yum… At this rate, I’m starting to hope we get extra sediments in my bottle. Can’t wait to choke on a wood chip!
The Raw Cask series also only comes in cask strength editions. They truly do not tamper with the spirit.
One final thing about Blackadder’s Raw Cask series should be noted – each expression comes from a single cask of whisky, with only about 200 – 300 bottles available worldwide. This makes each expression quite special and arguably more exclusive than whiskies released by small run batches from major distilleries.
We have with us four bottles: a Ben Nevis 16, Lediag 15, Linkwood 26 and Bunnahabhain 28 from the Raw Cask series. The 28-year-old Bunnahabhain is from the more premium “Statement” range within the Raw Cask series.
This is first in our series of reviews covering these four bottles of Blackadder. Feel free to check out our reviews over the course of this week!
With that, let’s dive into tasting the Ben Nevis!
FRUITY AND SPICY
Note: We assign every bottle we review to one of five Flavour Camps, based on the most dominant flavours found. The Flavour Camps are : (1) Fragrant and Floral, (2) Fruity and Spicy, (3) Malty and Dry, (4) Rich and Round and (5) Smokey and Peaty. To learn more about each Flavour Camp, please click here.
This Ben Nevis has been matured for 16 years in a (probably ex-bourbon) single hogshead.
Ben Nevis is a Highland distillery situated by the highest mountain on the British Isles. Lots of distilleries make a huge fuss about how special their location is, but Ben Nevis Distillery has one of the most stunning sceneries amongst distilleries in Scotland.
The traditional distillery character is of rather intense fruitiness and spiciness with honey and Scottish heather, with sometimes a little peatiness. In 1989, the distillery was purchased by the Japanese Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. Since then, Ben Nevis has been supplying its distillate for Nikka Co to create its blends.
In the glass, the spirit is pale straw, almost like the colour of a sauvignon blanc. Slightly viscous-looking legs.
On the nose, opens with soft but lasting notes of juicy fruits. Ripe bananas take centre stage, developing to red apples and peaches. The banana note can somewhat be interpreted as a faint solvent smell (e.g. nail varnish), but the scent is rather comfortable and pleasing to the nose. This solvent smell often found in a number of grain whiskies.
On the back of the initial aroma is some lemon zest, faint honey and light French toast. This is estery and somewhat floral- the aroma wafts through your nose without so much as a prick despite the high alcohol content.
On the palate, this is warming, fruity and oily. Heat and pepperiness is present as soon as this hits the tongue and unfolds on the middle of the tongue and top of the palate. This is balanced by lots of crispness and bright notes of orchard fruits, strawberries and delicate peachiness. Although immediately noticed, the spice is at a very comfortable level and adds a welcomed dimension of heat and liveliness on the palate. This transitions to a very subtle note of vanilla and honey. There is also a very light note of bitterness or peat that could have just as well have gone unnoticed. The sweet peachiness and subtle peat actually tastes very much like the same flavours found in the Taketsuru NAS.
We do not know what are the exact constituents of the Taketsuru Pure Malt, but it is well-known that Ben Nevis Distillery supplies a lot of its scotch to Nikka.
The finish is long and accompanied by lingering soft fruits and fading pepperiness that end at the back of the throat.
A pretty flavourful dram with several dimensions of flavours that make this relatively complex. I particularly like the combination of delicate sweet fruits and the kick of spiciness. Baby drinkers are well encouraged to add a few drops of water because this really opens up the fruitiness and tones down the spice to a very comfortable level.
A refreshing dram with lively flavours that perk you up in the same way as the nightlife at a Caribbean beach bar
This dram should compliment a fragrant Indonesian ayam goreng with sambal belacan (fried chicken with shrimp paste chili sauce). The crisp and refreshing sweetness of the Ben Nevis would cut right through the oiliness, while the spice would really bring out the lively kick in the sambal.
This dram would nicely compliment an ayam goreng and sambal belacan.
With its delicate fruitiness and gentle notes, it is also apt to compare this Ben Nevis with many Japanese whiskies. If you enjoy the typical fruity and floral Japanese whisky, I think you would love this.
If this sounds like something you’d like, check if there's still a bottle available on the Blackadder shelf on INTERCO’s online store. Alternatively, if you are based in Singapore and itching to dine out, head down to Frenchie Restaurant and Wine Bar at 81 Tras St (INTERCO’s partner) to pour yourself a dram.