Since commencing production in November 2014, we at Annandale Distillery have adopted a ‘wood policy’ that aims to deliver both diversity of flavour along with the opportunity to mature our Single Malts for relatively short or relatively long periods of time, and everything in between.
“Sampling whisky as it matures is one of the enduring pleasures of owning a distillery. Thankfully, no instrument has ever been developed that can indicate whether or not a cask of whisky has transitioned from ‘OK to drink’ to ‘delightful to drink’. This means that every single cask must be nosed and tasted regularly. Working from cask to cask, it transpires that some are sensorially mature beyond their years. As the Founders of Annandale Distillery, it’s our privilege and pleasure to select and set aside a few of these early maturing 2016 casks, for you to enjoy. This is Annandale’s Founders’ Selection.”
David Thomson & Teresa Church
One route to flavour diversity is through aging our whisky in high quality oak casks that have previously held various different wines, fortified wines or other spirits. Flavour derives, in part, from the naturally occurring flavour components in the oak, along with residual amounts of the previous occupant, both of which are extracted from the inside surface of the cask by the maturing spirit.
The other route to flavour diversity is through aging our spirit in different types of ex-bourbon barrels: ‘Fresh’ ex-bourbon barrels will have previously held bourbon, and nothing else, for a relatively short period of time (e.g. 3 or 4 years). This means that the oak still has lots of natural flavour components such as lactones (hints of coconut), vanillin (vanilla), tannins (astringency) and a natural sweetness, all of which can be readily extracted by the maturing spirit. The oak also holds residual amounts of bourbon which again, is readily extracted. ‘Fresh’ ex-bourbon barrels are said to be ‘active’ or ‘potent’ because they’re bursting with flavour compounds that transfer readily into the spirit. This means that the whisky inside will often mature quite quickly (usually 4 – 7 years) and it will typically have a sweet, confectionery, bourbon character overlaid on top of the intrinsic whisky flavour characteristics that typify the distillery in question (fresh orchard fruits in Annandale’s case).
‘Refill’ ex-bourbon barrels will have held bourbon in the first place (as above), followed by another whisky (hence ‘refill’). Normally this second occupant will have been Scotch Whisky, but Annandale Distillery prefers to mature its spirit in ‘refills’ that are second-filled with an American whiskey called Early Times. This was done on the advice of the late Dr Jim Swan and it has proved to be an inspired decision. With ‘refills’ the oak is much less active which means that it takes longer to mature the whisky within. However, because the oak character is much less dominant it allows the true character of the distillery to shine through.
Recently, during routine sensory evaluation of our stock of maturing whiskies conducted by Professor David Thomson (Distillery Co-Founder), James Rogerson (Cask & Whisky Specialist) and Keith Law (Whisky Consultant), we identified two ‘refill’ casks that had aged to perfection relatively early. One (Cask 2016/523) was filled with Annandale’s Man O’Sword (peaty/smoky), the other (Cask 2016/613) with our rich, sweet and fruity Man O’Words. We agreed unanimously that these whiskies would be ideal for our Founders’ Selection range. We’re confident that you’ll enjoy the the subtle character of Annandale!