Speyburn 10 year 40%

Well in advance of “needing” a resupply of whisky for various virtual tastings, I found myself stumbling on Whic.de “accidentally on purpose”, giving into the temptation to order a few whiskies. Happily it led to a wee bonus 3cl dram – which to me is the perfect size to be introduced into a whisky.

When I opened my shipment, I was amused to see they sent a Speyburn 10 year – quite a familiar friendly Speyside previously explored in Mumbai on three occasions:

However that was years ago and I re-glanced to discover the ABV was different – 40% not the 43% I’d experienced earlier. And when to try?

I decided – what better than a virtual “bar night” with the Bombay Malt & Cigar lads – now scattered around the globe. One of our members had hosted an evening with Stuart Harvey with the Speyburn well known. As each pulled out an open bottle from our respective whisky cabinets, I cracked open this mini.

What did I find with my revisit?

Speyburn 10 year 40%
  • Nose – Sweet cereals, honey, a bit malty, some nutmeg and vanilla… as it opened up became increasingly fruity with banana, mosambi, then shifted from citrus to hint of raisins
  • Taste – Honey water, toffee, fresh tobacco leaf, some more malt a bit of spice
  • Finish – Carries through with a bit of sweet, spice, faintly bitter

Did it live up to memories of past tastings? Yes indeed. I feared that at 40% it would be too diluted, however it remained what I expected – an ‘easy drinking dram’. No complaints and that wee 30cl bottle was finished far too fast!

It came across as primarily ex-Bourbon cask with just a touch of ex-Sherry, which could entirely be true as the Speyburn is matured with a bit of both.

As I’ve featured before what the Speyburn folks have to say, thought to share how the German distributor positions it:

A malty-mild Speyside single malt with a great price-performance ratio. Order this tasty aperitif whiskey.
  • 10 years old: The 10 years of ripening ensure a pleasant fruity-malty bouquet.
  • Price-performance ratio fits: For its low price, you get a well-matured and tasty single malt whiskey with a solid indication of age.
  • Not smoky: In this classic Speyside whiskey, the malt is not kilned over a peat fire. Therefore this whiskey is not smoky. Ideal for beginners or as an aperitif.
  • Mild and tasty: If you’re looking for a mild and pleasant after-work whiskey, you’ve come to the right place. If you are looking for something deep and difficult, you should keep looking.
  • Great entry-level whiskey: With its light flavor profile and low alcohol content, this Speyburn is a great entry-level whiskey. Inexpensive and tasty.
I would completely agree! As for “inexpensive”, what does that mean? In Germany, it is a mere EUR 25, just over INR 2,000 – very much value for money. I’m not sure how distribution has been affected by these strange times we live in, however it was once available in the Indian market – naturally with all the customs duties and taxes added on top!

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Flora and Fauna – Inchgower 14 year 43%

Last in our Flora and Fauna series was the Inchgower. Our ‘host’ admitted being rather partial to this from past tasting experiences… did it live up to expectations this time?

Inchgower 14 year 43%

  • Nose – A wine like quality, musty and mossy, mould and mushrooms, earthy, cork, some vanilla sweetness, nougat, Dasheri mango or cantaloupe, baked goods then shifted into something more oily
  • Palate – Pungent, very dry spice, has character and kick, like the way wasabi opens up your taste buds, increasingly pronounced ginger
  • Finish – A bit salty, more almonds?

This whisky got off to a curious start… earthy then shifted to fruity, lots of character, but did we like it? Hmm… it certainly is interesting and a bit unusual.

We gave it some time, returning to find it had gone back to the vegetal earthy element and got a bit of ‘smoke’?

With all of these Flora and Fauna whiskies, we were not tempted to add water… this was no exception.

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

This 14-year-old single malt whisky is a conundrum, in which the aromatics, and even the flavour, change continually. This is a complex and interesting mix with a sweet palate and bitter finish.

  • Appearance – Deep amber.
  • Body – Medium bodied and mouth filling.
  • Nose – Rich and deep and a hint of toffee. After a while offers some short-crust pastry and fruit, like greengage tart or damson pie. Then it settles and becomes lighter and vaguely ‘gun-metal’ – a mix of metal, gun oil and cordite, but all very faint. With water, it freshens up but gives little away. For a time there is an unmistakable scent of horse chestnuts – green and nutty – but after a while, it becomes much sweeter and more floral, like acacia honey.
  • Palate – Sweet overall, but also curiously mouth-drying, with some salt and traces of oil.
  • Finish – A saccharine-bitter finish that leaves an aftertaste of almonds.

Would we agree? To a certain extent…

Curious how this experience compares with other Inchgower drams? Check out:

As for what else did we sample in our foray into Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range? Here you go:

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Flora and Fauna – Auchroisk 10 year 43%

Flora and Fauna is Diageo’s official bottling series for their distilleries that predominantly go into blends or are found in independent bottling. After the Linkwood, our Whisky Ladies Euro chapter cracked open an Auchroisk. What did we think?

Auchroisk 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Cherry wood, cooked cherries, caramelized toasted nuts, candy apple… as it opened up more such aromas were joined by coffee, some tannins, spicier with hints of mulberry
  • Palate – Ahh… it does indeed have good body, some cinnamon spice, a bit of cherry cola quality and again those tannins from the nose come are on the palate too
  • Finish – A slightly smokey aftertaste that lingers

Just from the aromas alone there was a sense of body and substance which fully came through on the palate. Of the three Flora and Fauna whiskies we sampled together, this was the favourite for its character and

We set it aside and revisited after sampling the Inchgower… any change?

If anything, even more interesting! This time we found strawberry sweet, some milk chocolate and salty caramel. Delicious.

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

An apéritif malt whisky, pleasant and light, which opens sweet, fresh and balanced then dries to a short finish. Doughy and buttery on the palate. This textured single malt whisky displays hints of lemon and pineapple with a slight aniseed and smokey finish.

  • Appearance – Pale gold.
  • Body – Smooth, with a light to medium body.
  • Nose – A mild nose for its strength. Sweet and fresh. Ground almonds are immediately apparent, even dry marzipan. Acetone. Some dark chocolate behind (this develops towards milk chocolate). Becomes nuttier all the time. With water, opens up: fresh and estery. Acetone, cooked pears, solvent. A light oily-fatty note behind, possibly nut oil. Nuttiness still apparent. Also a very light char in the back. Becomes more cereal-like – soggy Shreddies – and more ‘boney.’ Not so clean.
  • Palate – Takes a fair amount of water. Light and fresh; pleasant mouthfeel. Sweetish start, some acidity. 
  • Finish – Surprisingly dry, fairly short – all well balanced.

Curious about other experiences with Auchriosk? Read on…

What else did we sample in our foray into Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range?

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Flora and Fauna – Linkwood 12 year 43%

With even tighter ‘lock-downs’ happening around the world, our wee Whisky Ladies European Chapter carried on our virtual merry malty explorations. This time with the final trio from Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range….

The most natural place to begin was with the Linkwood – a distillery we’ve all tried before and have overall enjoyed for its light yet tasty and refreshing fruity sometimes floral character. So what about this official bottling?

Linkwood 12 year 43%

  • Nose – For me it started off with bubblegum, for my tasting companions one found prunes and another almonds… overall we found it fruity, with a good dash of vanilla, light and honeyed… however as it opened up, the effervescent fruity quality subsided  and it settled into a honey hay
  • Palate – A clear easy drinking dram, pleasant yet unsophisticated, creamy, with a bit of wood, light spice with some clove and tea
  • Finish – Not so long but with a hint of raw faintly bitter almond

We concluded this is a perfect late afternoon early evening sipping dram. Something the cheerfully enjoy, taking your time… and while obviously of a more ‘commercial’ bent than some of the cask strength independent bottler vintages we’ve sampled over the years, its a nice one to have around.

We set it aside and returned after trying the Auchroisk and Inchgower… had it changed?

That delightful bubblegum was back – and how! Joined by some apple sauce, very sweet… still easy drinking with a hint of floral and one even thought of champagne!

Was it the best Linkwood we’ve had? No…. however if you want an entry point into this distillery, it isn’t a bad choice.

Our whisky host for the evening read notes from the bottle… which said a lot of marketing blah blah about water but not so much about the whisky. So I checked online to see what the folks at Diageo have to say?

A whole garden of fruit and flower scents in a smooth, long, complex yet wholly integrated Speyside of utter distinction. This 12-year-old single malt whisky has a rich and oily mouthfeel with nutty, cereal notes and an aromatic and dry finish.

  • Appearance – Old gold.
  • Body – Mouth-filling, smooth and medium-bodied.
  • Nose – The first impression is of fresh soft-fruits (but indistinguishable), with a hint of vanilla in the background. Then light cigar-box notes are perceptible, and a faint hint of expensive ladies’ perfume. The whole effect is civilized, complex and tightly integrated. With water, it opens into carnations and lavender, with a whiff of perfumed smoke. There are traces of juicy green sticks, then cedar-wood, with undercurrents of pomander or dried orange peel.
  • Palate – Mouth-filling and smooth. Sweet, overall. Viscous, but fresh and clean: a pleasant acidity helps to maintain this.
  • Finish – Cedar notes emerge in the finish, which is long.

Curious about other explorations of Linkwood? There have been quite a few!

What else did we sample in our foray into Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range?

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Mortlach 10 year 2009 48.4% (Old Particular)

Next in my Old Particular trio is a Mortlach from their ‘regions’ series – from Speyside. I will admit it has been some time since I settled down with a Mortlach. I’ve had some quite lovely independent bottles (including a 37 year old!) and a rather disappointing official bottling – primarily due to its price. I was curious to see what this one from Douglas Laing delivered…

Mortlach 10 Year Old 2009 (cask 13061) 48.4%

  • Nose – Pears and orchard fruits, juicy and fruity, ripe sour cherries, lemon curd
  • Palate – A bit of chilli spice, dark fruits, reminded me a bit of cinnamon rolls, malty
  • Finish – Again back to a spice chaser, warming
  • Water – Don’t mind if I do! opens it up nicely, balanced it

In truth, I wish I had more than a small sample as it needed time and a splash of water to open up.

As for tasting notes? Here is what the folks over at Master of Malt had to say:

A single cask single malt from the Beast of Dufftown (AKA Mortlach), distilled back in March 2009 and left in a refill hogshead to mature. It was bottled 10 years later in March 2019 by Douglas Laing for the Old Particular series, with just 167 bottles produced at 48.4% ABV.

  • Nose: Strawberry laces, Portuguese tarts and cereal with milk.
  • Palate: Barley sugar and cinnamon butter, leading into syrup sponge and orange marmalade.
  • Finish: Toasty oak and more baking spice, with a hint of porridge.

And what about previous brushes with Mortlach?

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Flora and Fauna – Strathmill 12 year 43%

Last in our Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes a Strathmill, part of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. To the best of my knowledge, this would be my 2nd brush with Strathmill – the earlier being a 21 year mini bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company.

What did we think of their official bottling?

Strathmill

Strathmill 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Toffee, meadows, over ripe fruits, figs, dried apricot, fresh pudina (mint), coriander, anis seed, perhaps even onion seed like nigela or ajwain. There was something a bit salty, nutty, fruit leather
  • Palate – Not as sweet as anticipated from the aromas, spicier than expected, an oaky woodiness… then flat…
  • Finish – Was there?

We puzzled a bit with this one. Our initial impression was that it was a bit too watered down. However what it really needed was time. As we sat debating, trying to discern more… it took on more and more substance, revealing some chocolate, even a leather and spice… a nice fruitiness came forward and we found to our surprise it was not at all ‘dull’ anymore! Far from it… instead there were delicate but discernible dimensions worth waiting for… and even a nice light chocolate buttery finish. Where was that hiding initially?

I dug out the notes from my earlier experience with the Strathmill 21 year and it rang true this time as well!

“Don’t be tempted to dismiss this whisky as a lightweight… As we continued to sip, it vacillated between cheerful and a deeper character…”

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

A smooth, easy-drinking all-rounder with a good balance of sweet and dry notes and a medium-long finish. This 12-year-old single malt whisky is surprisingly rich and sherried with notes of cooked fruits, spices, and chocolate. Serving Suggestion: Strathmill works best served in a traditional whisky glass, neat or with a little water

  • Appearance – Pale gold.
  • Body – Smooth, with a medium body.
  • Nose – Light prickle. A closed nose at full strength. A hint of ‘Café Noir’ biscuits. With water, solvent, sweet and minty at first. Light and creamy, becoming darker. Chocolate-chip, mint ice cream, then Toblerone. Roasted peanuts and their skins. Remains pleasantly clean. Dried parsley and moss.
  • Palate – Sweet start. Some acidity.
  • Finish – A medium-length, dry finish. Chocolaty aftertaste.

In our first Flora & Fauna evening, we also sampled:

With more to come…

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Flora and Fauna – Mannochmore 12 year 43%

Our 1st 2021 Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes thanks to a Diageo connection with careful selection from their Flora and Fauna range.

For some reason I’ve gravitated towards Mannochmore in the last year or so… likely influenced by the rather marvellous Gordon & MacPhail 25 year cask strength sampled at Berlin’s Union Jack and most recently a Chorlton cask strength 12 year.

So I was rather curious to see how it would hold up in an official bottling at a mere 43%…

Mannochmore 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Bournvita and vegemite, then sweet sweet honey, shifting even into honeysuckle flowers, crisp green apples, pears, then fresh cut grass, then a hint of prunes… it kept shifting between more vegetal lightly salty elements and fruity flowery, fresh and green
  • Palate – Interesting – not at all what we expected from the aromas. It was surprisingly well rounded, had a kind of mineral substance, a dash of salt, some wood and light spice, yet as we sipped, it started to become more and more in harmony with the aromas
  • Finish – Initially herbal, anise

We paused… hmm… gave it some consideration. It comes across as ‘easy drinking’ and yet at the same time there is a classical yet whimsical element too. Backed up by quiet strength. Is it massively complex? No. But it is interesting. And has a kind of classic Speyside nod with just enough maturity to not be completely dismissed as a ‘light weight’.

We set it aside to try the others and returned to be pleasantly surprised. It kept is character. If anything it was even fruitier, remained rounded and tasty… not such a bad dram at all.

Bottom line – we liked it!

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

Surprisingly clean, dry, and refreshingly direct. Mannochmore makes a good aperitif with its light, grassy and herbal notes.

  • Appearance – Pale gold or white wine.
  • Body – Light to medium in body, like a fine wine.
  • Nose – The first impression is sweet and lightly malty, then some aldehydic (green sticks) notes emerge and a slight whiff of brimstone. After a while, the green notes become green apples, and the sulphur notes more like carbon monoxide. With water, similar to the unreduced nose: fresh-fruity, with traces of ‘Spangles’ and acid drops, and still a hint of sulphur compounds in the background. Somewhat ‘monochromatic’ for a Speyside.
  • Palate – Fresh and clean – appetising with good acidity and a well-balanced dryness overall.
  • Finish – Surprisingly dry in the finish for a Speyside.

Would we agree? In truth we didn’t get the sulphur but the balance rang more or less ‘true.’   

In our first Flora & Fauna evening, we also sampled:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Benrinnes 19 year 52.9%

Unfortunately by the time I got around to suggesting to my fellow European based Whisky Ladies that we might want to try a box from The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – this dram was long gone – both as a sample and the full bottle. Pity.

However my virtual tasting companions were quite happy with their alternative – a Tomatin 9 year (2011).

Benrinnes 19 year (1997 / 2016) 52.9%

  • Nose – Subtle, fruity with sweet grass, a bit shy yet lovely, some tobacco leaf, walnut and raspberries
  • Palate – Gorgeous! Something very unusual – a curious sweetness that strangely reminded me of skunk – sounds horrible but it wasn’t. There was a rusty rustic spice,  more fruit and berries, beeswax, ginger, cinnamon
  • Finish – More of the sweet spices with a sprinkle of salt on top – lovely

This was again a whisky that needs a bit of time to open up… become sweeter the longer it aired… taking on an increasing honey fruity sweetness mixed with light cereals, sweet grass or fresh tobacco leaf.

Unfortunately just as this dram was no longer available to purchase, the notes and any further details have disappeared from The Whisky Warehouse No 8 website!

However my tasting companions and I overall enjoyed our quartet from The Whisky Warehouse No 8… there wasn’t much debate about our preferences with:

  1. The Linkwood 11 year (2007 / 2019) 58.2% was a clear favourite!
  2. It was followed by our respective separate samples – my companions enjoyed their Tomatin and I think this Benrinnes
  3. Next up was the Auchentoshan 18 year (1998 / 2017) 48.3%
  4. Closing with the Dailuaine 11 year (2007 / 2020) 61.5%

For me it was such a delight to be sampling from India, sitting at my very unique desk… an old piano lovingly refurbished by my husband, repurposed to become a comfortable creative corner in our country home. In the background I could hear the cicadas and soft music selected for the evening… my belly happily full of home made dosas with delicious peanut coconut chutney… our pair of country cats curled up companionably together on the bed behind me… perfection!

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The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Dailuaine 12 year 61.5%

From Speyside-Bogie & Deveron, we next tried a single cask from Dailuaine, selected and bottled by The Whisky Warehouse No. 8. You may note that my wee sample looks a bit ‘frosty’. This is because I was sipping in our country home outside of Mumbai, India with the temperature outside a “mere” 32′ celsius… so I had put my samples in the fridge to chill a bit before I sat down with my tasting companions who virtually joined from Paris, France.

Dailuine 12 year (11/2007 – 01/2020) 61.5 vol.%
Garrison Bourbon Cask No W8 22015, 72 Bottles

  • Nose – Brine, sour, a combo of motorcycle repair shop and swarthy fisherman, a touch of medicinal iodine, shifted more into lots of cereals, a bit vegetal, copper… and after the 1st sip increasingly sweet – perhaps a bit of herbal digestif like Kuemmerling? Some citrus, leafy, yet still retains that saline element too, joined by vanilla pod
  • Palate – Sweet tobacco leaf, spice, ovaltine, milk chocolate with cinnamon, a bit fruity, yet also had a mineral quality too
  • Finish – Strong and long… or is that simply the alcohol?

What a contrast from the Auchentoshan and Linkwood! Imagine going from a perfumery to a fishing trawl! And on the palate? Let’s just say it was far more mellow than we expected at 61.5%!

We thought this one could open up with water, so gave it a go! Yes after initially cranking up the spice, it settled down, revealed some toffee and caramel cream, more of the vanilla pod… but in truth we were a bit ambivalent about water in this one. If anything, it had more character at cask strength!

We continued on to our 4th dram in the set and returned to the Dailuaine after some time. It initially had a peculiar sour cleaning aroma however after a sip, the aromas again shifted… that said we certainly found the palate its best feature.

I reflected back on other Dailuaine’s I’ve sampled and simply must admit while this style of whisky has its place, it isn’t a favourite of mine – at least their ex bourbon casks. That said, I did enjoy the Dailuaine 11 year sherry cask Dailuaine bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, so perhaps a bit sherry cask would – for me at least – suit this spirit better.

Here is what the bottlers have to say:

There are only a few single malt bottlings from the Speyside distillery in Dailuaine, which is beautifully situated in the countryside. The distillery only brings out a handful of original bottlings.

In addition, a number of independent bottlers, who appreciate the special quality of Dailuaine whiskeys, fill one or the other barrel. Only about two percent of the whiskey produced by Dailuaine is marketed as single malt, the rest is mainly used for the blended whiskey Johnnie Walker. We had this single malt rarity Dailuaine stored in a Garrison Bourbon barrel. The specialty of these barrels is their size of just 60 l, which accelerates the maturation process due to the small size.

The vanilla aromas of this bourbon barrel storage are intensified. The disadvantage of these barrels is their availability. There are only 72 bottles of the already rare Dailuaine single malt scotch whiskey.

What more do we know? This single malt is from a single cask No W8  22015, priced at € 80 for a 700 ml bottle.

Overall what did we think? It was worth trying but wasn’t the ‘hit’ of the evening which was clearly the Linkwood with a bit of competition for the ‘runner up’.

What else did we try from The Whisky Warehouse No 8?

As for other brushes with this distillery?

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The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Linkwood 11 year 58.2%

From Speyside-Lossie, we’ve sampled quite a few Linkwoods over the years – from 8 to 28 years – some fabulous, some average, but generally enjoyable. We even have one from Diageo’s Flora and Fauna collection planned in the coming month or so!

Linkwood 11 year (06/2007 – 01/2019)  58.2% Bourbon Hogshead Cask No W8 804350, 283 Bottles

We first sampled it ‘neat’…

  • Nose – Bananas, raw pastry dough, a bit of cherry liqueur, toffee, bakewell tart, raspberries,  javitri (the dried flower around nutmeg), raw almond oil shifting into coconut over time, yuzu lemon, as it continued to open, it further evolved – revealing malt, figs, caramel and vanilla
  • Palate – Remarkable! It was – dare I say it – floral? It also had a delightful peppery quality, a zesty spring that complimented its exceptional floral quality. Quite unusual – in a rather appealing way
  • Finish – Nuanced

The 1st sip was a surprise. We didn’t find it overly floral on the nose but it was like sipping a garden bouquet, not the gulab (rose water) of an India sweet but something more like stepping into a flower shop or perfumery. While sometimes we find something this pronounced on the nose, rarely on the palate. How unusual!

While we didn’t feel compelled to add water, I thought to try anyways…

  • Nose – The aromas shifted back to banana – but this time banoffee pie – that fabulous mix of bananas, dulce de leche, graham cracker crust, fresh whipped cream… and in this case an extra boost of vanilla
  • Palate – Could it be possible that the floral element has become perfume? Yet equally it was stronger, spicier, bringing out more ‘oomph’ and character while still being silky smooth and temptingly sippable…
As I wrote up my tasting notes, I realized several aromas and flavours we found were items that may not be so common – combining experiences from UK to India to Japan.
Much like the whisky, our reactions were a joyful enjoyment of its diversity and pleasure in how it evolved. Distinctive and delightful. There was zero doubt this was a class act and definitely something special.
We also found that we liked it both with and without water. While cask strength of 58.2% may seem intense – it really wasn’t with this Linkwood.

Here is what the bottlers have to say:

This Linkwood has everything you would expect from a smooth whiskey. It is clean, the aromas are very well balanced and the aging notes are well integrated. You can call it an ‘all-day whiskey’ with a clear conscience, because it goes with almost any occasion. It’s actually a shame that there are only 283 bottles!

  • Smell : Red, ripe apples and cherries, milk chocolate with a little amaretto, mace and lavender, pleasantly malty with a distinct malt sweetness.
  • Taste : Not quite as fruity anymore, but still a lot of chocolate, which is now a little darker and mixed with roasted almonds. Warm spicy notes such as mace and long pepper can be recognized. The tire notes are very clean, but remain elegantly in the background. With dilution, the whiskey becomes softer and develops a light orange-zest aroma.
  • Finish : Warm and spicy, the dark chocolate notes remain oily on the palate.

Not sure we agree… Though you could, this certainly is not an “all day” drinking dram! As we considered the tasting notes realized it comes across as something ‘ordinary’ rather than extra-ordinary. While the description certainly sounds ‘nice’, we found a whisky that went a good deal beyond mere ‘nice’, instead more of a special treat – something both delicate and complex – even into the ‘exquisite’ territory.

What can we say but well done – both for Linkwood and the cask selection!

What more do we know? This single malt is from a single cask – Bourbon Hogshead – which produced 283 bottles, priced at € 80 for a 700 ml bottle.