A delightful desert whisky – Brenne Cuvée Spéciale 40%

We wanted to start our Tasting with something lighter, summery, sweetly satisfying…  delightful desert dram influenced by maturation in a Cognac cask.

I shared with my fellow tasting companion Alison Parc‘s story – from ballet to booze, America to Europe (with an ex desi connect too). With her focus on terroir with barley, use of French Limosine Oak and ex Cognac casks, she’s pulled off a distinctively feminine style… I remembered how much the Whisky Ladies enjoyed the Brenne Estate Cask, which lead me to be confident this would be a terrific start to our tasting.

Brenne Cuvée Spéciale 40%

  • Nose – Initially greeted with apple blossoms, overripe bananas, a touch of cinnamon spice, then the banana became even more prominent – inviting us to indulge in banana cream pie… we kept returning to find shifting deserts and sweets… from bannoffee pie to a banana strawberry smoothie to candied fruit to lightly salted taffy popcorn, creme brûlée
  • Palate – So silky smooth, pure liquid desert in a glass, banana toffee, pineapple, milky Parsi toffees, french pastries… was that a hint of coconut? Light coco? Whatever the different elements, it is simply delicious!
  • Finish – Drying yet delightful… softly sweet tail…

We came back for a 2nd round with the last drops of our sample and delighted in the bubblegum… yes bubblegum! In this case, it is more than just a childhood flashback, it somehow manages to be playful and elegant at the same time. Frothy but not completely frivolous. Certainly not classically Scottish yet still very classy.

To be honest I’m not sure if the Cuvée Spéciale is simply a different branding in the UK for what was available as Estate Cask in the US. When we compared our experience with the Whisky Ladies in 2017, it could have been the same – just with much more banana in our tasting than found earlier. This could be due to Brenne’s approach to bottle from a single cask or be a ‘sister’ expression.

Our mini came as part of the Master of Malt 2019 Advent Calendar and was tasted one fine weekend in Dunkerton, Somerset. And while I can’t speak for its availability in all parts of the world, it seems to be relatively accessible in the UK, Europe and USA – in the range of GBP 55 or so.

The chaps at Master of Malt have this to say… and I’m inclined to agree:

  • Nose: Vanilla flowers arrive on the nose first, paired with pear drops and dried mango.
  • Palate: Brandied cherry and red rope liquorice. More vanilla, a hint of cinnamon spiciness and Nutella.
  • Finish: Chocolate raisins, pineapple and coconut ice.

A lovely start to a most civilized evening of exploring a few drams in Dunkerton.

What other French drams have made their way to our collective tasting adventures?

France

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Revisiting Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 57.8%

Over a year ago, we had two different evenings exploring whiskies from Bruichladdich… doing a peat progression from no peat to peat to super turbo charged peat. At the time, I specifically remembered how the Cognac Cask surprised, given it was a different cask that the usual ex-bourbon, with an interesting inter-play with the peaty Port Charlotte style.

So when planning my special evening with the Port Charlotte Micro-Provenance 5 trio, I thought of having a ‘starter’ to push our palates into the smoky mode. My logic was this would better enable us to discern nuances in the trio, past the peat. Picking up another duty free bottle of the Cognac Cask seemed a perfect fit, in keeping with the cask theme.

I began our session warning my fellow tasters that this was the ‘appetizer’ before the main course. And while we sampled blind, I shared all four were from the same distillery and started at the same ppm – 40 in case you were wondering – but from there diverged.

Only after we sampled all four whiskies blind did they get revealed – one by one – after a round of trying to “guess” what cask magic produced that particular single malt.

Here is what we thought of the Cognac Cask…

Port Charlotte 8 year 2007 CC:01 57.8%

  • Colour – Coppery gold
  • Nose – Sour lemon, apricot, dark chocolate, cinnamon, a sharp “snuff” like quality, pungent like wasabi peas… as it settled down, the bite of tobacco sweetened, with more of the fruit coming to the fore, eventually taking on a chocolate creme
  • Palate – Strong cognac, bitter, dusty, rock salt, despite the almost brash aromas, the flavours were much less phenolic
  • Finish – Chilli, lightly bitter
  • Water – Makes it sweet, beginning with an explosion of pepper of all types – from black pepper to cayenne – settling into a cinnamon sweetness

This one needs time… when we returned to it, we discovered creme brule, a delicious custard, vanilla baked goods quality. Delicious!

The speculation began…

  • Thoughts of alcohol strength hovered around 48%… a far cry from the actual 57.8%
  • As for cask type? It was split between ex bourbon, virgin American oak to one lone voice wondering if it may have a French wine twist… none guessed it could be a Cognac cask

It turned out to be the perfect “kick start”. The bolder peat in this Port Charlotte cleared the path to focus on the more subtle peat of the MP5 trio.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

And what did we try last year? Our Bruichladdich peat progression evenings featured:

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