The first batch of bottlings were released in late 2012, after casks were selected by the three founders. The details of these bottlings is below within our reviews and the early signs are very promising, as they have already been nominated for an award. The bottles are only available to members of the Single Cask Nation. There are three membership levels, which are priced at $180, $480 and $960. Please visit www.singlecasknation.com to purchase membership or bottlings, and to find out details of the benefits of the different membership levels.
We are delighted to have been sent some samples of the first three bottlings. The aim is to initially release four or five new and unique bottlings each year. Single Cask Nation and the Jewish Whisky Company are influenced by the Jewish roots of the three founders. While they will be releasing future bottlings that will be kosher, the aim of the project is to involve all whisky fans and not just those of the Jewish faith.
This whisky comes from the small independently owned and award winning distillery of Arran. It has been matured for eight years in first fill ex-bourbon casks, before being transferred to an ex-Pinot Noir red wine cask for the remaining four years. It is bottled at 54.8% ABV and the cask yielded just 277 bottles. The cost is $110 a bottle.
The colour is reddish amber and the fragrant nose begins with a mix of earthy and caramel aromas. It is a promising start, especially once some lovely woody spices (think of cinnamon) and a hint of orange oil kick in. On the palate, this is punchier than expected with plenty of juicy dark dried fruits, red apple and a hit of dried mango and peach. These combine with caramel and tangy orange zest, with the dry earthy spices increasing with time (imagine ginger, cinnamon bark and nutmeg especially). The finish is long - it begins with intense sugary sweetness before becoming much drier and full of woody spices and tannins. The addition of water softens the nose and palate, bringing out more toffee and apple notes while suppressing the tangy and dry ones.
This bottling comes from another independently owned distillery, this time from Benriach close to the city of Elgin in Speyside. It has been matured for its full term in second fill ex-bourbon casks and is bottled at the natural cask strength of 53.2% ABV. There are just 225 bottles of this, each of which cost $145.
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is initially feisty with a mix of peppery and acrid tar-like smokiness. This is reminiscent of newly laid tarmac or creosote (that stuff that you paint on your garden fence). With time, this softens to reveal vanilla, fresh green apple, sweet malted barley and some over ripe banana. On the palate, this is again initial spicy, very peaty and tarry. Again this softens to show notes of baked apple, cinnamon, vanilla, barley sugar and a hint of zesty lemon. However, the smoke is never far away and becomes more earthy and mossy with time. The finish begins with an icing sugar-like sweetness and some tangy lemon, before becoming significantly drier and mouthwatering with plenty of long lasting peat.
This bottling comes from Islay's youngest distillery of Kilchoman, which is picking up awards right, left and centre. The spirit was distilled in November 2007 and has been matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks sourced from the Buffalo Trace distillery. It is bottled at 58.4% ABV with the cask yielded just 245 bottles and they cost $95 each.
The colour is a lemon yellow and the nose is a heady (and slightly weird) mix of aromas - barbeque sauce, burnt oatcake biscuits, bubblegum and smouldering ash. Underneath are notes of vanilla, honey and green fruit (especially pear). On the palate, this feels viscous and is immediately hot and a little peppery with a savoury edge to the notes present. These include acrid earthy peat smoke, burnt oatcakes, brine and a pinch of black pepper and cinnamon. Sweeter notes come through as the savoury ones soften in the glass - think of icing sugar, vanilla, honey and possibly some marshmallow. Some tangy green pear and a hint of eucalyptus lead in to a very long finish, which goes on and on. The intense, hot peat smoke fades slowly to leave a bittersweet feeling in the mouth.
What's the verdict?
The Jewish Whisky Company have selected three very interesting single malts for their first batch of the Single Cask Nation. The high quality is evident in all three and we like the ideal of searching out good casks from the smaller independent distilleries. It will be interesting to see where the range goes in the subsequent batches and whether it follows the same ethos.
What were our favourites? It is difficult to say. The Benriach and Kilchoman are both smoky, although one is much older and mellower than the other. Both are good, but it is probably the Arran that wins as it is different to them and is one of the best cask finished whiskies that we have tasted from that distillery to date. With a first batch of this quality it is easy to see why the Single Cask nation has already been nominated for an award.