Sunday, July 1, 2012

New release - An Cnoc Peter Arkle 1st Edition

Highland distillery An Cnoc have recently added a new limited expression to their range with the release of the Peter Arkle 1st Edition. The distillery, based near Huntly on the border of the Speyside region, has collaborated with artist and illustrator Peter Arkle, and this bottling represents the first of a range of Peter Arkle bottlings; each one packaged using the illustrator’s unique and distinctive designs.

Peter Arkle is a Scotsman who lives and works in New York city. On one visit home, he took a trip up to the highlands where he came across Knockdhu distillery (the name of the distillery that produces An Cnoc single malt). During his tour of the distillery, he fell in love with the place and also the whisky and as a consequence offered to work with the An Cnoc brand. On seeing Peter Arkle’s work and his list of clients (Apple, The Big Issue, Converse, Microsoft, and Scouting Magazine, amongst other equally prestigious organisations), Inverhouse, An Cnoc’s owners, agreed. Check out Peter Arkle’s website if you fancy seeing some of his work. I think it’s pretty cool myself

The inspiration for each of Peter Arkle’s designs comes from the distillery itself and the processes that go into making single malt whisky. This 1st Edition highlights the different ingredients and forces that go into producing An Cnoc. Each symbol on the bottle represents a different element, namely – barley, water, yeast, heat, time and of course er.. magic! This is all explained in moving pictures by the man himself here if you’re bored of reading stuff.

The 1st Edition is the first An Cnoc released that consists of whisky wholly matured in ex Spanish oak sherry casks and so represents quite a departure from the usual An Cnoc style. Most An Cnoc whiskies are either wholly matured in Bourbon casks or have had only a small proportion of their constituent whisky coming from ex sherry casks. It bares no age statement but it consists of whiskies around 10 years old. It is limited to 6000 bottles in only a handful of territories and is exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies in the UK, costing £47.50.

Our tasting notes
The nose starts off with aromas of raisins, sultanas and figs which are quickly followed by bittersweet hints of caramel, burnt sugar, burnt toast, malt loaf, stewed apples and ginger. Some lovely nutty aromas present themselves as well, such as brazil nuts and pecans. After a while it becomes a tad more like your typical An Cnoc style with fresh and candied notes of lemon sherbet and white chocolate. With water the sherry aromas take more of a back seat. There are burnt toffee and caramel notes and a tiny sulphur note in the background with floral and herbaceous notes such as lemon verbena, parsley, water cress and mint up front. After a while the nose progressively gets sweeter with aromas of sherbet, fudge and milk-bottle sweets.

Up front, on the palate there’s chocolate and toffee but this soon gives way to some dryer, spicier, bitter flavours such as ginger, burnt sugar and oak. The initial hit of the bitter tannins soon die down and add a nice firm bitterness towards and throughout the lovely long nutty finish, reminiscent of brazils, hazelnuts and pecans. With water the palate is still initially on the sweet side, again with chocolate and toffee but soon becomes very sherry like with flavours of raisins, nuts and flor mould. The spicy tannins are much more restrained, gently coasting across the palate throughout.

What’s the verdict?
It’s great to try something different from the usual An Cnoc range and it’s really interesting to see how the spirit has interacted with the Spanish oak sherry casks to produce a classy, restrained, sherried malt. Although sherry monsters can be popular, the people at Inverhouse should be applauded for releasing a whisky that hasn’t been totally consumed by the sherry cask and still had some balance between oak and spirit; just a different sort of balance than what we’re used to from An Cnoc.