With the release of our first port matured single malts, Matt delves into how their maturation proved challenging - but why some patience has paid off!
Port cask matured whiskies often grab the attention of many a whisky drinker. Whether it be their pinkish hues, or their promise of sweet, jammy fruits and mellowed wine notes – the complexities and body that results when port and whisky are sympathetically merged has become a sought-after combination.
Many of you will have already seen, both online and at the distillery, the distinctive black heads of our selection of maturing port casks. And equally many of you have been asking when these very special casks will be ready to be released into the wild.
They’re taken a bit longer than we initially expected (read on), but we’re extremely excited to now reveal and release three exceptional full-term port matured Bimber single casks.
Bimber’s new single casks are ruby port in style. This alluring red hued wine is a fruity blend of vintages that is aged for around two to three years before being bottled. This controlled maturation produces a wine that is full-bodied and packed full of red fruit aromas and flavours. And when this is combined with an already fruit-forward Bimber single malt, the result is an explosion of delectably rich vine fruit that proves to be a perfect marriage for our distinctive London spirit. So, why the wait?
Back when we were laying down our first casks in 2016 we already knew that we wanted port maturation to become a fourth pillar of our wood policy alongside a mainstay of ex-bourbon, virgin casks and an expanding selection of diverse sherried styles.
Our ruby port casks were sourced from the Duoro Valley in Portugal – the birthplace of port, where wine has been made for over two thousand years. And they’ve become amongst our oldest, having been left to mature for an extended time – now being released at nearly five years of age.
This unexpected extension resulted from something of a ‘stuck’ maturation. After several years of slumbering, the team felt that these casks were lagging behind where we would have expected them to be at that point in their journey. Upon investigation we discovered that a thick layer of residue had formed on the inside of the casks that was preventing the spirit from properly interacting with both the oak, and the external oxygen necessary for correct maturation to take place. The layer was akin to a crust – formed from dead yeast cells, grape skins and sugar sediments that were held in suspension within the port wine. An interesting, but largely unhelpful discovery!
During the early part of 2020 we looked to our coopers to assist with these ‘stuck’ port casks. Disgorging the spirit, they cleaned down the insides of the staves, removing the wine residue and re-exposed the internal surfaces of the oak. A quick re-char was utilised to refresh the wood before the casks were refilled and once more laid down to rest.
Checking the progress of these casks throughout the past year has been a delight. We’ve found that month-on-month, their character, complexity and balance has been continually enhancing – right up until now - when these three initial port casks are now finally ready to bear the Bimber name and be released for you to experience and enjoy.
We hope you also feel that the wait has been worth it.
Can’t decide which of our three new port casks will best tickle your tastebuds?
Here’s Matt’s tasting notes to help you make up your mind.
Ex-port Single Cask #39
NOSE: Vibrant cranberries together with raspberry conserve and pineapple cubes. Crème caramel and succulent toffee sit with pastry cases and a liberal scattering of cinnamon.
PALATE: Full-bodied with syrupy red berries and mango juice alongside chocolate cake, vanilla-imbued crème patisserie and a building tingle of white pepper.
FINISH: Persistent berry sweetness tempered by earthy, aromatic spicing.
Ex-port Single Cask #43
NOSE: Jammy raspberries and blackberries sit with Victoria sponge cake and vanilla buttercream whilst cinnamon swirls and freshly griddled waffles add richness.
PALATE: Red berries are dipped in fine chocolate whilst gateaux is topped with charred mango slices and a scattering of pineapple chunks. Resinous oak is supported by dry, heady spices.
FINISH: Long and lingering spicing with berry cordial and mentholated oakiness.
Ex-port Single Cask #44
NOSE: Cinnamon spiced redcurrants join rhubarb and custard sweets, whilst ginger cake is topped with smooth vanilla cream and is served with jammy and earthy raspberries.
PALATE: Syrupy berry compote is livened with stem ginger and chilli-spiced dark chocolate, whilst maple syrup joins sponge cake and gently charred oak.
FINISH: Enduring berry fruit sweetness and cooling mentholated oak.