It’s all too easy to assume that when a distillery who traditionally produce a non-peated whisky offer a peated expression. All they need to do is order a peated batch of malt, and Bob’s your Uncle!
It’s rarely as straight forward as that. Although the same equipment is usually used, the way in which they ferment then distil their spirit can be altered greatly in order to produce the phenolic characteristics they’re looking for.
In the case of Cu Bocan, it’s not “just” a peated Tomatin. The malt is different, fermentation times are different, maturation is different, and it’s only distilled in limited batches for one month during Winter. The only similarity seems to be that they both happen to be made at Tomatin Distillery!
And for the three latest offerings, it seems like free rein has been given to the team to experiment and produce an innovative, exciting new spirit produced using a cornucopia of maturation vessels. Not to mention a sexy new bottle! Let’s have a look!
Cù Bòcan Signature
Maturation: Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry, North American Virgin Oak.
Thick and oily initially, thins slightly with citrus smoke, burnt leaves, ground coriander and heather haze.
Medium feel, peppery attack retreats to limey citrus sharpness. Patience unveils a more charcoal-like character, some eucalyptus and liquorice entwine and exit, leaving bitter caramelised lemon pith.
Long, but maybe a touch shorter than the mouth would suggest. Smouldering from citrus and foliage dissipates and leaves a warm coating of sour cream and mint.
Cù Bòcan Creation #1
Maturation: Black Isle Brewery Imperial Stout, Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal Wine Casks.
Sour cherries and salted butter with tangy marmalade. Some all-spice and lime pepper at the end. (Not sure if there’s such a thing as “lime pepper”) There’s something approaching a mango IPA in there too….
Thick and chewy, much more emphasis on the marmalade. The citrus is still apparent but is relegated to the back-seat, we’re in spice mode here. Cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and maybe some burnt coriander seed. That mango inflection comes to the fore, for the crescendo…
A touch darker, coffee, citrus and dry fruits to fade.
Cù Bòcan Creation #2
Maturation: Japanese Shochu, European Virgin Oak.
Fresh green lime zing, a light malty smokiness with a meaty background and a light white peppery fade…
Medium feel with zesty minty fruitiness (I approve!), juicy pear and tangerine are taken over with a mild mist of hazy pine smoke. Some chewy wood-resin with spikes of lime (again!) making way for a thicker Olbas oil note.
The initial high notes of fresh lemon and lime are handed off (via a warm fuzzy cloud of freshly grated lemon peel) to a gentle but persistent tingling reminder of the journey through palate town.
Ok, let’s get the elephant in the room addressed…
Q “Are Tomatin trying to make an Islay whisky?”
What we have here are the solid beginnings of the future of Cu Bocan. I’ve made no secret that any over-emphasis on maturation, to the detriment of other important processes, concerns me slightly. To that end, the team at Tomatin seem to be deliberately not over-doing it.
Yes, my eyes may well have rolled when I saw the list of casks they’ve used for this range, and no, I’m still not overly sold on wine casks in general. However, it’s clear that they want the light smoky-citrus spirit to lead the conversation, rather than have oodles of wood influence drown the distillery character.
These three expressions are a more than acceptable foundation on what may well be the building of a balanced, consistent AND innovative range of whiskies.
But as ever loungers, that’s not up to me. It’s up to you!
Go and try some!
See You Soon!