Originating in Glasgow and currently hailing from Huntly in Aberdeenshire, Duncan Taylor have been in operation since 1938. Their initial focus was Cask Brokering but have since moved on to diversify hugely into blending and bottling their own spirits brands, and expanding into coopering. And there is now even talk of a distillery in the making!

As far as whisky is concerned, their innovation into secondary maturation in smaller casks has given birth to a range of single malts they call “The Octave” range.

The premise being that, the whisky is matured in standard 250ltr Hogshead Casks then transferred into smaller 60ltr to 70ltr Octave Casks  (in this case risen from ex sherry butts) for a period no longer than 9 months before bottling.

What difference does this make? (I hear you ask in proud inquisitive voices). Well, the answer lies – as with many things in life – in mathematics. You see, the smaller the cask, the more wood surface area per litre of liquid is available, creating more liquid interaction with the oak and therefore resulting in more influence on flavor from the cask.

All interesting stuff in theory folks! But does it make a difference in real time!?

The team have been good enough to send me down samples of their 3 latest Octaves releases for review, and they’ve also included samples from prior to re-racking in the octave casks, so let’s have a look…

Octave Dailuaine 2009

11 years old

Abv – 53.9%

RRP £67.50 

Colour

Pale Gold

Nose

Light and delicate, coconut flesh and vanilla. Faint and far off earthy smoke and a slight inflection of ground dark spice…

Palate

Well balanced with the nose as the light and delicate theme is turned up ever so slightly, a touch more on the “juicy” side with mango and grapefruit are then shrouded in a hazy wood oak smoke and a touch of mint, if I’m not mistaken.

Finish

Medium length with light smoke leading back to the mango grove.

Pre-octave Comparison

Before being introduced to the Octave cask the DNA of this whisky as Smoke and light citrus, the octave in this case has worked to round off the sharper edges and balance with wood spice.

Octave Premium Glen Keith 1993

26 years old

Abv – 53%

RRP £230 

Colour

Gold

Nose

Toffee and vanilla with some orange zest and underlying black pepper

Palate

Great feel which covers the whole mouth nicely, well integrated alcohol with very little “burn” even at 53%. We’re off to the tropics once more with mango, pineapple and grapefruit. Layers of vanilla cream with ginger and nutmeg follow before orangey citrus notes re-appear…

Finish

Long finish centered around those tropical fruit characteristics drying down to the citrus fade.

Pre-octave Comparison

First off, the Octave cask has DEFINITELY added to the nose, the pre-octave sample had my entire head practically in the glass before I detected anything. And on the palate the there is a much thinner feel, but the fruitiness sings much louder. And the finish is an entirely more “spirity” affair.

Octave Dalmunach 2016,

3 years old

ABV – 54%

RRP £49.99 

Colour

Lemon

Nose

Youthful and to the point with sweet cereal notes.

Palate

Again, cereal led with notable pear drops, fresh red apple flesh and honey with a hit of vanilla.

Finish

Medium to short length with the fruits at the fore…

Pre-octave Comparison

Wow, allot sharper in the way of alcohol attack before the secondary maturation on this one, most flavor is overshadowed by it. Still, some of the aforementioned cereal and clean fruits are present, if only for a moment.

Overview

Well these three whiskies certainly stand testament to the maturation expertise that Duncan Taylor have. In my opinion there is a clear improvement in all of them following the second period of maturation. And before any of you ask…

All of the whiskies were a shade lighter in colour before being transferred into octaves. Being as the cask is responsible for the colour of the whisky, that is to be expected!

Innovation aside, these three represent a solid outturn for the team up at Huntly. Being as this is my first outing with them, I’m encouraged by their spirit selection and maturation regime. I shall be looking out for them in the future for further research!

As ever loungers, your opinion is more important than mine. Go find some and find out for yourself, you don’t have to believe me!

See you soon!

Connas