Continuing my general look at European whiskies – which, as I keep banging on about, are really rather impressive – it’s time to return to a bit of a favourite European distillery of mine: Langatun.
I‘ve touched on this Swiss distillery a few times in the past, with a notable favourite being Jacob’s Dram. The particular batch that I tasted was, quite frankly, outrageously good and certainly one of my top 5 drams from last year.
The distillery dates back to the 1850s, where whisky was in fact distilled alongside the Baumberger family’s main business, which was brewing beer. During the First World War, the Swiss authorities placed a ban on the distillation of barley, which lasted a surprisingly long time – until 1999. The UK distributor for Langatun, Highfern, has written a wonderfully in-depth piece on the distillery, which really is worth reading.
It shows interesting information (at least to a geek like me) such as the fact that the brewery, which still operates, makes the mash, but the fermentation happens at the distillery. And it’s a huge fermentation of 6 days – outrageously long, in fact: no short-cuts are taken here. Compare that to a distillery such as Blair Athol, which churns whisky out for Bell’s, with a mere 50 hour fermentation time, nearly a third of this. Yes, I know they’re different scales of operation by a long way, but that’s no excuse when you’re making your whisky-purchasing decisions based on flavours is it? (Presumably that’s what you’re buying whisky on – not some romantic notion or branding? Excellent.)
Anyway, Langatun also does something that I quite admire, and that’s using lots of ex-wine casks for maturation. Some whisky purists kick off at the use of wine casks, insisting on sherry and bourbon being all that whisky should live in, but I say to them: what the hell is sherry if not a wine anyway?
Today’s whisky is yet another wine cask maturation: this time, red wine casks from the Swiss-owned Quinta do Zambujeiro vineyard in Portugal. It’s matured for six years and is bottled at 49.12%. A bottle will cost you about £80.
Langatun Quinta do Zambujeiro Cask – Review
Colour: burnished gold, but getting towards russet.
On the nose: the very bold and forward house style is apparent yet again – whatever it is that happens with the spirit, and I like it a lot. Notes of orange marmalade and tiramisu. Cinnamon – almost a hint of a spiced pumpkin latte. Old cellars. Hints of pine trees. Creamy, with dried herbs – sage mainly. Very subtle, very layered.
In the mouth: wonderfully well-made spirit, massively thick and cloying texture. Not as sweet as you’d think: sure there’s that lovely caramel, tiramisu note from the nose, almost a salted caramel chocolate here, but there’s enough coffee-like bitterness to balance things out beautifully. Toasted notes and just a minor touch of Springbank-like dirty oiliness. Settles into something more mild-mannered: sultanas, apricot dram. Herbs return, and again that sort of sage note with a hint of fennel.
Another excellent European whisky from Langatun – and let’s not forget that this is a young whisky. They really know how to get the flavour out of their spirit, and I suspect that comes from the quality distillate (you can’t put shit spirit into good casks and hope for miracles – this is good stuff). It’s not as good as the likes of the Jacob’s Dram, which had more oomph, but there’s perhaps more balance here. I think this might be a good stepping stone for people who appreciate their sherried drams and are looking for something a bit different. (Although that said, I’ll have another review of another Langatun in the coming days that is an astonishing whisky.)
I don’t know what else I can do to persuade people to try something from this distillery.
Note: Sample provided on behalf of Langatun, and image of casks stolen from their Facebook page.