We talk a lot about transparency in the whisky industry, but I wonder sometimes what we actually do with this information as drinkers?
For example, today I have another whisky from Box Destilleri, and Box likes to share a lot of information, which is something I love. I’ve posted a snippet here, but it’s in full over on the Box website (where yes, there’s loads of info).
61% of the whisky is made from peated malt (39–45ppm).
88% has been matured in Bourbon casks (40, 100 and 130-litres).
4% has been matured in100-litre heavily toasted American Oak.
4% has been matured in 55-litre medium toasted Hungarian Oak.
4% has been finished in 100-litre Swedish Oak that has been medium+ toasted before charring.
The Explorer has been neither chill-filtered nor coloured.
I wonder if this sort of thing can intimidate relatively new drinkers because very few people have ever highlighted this information in their whisky, let alone translated it into what means what. Could it leave people cold? Not for a geek, I’m sure, but distilling is complex and we need to somehow highlight good, well-considered production against the bad, profit-driven, short-cut taking distillation and maturation.
And what do most people do with this information? Nod to themselves? What would most people do with regards to details on yeast types (Fermentis Safwhisky M-1) or fermentation times (80 hours – a lot)? I mean, how many people really know that longer fermentations are important in whisky production? That you’re creating a spirit with essentially more complexity, putting good stuff into casks? And that those distilleries whose fermentation times are short are chasing profit and efficiency, rather than quality for drinkers?
I think, then, that we don’t just need transparency. We need translation. We need context. Transparency in and of itself is pretty inert. So what if some “premium” whisky has been maturing for twenty years? What if it’s been sitting in a shit cask that’s been reused several times over – a producer yet again chasing efficiencies, putting cost savings over quality? I’ll take the 5 year old whisky that’s been well-made and been put into good wood, thank you very much. A few random details here and there mean nothing though.
Every whisky’s production has a story, and we can’t take elements in isolation. An age statement is all but useless without the context of maturation or production. But how can we make that more engaging for drinkers? Box is giving it a go, at least.
This is where a good definition of craft whisky starts to kick in: if you can tell me those details, and give me an idea that this spirit has been treated well over its lifetime, then you’re allowed to call yourself a craft producer.
Box The Explorer – Review
Colour: old gold to amber.
On the nose: tangerines, pears, very honeyed. Needs lots of time in the glass. Lime marmalade. Perfumed notes, jasmine. Now this sweetness – butterscotch too – all contrasts very nicely with the gentle woodsmoke peat. Big maltiness underneath it all, nutmeg, gentle spices. Muscovado sugar – just a touch, then tropical notes, pineapple, return.
In the mouth: give it a swirl to enjoy that lovely texture. Quite dry for a Box whisky, but that comes with a lovely cloying mouthfeel – thick, juicy. Briney, and the peat is expressed in a wonderfully charred nature. Chocolate, nutmeg, gentle warmth from the wood. Cinnamon. Quite nutty too – walnuts, hazelnuts. Flashes of aniseed, but leans then towards apricots and lemon curd.
Just another excellent whisky, and interesting – full of subtle layers. Well made, interesting flavours, more developing here than with the Dalvve, but we must remember it’s still relatively young. And it’s when you consider that it is a young whisky that you realise how good this is.
It has been made well.