Box The Explorer

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

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.

Conclusions

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.

Score: 7/10

 

 

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Mark

I've written about (and reviewed) whisky for Whisky Magazine, among other publications, and have been a whisky judge for competitions including the World Whiskies Awards. I've done other writing too: several mass market genre novels, a few short stories, including for BBC Radio 4. For my day job (I know, I don't get out much) I work in digital content. Follow me on Instagram.com/maltreview/ or Twitter.com/MaltReview. Generally, my tastes lean towards ex-sherry cask and ex-wine cask influences on the spirit, but I'm not so fussed as long as the whisky's gone into good wood.

  1. Nik says:

    Hi Mark,

    I agree on your views about transparency. While I consider myself geeky curious about the details on the juice that I’m drinking, even to the not so average whisky drinker who happens to buy Box would find this info too technical. Which is why I like what Compass Box did. That sort of info is much more relatable. Having said that I must commend the effort on part of Box to actually part with their recipe.

    Coming to longer fermentation times…have the distillers who have switched from wooden to stainless steel washbacks done so at the expense of potential flavour formation? For eg has there been a noticeable difference in the Caol Ila 12yr OB pre and post their switch to stainless steel washbacks? Would love to have a chat on this offline If you wish.

    1. Mark says:

      Hi Nik,

      Thanks for stopping by. I think my only issues with Compass Box are that (a) it’s largely marketing – fair play to that, and (b) they’re blenders, not makers, so they can’t really tell me anything I might find useful about the spirit and how the important bits were made. In fact, they’re doing more to skew people into believing that whisky is about wood and little else, when it’s those other bits that matter too in telling me if the spirit was made well, if you see what I mean.

      It’d be good to show things like that about fermentations, I agree. I think the jury is out on whether or not one is better than the other for steel/wood, but as for differences – there would surely be a difference. Did they do anything with fermentation times at the same point? Who can tell?

      Yes, happy to chat more!

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