‘What is it? It’s it. What is it? It’s it. What is it?’
I get asked a lot of odd questions on Instagram. The Direct Message feature opens you up to all sorts of entries, ranging from agencies promising more followers to some dubious accounts asking you to like and visit their page. Once in a wee while, I’ll receive a promising question or the beginning of an expedition, which is what exactly happened in the case of this Defilement.
David, or @scottishdave3097, sent a link to a new release that had popped up on Master of Malt for £48.95 and asked if I knew anything about it? I’m not much use at times and don’t subscribe to any PR releases or latest industry news sites. In comparison, Mark’s inbox, I gather, must be heaving at the sheer volume that land. Still, I love a good mystery. Initially, it seemed in my mind, that this MOM exclusive with the branding and wording, echoed it was an Atom Brands release. This was confirmed when David made the purchase and checked out the back label.
For now, here’s what the bottle page says on MOM:
This right here is an 8 year old whisky released as part of the Defilement series, which has been finished in a new, charred octave cask made from chestnut wood. You’ll note that we simply said “whisky”. Y’see, certain regulations state that a certain famous style of whisky from a certain location known for the spirit can only be aged in oak, which chestnut wood is not. Hence, “whisky”. That doesn’t stop it from being a cracking whisky, mind! The chestnut wood imparts some different notes than you would find in whiskies drawn from traditional oak casks, making this a particularly intriguing sip.
So, this taps into the fact that we can only use certain woods in Scotland. The overlords at the Scotch Whisky Association have deemed such vessels as the cider cask, illegal. Also failing to appear on the approved list are types of wood such as chestnut. Whereas in Ireland, you can basically use any type of wood as the existence of Bushmills Distillery Exclusive Acacia Wood Finish underlines.
That’s the defilement the name refers to. By, in theory, taking a single malt or a Scotch whisky and then finishing it in chestnut, you lose the ability to call it what it was prior. I hear the cries of the cynics who would say that the original whisky might have been of such poor quality, or benign in flavour, that it was worth sacrificing. After all, you’re not going to put a perfectly good single malt from a distillery into such a predicament? I can agree with such a sentiment, but we must also experiment and sometimes the end justifies the means. I’ve got more Scotch than some retailers, so I’ve not lost anything and thanks to David, who provided a hearty sample, I’ve been able to continue the exploration. So much so, I’ve managed to rope in our resident expert on all types of wood, aka Phil, for his thoughts on the end result.
This seems like the perfect moment to play the music video that provided the opening quote…
Any excuse to have more Faith No More in our lives. This whisky is bottled at 46.7% strength and is the original batch, hinting that more will follow. There are very few details provided on the bottle labels, which I have to say is becoming a common theme around some Atom releases. The level of sanitisation applied might make the military blush. While visually this creates a cool look with all the blackened pen, we’re denied even the basics such as the duration of the finish.
What is it? Or more importantly, how does it shape up?
Defilement 8 Year Chestnut Cask Finish – Jason’s review
Colour: a dark amber.
On the nose: oaky as, treacle, resinous and brown sugar. Plump raisins, fudge, cinnamon, baked plums and an old shoe.
In the mouth: some sweetness and bitterness from the oak, redberries, oranges with raspberries being noticeable. A real muggy nature – it feels stuck in a quagmire of wood. There’s very little progression or development.
An experiment that didn’t work, so we move on towards the next defilement. Pretty inept and bogged down in wood and swamped with that character. Any joy, subtlety or interest has been sucked out of this whisky with a wooden straw. I suppose it is aptly named, but it does seem like a schoolboy experiment. Whether or not that interests you for nearly £50, I’ll leave it to you. I guess ‘cos Dave gave me such a generous sample, he didn’t enjoy this trip into the wilderness much either.
Defilement 8 Year Chestnut Cask Finish – Phil’s review
Colour: Tarnished bronze.
On the nose: Sweet and yet dusty. Dates, brown sugar, cake batter. Black cherries, sweet
cinnamon, eucalyptus and fresh wood shavings.
In the mouth: Really sweet upfront – caramelising sugar, dates, raisins and some coffee cake.
Falls away quickly turning into a mix of woody spice, resin and a herbal tincture along with some black liquorice. The finish is really rather short, warming with a Jagermeister vibe remaining.
Yet another dram that promised so much on the nose and then, much like 2020, came apart at the seams. What really got me here was that there was little, to no, flavour development. All the action happened at the front of the palate and then it all disappeared as quickly as it arrived. It also had a surprisingly thin body in the mouth. In fact, what’s worse is that the more I drank of it, the less I liked it.
Definitely, one that I would pass on if ever offered the chance to try it again.