I had previously covered Teeling’s regular expressions. They’re currently a brand I’m not keen on following closely due to the fact that most of their releases are still sourced stock. Being sourced, there’s no guarantee that the whiskey which they distilled and age on their own will be as good or will be similar to what they’re releasing now. Despite these concerns, I’m still curious about them as Teeling has been getting a good name… which means, to me that – sourced distillate or not – they know what they’re doing.
Luckily, I was able to attend an online tasting hosted by their Global Brand Ambassador, Robert Caldwell. The lineup included the Brabazon series 3 & 4, as well as Teeling Revival 3 and Teeling Renaissance 2. This was an interesting tasting due to the fact that each of these releases spent time in different types of ex-wine casks. Barring the Brabazon series 3 (spent two years in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks), the kinds of wine casks used are new experiences to me.
I’m only going to review the two Brabazon releases for this article, as it’s a different brand of Teeling’s, despite being from the same company.
With the sherry cask madness gripping the whisk(e)y scene, it’s safe to assume that Malt readers won’t need an introduction to what Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry is, but (for those who aren’t sure) it’s a sweet type of sherry. Barring Moscatel sherry, the other types of sherry are all dry and are made from the Palomino grape variety. The grapes used to make PX are also called Pedro Ximenez. It’s considered a dessert wine due to how sweet and syrupy it is. I feel like almost every brand has at least one release these days that’s spent time in an ex-PX cask. Finishing whiskey in seasoned ex-PX casks is so common these days that it’s now being called the new paxarette.
Brabazon Series 3 – Review
14 years old; two years in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks. 49.5% abv. €95.00 on the Teeling site. 10,000 bottles released.
On the nose: Sharp and sweet aromas. I get medium notes of raisins, currants, plums and star fruits. It suddenly gets hotter and hinders me from properly smelling the other aromas. The heat subsides for a bit. Medium aromas of dates, ripe apples, bananas, apple pie, cherry juice concentrate and blood orange peel.
In the mouth: A bit of sulfur to greet me. But it lingers and obscures the other notes I taste. I get light notes of currants, raisins, cherries, blood oranges, plums, Sauternes, honeydew melon, cinnamon and figs.
Imagine drinking a blended fruit salad spiked with a bit of Sauternes while having something coarse like sandpaper. The sandpaper represents the rough texture that’s brought by the sulfur.
The lack of PX flavors in this suggests that Teelings used either none first-fill ex-PX casks or used ex-PX casks aren’t seasoned. I think so as most of today’s whisky finished in seasoned ex-PX casks tend to take over the whisky. There’s little balance as the distillery DNA and ex-bourbon cask influence just down in the PX flavors. Usually, these seasoned sherry casks also tend to be wet casks, meaning there is left over wine in the barrel before it’s filled with whisky. But, the balance in this whisky suggests it’s not from seasoned and wet casks.
A whisky with a good nose and body. Sadly, modern sherry cask matured spirits really don’t agree with me due to my sensitivity to sulfur. This is something for sherried whisky lovers.
I have no qualms about the price. A lot of single malt are going for this price range these days. Some are even overpriced and less deserving while using seasoned and wet casks. To me, it’s cutting corners. But with my opinion that Teeling used non-seasoned sherry casks for this, they deserve to price it this much.
The Brabazon series 4 is a 13 year old single malt. This is interesting, as the single malt spent two years in ex – white Carcavelos casks. Carcavelos is probably the least known fortified and smallest wine appellation of Portugal. Like Port, there are also red and white Carcavelos. The resulting wine usually gets bottled at around 18% to 20%. It has residual sugars of about 80g to 100g per liter, which gives this a similar sweetness to Port. I’ve never had Carcavelos, but it’s safe to say this is another dessert wine.
I recall Robert mentioning that they got into a bit of trouble with the Portuguese government for the label of series 4. Something about Carcavelos not being Port so “Carcavelos white Port” is wrong. Hopefully it’s an honest mistake, since Carcavelos isn’t really known in the spirits scene. In fact, I can’t even think of another whiskey that’s spent time in ex-Carcavelos casks.
Brabazon Series 4 – Review
Color: Korean barley tea.
On the nose: A lasting blast of sapodilla, muscovado sugar, honeydew melon. Light sulfur and light ethanol heat suddenly hit me. Sharp aromas of orange peels, raisins, dried apricots, ginger candy and cantaloupe melon flavored candy.
In the mouth: The sulfur bite here is sharper. But it doesn’t linger. I haven’t had anything lately that gives off this degree of sharp sulfury-ness, so it made me cringe. After that assault, I get a mix of light raisins, plums, candied nuts, kaffir lime leaves, kiwi, toffee, Moscato grapes, green apples, and walnuts.
Hot on both the nose and in the mouth. There’s also a lack of balance here. I feel like the Carcavelos cask influence drowned out the ex-bourbon. While this is a good first experience, I think this whiskey could have been made better.
I don’t know why this is so hot at just 49.5%. Is it due to the single malt they sourced? This makes me wonder if Teeling chose these single malts with defects to be covered up by the wine influence.
If you want to enjoy this whiskey more and maybe even learn how to pick it apart more, I recommend you try a few Carcavelos so your palate can get used to it, and maybe this drink will be more balanced for you. It certainly wasn’t for me.
Series 3 image courtesy of Teeling. Series 4 image courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.