Ben Ellefsen returns to talk you through the latest creations in the &Whisky range while also breaking down some technical mumbo-jumbo on surface-area/volume ratios in casks.
As alluded to in my previous post we’re in the process of rolling out some pretty exciting mashups in the &Whisky range. We’ve got two this week, both with the future-classic Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old heavily-peated Islay single malt Scotch whisky as 50% of the blend.
The first of them is paired with a venerable and creamy blended grain Butterscotch & Vanilla & Toast & A Generation 30 Year Old from the same range. This is a superbly well-integrated grain and provides an amazing platform on which the peated whisky can sit comfortably.
The magic of Canadian corn and octaves
The second release features the same Seaweed& base, but paired with possibly the greatest blending constituent I’ve worked with in the last 10 years: a 7-year-old* Canadian corn whisky which we’ve secondarily matured** in fresh and extremely active oloroso sherry octaves. I’m aware that this jargon/terminology will be familiar to many of you already, but there are doubtless hundreds of you sitting there confused about how music interacts with whisky to make it better***, so bear with me:
Octaves are dinky 50-litre casks as opposed to the usual 500 litres of a sherry butt. The effect of the tenfold difference in volume of these two maturation vessels is that proportionally more of the liquid is in contact with the surface of the cask meaning more delicious sherry flavour and cask influence making its way into the whisky.
This effect is magnified due to the nature of the ratio between surface area and volume. One of them is two-dimensional and t’other is three-dimensional meaning that they don’t scale in a linear fashion. Not to get too ‘maths-y’, but If we take the view that a cask is approximately sphere-shaped for the sake of argument, a sherry butt with a volume of 500 litres will have an internal surface area (the bit which does the work in helping the whisky mature and gain flavour) of 3m². For an octave cask of 50 litres, the internal surface area is 0.66m².
More bang for your barrel
This means that for each litre of liquid maturing away in the sherry butt, there’s an area of approximately 600cm² available to give it the oomph we want. Almost precisely the same size as an A4 sheet of paper. Here’s the kicker though. For the octave cask, each litre gets a far more comfortable 1320cm to play with, an A3 sheet of paper plus a post-it note.
This is why we like octave casks, and this is why we’re comfortable spending a whole mess more money on them than hogsheads or butts. We can almost, almost forgive the utterly heart-wrenching etymological nonsense that 500/8 ≠ 50. Almost.
The effect of the three years of secondary maturation in these super-yummy casks has been the obvious addition of bags of sherry and cask flavour, but also an amazing ‘softening’ and relaxation due no doubt to the increased interaction with oxygen. The way it pairs and melds with anything it touches is truly something wonderful.
The latter bottling is something of an enigma when it comes to categorisation, as it’s a blend of whiskies from different countries. This means that it’s not ideal in terms of navigability on the site so when you tell your seven mates, who also tell seven mates, who also tell seven mates, all of whom tell Kevin Bacon. It’s probably best to send them the link.
So, until next week when there’s a newly-rebranded rum treat to talk about. Take care all.
*Actually now 8-year-old in the remaining casks.
**That sounds wrong doesn’t it, but so does ‘we’ve secondary matured’. As does ‘we’ve matured secondarily’, and ‘has been subjected to a secondary maturation by us’… Who knows.
***This is actually a thing believe it or not. See.