Here’s Atom Labs founder Ben Ellefsen on the wonders of Maple Syrup & Toasted Oats & Orange Zest & Vanilla 7 Year Old, one of the latest ampersanded whiskies that deserve your attention.
‘Big’. That is without a shadow of a doubt the best adjective I can conjure for this liquid. Expansive, palate-coating, rich, deep, unctuous, and surprising. There’re some spares just in case.
We bought really quite a lot of the liquid for this incredible bottling at 5 years old a few years back, and for the past three* and a bit years, it’s been sitting quietly finishing in some super-active oloroso sherry octaves acquiring flavour, colour, and general yumminess.
The mashbill comprises 95% corn, and 5% rye making the constituents identical to a high-corn bourbon. Obviously, it’s not bourbon as it’s made in Canada, but you get the gist. Corn as an ingredient typically drives (massive oversimplification alert) sweetness and creaminess in contrast to rye’s spicy and complex notes, so from the word go this has been an incredibly sweet, easy-going, (whisper it) ‘simple’ whisky.
Laying it down in sherry casks, which typically contribute yet more sweetness in the form of raisins, dark dried fruits, Christmas spices, and deliciousness has made the liquid into what it is. Basically a liquid dessert. It’s quite rare to find a Canadian whisky (or even bourbon) that’s been treated to such an expensive cask treatment for pretty sensible reasons, comparatively speaking, the base liquid is inexpensive. It’s the whisky equivalent of adding liberal amounts of white truffle shavings and Iberico ham to a McDonald’s double cheeseburger. Here’s the thing though, that sounds absolutely epic, and I want to put it in my face immediately.
It’s incredibly easy to drink on its own (and even better with a liberal amount of ice), but also makes some simply incredible cocktails. Why, here’s one now:
The Vancouver Island
50ml Maple Syrup & Toasted Oats & Orange Zest & Vanilla 7 Year Old
25ml Antica Formula Vermouth
5ml maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura Cocoa Bitters
Luxardo Maraschino cherries
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with a liberal handful of ice, stir for 15-20 seconds, and strain into a frozen Coupette glass. Garnish with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry, then express a strip of orange zest over the top and discard.
Another cocktail I’ve been playing about with is ‘some of this – and literally any other whisky/dark spirit’. It’s a ready-made buffer that does an incredible job of taking another spirit and making it sweeter, smoother, and eminently more drinkable. Before the Christmas break, I had the tail-end of a bottle of something which shall remain nameless from an Islay distillery which was just a bit too ‘raw’ when drunk on its own. I don’t have that problem anymore. This process also begat several new line extensions in the &Whisky range but I’ll cover those in a post next week.
*You’ll have noticed that buying it at 5 years old and leaving it for three does not a 7-year-old whisky make. It’s had a birthday since we bottled the first batch so you’re getting a older whisky for your money. We’ll change the label over to 8 years old in short order. It’ll be the same liquid, just older.