In their capacity as indie bottlers, Whic.de are known and respected for their high-quality whisky releases. Recently, they have strayed from that path a bit and – for the first time – launched another kind of spirit under their name: a Late Bottled Brandy from Thompson Bros. Initially, this copious drop entered the cask in 1993. There, it resided for a total of 27 years. Just to reiterate it: That is more than a quarter of a century … wow! Numbers like these always amaze me; especially when those long years managed to shape the spirit in question accordingly. And that is definitely the case here! To make sure that the Late Bottled Brandy is in good company, I have paired it with a single cask Heaven Hill bourbon from North Star Spirits that comes with a special twist: This strong, brutish American whiskey was finished in an ex-Ardbeg barrel! To learn more about these two out-of-the-ordinary bottlings, read on below. If my words raise your curiosity, however, you will have to put your investigator’s glasses on. ‘Cause as far as I know both releases are already sold out … so, if need be, good luck in the search!
Late Bottled Brandy Vintage 1993 by Whic.de
(Brandy • Oak cask • 52.3% • 187 bottles)
Brandy – for those of you who have not yet delved into this type of spirit – is basically cognac that is produced outside of the cognac region. Compared to whisky, the biggest difference is the raw material: Brandy is not made from malted barley, but from grapes. This gives the spirit a delicate fruitiness that is apparent at any stage of the degustation. Even in this 27 years old single cask expression from Whic.de, which has a pretty strong wood influence, the grapes hold their ground. They appear together with a fine selection of other aromas and flavors. Let’s try identifying them bit by bit: The near-black color shimmers reddish when held against the light. The dense bouquet offers dark notes of cabinet wood, leather, choc mousse and all sorts of spices. Plus a variety of bright and fresh aromas. On the tongue, lots of juicy grapes unfold alongside burnt parchment, black berries, unsugared licorice and expired matchsticks. During the lengthy finish, bright fruits meet full darkness and metallic embers meet grated zest. As someone who drinks a lot of whisky and only a wee bit of brandy, I gotta say: This Late Bottled Brandy 27yo is a really nice diversion from my regular dramming routine. On the one hand, it is clearly something different. On the other hand, it provides many sensations that a passionate drammer like me knows and loves.
Heaven Hill 9 Years Old by North Star
(Bourbon • ex-Ardbeg cask finish • 66.1% • 253 bottles)
Originally, North Star launched this honey-colored Heaven Hill 9 Years Old in 2018 as part of their sixth outturn. It is a real beast that opens with a sweet, waxy nose. When I sniff it, I get Snickers bars, vanilla crescents and lemon drops. Additionally, there are dry spices tickling my nostrils (curry powder, kurkuma). The whiskey already shows a lot of strength at this point – but behold: We have only just started! ‘Cause when the spirit hits the tongue, that is when all hell really breaks loose! The massive ABV of 66.1 per cent numbs the entire oral cavity. Slowly but surely, the feeling returns. And with it come all kinds of good flavors: buttered toast, banana chips, orange-colored fruits, caramel chunks, sun-bleached wood and old linen. The Ardbeg cask, in which the whiskey was finished, also peek-a-boos at this stage. The long and electrifying aftertaste has popcorn, mango, toffee and lemon creme. From deep underneath, a “green” peatiness shines through. After a while, it transforms into black ash. That ash covers the tongue as if it were a freshly tarred street. Hell, this ain’t no easy dram. If you step in the ring with it, you better flex you muscles and keep your guard up. Otherwise, this super-powerful Heaven Hill 9 Years Old will knock you straight outta your shoes. If you manage to stay on your feet, however, you will be in for a wild and fun ride!
Late Bottled Brandy Vintage 1993 by Whic (Brandy / France / Oak cask / 52.3% / 95 Euro)
Heaven Hill 9 Years Old by North Star (Bourbon / USA / ex-Ardbeg cask finish / 66.1% / 65 Euro)
*** Samples kindly provided by Whic and North Star. Thank you. ***