It is said that upwards of 60% of a whisky’s flavor comes from the wood that houses it. Which would mean a lot of its viscosity, feel, balance and smoothness would be defined by this very relationship. And let’s not forget those felt on the palate- the degree of spice, the influence of sherry, the fruity and floral tones or the effects on smoke and peat are widely dependent on the wood, its chemical composition and its interaction with the spirit over time. Distillers nowadays employ ‘Wood Masters’ that overlook this science and it is this very contribution that makes enjoying your dram beyond just chewing on a bark of wood!
The early 90s had the Glenlivet distillers experimenting with various casks knowing exactly how they could influence, or better yet, elevate the aging whisky- and they did so by introducing a variety of casks to age their small batches with little to no deviation to the other processes involved. They kept to the traditional ‘natural’ techniques used by J. George Smith back in the 19th century, void of any alteration, which meant no Chill filtration and no E150 coloring. The resultant spirit had kept with the soul of the distillery while also emphasizing on what the ‘housing’ wood did.
The Nadurra series (meaning natural in Gaelic) introduced in 2005 was a testament to these efforts. The expression was sold initially as a 16 Year Old using either First Fill American Oak or Oloroso casks bottled at Cask Strength : 54-55% and at 48% ABV for the travel retail – to better accommodate the consumer’s palate and their pockets.
With time however, the distillery had shed its age statement introducing NAS based expressions without of course influencing any other factor in the equation. While I haven’t had the chance to savor the NAS based expression yet, I did get to taste the original 16 YO and hence the write up!
Batch : 0613F
ABV: 48% ABV
Eye: Deep Copper
Nose: Begins with sweet vanilla and smoked wood with a play of chocolate, coffee and some floral tones. The end delivers subtle shards of coconut and some citrus.
Taste: Rich vanilla, malt, cream and burnt sugar is accompanied by a light hint of peat. Woody with shavings of nutmeg and slices of banana at the forefront and bits of ginger and white pepper tapering towards the end.
Finish: Medium finish; sweet vanilla and light spice.
The Nadurra First Fill comes to me as a sweet whisky- a concoction of vanilla, fruits and nutmeg blended harmoniously with relatively minute traces of peat. The use of the traditional, yet unique lantern shaped Pot Stills encourage greater ‘Spirit to Copper’ contact providing for a rich, deep, yet crisp and light profile though not overly complex.
The longer than usual time spent within the barrels lends the spirit a mildly viscous character with a medium body and the Virgin Oak itself leaves a syrupy vanilla goodness on the tongue that almost overwhelms the overall flavor profile- very much like eating a bowl full of fruit custard.
For the Speyside geek or for those who don’t mind the hit of sweetness this would certainly be a keeper! This expression of the Nadurra series is not overly woody but well balanced, certainly not a bad buy and worth the penny albeit a tad bit pricey.
This spirit might be fitting as a mixer, and I am not one to judge but considering the price and the novelty of being no more in production, the whisky lover in me shouts, “taboo!!” I would take to this direct from the bottle, or probably leave it to open up for a while before putting lip to nip.
PS: Thanks to John B for getting me introduced to this nice copper colored malty chap!