Whiskey Name: Charbay Release V
Whiskey Type: Er. I guess technically Single Malt. Plus hops. If that still counts, then yeah...Single Malt. If not, you pick.
Release Date: Autumn 2016
Price: $675. What’s that in Sterling these days? Call it a couple of million. Thereabouts.
Age: 16 Years
Mashbill: 100% Two-Row European Barley. Plus hops.
Introduction / Background:
This is a distilled version of the piece written for our blog here. To recap, or in case you’re too busy/lazy to read it, this is the fifth and final release of Charbay’s Whiskey distilled from bottle-ready pilsner beer.
It was aged in a new 59 gallon (223 litres plus change) American White Oak barrel with a char level of #3 (Gator Skin). Only 72 bottles were released, so if you haven’t bagged yours already, you’re unlikely to find one. But you can read this instead, which is just as fun, of course.
Oh, incidentally, I don’t do scores. Just a personal thing. But it means you will have to read the words if you want to know my thoughts on this whiskey. Sorry.
Appearance: Mahogany. Something like that. Why not? You can see the picture anyway. It looks like the colour of the picture. Done.
Nose: Very pronounced. A great deal of ripe peach fruit, but there’s a sharpness in the background from the hops, which translates into old oak furniture and potpourri. Lots of high notes despite age and virgin oak; grain still expressing itself well through some ale-elements. Hugely complex, with both depth and vibrancy.
Mouth: Massive alcohol. Flavours still hugely intense – but 70.6%ABV won’t be shouted down. Still a lot of freshness and spice; hops buzzing about amongst deep stone fruit, keeping things on the drier end of the spectrum. Tannins aren’t too aggressive, nor is oak excessive – there’s actually a rather creamy mouthfeel. Slight touch of charry coal-smoke. Not as voluptuous as bourbon, nor as lean as rye in body.
Finish: Astonishingly long. In fact I can only think of two or three I’ve tried to match it – and none longer. The hops survive right to the death, maintaining that vivacity and vibrancy amongst the bass of the deep wood and fruit.
Value For Money: $675 is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a bottle of whiskey. That’s largely going towards rarity – only 72 bottles were released globally, after all. Unquestionably superb whiskey, but no drink is worth that much. If you happen to be an oligarch then go nuts. If, like me, you couldn’t ever justify a full bottle, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep.
Summary: Unquestionably unique...and unquestionably brilliant. It does rather struggle with everything it has to offer at full strength. It’s very rare that I add water (mostly from laziness) but this really does benefit from it. The hops have survived incredibly, and they really do add life and lift and vibrancy to what might otherwise be a fairly ageing old chap.
I’m very glad I was able to taste this through the BBS bottle, and if you do have $675 to drop on a whiskey then you won’t regret spending it on this one. That being said, you’re paying a very hefty premium on rarity. Yes, it’s a unique flavour, but with thousands of other flavours available for a far lower price the world won’t end if you don’t pick up one of the other 71 bottles.
Overall Verdict: Excellent. Fascinating. Expensive.