Whiskey Name: American Sour Mash 5 year old (Cask P311) – The Single Cask
Distillery: Your guess is as good as mine. (My guess is George Dickel)
Whiskey Type: Tennessee Whiskey
Release Date: 2017
Age: 5 years old
Mashbill: Presumably rye-recipe, but who knows?
Introduction/Background: Independent bottlings of US whiskey aren’t especially thick on the ground. Certainly not by comparison with the Scotch industry, where a new bottler seems to pop up every twenty minutes or so. The culture of store or bar picks seems to be more prevalent in US circles, and there are certainly some exceptionally good examples of such bottles to be found. But for my money independent bottling offers a little more scope for idiosyncrasy and general weirdness. Considerably more scope for experimental misses, I admit, but there’s a niche to be carved out here, and we’re starting to see people explore it.
Today’s explorer is the not-especially-imaginatively-named “The Single Cask”, who have bottled a 5-year-old from Tennessee. Which, realistically, means George or Jack. So. Any clues from the label?
Well, not really. Both Dickel and Daniel’s file themselves under “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey” (a somewhat meaningless term, incidentally, as Sour Mash applies to more or less every whiskey made in the US.) Unlike some other independently bottled Tennessees I’ve seen, the word ‘bourbon’ is conspicuous by its absence, which means we dodge the obvious argument, but also means that this bottle would theoretically keep the JD legal team happy.
Nothing conclusive then. Let’s dive in.
Nose: Well now. I’ve been drinking a lot of Canadian whiskey lately, and that’s where this nose takes me straight away. Very curious – not experienced that from US juice previously. All about the thick, sweet things: toffee, caramel and – yes – Maple syrup. A touch of mint and a nuance of something floral provide lift, buoyed by the rather enthusiastic alcohol. Aromas-wise, not the most intense nose in the world for the proof though.
Mouth: Incredibly richly textured; ABV wrapped up to an almost astonishing degree. Quite surprising given its prominence on the nose. Corn oil and caramel by the bushel; the corn oil in particular is bellowing. Also a sweet citrus fruit aspect; orange and lemon fruit pastilles-style, rather than the fresh article. That’s when the booze starts to kick in, though it’s still forgiving for 59.7%. A touch of the Bertie Bassett skulks at the rear.
Finish: Medium length; a return to the sweetest aspects.
Value for Money: Reasonable.
Summary: Well, I said I wanted something unusual, and that’s certainly what I got. Mega sweet, as Tennessee often is, but curiously with a distinctly Canadian accent. The palate was very different to the nose; that’s where it owned up to being US juice after all, but the whole thing was very unique, full of lively character, and likely to split opinion.
Whether or not it presses your personal buttons, what it represents is very encouraging. There’s so much scope for independent bottlers to come up with innovative and interesting takes on distillerys’ established themes, or to offer ages and styles not available in the standard lineups. If this bottling is indicative of the attitudes independents will be taking, then I’m all for it. At £67 it certainly isn’t cheap, but if the flavours tick your boxes it’s worth every penny. Personally I’d take the Boutique-y FEW, but that’s creeping towards the realms of subjective.
And I’m still not sure on distillery. It’s a long way off any Jack or George I’ve ever stumbled across. But that, I think, is the point.
Overall Verdict: I’m not sure I’d want more than a glass or two of this myself. But with a character this big, it won’t be short on people swiping right.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim