Boann Distillery’s Whistler Irish Whiskey brand is back with three new expressions, all built around particular wood finishes — some expected, some unusual. “The Imperial Stout and Calvados Cask Finishes are annual releases that will be produced in February of each year with limited availability. Currently 3,000 bottles for each of the Imperial Stout and Calvados Cask Finishes are available in the U.S., while the core range of Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish has ongoing production with national distribution.”
We tasted them all, and our thoughts are below. All are bottled at 86 proof.
The Whistler Irish Whiskey Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish – A “signature blend of 35 percent single malt whiskeys and 65 percent grain whiskeys, which are independently matured in ex-bourbon barrels for at least four years before being married together and finished in Bodega Sherry Oloroso Casks for at least 12 months.” A little harsh on the nose, the sherry really seems to be beating up the more delicate underlying spirit here, with a rather astringent aroma evident — a similar problem to Whistler’s flagship, older-and-more-heavily-sherry-finished Blue Note. Some roasted nut and furniture polish notes are evident here as well. On the palate, the whiskey is much more approachable, with notes of orange peel, nougat, and lots of baking spice in the mix. There’s a strong vein of almond and walnut running through the nut-heavy core, with a smoldering and vaguely smoky character that folds in orange peel, sweetened breakfast cereal, and tea leaf notes. It’s not overly serious, but it’s fun enough, especially at this price, once you push past the somewhat harsh nose. B+ / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
The Whistler Irish Whiskey Imperial Stout Cask Finish – “This whiskey is a collaboration between Boann Distillery and its sister brewery, Boyne Brewhouse. This expression begins its life, when ex-sherry barrels, containing The Whistler 7-Year-Old Blue Note, are emptied by the distillery and sent the brewery for its 10.8 percent Imperial Stout beer, which is left to mature in the casks for a minimum of six months. Once the beer is fully matured, the casks are emptied of beer, and on the same day, filled with a bespoke whiskey blend of 50 percent wheat whiskey, 35 percent malt whiskey, and 15 percent grain whiskey, all individually matured in ex-bourbon barrels before being married together and finished in the Imperial Stout beer Casks for a further six months.” Now this is really strange on the nose: muddy and earthy, with a big hemp character that feels out of place given the components in the bottle. Notes of petrol and rubber linger in the air, giving the whiskey an asphalt-like element. As with the Oloroso, things perk up a little on the palate, which showcases some malted milk and chocolate, but which is dominated by notes of burnt toast and smoky, muddy truck stop. The finish lingers on canned green bean notes. Pass. C- / $40 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
The Whistler Irish Whiskey Calvados Cask Finish – “This whiskey is a collaboration between Boann Distillery and famed Calvados producers Chateau du Breuil, in Normandy, France. The expression features the same base high malt content signature blend used in the Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish. which makes these whiskeys incredibly interesting to try side by side as an investigation into the impact of different cask finishes. The signature whiskey blend is then married together and filled into Chateau du Breuil’s finest 10-year-old French Oak Calvados casks and left to finish for a period of at least 15 months.” You get the apple notes right away on the nose, alongside aromas of fresh flowers, banana peel, and a hint of wet earth. There’s lots of fruit here, and Calvados clearly makes for an engaging, natural complement to the already fruit-driven Irish whiskey base. The palate doesn’t offer as many surprises as the whiskeys reviewed in the above sections, presenting itself as a delicate yet flavorful blend of spiced apples, banana bread, and a surprising citrus note. Quite creamy and dense on the tongue, it’s a soothing whiskey that lacks the overwhelming sharpness of the Oloroso Cask Finish bottling, finishing on a note of light caramel and marshmallow creme. The best of this lineup by a good margin. A- / $40 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]