The latest from Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Project takes a return trip to Scotland in the form of the ominously named Castle’s Curse. Don’t worry, it’s not so scary: It’s just a 14 year old single malt from Teaninich, aged in sherry casks. Single malts from Teaninch are rare but not unheard of, as Diageo uses most of the whisky as a core blending component in Johnnie Walker and other mainline releases.
Here we have a delightful little single malt that really pours on the sherry. A brisk citrusy nose is backed by a modest core of malty cereal and some whit pepper, but if you’re not in the mood for a sherry bomb, you needn’t apply for entrance to the Castle. The palate doesn’t let up, offering sherry, sherry, and more sherry — to the point where I have to wonder just how “wet” these casks were when Diageo got ahold of them. The good news is it works, and it never comes across as oxidized or overly winey; rather, the malty core finds space for a slightly meaty undertone before bursting forward with sweetness, evoking tea leaf, milk chocolate, sesame oil, and eventually a dabbing of Nutella. Sherry carries full throttle into the finish, which shows itself as enjoyably sweet and sunny, with echoes of tangerines.
All told this is a perfectly enjoyable middle-aged single malt designed not just for the sherry enthusiast but for the sherry fanatic. $175 for a 14 year old, however, seems wildly overpriced. (Signatory’s 13 year old Teaninich can be had for well under $100.) Maybe it’s because of the curse.