Single Malt Whisky CollectionBy: Andrew Wiehebrink, Independent Stave Company Director of Spirit Research and Innovation
Here at ISC, we produce hundreds of different barrels and have learned that it greatly facilitates decisions for our distillery partners when we can recommend barrels, based on thorough experimentation, that are proven to work with a given spirit. In order to study how oak barrels interact with different spirits, we often put identical barrels (species, toast, char, etc.) in different experiments across multiple distilleries; all of which are producing different products. One distillery might specialize in bourbon while another is focused on rye. By keeping the barrels identical throughout these experiments, we isolate the grain recipe as the key variable to get a firm understanding of how the barrel treatments behave with different spirit categories. If there is one thing we have learned from this type of experimentation, it’s that a specific barrel configuration is going to behave a little differently depending on what spirit goes in it.
About four years ago, we started our first single malt whiskey experiment here in the United States with Stranahan’s Distillery in Denver, Colorado. The goal? Determine which barrel configurations work well with malt whiskey. Since starting that experiment, we have added eight additional single malt whiskey experiments with well over 100 barrels in experiment. Over the course of these experiments, through chemical and sensory analysis, we have selected a handful of standout barrels that have performed exceptionally well during the four years we have been monitoring them.
Below are the five barrels we have chosen to include in our new Single Malt Whisky Collection.
The Single Malt Whisky Collection
- Sweet Peat Barrel – A unique barrel that has been smoked with Scottish peat using our new proprietary cold smoking process. Of our two peat smoked barrels, this one delivers a lower intensity of peat character with heavy amounts of vanillin and sweet smoke. Hence the name, Sweet Peat.
- Traditional Peat Barrel – This is our other peat smoked barrel and it is significantly more peat forward. Sweet smoke notes on the nose with moderate peat character. The barrel derived flavors fade on the palate and an intense peat character begins mid palate that is sustained through the finish.
- Cooper’s Reserve Hybrid Barrel “Single Malt Toast” Char 1 – As it turns out, with malt whiskey a little bit of French oak goes a long way. With this hybrid barrel (American oak staves for the body of the barrel and French oak heads for the ends of the barrel) you will notice vanilla on the nose with floral and oak notes in the background. Fruit is elevated on the palate with a very crisp, satisfying finish. We designed a special toast for this barrel that adds a generous amount of barrel character but still lets the complexities of malt distillate shine through.
- Cooper’s Select Char 3 Barrel – If you have not tried our heavily charred barrels paired with our 18-month seasoned wood, it is a wonderful combination for any occasion. With malt whiskey, we see distillate forward on the nose accompanied with floral and herbaceous background notes. Very complex array of flavors on the palate with a caramel forward finish. Particularly useful in applications in which distillate forward profiles are preferred.
- Small Batch Toasted Barrel “Spice 1” – Throughout our experiments, this one has been a favorite of many distillers. Toasted oak on the nose accompanied by subtle hints of baking spice and smoke. The palate delivers a complex array of fruit, and it finishes with high lactone and vanilla. Useful in application where a more intense barrel forward character is preferred.
If you are interested in experimenting with barrels from this collection or would like to receive a sample kit to taste, please do not hesitate to contact Chad Spalding or Jeff LaHue to learn more.