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Sauternes Single Cask Release (Grumpy Cloud Whiskey)
Sauternes Single Cask Release (Grumpy Cloud Whiskey)
Sauternes Single Cask Release (Grumpy Cloud Whiskey)

Sauternes Single Cask Release (Grumpy Cloud Whiskey)

This is, for sure. 100%. absolutely. my favorite whiskey we have ever put out into the world. For years, this has been my favorite cask in the basement. I loved pouring samples of it for the crew and sneaking a sample for myself and spending some time in our barrel room just thinking. Mostly about how good this whiskey was. And in my head, it was going to be an eight or ten year release. I was going to give it more and more time. And then this year. I stopped that nonsense. Realized I was trapped in one of the whiskey world’s greatest contrivances: more age = better whiskey. It just isn’t true. Look - I am not saying that older whiskies or younger whiskies are better. What I am saying is that the age of the whiskey is less important than a lot of us think. And a lot of the whiskies we love are a lot younger than we think. So - I’m going to go into it a little bit in terms of THIS particular whiskey.

I’m going to start on the age. This went into the cask in 2018. It was a fairly freshly dumped Sauternes cask. Sauternes is a delicious sweet desert wine with a lot of residual sugars and a bit of viscosity. It was a bit of an experiment aging a whiskey full term in this cask - in general we tend to age in new american oak and then finish in something neat. But - this whiskey spent all of its time in this Sauternes cask. And here is part one of the story of age. At large single malt distilleries in Scotland - the whiskey, by law, has to go into a used cask. And they use and reuse a cask A LOT, often 3 or 4 times after its initial use. For the most part, single malt whiskey goes into ex bourbon barrels first.

So - the life of a barrel in terms of single malt whiskey.

the barrel begins in the US, is brand new and charred and filled with bourbon. after 2-4 years, this whiskey is harvested, and the barrel gets on a boat bound for Scotland. There it is filled with single malt - harvested after 10 or so years. refilled. harvested after 10 or so years. refilled. harvested after 10 or so years. refilled. harvested after 10 or so years and finally decommissioned. I like to use the barrel as a tea bag analogy. Make yourself a cup of tea with a teabag that has been used 3 times already and let me know how that 4th cup tastes.

Because of this process of reusing barrels for the whiskies - you end up with a wide range of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes 4th fill barrels going into the blend that ends up in the bottle. And this is where the magic comes in with this release. This is what would be called a “first fill” cask. It held Sauternes. Then it held this whiskey. Now, the barrel is off to a local brewery to age a beer. And so the whiskey has A LOT of flavor. Incredible flavor. And the color! We did not expect this gorgeous color at all. Wine casks aren’t charred at all, and without the charring, you don’t typically see much color. But this whiskey is a very luxurious amber with a taste that matches the color beautifully. Lots of honey sweetness right away. The sweet of the Sauternes blends beautifully with the sweetness of our new make spirit. A touch of the viscosity comes along as well giving this release an amazing mouth feel. Next thing you will notice is all of the amazing baking spices that come through. Like allspice and cinnamon type notes. I GET SO EXCITED JUST TALKING ABOUT THIS WHISKEY!!!! These baking spice notes are kind of a tag team cooperative expression of the french oak (french oak tastes different than american oak!) and the yeasts we use in our fermentations. The french oak has a tighter grain, so you get less “wood” flavor that usually presents as big coconut and vanilla flavors from American oak. We get instead the spices, some floral notes, and an amazing mouthfeel.

After about a year, we could tell this whiskey was going to be unique. It was already getting this beautiful honey color and the nose was incredible. At about 2.5 or 3 years, this became my favorite barrel in the basement. And I went from sampling every 3-4months to sampling pretty much every month. Just because I thought about it all the time. And I would think about how good it would be when we released it in another five or six or seven years. But, now here we are two years later. And in the last year, I had a realization. It wasn’t getting better. It also wasn’t getting worse. New flavors were emerging, but some old flavors I loved were fading. In the barrel, it was changing. The changes, to me, were not beneficial or detrimental. They were just changes. But, as I thought more and more about this whiskey, there really wasn’t any justification for aging it any longer. There was more and more oak sneaking in every month, and that isn’t something I love and preserving the balance is really important. So - with a heavy heart and great excitement. We vatted it and decided to bottle it at cask strength so that you can taste it just as I sampled it from the barrel through these last several years. I’m not going to lie, I’m going to miss having this friend in the basement to sneak a sample from and marvel at and daydream about. We went through an awful lot together. Legislative nightmares, a global pandemic, two children, some really hard losses, and some really amazing life experiences. Whiskey is really funny that way - smell and taste really sparks our memories. So while I’m sipping on this whiskey at home for the first time ever, rather than our barrel room in the basement I’m amazed by how much it brings back. Nostalgic about the last five very intense years, and wildly optimistic and excited about the next several years. So - maybe bottling this now was therapeutic or cathartic. Or. Maybe. This whiskey was just ready and too delicious not to share with all of you!

In making the label, I was excited to tackle it myself! I was working on something that represented my favorite elements of the tasting room - mostly our plants that Rachel  works so hard to keep lush and verdant. The plant vibes are on point. But. Lets be honest about these December vibes. Our new neighbor from Alaska Robotics, Pat Race, really sums it up best with his Grumpy Cloud. We really feel like you’ll agree.   Brandon

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