Since 2017, once (or twice) a year, the town of Thurso in the north of Scotland and its distillery WOLBURN are in turmoil.
Indeed, everyone is hooked on the wanderings of the Cellar Master and his decision as to which Small Batch will be released! It is said that even the steel wolf that sits in the distillery yard stops breathing.
Since 2019, all eyes are on Iain KERR, the distillery manager (since he replaced Shane Fraser to take care of this "dirty job" ;-) ). This year his steps lead him to the Wharehouse N°3 where he knows that Oloroso and Bourbon casks have been sleeping for several years.
In the Warehouse his wanderings lead him to row 18 where he chooses about fifteen casks: the foundations of Small Batch n°318 are laid.
No. 318 is the 6th episode of the Small Batch in the last 5 years. This year, Iain's choice was about 1/3 peated distillate at 10 PPM (lightly peated but we like that at PEATDREAM!) spent for 7 years in the staves of a big OLOROSO BUTTS and 2/3 (approximately because you know the master blender recipes are always locked in chests and thrown in the bottom of wells) of unpeated distillate also spent 7 years but in the staves of old BOURBON casks.
Each year the recipe changes (which is the charm of WOLFBURN's Small Batch, by the way).
It all started in 2017 with the lively and peaty N°128 from small 100-litre bourbon casks for 3 years.
In 2018, we were able to taste the unpeated N°270, which passed through the same casks as its big brother but over a longer period (almost 4 years).
In 2019, we moved to warehouse 3 with N° 375, still mixing 100l bourbon casks with oloroso casks.
In 2020, a double shot with first N°204 aged in Portuguese Madeira casks and N° 155 aged in Bourbon casks then finished with 6 months in Port casks.
In 2021, N°318 will be released, playing on a greater rarity with its "only" 4800 bottles (when its predecessors were released between 5300 and 6000 bottles).
WOLFBURN SMALL BATCH N°318
So what does this new Small Batch give?
First of all, the dark bottle hides a beautiful golden colour, very slightly coppery (we saw a little less oloroso than bourbon).
The closer the nose gets to the glass, the more the aromas are sweetened and mixed: we find a mixture of apricot and pear before a light and "agricultural" peat is revealed, which makes the distillate fresh.
On the second pass, the peat smoke asserts itself and is accompanied by light spices with cinnamon but also pepper which comes to charge and tickle the nose.
The third passage reveals a mixture of vanilla and light woody notes which continue to refresh the overall atmosphere of this whisky.
Although announced at 10 PPM of Phenol, the overall nose remains well marked by the sugar and especially the peat which is quite light here!
The entry in mouth is light and sweet (honeyed). Then come the spices that sting the tongue and the back of the throat. For a while you get the mellowness and sweetness of a sultana.
But then you get back spices, then smoke, then spice, then... with a hint of grape. In the end, it is a taste of vanilla that will soothe our palate to signify the beginning of the end of the tasting.
The descent is a little more tense and woody, but there is a nice warmth that was not detectable at the beginning (the fire lurking under the peat smoke reveals itself once swallowed). The mouth still under the effect of the spices will nevertheless leave some room for the sweetness of a nut.
I know that time flies but sometimes I feel like saying "I can't wait for next year's THURSO surprise!