Octave Project: 'With The Octave Project, we composed a limited batch of new whiskies of distinction for whisky-lovers to enjoy'.
'The arrangement involved taking a cask of whisky from a single distillery, and dividing it between four different Octave casks. Specially commissioned from the coopers for our Project, each Octave used oak staves taken from a larger cask that had previously contained PX Sherry, Oloroso Sherry, Rioja or Rum. One portion of whisky from the original cask was retained to enable a point of comparison'.
'As an Octave holds only 50 litres of whisky, it amplifies wood-to-spirit interaction in a short burst of second wood maturation. The changing dynamics and developing flavour notes were carefully monitored over time and at five months, we judged the wood finish to be harmonious and ready. We bottled the Octaves'. [A.D. Rattray]
Bunnahabhain 2002 14yo AD Rattray bourbon cask #3058 57.1%
We start with the base whisky, bourbon-matured for 14 years.
N,T&F: A yeasty, bready, lemon-y malt, stylistically like James Eadie’s Trade Mark X [WB].
C: This is a moderately decent whisky with a relatively plain character that would certainly suit finishing experiments.
Scores a C+
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 Rum cask finish 55.4%
C: With only five months in an octave cask, the composition has certainly changed. It’s now beefier than the base malt, largely offering a salty-sweet raisin-y malt with a little more 'funk’ & edge. Equal certainly to the original cask.
Scores a C+
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 Rioja cask finish 55.9%
C: Showing off some fine yeasty/fruity chocolate notes, this makes me think I could eventually get to like wine finishes. There is however a butyric issue on the finish.
Scores a C
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 PX cask finish 55.1%
C: There’s a little more buttery funk compared to the base malt, but it’s still nothing more than a straight-ahead number.
Scores a C[+]
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 Oloroso cask finish 55.1%
C: Though nuttier and more fruity than the base expression, the underlying yeastiness of the base malt is becoming a little waring.
Scores a C[+]
With the exception of the rum cask perhaps, there’s much of a muchness to all of these finishes. Despite all these experiments, in terms of balance & composition, it’s the bourbon base expression that still comes across best - as Nick White said at the start. It’s well worth trying these things and presenting them to the market I say, and it goes to show how tricky & precarious the art of finishing is. Furthermore, A.D. Rattray have done this experiment with other distillery casks from Arran & Pulteney, with 3cl tasting packs available to try [link]. Ideally, you might want to try all the packs together, to gain more of an understanding about the effect of one type of finish on a number of different single malts.