Oh man, that’s good. I really can’t pick out very much wine cask influence here, but I can’t say that I’m missing it. The balance of smoke, sweetness, spice, and funk is right on. I thought at first that the funk would take over, but 5 sips in and everything falls into place. I love those big ginger and, uh, bagel notes. The punch of flavour is so intense, but at the same time it’s remarkably drinkable at a blazing 63% ABV. Just beautifully put-together.
I couldn’t figure out if it was better than 9.3, so I did the natural thing and poured a small glass of 9.3 to compare. 7.3 is definitely sweeter, less winey, and “lighter”, not so much in texture and intensity, but without as much heavy char and dark earth notes as the 9.3. I think 7.3 might edge it out by a hair, but that could honestly change day-to-day. Everyone wins.
Nose: Rich peat, but with a soft sweet side. Let’s do the rich peat first: pungent, coastal, slightly medicinal. Some dried mushrooms, yeast, worn leather, maybe even some chicken bouillon. Savoury spices – lots of sweet paprika. And the sweet: Vanilla marshmallows, ginger, and demerara sugar. Some very soft ripe fruits: peach, apple, banana cream pie, rose petals. Some tangy yogurt, topped with honey, nuts, and raisins. Or maybe a charred Montreal-style sesame seed bagel with cream cheese and roasted red peppers. The ghost of a chocolate milkshake in the nearly-empty glass.
Palate: Oily texture. Tropical fruit and honey up front. Intense sooty and peppery smoke, with an underlying tartness of lemon juice, followed by a wave of barley sugar. Intense honey, ginger, pineapple, black pepper, and smoked chili on the development. Some teriyaki-glazed pork, along with smoked cheese and sourdough. Briny and earthy on the back end, with plenty of limestone, graphite, barnyard, cigarette smoke, and some fresh herbs. Some wine gums and yellow plums as well.
Finish: Big and honeyed. Black pepper, sesame seeds, hoisin, vanilla, brown sugar, dark roast coffee, and sweetened black tea. More dried smoked chilis and barnyard. Some lime zest, peach, and ripe pineapple. Hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, and fresh ginger.