That’s what I started to think about when I looked into the new whiskies released as part of an independent bottling series by whisky writer, Craft Distillers’ Alliance founder and, whisky and music festival organiser Dominic Roskrow.
What’s in a name?
The reason – you may be wondering – is this: as soon as I saw the names of each whisky in the series, I realised that they can be quite powerful to our psyches. And his new releases are certainly that.
All are names which drew me in, made me curious and also made me feel positive. Think – I thought – how it would sound if I turned to a friend as they asked what I was drinking and I said, ‘Oh, I’m on the Courage tonight.’ The fact it is a Dutch whisky makes me realise that Dom obviously had a bit of quirkiness up his sleeve when he was bestowing the branding.
It doesn’t often happen that I think about names, branding or packaging when it comes to whisky (though, I did discuss it in this post last year on Tamdhu, the bottle for which I fell in love with). But when I saw these I couldn’t help but do so and remember that there is a definite power behind presentation.
Now, as a bit of background, these whiskies are all being released for the Discovery Road series, which focuses solely on world whiskies, something that has been his focus for eight years. It seems that Dominic – not content to juggle around 10 projects in the air at once – thought he’d also delve into the world of independent bottling. Working with the English Whisky Company (St George’s Distillery) in Norfolk and the Zuidam Distillery in the Netherlands, he selected interesting casks to launch the series, which will eventually include releases from Taiwan, India, France and many others.
I’ve managed to try the first four in the series and – along with the fact they made me stop and think about branding and nomenclature – it is an interesting bunch generally.
Here’s what I thought of each of them:
Discovery Road: Four Lions: 46%: England:
Made from a make-up of four, 50 litre casks from the St George’s Distillery in Norfolk.
(c): Golden sap
(n): Butter and BBQd pineapple to start. Quite creamy if one can imagine that on the nose – like smelling warm butter in a butter dish. Then warm, boxed Del Monte pineapple juice, Fig Newtons and a bit of vanilla syrup.
(p): A fruity cocktail at first on the palate: tinned cherries, followed by pineapple, tinned guava and tinned pears (almost grainy in its resemblance to the latter). Not too sweet, as one might imagine from this description. Quite sticky but good bit of acidity to bring balance.
(f): Darkens at finish – almost something a bit smoky/charcoal like there and a bit of a raisin note.
In conclusion, I prefer the palate to nose, only because warm pineapple juice reminds me of mixed drinks left on counters to be found when cleaning up after a party when one has a hangover. Nicely balanced though and this note is very much a personal thing for me, of course.
Discovery Road: Four Lions: 58%: England:
A more limited run of just 45 bottles makes up this higher ABV release made from a cask from St George’s Distillery.
(n): A nice sharp zing starts this out. Fruity, light and acidic – nice balance and some lovely orange and apricot notes; very summery.
(p): Warming and fruity – again, fleshy fruits for me. Creamy but with a good bit of bite in the form of a tingling chili spice. Warms on the palate and isn’t too sharp for the ABV.
(f): Slightly bitter, peppery finish for me.
In conclusion, an enjoyable release, though I prefer the 46% ABV personally as I like the finish and fruitiness more on the former.
Discovery Road: Smile: 46%: Holland:
From the Zuidam Distillery, this release is a rye, aged for seven years.
(c): Dark manuka honey
(n): Very dark to start – molasses and nutmeg, followed by rich honey, figs and peppermint. Notes of sour cherries and chocolate underlay this one.
(p): Lovely and chocolatey at first – a great, warming pudding dram. Something slightly savoury and spicy there too though – paprika maybe? Gives it great balance. A real surprise on the palate. Wanted a second sip straight away.
(f): Woody spice
One of the most intriguing ryes I’ve had. Loads of creamy, unctuous mouthfeel along with a great balance of sweet and savoury. Can imagine pairing this with an Indian curry and being in heaven. Made me ‘Smile’ as it were!
Discovery Road: Courage: 46%: Holland:
14 year old single malt also from Zuidam, matured in a first-fill Oloroso Sherry butt.
(n): Phew! Loads of sticky toffee pudding on this one on first dive into the glass – straight to the back of the nose with the sweetness but in a really welcoming way. Underneath, more traditional Sherry notes (raisins and red fruits), which come through as I nose it more and get over my initial reaction to sweetness.
(p): More balanced than I was expecting. Lots of red currants, orange peel, black licorice, toffee and dark brown sugar. Doesn’t last too long so encourages another sip.
(f): Orange peel
In short, a tasty, well-balanced dram – bit sweet on nose for me but really good palate.