This is a somewhat unusual whisky. It is a blend but apparently a single cask blend: what this means is that malt new make and grain new make were blended into a cask upon distillation in 1979 and married in the cask for the entire period of maturation. And this period of maturation was long indeed: 33 years. As to whether the malt and grain components were distilled at the same distillery, I don’t now. If so, that would narrow the source considerably as there are not very many distilleries that are/were set up to distill both malt and grain. It’s also not clear who initiated this single cask blend (a distillery? an independent blender?) or to what purpose. What we do know is that this cask was bottled by Svenska Eldvatten, who have bottled a number of other vintage releases of uncertain origin. The cask is said to be sherry but this release was of only 197 bottles. Given everything else that’s unusual about this it is possible that this was a sherry hogshead.
Indeed, this possibility seems corroborated by evidence from elsewhere. As occasional commenter EricH pointed out earlier this month, K&L released a similar cask a while ago. That was a 32 yo—so unlikely to be from the same cask, and that one is described as a sherry hogshead. What is interesting is how different K&L’s account of the history of their cask is from the description that’s out there on the net of this one (from which I patched my account above together). Where this is described as blended at “birth”, K&L has this to say:
This is from a lot of whiskies all distilled in 1979. At some point in its maturation, it was blended and rebarreled in a single sherry hogshead. It’s highly likely that was done relatively recently, but honestly it could have been done two decades ago. We think that this whisky may have come either from a larger blender who was planning to add this to one of their house blends and either lost it in the warehouse or sold it as part of a larger parcel. Otherwise, we think it could have perhaps been a lot owned by a smaller broker which was ultimately consolidated as the whiskies began to evaporate.
It does seem likely that these are related casks and are unlikely to have been made in different ways. So, yes, to the likelihood of this Svenska Eldvatten cask also being a sherry hogshead but far more uncertainty about when/how the blending was done.
Anyway, let’s see what this is like.
Vintage 1979, 33 yo (52.2%; sherry cask; Svenska Eldvatten; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Mellow fruit to start: apricot, plum. Some berries as well and a tinge of something metallic. Gets more floral as it sits and also a bit dusty. With more time the fruit begins to intensify a little and there’s a musky, tropical character to it now (pineapple, maybe a hint of ripe guava). With a lot more time there’s a bit more evidence of the grain: a slight astringency. Water knocks back the sharper notes and ups the fruit.
Palate: Hmmm. Somewhat thin to start and there’s more of that metallic note. But then quite a bit of fruit begins to emerge as I swallow, and it’s all of the tropical variety from late in the nose. On the second sip the grain seems all the more evident and the fruit has a hard time emerging full from those sharper notes. More citrus with time but also more rawer wood that really suppresses the full effect of the fruity notes, which do intensify with time. As on the nose, water helps get the wood and grain under control.
Finish: Medium. It’s here that the fruit really shines but with time the more astringent notes linger as well. Gets saltier as it goes.
Comments: If this was a sherry hogshead it must have been remade with the staves from nth refill butts. I mean to say, it’s no sherry bomb, and you’d expect more of that character from a hogshead after 33 years. Then again, if K&L’s speculation about their cask is correct it may not have been in a sherry hogshead the whole time. In fact, blind I probably would have guessed it was a bourbon cask. Looking around, I see I seem to have got far more grain on this than most other commentators. This is a hard one for me to score. Some sniffs and sips had it in the high 80s, some in the low 80s. I was going to go bang in the middle but water did improve it. If I had a bottle I’d make sure to add water to every pour.
Rating: 86 points.