I can’t say I’d ever wondered what bourbon finished in a rum cask would be like; but when a store I was purchasing samples from substituted this for something else I’d wanted that they were out of, I discovered that I quite wanted to find out. Rum finishes in the single malt world have never quite convinced me—the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask is the only one I can remember liking a fair bit. But Balvenie’s malt is a mild one and it’s not hard to see an overlap with a sweet and caramelly rum profile. Bourbon, on the other hand, is altogether more robust and I’m curious to see what impression, if any, the rum finish has been able to make on this one.
The bourbon in question was distilled by Heaven Hill and it was bottled by Malts of Scotland—this was bottled this year, so not in the same lot of releases that included the port finish I reviewed earlier this year as well as a sherry finish. I still have no idea whether these were all Heaven Hill experiments that Malts of Scotland ended up with and released as is, or if the finishing was done not at the distillery but in Germany. If you know more about this please write in below.
Heaven Hill 14, 2001, Caribbean Cask Finish (55.2%; Malts of Scotland cask 16008; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Vanilla, toasted wood and a lot of oak spice. Not much else really. The sweetness gets a little more biscuity/malty as it sits. With time it begins to nose more like a first fill bourbon cask Speyside malt than like a bourbon, getting quite fruity with some apricot. With a few drops of water there’s some mocha, some incense and now it seems more like a sherry finished malt…
Palate: Comes in sweet and hot with tannic oak bursting out from under the sweetness. Not terribly bourbony. Sweeter still on the second sip and not terribly integrated: the sweet notes seem to be separating from the woody notes. Softens up with time and air and is less simply sweet, or at least it’s more of a caramelized sweetness now. Keeps mellowing as it sits but never gets fully integrated. Okay, time for water. Water ties it together quite nicely and adds some fruit to the simpler sweetness from before. Much nicer now.
Finish: Medium. Malty sweetness and oak spice fade out together. With time a slight hint of smoke in the finish—or is that the burnt sugar? As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is actually interesting in that, as I noted, it’s not particularly bourbony—so much so that I actually wondered if this sample was mislabeled! The rum seems to have subdued the typical bourbon profile—there’s not much corn or rye presence here. This must have been finished in a cask or casks that had a lot of rum still left in it/them. An interesting curiosity: the nose becomes quite nice with time and after a poor first impression the palate is quite nice too. I don’t know what serious bourbon drinkers make of this but I ended up quite enjoying it. It does need time and water (on the palate)—I was ready to write it off after the first few sips! I’m tempted to get a bottle just on account of how unusual it is.
Rating: 85 points.