Friday, January 26, 2018

Whisky Review: A.D. Rattray Cooley 16 Year 1995/2012

For many years Cooley was the LDI/MGP of Ireland, semi-anonymously cranking out spirit for brands without distilleries as well as its own. That changed in 2012 when it was bought by Jim Beam, who massively scaled back contract sales to keep more of the production for their in-house brands. Some casks did find their way into the hands of independent bottlers, though they are becoming increasingly uncommon.

This whisky was distilled on November 24th 1995, filled into a bourbon cask (size not specified), then bottled on March 19th 2012 in an outturn of 193 bottles at 56.7% without coloring or chill filtration.

A.D. Rattray Cooley 16 Year 1995/2012 Cask #555

Nose: rich malt and bourbon cask notes, herbal/floral notes around the edges. After adding a few drops of water it becomes softer and more malty, but otherwise unchanged.

Taste: thick malt and cask strength sweetness throughout, orange and lemon peel with hints of berries in the middle, mild oak into the finish. After dilution the sweetness becomes much stronger with less assertive oak until the back, and it becomes simpler overall.

Finish: cask-driven, moderate oak with a little bitterness, sweet malt, grapefruit peel

While there are things to enjoy about this whisky at full strength, I find it too hot and cask-driven to find much subtly. The thick mouthfeel is a big plus, but there isn't a lot of evolution and the finish more or less recapitulates the flavors. Might hit the spot if you're a Glenlivet Nadurra fan, but that one never hit the mark for me either.

Diluted to 50%

Nose: balanced malt and oak, dusty vanilla, fresh apple, background floral notes

Taste: thick cask and malt sweetness with background vanilla throughout, tangy oak tannins with some fresh apple and pear notes near the back

Finish: a little heat, spicy oak, background apple/pear, citrus peel, clean malt, a little dry hay

This is a simple, straightforward set of aromas and flavors. While enjoyable, it doesn't have a lot of complexity and I wouldn't have found the whisky very compelling if it had been bottled at this strength. Not bad, just nothing that I couldn't find from any number of bourbon cask Speysiders.

Diluted to 45%

Nose: fairly light - pleasantly malty, floral honey, dusty vanilla, a little green - but not new make-y, background oak, unripe apples/pears, lime peel, a touch of solvent

Taste: malt sweetness up front, green apples and pears with lemon and lime peel in the middle, fadeout through drier grain and light floral notes with minimal oak at the back

Finish: unrolls through sweet malt, faded violets/lavender, fresh herbs, citrus peel, vanilla, cardboard oak in the background

Dang, that was a lot more than I was expecting. Unlike at full strength this is a fairly subtle whisky at this dilution with most of the action happening in the finish. Also surprising is the comparative lack of oak, considering that its heavy presence at full strength. Almost makes me wish this had been bottled at 46% because I think I would have enjoyed it more that way.

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