Mossburn Distillers are not a high-volume independent bottler, but ever since their first releases in 2017, they’ve quietly built a respectable portfolio. Mind you, many of their Vintage Casks range are small-batch releases instead of single casks. Their latest outturn consists of a Benrinnes, Teaninich, Blair Athol and Strathmill, all made up from several casks instead of just the one.
Before today I wasn’t familiar with Mossburn Distillers. Or let me rephrase that. I hadn’t tried any of their whiskies. However, I’ve been very closely following the progress of their own distillery, Torabhaig. A small producer on the Islay of Skye, I rate them highly amongst the many new distilleries that have opened in the last five to ten years. If the standard they set with Torabhaig is any indication for their range of Vintage Casks, we’re in for a treat.
Benrinnes 2008 14 Years (54.9%, Mossburn, Vintage Casks No. 31)
Finished in Moscatel casks
1,800 bottles available globally
Nose: Just a whisper of charred oak to kick things off (and maybe even some gunpowder), followed by vanilla custard, cotton candy grapes, and lemon pith. Also just a whiff of lemon sweetness, accompanied by some black pepper and creamy meringue. Taste: A fairly creamy mouthfeel with a tingly sweetness. But then plenty of toasted oak, barley husks, peanut skin and a sliver of orange peel. Somewhere there’s some red dried fruit hiding, but I’m struggling to pick it up. Finish: Medium length. Burnt toast, bittersweet oak spices.
It’s this bittersweet oak influence that I’m not quite the biggest fan of. And it’s fairly nutty too. Big flavours, but not very polished. At least not to my palate.
Teaninich 2009 13 Years (56.2%, Mossburn, Vintage Casks No. 32)
Finished in a red wine hogsheads
1,900 bottles available globally
Nose: Immediate hints of raspberry and strawberries with a clear underlying maltiness. Soft notes of chalk, a hint of oranges, as well as some porridge, mown hay and heather. Taste: Creamy mouthfeel and sweeter than expected. The wine influence and red fruits are a nice addition to the slightly floral, barley-forward spirit. Just a touch of milk chocolate also. Finish: Medium length. Along similar lines as the overall taste. Cereal-led with sweet, fruity touches.
The surprise in this lineup. They’ve been able to find a neat balance between the influence of the red wine casks and the cereal-forward, grassy spirit of Teaninich.
Nose: Hints of buttered toast with a few drops of golden syrup, along with some gentle touches of vanilla pods, cinnamon and cloves. There are some lighter, fruitier elements too. Think a whiff of sultanas, quince jelly and green apples. Taste: Somewhat oily and rich. A malty base enhanced by hints of raisins, warm apple sauce and a pinch of white pepper. The notes of wood spices slowly build, accompanied by gentle oak shavings, burnt toast and aniseed. Water mostly amplified the spices. Finish: Medium length. Fairly sweet and spicy.
An agreeable whisky that’s otherwise not very exceptional. I like that it’s full-bodied, and it’s quite sweet (if that’s your thing), but the oak spices are maybe a tad too present on the palate.
Strathmill 2010 12 Years (46%, Mossburn, Vintage Casks No. 34)
Matured in virgin European oak
1,700 bottles available globally
Nose: Full-on virgin oak maturation, so no finish. Hints of cigar boxes and teak wood, combined with touches of nougat, mocha, and marzipan. Of course, vanilla is very present. Mostly custard. Also some lemon sweets and pear skins. Taste: Creamy mouthfeel. Plenty of butterscotch, some toasted oak, whispers of tobacco leaves, and a touch of brown sugar. But the overwhelming flavours are those of vanilla, nougat and marzipan. There are some gentle spices too. Finish: Medium length. Lingering sweetness with a soft oaky-y edge.
Virgin oak can just be a lovely thing, and I think it works a treat here. It's not without risks and I find it almost hard to believe this has matured in virgin oak casks entirely, but apparently, it did. No overt woody notes. Plenty of sweetness. No bitterness. Success.