So here’s something fairly unique: Spanish single cask whisky. Located in Granada, Destilerías Liber has mostly been operating under the radar. They’ve been bottling an entry-level whisky called Embrujo for the domestic market. But recently a number of cask strength single cask bottlings have popped up in Dutch shops and the Swedish Systembolaget, bottled by the Spanish Whisky Club.
The Spanish Whisky Club is a venture by Jan Vistisen from Denmark, who’s joined forces with Stijn Elbersen for all international sales and marketing. As of early 2020 he’s the exclusive worldwide agent of all of Liber’s cask strength whisky. Since Liber only has about 55,000 liters of mature whisky at any given time, only a few thousands bottles can be released each year. So far, each of these whiskies have matured in 600 liter first-fill Pedro Ximénez casks. Mind you, these are not seasoned casks but former solera casks from Viña La Constancia, a bodega owned by one of the distilleries original 55 shareholders.
Given the retail prices these are going for, the Spanish Whisky Club releases are clearly aimed at whisky afficionados. That could be an issue for an unknown entity such as Destilerías Liber. And they realise that, which is why they’re aiming to be very transparent. For example, check out this fairly detailed description of their distillation process. Also, here you’ll find some more information about the distillery, the maturation climate and the involvement of Magnus Fagerström. All in all, there’s enough there that should grab your attention.
Liber 10 Years (59.9%, Spanish Whisky Club, C#110)
Nose: Notes of orange peel and tobacco leaves, but also plenty of walnut skin, a whisper of aniseed and some sultanas and raisins as well. Somewhat syrupy and just the tiniest hint of sulphur. Becomes maltier with time. Water brings out lovely umami notes. Taste: Juicy and syrupy, yet drying and peppery at the same time with stewed oranges, macadamia nuts, espresso and a touch of balsamic vinegar. There’s some sulphur here as well. Finish: Lingering spices and some oak shavings too. Ending on sweeter notes; even some stewed apples.
Quite an enjoyable malt that shows of a relatively lighter style compared to the other samples I was sent. A little too drying at times. Not hors categorie (or I actually should say categoriaespecial), but decent nonetheless.
Liber 12 Years (60%, Spanish Whisky Club, C#047)
Nose: Dark chocolate and strong coffee with a touch of nail polish. Intense and heavily sherried, there’s a few lighter notes of raspberry, praline and fudge. Water brings out cured meats, soy and a shiver of pine needles. Taste: A lovely creamy, sweet arrival with touches of raw sugar and Scottish tablet, followed by a big hit of chili pepper and light herbal notes of oregano. Quite aggressive at times even after 12 years of ageing. Water quiets things down and reveals a dryer side with tobacco and aniseed, but also dark chocolate. Finish: Drying with some cocoa powder, mocha and cherries.
Just add water. It takes it really well and polishes some of those rougher edges. A sometimes challenging yet very likeable single malt.
Liber 14 Years (59.9%, Spanish Whisky Club, C#073)
Nose: Sulphuric, but still kept in check somewhat. There’s notes of cooked broccoli and a whisper of gunpowder too, but also a sliver of damp concrete. With time it becomes more floral with touches of juniper. Water doesn’t make much of a difference. If anything it’s become more sulphuric. Taste: Surely sulphuric as well. Some dark chocolate and intense spices, as well as oatmeal and caramel. Adding water takes the edge of the spices, but brings out more sulphur elements. Finish: Medium in length. Some apple peel and oranges.
Now, while it may not sound very appealing… Never mind, this is not up to par with the other Liber whiskies I’ve reviewed in this blog post.
Liber 16 Years (59.6%, Spanish Whisky Club, C#009)
Nose: Soft floral notes and a whisper of juniper combined with Werther’s Original, white nougat and even some marzipan and cherry syrup. There’s caramel here too, with just a touch of milk chocolate, Greek yoghurt and menthol. A hint of bitter orange peel and mushrooms. Taste: Some gunpowder with a hit of spices like cracked black peppercorns and fresh ginger, but also cocoa powder and tobacco leaves. Creamier mouthfeel after adding water. It brings out subtle notes of menthol, figs and marzipan. Finish: Lingering sweetness and a whisper of cocoa powder, as well as plums.
Love the nose, but the palate lacks a little complexity, although water surely helps a lot. Such an interesting whisky.
There’s quite some variation between the different offerings. Most seem to be good and hopefully the 14-year-old was an outlier. I’ve not yet been able to pick out one characteristic that binds these together, except that they’re all fairly punchy. It’s the 12-year-old that stood out for me, which allows for some playing around with water.
One thing that’s very clear is that the cask influence is key. There’s many differences between these Pedro Ximénez casks, but they all have certainly left their mark—either for better or for worse in the case of the 12-year-old. From what I’ve been told by Jan Vistisen, cask management hasn’t been much of a priority before his involvement. I’m curious to find out how the spirit behaves in smaller casks and different cask types, which they’re currently experimenting with.