Taste Guide: Calvados Cask

In 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the trade body of the Scotch whisky industry, changed the regulations on cask maturation of Scotch whisky. In the course of the trend towards maturing or finishing whisky in increasingly exotic casks in order to offer consumers new taste experiences, demands for a relaxation of the previous rules, which many distilleries considered restrictive, had become louder and louder; individual distilleries had already “creatively interpreted” the existing rules and launched individual Calvados or cider cask finishings on the market. (At Kilchoman, too, the first Calvados casks had already been filled before 2019).

Under the old rules, Scotch whisky could only be matured in oak casks that had been “traditionally used in the industry”, i.e. bourbon, sherry, rum, wine and beer casks, to name but the most important. The new rules now also allow the use of casks in which other spirits were previously matured, as long as cask maturation is part of the traditional production process of these spirits. These are, for example, the two agave spirits tequila and mezcal, calvados as well as other fruit brandies as long as they are not made from stone fruits. However, the use of cider and gin casks is still not permitted.

The first Kilchoman Calvados Finish Single Cask bottling was released on 24 September 2020 by the Austrian spirits shop Genuss am Gaumen. This has since been followed by a handful of other bottlings worldwide, all Calvados Finish releases with an age of around 8 years and a finishing period of between 6 and 10 months. A fully matured Calvados has not yet been released.

Within the Small Batch series for selected markets, the concept of which is known to illustrate the influence of different “experimental” cask types on Kilchoman whisky, a release with a Calvados cask share appeared under the name “French Inspiration #1” for the first time on the French market in June 2022.

.

What does Kilchoman whisky from the Calvados cask taste like?

The Calvados cask, like the tequila cask, is a cask that more or less discreetly complements the typical flavours of a Kilchoman whisky (cooked yellow fruits, citrus, barley malt) with additional tones and does not dominate. Above all, there is an additional fruitiness, reminiscent of green but also red apples. The Kilchoman citrus tones are accentuated, along with honey and nutty notes and a smell of fresh wood. All previous bottlings have been very sweet on the finish. Here, too, we are very excited about the first full maturation!

However, one must view the pattern described above with some caution, as the previous Kilchoman Calvados finishes vary greatly in colour and taste (see photo). And this despite the fact that they are all similarly aged and the finishing periods hardly differ. Kilchoman seems to have acquired a very heterogeneous stock of Calvados casks.

The most extreme example is the Uniquely Islay – An Geamhradh 2020 bottling with an unusually dark amber hue, where the bourbon barrel used for the first maturation was obviously already an extremely active cask. In terms of taste, this whisky looks like a bottling that is twice as old.

.

Calvados Finish Releases from Kilchoman with finishing periods between 6 and 9 months. What colour differences! (From left to right: 353/2014, 242/2012, 205/2013)

.

Previous Kilchoman Calvados Cask Finish Releases

ReleaseCask No.Distillation DateBottling DateMaturation
Calvados Finish Single Cask for Genuss am Gaumen242/201203.05.201210.07.2020Finish: 6 month
8 yo Calvados Finish Single Cask for Whisk-e´s 20th Anniversary243/201203.05.201230.07.2020Finish: 6 month
8 yo Calvados Finish Single Cask – ImpEx Cask Evolution 03/2020 277/201217.05.2012 25.09.2020 Finish: 8 month
Ta Puach Calvados Finish Single Cask for The Omef (Omef Ganor, Israel)217/201314.08.201328.09.2020Finish: 7 month
Calvados Single Cask (Finish) – Uniquely Islay Series – An Geamhradh 2020 (#1/7)205/201304.04.201305.11.2020Finish: 9 month
Calvados Finish Single Cask for SMCC214/201304.04.201303.12.2020Finish: 10 month
Calvados Finish Single Cask for Australia276/201217.05.201209.12.2020Finish: 10 month
Calvados Single Cask Finish for Kimchoman 2204/201304.04.201304.04.2021Finish
Calvados Single Cask (Finish) – Uniquely Islay Series – An Samhradh 2021 (#7/9)353/201408.05.201418.06.2021Finish: 7 month
Calvados Finish Single Cask pour La Société des Alcools du Québec323/201430.04.201417.01.2022Finish
100% Islay Calvados Single Cask (Finish) – Uniquely Islay Series – An t-Earrach 2022 (#1/10)322/201430.04.201401.03.2022Finish: 15 month
French Inspiration #1 (Small Batch Release for France)06.04.202270% Bourbon / 5% Oloroso Sherry / 25% Calvados