The first conversation I ever had about starting a whisky blog under the name Somewhiskybloke went something like this,
‘I’m thinking of starting a whisky blog called Somewhiskybloke’
‘Somewhiskybloke? That’s a terrible name, don’t do that.’
As you can see I’m always open to constructive criticism, but that little idea of Somewhiskybloke began with a few terribly written reviews and nowadays nothing much has changed. The whole point of the blog however was to present new, interesting and exciting whiskies from countries not usually associated with whisky production to readers who could hopefully find and support these often very small distilleries. Getting a-hold of these whiskies has sometimes presented problems, whether that is cost or simply availability, but with recent changes in my life I find myself back in Australia and have the whole of the countries whisky at my disposal.
What this means is that where previously I focused on European and British whiskies, the focus will now be more towards Australian whisky, and honestly I’m very happy about that. The chance to explore my own backyard of whiskies and hopefully spread their news across the world is thrilling, and should any of these whiskies ever reach your far shores then I hope you enjoy them as much as I generally do. Make no mistake, this won’t turn into a blog devoted solely to Aussie whisky, there are a few of those blogs out there and they are far better than I could ever hope to be. I will continue to look at whisky from all over the world, but for now the focus will be more skewed towards the Aussie stuff.
So with that, let’s dive into a dram of this week’s World Whisky Wednesday, the Corowa Bosque Verde.
Corowa Distillery is not a name that will familiar to many of my usual readers. Corowa itself might ring odd too, but this little town on the edge of New South Wales is more important than the first glance would tell you. The small town played its part to create Australia, hosting a few conferences through the late 19th century which would lead to the Federation of Australia in 1901. More importantly for us however the Corowa Flour Mill was constructed in the town during the 1920’s, heading through various hands and exporting various products until it remained vacant for a number of years. Here’s where we meet our two intrepid heroes, Neil and Dean Druce.
See Neil and Dean had two loves, footy and whisky (I’m unsure how footy might fall into the story but if they ever start a ‘distillers league’ I’ll be sure to watch). With the idea of making their own whisky, the two purchased the vacant flour mill from the local council for the grand total of $1.
Never let it be said that Aussies can’t get a good bargain. Alright, there was one other stipulation, they had to keep their promise to the council, putting Corowa back on the map and bringing people into the town. So the two got to work, learning the trade from folk near and far. Heading to Tassie the boys learnt first hand from Bill Lark, and further abroad Dean worked with Kilchoman distillery of Islay, Scotland, to bring in all the knowledge they could and ensure that the boys wouldn’t be putting just any old spirit into the barrels, but rather something special, something they could be proud of.
What followed then was heavy restoration, ensuring everything in the mill was up to scratch and nothing nasty would leap out of the recesses of the mill (I don’t know what might haunt a flour mill. Flour ghosts? Flour ghosts). Ensuring that their vision was 100% Australian made, the two also searched heavily for stills made locally, and managed to find a solution in Griffith, 250km north of their distillery. Two Aussie made copper pot stills were installed and with the hiring of Beau, commonly known as the ‘Dreaded Distiller’, in March 2016 Corowa distillery distilled and casked their first spirit, then waited for it to become whisky.
Two and a half years later in August of 2018 that first batch was bottled up, put on sale and sold out in few mere hours. Since then the boys have been experimenting, drawing on their knowledge and working to keep presenting something better than the last batch. So what are we drinking today? It’s the Bosque Verde.
For those with an eye for languages you’ll note that Bosque Verde is Spanish for Green Forest, but according to Corowa it’s also Scots Gaelic for Green Grove. More importantly it’s the name of the founders family farm, where the majority of the barley for this little splash of whisky originated. Once distilled the spirit was laid down and matured in American Oak Port Barrels for a little over two years. I should stress that yes, there is a cask strength variant available but what I have here is a bottle of the 46%.
That’s all she wrote really. Information on a whisky such as this is scarce, I don’t imagine through any nefarious machinations of the distillery but probably because that’s all you really need to know. 2 years, American Oak, Port Barrels, drink and enjoy. Of course there is one other thing that bears mentioning, the temperature. In a day the temperature in Corowa can swing by upwards of 16C, and a variance like that can see the barrel staves at Corowa expanding and contracting heavily over the course of the day. More of this movement gives the liquid inside the barrels more time to move about and explore the wood, bringing flavour back with it. Saying the maturation is ‘faster’ has never set quite right with me, so let’s go with ‘takes on more character’. Anyway, here’s the whisky.
Ah yep, slightly burnt cinnamon and nutmeg falling down through the sky to fall onto a plum tart base at first, sticky cherries ringing the desert and suddenly we’re thrown into a kitchen watching this beast get made. Brown sugar is stuck to the base of a saucepan and caramelizing fast, pecan nuts are thrown on top and there’s a smoky brittle kicking about somewhere. The layers peel away like bark off a tree and the sap runs like sweet hot honey, dehydrated oranges, dark chocolate, and a sulfuric note kicking about at the back end of the nose, joined by some rust flecks and sun drenched corrugated iron.
It’s a boisterous palate, no denying that, full of heavy brown sugar, mango syrup, clove, ginger and pumpkin. Cinnamon kicks in at the same time it gets a drying mouthfeel, prickling the tongue and giving way to strawberry bushes, nutmeg and hints of smoke. The port cask and American oak are incredibly noticeably, the port carrying the main heart of the flavour, almost burying the wood flavours aside from the obvious oak. How do you describe the colour red as a flavour? Red currant jelly on a grapefruit kick feels right, and as it moves into the end game the finish gets oaky with plum and a dash of shiraz, surprisingly short but brings in a decent drying mouthful, perfect for reaching back to the glass.
I would love to taste this at cask strength, purely for the experiment. From the tastes of the 46% it seems like watering the bottle down was a good idea, the idea of some of the flavours expanded is somewhat worrying. It just feels like if they were any bigger they’d obliterate the palate. It’s a taste that I’m beginning to associate with Australian whisky, the heavy heat of the dram driving the flavours as they jump off it. I wouldn’t say that’s a good or a bad thing, I just think it’s noticable, especially when tasting this alongside some other, non-Australian whiskies.
There’s a school of thought that more flavour, or larger flavours result in a better whisky, and I don’t agree with that. There are certain flavours that, when expanded upon, wear out their welcome. Not to say the Bosque Verde had that, I just think that if the flavours were larger then the palate would be less receptive.
All that said, would I buy this whisky again? I’d give it another try, yeah. That second bottle would have to convince me as right now I’m on the fence, but I’ll certainly be following Corowa whisky and trying their different releases as they have me curious. If I had the choice though, I would love to taste some of their spirit aged in plain ex-bourbon barrels. And after looking at their whisky page, turns out they have some. I guess I know what I’ll be picking up soon.
Fun flavours, plenty of excitement, I think I know what this goes well with.
It just works.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery, Corowa or otherwise, and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.
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