I finally got my hands on Wasmund the Wizard’s magical whisky

Wasmund Single Malt Whisky

Wasmund Wood Smoked Virginia Single Malt Whisky Tasted

A couple of years ago, I had what I thought was a eureka moment. Instead of smoking barley with peat in the whisky making process, why not smoke it with apple-wood, cherry wood, hickory or any other wood that could influence the barley in a new way. I imagined a whole new wave of innovation, particularly in Scotland. Glenfiddich smoked with apple-wood to add a fruit smoke, Port Charlotte smoked with peat and hickory to enhance the spirits BBQ notes or maybe a whisky smoked with cedar and pine, like Lapsang Souchong tea, to give a smokiness that would be different but similar to Islay peat smoke. Nothing has been released up until this point in Scotland. Maybe they have tried it and it didn’t work. Maybe they are not interested.

Traditionalism

I suspect that much experimentation in the whisky industry is viewed with a slight nervousness. The Scotch Whisky industry is doing very well, in spite of a global recession. Why change things? By changing things, I mean experimenting with rye, or wood smoke, or differing effects of yeast strains. It seems that some innovation, like Signet (deep roasted barley) or Grant’s Ale Cask (Ale Casks!) is ok, but other innovation, like column distilled single malt, or adapted barrels, is viewed with fear by the industry, or by the Scotch Whisky Association, or both.

Wasmund

When I wrote my Eureka post, people pointed me to Wasmund (I think the name Wasmund sounds like a Wizard’s name, hence the title). Rick Wasmund built the Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia in 2005. Away from the burden of tradition (although, still aware of tradition; he worked at Bowmore for 3 months) and regulation, Rick is making American Single Malt Whisky in a new and exciting style. The barley is smoked with cherry wood and apple wood. On the bottle it says the barrels are chipped with apple-wood and cherry-wood in a secret process, which I imagine is a little like wood chipping wine (or the technical term; tea bagging).

I think the lack of strict regulations outside Scotland is going to create a whole range of innovative new whiskies that will continue to enhance this already fascinating category. Look at Penderyn and their mental column/pot/plumbers dream still. Or Mackmyra and the use of different wood to smoke the barley, or the whisky I tasted last night; Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky. The key question as always, is after all of this innovation malarkey, is the liquid any good?

Wasmund’s Single Malt
42 months old
Pot Stilled. Unchillfiltered.
Barley Smoked with Cherry-wood & Apple-wood
48% ABV
I bought it from here

Nose: Fruit smoke, parma violets, apricot, peaches and slightly creamy. A sweet beginning followed by an almost rye like spiciness. Oaky, spicy and hints of vanilla pods. With water it becomes a little more tropical with aromas of mango and pineapple.

Palate: Lots of fruit, vanilla and slight oakiness with only a little hint of smoke. Cherry and smoked apple. These are all very light, delicate flavours/overtones on what is quite a light palate overall.

Finish: Bitter cherries, charcoal, oak and spice.

Overall: It’s intriguing, exciting and really tasty. This is the kind of bottle that shows why innovation is so exciting, but at the same point, can produce cracking results. I should take this round to the SWA offices and show them how awesome de-regulation can be. One thing I would say is I would like to try it at a bit older, as I would like to taste a bit more oaky richness coming through.

I definitely have to get my hands on some of the rye. Rye spiciness chucked into the mix would make this even better!

Chris Hoban

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