There's something rare about brand new, unused, American white oak barrels outside the US. The measures put in place to ensure jobs for loggers and coopers met with the brash spirit that ages quickly creates something specifically bourbon, and the legacy that then lives on in the second and third uses in other countries. I was very interested to hear then when White Peak distillery in Derbyshire in the UK was using them, alongside seemingly every other type of cask they can get their hands on. Releases thus far include rum, port and stout finishing, but this was the first using brand new, untouched barrels from Kentucky as a finish rather than the majority aging of their standard lightly peated spirit. So, tonight we have a comparison between the White Peak Small Batch (red wine STR & ex-bourbon - 47.7%) and Virgin Oak finish (ex-bourbon and new American white oak barrel to finish - 51.7%) Both the same lightly peated spirit, approx 4 years old. The colour is surprisingly similar. The STR barrels in the Small Batch seeming to add a slightly duller tinge to the whisky compared to the Virgin Oak's classic whisky honey hue. None of the distillery's whiskies are chill filtered or coloured. To start with the Small Batch, a whisky I've clearly been enjoying since being introduced to it through an Our Whisky tasting. The nose is brown sugar and slightly floral with red berries, while initial flavours are sweet before the tone dulls, the slightly tannic flavours of the STR wood come through along with the peat smoke before more butterscotch caramel underneath. The finish is slightly black pepper-y and a little herbal but still holding some sweetness too. It's very flavoursome, though for me it lacks a little bass. There's plenty up in the upper ranges of flavour and it will be interesting if age will bring with it more depth. For a core expression, this is a belter and while expensive compared to some, for me it's a fair price for a good whisky from a young distillery without experience behind them. The Virgin Oak release is the same spirit with most of its time in ex-bourbon casks from Heaven Hill, and then spends a few months in those new Kentucky barrels. The nose is subtly different; brighter and sweeter. Honey, The same is true when you sip it. Still butterscotch with honey and vanilla, but the peat and pepper muted and with a menthol warmth. There's also cereal note that is missing in the Small Batch. Despite the reputation of fresh wood causing rapid flavour and colour change, the Virgin Oak expression drinks young with an initial front of heat especially in my nose, but with huge sweet Bourbon DNA lurking too. I'd love to see what would happen if the spirit spent four years only in a new barrel - and I'd be hugely surprised if there weren't already few of these tucked away in Derbyshire being monitored and checked! For now though, the Small Batch would be my pick for a regular drinker.

Posted by Chris Ratcliff at 2023-02-18 22:27:05 UTC