INTERCO-MLE completes its Evolution series with the release of the last of three bottlings. They also reveal a similar project in the form of Way Home, which comprises two bottlings.
Evolution works in strange ways. You might remember back in 2020 when we first wrote about the first bottling in the Evolution series, named as such to track the development of a whisky over time.
There’s plenty of merit in doing so from an educational point of view: how does whisky change in a cask over a period of time, taste-wise? Also, the idea of tasting the same whisky that has been aged over different periods sounds absolutely intriguing. Wouldn’t you be curious?
Granted, it’s an imperfect science – the air left in the cask differs after every batch is bottled, so the rate of interaction with air is different, and possibly ‘accelerated’ following each bottling. But unfortunately, this is the closest we can get so far to a somewhat legitimate comparison.
The project is the brainchild of local independent bottlers INTERCO-MLE and with the third run of bottles completed, the experiment is finally complete. Our previous article explains this more thoroughly. In short, the project started with an ex-sherry cask filled with Bunnahabhain in 2008 and whisky was drawn on three separate occasions in 2019, 2020, and 2021 for bottling. All three bottles feature artwork by the renowned Tay Bak Chiang.
You might think that a year apart seems too short a time period to produce any meaningful differences on our palate we tend to agree as well. But what we experienced with these three bottles was interesting, to say the least.
And chastening, too.
We’ve described the first edition – the 10YO – back in 2020 as a clean but spirituous affair that needed the gentle touch of time and air to smooth its edges. In my book, if a little air can improve things; it’s not a bad thing. The 11YO, bottled a year later, is characteristically the same albeit with a more tempered spirit out of the bottle with a more pronounced freshness and fruit presence. But when it comes to the 12YO, things get a little interesting. The extra year gives a tannic character that actually balances well with its sherried character. If you prefer your heavily sherried stuff then this is it. That said, it loses a bit of that freshness.
For me at least, the 11YO might just be the sweet spot – a little more time and air will tame the spirit on its own, and it holds up well with water. The vibrancy is perhaps its most outstanding character and I think it shouldn’t be suppressed.
But don’t get me wrong; it doesn’t mean that the 12YO is bad. There’s just a little too much sherry influence for my liking. That said – to my mind at least – I think INTERCO-MLE potentially dodged a bullet by opting to go for a shorter, narrower window as I would not have had the courage to allow the cask to age a little longer (but what do I know, really). Serendipitous perhaps, but when tasting them as a set, it seems as though the decision to end the project at 12 years of age was spot-on.
They’ve also repeated the trick with a peated Bunnahabhain, often labelled by independent bottlers as Staoisha, which was also casked in an Oloroso Hogshead back in 2014. Bottled at five and six years of age, the two releases make up a series called Way Home, featuring artwork from local artist Lim Jia Qi.
Likewise, we were quite surprised with our choice between the two Staoishas as well. That said, both examples were excellent and you can’t go wrong with either. As good as the tempered and gentler 6YO was, it’s the younger of the two that had a little more fruit character and peat influence.
In my book, INTERCO-MLE’s experiment has been a success. There’s certainly more to whisky than just a simple age statement and this shows that older isn’t necessarily always better. It’s about finding the sweet spot, which in itself is largely personal as well. With steaks, some of us waver between rare and medium-rare, others between medium-rare and medium, and there will always be that one person who wants to ensure that the cow is well and truly dead.
The Way Home series is available at INTERCO-MLE and is priced at $338 as a set. Although the Evolution series bottlings have mostly been accounted for, we understand that it’s possible that limited quantities of Evolution #3 and perhaps Evolution #2 may be made available for sale. Follow INTERCO-MLE on their socials (Facebook, Instagram) for updates on this.
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