Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Whisky Consumers View - Tasting Jacob's Creek Double Barrel

Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
We hear a lot about finishing whisky in wine barrels but we don’t hear a lot about finishing wine in whisky barrels. Jacob's Creek, one of Australia’s largest wine producers has taken this step into a rather uncharted realm. I am guessing this is not the first attempt but it is certainly one of the more recent and the marketing surrounding it is lending itself more to hype than what true virtues the whisky barrels have imparted. Still I think it is worth noting in a review here as I know there is many a keen wine buffs in our midst.

Jacob's Creek is part of the Pernod Ricard conglomerate. It would seem only natural in having access to so many spirit and wine brands it is worth mixing things up a little. Enter the Jacob's Creek Double Barrel. Australian wine aged in oak then finished in either Scottish or Irish whisky barrels. At the time of writing this there has been 2 particular releases of the Double Barrel: Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012; Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Barossa Shiraz 2012. I have only been able to taste the Cabernet Sauvignon to date and so current thoughts will be reflected below. Recently I wrote about the release of the Double Barrel range: Wine finished in whisky barrels - Jacob's Creek Double Barrel.

Before I go on I would like to say, as in my previous post, I did try to make contact with the PR responsible for the release materials and then also with Jacobs Creek directly but was delivered no responses. That may not be a bad thing though as going in blind is always good in my books. It just would have been nicer to discover more about the barrels themselves and what drove the making of this wine in the first place. What can be said is that the wine has seen wood prior to finishing and these finishing barrels are classified as ‘aged’ barrels. Aged can be assumed to mean old barrels at the end of their useful life for whisky production. Having been refilled many times with whisky generally speaking a barrel will see 3 or 4 refills at most. There is no clear indication though how many times these barrels have used prior to finishing this wine. As we know though with the oak exhausted evaporation is intense for whisky so there will be a lot of spirit still pushed into the wood. I am guessing it is more the spirt that gives the influence and not the wood itself. Talking of spirit saturation, this is a note it seems the wine writers are tending to miss in the detail.

Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
Producer: Jacob's Creek
Region: Coonawarra, South Australia
Alcohol: 14.5%
Barrel Finish Type: Irish Whiskey (Distillery unknown)
Year: 2012

Colour is near opaque with a claret halo at the edges. Its a young one no doubt about it and you don't need to read the label to know it.

On nosing there is immediate tomato vine wavering to spicy tomato sauce and a bit of mint. Think of when you have just eaten a meat pie with sauce and you have had residue on your fingers and lips. That is the tomato spice effect I am talking about. A little chalky, sweet fresh grape juice, and the tell tale signs of american white oak. Is the oak coming from the whisky barrels or the oak ageing prior?

Taste is slight across lips and tongue before settling all in the mid palate. A warming spice prickle grows towards the upper back palate then the chalk tannis begins to dry the sides of the tongue while a oak sweetness lingers almost fighting with the spice. After a while the sweetness eventually overtakes everything but not is a sticky sugar way. I need food to cut this and create an interval between the sips.

Finish is clear but a bit tart and rough. The green tomato vine just keeps on going and going and going. I want it to end. A nose of sour socks builds after the last sip.

Straight up this wine is over priced. At $22AU I think there is much better wines out there for that price. It is not a bad wine, and holds a fair level of developed complexity but as you are probably guessing what has the finishing barrels done for it? I have failed to pick it. I can understand the difficulties of experimenting with casks like this and the failures that went with it. You are paying for the unique experience more so than the enrichment of the product.

Don't buy this expecting strong whisky influence because it just is not that kind of thing. Certainly there could be good things to come from this. If I was to give a dram 4 out of 7. Different wines have different effects on wood so maybe a Cabernet Sauvignon is not the wine type that reaches in and pulls the rabbit out of the hat. I am hoping to taste the Double Barrel Barossa Shiraz 2012 soon.

The Baron