Unique and delicious in more ways than you can comfortably conceive. A singular single malt in many respects with lots of appeal.
Notes: This is easily one of the more exotic and unique whiskies on the market today with one of the highest phenols ppm around. The only comparable whiskies are the Bruichladdich Octomore Series and the Ardbeg Super Nova Scotch Single Malts, but completely different in that Leviathan is an American Single Malt using Canadian peat. Canadian peat is a completely different type of peat both in botanical composition and resulting smoke characteristics from any of the Scottish peats – much less seaweed type phenols and much more new world type phenols ( think cacao and coffee bean phenol flavors rather than iodine). Another interesting facet to this whisk(e)y is how it is aged in late harvest Cabernet botryrtised wine casks. In more or less English – this is a type of wine similar in type to a Sauternes or ice wine and the resultant lovely flavors that come through in the whisk(e)y bouquet and flavor is a nice nuance to a already very complex whiskey.This whisk(e)y is not chill filtered or otherwise fooled with. It is straight from the single cask/barrel to the bottle with a minimum of processing.
Other interesting points are the complete uniqueness of the still and distillery itself – it looks something from Burning Man rather than a standard kind of still. One of only two wooden stills in the world (at least legal ones), it was entirely handmade by the owners and distillers Brian and Joanne and would look very steampunk even if it didn’t have a steam spewing dragon head as part of the rig. Part of the design of a wooden still is that it is not direct fired- you don’t have a fire under a boiler -instead steam is put through the mash from the bottom up, heating the mash and vaporizing some components but also carrying up heavier components as a mist rather than a straight vapor. Thus it carries some very interesting water as well as heavier based components in with the alcohol to be distilled in the second run which uses copper steam coils to heat the distillate. It is also one of the few permanent stills that are outside. Frustrated with all the building and fire codes that come with a distillery building they decided to dispense with the building. They also smoke the already malted barley in a smokehouse/malting floor of their own design to get the malt exactly where they want the phenol level to be.
Appearance: Baltic amber gold clear with no sediment, char, or oils, separations or chill haze despite being non chill filtered. Just a lovely hue of whisk(e)y.
First Impression: Peat smoke without the iodine, almost a malty toffee and a candied apricot with chocolate. A fruity coffee with traces of cinnamon and citrus, saddle leather and heather. Touches of mint and vanilla also. A complicated bouquet, that is intriguing and mystifying at the same time, as you have never encountered anything quite like this and one can’t quite classify or place it. One can immediately however tell you are in for a treat.
Taste: Yenidjie tobacco, leather, chocolate, coffee, Sauternes or ice wine-like notes of sweetness, apricots, and oriental fruits. The smoke and brine are very intense but not in the Islay iodine kind of way and are backstopped by the other unique flavors particular to their choice of peat. Think rauchbier (smoked beer) on steroids with some charming fruit notes and peaty malt. Lovely smoked fruit lingering finish with touches of ash and sweet caramelized char with some nicely clinging slightly fatty notes that leaving a long lovely finish. To use a sake term: “shiripin” , or it has a tail, in this case a dragons tail.
Drinks: Well, l it’s possible, but I really enjoy this malt in a proper malt nosing glass. A bit of water opens it up nicely.
Bottle: Tall cylindrical clear glass brandy or cognac bottle shape with a slightly heavy decanter like bottom that give the bottle a nice heft and balance. The single rectangular band of a label actually contains a fair amount of information and uses a well chosen set of different fonts for different pieces of information and visual appeal. A single square paper label on the bottom identifies name, lot and cask number.
Other: This is a very small batch production company of about 500 cases per year. So if you want this whisk(e)y or any of their future releases, you better grab it while you can as it is and will be very rare and hard to get.
Final Thoughts: You won’t find anything anywhere near this interesting, rare or unique for the money. An outstanding achievement from a distillery that has taken a completely different approach to just about every aspect you could in the peating, distillation and aging of a single malt whisk(e)y.
Some information and a few pictures but not a great deal of information. Check their Facebook and twitter links for more info. We will be visiting them soon and will be adding them to our Adventure section with lots of photos sometime in the future.