Tasting Notes: Brave New Spirits Guerilla Casks and Voodoo Whiskies

in Aug 18, 2022

We thought we’d do a little feature on Brave New Spirits, one of the new wave indie bottlers we’ve recently added to our virtual shelves. In this blog we’ll have a quick look at the Brave New Spirits range and taste some of the drams now available in our Whisky-Online Shop.

Brave New Spirits were founded in 2020 and are based in Glasgow, where they bottle several ranges of single and blended malt whiskies, alongside proprietary bulk whisky brands for wholesalers and supermarkets. We’re currently featuring two of Brave New Spirits’ whisky ranges on Whisky-Online: the Rebels Guerilla Casks and the Voodoo Whisky series. 

Although they both share common characteristics - including Brave New Spirits’ eye-catching modern label styles, a preference for bottling at cask strength and the frequent appearance of wine cask maturation - conceptually Rebel and Voodoo are two quite different series, with the Voodoo range being a mix of both classic and exotic maturations and finishes, while the Rebel Casks feature only whiskies matured in anything except traditional bourbon and sherry casks. 

Let’s have a look at some of the Rebel Guerilla Casks in more depth. Brave New Spirits have kindly provided us with samples of a Royal Brackla matured in a first fill Banyuls barrique cask, an Auchentoshan from a first fill Marsala barrique and a Staoisha (peated Bunnahabhain) matured in a first fill rum barrel.

Rebels Guerilla Casks Royal Brackla 9-year-old Banyuls Cask, 55.9%

Nose: Peppery oak initially, a little nervous with plenty of nose prickle at full strength. Develops on green apples, castor sugar and sugared almonds. Slowly some plum and raisin notes emerge, then honey and blossom aromas, sour apples, then more cooked and stewed fruit. Water lifts icing sugar, Haribo fruitiness, toasted almond, sultana and honey notes to the fore.

Palate: Medium-full, hot and dry at full strength, with sour apple sweets, syrup, cooked apples and raisins. Pepper and chilli spices, quite astringent at first. Needs water, and becomes much more accessible when it gets a drop or two, with very nice sweet apple and honeysuckle flavours, barley sugar, brazil nuts and icing sugar on a bed of sturdy but not too overbearing oak.

Finish: Long, warm, spicy, drying. Water takes the edge off, leaving a pleasant, lasting sweet barley and summer fruitiness.

Comment: A dram that really needs time and a few drops of water to really open up fully, but swims really well, allowing the sweet Banyuls to work its magic on what is a robust, muscular spirit.

Rebels Guerilla Casks Auchentoshan 10-year-old Marsala Cask, 56.7%

Nose: A rich, characterful nose with cooked fruit, gingerbread, raisin, flapjacks and icing sugar. These patisserie aromas develop alongside hot buttered brown toast, fruit jams, a hint of plum, chocolate brownies and faint herbal, leafy notes. Water really lifts the toast and dark fruit notes.

Palate: Medium-full, warm, spicy and dry. Follows on well from the nose, with rich fruit and patisserie/bready flavours, a touch of golden syrup and apple flavour boiled sweets, offset by earthy notes and some welcome tart citrus notes keep things fresh. Opens up nicely with water, taming the dryness and lifting the fruit.

Finish: Long, spicy and dry, with cinnamon and cooked fruit lingering.

Comment: A nice after-dinner dram, best with a little water added.

Rebels Guerilla Casks Staoisha 7-year-old Rum Cask, 56%

Nose: Begins on cereal, prickly alcohol, roasted oats, varnish and some herbal notes initially.  Gradually gets creamier and grassier, with PVC notes, vanilla, syrup and a faint floral aroma, almost like acacia honey.

Palate: Mediumweight and very drinkable at full strength. Sweet notes, presumably from the rum, but not cloying - more like a light honey, alongside some vanilla and subtle summer fruit flavours, melon, a suggestion of tinned fruit salad. The phenols are present in the background but are gentler than expected, coming through mid-palate as wet burnt wood and a pleasant turfiness. Doesn’t swim particularly well.

Finish: Good length, warming and a little spicy. The peatsmoke is more forward now but the sweet notes persist.

Comment: My pick of the range so far, and best enjoyed without dilution.

Let’s move on to the Voodoo range, where we have samples of Blair Athol, a single grain whisky from Cameronbridge and a Williamson Islay whisky, technically a blended malt but in reality a teaspooned Laphroaig.

Voodoo Blair Athol 12 Year Old The Dancing Cultist, First Fill Red Wine Casks, 50.5%

Nose:  Herbal aromas, including fresh mint leaves and spearmint chewing gum, then some cooked apples and dark fruit - plums, blackberries - and homemade brown bread. Develops quince and apple jelly notes, then becomes more woody: sawdust, varnished oak and creamy vanilla. Water lifts damson jam and sponge cake aromas. An impressively complex nose with plenty to discover.

Palate: Mediumweight, warming, with a generous, unctuous mouthfeel. Starts on the oak and dark fruit, then gets progressively spicier with black pepper and chilli notes. The herbal mintiness comes through mid-palate with some dusty oak and fresh-cut pine alongside persistent dark fruit jammy notes. Water provides more of the same while tempering the warmer edges.

Finish: Good length, dry, warm but not too hot with long-lingering peppery spices.

Comment: We don’t know how long the whisky was in the wine casks for, but while their influence is clear, they haven’t been allowed to overpower Blair Athol’s robust spirit. A nicely-judged wine finished dram that swims well.

Voodoo Cameronbridge 13 Year Old Coven of Resurrection, First Fill Red Wine Casks, 57.8%

Nose:  Burnt pine, dates and damson jam straight off the bat, followed by slightly singed brown toast, then a leafiness with old pine needles, dried varnish notes and wet bark. Develops faint butterscotch and raisin fudge. Water brings the burnt pine and damson jam back to the fore.

Palate: Medium-full, warm but not too hot even at full strength. Overt sweet dark fruit and malt loaf flavours, then on with varnished wood, overdone toast and some unexpectedly gentle pepperiness. A coppery metallic note and faint woodglue hint at the grain origin, but overall it’s the cask that has the upper hand here. Water smooths the more aggressive woody notes and lifts the sweet, dark fruit.

Finish: Long, warm and dry.

Comment: The cask has definitely won the battle here - young grain whisky has rather less to say for itself than a sturdy Highlander like Blair Athol. Another good swimmer.

Voodoo Williamson 10 Year Old The Bloody Sacrifice, First Fill Amarone Barriques, 49.1%

Nose: Begins with wet burnt wood and buttered scones with raspberry jam and double cream. The creaminess lingers as more phenolic notes appear, morphing to vanilla yogurt and the milk from a bowl of Sugar Puffs dusted with soot. Soon develops the expected medicinal notes - bandages, surgical spirit - and then wet fishing nets and faint seaweed. Water lifts the bandagey notes and some creamy vanilla.

Palate: Mediumweight, warm, peppery, nice mouthfeel. Dusty red fruit, then the vanilla and bandages. Sponge cake with raspberry jam, icing sugar, even some fruit cake aromas - burnt raisins, mixed peel and so on. Water emphasises the icing sugar, spices and brings wet burnt peat to the foreground before some strong raisin notes creep back in.

Finish: Good length, drying but not excessively so. The fruit remains, with some soot, pepper and wet burnt wood.

Comment: The wine influence is strong again but the Laphroaig phenols have the upper hand, as they should.

Two trios of very interesting tasty drams from Brave New Spirits (to whom thanks once again for the samples). The Staoisha and the Laphroaig came out on top in their respective flights, but these are all good value drams that in the most part let the wine casks play the correct role as second fiddle to the spirits.

Brave New Spirits are definitely a bottler to watch, we look forward to seeing whatever they come up with next.

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